In this week’s issue… Big AM signals seek support – FM flip in Toronto – PA’s Bigfoot gets bigger – AM donation deal falls apart
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Radio’s oldest technology isn’t going down without a fight.
As the FCC continues its evaluation of new rules for the AM band, several broadcasters who own class A AM signals are looking for evidence they can bring to the Commission to show that skywave reception of distant AM stations still matters.
From Schenectady to Waterloo, Iowa, those big (lower-case) clear channel stations are asking listeners to check in and let them know if they’re still tuning in outside their local coverage areas. WGY’s version of the pitch goes like this:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed measures that would permit greater interference on WGY, which will reduce WGY’s ability to provide you with quality broadcasting at night. That means if their proposal passes, it will make it very difficult for many of you to hear our programming at night and during morning and evening drive times.
It’s all part of the ongoing “AM Improvement” proceeding, the same one that created the AM translator window that’s been so busy lately. As the FCC moves into the next phase of the proceeding, one proposal on the table would take away the protection that class A stations still enjoy for their skywave signals.
Those in favor of the idea say it would give smaller-market AMs an opportunity to extend their programming after sunset; on 810, for instance, stations in places such as Annapolis, Maryland and Grand Rapids, Michigan that must now protect WGY’s distant signal would be able to retain more of their daytime coverage areas at night.
On its face, it looks like a good idea; wouldn’t a strong local voice be more important to local listeners in Maryland or Michigan than a faint distant signal from upstate New York? (It does the argument no favor, either, that the nighttime programming WGY touts as being so important all comes from elsewhere – syndicated hosts Michael Berry and Mark Levin and the ubiquitous Coast to Coast AM.)
But here’s the problem: as we’ve noted over and over again, both here and in filings to the Commission, the medium-wave frequencies at which AM radio operates simply don’t play by neat rules. Whether or not it’s of any economic advantage, the signal WGY sends out will travel at night – and so will the signals that get added to class A channels like 810 if the FCC reduces or eliminates skywave protection.
Which means not only that the stations getting new night signals may find they don’t get very far, but that stations like WGY, KDKA, WTIC and WBZ that are now the only truly viable AM signals across their sprawling markets will get significant added interference within those home markets, reducing their ability to reach local audiences effectively and rendering them more like the increasingly noisy class B channels that now typically reach only parts of large markets clearly. How, exactly, does that benefit AM radio overall?
What do you think? Weigh in below in our comments section…
CYBER MONDAY? NO, CYBER WEEK!
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And when you buy the Radio Historian calendar, don’t forget to buy the Tower Site Calendar — perfect in any room. We’re marking the 20th anniversary of the Tower Site Calendar, and we’re also celebrating the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. Our calendar showcases the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations. It’s nearly off the press and will ship in time for Christmas. Order yours here.
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Most of the Flow airstaff remains in place, except for morning co-host Melanie Martin and middayer Miss Ange; Mastermind is now on the air from 6 AM until noon, followed by JJ at noon and Peter Kash at night.
*The rest of our news from Canada this week is mostly about Nova Scotia: in Halifax, Newcap segued CKUL (96.5) from AAA “Radio 96.5” to hot AC as “Mix 96.5” on Thursday afternoon at 4.
Out on Cape Breton Island, the CBC has signed on its new nested repeater in Sydney. CBIS (92.1) relays CBI (1140), but in contrast to the CBC’s original plans to fully replace the AM signal with a bigger FM, the AM will stay on the air to serve outlying areas that the 10.6 kW FM signal doesn’t reach.
In Hamilton, they’re mourning Richard Gale, the longtime voice of classical music on CKDS (95.3, now CING). “An Evening with Richard Gale” aired for more than 23 years before CKDS changed format in 1991; Gale died Feb. 9 at age 74 in Hamilton. There’s a nice tribute site to Gale, complete with an aircheck of his last show, at AnEveningWithRichardGale.com.
*In NEW YORK‘s Hudson Valley, it’s a bitter end to what was supposed to have been a nice solution for two problems. For Pamal, WGHQ (920 Kingston) had become effectively dead weight; the AM signal needed expensive work on its directional array but wasn’t bringing in much revenue. For nearby public broadcaster Robin Hood Radio, Kingston was a desirable market it couldn’t quite reach with its existing signals, WHDD (1020 Sharon CT) and WHDD-FM (91.9 Sharon CT).
So two years ago, Robin Hood entered into a $2000-a-month LMA with Pamal to begin simulcasting 22 hours a day on WGHQ, leaving the 7-9 AM slot to continue as the home of “Kingston Community Radio,” the leased-time morning show hosted by Walter Maxwell. At the time, the plan was for Pamal to donate WGHQ to Robin Hood, which would then take on the burden of fixing the AM site.
But somewhere along the way, things went sour. Robin Hood founder Marshall Miles says Pamal never made good on its promise to donate the AM license. Instead of continuing the LMA, Robin Hood is handing the keys to WGHQ back to Pamal.
Pamal will take 920 back to a simulcast with its other Hudson Valley AMs, classic country WBNR (1260 Beacon)/WLNA (1420 Peekskill). Kingston Community Radio will continue for now in that 7-9 AM slot; for the rest of the Robin Hood schedule, Miles says Kingston-area listeners can tune to WLHV (88.1 Annandale-on-Hudson), the Bard College license that Robin Hood is now programming as well.
*Upstate, Townsquare is swapping out syndicated product in mornings at Buffalo’s legendary urban station, WBLK (93.7 Depew). Starting tomorrow, WBLK will pick up the Steve Harvey Morning Show, replacing the Tom Joyner show it’s been airing since 2005.
Family Life Ministries hasn’t had translator W243BW (96.5 Cheektowaga) on the air for a few months now, and now it’s selling the silent Buffalo-area translator to Salem for $60,000. The translator is headed to Pittsburgh, where it will relay Salem religious talker WPIT (730) and will remain on 96.5.
We can now attach a purchase price to Northeast Gospel Network’s sale of W239AG (95.7 Long Lake); Trignition Media has filed for a $75,000 purchase as it moves the translator from the Adirondacks to New Britain, CONNECTICUT to relay WRYM (840).
*In RHODE ISLAND, we can report a purchase price for the translator headed to Radio Video Mundo’s WPMZ (1110 East Providence): they’re paying Wesley Weis $100,000 for what’s now W244AS (96.7 Oakhurst NJ), which has a CP to move to Providence on 102.1.
*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS: Renee Castle is the new night jock at Boston’s WKLB-FM (102.5 Waltham), where Greater Media has been busy revamping the country station’s airstaff. Castle, who arrives from WKDF in Nashville, joins new morning host Jeff Miles, who was announced on Monday.
Steve Savino is the new operations manager at WAZK (97.7)/WNCK (89.5) on Nantucket. Savino moves eastward from WQUN (1220 Hamden CT), where he’s been assistant GM and afternoon host for a dozen years.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Saga is challenging Brian Dodge’s attempt to move translator W232AJ (94.3 Greenville) closer to Manchester. In a lengthy objection filed on Tuesday, Saga says Harvest Translators (the Dodge front to which W232AJ is licensed) repeatedly ran afoul of FCC rules when it filed multiple applications that would have created interference with WJMN (94.5 Boston) and Saga’s own W231BR (94.1) in Manchester. Those applications included, most recently, an attempt to extend an FCC deadline by submitting a nurse’s note saying Harvest president Tammy Thayer had been ill; Saga says the FCC’s rules don’t allow for extensions based on run-of-the-mill illnesses.
The translator was headed for Manchester to relay Absolute Broadcasting’s WGAM (1250); will Absolute and other broadcasters that have dealt with Dodge and his front groups in the translator window end up getting grants at all?
*In Bedford, WBNH-LP (105.1) is now officially on the air. The LPFM is licensed to the town itself and will carry emergency information and high school sports alongside its alternative rock format. Veteran Granite State broadcaster Harry Kozlowski is running the station for the town.
*In MAINE, WHTP (104.7 Kennebunkport) has hired Samantha Sylvia as its new production director. Sylvia arrives at Hot 104.7 with big-market experience doing promotions at the former WRDW (Wired 96.5) in Philadelphia. Hot also has a new on-air lineup, as Krissy Williamson moves from afternoons to morning co-host, Mijo Irizarry goes from nights to afternoons and Michael Desveaux goes from overnights to Irizarry’s former night shift.
*There’s a new “Bigfoot” in central PENNSYLVANIA: as of last Monday, Seven Mountains has flipped “Big Country” (WYGL 98.3 Elizabethville/WWBE 100.5 Elizabethville) to a second “Bigfoot Country” simulcast, joining its existing WIBF (92.5 Mexico)/WDBF (106.3 Mount Union). The new “Bigfoot” adds two more signals to 98.3 (now WQBG) and 100.5 (now WRBG) – it’s also simulcasting on the big signal that was WFYY (106.5 Bloomsburg) and is now WCFT.
Seven Mountains, run by the wife and daughter of Forever’s Kerby Confer, is picking up on Forever’s use of cutesy air names (as, for instance, at its “Froggy” stations); former WWBE/WYGL afternoon jock Kyle Alexander is now in mornings as “Kyle Hunter,” alongside “Shelly Woods,” ex-Shelly Marx. It’s now “Beti the Yeti” (really?) in middays, followed by ex-middayer Todd Stewart (now “Harry Mann” ) in afternoons and “Mikey Mannimal” at night.
There’s yet another format shift in the cluster: WVSL-FM (92.3 Riverside) drops ESPN and goes classic hits as “Hanna” with new calls WHNA. Former WFYY morning man Mark Roberts is now doing mornings at that Susquehanna Valley signal (which is where that name comes from…)
*In Philadelphia, WZMP (96.5 AMP) morning jock Bex is getting company: a week from today, she’ll be joined by Jason Cage, who’s headed east from nights at CBS Radio’s WBBM-FM (B96) in Chicago to join the new “Cage & Bex in the Morning.”
Over in Pittsburgh, CBS Radio has a new lineup at country WDSY (107.9). Musician and snowboarder Andy Davis is new to radio – and to mornings at Y108, joining midday jock Ally for the new “Ally & Andy” show, which replaces longtime WDSY staffers Monty Montgomery and Jimmy Roach. Weekender Maria D’Antonio takes over from Ally in middays.
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