In this week’s issue… Bidding ends in FM auction – LPFMs light up across the region – WOLF, WNDR veterans reunite – Ontario FM seeks new frequency – Bill Carey, RIP – Tower Site 2016: It’s Real and It’s Spectacular!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
“It’s like coming back to worship at the cathedral.”
There might have been just a bit of hyperbole there, but for the dozens of people who packed into the old WOLF studios at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor on Saturday, 401 West Kirkpatrick Street was absolutely a place to worship. It had been 75 years since WOLF signed on and 11 years (almost to the day) since WOLF alumni last gathered for a reunion, and this time the reunion expanded to also include alumni of WNDR (1260), WOLF’s fierce rival.
The music that played on both WNDR and WOLF has migrated to “Dinosaur Radio,” the oldies station (heard on WNDR 103.9 Mexico and four translators) that Craig Fox operates from the old WOLF building, and for four hours Saturday morning (and three more hours later in the day), the alumni retook the airwaves.
Above: Mastriano and Wray; Rhodes and Caplan on the air. Below: Vann, Cavanaugh, Snyder, Rhodes and Markert; the Dinosaur crew wraps up the morning broadcast
Some of the voices from the 2004 event are gone now, including Red Parton (who signed WOLF on the air in 1940), Ron Bee (who co-hosted the 2004 broadcast) and Dick Clark, who worked at WOLF while attending Syracuse University. But this year’s event brought back other big names who worked at WOLF and WNDR, including Dusty Rhodes, who went on to become a Cincinnati radio legend, Dick Mastriano, who did news at WNDR and pretty much everywhere else, Gary Vann, Howie Castle, Peter C. Cavanaugh, John Gabriel (still on the air at WROW in Albany) and Phil Markert.
The festivities continued into the night with a party for alumni and listeners featuring the band Smokin’. Big congratulations go out to the event’s organizers, Bob Brown, Nick Caplan and Lee Hoffman, the radio alumni who now grace the airwaves of the Dinosaur – it was a lot of fun, and a great kickoff for a fall reunion season that continues in September with the Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion. (Watch this space later in the week: we have some great video from the reunion that we’ll be posting as soon as our travel schedule allows!)
We’re a community.
The Fybush Media podcast is back – for real! Listen to our latest episode right here!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
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: August 11, 2014
We chronicled the details of all those big moves in NERW Extra editions as they happened. On Wednesday, NERW readers were the first to learn about the applications to massively downgrade WWBB (101.5 Providence) and WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) in order to upgrade Boston-market WBWL (101.7 Lynn), the country “Bull” that drew the highest ratings in that signal’s history even in its current status as a rather impaired directional class A signal. And then on Thursday came the abrupt move of the WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh) talk format to WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh) so that Clear Channel could try to replicate its Boston “Bull” success with a new “Big 104.7” country format there.
So what does it all mean?
Let’s start with the New England signal shuffle, where there’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening and why. The “what” is easy: WWBB will leave its longtime transmitter site on the old WNAC-TV tower in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, moving south to one of the towers of Clear Channel’s WHJJ (920) in East Providence, where it will run just 4.9 kW/361′ with a directional notch to protect WBWL to the north. On Cape Cod, WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) will stay at its present site and remain a class B, but will drop to 13 kW from its present 50 kW, with a sharp directional notch toward WBWL. The 101.7 signal, at least in the current filing, drops its directional notch protecting WWBB but otherwise remains a class A signal from the One Financial Center tower in Boston’s financial district.
*On to Pittsburgh: we’ve already expended plenty of lines in this column writing about the decline of the talk format, including the column just a few weeks ago that correctly predicted WPGB’s imminent flip. So the more interesting part of this tale, this week, is the over on the WJAS side of the fence, where fans and staffers of the longtime standards format aren’t letting the flip to talk go without some noise.
When Renda Broadcasting sold the WJAS license to Frank Iorio, Jr., it was pretty much a given that the standards wouldn’t be coming along for the ride: the audience they reached was aging even more rapidly than that of WPGB’s talkers (something of a remarkable feat considering how quickly the talk audience is aging), and the lineup of classic Pittsburgh personalities such as Jack Bogut and Billy Cardille added to the station’s expenses, even if they weren’t getting paid as much as they did in their heyday.
*August is a busy month in “cottage country,” north of Toronto, and no less so on the radio dial, where two new signals are now testing. In Meaford, just east of Owen Sound, Evanov’s latest soft AC “Jewel” is CJGB (99.3), which is now targeting September for its official launch. And just to the east of there, in Collingwood, MZ Media’s “Classical 102.9,” CFMO, is also in test mode and preparing for its official debut as the northward extension of parent station CFMZ (96.3) from Toronto.
Five Years Ago: August 10, 2010
Eastern MASSACHUSETTS is already a pretty busy place for public radio. Regular NERW readers are well-acquainted with the format war that’s now underway as big guns WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) and WGBH (89.7 Boston) vie for listeners for their competing news-talk programming. But over on the music side, Boston’s number-three public radio station is embarking on a big-time capital campaign designed to stake out a more prominent position in the region’s noncommercial radio hierarchy.
WUMB-FM (91.9 Boston) will kick off a five-year, $7 million capital campaign at a gala fundraiser on the UMass Boston campus Wednesday night, featuring a catered dinner and performances by Judy Collins and Tom Rush. What’s the money for? WUMB says the campaign “will fund new studio and offices for WUMB, provide a place for musicians to play on air in front of a live audience, improve the station’s studio equipment, improve and expand the station’s broadcast signals, create additional Internet streams, take advantage of new technologies, digitize the station’s archive collection, acquire and digitize additional music archives, make the archives available to the community for enjoyment and research, create music education spaces for children, teens and adults, fund paid internships for UMass Boston students and, support the WUMB Endowment.” The station (and its satellite signals on the North Shore, in Worcester and on the Cape) has already been through some big transformations in recent years, moving from its roots in acoustic folk music to a broader-based AAA format. And it’s about to add a new signal: WUMG (91.7 Stow) just got its call letters assigned, and will soon be on the air as a share-time operation with WAVM (91.7 Maynard) at Maynard High School, bring at least a part-time WUMB signal to an area northwest of Boston.
In western NEW YORK, Buffalo’s “Totally Gospel” group has ended its lease of Citadel’s WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls) after four years of programming that signal with black gospel music. WHLD is carrying an automated standards format for now – and the Totally Gospel folks, who’d been programming WHLD from the historic Churchill Tabernacle building at 1420 Main Street that was the original home of WKBW-TV, have taken their programming to streaming-only for now. Their ultimate goal, at least according to a new page on their website, is to secure an FM frequency in western New York for the format.
Ithaca’s ESPN affiliate is getting new owners, but Todd and Tina Mallinson are familiar faces at WPIE (1160 Trumansburg), where Todd has been the PD for a while now. The Mallinsons are doing business as “Taughannock Media, LLC” as they buy the station from Pembrook Pines, Inc. for $150,000. There’s already a JSA in place between Taughannock and Pembrook Pines.
Ten Years Ago: August 8 & 15, 2005
After a dozen years at Boston’s WBZ (1030), morning reporter Flo Jonic is out of work this week, sparking a controversy over potential government intrusion into the newsgathering process along the way. As both of Boston’s big papers have reported, Jonic was fired by WBZ management after sending an e-mail to other newsroom staffers criticizing what she said was a decision to shelve a story she had done on lax security at the FBI offices in downtown Boston. That’s about as much as all sides agree on, though. Jonic says she was fired for opposing the decision to keep the story off the air (which she says was prompted by a phone call to management from the FBI). WBZ managers say Jonic was fired for insubordination, for sending the e-mail to the entire newsroom. They contend that the story was being readied for promotion during the fall ratings period.
Diane Sutter’s making big plans for her new TV station, WNDS (Channel 50) in Derry, NEW HAMPSHIRE. After 22 years as “The WiNDS of New England,” the independent station serving the Boston market will change calls to WZMY when Sutter’s Shooting Star relaunches its operations this fall. Those calls stand for “MyTV,” and the Nashua Telegraph reports that Sutter’s plans include a nightly talk show called “My TV Prime” and a rebranded newscast, “My TV Now.” (And yes, never fear, the station’s signature personality, weatherman Al Kaprielian, will still be a part of the broadcasts.)
On the border between Vermont and NEW YORK, WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls NY) has gone silent, as ownership passes from Pamal to the religious broadcasters at WHAZ (1330 Troy). The station’s Bennington studio is closed, and it’s applied for new calls WHAZ-FM as it prepares to return to the air as the newest link in a network that also includes WMNV (104.1 Rupert VT), WBAR (94.7 Lake Luzerne NY) and WMYY (97.3 Schoharie NY).
Just the other side of the state line, the FCC has dismissed Pamal’s application to buy WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury, soon to be Malta) from Vox, citing market-concentration issues; while that’s causing the usual twittering on the message boards, we suspect it’s a paperwork issue (perhaps having to do with delays in Pamal’s spinoff of several other Albany-market FMs) that will be cleared up soon enough.
On the western side of the Albany market, WMHT (89.1 Schenectady) has taken control of WBKK (97.7 Amsterdam), where commercial classical programming was replaced with a simulcast of WMHT’s programming on Thursday (Aug. 4); 97.7 is expected to take the all-classical mantle, and we’d expect more news and talk on 89.1 as the transition continues.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 14, 2000
Twenty Years Ago: August 11, 1995
A drive home along Mass. Route 2 Sunday night turned up one surprise – the long-dormant CP for 97.3 A in Orange, Mass. is now on the air. The CP was issued with the consecutive calls WFUB (yes, it was the last one issued before Purdue University’s now-legendary WFUC-FM, since changed to the prosaic WBAA-FM :-). A recent call change turned 97.3 into WJDF…which, interestingly enough, are nearly identical calls to Massachusetts’ other 97.3, the 50kw Portuguese powerhouse WJFD in New Bedford.
There’s One Born Every Minute: Family Stations has actually found a buyer for the now-dark 1060 WBIV Natick license. Loyal readers will recall that 1060 had been owned by a company called SRN Boston, which traded it for Family’s CP for 890 WBMA Dedham-Boston. SRN built the 890 facility by modifying its old 1060 facility in Ashland, Mass., and then sold 890 to Douglas Broadcasting, which now operates it as sports-talk WBPS. That left Family with a useless 1060 license…useless because SRN and Douglas refused to let 1060 diplex on what had been its transmitter site. Land values in the area are extremely high, and the NIMBY factor still higher, so the odds that anyone will be able to erect the 5+ tower array needed to bring 1060 back on with its old 25kw day are pretty slim. All that notwithstanding, someone named Alexander Langer actually spent 71 thousand dollars to buy the 1060 license. There’s no indication that Langer owns any other broadcast properties…and I can’t wait to see what he tries to do with 1060. My bet is that we’ll never see that thing on the air here again. (2010 update: Good thing I didn’t put money on that bet. As NERW readers know, Langer did resurrect 1060 as WMEX and then WBIX, and is now in the process of selling it to Holy Family Communications.)