In this week’s issue… The end of broadcast TV as we know it? – Mass. AM gone – Ed O’Brien, RIP – New signal over NYC – More new AM in Toronto?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The numbers are, frankly, eye-popping. An even $900 million for New York’s WCBS-TV? $846.9 million for WRNN-TV, a station that’s mostly infomercials? $445 million for a low-power TV station that almost nobody in New York has even heard of, WMBQ-CD? Over $2 billion for the four signals of the New Jersey public TV network?
It’s no wonder at all that speculation was running wild after the FCC released its list of opening prices last week for the reverse auction that’s intended to clear out big chunks of UHF TV spectrum that can then be resold to wireless carriers and other users. Some of the prices seemed just as inflated down the list of smaller markets: $133 million for a UHF station in Binghamton? $248 million in Utica? $76 million for a low-power TV in Johnstown? What TV owner wouldn’t cash it in, sell the license and live out the rest of his days on a beach for those payouts – right? And what will be left of broadcast TV as we know it after these sales go down – not to mention the channel repack and conversion to a new transmission standard, ATSC 3.0, that will follow? As commercial broadcast TV approaches its 75th birthday next summer, is the end in sight?
Not so fast, perhaps. While there will certainly be plenty of money floating around when the auction gets started next year, there’s reason to think that many (perhaps even most) of the TV stations in the region will find it makes more sense to stay in business. Here’s how it looks to us:
We’re a community.
First, and most important: these enormous numbers we’re all reading are opening bids in a reverse auction. These prices will only go down once the auction starts, and could go down substantially. The FCC has estimated a $45 billion total for the auction once it’s all over, which is a far cry from the more than $300 billion in total opening prices. CBS or NBC might very well sell out in New York for over $800 million – but at, say, $100 million, their TV stations are still worth more as ongoing businesses than as spectrum sales. The same math applies down the list of markets: you’d sell an Elmira station in a heartbeat for $134 million, but if you’re the top-rated, top-billing operator in town, you’d think twice before selling at $15 million.
In a market of any size, though, things change as soon as you get below the top few revenue producers. Fox wouldn’t sell its flagship WNYW in New York for much less than $250 million or so, we’re guessing, and it’s unlikely to get that much from an $825 million opening bid. But sister station WWOR has an $810 million opening bid, and if that turns into even $100 million or $150 million at the end of the auction, that’s probably more than enough to turn Fox into a one-station owner in New York. (The same applies, even more so, to CBS’ second TV station in New York, WLNY, at a $483 million opening price; CBS paid $55 million for the station just four years ago.)
The same FCC that’s determined not to create a “spectrum giveaway” by handing new FM translators to AM owners seems poised to create a phenomenal payday for smaller TV owners. Several New York City class A stations that sold in the $5 million range just a few years ago look poised to bring in ten times as much, if not more, at auction. Around Pittsburgh, the Abacus group of low-power TVs has well over a billion dollars in starting bids, and it would take just a tiny fraction of that in final bids to make a sale wildly profitable for Abacus. All of this, mind you, for stations that go largely unwatched now, that would be largely unnoticed by viewers if they disappeared, and that qualified for these big auction payouts simply by virtue of claiming “class A” status that often resulted in little or no actual public service to their markets.
It’s also a near-certainty that plenty of medium- and small-market TV duopolies and quasi-duopolies will go away. With the ability even now to combine two decent HD streams on a single RF channel, why wouldn’t Nexstar (just to pick one example) put one of the two stations it controls in Burlington or Utica into the auction? If done as a channel-sharing deal, such a move would be nearly transparent to viewers once they rescan – in Utica, for instance, ABC affiliate WUTR would still be “channel 20” and Fox affiliate WFXV “channel 33,” even as they share a single RF channel and put another into the auction.
Who else might sell? Public broadcasters are sure to be paying close attention to these figures, simply because they’re so huge compared to what annual budgets look like. If Vermont PBS, for example, could get even a fraction of the $435 million in opening bids for its four signals, or if Rhode Island’s cash-strapped WSBE could get a decent fraction of its $279 million opening bid, how much pressure would their boards feel to sell? What happens when Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage catches wind of the $200 million in opening bids for MPBN’s public TV signals, or when the Christie administration sees that $2 billion figure in New Jersey? (Or when New York City officials spot the $770 million opening figure for WNYE-TV?)
TV owners have the next two months to decide whether and how to enter the auction; in addition to selling their signals outright, they can choose to enter a channel-sharing agreement with another local station or to auction off their willingness to move from UHF to high- or low-band VHF.
In an era when over-the-air TV represents only a small fraction of viewership (though arguably a growing one), these are tough questions for stations to answer. We’ll be watching closely as they make their decisions.
(By way of disclosure, Fybush Media also offers consulting services to broadcasters trying to make their auction decisions.)
*So long, WDIS: after 36 years on the air, AM 1170 in Norfolk, MASSACHUSETTS went silent sometime in June 2014 after a rough few years in which it was barely on the air. Now the FCC has caught up to that silent period of more than a year and taken action – as the law dictates, the WDIS license has now been cancelled and the callsign deleted.
More Radio People on the Move in western Massachusetts: with J.T. Thomas now ensconced as senior VP of programming at iHeart in Springfield, he’s bringing Kevin Johnson over from Worcester’s WTAG/WSRS to be the new PD of WHYN (560) and WHYN-FM (Mix 93.1), where he was already tracking afternoons. Veteran RHODE ISLAND programmer Tony Bristol takes over as PD of WSRS and WTAG in Worcester.
David Finnegan had so many facets to his career that his three-year stint as an evening talk show on WBZ (1030) was just a side note in his obituary last week. A lawyer and politician, Finnegan had already served as Boston School Committee president and made one unsuccessful run for mayor of Boston when he took the night shift on WBZ in 1979. He left that slot (and the host chair of “Weekend with David Finnegan” on WNEV-TV 7) in 1983 to take another stab at the mayor’s chair, running against incumbent Kevin White with the slogan “Finnegan or him again.” White dropped out, and Ray Flynn eventually won the race. Finnegan never returned to full-time broadcasting, instead focusing on his law practice and advocacy. Finnegan, who died of lung cancer last Monday in South Carolina, was 74.
High up above Route 2, the three FM signals that were knocked off the air by a tower collapse in March 2014 are finally back up at full power. Vox’s WUPE-FM (100.1 North Adams) and public stations WNNI (98.9 Adams) and W266AW (101.1 North Adams) filed for their licenses to cover from their rebuilt site late last week. WNNI, you might recall, was a new station just days away from filing for its initial license to cover when that tower went down.
*In CONNECTICUT, Dennis Jackson has applied to make some changes to his new translator. W273CN (102.5 Danbury) will instead be licensed to Westport, moving slightly east to a different transmitter site in Wilton with a directional signal aimed southeast.
*The VERMONT Association of Broadcasters has named its latest class of Hall of Fame inductees.Vox owner Ken Barlow, WVNY-TV/WFFF-TV operations director Ken Kasz and WJOY (1230 Burlington) morning host Ginny McGehee will be inducted at VAB’s December 5 banquet in Burlington. The Broadcaster of the Year award will go to WPTZ-TV for its coverage of the escape from Dannemora Prison that drew national attention earlier this year. WPTZ’s Stewart Ledbetter (also a host on Vermont PBS) will receive the Distinguished Service Award, and Rutland’s WSYB (1380) will receive the Alan H. Noyes Community Service Award. (WSYB is also featured in the brand-new Tower Site Calendar 2016, for whatever that’s worth…)
*New branding in northern NEW HAMPSHIRE: WFTN (1240 Franklin) and WPNH (1300 Plymouth) flipped from standards to oldies at midnight last night, and they’re now going by “Oldies 92.9” to reflect WFTN’s new translator, W225CB (92.9 Franklin).
*A translator sale in MAINE: Augusta’s Light of Life Ministries is selling W246BP (97.1 Sanford) to Aruba Capital Holdings. Aruba will pay $78,750 for the translator, which will switch its primary to WXEX-FM (92.1), which is co-located with the translator.
*The newest FM signal in NEW YORK City is coming from just across the river in NEW JERSEY: Ted Schober flipped the switch last week to turn W248CG (97.5 Jersey City) on the air, running 110 watts from a rooftop in the high-rise Newport section of town with an antenna pattern that aims across the Hudson into lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. For now, the new translator is relaying WFUV (90.7 New York), but we suspect that’s likely to change as soon as a buyer for the translator signal comes along.
Radio Vision Cristiana’s WWRV (1330 New York) has been trying to change transmitter sites for a few years now, but it’s faced some FCC static with its plans to move to the Ridgefield Park, NJ site of WZRC (1480 New York) from its current diplexed home at Hackensack’s WNYM (970). The FCC granted a construction permit for the move in late September, then immediately rescinded the approval over interference concerns at night with another 1330 signal in Puerto Rico. WWRV has now filed an amended application that slightly reduces the amount of its 10 kW night signal that would be aimed into the Caribbean.
In Albany, they’re mourning Ed O’Brien, who died far too young at 59 on Tuesday. O’Brien was bitten by the radio bug very early on, going on the air at age 14 doing a teen country show on WOKO (1460). By 1970, he was working at WABY (1400). He started in TV not long afterward at WAST (Channel 13, now WNYT), developing a specialty in sports that carried him to WTEN (Channel 10) in 1977. He later worked at WTRY (980) and WGY (810), but made his most prominent mark at WRGB (Channel 6), which he joined in 1991. For more than two decades, O’Brien anchored the morning news on channel 6, right up until cancer took him off the air earlier this year.
Another Albany TV note: NBC affiliate WNYT (Channel 13) has doubled the power of its main DTV transmitter. With a new antenna on the Albany DTV master tower in the Helderbergs, WNYT is now pumping out 30 kW instead of 15 kW on RF channel 12, in addition to its digital replacement translators in Troy and Glens Falls and translators in Gloversville and Adams and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Congratulations to Jimi Jamm, who’s adding PD duties to his morning role at Warsaw’s WCJW (1140 and 5 big translators). Jamm fills the capacious shoes of RJ Jordan, who’s back in the record-promotion industry.
Down the road in Corning, Sound Communications has licensed translator W294BU (106.7), which relays Hornell-licensed WKPQ (105.3) back to the city where its studio is now located.
Up north, Randy Michaels’ RadioActive is requesting a power increase for WZXP (97.9 Au Sable). The class C3 signal now runs 780 watts/1033′ from the old WPTZ tower on Terry Mountain, but it’s applying to go directional and boost power to 2500 watts. The additional power will improve WZXP’s signal across Lake Champlain into Burlington.
*An FM conflict in southern NEW JERSEY has been resolved, though probably to nobody’s great satisfaction. The Atlantic City public schools’ radio station, WAJM (88.9 Atlantic City), had some management problems a few years back and failed to file its renewal application in the 2005 cycle.
Up the coast, Press Communications noticed that mistake and pounced: in 2010, Press filed an application to move its WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) to 99.3, swapping frequencies with Atlantic City-market WZBZ Pleasantville. WZBZ couldn’t move to 99.7 with WAJM in place because of the FCC’s spacing restrictions on IF channels (those spaced 10.6 and 10.8 MHz apart), but with WAJM gone, WZBZ could make its move and WBHX could have increased power from a new site on 99.3.
The FCC wasn’t buying it; last week, it finally issued a consent decree on the whole mess, renewing WAJM’s license for a shortened two-year term in exchange for a “voluntary” payment of $6,250 for the missed renewal and a pile of public-file issues. As for Press, the FCC completely slapped down its plan, noting that there were other spacing issues with the proposed 99.3-99.7 swap that weren’t properly resolved. (Payback, perhaps, for Press’ principals pulling off that monumental set of TV moves from Wyoming and Nevada to Philadelphia and New York City over FCC objections?)
*What’s coming to the radio in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA? A few alert Erie radio listeners have noticed a new feed of ESPN Radio on the HD2 channel of WEHP (92.7 Lawrence Park), with local high school sports airing on the weekends as well. Is this feed going to stay HD-only? Not likely – especially when the owners of “Happi 92.7,” the ERIE Radio Company, are getting closer to signing on their second full-power signal in the area. They’ve just filed the construction permit application for the new 100.9 in Westfield NY that they won at auction, and instead of the class A that the FCC had anticipated, it will be a B1 signal just like the current WRKT (100.9 North East). After Connoisseur moves WRKT to 104.9, the ERIE folks plan to build their new 100.9 right on the New York/Pennsylvania state line, just south of the present WRKT tower, where it will run 4.6 kW/777′ DA. At least initially, the new 100.9 will have a tight DA notch nulling some of its signal toward Erie. That allowed ERIE to claim a credit for having 100.9 as its sole station in a market, since its 70 dBu signal will fall just short of WEHP’s 70 dBu contour.
Just south of Warren, Frank Iorio’s Radio Partners has filed a license to cover for WLSF (105.1 Sheffield); we haven’t heard yet what programming is running on the new signal.
In Clearfield, Invisible Allies Ministries has filed for a license to cover for the move of its translator W260BQ from 99.9 to 89.1.
A call change for EMF in Pennsylvania: WRIJ (106.9 Masontown), the signal it’s buying from He’s Alive, Inc., is now WDKL; the former WDKL (95.9 Grafton WV) becomes WKTZ-FM.
And we can’t leave western Pennsylvania without a note about a good friend of the column. Clarke Ingram was the heart and soul of top-40 radio in the 1980s and 1990s, working from town to town, up and down the dial at great radio stations like WXKX in Pittsburgh, WHXT in Easton, WEGX in Philadelphia, Z100 in New York, KZZP in Phoenix, KRQQ in Tucson and WPXY in Rochester. The changes in the radio industry since then, coupled with some bad strokes of personal luck, have left him in something of a financial bind. That’s why some of his good friends launched a GoFundMe campaign for him last week to help him raise the funds he needed to keep his house and stay fed.
The good news – no, the great news – is that in just a few days, the campaign raised more than its $15,000 goal. But Clarke’s needs are ongoing, and so the campaign is still up for just a little while longer to pad the final sum and make sure he’s not in this much need again any time soon. If you’re inclined to help out, click here to do so, and do it soon, since the campaign will probably be taken down by late Monday.
*In CANADA, there could be yet another AM signal coming to the Toronto suburbs. Canadian Hellenic Radio is applying for 1490 in Mississauga as a relay signal for its Greek-focused CHTO (1690 Toronto). The proposed CHTO-1 on 1490 would run just 23 watts by day (protecting several adjacent-channel signals in the US) but would jump to 770 watts at night to help fill in signal gaps for the main 1690 signal.
To the east, Vista Radio is now testing its new CHBY (106.5) in Barry’s Bay, near Renfrew. The new “MOOSE FM” will run classic hits when it takes the air officially sometime this fall.
There are two new 88.7s broadcasting in southwestern Ontario: Saugeen Community Radio is on the air testing with CIWN (88.7 Mount Forest), while the CBC has turned on CBCL-FM-1 (88.7 Tillsonburg), strengthening the Radio One signal west of London.
And in the Maritimes, a little chuckle to close out this issue: with the death of longtime CBC Halifax “Weekend Mornings” host Stan Carew, the show’s horse is being put out to pasture.
“Duke the Studio Stallion” may have never been anything more than a sound effect in real life, but on the air, he was Carew’s “sidekick” for a decade, ever since Carew had some teeth knocked out in an accident. On the show, Carew explained that he sounded different because Duke had kicked the teeth in, and it was off to the races from there. Interim “Mornings” host Doug Barron tells CBC News Duke decided CBC’s new Halifax studios were “a little too slick,” and so he’s off to The Greener Pastures Retirement Farm, Villa Estates and Equine Spa to live out his days in comfort.
We’ll leave you to write your own lines about what would have happened to Duke if he worked for one of the big commercial group owners these days…
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Until further notice, please contact Lisa about ordering.
Though the months are over the pictures remain, and they remain beautiful. Especially at half price.
This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!
You can get the regular calendar, or you can order a storage bag for it if you keep them, or you can get it signed by Scott (and get a complimentary bag).
And when you’re purchasing your calendar, don’t forget to take a look at the other great products in our store.
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: October 20, 2014
Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks silenced the nine TV stations and four FM stations that broadcast from One World Trade Center, the first new signal is about to hit the airwaves from the new skyscraper that rises just a few hundred feet north of the old site. But even as WABC-TV (Channel 7) applies for special temporary authority to put an experimental signal on the air from the new building, it’s not at all clear that it – or any of the other stations that once called the Twin Towers home – will make a permanent return to lower Manhattan.
As WABC’s application explains, the 5 kW signal on RF channel 12 would be used only for testing purposes; specifically, “to test the propagation and reception characteristics of VHF TV channels to be compared with the characteristics of the existing VHF transmission facilities located at the Empire State Building.” There are three stations operating on high-VHF from Empire since the DTV transition; in addition to WABC’s main signal on 7, WPIX and WNET returned to their former VHF channels, 11 and 13, in 2009. All three are now looking intently at the merits of Empire versus the new 1 World Trade Center, and they have a plan (with the help of the Metropolitan Television Alliance umbrella trade group) to get some hard data to help make that decision.
The tests won’t be conducted with a full non-directional signal from the 1WTC mast – on channel 12, that would cause unacceptable interference to co-channel WHYY in the Philadelphia market, and potentially to Albany’s WNYT, which also uses RF 12 – but will instead operate with a single panel that will be shifted in different directions to test the signal across various arcs of New York City and its northern and eastern suburbs. (The use of channel 12 also required permission from ion’s low-power station WPXU-LD, which is licensed to use channel 12 from the top of the Bloomberg tower on Lexington Avenue, and which will yield the channel for testing.)
*The other big news from the city hasn’t actually happened yet. There are few broadcast trade journalists as consistently reliable as Tom Taylor, so when he reported last week that Disney had reached a $12 million deal to sell WQEW (1560 New York) to Family Stations, the news quickly spread to the newspapers and the message boards.
It’s a deal that makes perfect sense: Family has been seeking to return to the New York radio dial ever since it sold the former WFME (94.7 Newark) to Cumulus two years ago, and the things that make WQEW less desirable to mainstream broadcasters these days (a huge nighttime skywave signal offset by spotty coverage within the market, not to mention its position way up at the top of the AM dial) aren’t deal-breakers to Family, which is more interested in broad reach than in Nielsen Audio ratings. And even given how much money Family spent (and how much debt it incurred) promoting the end of the world in 2011, it’s likely that there’s enough left from the $40 million sale of 94.7 to pay for the 1560 signal.
Five Years Ago: October 18, 2010
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a true seven-figure radio deal, but there’s one to tell you about this week out of NEW YORK. There’d been rumors flying for a while about Barnstable selling its properties in eastern Long Island, and late last week they came true with the $3 million sale of WRCN-FM (103.9 Riverhead) and WKJI (96.1 Center Moriches).
The buyer is JVC Broadcasting, the aggressive John Caracciolo-Vic “Latino” Canales partnership that’s already a significant player in Suffolk County with rhythmic top-40 WPTY (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) and Spanish tropical WBON (98.5 Westhampton). This deal adds two more class A signals to JVC’s existing pair, and guarantees at least one format change: while WRCN’s rock format is expected to remain more or less intact, the sale will break the fairly recent simulcast between WKJI and AC “K-JOY” WKJY (98.3 Hempstead) in Nassau County. Will JVC keep 96.1 as an adult contemporary station, or will that signal also move toward a younger audience?
All those rumors floating around CANADA’s capital city for a while now have turned out to be true: as of today, Rogers is flipping Ottawa’s CIWW (Oldies 1310) to “1310 News,” giving CTV’s talk giant CFRA (580) its first serious competition (aside from CBC Radio 1) in a long time. Unlike CFRA, the new “1310 News” is promising listeners a 24/7 wheel of nonstop news – and to make it happen, Rogers says it’s planning to hire a new staff of about 30 newspeople.
MAINE’s first local TV newscast in HD comes not from the state’s biggest market, Portland, but from smaller Bangor – and it comes from WABI-TV (Channel 5), which launched its HD newscast last week. WABI is also in the midst of moving its RF channel; it’s replacing its temporary signal on UHF channel 19 with a new permanent signal on VHF channel 13. That UHF-to-VHF move goes against the national trend, but Bangor’s an unusual market – WABI was the only UHF signal in what’s otherwise been entirely a VHF digital city.
Ten Years Ago: October 17, 2005
One of RHODE ISLAND’s most experienced and talented TV reporters died unexpectedly early Wednesday morning (Oct. 12) at his Cape Cod home. Jack White’s journalism career began at the Newport Daily News in 1969 and soon took him to the Providence Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his reporting that discovered President Nixon had cheated on his taxes. (It was that story, published in October 1973, that led Nixon to make his “I am not a crook” speech.)
White moved to television in 1979, working on the “I-Team” at Boston’s WBZ-TV (Channel 4). He returned to newspapers at the Cape Cod Times two years later, then joined WPRI (Channel 12) in 1985 as the station’s chief investigative reporter, a position he would hold for two decades. White’s tenure at WPRI included two Emmys, one for a 1992 report on fugitive banker Joseph Mollicone and one just this year for his reporting on Providence city officials who violated the city’s residency requirement. White is survived by his wife, Beth, three sons, a daughter and five grandchildren. He was 63. WPRI will broadcast a special tribute, “Remembering Jack White,” Monday night at 7.
Meanwhile in the Ocean State, the heavy rains late last week silenced at least one radio station. WDDZ (550 Pawtucket) had enough water at its site in the floodplain of the Blackstone River to knock the Radio Disney station off the air Friday. As we go to press Sunday night, chief engineer Craig Healy reports that the water level is still above the base insulators of the towers, which means the station will remain off at least into Monday morning.
WRIB (1220 Providence) is getting a new owner, as Carter Broadcasting sells the religious/Spanish outlet to Faith Christian Center, Inc. for $1.9 million. The deal will leave Carter with WROL (730 Chicopee) and WCRN (830 Worcester) in Massachusetts.
In New York City, the story was all about Clear Channel’s latest payola problems, which apparently led to the abrupt ouster of two of the company’s PDs last week – one of them Michael Saunders of WWPR (105.1). Clear Channel’s VP/Urban Programming Doc Wynter is handling PD chores at Power 105 for now, and of course the company’s keeping as quiet as it can about it all.
“They took the crosstown bus.” Confused by that? So were radio listeners across the state, who heard that cryptic message one afternoon last week during an Amber Alert EAS activation from the state’s emergency management office. The message was apparently part of a test that was transmitted by mistake, and it aired on numerous stations across the state.
There’s a format change on the way this week in central NEW JERSEY, where the oldies simulcast of WMTR (1250 Morristown) will disappear from Greater Media’s WWTR (1170 Bridgewater) in favor of EBC Radio’s Indian/South Asian programming. EBC had been leasing Multicultural Broadcasting’s WTTM (1680 Princeton) for its broadcasts, but the WWTR signal will put it a little closer to the base of South Asian listeners in the Edison area. WTTM, meanwhile, will flip back to ESPN Radio sports programming, or so we hear.
The big story out of PENNSYLVANIA this week is Nassau’s sale of its Lehigh Valley/Poconos cluster to the growing Access.1 group. The stations in the group include some of Nassau’s earliest acquisitions – in the Poconos, oldies duo WVPO (840 Stroudsburg)/WPLY (960 Mount Pocono) and classic hits WSBG (93.5 Stroudsburg), and in the Lehigh Valley, sports duo WEEX (1230 Easton)/WTKZ (1320 Allentown), classic hits “Hawk” WODE (99.9 Easton) and soft AC “Lite 107” WWYY (107.1 Belvidere NJ). No purchase price has been announced for the deal, which will put the stations under common ownership with WWRL (1600 New York) and Access.1’s cluster of stations in the Atlantic City area.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 16, 2000
Radio in the Upper Valley area of NEW HAMPSHIRE has seen plenty of new clusters in the last few years. But the big national groups haven’t made the trek up I-93…until now. Clear Channel is paying Bob and Cheryl Frisch $11 million for their four-station group, based in Lebanon. Heritage news-talker WTSL (1400 Hanover) is the oldest station in the group, accompanied by hot AC WGXL (92.3 Hanover), classic rock WVRR (101.7 Newport), and ratings-leading country “Kix,” WXXK (100.5 Lebanon). The usual “no staff or format changes are planned” line accompanies the sale, but rumors are already flying about the possibility of Clear Channel’s news-talk WGIR Manchester and rocker WGIR-FM Manchester providing programming to WTSL and WVRR an hour away. Stay tuned…
Just across the river in VERMONT, Family Broadcasting is selling WGLV (104.3 Hartford), as first rumored here months ago (NERW, 5/19/2000). The buyer? “Great Northern Radio,” aka the Vox group, which already operates in the market with sports combo WNHV (910 White River Junction) and WTSV (1230 Claremont), soft AC WWSH (95.3 White River Junction), and rocker WHDQ (106.1 Claremont). We hear WGLV will simulcast WNHV/WTSV for six weeks or so, followed by a “new format” under the WWOD calls. (Hmm…”O-D” — whatever could THAT be?)
Vox launched another “new” station in the Green Mountain State this week, moving WWFY (100.9) from a little class A in Middlebury to a big signal licensed to Berlin. Now known as “Froggy 100.9, Jumpin’ Country,” WWFY is targeting the Barre-Montpelier area. Jim Severance is the PD (and afternoon guy), with Steve Boswell from Waterbury’s WDEV doing mornings as “J.D. Green,” Michelle Drury middays as “Mickey Hopper,” the syndicated Lia show in evenings, and Tim Martin overnight as “Tad Pole.” Cute…real cute.
The big news from MASSACHUSETTS was the $47.5 million sale of Worcester’s Univision affiliate, WUNI (Channel 27). The station becomes the 18th Univision affiliate owned by Entravision, and the company’s first in New England. NERW wonders if Entravision might try to expand its growing Spanish-language radio group our way as well…
The “Score” sports simulcast in central MAINE has lost two of its many stations, as Cumulus flips WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor) to a simulcast of oldies WABK (104.3 Gardiner)..and our ears up there are hearing WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) running a 15-minute loop of, of all things, hip-hop music.
Just last week, we told you that Aurora Broadcasting wouldn’t be selling its cluster in Connecticut and NEW YORK to Nassau after all. This week, Aurora showed just how much it’s changing gears, agreeing to pay $55 million for Rob Dyson’s Crystal group in the Hudson Valley.
This sale, combined with Clear Channel’s purchases in the valley earlier in the year (NERW 5/6/2000), mean that just about every major signal between Westchester and Albany will end the year under new ownership.
One bit of news from CANADA, and it comes to us through North Country correspondent Mike Roach: CJET (630) in Smiths Falls, Ontario has turned on its new FM signal at 92.3. Mike reports that “Country 92” began running a test loop of country music Saturday morning (10/14), which means the AM should be dark within a few months. (NERW’s suddenly very glad that we made it up to Smiths Falls over the summer, and not just for the Hershey Canada factory tour!)
Twenty Years Ago: October 14 & 19, 1995
Boston is getting its first FM triopoly, as soon as Congress approves the rule change to allow it (apparently at this point it’s “when” and not “if,” alas). Fresh from its purchase of Pyramid Broadcasting (locally, CHurban WJMN-94.5, CHR WXKS-107.9, and satellite-standards WXKS-1430), Evergreen has signed a deal to buy country WKLB-105.7 from Fairbanks Broadcasting. WKLB was the last stand-alone class B FM left available for purchase in the Boston area. CBS’s WODS-103.3 is a stand-alone for now, but will be paired with Westinghouse’s WBZ-1030 when that deal closes. And Charles River Broadcasting’s classical WCRB-102.5 is a stand-alone class B, but is not legally available for purchase.
The DJ Shuffle Goes On: Ken Shelton, late of WZLX, and before that a veteran of years as midday guy on WBCN, has landed on his feet after being fired from WZLX. Shelton will start as WBOS’s morning man November 1, the day his non-compete clause from WZLX expires. And JR, the former morning jock on WJMN, is returning to Boston from a brief exile to Texas. He’s starting soon on 70s WEGQ “Eagle 93.7.”
The demolition crews go to work Thursday morning, October 19, on what remains of the old rhombic antenna system of the late WBOS shortwave. WBOS was the shortwave outlet of WBZ, and operated from WBZ’s transmitter site at Hull, Massachusetts from about 1940 until shortly after World War Two. The actual antenna wires are long gone, but the telephone poles that supported the antenna have been sitting undisturbed in the swamp next to the WBZ towers for half a century. But…all things must pass, and it seems the town of Hull got nervous about these towers falling and hurting someone. So after much political pressure, the poles are being removed.