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.
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