In this week’s issue… Maine launches second public radio network – Boston translator stalemate breaks – PA FM rebrands – Radio mourns Prince – NAB Show recap
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*If we seem a little sleepy and jet-lagged this week, blame our annual excursion westward to the NAB Show in Las Vegas. It was great to see so many of you at our third-annual pre-show Radio Gathering Sunday night high atop the MGM Grand – we’re already looking forward to making the fourth edition next year even bigger and better.
As for the show itself, we find ourselves with surprisingly little to write about this year in this space. While the show floor was busy and full of familiar faces, there wasn’t much that was revolutionary this year. On the TV side, the impending spectrum auction/repack left most broadcasters and vendors in hurry-up-and-wait mode; nobody knows yet just what their RF needs will be in a year’s time, after all. In radio’s space in the North Hall, there were plenty of incremental improvements in areas such as audio-over-IP networking and ever more efficient solid-state transmitters.
On the regulatory front? More of the waiting game, especially with an election year promising change of some sort at the FCC in just a few months. Commission officials attending the show promised action soon on the latest round of the “AM revitalization” proceeding, among other pending matters.
And of course the other piece of the radio waiting game involved some of the industry’s biggest players: nobody knows yet just how the finances will shake out at troubled iHeart Media or Cumulus, and what may become of CBS Radio’s talk of selling its station assets or spinning off into a separate company. With all those potential deals landing on the market in months to come, the immediate deal-making scene over at Encore and the Bellagio was slower than usual this year.
(Looking for more from the show floor? Stay tuned – we’ll have videos up soon of the interviews we did with our partners at Wheatstone…)
*Back home, MAINE Public Broadcasting announced a move that had long been rumored: effective May 9, it will split its programming into two networks, creating a full-time classical service alongside a main network that will go full-time news/talk.
MPBN CEO Mark Vogelzang made a similar move a few years ago at his old job in Vermont (and we were pleased to be of assistance there, as we’ve been to MPBN). This time out, Maine Public Classical will make its debut over a network of translators, HD2 signals and streaming. In Waterville and Bangor, the classical stream has already soft-launched on translators at 99.7 and 106.1, respectively; those will be joined in western Maine by WFYB (91.5 Fryeburg), which MPBN is buying from Light of Life Ministries. In Portland, listeners will have to tune to the HD2 channel of MPBN’s WMEA (90.1), at least for now, but Vogelzang says MPBN is seeking to buy new signals there and in other parts of the state.
Maine Public Classical will be the new home for Robin Rilette’s 9-noon classical show, which will move from the main Maine Public Radio network. The rest of the classical lineup, at least initially, will come from Classical 24 and other syndicated offerings.
On the news-talk network, Diane Rehm will now get a live 10-noon clearance for her final few months on the air. “On Point” will also air live at 9. At noon, Maine Public Radio will carry “Here and Now,” followed at 1 by the statewide “Maine Calling,” which expands to five days a week.
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*In MASSACHUSETTS, we’ve been watching and waiting for several months now as Radio One’s WILD (1090 Boston) and Salem’s WROL (950 Boston) sat on a mutually-exclusive pair of applications to move translators to the Hub on 106.1. That stalemate finally broke last week when Salem filed an amended application that will instead move W254BR (98.7 Lincoln ME) to 100.3, using 250 watts from the top of the Pru but now with a directional antenna to protect iHeart’s WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth NH). Salem’s move, which was immediately granted, left the field open for Radio One’s 106.1 application to be granted as well, moving W231BR (94.1 Utica NY) to the Pru with 99 watts, non-directional.
Will the Salem move get to finality without an objection from Brandeis University’s WBRS (100.1 Waltham), a long-established class D signal that lacks official protection from interference? (Disclaimer: your editor is an alumnus of WBRS – and Fybush Media handled a third application for 106.1 back in January for WJIB, which exited the MX group with an immediate amendment to 101.3.)
*Near Springfield, Dwight Chapel’s application to move WAIY-LP (97.9 Belchertown) to 107.7 has been turned down; the move violated mileage spacing to a CP for another 107.7 in Holyoke.
*VERMONT Public Radio’s translator sales continue, this time with the handoff of unbuilt W242CE (96.3 Rupert), which goes to Pamal for $70,000 to become a relay of WMML (1230) in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Fybush Media was VPR’s broker for this sale; Beth Griffin handled the purchase for Pamal.)
*In PENNSYLVANIA, it’s no great surprise that Forever is continuing to rebrand the stations it’s buying in the York market. WYCR (98.5 York-Hanover) has been “The Peak” for many years, but starting this morning it becomes “Rocky 98.5,” matching sister “Rocky” signals in Altoona, Johnstown and Cumberland, Maryland. WYCR’s move follows the January rebranding of new sister station WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) as “Froggy”; former WYCR jock Davy Crockett has moved over to WGTY as, yes, “Davy Croakett.”
*In NEW YORK, as everywhere else around the country, the radio dial turned abruptly purple on Thursday as news broke of the death of Prince. Few artists in recent memory crossed so many format lines, and so it was no surprise to hear his music suddenly in hot rotation everywhere from AC to classic hits to rock to urban.
But if just about everyone played at least a little Prince (here’s how RadioInsight covered the dial in Minneapolis), a few stations went far above and beyond, often with the advantage of local ownership and all the extra flexibility it can provide to make big format moves on short notice.
In the Twin Cities, of course, the purple edge went to Minnesota Public Radio’s adventurous AAA outlet “The Current” (KCMP 89.3), which went nonstop Prince almost immediately and then garnered national attention with a 26-hour marathon of his music from A to W. (Did you know Prince had no songs that started with X, Y or Z? We didn’t either.)
Ratings guru Chris Huff tallied up all the monitored airplay of Prince at week’s end, and his statistics gave us a bit of hometown pride here, too: of all the stations Mediabase tracks around the country, the two that spun the most Prince tunes Thursday and Friday were XHRM in the San Diego market…and WDKX (103.9) here in Rochester. The locally-owned urban station went all-Prince as soon as the news broke and is still in “purple mode” as we write this on Sunday night.
*Fans of modern rock in the New York area in the 1970s and 1980s may not have known the name “Elton Spitzer,” but they certainly knew the station he ran. Spitzer operated WLIR (92.7 Garden City) from 1973 until well into the 1980s, transforming the mainstream rock station into one of the standard-bearers for punk and New Wave, with an impact far beyond its relatively anemic class A signal. Spitzer died April 17 at age 84, in Baltimore.
*Radio Vision Cristiana has revised its application to move WWRV (1330 New York) from its current diplex with WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ) northward to a new diplex with WZRC (1480 New York). The original plan to use 10 kW day and night ran afoul of skywave interference issues (at least on paper) with WENA (1330) in Yauco, Puerto Rico; for now, WWRV plans to use 3800 watts at night from WZRC’s site near Bogota, N.J., though upcoming changes in the FCC’s interference rules might allow WWRV to power up in the near future.
Craig Fox’s plans to give WOLF (1490 Syracuse) a new FM translator have shifted: instead of moving W288AR (105.5 Ithaca) to 92.7 in Mattydale, he’s now revised the application to instead move the translator to 92.5 at his WOLF tower near Onondaga Lake. Fox has also shuffled calls, changing his newly-acquired 92.1 in Baldwinsville from WNDR-FM to WOLF-FM and parking the WNDR calls on what had been WMBO (1340 Auburn).
*In CANADA, the CRTC is reviving the defunct 1220 AM frequency on the Niagara Peninsula. Sivanesarajah Kandiah applied last year for a fulltime 10 kW signal on 1220 in St. Catharines, using the former transmitter facility of the defunct CHSC, which has been gone since 2012. Kandiah’s application, which calls for a classic hits format as “Grapevine Radio,” was the second try for a 1220 revival. An attempt in 2013 was denied after the CRTC decided the new station would be trying to serve Toronto instead of St. Catharines.
for a new commercial Class B AM station on 1220 in St. Catharines, Ontario was approved today. The new station will operate with 10,000 watts fulltime and will utilize the transmitting equipment from the now defunct CHSC 1220 in St. Catharines. The station will have a Classic Hits format and will be branded as Grapevine Radio.
Meanwhile, the CRTC turned thumbs down on an application for a new 5-watt signal on 1110 in Mississauga. The agency says Said Afrajy’s plans for a station broadcasting mostly in Arabic and French didn’t meet its criteria for a low-power developmental license.
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