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: June 8, 2015
*Six years ago, the principals behind New Jersey-based Press Communications set a process in motion to bring new TV signals into the heart of the New York City and Philadelphia markets. PMCM, LLC paid just $1.2 million to buy small VHF stations in rural Nevada and Wyoming, using a forgotten bit of the FCC’s rules to try to force the Commission to allow those licenses to be moved thousands of miles east to become the lone VHF signals licensed to New Jersey and Delaware, respectively.
That audacious plan got a frosty reception from the FCC, which quickly assigned two new VHF channels in those states in an attempt to head off PMCM’s proposed moves. PMCM went to federal court to uphold its interpretation of Section 331(a) of the Commission’s rules. Even if that rule was originally meant solely to protect RKO from losing the license to WOR-TV (Channel 9) back in the 1980s by “moving” it from New York to Secaucus, NJ, the courts handed PMCM a win, allowing it to put KJWP (Channel 2) in Philadelphia and KVNV (Channel 3) high atop Four Times Square in the heart of Manhattan.
That “win” ended up being a bit elusive in New York, though, when rival broadcasters challenged PMCM’s right to call its new station (now WJLP) “channel 3.” After months of back-and-forth legal wrangling, the FCC last week sided with WJLP’s opponents, stripping the new station of the right to use virtual channel 3 for its over-the-air signal and instead ordering the station (which remains on RF channel 3) to use virtual channel 33 for its broadcasts.
As a real-world matter, PMCM made a solid case that using “channel 3” for WJLP would cause few problems, even to the two virtual channel 3s that objected to sharing with WJLP. Meredith’s WFSB in Hartford, which uses RF channel 33, is almost impossible to receive over the air in the Connecticut communities that are part of the New York TV market, since it shares its RF channel with New York’s WCBS-TV (Channel 2); at the other end of the WJLP viewing area, PMCM notes that no complaints were received when both WJLP and Philadelphia’s KYW-TV were operating as “channel 3,” despite some signal overlap in central New Jersey.
But the FCC says none of that matters: even after WJLP offered to start its virtual channel lineup at “3.10” instead of the usual “3.1,” the Commission says the intent of its rules is clear: in any given signal area, each major virtual channel (the part before the dash or dot) is supposed to be associated with only one broadcaster’s offerings. What’s more, the FCC says, since there was never an analog “channel 3” in New York prior to KVNV/WJLP’s move, there’s no established viewing pattern or history that tie the station to that “3” branding, which was the intent behind creating virtual channel mapping in the first place.
The real game here, of course, never had much to do with over-the-air channel numbering – just the cable and satellite channels that are determined by OTA channel numbers. While PMCM’s Philadelphia-market channel 2 (now KJWP) successfully got itself on cable channel 2 in most of that market, WJLP has been on hold with its must-carry bid while waiting for a virtual channel resolution. Only Verizon FiOS so far has picked up WJLP on channel 3 across the entire market. That will change now – along with the virtual channel 33 order, the FCC also started the clock in motion for PMCM to start filing for must-carry for WJLP, which will now have to either use channel 33 on New York-market cable or negotiate directly with cable companies for a better spot. (Suppose PMCM now wishes it had accepted the FCC’s original compromise offer to use “channel 14” instead? And that CBS wishes it had used the potential of conflict with its New York WCBS-TV 2 to file a similar complaint against KJWP’s Philadelphia use of “channel 2,” too?)
*Our MASSACHUSETTS news yet again focuses on the Boston AM dial this week, as Disney prepares to shed its WMKI (1260), among the last remaining AM licenses in the Radio Disney portfolio. When Salem picked up Disney signals in Pittsburgh and Atlanta earlier this year, we’d speculated that it had turned down the chance to add other Disney AMs to its lineup. That may well have been true, but it wasn’t the end of the story; last week, Disney announced another round of sales to Salem that includes WMKI at the bargain price of just $500,000, just 10% of the $5 million that Salem received when it sold 1260 (then WPZE) to Hibernia Broadcasting in 1997.
*Margaret Juntwait went from New York City’s WNYC-FM (93.9) to a prominent post as only the third regular announcer for the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday broadcasts. Juntwait, who’d been suffering from ovarian cancer, died Wednesday at just 58. She started her WNYC career in 1991 as an assistant to host John Schaefer, but quickly rose to a regular host position there. She joined the Met broadcasts in 2004 and continued to host them until the end of 2014, when her health no longer allowed her to be on the air after a decade in which the cancer had been under control.
Five Years Ago: June 6, 2011
*Broadcast stations in places like Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma have plenty of experience covering tornados and their aftermath. But twisters aren’t a common part of life in western MASSACHUSETTS, so when a devastating storm developed near Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, TV and radio stations in Springfield and Worcester had to scramble to respond to the sudden emergency just before rush hour.
On TV, all three Springfield-based stations – NBC affiliate WWLP, ABC affiliate WGGB and CBS affiliate WSHM – went wall-to-wall with coverage (including dramatic sky-cam images of the tornado whipping up water from the Connecticut River in downtown Springfield) as the storm approached, staying with the story late into the evening as the extent of the destruction became clear (and even as at least one of the three tornadoes passed close to WWLP’s tower site on Provin Mountain, south of Springfield.)
On radio, the coverage was a little more mixed, as stations with pared-down news staffs (or none at all) struggled at first to rise to the occasion. Listeners to Worcester’s WTAG (580) reported hearing afternoon host Jordan Levy announce that the staff was evacuating the studios as the storms approached, followed by several minutes of dead air. In Springfield, heritage news-talker WHYN (560) started out in syndication mode at first, relaying the Howie Carr show out of Boston’s WRKO. Within a short time, though, radio stations around the area were in wall-to-wall mode, either originating their own coverage or relaying TV audio. WHYN’s John Baibak and Kevin Johnson stayed on the air until midnight, simulcasting their coverage on WHYN’s three FM sister stations.
*For one Pioneer Valley station, the storm came at an especially bad time: the region’s public station, WFCR-FM (88.5), was mourning its longtime morning host after his sudden death the previous weekend.
Bob Paquette discovered radio while attending UMass Amherst and working at its student station, WMUA (91.1), and he began his career by traveling widely, working in Montana, Arizona and California. Within a few years, he was back in Amherst working at WTTT (1430, now WPNI), and in 1991 he returned to his alma mater and WFCR. In addition to his on-air work hosting “Morning Edition,” Paquette lent his voice to the UMass graduation ceremonies, reading the names of each graduate for many years. He had survived a 2004 bout with leukemia, and his death (of a heart attack) last Saturday, May 28, came as a shock to the WFCR family and his listeners. Paquette is survived by his husband, Michael Rice Packard. He was just 55.
*There’s a format change on the Boston AM dial: Radio One began leasing daytimer WILD (1090 Boston) to China Radio International on Wednesday, ending the station’s mix of syndicated urban talk.
Ten Years Ago: June 5, 2006
Some big changes are underway at Clear Channel’s big New York City cluster, most notably in mornings at WKTU (103.5 Lake Success), which is pulling the plug on the current Baltazar and Goumba Johnny morning show at the end of July, in favor of Whoopi Goldberg’s new syndicated offering. Whoopi will have a new sidekick, too, as Paul “Cubby” Bryant moves over from CC sister station WHTZ (100.3 Newark), where he’s now afternoon jock and music director, to join her on the new morning show. Baltazar and Goumba had been together on WKTU since 2002, and Boston listeners might remember Baltazar from an earlier stint in mornings on WJMN (94.5). (He’s also worked at New York’s WQHT and Chicago’s WBBM-FM.)
Oswego’s WRVO (89.9) will dedicate its new studio facility – and turn on its new 50,000-watt HD Radio signal – at an open house Saturday (June 10). NPR talk host Neal Conan (“Talk of the Nation”) will be on hand to officially open the new digs, which replace “temporary” studios that were put into operation 37 years ago. (The new studios have actually been in use since January, but who wants to visit Oswego in January?)
In NEW JERSEY, a Seton Hall University audit uncovered what appears to be a long pattern of embezzlement by former WSOU (89.5 South Orange) station manager Michael Collazo. He was arrested Thursday and charged with money laundering and theft by deception, which could lead to as much as 10-20 years behind bars if he’s convicted. The university says Collazo, who ran WSOU from 1984-2004, set up a shell company in 1991 called “Warren Sound Options Unlimited,” which spells out “W.S.O.U.” Collazo is accused of diverting $550,000 in underwriting revenue and subcarrier lease payments from the station’s own account to his phony “W.S.O.U.” account. Collazo had been working as a flight attendant since he was fired from Seton Hall two years ago, when problems with the station’s accounts began to surface. The university says its insurance has repaid the missing money to the proper WSOU accounts.
VERMONT Public Radio is adding to its network with the acquisition of WJAN (95.1 Sunderland) from Pamal. The Albany-based broadcaster needs to shed WJAN, which is technically in the Albany market, in order to complete its purchase of now-silent WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury) and return the station to the air from a new city of license of Malta and a new transmitter site at the WNYT (Channel 13) tower on Bald Hill, northeast of Albany. For VPR, the $625,000 deal will (we suspect) bring the broadcaster’s new classical network to southwestern Vermont, complementing WBTN-FM (94.3 Bennington), which carries VPR’s main network. From its perch high atop Equinox Mountain, WJAN (which now runs “Cat Country,” simulcasting WJEN 94.5 Rutland) reaches well into eastern New York with its 96-watt signal.
Fifteen Years Ago: June 4, 2001
Five years after Cox threw it on the air as a format-flipping stunt format, radio geeks are still talking about the one day of “Quick 108” at Syracuse’s WHEN-FM (107.9, now WWHT). So it’s not surprising to hear that the “just the hooks” loop of music-testing tapes has returned to the central NEW YORK airwaves. This time it’s 50 miles down the Thruway in Utica, and this time it’s Clear Channel doing the “Quick” thing, while it waits to announce a new format for WSKS (102.5 Rome). The station’s old “Kiss” CHR format migrated down (and up) the dial to the former “Wow FM,” WOWZ (97.9 Whitesboro) and WOWB (105.5 Little Falls) last week, and the leading rumor now suggests the permanent format on 102.5 will be country, challenging Forever’s market-leading WFRG-FM (104.3 Utica). The only big question left is: when will the flip finally happen? As of press time late Monday evening, WSKS is still “Quick”… [Late update: WSKS switched to “K-Garth,” a stunt format of all Garth Brooks music, Tuesday night.]
Syracuse’s WNSS (1260) is about to change formats again. The erstwhile home of the now-defunct Comedy World network has been simulcasting Citadel sister WLTI (105.9) for the last few months; within the next 90 days, we’re told, it will relaunch as “ESPN Radio 1260,” with Syracuse University football and basketball as well as Buffalo Bills football in the fall, challenging Clear Channel’s WHEN (620) for the sports radio audience in the Salt City.
We move over to MASSACHUSETTS with a surprise group sale. After spending the past few years assembling a ring of small AM stations around Boston, Keating Willcox sold most of his Willow Farm group this week. Ernie Anastos, who’s built his own suburban radio ring around Albany in the last few years (WQAR Stillwater, WUAM Saratoga Springs, WVKZ Schenectady and WMVI Mechanicville), is the buyer, and we’ve yet to hear a purchase price. The Big Apple TV news anchor and his partners at Anastos Broadcast Group end up with WPEP (1570 Taunton), WMSX (1410 Brockton), WGAW (1340 Gardner), WMVU (900 Nashua NH) and WNRI (1380 Woonsocket RI), leaving Willcox back at square one with his very first property, WNSH (1570 Beverly). The Willow Farm stations have been running a mostly-satellite talk format, with a little local content at each. Will Anastos plug in the standards “Moon” or classic country “Sun” formats he’s using in Albany? We’ll keep you posted…
Twenty Years Ago: June 3, 1996