In this week’s issue… What’s next for CBS Radio? – FM seeks 1WTC address – Rochester reporters detained – Krenn out at WLTJ – WBLI’s new morning team
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Rahul Walia’s W284BW (104.7 Perth Amboy) serves the South Asian community as “8K Radio EBC,” and it’s now hoping to cross New York Harbor to transmit from the mast that rises to 1776 feet above street level at 1WTC.
From the 1WTC site, W284BW would transmit with 99 watts at 1551 feet above ground level, using a two-lobed directional pattern aimed southwest at New Jersey and eastward at Brooklyn, while radiating almost nothing northward toward WSPK (104.7) up in Poughkeepsie.
W284BW’s programming source just moved last week from the HD2 subchannel of WQHT (97.1) to the HD3 of Emmis sister WBLS (107.5); it’s also heard on WWTR (1170 Bridgewater) and several other translators in New Jersey.
And while we’re on the New York FM HD dial, iHeart has dropped country music from WAXQ (104.3)’s HD2, replacing it with the talk and sports from WOR (710).
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In our neck of the woods, that move will most affect CBS Radio’s clusters in New York (WFAN/WFAN-FM, WCBS, WINS, WCBS-FM, WBMP, WNEW), Boston (WBZ, WBZ-FM, WZLX, WODS, WBMX), Philadelphia (KYW, WPHT, WXTU, WIP-FM, WZMP, WOGL) and Pittsburgh (KDKA, KDKA-FM, WBZZ, WDSY), which will lose their existing pairings with the TV duopolies CBS is keeping in each city.
Whether intentionally or not, CBS had already moved most of those radio stations to separate facilities from their TV sisters. Only WBZ in Boston and KYW in Philadelphia share quarters with TV, and it seems likely that CBS would lease space to the radio stations going forward.
It’s all but certain, too, that the spinoff of the CBS Radio properties will include a long-term license to use their existing callsigns and branding. Just as with Disney’s spinoff of the old ABC Radio operation, in which identities such as “WABC” and “WLS” were retained on both radio and TV, CBS no doubt realizes the value that’s tied into branding such as “KDKA” and “WCBS.”
What happens next? We’ll know much more when we see the management team that’s formed with the spinoff. Breaking from TV cross-ownership will give the Boston, New York and Philadelphia clusters room to add at least one more FM each, which could lead to some interesting deal-making. And will a new standalone CBS Radio (or Infinity, or whatever name it takes) look to spin smaller markets such as Hartford (WTIC, WTIC-FM, WZMX, WRCH) – or will it look to start bolstering its presence there?
*It didn’t take long for Cox’s WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) to name a new morning show to replace Dana DiDonato and Jayson Prim. The new entry is also led by a woman, former WPLJ jock Cooper Lawrence. Her new “Cooper Lawrence Show” will feature Anthony Michaels as a sidekick, and it starts today.
*Here in Rochester, the market’s journalism community is still waiting for answers from mayor Lovely Warren and police chief Michael Ciminelli after two WHAM-TV (Channel 13) reporters were taken into custody early Saturday morning while doing live coverage of a protest in the city’s East End.
Carlet Cleare and Justin Carter were apparently standing on the sidewalk while police riot squads began clearing protesters from the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street. WHAM-TV’s live coverage had started in its 10 PM newscast and was continuing past 1 AM when police handcuffed both reporters and pulled them into a line of people being arrested.
WHAM-TV veteran anchor Don Alhart reacted angrily on the air to the sight of his staff disappearing into police custody, asking where the mayor and chief were in the midst of the tension. Cleare and Carter were both released about 10 minutes later and have not been charged; a few minutes later, they were back on the air alongside colleague Jennifer Lee, telling her that they tried to tell officers they were media but were ignored. Cleare was wearing a WHAM polo shirt, while Carter didn’t have any visible media ID.
The incident made national headlines over the weekend, as the city and the police department issued apologies to the station and the reporters, who happened to be the only African-American reporters on the street during the incident.
(Disclaimer: your editor had been reporting on the protests earlier in the evening for WXXI, where Cleare is a former colleague and friend.)
Craig Fox has found another translator to move to Syracuse: his Cram Communications will pay Northeast Gospel Network $50,000 for W227CY (93.3 Easton NY), which will move to Syracuse to relay WSIV (1540 East Syracuse). Meanwhile up north, Saranac Lake Broadcasting is selling W293BL (106.5 Saranac Lake) to Saga Communications for $45,000. The translator, which now relays WNBZ-FM (106.3 Saranac), will be moved to one of Saga’s northeast markets, as yet unspecified.
In Fenner, east of Syracuse, SUNY Oswego has quietly changed the calls of silent WXXE (90.5) to WMVQ.
In Utica, Good Guys’ WUSP (1550)/WRCK (1480 Remsen) and W238CA (95.5 Utica) have been off the air for nearly a year, but they’re not going to lose their licenses just yet; the stations are back on the air at least temporarily to keep the signals alive. We’re hearing that WFBL (1390 Syracuse)/WMCR (1600 Oneida) have also resumed programming after a lengthy spell of dead air following the sale of their Leatherstocking FM sister, WSEN-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville) and the departure of most of their staff.
On TV, Buffalo’s WNED-TV (Channel 17) has switched its 17.2 subchannel from World to Create programming; the subchannel is still branded as “ThinkBright,” the name for the standalone programming service WNED used to run on the channel.
We’re sorry to have to report the death of Buffalo native and former WBFO (88.7) news director Toni Randolph. After four years at the station, she left WBFO in 1992 to join WBUR (90.9 Boston) for a decade, and then made her professional home as a reporter and editor at Minnesota Public Radio starting in 2003. Randolph was undergoing surgery for cancer treatment when she died July 3 at 53.
*Veteran western PENNSYLVANIA jock Jim Krenn is off the morning shift at Pittsburgh’s WLTJ (Q92.9). The Steel City Media station says Krenn will stay on staff as a “station ambassador,” but his other commitments made it hard for him to do the morning show fulltime. For now, mornings on Q92.9 are running jockless – as is the rest of the day.
On the South Side, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp. has named Terry O’Reilly as its new president/CEO, effective August 1. O’Reilly comes to WESA (90.5)/WYEP (91.3) from Twin Cities PBS in Minneapolis, where he was senior VP/chief content officer. He’s also worked in commercial TV at the Weather Channel and ReelzChannel, and he spent three years in Pittsburgh at KDKA-TV in the 1980s. O’Reilly takes over from Marco Cardamone, who’s been interim CEO since DeAnne Hamilton left last year.
Up in Corry, we heard from Sam Jordan with his side of the dispute over now-silent WWCB (1370). Jordan tells NERW his now-former partner wrestled control of the station away from him – but he says he’s still pushing forward with plans to buy WCGM (102.7 Wattsburg) from Family Life Ministries, which could set up competition with WWCB down the road.
*When Berkshire Broadcasting relaunched its 107.3 translator (W297AN) in Danbury, CONNECTICUT on Tuesday at noon, it was indeed as “107.3 the Bull,” doing a country format fed from WDAQ (98.3)’s HD3. The new “Bull” competes horns-on against Cumulus’ “Kicks” WDBY (105.5 Patterson NY) and out-of-market iHeart entry WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury-Hartford). The new “Bull” shares a PD with its HD2-translator sister, “New Rock 103.7” (W279CI/WDAQ-HD2); Dan Hopkins is also the afternoon jock at WDAQ itself.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Dartmouth College just signed a three-year deal through Learfield Sports to put its broadcasts on Great Eastern Radio’s WTSL (1400 Hanover, plus 94.5 translator)/WTSV (1230 Claremont). The ESPN outlet will carry Dartmouth football and men’s and women’s hockey for the next three years, while men’s and women’s basketball will air on “Kool” WWOD (93.9)/WFYX (96.3).
*Two station sales make up our news for the week from CANADA. West of Hamilton, Vista Radio is selling CKJN (92.9 Haldimand) to Durham Radio, which will run the station alongside its CHKX (94.7 Hamilton). CKJN will raise power from 2.5 kW average/10 kW max DA to 3.75 kW average/15 kW max DA, and it’s likely to drop its current country format, which competes with CHKX. Durham will pay C$594,458 for the station.
In Quebec, Attraction Media is adding two more stations, paying C$1.415 million for CKCN (94.1 Sept-Iles) and CIPC (99.1 Port-Cartier), which it’s acquiring from Radio Sept-Iles.
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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: July 13, 2015
*It’s a relatively slim NERW issue this week, in part because your editor has been away in Indiana hosting an historic joint convention of four AM/FM/TV DX clubs and in part because we’re still waiting for some big shoes to drop. There’s the possibility of a very big radio cluster sale in NERW-land that hasn’t quite materialized yet, and a new “big 3” TV network affiliation somewhere in the region, too – and if they happen this week, we’ll be on top of them in our Twitter and Facebook feeds. (You’re following us, and signed up for our free email list, right?)
In the meantime, today’s biggest news comes from Rockland County, NEW YORK, where WRCR (1300 Spring Valley) became WRCR (1700 Pomona) at 6 this morning. The move completes an odyssey that’s taken WRCR and its owner, Dr. Alexander Medakovich, nearly a dozen years. Way back in 2003, WRCR filed to make the major change to 1700 as part of the filing window the FCC opened, only to be told that the expanded band was off limits for that window. (That’s part of a never-quite-announced FCC policy decision that has kept the expanded band essentially frozen for the entire 21st century so far.)
Medakovich’s Alexander Communications called in some big political muscle, including local Congressional representatives Nita Lowey and Elliot Engel, to make the case that Rockland’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant, just across the river in Westchester County, made the county a potential terrorist target. With no full-time local signal that covers the county, WRCR argued, the FCC had a good reason to allow the 1700 frequency into the Auction 84 process. With that extra political pressure, the FCC agreed – but that still left another hurdle to overcome, as three other applicants jumped into the auction process. It took a $409,000 bid last year for WRCR to beat out Polnet Communications (owner of Rockland’s other AM, WRKL 910) and lock down the right to build out on 1700.
In the meantime, WRCR’s studios moved from the old Nanuet Mall to the new minor-league ballpark that also houses the Rockland Boulders. Two of its three towers suffered storm damage, leaving the formerly 500-watt daytime signal on 1300 limping along with just 125 watts. And with the help of consulting engineer Tom Ray, Alexander put up a new tower at the 1300 site and began testing the 1700 signal a few weeks ago.
*NEW JERSEY and the world lost a brilliant engineer on July 4 with the passing of Ben H. Tongue. As half of the team behind Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Tongue and his partner Ike Blonder went into business in 1950 to supply TV amplifiers for home reception and eventually for the nascent cable TV industry. After Blonder’s involvement in WNJU (Channel 47) in the 1960s, the pair founded Blonder-Tongue Broadcasting in 1971 and secured a CP for WBTB (Channel 68), the Newark-licensed signal that signed on in 1974 as the fourth English-language independent station in the New York market. It was a tough market to crack, and WBTB went dark in 1975 after less than a year on the air. Sold to Florida-based Wometco, WBTB eventually used Blonder-Tongue scrambling technology to find some early success as a pay TV station; today it’s Univision-owned WFUT. Blonder and Tongue stayed in business together until 1989, when they sold the company and retired. Tongue’s next chapter in life included pursuing research into improving crystal radio technology and the history of early hearing aids, passions he chronicled on his bentongue.com website. Tongue was 90.
Five Years Ago: July 11, 2011
*If you’re looking for hard facts about what’s coming next to NEW YORK‘s WRXP (101.9) once Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media takes over later this summer, you’re not going to find them here (or anywhere) just yet. But there’s plenty to speculate about this week, fueled by some interesting staffing moves that the new Merlin group is making.
Consider this: it’s been widely rumored that the new calls on 101.9 will be “WYNY,” a rumor that gained force last week when Merlin registered several related domain names – and then on Friday, Merlin went and hired none other than Pete Salant, the veteran jock/programmer/consultant who took the original WYNY on 97.1 to #1 in the market as an adult-contemporary signal under NBC in the early 1980s.
Nobody’s saying much yet about what role Salant, best known as a music programmer, will play at Merlin, though we’re hearing he’ll be working alongside COO Walt Sabo (best known as a talk programmer) on the format launch due later this summer.
*Larry Kruger was part of RHODE ISLAND‘s most famous morning team, working alongside the legendary Salty Brine at WPRO (630) from 1978 until 1993.
The recent Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame inductee, who died Tuesday at age 66, started his broadcast career at WEMJ in Laconia, N.H. and WHYN in Springfield, then came to WPRO in 1973, moving to mornings and Brine’s show five years later. Kruger remained at WPRO for two more years after Brine’s retirement; he also worked at WWBB (101.5) and several other Ocean State stations as well as at Boston’s WMEX and WODS.
*The creator of one of Springfield’s most enduring TV shows has died. As an announcer in the early years of WWLP-TV (Channel 61, later channel 22) in the 1950s, Phil Shepardson was a jack-of-all trades, hosting kids’ shows, reading the weather and working behind the scenes. But he’s best remembered for creating “As Schools Match Wits,” the high school quiz show that has endured right into the present day (albeit over on public station WGBY). Shepardson also taught for many years at Westfield State College before retiring to Florida in the early 1990s; that’s where he died on June 29, at age 76.
Ten Years Ago: July 10, 2006
One of the dangers of leased-time broadcasting is, quite simply, that the broadcaster doesn’t have full control of the station – so when a leased-time station is sold, as happened recently to WRIB (1220) in Providence, RHODE ISLAND – there’s always the danger that the new owners will want to change the programming. The ethnic broadcasters who have called WRIB home for decades are steaming this week, though, and given the way their broadcasts were abruptly ended, we don’t blame them one bit.
The sale itself was no surprise – NERW reported the $1.9 million deal back in our October 17, 2005 issue – but when Seekonk, Massachusetts-based mega-church Faith Christian Center was making its plans to take over operations from longtime WRIB owner Carter Broadcasting, the expectation was that the Spanish, Portuguese, Armenian, Italian and other ethnic broadcasters, as well as the mainly Catholic leased-time religious programmers, would have 30 days’ notice to allow them to transition to other signals in the market. Instead, the end came with no warning at all. Last Friday, church attorneys simply pulled the plug on WRIB at 12:30 in the afternoon, giving several broadcasters just a few hours to remove their office equipment from the station’s building and threatening them with trespassing charges if they didn’t move quickly enough.
Across the border in MASSACHUSETTS, programmer Mario Mazza has exited WCRB (102.5 Waltham) ahead of the changes that will be coming to the classical station (and its associated World Classical Network) whenever its long-pending sale is consummated. Mazza came to WCRB in 1994, fresh from the controversial flip of classical WNCN (104.3 New York) to rock, and while he’s been accused of “dumbing down” WCRB’s format over his tenure there, it should also be noted that WCRB is – at least for now – still around and still doing fairly well in ratings and revenue, which is more than most of the commercial classical stations that were around in 1994 can say now. Mazza’s getting about as far from Boston as it’s possible to get in the world of classical radio – he’s taking the general manager post at public radio WHIL (91.3) in Mobile, Alabama, a community-operated station licensed to Spring Hill College.
And in CANADA, the launch of CHTN-FM (100.3 Charlottetown) last Wednesday came with a big streetside live broadcast – but lost in the hoopla over the new “Ocean 100.3” was the end of oldies on Prince Edward Island, as CHTN (720) flips to an “Ocean” classic hits simulcast for the next three months, before going silent for good sometime between now and early October. Newcap now has calls for the Ocean’s future sister station – it’ll be CKQK, according to the latest Industry Canada database – but its application to use 105.5 instead of 89.9 hasn’t been approved yet, and while initial reports said the station would be called “K-Rock,” the Newcap corporate website calls the station “The Island.” Stay tuned…
Fifteen Years Ago: July 11, 2001
It’s every PD’s dream to own a small-town radio station (isn’t it?), and now Bobby Hatfield of WBBF in Rochester is living it. He’s picking up WCNR (930) in Bloomsburg, PENNSYLVANIA from the local Press-Enterprise newspaper. The station sits just down I-80 from the big Scranton/Wilkes-Barre cluster belonging to his Rochester employer, Entercom.
Over in Syracuse, WBGJ (100.3 Sylvan Beach) made its on-air debut just before we left, with a simulcast of WOLF’s Radio Disney programming that’s said to be temporary. It’s less clear whether the simulcast of market-leading country station WBBS (104.7 Fulton) on Clear Channel’s new 105.1 DeRuyter signal is permanent or not; Clear Channel just flipped the DeRuyter calls from WVOQ to WXBB(FM), calls last heard in the region on what’s now WSAK (105.3 Kittery ME).
Albany will soon have yet another FM drop-in, thanks to the Vox folks, who won FCC approval this week for their latest allocations swap. Here’s how it will work: WHTR (93.5 Corinth) will move south to Scotia and up the dial to 93.7. But to prevent Corinth from being left (gasp!) without a “first local FM service”, WFFG (107.1 Hudson Falls) will change city of license to Corinth, without changing transmitter site or power. Ah, bureaucracy…
The big deal in CANADA was, literally, a big deal: the long-dormant Standard group flexed its muscles this week with an agreement to buy 62 radio stations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia from Telemedia. The latter group already cashed out of its Quebec and Maritimes interests with a sale to Astral last month. The deal turns Standard into a 75-station group with outlets in almost every major community in Ontario, including a four-station cluster in Toronto that adds Telemedia’s sports CJCL (The Fan 590) and AC CJEZ (EZ Rock 97.3) to Standard’s news-talk CFRB (1010) and hot AC CKFM (Mix 99.9). No sale price has been announced.
Twenty Years Ago: July 5, 1996
The new FM station in Bedford (Manchester) NH has new calls to match — well, sort of — its new nickname, “The Fox.” The construction-permit calls of WAEF were replaced by WOXF over the Fourth of July weekend. 96.5 continues to crank out classic rock, with copious ads for MacNeil’s Banquet Hall, which just happens to be owned by station owner Donna MacNeil.
Boston rocker WBCN (104.1) has finally filled its evening DJ vacancy. The 7 to midnight slot had been filled by part-timers since the April 1 shuffle that moved Howard Stern out of that slot and into mornings. Now “The Rock of Boston” has hired Nik Carter to do evenings full-time. Carter used to be heard locally on modern-rock competitor WFNX (101.7), then departed to do mornings on WDGE (99.7)/WDGF (100.3) in Rhode Island. No word yet on who fills his slot on Rhode Island’s “Edge” stations.