In this week’s issue… Seacoast owners merge – Boston AM flip imminent – Labor Day format change rundown – Tower Site Calendar 2016: Get Yours Now!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
We hope you had a pleasant Labor Day! We suffered server issues this morning that wiped out most of this week’s column.Thanks to the readers who helped us at least partially reconstruct it – and if you see anything that’s missing here, please let us know!
*How do you compete against big groups like iHeart and Townsquare in a relatively small market like the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast and neighboring communities? The answer, at least last week, was for several veteran broadcasters to join forces, assembling six stations in three states into a single company to be called Coastal Media Partners.
Port Broadcasting’s Carl Strube and Pete Falconi will be at the helm of the new Coastal group, which will include their own WNBP (1450 Newburyport MA) and WWSF (1220 Sanford ME), plus the Aruba Capital Holdings stations they’ve been managing, WXEX (1540 Exeter NH) and WXEX-FM (92.1 Sanford ME) – and now the addition of Garrison City Broadcasting’s WTSN (1270 Dover NH) and WBYY (98.7 Somersworth NH).
“There is a great deal of synergy in this merger. All of the stations are very community-focused but offer different brands to attract different demographics. The overall radio signal footprint spans geographies to reach a population of just over 2 million people,” said Falconi.
“After 30 years of being independent radio station owners, our family is delighted to form a partnership with three radio veterans who understand the importance of providing our listeners with local programming, news and sports,” said Garrison City’s Susan Demers Weigold.
We’re assuming the financials of the deal will be filed with the FCC when its computer systems reopen this week after a holiday shutdown.
We’re a community.
*What may be the last chapter in the big MASSACHUSETTS AM shuffle of 2015 will fall into place in the next few days as Salem takes over operation of WMKI (1260 Boston) from Radio Disney. Disney shut off its programming on 1260 on Friday, clearing the way for Salem to relaunch this week as business-talk WBIX. (The move leaves only Philadelphia-market WWJZ 640 carrying Disney programming until that signal’s sale to Catholic broadcaster Starboard closes.)
Over at WRKO (680), Entercom has picked Michael Czarnecki as the new operations manager/assistant PD. He heads east down the Pike from iHeart in Springfield, where he was programming WRNX (100.9) and APD for WHYN (560)/WHYN-FM (93.1).
During the last two LPFM windows, we expressed some skepticism about “M&M Community Development,” a nonprofit that appeared to invent local “chapters” in order to apply for FM channels in multiple markets around the country. We’re still skeptical about some of the ways in which the FCC’s one-to-a-customer rules may have been manipulated by a lot of parties in the LPFM proceedings – but the end result, at least on Martha’s Vineyard, seems to have been unequivocally positive. That’s where “M&M Community Development, Oak Bluffs Branch” beat out a local (but somewhat questionable) entity, “MVPBS,” to get 105.5 licensed to Oak Bluffs.
(Photo of MVRHS principal Peg Regan, CTE director Barbara-Jean Chauvin and Skip Finley courtesy Dennis Jackson)
Last week, M&M signed on its new station, WYOB-LP, from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs. The driving force behind the new signal is Skip Finley, who owned Washington’s WKYS and then worked for Inner City Broadcasting at WLIB/WBLS. Finley, in turn, had technical and programming help from veteran broadcaster and part-time Vineyard resident Dennis Jackson, who helped get the signal launched with a loop of reggae programming. When it’s up and running with a full schedule, the reggae will share time with programs produced by MVRHS students, which is just what LPFM was meant to do, right?
*Are you ready for the regional EAS test that’s coming in just over a week? All six New England state broadcast associations are working with FEMA on an IPAWS test slated for Sept. 16. You can read more about it in this Radio World interview with Al Kenyon – and we’re eager to hear from you, good or bad, about how it goes for you.
*When we think of VERMONT broadcast owner Ken Squier, it’s generally in the context of his WDEV and sister stations. But Sunday night’s NBC NASCAR broadcast from Darlington brought Squier back to the network broadcast booth for “Retro Night,” accompanied by Ned Jarrett and his son, Dale Jarrett. While we might (and do) quibble with the accuracy of the “retro graphics,” there’s no quibbling with Squier, who was as smooth as if he’d just called his last race a week ago instead of several decades back.
*In MAINE, there’s word of the death Sunday of Chuck Morgan, veteran programmer, producer and VO talent. Born in Worcester as Bob Michaud, he worked locally at WAAB/WAAF, WVBF and WEIM before coming to Portland as air talent and production director at WJBQ in the 1980s. Morgan then went solo with his Morgan Media production business (responsible, among other things, for the “Yankee Report” with Bob Scott, not to mention innumerable commercials and promos). He eventually relocated to Fort Myers, Florida, where he returned to radio at WOLZ (95.3).
Translator W263BZ (100.5) is applying to move closer to Portland. Currently licensed with 10 watts from Blackstrap Mountain, the Light of Life-owned translator wants to move south and boost power to 250 watts; it’s listed as planning to relay WLOB (1310) once it relocates.
*From CONNECTICUT comes word of some very interesting history programming headed to the greater Hartford airwaves. WWUH (91.3 West Hartford) will carry a 10-part series on Connecticut radio history, two parts each Wednesday afternoon from 1-4 starting this Wednesday (Sept. 9).
“Since 2005, WWUH has recorded interviews with over 120 disk jockeys, radio engineers, and behind-the-scenes people who remember those years of radio in Connecticut. We’ve also scoured websites, libraries, basements and garages to turn up vintage tapes and transcription disks from those years,” says historian John Ramsey. We can’t wait to hear it!
*In central PENNSYLVANIA, Seven Mountains has a full slate of call changes to go with the format changes: for its three new “Bigfoot Country” outlets that launched last Monday, WHUN-FM (106.3 Mount Union) becomes WDBF, WJUN-FM (92.5 Mexico) is now WIBF and WLZS (106.1 Beaver Springs) is now WZBF. The WHUN-FM calls and “Hunny” nickname are, as we noted last week, headed down the dial to replace the “Merf” simulcast on WLAK (103.5 Huntingdon).
To the north, Colonial Media + Entertainment is doubling down on boosters. A week after applying for an on-channel booster for its WBYB (103.9 Eldred), Colonial is now applying to relay WXMT (106.3 Smethport) in Bradford, 15 miles or so to the northwest. WXMT-1 would run 810 watts, vertical-only, from downtown Bradford.
Radio People on the Move: Dave Russell is returning to WARM-FM (103.3 York), where he did one turn as PD from 2007-2009. He’s been out west programming Keymarket’s WOGG (94.9 Oliver)/WPKL (99.3 Uniontown), but now he’s going back to the PD chair at WARM.
There’s a new community voice on the air in York, too: First St. John’s Lutheran Church signed on WYCO-LP (106.1) on Sunday. The new community station, known as “Community 106.1,” is being operated in partnership with Gordon Moul, who signed on the old “Starview 92.7” (WHTF) back in the early 1970s.
Seven years after he came to Philadelphia public broadcaster WHYY from the Inquirer, Chris Satullo is rather abruptly out as VP of news and civic dialogue. Philadelphia Magazine reports that nobody at WHYY seems eager to talk about Satullo’s departure.
*There’s a post-Labor Day change coming at Townsquare’s WSJO (104.9 Egg Harbor City) in NEW JERSEY. Morning man Tom Morgan is gone from the website, and while we initially reported that RadioInsight had picked up a domain registration for “104.9 the Edge” that appears to point to south Jersey, it now appears that the Tuesday news at WSJO is the arrival of Mike Richman, the former WAYV (95.1 Atlantic City) morning man who’s been voicetracking for other Townsquare stations while apparently waiting out a noncompete.
*There are some odd new schedule changes at NEW YORK City-owned WNYE (91.5), and they’re not what we expected. WNYE had been carrying the “Alternative Side” rock format from WFUV (90.7)’s HD3 in morning drive, and when that service went off the air in August the initial reports were that WNYE would begin simulcasting WFUV’s main channel in afternoon drive. Instead, though, WNYE is continuing to carry WFUV in morning drive, simulcasting Corny O’Connell’s main-channel morning show to parts of the market (including Brooklyn and north Jersey) that get 91.5 from Four Times Square much better than 90.7 from the Bronx. The new WNYE schedule continues to include several NPR shows that don’t get carried on New York’s big NPR outlet, WNYC-FM (93.9): Diane Rehm at 10 AM and Here & Now at 2 PM. (One hour of H&N is heard on WNYC’s AM 820 signal, at 2.) And then? Then WNYE is also carrying All Things Considered from 4-6 PM, right up against All Things Considered on WNYC.
*On Long Island’s East End, Cumulus made a pre-Labor Day format change at WELJ (104.7 Montauk). Instead of relaying “Nash FM” from WNSH (94.7 Newark NJ), the Montauk signal has now segued over to the older-skewing “Nash Icon” service.
*It’s Hall of Fame/reunion season in earnest around the region now, and the next few weeks will bring two big events in upstate New York. The Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion, set for Sept. 19, will include an appearance by Anne Serling, Rod’s daughter; earlier in the day, the Bundy Museum of History and Art will host the induction ceremony for the Binghamton Broadcasters Hall of Fame. This year’s class includes Greg Catlin of WBNG, Phil Marella of WMGC/WIVT, Bill Jaker of WSKG, polka broadcasters Bill and Barb Mack and industry veteran Hank Sommers.
And then the spotlight turns to Buffalo, where Sept. 24 is the date for the Buffalo Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame ceremony. The class of 2015 includes WBBZ-TV owner Phil Arno, CNN’s Susan Candiotti (who started out years ago at WGR-TV), WJYE’s Joe Chille, former WGRZ/WKBW-TV news director Jerry Fedell, WIVB photojournalist Mike Mombrea, Jr. and WKBW-TV anchor Keith Radford.
*In Albany, the old WPTR (1540, now WDCD) is having transmitter troubles: just before the FCC took down its databases for the Labor Day holiday, WDCD notified the Commission that it took a lightning hit August 14 that disabled its 50 kW main transmitter and caused damage to the auxiliary. The aux went back on the air August 19 with 5 kW, and WDCD says it will hang tight with that reduced power until parts arrive to replace the main transmitter.
Radio People on the Move: in Ithaca, Chase Daniels remains the afternoon guy on WQNY (103.7), but he’s also now the assistant PD for the Saga (Cayuga Radio Group)-owned country station, as well as assistant operations manager for the entire cluster.
Chris Caggiano (aka “Chris Cage”) grew up in Niagara Falls and started his broadcast career there at WJJL and WHLD before heading to Dayton, Ohio for college. After working in radio there in the early 1970s at WVUD and at Cincinnati’s WLW, Cage came back east as sales manager at WHWH (1350 Princeton NJ) and then, from 1975-79, as GM of WINE (940)/WRKI (95.1) in Brookfield, Connecticut. The rest of his career was spent back in the midwest, where he owned stations in Ohio and Indiana and ran a research business. Cage died September 1 in Fort Wayne, at age 67.
*There’s a format change to kick off our news from eastern CANADA: on Friday, Evanov dropped the “Energy” top-40 format from CKHZ (103.5 Halifax), flipping the station to “Hot Country 103.5” in a direct attack against Maritime Broadcasting’s top-rated CHFX (101.9). The move pulls CKHZ out of what had become a crowded pop market, including Bell’s CJCH (101.3 the Bounce).
Ontario’s My Broadcasting didn’t waste much time starting some format makeovers after it took control at Cobourg-based Pineridge Broadcasting. As of noon on Wednesday, the AC “Magic” format at CJWV (96.7 Peterborough) has been reborn as “Oldies 96.7,” with what My says will be an increased emphasis on local news. And in Cobourg, RadioInsight picks up on a domain registration for “Classic Rock 107.9” at what’s now AC “Breeze” CHUC (107.9).
And Monday was format-change day at Bell’s CKOC (1150), which wrapped up a weekend-long “Top 500” countdown with the Stones’ “Satisfaction” before flipping from oldies to sports as “TSN 1150” at 10 AM and launching into day-long coverage of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Who went on to whomp the Toronto Argonauts, if CFL’s your thing.)
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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: September 8, 2014
*How many top-40 morning hosts get to say they’ve woken up two generations of radio listeners? There’s the amazing run of Matty Siegel in Boston, of course, and Scott Shannon’s long tenure across several New York City stations. And here in Rochester, there’s Scott Spezzano, whose time at WPXY (97.9) started when your editor was in high school in the mid-1980s and lasted long enough for your editor’s daughter to be hearing Spezzano and co-host Sandy Waters when her alarm goes off each morning.
That changes a week from today: after some 25 years on 98PXY (with a stint in the middle across town at WDKX), Spezzano and Waters will move down the hall next Monday to the vacant morning slot on Entercom sister station WBZA (98.9 the Buzz). That’s where former “Breakfast Buzz” hosts Kimberly Ray and Barry Beck flamed out back in May, leaving a void all summer (and sparking a brief rumor of their return on social media last weekend.)
Instead, the new “Breakfast Buzz” with Spezzano and Waters will launch September 15 on WBZA, following a WBZA-WPXY simulcast in morning drive on Friday that will introduce PXY listeners to their new morning show, #TeamPXY, featuring current afternoon jock/music director Megan Carter and new import Corey James, inbound from WVHT in Virginia Beach.
Can Entercom move Spezzano and Sandy’s longtime fans up the dial without hurting WPXY too much? And with veterans like Spezzano and Shannon now on signals aiming at older audiences, how long will Boston’s remarkable Siegel hold out in the world of CHR? (As long as Kiss 108 stays on top of the ratings, the answer there is probably, “as long as he wants.”)
*Carolina Bermudez is back in NEW YORK radio, two years after she departed Elvis Duran’s WHTZ (Z100) morning show to take a TV gig on “Live from the Couch,” the offbeat morning show CBS launched when it bought independent WLNY (Channel 55) in the New York market. The Couch went to the curb earlier this year, and after doing some fill-in radio work, Bermudez is now back at Clear Channel, this time down the hall at WKTU (103.5) alongside Cubby Bryant on the morning show. Her arrival at KTU displaces Cindy Vero from the co-host slot alongside Cubby Bryant.
*Joan Rivers is being remembered, quite rightly, for the way she changed the world of stand-up comedy. But Rivers, who died Thursday at age 81, also made a mark in broadcasting during her long career. On TV, of course, Rivers’ long run as the designated fill-in for Johnny Carson gave way to her ill-fated role as the very first Fox network host in 1986. On radio, her nightly show based at WOR (710) from 1997 until 2002 was also syndicated over WOR’s network; a year later, her former WOR program director David Bernstein brought her to Providence, RHODE ISLAND to fill in on Rush Limbaugh’s timeslot at WPRO (630) while Limbaugh was out for rehab. (WPRO remembered her stint there, here.)
Five Years Ago: September 7, 2010
*CANADA was supposed to have lost yet another AM station at the close of business August 31 – but troubled CHSC (1220 St. Catharines) was still on the air the next day, and it now appears there will be more legal maneuvering before the CRTC can enforce its order directing owner Pellpropco to silence the station that’s been at the center of numerous CRTC actions in recent years.
On August 25, Pellpropco asked the Federal Court of Appeals to issue a stay while it awaits a response to an application for leave to appeal the CRTC ruling, and with just hours to go before CHSC’s death sentence, the appeals court granted the stay. In its ruling, the appeals court concluded that “The Crown has not alleged any specific harm to the Crown or the public interest that could result if Pellpropco is permitted to continue its broadcasting activities pending the disposition of its application for leave to appeal.”
A Crown response to the application for leave to appeal is due September 13, and it now seems likely that CHSC will continue to pursue legal options to stay on the air despite the CRTC’s decision not to renew its license. Among the precedents being cited by CHSC is the case of Genec Communications and CHOI (98.1 Quebec City), the last time the CRTC attempted to pull a station’s license.
Back then, the issue was purely one of content – CHOI had run afoul of CRTC standards with its outspoken morning show – and there was a considerable amount of public pressure helping to push higher levels of the Canadian government to overturn the CRTC’s decision and allow CHOI to remain on the air under a new licensee. In CHSC’s case, the CRTC has amassed plenty of evidence suggesting that Pellpropco is unwilling to abide by some of the most basic tenets of Canadian broadcast licensing (including an unauthorized change of studio location and programming language), and it’s not clear that CHSC has anywhere near the kind of political influence that CHOI did.
*We begin our PENNSYLVANIA news up in the state’s northwestern corner, where WWCB (1370 Corry) has picked up a venerable set of calls, WHYP. That callsign spent many decades on the air in nearby North East, where the inimitable James Brownyard ran a one-man operation on AM 1530 (now Mercyhurst College’s WYNE) and FM 100.9 (now WRKT), distinguished by his gravelly-voiced IDs and the occasional sound of a record running out while Brownyard was out mowing the lawn.
As of last week, “WHYP” is back on the air, attached to an oldies format on 1370 that’s being operated by Vilkie Communications, which also owns WMVL (101.7 Linesville) over in the Meadville market. The FM is “Cool 101.7,” and the AM is now “Cool 1370.”
*As eastern MASSACHUSETTS and RHODE ISLAND breathe deep sighs of relief at having dodged the brunt of Hurricane Earl, two broadcast groups are learning that they’ll get one of the last open FM channels in the area, as long as they’re prepared to share time.
The FCC considered 13 competing applications in a mutually-exclusive group that stretched from Palmer and Ware, Massachusetts down to northern Rhode Island, and when the dust settled, two applications for 91.5 – one from St. Joseph’s Radio Station Inc. for Pascoag and another from Providence Community Radio for Harrisville – ended up tied under the FCC’s point system. Each received a “tentative preference,” but they’ll be required to come up with a time-sharing agreement before they can receive construction permits for the new signals.
(Among the losing applicants were some big names – Boston’s WBUR sought a new signal in Ware, while Bryant University had applied for Pascoag and Rhode Island Public Radio for Woonsocket.)
*With the impending end of business talk on WBIX (1060 Natick, soon to be Catholic WQOM), some of the station’s program lineup is finding new homes elsewhere on the AM dial. That includes Barry Armstrong, who’s taking his financial talk down the dial to WRKO (680), where he’ll displace an hour of Charley Manning’s midday show for the noon-1 PM “Lunch Money with Barry Armstrong” beginning later this week.
Ten Years Ago: September 5, 2005
It’s been a busy week for Hall Communications – first, the Connecticut format changes we told you about in our last issue, and now a major station purchase in the Burlington, VERMONT market. Hall was already a major player in town, with market-leading country giant WOKO (98.9 Burlington), standards WJOY (1230 Burlington) and oldies WKOL (105.1 Plattsburgh NY). Now, for $17 million, it’s adding Burlington Broadcasters’ two stations – classic rock WIZN (106.7 Vergennes) and modern rock WBTZ (99.9 Plattsburgh). (WBTZ is actually still owned by Plattsburgh Broadcasters, and Hall assumes Burlington’s right to purchase the station, as well as an LMA until the sale closes.) Hall says it won’t change anything at WIZN and WBTZ, and we tend to take that statement more seriously when Hall’s involved. The stations will stay at their current home on the south edge of downtown Burlington, too.
Meanwhile over at Steve Silberberg’s stations, WXAL (93.7 Addison) takes its new calls WUSX this week. Those calls come over from 105.7 Campton NH, which changes calls to WLKC, which was the old call on Silberberg’s 103.3 Waterbury VT. And the circle goes round…
A station sale in MAINE: Franklin Broadcasting is selling WKTJ (99.3 Farmington) to Clearwater Communications for $450,000. Clearwater brokers WSKW/WCTB/WHQO in Skowhegan from Mountain Wireless.
There’s a station sale to report in MASSACHUSETTS, as well, where William J. Macek’s Central Broadcasting Company is paying Liveair Communications $795,000 for WEIM (1280 Fitchburg). Macek’s a familiar name in central Massachusetts; he used to own WINQ in Winchendon (and was a DJ on WLLH in Lowell years ago, too, as “Bill Maxwell.”)
Our NEW YORK news kicks off with a brand-new tower – three of them, in fact! The steel is beginning to rise at WOR (710)’s new site in New Jersey’s Meadowlands. The tower raising will continue through the next couple of months, according to CE Kerry Richards. Right now, just a couple of segments of one tower are up, but all the pieces for the first of three 658-foot towers (made by Indiana’s Central Tower) are in place at the site just north of WOR’s existing plant in Lyndhurst, N.J. The transmitter building’s finished, too, and inside it two brand-new Harris 3DX50 transmitters, along with a phasor, ATUs and other goodies await installation.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 4, 2000
Twenty Years Ago: September 4, 1995