In this week’s issue… Storms test broadcasters’ preparedness – Cipha Sounds out at Hot 97 – RI FM downgrade complete – Olean translators shuffle – VPR’s Montreal signal safe, for now
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*As another winter storm bears down across a huge swath of NERW-land, broadcasters are still learning the lessons of last Monday’s blizzard. It wasn’t the apocalypse New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio anticipated – at least not in New York City. But for all the criticism DeBlasio took for preemptively closing down the city, and for all the criticism forecasters took for the predictions that led to near-shutdowns of not only New York but also New Jersey and beyond, it’s hard to argue that anyone truly overreacted.
That’s Cape Cod in the photo at right, and while most of the Cape’s stations stayed on the air in the face of winds as high as 78 miles an hour, the islands off the Cape were battered.
On Nantucket, WAZK (97.7) had battery backup power at its studio and a generator at its transmitter site provided by landlord National Grid. But when the island’s main power source (an undersea cable from Hyannis) failed, that generator didn’t work, either, and so for just over 24 hours at the height of the storm “97.7 ACK” was off the air.
“We did Facebook updates while we were off the air,” operations manager D.C. Collins tells NERW, and as soon as the power was restored at the transmitter site around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon, the station was ready to be the information source the island needed, broadcasting interviews with town manager Libby Gibson and other local officials.
Fortunately, WAZK and sister station WNCK (89.5) suffered little physical damage – “just a couple of shingles flying off the building” in the storm’s high winds, Collins says – and we’ve heard no reports yet of serious damage at any other NERW-land broadcaster, either.
All over the region, many broadcasters did a fine job of getting ready for the storm, lining up hotel rooms for staffers and putting many on overtime to make sure things were covered even if roads and transit were shut down. Whether it was New York’s WABC (770) adding extra live programming early Monday or Boston’s WFXT (Channel 25) stationing an engineer at its Needham tower site to babysit the transmitter for several nights running, information got out there to the people who needed it. And as our preparedness guru Howard Price of ABC in New York keeps reminding us, it’s far better to be overprepared than underprepared. (You really should read his wrapup of the storm coverage, here.)
Which brings us to the “overreaction” piece of things: from what we saw and heard, most forecasters out there did a solid job of being clear about the uncertainty levels of their forecasts. Pretty much all of them were dead-on right about the magnitude of the storm once it hit, and there were plenty of warnings out there about the multiple paths the storm might take, too.
Can news departments (and government officials, and the social media beehive that surrounds them) accept that even in 2015, nature is still fickle and unpredictable and we still have to prepare at times for storms that may turn in a different direction? We’ll find out as this latest storm hits – and we’re eager to hear from you about how stations in your markets are handling it.
*Pete Braley’s ouster late last year after 25 years at New Bedford’s WBSM (1420) was a blow to local radio on the South Coast of MASSACHUSETTS, so it’s nice to be able to report that Braley’s once again being heard in the region. He’s been hired over in Plymouth at WPLM-FM (Easy 99.1), where he’s co-hosting mornings with Kevin Cronin.
*RHODE ISLAND now has one fewer class B FM signal. iHeart Media’s WWBB (101.5 Providence) filed last week for a license to cover its downgrade from class B to class A and its site move from the old WNAC-TV tower in Rehoboth to the top of a downtown Providence skyscraper. As we’ve covered extensively here, the move (along with a lesser downgrade of WCIB 101.9 on Cape Cod) now clears the way for iHeart’s WBWL (101.7 Lynn) to remove its directional antenna and expand its signal to cover more of greater Boston. Will it be worth the hit that WWBB takes to make it happen? We’ll be watching closely.
*In CONNECTICUT, they’re mourning Mike West, a longtime night-shift fixture at WTIC-FM (96.5 Hartford). West’s time in the region also included stints at WCTK (98.1 New Bedford) in the Providence market, and most recently at WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) up in MAINE, where he was working middays.
*Lee “Baby” Simms hung his headphones all over the country during a 40-year radio career, and that included a 1966-67 stint at WPOP (1410) in Hartford, where he shook up the market with a high-energy night show on the top-40 station. Simms ended up in California, where he retired in 2005 and had been fighting cancer recently. He died January 28, apparently a suicide at 72.
In mid-coast Maine, Blueberry Broadcasting wants to consolidate its FM facilities. It’s applying to move WQSS (102.5 Camden) from its present site on Ragged Mountain to Benner Mountain, six miles to the south, where Blueberry’s WMCM (103.3 Rockland) is located. The move would take WQSS down in height and up in power, from its present 7.9 kW/1200′ to 20.5 kW/770′; while it will lose a bit of northern coverage toward Waterville and Bangor, those areas are already served by other Blueberry signals that simulcast “Kiss FM” with WQSS.
*What’s not a stable place to be on the air in NEW YORK? Emmis’ WQHT (97.1), or so it would seem: the latest jock to be cut from the Hot 97 airstaff is Cipha Sounds, whose future was unclear after he was bumped from afternoon drive for new hire Nessa Nitty. When Nessa’s hiring was announced in January, Emmis had initially said Sounds would stay with the station in a new capacity – but that went south last Tuesday when Sounds showed up on a podcast with morning co-host Peter Rosenberg and slammed Hot 97 management, saying he never had a clear direction for his afternoon show or any sense that the shift was really his on a permanent basis after longtime host Angie Martinez left for crosstown WWPR (Power 105.1). It didn’t take long after that podcast was posted for Emmis management to put out the “Effective immediately, Cipha Sounds is no longer with WQHT. We wish him well on his future endeavors” statement. Will Sounds end up at WWPR himself? He told Rosenberg he had a job offer there that he’d turned down.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has a callsign for its new Queens-based LPFM share-time on 105.5: its half of the signal will be known as WDMB-LP when it signs on.
*In Olean, Colonial Media + Entertainment is once again shuffling its translator lineup: country “Bob FM,” which originates on WBYB (103.9 Eldred), shifts its Olean translator home from W256BQ (99.1) to W230CS (93.9), which is where classic country “The Brand” had been living since October. New on 99.1 is “Eagle 99.1,” which mixes classic country with some more current (but “non-poppy”) country and originates on the HD2 of WVTT (96.7 Portville). Can this country combo make a dent in the market’s incredibly dominant country giant, Community Broadcasters’ WPIG (95.7 Olean)?
In Auburn, WAUB (1590) is applying to reduce its nighttime power. Why drop from 1000 watts to 500 watts? Because by doing so, the talk station can use its daytime phasor and pattern around the clock, simplifying its transmission system – and in any event, it’s also heard locally on an FM translator at 98.1.
There’s a new link in the big chain of “Northeast Public Radio” signals based at WAMC (90.3 Albany): W225BM (92.9 Scotia) is on the air with 10 watts from a site in Rotterdam, filling in whatever gap in the WAMC coverage area might exist between Schenectady and Amsterdam.
A DTV change in Albany: Fox affiliate WXXA (Channel 23) has replaced the ZUUS country music channel on 23.2 with horse racing, coming by way of the OTB-TV channel.
Bad news for the audience in the Catskills desperate to hear Ukrainian music and news: WUUA (89.5 Glen Spey), the station that provides that rather unique programming, tells the FCC it’s suffered a transmitter failure that forces it to operate on reduced power (50 watts instead of its usual 110) until winter weather ends and it can once again reach its transmitter site up in the mountains.
Up north, silent WPLB (100.7 Plattsburgh West) has returned to the air; for now, it’s simulcasting RadioActive-owned sister station WNMR (107.1 Dannemora) with “Kickin’ Country,” evidently to keep the license alive.
And we note the passing of a veteran public TV engineer in Plattsburgh: Charlie Zarbo was the longtime chief at WCFE (Channel 57), keeping “Mountain Lakes PBS” running in some of the more challenging conditions any public broadcaster in our region faces. That included a tower collapse in 2007 and a subsequent fire that also damaged the station’s remote Lyon Mountain site after the tower was rebuilt. Zarbo died January 13, at 65; he’d retired last year after a 34-year run at WCFE.
*Consumers of a certain age in the Elmira market bought all sorts of things from “Mr. Panosian”: “Mr. Panosian’s Shoe World” sold them footwear for years, they parked their posteriors on furniture from “Mr. Panosian’s Sleep and Sofa World” – and the folks who toiled at WIQT (1000) and WQIX (100.9) in Horseheads joked that they worked at “Mr. Panosian’s Radio World.” Manny Panosian put WIQT on the air in 1966, reaped the rewards of being the only station on the air in Chemung County after the devastating flood of 1972, then followed up with the FM signal soon afterward. Panosian sold the stations in the 1990s; he died Tuesday (Jan. 27) at age 92.
“Bob Shannon” has died – but we need to clarify that this is the Buffalo/Cleveland jock born Bob Adams, not the Syracuse/New York jock also known as Don Bombard. Adams/Shannon was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and started his radio career in the late 1960s. His NERW-land stops included a 1968 stint at WKBW in Buffalo and some 1973 work at KDKA in Pittsburgh. After that, he soon ended up in southern California, where he had a long run (sometimes as “R.J. Adams”) at stations including KFI, KHJ, KLAC and KRTH. Shannon was 67.
*A translator shuffle in NEW JERSEY: WDVR (89.7 Delaware Township) is now reaching Trenton listeners on new signal W245CC (96.9), from the WNJT (Channel 52) tower. The new translator replaces W220AG (91.9 Lawrenceville); at least for now, the 96.9 signal is still licensed to WYRS Broadcasting, which originally applied to use it as a relay of WLNJ (91.7 Lakehurst), which in turn relays WYRS (90.7 Manahawkin). Listeners in the Trenton area are now hearing WLNJ/WYRS on the 91.9 Lawrenceville signal.
It’s been a few years since FM 106.3 in Eatontown has gone by “WHTG,” the callsign that contained the initials of founders Harold and Theo Gade. They handed off WHTG-FM and sister station WHTG (1410) to their daughter Faye in 1985, and she shepherded the station through its modern rock heyday before selling it in 2000. (It’s now country as WKMK.)
Faye Gade lived in an apartment attached to the former WHTG studios (and current transmitter site) even after the sale; she died Jan. 29 at age 65 after a long illness.
*In northeast PENNSYLVANIA, religious WITK (1550 Pittston) is getting an FM translator: the Wilkins-owned station is the new primary for W288CL (105.5 Moosic), which is applying to move down one notch on the dial to 105.3, boosting power from 4 watts to 10 watts from its Montage Mountain transmitter site. Wilkins paid $40,000 for the translator last April.
In northwestern Pennsylvania, Colonial’s translator shuffle extends over the state line from its Olean, N.Y. studio: it just launched top-40 “95.3/99.3 Hot FM” over new translator W259BO (99.3 Farmers Valley) serving Bradford and W237CS (95.3 Smethport), fed from the HD3 of WXMT (106.3 Smethport). Nick Suhadolnick is brand manager/morning man at “Hot,” with syndicated hosts Rick Dees, Tom Kent and Dr. Laura Berman later in the day. (If you’re keeping a scorecard at home, W237CS had been relaying talk WVTT 96.7 from Portville/Olean).
There are new sports lineups at both ends of the state: in Philadelphia, WIP-FM (94.1) becomes Tony Bruno’s latest stop on his long sports radio career, as he comes on board as the station’s new afternoon co-host. Bruno had been across town at Greater Media’s WPEN-FM (97.5 ) from 2010 until last summer. Now he’ll be paired with Josh Innes on WIP, where they replace Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis starting Wednesday. Gargano reportedly rejected WIP’s contract offer and left the station last month, possibly headed across town to WPEN – and we don’t know what becomes of Ellis yet.
Paul Zeise is the new evening host on CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan) in Pittsburgh, starting tomorrow night. Zeise writes for the Post-Gazette and has been a fill-in host on the Fan; he replaces Colin Dunlap, who moved to mornings when Greg Giannotti went to CBS Sports Radio to host its national morning show.
*VERMONT Public Radio listeners in Montreal will be able to hear WVPS (107.9 Burlington) without local interference for at least a while longer. But in denying an application for a new low-power signal on 107.9 in downtown Montreal, officials in CANADA reinforced a principle they’ve held to for a while: there is no protection on Canadian soil for US-based FM signals, and vice versa.
“(B)ecause VPR operates a U.S. station, its station was not considered in the examination of this application,” the CRTC pointedly noted. Instead, it denied the application for a low-power “nested FM relay” of Concordia University’s CJLO (1690) by finding that “the licensee has not provided evidence that it has considered all potential technical solutions to solve CJLO’s coverage issues while remaining on the AM band or without expanding its contours beyond what is necessary to improve service to its downtown campus.”
But the CRTC also noted that 107.9 is “one of the last known frequencies for a nested FM transmitter” in Montreal, so even if CJLO’s application doesn’t represent “the best use of frequency 107.9 MHz in a radio market characterized by a scarcity of available frequencies,” is this denial really a dog-whistle to other potential applicants who might offer the CRTC a better case for the use of the channel?
*There’s a changing of the guard in morning drive at CHAY (93.1 Barrie), where Jamie Hall has departed morning drive after 20 years paired with Tara Dawn Winstone. The pair started 20 years ago when CIQB (101.1) signed on, and moved to CHAY in 2012. Hall is moving to a PR job with Simcoe Community Services.
In Toronto, Dean Blundell will soon be back on the air, a little more than a year after losing his previous morning slot on Corus’ CFNY (102.1 the Edge). Corus suspended Blundell in December 2013 after he and his morning crew made homophobic remarks on the air. Now he’s moving over to Rogers’ CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN), where he’ll start doing mornings March 2 alongside current morning co-host Andrew Walker. Greg Brady moves from mornings to 1 PM after Blundell arrives, and current middayers Tim Micallef and Sid Seixiero move to Sportsnet TV in July.
A nationwide batch of cutbacks at Corus included some changes in the London market, where the “Chris, Kim and Dave” morning show is gone from CFHK (Fresh FM 103.1). Milkman UnLimited reports Chris Evans is gone, too – he did middays on CIQB (101.1 Barrie), nights on CHAY (93.1 Barrie) and filled in at CKCB in Collingwood.
In St. Catharines, they’re mourning John Larocque, who was morning man at CHSC (1220) from 1971 until 1996. Larocque, who’d also worked at crosstown CKTB (610) and at Hamilton’s CKOC (1150) in the fifties and sixties, was 79 when he died January 17. He’d been suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. (We note, too, that the last physical remnant of now-defunct CHSC, its old studio building on Queenston Street, was torn down earlier this month.)
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