In this week’s issue…PA AM/FM combo gets new owner – TV newscasts combine – NY FM seeks move – Pope’s visit brings Catholic radio to Philly – New booster in Boston? – Tower Site Calendar 2016: Get Yours Now!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s been a busy year in central PENNSYLVANIA for the Confer family. Kerby Confer’s wife and daughter have been realigning the FM dial in and around State College with their Seven Mountains Media group – and now Kerby Confer’s Forever group is pushing eastward across the mountains with the $4.25 million acquisition of WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) and WGET (1320 Gettysburg) from the Times & News newspaper, which has owned the stations since putting the AM signal on the air back in 1950.
What’s in the mix now for these stations, which have long occupied an enviable niche at the western edge of the sprawling Harrisburg-York-Lancaster market? Forever is a country expert, so it’s hard to imagine any change in WGTY’s core format – but could 107.7 soon be sporting the “Froggy” branding that Confer uses in many of his other markets? As for WGET, it’s been doing sports for a while now, and while Forever doesn’t do a lot of AM these days, WGET has a decent signal that’s a notch above some of the failing AMs that Confer has turned off in recent years.
We’re a community.
*With just hours to spare before Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia, Starboard Communications brought its “Relevant Radio” Catholic programming to the market with Wednesday’s relaunch of WWJZ (640 Mount Holly, NEW JERSEY). The 50,000-watt daytime signal covers much more of the Philadelphia market than the existing Catholic entries, WFJS (1260 Trenton) and the simulcast of WISP (1570 Doylestown)/WCOJ (1420 Coatesville).
In Erie, Lilly Broadcasting spent a good chunk of money not long ago to build out a second control room to allow NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) and CBS affiliate WSEE (Channel 35) to originate simultaneous live newscasts from the old WICU studios on State Street. But the move apparently hasn’t paid off; as of October 12, Lilly will stop originating separate newscasts on each station. Instead, WICU and WSEE will simulcast a common “Erie News Now” newscast at 6 and 11 on weeknights and from 6-7 AM on weekday mornings, just as they already do on weekends. Amanda Post and Mike Ruzzi will be the weeknight anchors, with Geoff Cornish doing weather. Mark Soliday, Kara Coleman and Katie McGraw will anchor the morning show, which will also air from 5-6 AM exclusively on WICU. The NBC side of the Lilly pair will also add the market’s first weekend morning newscast beginning Oct. 17.
*It was a rough week for Pittsburgh’s biggest public broadcaster. The Post-Gazette reports that WQED Multimedia began the week with 80 employees but laid off or reduced hours for at least 12 of them ahead of the October 1 start of its new fiscal year. That reportedly included program hosts Michael Bartley and Tonia Caruso.
Where are they now?: Longtime WPLY/Radio One/Beasley Philadelphia executive Lynn Bruder is the new chief revenue officer at GeoTraffic Network.
Vic Michaels’ Cedar Cove Communications is buying translator W208AU (89.5 Berwick) from Family Stations. Michaels will pay $50,000 for the Berwick signal and a translator in Prescott, Arizona. He’ll switch both translators’ satellite input from Family’s KEAR-FM in Sacramento to Cedar Cove’s KKWY from Douglas, Wyoming.
*Holy Family Communications now has a callsign for its new 90.7 in western NEW YORK: the Lancaster-licensed signal will be WLGU when it signs on. (And when it does, will Holy Family keep its existing Buffalo-market signal, WLOF 101.7 Elma, or will it sell the commercially-allocated facility?)
Bridgelight is asking the FCC for permission to move its nominal flagship signal. WJUX (99.7 Monticello) would shift city of license to South Fallsburg, remaining a class A facility but trading power for height, dropping from 6 kW/300′ to 1.4 kW/682′ from the WGWR (88.1 Liberty) site east of Route 17 and a bit south of its current site. WJUX would pick up a bit more coverage to the south with the move.
In the game of inches that is New York City FM translators, even a tiny power increase can make a difference – or so Sound of Long Island Inc. hopes. The operator of the new W252CS (98.3 Brooklyn) has applied to boost power from 10 to 24 watts on the signal that aims over the Hudson into lower Manhattan from downtown Brooklyn. In theory, that would give the relay of the Spanish religious HD4 from WVIP (93.5 New Rochelle) a little more coverage of midtown Manhattan.
Bud Williamson’s Hudson Valley Public Radio has filed for a license to cover on its newest translator. W260CI (99.9) will bring the jazz programming of WJZZ (88.1 Montgomery) into Middletown.
One party in the long slog toward a new 102.5 signal in the Hudson Valley has dropped out. Calvary Chapel of the Hudson Valley was one of three applicants that the FCC had tapped to be part of a time-share for a new noncommercial 102.5 at Rhinebeck, but it tells the FCC it’s no longer pursuing the project, leaving only Christian Media Associates and Somos la Llave del Futuro to work out a time-share deal and finally get that long-delayed signal on the air.
Upper Room Ministries of Richmondville has had its CP for WJIJ-LP (105.9 Stamford) cancelled after its August expiration date passed without a license to cover being filed.
A TV transfer of sorts in Syracuse: when Brian Brady’s Bristlecone Broadcasting took over Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68) from Sinclair, it also assumed Sinclair’s option to buy WSYT’s partner station, MyNetwork outlet WNYS-TV (Channel 43). Now that option is being transferred to John Tupper’s Syracuse Broadcasting for $250,000.
Say goodbye to W53AM (Channel 53) in Utica: the translator had relayed WPNY-LP’s MyNetwork programming before the channels above 51 were removed from the TV spectrum, and now the Nexstar-owned license has been officially cancelled.
In Albany, Heather Davis is departing the midday slot at Townsquare’s WGNA (107.7) as she relocates to Raleigh, North Carolina; no replacement has been named yet at WGNA.
Stephanie McNamara-Bitis is the new general manager at Long Island Radio Broadcasting in the Hamptons, the cluster that includes WEHM (92.9/96.9), WBAZ (102.5) and WBEA (101.7). She comes from sales management in New York City at stations including WADO, WABC, WAXQ and WFAN.
And while it’s rare for a college station to have much sense of its own history, that’s not the case at WGCC (90.7 Batavia). The Genesee Community College station moved from carrier-current to the FM dial in 1985, and some of the students who helped make that move returned to campus over the weekend for a celebration of the anniversary. WGCC alumni took over the station’s airwaves Saturday afternoon after an anniversary party Friday night.
*In MAINE, Atlantic Coast Radio is paying $80,000 to Light of Life Ministries for W263BZ (100.5 Portland), the translator signal that will be relaying Atlantic Coast’s WLOB (1310). The deal also includes an option for Light of Life to use tower space on an Atlantic Coast tower in Brunswick for free.
Northeast Communications has been granted a CP to move unbuilt translator W225CB (92.9) from Meredith to Tilton; when it signs on, the 39-watt signal will rebroadcast WFTN (1240 Franklin).
Manchester Public Television Service has applied for a license to cover for its WMNH-LP (95.3 Manchester).
*St. Michael’s College has filed for a license to cover for its new WWPV-LP (92.5 Colchester), following the official transfer of the former WWPV (88.7 Colchester) to VERMONT Public Radio. VPR has also filed to change frequency on one of its translators. W233AV (92.5 Rutland) will soon be displaced by a new full-power 92.5 signal in Poulteney, and so it’s applying to move to 99.1.
In Warren, Rootswork Inc. has been granted a CP to move its WMRW-LP from 95.1 to 94.5.
*While WQED shrinks, WGBH in MASSACHUSETTS is growing again. Through its subsidiary Public Radio International, the public broadcaster is acquiring GlobalPost, the Boston-based international journalism center founded by Phil Balboni, previously of WCVB (Channel 5) and New England Cable News. Nine of GlobalPost’s dozen or so staffers will make the move to PRI and WGBH’s Allston headquarters, where they’ll contribute Post-branded segments to “The World” and other PRI offerings.
Add one more on-channel booster to the four that Steve Silberberg’s WXRV (92.5 Andover) is already planning around metro Boston: he’s now applied for a “WXRV-5,” to be located atop the Hancock tower in Boston’s Back Bay. The Hancock booster would run 24 watts vertical, 8 watts horizontal, aimed straight south to reinforce the WXRV signal in the South End, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and parts of Brookline.
No new LPFM in Lynn – the Lynn School Committee never built out WVUL-LP (96.5 Lynn) before its construction permit expired in August, so it’s been cancelled.
*Radio People on the Move: Steve Kelly, longtime production/afternoon guy at Boston’s WKLB-FM (102.5), is moving down I-84 to become production/imaging director at iHeart’s Hartford, CONNECTICUT cluster, effective October 1.
Over at the Avon Mountain transmitter site CBS Radio’s WTIC (1080 Hartford), there’s something new in place – the three hardened containers that house one of FEMA’s Primary Entry Point emergency transmitter setups. The 6 kW Nautel transmitter, generator and other equipment remain disconnected from the rest of the transmission system until there’s the sort of unthinkable national emergency that requires them to be opened up and put into operation, which is something we sincerely hope never to see. WTIC tested its system on the air last week for a bit in lieu of its usual 50 kW signal; it’s the newest link in a growing chain of PEP facilities that will eventually cover the whole nation.
*One of CANADA‘s biggest morning shows is changing. Darren B. Lamb, the “Darren” of the “Roger, Darren and Marilyn” morning show on CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto), told co-hosts Roger Ashby and Marilyn Denis on Wednesday that he’s leaving the station.
Lamb hasn’t announced his next plans, but the Bell-owned station has already rebranded the morning show “Roger & Marilyn,” suggesting it will go to a two-host format after many years with a three-person cast.
On the fringes of the Toronto market, there’s an application to make the FM dial even more crowded. In Aurora, Voice of Aurora Community Radio has applied for a new signal at 101.5 with 32 watts average/50 watts max ERP/7.3 m, carrying an “eclectic” community format.
Over in the Chatham-Kent area, there’s an application for a new 50-watt/9 m commercial station on 91.3 in Ridgetown. Christopher Clarke’s “Ridge Radio” would play top-40, classic rock and alternative rock.
Some radio changes in Victoriaville, Quebec: Attraction Media’s recent purchase of CFDA (101.9) in Victoriaville and nearby CFJO (97.3) and CKLD (105.5) in Thetford Mines means the end of CKYQ-1 (103.5 Victoriaville). “KYQ” had been a relay of Attraction’s CKYQ (95.7 Plessisville). Meanwhile, CFDA will change transmitter sites, going from 1.35 kW/149 m to 955 watts average/1.6 kW max DA/163 m.
Attraction Media received approval today to revoke the license of CKYQ-1 103.5 in Victoriaville, Quebec. This was a condition of approval related to the common ownership policy attached to Attraction Media’s recent purchase of CFDA 101.9 in Victoriaville, CFJO 97.3 in Thetford Mines, and CKLD 105.5 in Thetford Mines from Radio Megantic. CKYQ-1 was a simulcast of CKYQ 95.7 in Plessisville.
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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 29, 2014
*As the sun rises over NERW-land this Monday morning, many in the radio industry expected to hear several fewer signals across the AM dial. Friday was supposed to have been the last day of Radio Disney on its remaining terrestrial signals, including WQEW (1560 New York), WMKI (1260 Boston), WWJZ (640 Mt. Holly NJ/Philadelphia) and WDDZ (1250 Pittsburgh).
But as NERW readers learned in our exclusive report on Friday, a cautious Disney legal team stepped in to change the original corporate plans to take those (and 19 other) signals silent while waiting for buyers to emerge for the stations.
Instead, the Disney AMs will stay on the air in stripped-down form, with no local advertising or promotions and just a handful of local staffers at each location. And with that, a new round of speculation begins: while the cost of transmitter power and a few staffers isn’t much to a company as big as Disney, it’s still an expense the company didn’t expect to have on its balance sheet after the end of September.
John Slattery was one of the consummate good guys of NEW YORK City TV. Over a long career that included stops at WCAU-TV (Channel 10) in Philadelphia, WABC-TV (Channel 7) from 1979-1984 and then a 30-year run at WCBS-TV (Channel 2), “Slats” covered everything and knew just about everyone – and so it was a tremendous blow to the channel 2 newsroom when he died in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack, on Thursday. Slattery had been at work at channel 2 just a day earlier. He was just 63 years old.
Downtown at WINS (1010), Judy DeAngelis will celebrate her birthday Wednesday as a retiree. Her departure from WINS on Tuesday will end a 26-year run at the all-newser that began when her previous news home, WNBC (660), folded in 1988. Her resume also includes prior stops at WALK (97.5/1370) on Long Island and then at WCBS-FM (101.1); we remember her, too, for her involvement in the Edwin Armstrong memorial broadcasts a few years back. (She was an easy “get” for the broadcast, which aired over WFDU 89.1, the college station where her husband Duff Sheffield is the general manager!)
*If you’ve been waiting for two long-silent AM frequencies to return to the air in one of CANADA‘s largest markets, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. The CRTC last week granted the Tietolman-Tetreault-Pancholy (TTP Media) group another extension to build a new English-language news-talk station on AM 600 and a French-language counterpart on AM 940 in Montreal. The group now has until November 21, 2015 to build those stations, but as months and years continue to pass with little news about any actual progress on those stations (or their proposed French-language sports talk sister on 850), there’s growing doubt that they’ll ever actually see air in a market where Cogeco’s CHMP (98.5) dominates the French talk landscape and Bell’s CJAD (800) similarly dominates in English.
Five Years Ago: September 27, 2010
When Radio Disney launched back in 1996, it looked to AM radio as an inexpensive, wide-coverage way to distribute its programming to dozens of markets around the country. For nearly a decade and a half, that strategy seemed to work for Disney: it acquired AMs in large and medium markets from coast to coast, purchasing and operating them inexpensively. But a lot has changed in the last few years: the AM signals that were at least marginally viable in 1996 have, for the most part, fallen completely off the radar for much of Radio Disney’s target audience (not just kids themselves but also their parents), even as other distribution methods such as satellite radio and streaming have become much more prominent. Over the last year or so, Disney has begun to dismantle its AM portfolio, shutting down its signals in medium markets such as Albuquerque and Greensboro, N.C. and putting those stations up for sale. Now that trend has reached RHODE ISLAND and CONNECTICUT, where Disney will pull the plug on WDDZ (550 Pawtucket) and WDZK (1550 Bloomfield) on Thursday night at midnight. (Two other Disney AMs, WDRD 680 in Louisville, Kentucky and WBWL 600 in Jacksonville, Florida will also be silenced.)
While WDZK prepares to shut down in Hartford, another signal that’s been serving the Nutmeg State is being redirected to its state of license, NEW YORK. Citadel’s WXLM (104.7 Montauk) is the latest incarnation of a news-talk format that’s bounced around the dial in southeastern Connecticut, moving from WSUB (980 Groton) to the original WXLM on 102.3 in Stonington, and then to 104.7 when it swapped facilities with WMOS, the classic rocker programmed out of the Mohegan Sun casino. Now the WXLM programming is returning to the smaller 980 facility sometime next month – while 104.7 takes on a new identity serving Long Island as WELJ, an East End relay of Citadel’s big WPLJ (95.5 New York). As for Connecticut, the WXLM calls took up residence on 980 in Groton late last week, displacing the WSUB calls that have been there since 1958. Once the simulcast period with 104.7 has ended, the news-talk format will displace the Spanish tropical “Caliente 980” format that’s been airing there since 2006.
Before WXLM and WPLJ/WELJ grabbed the headlines at the end of the week, the big news-talk news from the Empire State came from Albany, where Clear Channel kicked off the week with a bang when it pulled the plug on modern rock “Channel 103.1” WHRL just after midnight on Monday, replacing it with news-talk as WGY-FM, a full-time simulcast of venerable WGY (810 Schenectady). It says something about just how stripped down an operation “Channel 103.1” was that only one person, morning host Jason Keller, lost his job when WHRL went away. (It should also be noted that the WHRL calls had been in place at 103.1 ever since the station signed on in 1966; only one other commercial station in the Albany market, WFLY, has kept the same calls longer.)
While Radio Disney slowly retreats from the AM dial elsewhere, it appears that Disney is poised to move the format to a big signal in southwestern PENNSYLVANIA. But the plan to move Radio Disney from WWCS (540 Canonsburg) to Disney-owned WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh) around the first of the year, reported late Friday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is notable less because of what it means for Radio Disney than for what it means to WEAE’s current programming. Assuming Bob Smizik’s P-G report is true (and there’s no reason to think otherwise), “ESPN 1250” is becoming the first to blink in what had become an overcrowded three-way sports battle in the Steel City. While WEAE was the first to go all-sports back in 1999, when ABC/Disney acquired the station from Jacor, it was soon challenged by Clear Channel’s WBGG (970) with Fox Sports – and then earlier this year by a full-time FM sports outlet, CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan).
Ten Years Ago: September 26, 2005
It was a sad start to the week last Monday in western MASSACHUSETTS, as WBEC-FM (105.5 Pittsfield) morning host Big Mike Patrick had to tell his listeners that his co-host, Sharon Steele, had died during childbirth. Steele, whose real name was Sharon Brophy-Forst, died September 15 while giving birth to daughter Olivia. Sadly, Olivia didn’t survive, either, and our sympathies go out to Sharon’s husband Kyle. Steele’s career began in her native Vermont, at WZRT (97.1 Rutland), and took her to upstate New York, Delaware and WHMP-FM (99.3 Northampton) before she settled in at “Live 105” a few years back. She was just 38.
Across the state in Boston, some happier news to report: WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) is now broadcasting with higher power (12 kW, up from 7.2 kW) from a new Shively antenna mounted in the same spot as its old one, right at the top of the “FM-128” tower on Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls. The station pulled off the antenna replacement in just one day, using its backup site atop the BU Law School building in the meantime; we’re hearing that the reports of improved reception are already coming in.
And there’s still no sign of Jay Severin on WTKK (96.9 Boston), two weeks after the start of a flap about his claim of having won a nonexistent Pulitzer Prize for online journalism. The station’s been carrying Sean Hannity’s show live in the 3-6 PM timeslot instead.
It was a heck of a night Saturday in upstate NEW YORK, as about 150 veterans of the Binghamton radio and TV scene gathered at an Endicott restaurant for the largest edition yet of the “Binghamton Broadcasters Reunion.” NERW was delighted to be able to attend the event, which included a display of some neat old Binghamton broadcast memorabilia, lots of great stories, and even some awards. WMRV’s Louie G was named “Broadcaster of the Year” for his outstanding charity work. WLTB’s John and Chris took home a special achievement award. The late Ray Diorio was honored with the Binghamton Broadcaster Memorial Award. And veteran WNBF/WNBF-TV/WBNG newsman Bernie Fionte won a standing ovation when he was named this year’s “Living Legend.” The event drew broadcasters from all over, including a few from Florida (WNBF veteran John Leslie and former WICZ anchor Mark Williams, who’s now at WNDB in Daytona Beach), several from New York City and Boston (including former WAAL/WZLX jock Keith Nelson) and – we’re proud to add – several other Rochesterians, too, including WHAM morning news anchor Bill Lowe and WYSL’s Bob Savage and Judith Day. (Bob was a screamin’ jock back in the day at WENE!)
In the Bronx, WFUV (90.7 New York) raised its new tower over the weekend. The 160-foot guyed mast sits atop a building on Gun Hill Road owned by Montefiore Medical Center, and once it’s fitted out with an antenna and WFUV signs on there, the station will be able to take down the unfinished tower on the Fordham University campus that caused so much controversy when it began rising above the treeline at the nearby Botanical Garden.
The big news in PENNSYLVANIA was, of course, the big gathering of broadcasters at the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia. From what we heard on the show floor, the buzz about returning to the site for the second time in as many years was pretty good; the Pennsylvania Convention Center (site of the 2003 Radio Show) is certainly a convenient spot, with lots of good food, entertainment and transportation options. And as we’d expected, HD Radio was the big topic on many attendees’ minds, though with plenty of concern about what remains a much slower than expected rollout of receivers for the service. (Only Day Sequerra, which makes extremely sophisticated and pricey reference receivers, had tuners on the floor ready for shipping; Radiosophy was on hand to demonstrate its slick home tuner, but shipping of the unit remains delayed, likely past the holiday season that should have been a major rollout for HD Radio gear if the technology is going to catch on before it’s completely eclipsed by satellite and other digital technologies.)
On the TV dial, the buzz in Philly was the impending shutdown of one of the city’s newsrooms. Tribune announced that it will close the news operation at WPHL (Channel 17) on December 10, though news will continue via a 10 PM broadcast produced by NBC’s WCAU (Channel 10).
Fifteen Years Ago: September 23, 2000
SAN FRANCISCO – “What do you worry about?” That was the question former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs posed to Clear Channel chairman Lowry Mays as the two chatted in front of a room filled with hundreds of broadcasters here at the NAB Radio Show. “Yesterday afternoon,” drawled the man who owns more radio stations than anyone else in history, “I was worried about whether that German brown trout was going to grab that fly.” Mays was joking — we hope — but the point remains clear: the big guys here at NAB still believe their business has a future. The trouble is, the big guys are about the only ones here this year. Walk the convention floor and you’ll see very few badges from small-market stations, and fewer still from the big group-owned stations, many of which declined to send individual station managers to San Francisco this year.
Who’s left? Lots of “e-this” and “i-that” and “whatever.com,” to be sure, and many of the streaming audio booths remained packed throughout the week. One we couldn’t even get near for a while was Kerbango, that 40s-style net-radio appliance that’s supposed to make it as easy to tune in your favorite Webcaster as it is to tune WBZ from Nantasket Beach. The equipment makers were out in force, of course, and the smiles were especially wide on the faces of the transmitter and antenna guys. They, of course, will get to sell new equipment to pretty much every radio station in America if IBOC digital becomes a reality, and there were plenty of prototypes ready to be gawked at.
Speaking of IBOC, we did spend a few minutes at the iBiquity booth, where a prototype receiver offered a chance to listen to San Francisco’s KLLC (97.3) in IBOC digital, compared with several other locals in analog. To untrained ears, the difference was a bit short of stunning. No multipath (which is a big deal in this terrain-challenged town), but it’s hard to see how the extra few dB of dynamic range and slightly better frequency response will make much difference in the real world, where we listen to radio in the car with the windows open and Freckles, the NERW Wonder Dog, barking her head off over the music.
And yes, there were some real radio folk here too. A Friday afternoon session on local news in small markets warmed the heart of this former small-market radio newsguy. Listen to a guy named Jay Fisher, from a little station in Missouri called KTKS: “Whenever anything happens, we have someone there to report on it. No matter how insignificant it seems, those are the things people want to hear about.” An interesting concept, isn’t it?
Twenty Years Ago: October 1, 1995