In this week’s issue… Remembering Buddy – First AM translator window opens – The end of the end of WBCN – Nexstar’s big Media General move – Rochester loses its “Old Professor”
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Long before a former congressman became “Morning Joe” or a reality-show star became a leading presidential candidate, RHODE ISLAND‘s Buddy Cianci was a pioneer at the art of crossing the line repeatedly between media and politics.
The former Providence mayor, who died suddenly Thursday at 74, served two stints in office, one stint in federal prison and enjoyed multiple runs on talk radio and local TV over more than 30 years, which is why he’s leading the column this week.
Buddy first came to radio as a child performer on WJAR, but his broadcast career began in earnest after he was ousted from the mayor’s office in 1984 after pleading no contest to an assault charge. Cianci landed on WHJJ (920), the talk successor to his old WJAR radio home, in 1985. “The radio was a godsend,” he recalled in his memoirs, and perhaps it was more than that: it also served as a staging ground for his successful run to return to the mayor’s office in 1990.
While that phase of Cianci’s political career is credited with the revival of downtown Providence, it didn’t end so well for Buddy: in 2001, he found himself under federal indictment for racketeering, extortion and other charges, and in 2002 he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Before the sentence started, though, Cianci was back on the radio, this time at WPRO (630) – and as soon as he was out of prison in 2007, he was back on WPRO, establishing himself as the station’s afternoon star in a run interrupted only by an unsuccessful 2014 bid for yet another term as mayor.
Along the way, Cianci had also picked up a TV career as a commentator for ABC affiliate WLNE (Channel 6), the third-ranked station trying desperately to get visibility. He was at the WLNE studio in Providence Wednesday night taping his weekly show there when he began complaining of abdominal pains; an ambulance took him to Miriam Hospital, where he died Thursday morning.
*This Monday morning edition of NERW is only part of this week’s column, because if you’re reading this early on Monday morning, it’s been just a few hours since the FCC released the applications it received Friday on day one of its big 250-mile AM translator window.
As we write this and head to bed Sunday night, we don’t yet know just how many applications came in or how many of them will end up mutually exclusive (MX) to others. All of the applications received by 11:59 Friday night will count as having been filed simultaneously, and the FCC is treating this window a little differently from other MX scenarios. FCC staff have said they won’t create MX groups, leaving it up to applicants to figure out whether or not they have a conflict. If they decide they do, it’s a free-for-all: there are no collusion rules, so one applicant can communicate openly with another about how to resolve that MX situation. And in the meantime, the filing window stays open, so MX’d applicants who file a settlement that involves moving someone to a different frequency could get sniped in the meantime by someone filing a new application first.
It’s a complicated chess game, and as we’ve been noting, we’re not observing it from the viewpoint of an uninterested journalist this time. Fybush Media is offering engineering consultation and, through our new site TranslatorSale.com, station brokerage services – and we’re open for business and ready to help you make sense of it all. (We’ll disclose the sales and applications we’ve been involved with as we report them.)
We’re also working with our news partner, RadioInsight, to provide you as much information as quickly as possible today about who filed for what. By midday today, Insight will be live with a full nationwide list of Friday’s applications.
Haven’t subscribed to Lance’s premium content over at Insight yet? Get it all, including Daily Domains and the best log of station sales and FCC actions anywhere – and try a free week when you use promo code “NERW” at the Insight signup page.
The Fybush Media podcast is back – for real! Listen to our latest episode right here!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
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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: February 2, 2015
*As another winter storm bears down across a huge swath of NERW-land, broadcasters are still learning the lessons of last Monday’s blizzard. It wasn’t the apocalypse New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio anticipated – at least not in New York City. But for all the criticism DeBlasio took for preemptively closing down the city, and for all the criticism forecasters took for the predictions that led to near-shutdowns of not only New York but also New Jersey and beyond, it’s hard to argue that anyone truly overreacted.
That’s Cape Cod in the photo at right, and while most of the Cape’s stations stayed on the air in the face of winds as high as 78 miles an hour, the islands off the Cape were battered.
On Nantucket, WAZK (97.7) had battery backup power at its studio and a generator at its transmitter site provided by landlord National Grid. But when the island’s main power source (an undersea cable from Hyannis) failed, that generator didn’t work, either, and so for just over 24 hours at the height of the storm “97.7 ACK” was off the air.
“We did Facebook updates while we were off the air,” operations manager D.C. Collins tells NERW, and as soon as the power was restored at the transmitter site around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon, the station was ready to be the information source the island needed, broadcasting interviews with town manager Libby Gibson and other local officials.
Fortunately, WAZK and sister station WNCK (89.5) suffered little physical damage – “just a couple of shingles flying off the building” in the storm’s high winds, Collins says – and we’ve heard no reports yet of serious damage at any other NERW-land broadcaster, either.
All over the region, many broadcasters did a fine job of getting ready for the storm, lining up hotel rooms for staffers and putting many on overtime to make sure things were covered even if roads and transit were shut down. Whether it was New York’s WABC (770) adding extra live programming early Monday or Boston’s WFXT (Channel 25) stationing an engineer at its Needham tower site to babysit the transmitter for several nights running, information got out there to the people who needed it. And as our preparedness guru Howard Price of ABC in New York keeps reminding us, it’s far better to be overprepared than underprepared. (You really should read his wrapup of the storm coverage, here.)
*What’s not a stable place to be on the air in NEW YORK? Emmis’ WQHT (97.1), or so it would seem: the latest jock to be cut from the Hot 97 airstaff is Cipha Sounds, whose future was unclear after he was bumped from afternoon drive for new hire Nessa Nitty. When Nessa’s hiring was announced in January, Emmis had initially said Sounds would stay with the station in a new capacity – but that went south last Tuesday when Sounds showed up on a podcast with morning co-host Peter Rosenberg and slammed Hot 97 management, saying he never had a clear direction for his afternoon show or any sense that the shift was really his on a permanent basis after longtime host Angie Martinez left for crosstown WWPR (Power 105.1). It didn’t take long after that podcast was posted for Emmis management to put out the “Effective immediately, Cipha Sounds is no longer with WQHT. We wish him well on his future endeavors” statement. Will Sounds end up at WWPR himself? He told Rosenberg he had a job offer there that he’d turned down.
*Consumers of a certain age in the Elmira market bought all sorts of things from “Mr. Panosian”: “Mr. Panosian’s Shoe World” sold them footwear for years, they parked their posteriors on furniture from “Mr. Panosian’s Sleep and Sofa World” – and the folks who toiled at WIQT (1000) and WQIX (100.9) in Horseheads joked that they worked at “Mr. Panosian’s Radio World.” Manny Panosian put WIQT on the air in 1966, reaped the rewards of being the only station on the air in Chemung County after the devastating flood of 1972, then followed up with the FM signal soon afterward. Panosian sold the stations in the 1990s; he died Tuesday (Jan. 27) at age 92.
Five Years Ago: January 31, 2011
*One of the oldest campus/community stations in CANADA is fighting for its continued existence after a surprisingly harsh decision from the CRTC that will compel it to sign off for good next month.
CKLN (88.1 Toronto) has been in the CRTC”s sights since the summer of 2009, when the station was locked out of its home at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute by campus building managers who were concerned about infighting among the station”s board and staff. The lockout lasted seven months, during which time CKLN programming consisted only of an intermittent loop of pre-recorded material that had been put in the automation system before the lockout.
That, of course, fell afoul of the strict content mandates that the CRTC imposes, and that triggered a CRTC inquiry that led to promises by CKLN”s management that the problems with the station would be resolved in short order. Believing those promises hadn”t been kept, the CRTC ordered CKLN to a hearing last May (subsequently adjourned to December) at which the station was asked to show cause why its license shouldn”t be revoked.
On Friday, the CRTC announced its decision from the hearing: instead of imposing the “mandatory order” that the Commission usually uses to give a wayward licensee one last chance to come into compliance (as it did for CHSC in St. Catharines, which was called on the carpet at the same CRTC hearing in May), it announced that CKLN”s license was being revoked, effective February 12.
The CRTC says it”s simply lost any confidence in CKLN”s management to control the station, or in the power of a mandatory order to bring about the needed changes.
“Moreover, when asked about how it would respond to the issuance of mandatory orders or the suspension of its licence, the licensee stated that it believes it is taking all necessary steps to ensure compliance. It therefore stated that the issuance of mandatory orders or the suspension of its licence would not change its approach going forward,” the CRTC said in its majority decision.
Commissioner Louise Poirier dissented strongly from the decision: “No other licences have been revoked in this manner in recent Commission history,” she wrote. “Such revocations have always been preceded by either a mandatory order or a short-term licence renewal. The Commission is thus creating a precedent with respect to the principle of gradation of regulatory measures taken by the Commission when dealing with a licensee in a situation of non-compliance. This action is unwarranted and inequitable.”
The CRTC”s license revocation is unlikely to be the last word on CKLN”s fate: a station meeting is set for tonight, and it”s very likely that the station will appeal the decision, at least delaying its fate.
*It”s been eight years since Tom Joyner”s syndicated morning show was heard in NEW YORK City, but now the Dallas-based “fly jock” is back in the Big Apple – and right back at his old home. WRKS (98.7). The Emmis-owned urban station never named a replacement for comedian D.L. Hughley when he disappeared from his morning shift there last August, and it”s been filling the timeslot with music and interim hosts ever since.
When Joyner returns to “Kiss” next Monday, the station will still have one local voice in the morning: veteran newsman Bob Slade will continue to do local newscasts during the Joyner show. (And the return of Joyner to morning drive means an all-syndicated drivetime lineup for WRKS, which carries Michael Baisden in afternoons.)
*A veteran western PENNSYLVANIA talk host is dead. Doug Hoerth was a fixture on Pittsburgh”s airwaves from 1980 until 2007, making stops along the way at WWSW/WTKN (970), KQV (1410), KDKA (1020) and most famously at WTAE (1250), before ending his career at Renda”s WPTT (1360) and WJAS (1320).
“Uncle Dougie” poured his distinctive personality into his show, which was heard in afternoon drive for most of its run, and friends tell the Pittsburgh papers that he slid into depression after losing his last regular airshift at WPTT in December 2007. Two years later, his longtime producer/co-host Laurence Gaines died, and friends say Hoerth had become reclusive after that.
Police were called to Hoerth”s home in suburban Bellevue after he didn”t answer his phone for several days, and they found his body there on Tuesday night. Hoerth was 66.
What if you gave a network and nobody showed up? OK, we’ll acknowledge that in their 11 years of existence, UPN and The WB drew at least a few viewers. (If pressed, we’ll even admit to watching “Charmed” on The WB – ah, that Alyssa Milano. But we digress.)
The point is, of course, that after losing money season after season, both networks will go out of business at the end of the summer, with owners CBS and Time Warner immediately launching a new, jointly-owned network (new, of course, so that all the existing UPN and WB affiliation and programming contracts can be cancelled when those networks “cease to exist”) that will just happen to pick up most of the biggest shows from each of the “defunct” weblets. (But not, apparently, “Charmed”…sigh.) No sooner was the bombshell announcement dropped on the media community late last week than the speculation began about who’d end up with the new network (tentatively dubbed “The CW,” though that’s likely to change) in each market.
We’ll start the rest of the week’s news in MASSACHUSETTS, where EMF Broadcasting, the California-based religious broadcaster that’s also one of the fastest-growing groups in the industry, is poised to buy WSMU (91.1 North Dartmouth) from UMass Dartmouth. The $700,000 deal won’t mean the end of WSMU, though. The university’s been sitting on a construction permit for a more powerful signal on 89.3 from the same location. That signal (which now has the calls WUMD) will sign on with the WSMU calls when EMF takes over 91.1 for its satellite-delivered “K-Love” contemporary Christian format, already heard in the region on WKMY (91.1 Winchendon) and WKIV (88.1 Westerly RI). (And we hope that whoever it was at UMass Dartmouth who came up with the idea to “recharacterize” WSMU’s application to simply move from 91.1 to 89.3 as an application for a new station on 89.3, thus making 91.1 available for sale, gets a big bonus from this…)
The week’s biggest news from NEW YORK doesn’t involve a single radio station. It’s about RCS, the White Plains-based software company whose “Selector” music scheduling software dominates the industry – and which last week announced that it was being sold to Clear Channel, whose holdings also include software maker Prophet Systems, whose automation products compete with RCS’ “Master Control.” No management or staff changes are expected at RCS, where president Philippe Generali will remain on board. Inside Radio reports Clear Channel may have paid more than $50 million for RCS, whose other product lines include the Media Monitors subsidiary that tracks radio and print ad placement around the country.
In western PENNSYLVANIA, Renda Broadcasting is adding a fourth station to its Pittsburgh cluster, which includes AC WSHH (99.7), standards WJAS (1320) and talk WPTT (1360 McKeesport.) It’s picking up WJJJ (107.1 Greensburg) from Sheridan, for an as-yet-undisclosed price, and it will replace the station’s Pittsburgh-focused “Majic” adult R&B format (simulcast on WAMO 860) with Westwood One’s “Sam” adult hits format later this week. The station’s calls will change to WGSM, and it will eventually reopen studios and sales offices in Westmoreland County.
On TV, Sinclair’s WPGH (Channel 53) did its last “News Central” newscast last night, with the first WPXI-produced 10 PM newscast to debut tonight. WPXI has hired WPGH sportscaster Alby Oxenreiter (who had been at WPGH since its newscast debuted in 1996); the remainder of the WPGH news staff is out of work, since existing WPXI staffers will handle the WPGH newscast as well, with David Johnson and Darieth Chisholm anchoring and Steve Teeling doing weather. Speaking of WPXI, it will break ground in March on a new 66,000-square foot studio and office facility in the Summer Hill neighborhood (near WPGH and the KDKA-TV transmitter, alongside I-279 in the North Hills), replacing the cramped “Television Hill” facility on Rising Main Avenue that it’s called home since 1957. WPXI had originally planned to move its transmitter from Television Hill as well, but neighborhood objections to the planned 800-foot tower mean the station will keep its existing tower site instead.
Fifteen Years Ago: January 29, 2001
We woke up early here at NERW Central last Friday to listen to what we thought might be a big change at one of Philadelphia’s lowest-rated FM stations. But while the news from WEJM wasn’t very big (read on…), we were stunned by another piece of breaking news from another corner of NERW-land. After a career in Boston that spanned three decades, Andy Moes died of heart failure at his Milton home last Thursday night (Jan. 25). For a little over a year, Moes had been co-host of the “Blute and Moes Show” on WRKO (680), but his history in Boston radio began in the late seventies, when he began filling in on WROR (98.5, now WBMX). By 1979, Moes was co-hosting WROR’s morning show with Joe Martelle, a gig that lasted more than a decade. In 1991, Moes moved to WEEI (590) as the first signature personality of that station’s new sports format. That lasted two years, until WEEI replaced Moes with Don Imus in morning drive. For the next few years, Moes was heard in a variety of weekend and night slots on WRKO before landing the morning job (with former Massport director Peter Blute) in October 1999.
Off the air, Moes made headlines with his friendship with “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer, which extended to a consulting deal for Moes in which he advised the show on how to design the studio of its fictional “KACL Radio.” On air, WRKO filled Friday morning with Moes tributes, to be followed by a retrospective show Monday, after which Blute will be solo for now. Moes had been married for just six months at the time of his death. He was 51 years old.
Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, WQSX (93.7 Lawrence) had some big news of its own Friday morning. “Star” is adding a well-known name to its morning show: Richard Hatch, the winner of the first “Survivor.” Hatch will join Charlie Wilde and the rest of the “Wilde Show” gang Monday with a remote broadcast from the Super Bowl, after which he’ll become a regular co-host, commuting to Star’s Boston studio from his home in Rhode Island. Hatch has been a guest on Wilde’s show several times in the last few months.
The FCC has finally made it official: as we reported two weeks ago, the new calls on 1410 in Watertown are WNER, replacing WUZZ. The station was still doing its satellite urban-oldies thing when we heard it on Friday, and we don’t believe it ever used the WGME calls for which it applied earlier in the month. Also in Watertown, W25AB changes calls to WNYF-LP in anticipation of its launch as a Fox affiliate soon.
Over in Glens Falls, Vox has changed the calls on two of its stations: WHTR (107.1 Hudson Falls) becomes WFFG-FM, while the WHTR calls move to the former WZZM-FM (93.5 Corinth). WHTR has been doing oldies as “Wheels,” while WZZM-FM has been country for years and years. Do the WFFG-FM calls portend the arrival of “Froggy Country” on 107.1, to match Vox’s new Froggy outlet across the state line in Vermont (WWFY 100.9 Berlin)? We shall see…
Up in MAINE, the Mariner Broadcasting classical network known as “W-Bach” is getting another new addition. The chain already includes WBQQ (99.3 Kennebunk), WBQW (106.3 Scarborough) and WBQX (106.9 Thomaston). Now Mariner is buying Mount Desert Island’s WMDI (107.7 Bar Harbor) from Scott Hogg, for a price Hogg describes as “roughly the size of a truckload of quarters.” Hogg just recently sold WMDI’s sister station, WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor), to Clear Channel (for $1.1 million worth of quarters). WMDI has been running a nicely eclectic rock format for the last few years under Hogg’s ownership, and while we’re sure the folks in Hancock County will appreciate the classical music (under the new calls WBQI), we suspect many of them will miss ‘MDI, too.
On to PENNSYLVANIA, and the format change that wasn’t: after all that buildup on the air and on the Web, Philadelphia’s WEJM (95.7) ended up keeping its low-rated “Jammin’ Gold” format. The big announcement turned out to be a $2 million contest. (This was the second time in a year that WEJM played up expectations of a format flip without actually pulling the trigger, by the way.) Meanwhile, Chuck Tisa, who programmed 95.7 during its WXXM “Max” days a few years ago, has landed as PD at Philly’s new 80s station, WPTP (96.5 the Point).
Up in Berwick, WHLM (106.5) is now WFYY, matching its slogan “Flyte 106.5.” The station reaches into the southern end of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market pretty well.
Twenty Years Ago: February 1, 1996
WZPK 103.7, licensed to Berlin NH, but serving Portland and most of southern Maine from high atop Mount Washington with 21640 watts at 3874′ AAT, is being sold. New owners Fuller-Jeffrey already have a strong presence in the Portland market with 100kw album rocker WBLM 102.9 and modern rock simulcast WCYY (94.3 Biddeford ME)/WCYI (93.9 Lewiston ME). I suspect this may be one of those deals that will require waiting for the duopoly rules to change. In any case, I’d expect the hot AC station to move its studios from N. Conway NH down to the WBLM/WCYY/WCYI facility at One City Center, Portland.
W232AJ, licensed to Greenville NH, is on the air as yet another translator of religious WGLV 104.3 Hartford VT. I heard it some 25 miles south of Greenville, in Ayer MA, and I suspect it may be emanating from somewhere fairly far south of Greenville, which is a small rut in the road southwest of Milford NH.
M Street reports that WSNG, 610 in Torrington CT, is dark for the moment, as the station is in the process of being purchased by nearby WZBG 97.3 Litchfield. WZBG is owned in part by Carly Simon and several other wealthy folks who have country homes in the area.
On the television front, WPXT-TV 51, the Fox affiliate in Portland, Maine, has been sold out of bankruptcy to Florida-based Pegasus Broadcasting. Meantime, still no sign of channel 28 in New Bedford/Providence, which was supposed to have debuted around New Year’s Day as a WB affiliate, with calls of either WFDG or WLWC, depending on who you believe.