In this week’s issue… Long Point out, Bishop in at Finger Lakes Radio Group – Second try at Syracuse swap – New streaming signal on the seacoast – Al Dame, RIP



*Ordinarily, we’d never think of leading a column by telling you that a cluster of radio stations is about to remain under the same management that’s been leading it for years.

WGVA's building, front...But in the lovely Finger Lakes region of upstate NEW YORK, that’s actually pretty big news, because the transfer of the Finger Lakes Radio Group to current GM Alan Bishop puts to rest several years of uncertainty as the cluster (and the market) waited to see if Bruce Danziger’s Long Point Communications group could close on a $3,375,000 purchase of the cluster.

That deal, inked in September 2014, was itself supposed to resolve uncertainty that stemmed from the personal bankruptcy of George Kimble. The veteran station broker owned two-thirds of the Finger Lakes Radio Group and its subsidiaries, continuing a family tradition that went back to his father’s ownership of WCGR (1550 Canandaigua).

At the bankruptcy auction, Danziger’s group outbid Bishop, who already owned a third of the cluster – and that led to the odd situation in which Bishop continued to manage the stations while waiting for Long Point to close on the purchase. Under Kimble and Bishop, the Finger Lakes group now includes most of the dial between Rochester and Syracuse: news/talk WGVA (1240 Geneva) and WAUB (1590 Auburn) plus translators; country WFLK (101.7 Geneva)/WCGR (1550, plus a translator); AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo); rock “Wall” WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls) and country WFLR (1570 Dundee, plus two translators).

And now those stations are, at last, headed into Bishop’s hands, thanks to a new deal with the bankruptcy trustees after Long Point’s repeated failure to close. While the FCC granted Long Point two extensions to consummate the deal, it never came through, and so Bishop will now pay $1,217,355 to acquire Kimble’s stock in Finger Lakes and its sister companies. Add in the $719,000 in claims against Kimble’s bankruptcy that Bishop will drop, and you get to nearly $2 million for two-thirds of the cluster, which puts the full value of the cluster not far from the $3.375 million that Long Point would have paid.

We don’t have to do much speculating about what happens now at the Finger Lakes cluster: it’s been managed extremely well by Bishop and his crew for many years now, and there’s no reason to think that will change as the stations join up with Bishop’s other ownership interest – he owns WDOE (1410) and WBKX (96.5) in the Dunkirk/Fredonia market, where he bought out Kimble’s interest a few years ago.


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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: June 22, 2015

*Quick – what do you get if you combine a national sports morning show, an assortment of syndicated conservative talkers who’ve never gained much traction anywhere else in the market, and Rush Limbaugh in middays?

It’s the newest talk station in eastern MASSACHUSETTS, of course, and as we predicted last week, little WKOX (1430 Everett) is iHeart’s last-ditch move to retain a clearance for Limbaugh in market number ten when Entercom’s WRKO (680 Boston) pulls the plug on the show next week.

wkox-talk“Talk 1430” will launch on WKOX next Monday with a lineup that’s even more makeshift than the last Clear Channel attempt to provide an in-house clearance for Limbaugh. When WXKS (1200 Newton) launched as “Rush Radio,” it at least had a local morning show with Jeff Katz to try to bring some Boston relevance to the format. This time, it will be Fox Sports Radio filling the Talk 1430 airwaves from 1-9 AM, which might as well be dead air for all that Boston has ever embraced sports talk from outside the market. Glenn Beck will precede Limbaugh from 9-noon, with Sean Hannity following Rush from 3-6 PM. “America Now,” Mark Levin and Clyde Lewis will round out the schedule, such as it is.

For a comparison, we turn to Los Angeles and KEIB (1150), the “Rush and a bunch of other stuff” talker that iHeart created when it pulled Limbaugh off big-stick KFI (640) in 2014. With a 50,000-watt signal that covers a decent chunk of the market, a bit of external marketing and a lengthy period of cross-promotion to bring Rush listeners over from their long KFI habit, KEIB still hasn’t cracked a 1 share in the 12+ ratings. “Talk 1430” will launch with a far lesser signal and no promotional boost from WRKO; can it even get to an 0.5? (We’re betting on “not” – and what’s more, we’ll hazard a guess that WKOX’s talk ratings will be worse, both overall and in key demographics, than the station’s been doing with Spanish hits as “Mia 1430.”)

*Back in November, Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern group completed the long-planned relocation of an FM signal all the way across VERMONT (and then some). The station formerly known as WWOD (104.3 Hartford VT), then with later temporary calls of WMXR, WMVY and WECM, signed on last November from a new transmitter site near its new city of license of Keeseville, New York, with a class C3 signal reaching back across Lake Champlain to the Burlington market. WECM stunted with Christmas music through the holidays and then for a few months longer as “Santa 104.3” before falling silent again – but last Monday at noon, it finally launched a permanent format.

The new “Kiss 104.3” takes the WJKS calls last seen in southern New Jersey on what’s now WDEL-FM (101.7 Salem). Like that station, the new Burlington-market WJKS is aiming urban, a curious choice in the rather pale market of Burlington-Plattsburgh.

*CANADA‘s fastest-growing small-market radio group is growing again. My Broadcasting is buying out Cobourg-based Pineridge Broadcasting, adding classic hits CHUC (107.9 the Breeze) and AC CKSG (Star 93.3) in Cobourg and AC CJWV (Magic 96.7) in Peterborough to its 17 existing stations. My’s purchase will close out the broadcast career of Pineridge president Don Conway, who’ll retire when the deal closes. In a statement, Conway called My “the ideal choice” to keep “super-serving the local community.”

Five Years Ago: June 20, 2011

*Some radio markets are easy to define: it’s not hard to come up with a coherent set of borders for “Boston” or “Philadelphia” or “Syracuse.”

But the swath of NEW YORK that stretches from just north of New York City to just south of Albany has proved a bit more difficult for Arbitron to delineate, and now the ratings agency is taking a new stab at creating market lines there. Starting this fall, it will replace the current “Newburgh-Middletown” market, which covers only Orange County, with a new “Hudson Valley” market encompassing Orange, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.

The new market is much larger than the old one – with 1,471,000 people 12+, it’s expected to rank at or about #38 on Arbitron’s list, a hundred markets or so larger than the present Newburgh-Middletown – but it will also be something of an ungainly amalgam of two areas that receive different combinations of signals. The new part of the market, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, is already included in the New York City market, though most city-based FM signals struggle to be heard in the northernmost reaches of Westchester and Rockland and in most of Putnam County. The Orange County-based signals that were at the core of the old Newburgh-Middletown market can’t be heard at all in most of Westchester or Rockland – and that’s before we even get to the simulcasts that exist between several Orange County signals and stations in the neighboring Poughkeepsie market, which consists only of Dutchess County, never mind that most of the Poughkeepsie transmitter sites are across the river in unrated Ulster County.

Confused yet? Arbitron is hoping media buyers and station groups aren’t – and it’s evidently hoping to bring Cumulus back into its fold, since the company owns several signals that should rank well in this new top-50 market. (Pamal also stands to do well, especially since its powerful WHUD 100.7 in Peekskill is one of the few signals that’s actually audible in most corners of Arbitron’s “Hudson Valley.”)

*Longtime readers of this column may recall the rather glaring lack of objectivity this space displayed in the weeks around the 2004 World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox, and you’ll have to take us at our word that we were nearly as ecstatic last week when another Boston team, the Bruins, brought the Stanley Cup to MASSACHUSETTS.

And while it’s been a long time since this column made its base in the Bay State, your editor was able to tune in to Dave Goucher’s call of the thrilling Game 7 win on the skywaves, thanks to a smart decision by CBS Radio, which simulcast the play-by-play on WBZ (1030 Boston) as well as on the team’s current flagship, “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston).

The Bruins never had (or needed) much of a regional network in the days when WBZ(AM) was their flagship (disclaimer: your editor was working there at the time), and the lack of a network even now meant that large parts of New England faced being shut out of radio coverage if WBZ hadn’t simulcast the game.

After the game was over, WBZ-FM stayed with local talk most of the night instead of turning to its usual Fox Sports Radio/”JT The Brick” feed, and of course both outlets – as well as NESN and the rest of the Boston TV universe – were on hand Saturday for the Bruins’ victory parade, the latest in a quick succession of parades in what’s now the most-winning city in America.

Ten Years Ago: June 19, 2006

In 43 years on the air, the 100.5 dial spot in Rochester, NEW YORK has seen a few formats come and go – automated beautiful music, “Heart of Gold” full-service AC, “Variety 100.5” AC and “Mix 100.5” hot AC. In all that time, one thing has remained constant, though: the WVOR calls that first appeared on the frequency way back in 1963. As of this past Thursday (June 16) at noon, WVOR’s long run on the air is pretty much over. After stunting for a day as all-Dave Matthews “Dave FM,” Clear Channel pulled the plug on “Mix,” ran one liner jokingly introducing the station as “Country 100.5,” announced “just kidding” – and relaunched the station as “100.5 the Drive.”

While Clear Channel’s initial press release described “Drive” as being a AAA (adult album alternative) format, the station appears to be running more of an adult hits format, not all that different from the old “Mix” format with a few more currents added here and there – and remarkably reminiscent of the very earliest days of “Mix,” when the format debuted with a rather unusual variety rock approach that, in retrospect, was something of a precursor of the full-on “Jack”-type variety hits stations that came along a few years later. “Mix” was already running with a fairly light airstaff, after the departure of morning man Chuck Kelly earlier this year, and it’s now running jockless as “Drive.” If the initial positioning holds, the plan seems to be to market “Drive” as a low- to no-personality alternative to Entercom’s adult hits “Fickle” (WFKL 93.3) and classic hits “Buzz” (WBZA 98.9). And about those calls – “WVOR” will give way, we’re told, to WDVI as soon as the paperwork clears the FCC (and, presumably, the WVOR calls are parked somewhere else in the Clear Channel empire so they can’t be grabbed by a competitor.)

Fifteen Years Ago: June 18, 2001

The airwaves of central NEW YORK are undergoing some interesting transformations this week. We’ll start in Utica, where Clear Channel finally stopped stunting on WRBY (102.5 Rome) last week, launching (as predicted here in NERW) a “Bob Country” format to challenge Forever’s market-leading WFRG (104.3). There’s not a lot of local content to be heard on the new “Bob”; mornings are handled by the syndicated team of Tim and Willy, while Lia and After Midnight take the evening and overnight hours. Still, it ought to be enough to shave a point or two off the “Frog,” which seems to be Clear Channel’s motivation here.

Down the Thruway toward Syracuse, WBGJ (100.3 Sylvan Beach) hit the airwaves this past week, initially with a simulcast of Radio Disney from WOLF (1490 Syracuse) and its sister stations. The signal’s not drawing many raves so far, but we hear it’s not yet at full power, either. (We’ll have to head out that way once we get back to town to see what the site looks like.)

Twenty Years Ago: June 18, 1996

Mega-opoly has reached its logical conclusion up in Portland, Maine, as Fuller-Jeffrey announces plans to trade its KKSO(AM)/KJJY-FM Des Moines for Barnstable Broadcasting’s WCSO(FM) Portland, WLPZ(AM) Westbrook-Portland, and WHOM(FM) Mt. Washington NH-Portland. With this deal, all of Portland’s major radio stations are now in the hands of just two owners, Fuller-Jeffrey and Saga. With the most recent Arbs I have access to, Fall ’95 12+, Saga and Fuller-Jeffrey will control a total 61.1 percent of the Portland audience. (The rest is divided among some much smaller players, notably The Meg Company’s AAA WCLZ 98.9, and the Wireless Talking Machine Company, which has an adult-standards simulcast on WLAM 870 Gorham, WZOU 1470 Lewiston, and brand-new WVYH 106.7 N. Windham, along with hot-AC WKZS 99.9 Auburn and country WTHT 107.5 Lewiston, for a 12.3 total share last fall.