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 23, 2015
With the nonstop pounding of snow that’s been driving MASSACHUSETTS and the rest of New England insane for the last few weeks, it would have been easy to bet that we’d be leading this week’s issue with a story about a studio roof collapsing under several feet of snow, or perhaps ice bringing down a tower somewhere in the region.
Instead, it’s liquid water leading the column this week, and lots of it, and on Thursday morning all that water was rather unfortunately pouring through the downtown Worcester home of Cumulus’ WXLO (104.5 Worcester), WORC-FM (98.9 Webster) and WWFX (100.1 Southbridge).
It appears cold weather was to blame for freezing a six-inch sprinkler pipe that ran through an unheated part of the building. When the pipe burst, station employees said they thought at first that the roof had given way. The bang was actually the pipe bursting, and the noise that followed was an entire stairwell filling with water as it poured down through the seven-story structure. Staffers fled the building as water rose ankle-deep in station offices and studios, and all three stations soon went silent after the power to the building was cut.
The stations were back on the air with automation and generator power by Thursday afternoon, but corporate engineers were soon in the air to assess the damage and figure out a recovery plan. The WXLO main air studio (above) appears to have taken the worst hit, completely soaked by water coming down through the ceiling from upper floors; while it’s likely a total loss, the other studios and offices (and the all-important technical core) mainly had water on the floor and some damage to the walls.
After nine years transmitting from downtown Boston, what’s now WBWL (101.7 Lynn) wants to pack up and move back to its previous transmitter site in Medford, on the hill above the old Malden Hospital. Why reverse course like that? Simple – because unlike the 2006 move that took what was then WFNX from a Medford-sited class A signal to another class A signal downtown, this time the move comes with a substantial power boost to a class B1 signal.
It’s the final chapter of a shuffle we’ve been chronicling from the beginning for our loyal NERW readers, and it helps to explain what iHeart Media had in mind when it started the ball rolling on a big downgrade of co-owned WWBB (101.5 Providence) and a lesser downgrade of WCIB (101.9 Falmouth) on Cape Cod. The latest chapter involves a little more downgrading: WCIB, now a 13 kW/476′ DA signal that’s just barely a class B, will reduce to 12 kW/476′ DA as a class B1, while WWBB will remain technically untouched at its new downtown Providence class A facility, though its allocation coordinates will be modified.
*In NEW YORK City, the week’s big news (at least in some circles) came at the top of the AM dial, where Radio Disney’s 16 years on WQEW (1560) came to an end with no fanfare whatsoever Tuesday morning.
Later in the week, Disney formally closed on its $12.95 million sale of the 50,000-watt signal to Family Stations, which reenters the heart of the New York market two years after selling its longtime home, WFME (94.7 Newark), to Cumulus.
Sometime this week – possibly as early as today, depending on how quickly Family’s engineers can get the work done at the 1560 transmitter site in Maspeth, Queens – the 1560 signal will return to the air with the WFME calls and satellite-fed Family Radio programming from its home base in Oakland, California. Family plans to reintroduce some of the local weather and traffic updates that station manager Charlie Menut used to do on 94.7; it still owns the old WFME studio/transmitter site in New Jersey, and it’s working on an audio feed from there to the new AM signal.
*It was a week of new station launches in CANADA – and more specifically in southern Ontario, where two new FMs made their official debuts.
On Friday morning, RB Communications flipped the switch for the formal launch of CKYY (89.1 Welland). “Country 89” had been testing in the Niagara region for several months, and its official start restores country music to an area that hasn’t had a local country signal of its own since the days when sister station CIXL (Giant 91.7) was doing country on the AM dial as CHOW (1470). The new “Country 89” is expected to repatriate some country listening that’s gone west to Hamilton’s CHKX (94.7) or east to Buffalo’s WYRK (106.5).
Northwest of Toronto in Orangeville, Tuesday was the official launch of My Broadcasting’s latest “My FM” local signal, CKMO (101.5). It’s been testing since November, mostly with Christmas music, and plenty of local officials were on hand at its Mill Street studios for a noontime ribbon-cutting. (And now that Orangeville has a true local station, will this move things forward for Evanov’s application to move Orangeville-licensed CIDC 103.5 closer to Toronto?)
Five Years Ago: February 21, 2011
*It’s still not a done deal as we wrap up this column late Sunday night, but the impending merger of Citadel Broadcasting into Cumulus Media promises to create a 900-station behemoth that could bring some changes to NEW YORK and several other NERW-land markets.
Given all the acquisitions both companies have made in the post-1996 consolidation era, it’s remarkable how little overlap exists among their station groups. Nationwide, the analysts say, a combined Cumulus-Citadel would have to shed only a handful of stations: one in Dallas, two in Nashville and possibly (as we’ll see later in this week’s column) one in central Pennsylvania.
For the most part, though, each company has stayed away from the other’s turf. In market number one, Citadel became a player with its 2006 acquisition of ABC Radio’s WABC (770) and WPLJ (95.5) – but those stations have never competed directly with the suburban clusters that Cumulus picked up in its purchase of the old Aurora group in 2001.
Those stations – WFAS/WFAS-FM/WFAF in Westchester County; the Poughkeepsie-based cluster that includes oldies WALL/WEOK, modern rock WRRV/WRRB, AC WCZX, rock WPDH/WPDA and country WKXP/WZAD; the Danbury, Connecticut cluster that includes sports WINE/WPUT, rock WRKI and country WDBY; and the Bridgeport-based WEBE/WICC – will form a powerful suburban counterpart to WABC and WPLJ.
(And there’s one interesting “what if”: Cumulus has built out, but not yet licensed, a move of WFAS-FM 103.9 from Westchester to the WFUV tower site in the Bronx. Cumulus was reportedly trying to sell the moved-in 103.9 signal, which made no economic sense as a standalone with only partial coverage of New York City – but now that signal just might make some sense as an FM outlet for WABC.)
*Meanwhile in the Hudson Valley, Juergen Klebe’s Sunrise Broadcasting has received a license to cover for WGNY-FM (98.9 Rosendale), and it’s set to sign on with regular programming any day now.
The class A signal reaches from north of Kingston to south of Poughkeepsie, complementing the more southerly reach of Klebe’s WJGK (103.1 Newburgh, the former WGNY-FM) and WGNY (1220 Newburgh).
According to the Sunrise website, 98.9 will be carrying the same oldies format now heard on 1220 and sister station WDLC (1490 Port Jervis) – and like the Newburgh FM, it will be operating in HD, with something called “The Drive” on 98.9-2.
Ten Years Ago: February 20, 2006
Curt Gowdy, the legendary voice of the Red Sox who later became a network sportscaster and station owner (at Lawrence’s WCCM/WCGY and several stations in Wyoming), died early this morning at his home in Florida. Gowdy was 86.
Boston’s sports radio giant, Entercom’s WEEI (850), is about to reach even more of MASSACHUSETTS, now that Entercom is paying $5.75 million to acquire WBEC-FM (105.5), the class A FM signal that Vox is moving from its longtime home in Pittsfield to Easthampton, where it will transmit from Mount Tom with a signal reaching from Springfield north into most of the Pioneer Valley. The move will extend WEEI’s reach one more market to the west, joining the mothership in Boston, Worcester’s WVEI (1440) and WEEI-FM (103.7 Westerly RI), which covers all of Rhode Island and big chunks of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts.
Entercom says it hopes to have the Mount Tom signal on the air by April. Like WVEI, the 105.5 signal won’t carry WEEI’s Red Sox coverage – those rights are still with Clear Channel’s WHYN (560 Springfield) this year – but it’s not hard to imagine that the reach of the growing WEEI network will be a selling point for Entercom as it tries to extend its deal with the Sox, which expires at the end of the 2006 season. (This season will be the team’s first on WEEI-FM, which picks up the Providence market rights from WPRO.)
As for Pittsfield, it won’t lose the programming now heard on “Live 105.5.” As had been widely suspected, the top 40 format (and the calls, too) will migrate down the dial to WUPE (95.9 Pittsfield), which has been simulcasting “Whoopie” oldies with WMNB (100.1 North Adams). “Whoopie” will continue on the North Adams signal, and we’d be not one bit surprised if the WUPE calls move up Route 7 to that 100.1 facility as well.
Entercom was making headlines last week at its other Boston AM property as well. After just five months programming WRKO (680), Brian Whittemore is headed back to Minnesota, where the former WBZ news and program director landed a few years back at the end of an Infinity career that had him managing KDKA in Pittsburgh and WCCO in Minneapolis. WEEI programmer Jason Wolfe will now serve as “VP for AM programming,” overseeing both WEEI and WRKO – and while Entercom is saying that Whittemore’s role at WRKO, where he oversaw programming shakeups that included the introduction of “Taste of Boston Tonight” in the evenings and a more news-oriented morning show, was never meant to be anything more than temporary. We don’t recall any mention of a “temporary” role when Whittemore was named to the job, but then, all jobs in this business are temporary, one way or another, aren’t they?
The largest radio group in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA is getting a new owner, as NextMedia prepares to sell its cluster of signals in Erie to Connoisseur Media. This is the second version of Jeff Warshaw’s Connoisseur group, which had holdings in Youngstown, Ohio, among other places, before selling to Cumulus in 2000. Among the stations Warshaw owned in Youngstown was WHOT (101.1), one of the stations founded by legendary broadcaster Myron Jones – and among the stations Warshaw will get with the $17.35 million purchase of the NextMedia Erie properties is WJET (1400), which was once Jones’ flagship property. The cluster also includes sports talker WFNN (1330 Erie), country WUSE (93.9 Fairview), oldies WFGO (94.7 Erie), classic rock WRKT (100.9 North East) and top 40 WRTS (103.7 Erie). NextMedia partner Rick Rambaldo, whose history with the stations goes back two decades to his purchase of then-WHYP-FM and creation of “Rocket 101,” says he hopes to remain with the cluster as station manager after the sale closes.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 19, 2001
One of the most popular programs to come out of the New England public radio scene in recent years is in a state of turmoil this week, with its host and senior producer on paid leave and most of its staff having resigned, all over a dispute about who will share in the proceeds from NPR syndication. We speak, of course, of “The Connection,” Christopher Lydon’s daily two-hour haven of erudite conversation. A staple of the WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) lineup since the mid-nineties, the show has been distributed in recent years to several dozen public radio outlets nationwide. But as WBUR head honcho Jane Christo prepared to take The Connection to NPR’s national lineup, it seems Lydon and producer Mary McGrath wanted to share in the riches the program was producing for the WBUR folks. The two proposed to form a production company with WBUR to distribute the program, a move WBUR interpreted as insubordination, and so it was that WBUR escorted Lydon and McGrath from the building last week, putting them on a two-week paid suspension.
You don’t do something like that to an entrenched Boston media veteran like Lydon (the former anchor of WGBH-TV’s Ten O’Clock News and a former newspaper reporter) without expecting all hell to break loose in the papers, and thus the pages of the Globe have been filled with articles about Lydon’s dispute with WBUR — complete with the revelation of Lydon’s WBUR salary ($175,000 this year, but with raises taking him to $280,000 in a few years) and the disclosure of increasingly testy e-mails between Lydon and his WBUR bosses. If WBUR was still hoping for a quick, quiet resolution to all the hoo-hah, those hopes were dashed over the weekend when several Connection staffers quit in protest. Meanwhile, WBUR has been using substitute hosts on the Connection — but will NPR have any interest in the show if Lydon and his crew don’t return? We’ll let you know how this one plays out.
Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, One-on-One Sports (soon to be the Sporting News Radio Network) finally flips calls on its Boston outlet, more than four years after acquiring WNRB (1510). It’s now WSZE, “The Sports Zone,” and for Garrett and anyone else who’s keeping count, that makes callsign number seven for the erstwhile WMEX.
Into NEW YORK we head, and back to the land of Syracuse Community Radio. We’ve been recounting the tangled tale of WXXC (88.7 Truxton) in recent weeks, including the apparent filing of a misleading application to cover its construction permit just days before expiration — even though nothing had yet been built at WXXC’s site! And you’ll recall that a NERW visit to the site a few days later turned up an antenna (lower than specified on the CP) but no signal. Well… as we pointed the NERW-mobile towards Philadelphia two weekends ago (much more on the trip in a bit), we actually heard WXXC on the air, sort of. The signal is just barely perceptible on I-81 crossing the Onondaga/Cortland county line south of Syracuse, and disappears again well before Cortland itself. Just as we started wondering whether WXXC would serve more than a few hundred potential listeners, though, the FCC beat us to the punch: On February 12, just two days after we heard WXXC for the first time, the FCC cancelled the station’s license and deleted its callsign. We suspect an appeal from SCR, but we suspect (given what we heard of the WXXC signal) that the group would do better to apply its energy to its other applications, which promise to deliver more signal to areas where people actually live.
Twenty Years Ago: February, 1996