In this week’s issue… Limbaugh lands up the dial – Krenn’s back in the Burgh – More FM for Burlington – My buys in Ontario – Remembering NH’s Blacksmith, NY’s Doubleday, Ontario’s Costley-White
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Quick – what do you get if you combine a national sports morning show, an assortment of syndicated conservative talkers who’ve never gained much traction anywhere else in the market, and Rush Limbaugh in middays?
It’s the newest talk station in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, of course, and as we predicted last week, little WKOX (1430 Everett) is iHeart’s last-ditch move to retain a clearance for Limbaugh in market number ten when Entercom’s WRKO (680 Boston) pulls the plug on the show next week.
“Talk 1430” will launch on WKOX next Monday with a lineup that’s even more makeshift than the last Clear Channel attempt to provide an in-house clearance for Limbaugh. When WXKS (1200 Newton) launched as “Rush Radio,” it at least had a local morning show with Jeff Katz to try to bring some Boston relevance to the format. This time, it will be Fox Sports Radio filling the Talk 1430 airwaves from 1-9 AM, which might as well be dead air for all that Boston has ever embraced sports talk from outside the market. Glenn Beck will precede Limbaugh from 9-noon, with Sean Hannity following Rush from 3-6 PM. “America Now,” Mark Levin and Clyde Lewis will round out the schedule, such as it is.
For a comparison, we turn to Los Angeles and KEIB (1150), the “Rush and a bunch of other stuff” talker that iHeart created when it pulled Limbaugh off big-stick KFI (640) in 2014. With a 50,000-watt signal that covers a decent chunk of the market, a bit of external marketing and a lengthy period of cross-promotion to bring Rush listeners over from their long KFI habit, KEIB still hasn’t cracked a 1 share in the 12+ ratings. “Talk 1430” will launch with a far lesser signal and no promotional boost from WRKO; can it even get to an 0.5? (We’re betting on “not” – and what’s more, we’ll hazard a guess that WKOX’s talk ratings will be worse, both overall and in key demographics, than the station’s been doing with Spanish hits as “Mia 1430.”)
*Meanwhile at WRKO, morning host Jeff Kuhner has confirmed that he’ll replace Limbaugh in the noon-3 slot beginning next Monday. (He’s also making noises about going into syndication, which seems like a bit of a long shot.)
With Kuhner settled into middays, there are just two remaining shoes left to drop in this long Boston talk soap opera:
At WRKO, what will replace Kuhner in mornings? We’d heard rumors of a morning show co-produced with the Globe, but that was a while back and Entercom’s been good about maintaining, er, “radio silence” ever since. Will former channel 7 anchor Kim Carrigan, who auditioned as a Kuhner fill-in back in April, be part of it?
And what sort of a spoiler role might Salem play when it completes its purchase of WMKI (1260) from Radio Disney? Assuming Boston will get one of Salem’s “The Answer” talk formats, even the 1-share that Salem hosts such as Hugh Hewitt and Bill Bennett tend to draw could be a significant factor against WRKO, WKOX and WMEX (1510) as they all fight for the limited talk audience in town.
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Spring is in the air? You wouldn’t know it from going outside, at least not here in NERWland.
OK, we’re back on Daylight Saving Time, the Vernal Equinox is approaching and March Madness is imminent. So yes, spring is coming.
And the 2018 Tower Site Calendar is available at a discount. If you haven’t bought yours yet, you can now get it for 25% off.
From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten, fifteen and – where available – twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: June 23, 2014
*Way back in February 2007, NERW readers were the first to know that Cumulus was laying plans to move longtime suburban NEW YORK radio staple WFAS-FM (103.9) from Westchester County into the Bronx. But even as we were correctly predicting that a city-of-license change from White Plains to Bronxville would be followed by an application to move its transmitter from Greenburgh to the top of the Montefiore Medical Center, we couldn’t have anticipated that it would take more than seven years to consummate the relocation.
In fact, while the new facility was built and tested fairly quickly, the CP to move to the Bronx with 980 watts/532′ expired in 2011 without being licensed, only to be refiled and once again to near expiration this July 27. But this time, the new 103.9 signal will be licensed, and by Independence Day it will be on the air as New York City’s newest FM signal.
Cumulus will make the official announcement about its fourth outlet in its cluster at a media/sponsor event to be held Wednesday night at Sylvia’s soul food restaurant in Harlem, but if the venue isn’t enough of a clue, the signal should be: if you’ve got a minimal class A facility that will be strong mostly in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, and if you’re the one big cluster in the city that’s not yet vying for an urban audience, R&B is the way to go, apparently with an adult flavor.
*There’s a big change coming to the TV market in western MASSACHUSETTS with the surprise exit of a local owner. John Gormally. In 2007, Gormally made a splash by paying Sinclair $21.2 million for WGGB (Channel 40), which was something of an anomaly as a standalone ABC affiliate in a company that was already big into duopolies and even larger clusters. Gormally invested in upgrading WGGB’s local news presence, long a second-place contender against the market’s perennially dominant NBC affiliate, LIN’s WWLP (Channel 22), and he added a second network with the launch of “Fox 6” on a WGGB subchannel.
But even the benefits of local ownership (not to mention synergy with Gormally’s Business West newspaper) couldn’t pull WGGB ahead of WWLP, and now Gormally is selling WGGB/Fox 6 to the other operator in town who’s challenging LIN and WWLP. Meredith Broadcasting has been a fixture for decades in the Hartford market, just to the south, where it owns CBS affiliate WFSB (Channel 3). Back in 2003, WFSB spun off a satellite operation in Springfield, putting WSHM-LP (Channel 67, later DTV 21) on the air as “CBS 3 Springfield,” with separate local news and ad sales for the Massachusetts communities that used to get CBS from WFSB.
And now Meredith is paying Gormally $53.8 million for WGGB, more than doubling what Gormally paid for the station seven years ago. How can one company own the ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates in a single small market, especially at a time when the FCC is cracking down on such consolidations? Blame (or credit, if you prefer) the way in which regulation hasn’t quite kept pace with market realities in the last few years. The ownership cap system still in use at the FCC is based on the idea that a “station” and a “license” are the same thing, an assumption that no longer works in our new era of DTV multicast channels like “Fox 6.” What’s more, because “CBS 3” is a low-power license, it doesn’t count against ownership caps at all – so as far as the FCC is concerned, Meredith is actually a new entrant into the Springfield full-power market, where its purchase of WGGB will make it only a one-station owner under the rules.
Five Years Ago: June 20, 2010
The future of digital radio in the United States remains a hot topic for debate whenever broadcast people get together. North of the border in CANADA, however, the debate is over: the L-band Eureka-147 DAB system that launched to extensive fanfare just over a decade ago is now dead.
Last week, the CBC notified Industry Canada that it’s pulling the plug on its DAB transmitters, beginning with the multiplex in Montreal that carried two English and two French radio signals. While the CRTC has not yet given public notice of CBC shutdowns at its other digital transmitters, we checked with the lone Canadian DAB receiver owner we know – and he reports that as of Friday, the CBC multiplex on “channel LF” (1461 MHz) was indeed off the air. (Thanks to Bill Hepburn for his monitoring assistance with these!)
With the CBC signals gone, it’s a pretty good bet that the remaining commercial DAB signals will soon disappear as well. In Toronto, Bill reports that many of the stations on the three remaining multiplexes had no audio on Friday; out of 15 stations that were supposed to be available, only nine had audio – and that audio, he reports, was “internet-quality.”
While digital radio fades away, the pressure for new analog signals continues unabated. This week marks the end of a frequency test aimed at squeezing yet another FM signal into the crowded Toronto dial. Since May 31, “CARN Radio” has been testing from the First Canadian Place transmitter site, reportedly with about 500 watts, as Fitzroy Gordon attempts to find a workable dial position for the Caribbean-focused station the CRTC licensed to him back in 2006. CBC, which operates Radio One outlet CBLA on 99.1 from First Canadian Place, objected to Gordon’s proposed use of the second-adjacent 98.7 frequency, which would normally have been the end of that story – but Canada’s heritage minster intervened to authorize the test on 98.7. It’s not yet clear when a decision will be made about whether CARN can use 98.7 as a permanent frequency.
The week’s big news from NEW YORK came from the Capital District, where veteran morning man Don Weeks announced that when his contract is up later this year, he’s retiring from WGY (810 Schenectady) after 30 years on the job. Weeks, who’s 71, has been on the air in the Albany market since 1956, including a stint as a top-40 DJ at WTRY (980, now WOFX) and a long run doing weather and hosting the kiddie shows on WAST (Channel 13, now WNYT). Last year, he was inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame (and indeed, that’s where this picture of him was taken!) “It has been a great run but I want time now to pursue some other interests,” Weeks said in a statement; WGY says it will launch the proverbial national search to find a replacement for WGY’s morning slot.
Ten Years Ago: June 19, 2005
If you’re looking to buy TV ad time on a full-power station in VERMONT, you’re down to just three choices after the recent sale of ABC affiliate WVNY (Channel 22) in Burlington and a subsequent joint sales agreement with the owners of crosstown Fox affiliate WFFF (Channel 44).
Here’s what’s going on down by the shore of Lake Champlain: C-22 License Subsidiary, the owner of WVNY, recently won FCC permission to sell the station to a company called Lambert Broadcasting of Burlington, controlled by Michael Lambert of Beverly Hills, California. Under the terms of the $10.5 million deal, Lambert will then enter into the joint sales agreement with Smith Media, part of the Smith group that already owns WFFF. While the deal will keep Smith from having an attributable ownership interest in WVNY (which would be illegal in a market as small as Burlington, with just four commercial TV stations and thus no possibility of a legal TV duopoly), it will put Smith in charge of most of the operations of WVNY. Smith will handle WVNY’s ad sales (though with a provision barring it from forcing ad buyers to buy WVNY and WFFF in combination), publicity, routine engineering functions and will provide no more than 15% of WVNY’s programming.
That programming is expected to include at least some local news, which is one area in which the deal could benefit viewers in the Burlington market. WFFF has never offered local news, and WVNY’s history with news has been a troubled one; the station cancelled its last (and most ambitious) attempt at local news last year after failing to make enough of a dent against market giants WCAX (Channel 3) and WPTZ (Channel 5). The hope, apparently, is that WVNY and WFFF together might be more of a contender than either station would have been alone. (The prospect of local news on WFFF raises questions, too: the station currently serves as both the Fox and WB outlet in the market, delaying WB’s 8-10 PM primetime offerings to a “WB Time” block that runs from 10-midnight each night; would a 10 PM WFFF newscast get in the way of that?) Operations of both stations will apparently be consolidated at WFFF’s facility in Colchester, sooner or later.
On the TV side, it marked the end of an era – not just in Boston, but in local TV everywhere – when WCVB (Channel 5) president/general manager Paul LaCamera announced last week that he’s stepping down as general manager on August 1 and as president at year’s end. LaCamera has been with WCVB since its 1972 sign-on, and he’s managed the station since 1988. Under his leadership, the station won a well-deserved reputation as one of the best local TV outlets in the country, and it will be interesting indeed to see whether his successor, Bill Fine of Hearst-Argyle’s WBAL-TV (Channel 11), will be able to maintain that reputation. (NERW wonders, in particular, whether WCVB icon Natalie Jacobson will be inclined to stick around for a new contract after the departure of LaCamera, to whom Jacobson and other station veterans are personally loyal.)
In any event, we join the rest of the industry in saluting LaCamera for his work over the decades at WCVB, and we wish him well on his retirement. (2010 update: Some retirement – LaCamera soon ended up being hired to run public station WBUR, where he can still be found today.)
Fifteen Years Ago: June 23, 2000
We begin this week in CANADA, where precisely a year after CBL Toronto said its final “adieu” on 740 and moved to FM for good, the CRTC is announcing its successor on the 50 kilowatt blowtorch frequency. The nod goes to Michael Caine’s CHWO (1250 Oakville), which will move its adult-standards format down the dial to 740 by next June under the moniker “PrimeTime Radio.” Caine persuaded the CRTC that listeners over the age of 55 are underserved on the Toronto dial, and says his station will serve as an “oasis” in the midst of the rock that dominates Toronto FM. NERW expects the new 740 to use the existing CBC transmitter plant in Hornby, but we’re keeping an eye out for construction at the CHWO site as well.
It turns out 1250 won’t go silent as a result of the move; the CRTC says Caine can lease that facility out to the Christian broadcasters who now lease 50 hours a week on CHWO sister station CJMR (1320 Mississauga). When they take over as “Joy 1250,” CJMR will become all-ethnic (largely Asian languages).
Over on the FM side, the CRTC handed out two more licences, expected to be the last available in Canada’s largest city. B. Denham Jolly, who had applied unsuccessfully for the 92.5 channel (now CISS) and the 99.1 facility (now CBC’s CBLA), finally gets his FM under the name “Milestone Radio.” The urban-formatted station will be on 93.5 with 298 watts — a perfect spot, really, to usurp the Toronto listeners who now hear the format on Buffalo’s WBLK (93.7 Depew NY). (A minority interest in Jolly’s station will be held by Standard, which already owns CFRB and CKFM in Toronto, but the CRTC says this will not constitute an illegal LMA).
The last licence goes to Gary Farmer’s Aboriginal Voices Radio, whose station will be the first in Toronto aimed at a native audience. AVR asked for both 740 AM and 106.5 FM; they were granted only the FM, with 250 watts. NERW wonders what *that* channel will sound like in the summer when reception heats up over the water path across the lake to co-channel 50-kilowatt WYRK Buffalo, which can usually be heard in Toronto on a warm day. All three stations are expected on the air by June 2001.
Twenty Years Ago: June 17, 1995
From our Southern Rhode Island department: WUAE-FM 99.7 in Wakefield RI is on the air. The station is the latest project of Bear Broadcasting, which just last week closed its sale of WWRX-FM 103.7 Westerly-Providence to Radio Equity Partners. WUAE doesn’t have WWRX’s earth-shattering signal, but it seems to be getting out pretty well for a straight class A. (It shares WWRX’s site in Exeter, RI). The format is modern rock (the second in Rhode Island, after Brown University-affiliated WBRU 95.5), and the non-ID is “The Edge.” Bear still owns WHIM 1110 in East Providence and WERI 1230 in Westerly as well.