In this week’s issue… NYSBA counts the pirates – Boston gets “Alt” – Maine gets a new “Capital” – Niagara Falls gets “Juice” – Vaughn Harper, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Here’s the least shocking news you’ll read all week: there are a lot of pirate radio stations on the airwaves all over NEW YORK City and nearby portions of NEW JERSEY.
But while that may come as no surprise to loyal NERW readers (who know it’s equally true of the Boston area and, increasingly, Hartford and Springfield), it’s still a set of facts that need documenting if regulators and law enforcement are going to do anything about it. That’s where the New York State Broadcasters Association comes in: in addition to pushing lawmakers to make unlicensed broadcasting a state-level crime, NYSBA has funded several ongoing surveys to identify just how much of the FM dial is filled by pirates in the greater New York area.
The most recent survey, conducted in March in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Newark and Paterson, is the first one NYSBA has released widely – and it’s well worth downloading it and reading it. It identified more than 70 pirate signals on the air in the region and tracked down the locations of many of them in an attempt to determine just how much they interfere with licensed broadcasters.
Again, this will come as no surprise to NERW readers – but the study found pirates sitting on first-adjacent frequencies to several of the stations that serve as EAS LP-1 outlets such as New York’s WNYC-FM (93.9) and New Jersey’s WNSH (94.7). (Perhaps less meaningfully, it also found pirates co-channel to WHFM 95.3, which is an EAS outlet for eastern Long Island, more than 80 miles away from the pirates in the city.)
The study also looked at potential interference to air traffic control and other public-safety communications (including a pirate operating in close proximity to the East Orange, NJ police radio tower) – and, for the first time, at the potential for high levels of RF energy from pirate antennas mounted on balconies and near residential areas.
The study concludes with a rather understated observation: “it appears more resources and a new enforcement strategy is necessary to address this growing problem since current efforts do not appear to be effective.”
Will the new data help NYSBA make its case to state lawmakers and to the FCC to put scarce resources into a more concerted effort to get pirates off the air?
*Speaking of WNYC, it’s losing its longtime local “Morning Edition” host. Soterios Johnson is headed west to a new post at UC Davis to join his husband, who’s been out on the West Coast for a year and a half now. Richard Hake is anchoring for now, but no permanent replacement has been named yet.
*Entercom Buffalo has added another live airshift at its “Alternative Buffalo” (WLKK 107.7 Wethersfield), as Brandi takes a new 11AM to 2 PM shift. That rearranges the rest of the schedule, cutting morning host Emily Wild back to 6-11 AM, afternoon host Nik Rivers to 2-6 PM and night guy Axe from 6-midnight.
At Entercom here in Rochester, the axe fell Friday afternoon on “Radio Press Box,” the local sports show that veteran sportswriter Scott Pitoniak and Dan Borrello co-hosted on “ESPN Rochester” (WROC 950/W239BF 95.7).
While the show offered a welcome level-headed approach compared to today’s typical sports-talk shouting, it had a hard time getting attention on the number-two sports signal in town (behind iHeart’s WHTK 1280). With its demise, there’s now no local weekday content to be heard on ESPN Rochester.
Where are they now? Danie B, late of Albany Broadcasting’s WAJZ (96.3 Voorheesville), has announced her post-Jamz home: she’s now doing afternoons for CBS Radio at WQMP (101.9 AMP Radio) in Orlando.
*Vaughn Harper was one of the signature voices of “The Quiet Storm” at night on WBLS (107.5) from 1976 until 1993, the most prominent feature of a four-decade radio resume that ended with his death July 9 at 71. Harper played basketball for Syracuse and was drafted by the Pistons, but it was in radio that he really excelled as part of Frankie Crocker’s nighttime mix of R&B classics and smooth currents.
After a stroke took him off the air at WBLS in 1993, Harper battled back, later working at WWRL (1600), WTJM (105.1) and WBGO (88.3), as well as a return gig at WBLS from 2002-2008. (And as David Hinckley noted in a comprehensive Huffington Post obit, Harper was also a radio voice in “Grand Theft Auto IV”!)
And we note, too, the death of Joe Pasternak. The Syracuse University graduate was “Joe Simpson” on Syracuse’s WYYY (Y94), worked at WHCN (105.9) in Hartford, CONNECTICUT and later went on to become a Columbus, Ohio fixture as “Joe Show” in afternoons on WLVQ (Q96.3). Pasternak spent 27 years at the Columbus station, and it was a shock to colleagues and listeners there when he died suddenly on Thursday. He was just 66.
*A veteran VERMONT broadcaster is back on the airwaves over Lake Champlain. After the collapse of the Musicheads.us “Album Station” LMA of RadioActive’s WZXP (97.9 Au Sable NY), the Plattsburgh-area signal has re-emerged with classic country as “97.9 the Moose.”
It’s a venture that includes John Nichols (who co-founded WXXX in South Burlington in the 1980s and later helped put WFFF-TV 44 on the air) and New York engineer Aaron Ishmael.
*In eastern MASSACHUSETTS, Greater Media has completed a rebranding of WBOS (92.9 Brookline-Boston), which transitioned last week from “Radio 92.9” to “Alt 92.9.”
“We are passionate about delivering our content in a non-cluttered, non-controversial, pure play music environment by playing the most music,” said WBOS PD Ken West in a statement. “In doing so, we are offering the ALT 92.9 Promise: 60 Minutes of Music after every commercial break.”
*Meanwhile on the AM dial, Bob Bittner quietly restored AM stereo broadcasting on his WJIB (740 Cambridge), perhaps in preparation for the addition next year of a stereo FM translator.
Antonio Gois’ Spanish-language stations are adding more translators. Contracts filed by Gois last week show he’s now planning to buy $390,000 worth of translators from Northeast Gospel Broadcasting (six translators at $65,000 each). We already knew about three of those translators – W234AL (94.7 North Adams) is headed to WLLH (1400 Lawrence), W278AN (103.5 Tupper Lake NY) has moved to WNEZ (1230 Manchester, CONNECTICUT) as W287CS (105.3), and W254AM (98.7 Berlin NY) is moving to WKND (1480 Windsor CT) on 97.5.
The others are W244BG (96.7 Lanesborough MA), W230AO (93.9 Speculator NY) and W271BQ (102.1 Coxsackie NY), which will presumably be linked up with Gois’ remaining stations, WAMG (890 Dedham), WORC (1310 Worcester) and WLAT (910 New Britain CT).
*In MAINE, Townsquare has closed on its $85,000 purchase of W247CD (97.3 Worcester) from UMass Amherst. It’s now W240DH (95.9 Augusta), and it’ll be relaying WJZN (1400 Augusta), which drops “Kool AM” oldies to become “Capital 95.9” with classic rock.
The new classic rocker challenges Blueberry’s WTOS (105.1 Skowhegan) in the rock arena; for now, it leaves former AM simulcast WTVL (1490 Waterville) alone with “Kool AM.”
The plan right now is to run “Capital” jockless outside of morning drive, where it’s carrying the syndicated “Free Beer and Hot Wings” show.
*In Machias, the University of Maine has completed the upgrade of WUMM, the student station that has moved from 91.7 to 91.1, boosting power from 100 to 250 watts.
WUMM had to abandon its previous tower site atop Kimball Hall when that aging building was slated for demolition, which forced engineer Rob Sobczak to make some quick choices.
Moving WUMM to a new site next to Reynolds Gym (left) would have created short-spacing to Light of Life’s WRNM (91.7 Ellsworth) – but Light of Life offered to help with WUMM’s frequency change, which also cleared the way for more power for WRNM.
Rob reports the new tower went up in just a week, and the station signed on at 91.1 at 6:20 PM on June 30.
*In RHODE ISLAND, Paul Giammarco is the new afternoon jock at Providence’s WWLI (Lite Rock 105), starting a week from tomorrow. Giammarco had previously been OM/PD down the hall at WPRO (630), and had owned WNRI (1380 Woonsocket).
*Radio People on the Move in PENNSYLVANIA: veteran programmer Laura St. James is out at Cumulus’ WLEV (100.7 Allentown). She’d been there since 2010 (and spent a decade and a half before that over at WAEB-FM).
In Erie, Mark Richards is the new morning host/APD at the ERIE Radio Company’s WEHP (Happi 92.7).
New LPFMs are hitting the air around Philadelphia: Dana Puopolo’s WZML-LP (92.9 Bryn Mawr) has begun testing from a site overlooking Valley Forge. And we hear tests have also been underway at Philadelphia Community Access Media (PhillyCAM)’s WPPM-LP (106.5).
*Right at the edge of CANADA, Vista has split its FM simulcast in Niagara Falls. At 6:13 Friday morning, CFLZ (101.1 Fort Erie) dropped top 40 “2Day FM” to go to a sort of variety hits as “Juice FM,” a brand Vista uses mainly out west. “2Day” remains on sister station CJED (105.1 Niagara Falls). Chris Barnatt moves to mornings on the new “Juice,” with former Calgary jock Joe Moniz handling afternoons there; the two flip roles on “2Day,” with Moniz doing mornings and Barnatt tracking afternoons.
In Mississauga, Elliot Kerr is hoping the third time will be the charm for CKNT (960), the news-talk format he’s hoping to launch west of Toronto. After deciding two previous sites were unusable, Kerr is now proposing a site at 1137 Lorimar Road in Mississauga, where he hopes to run 2 kW days, 280 watts at night.
Meanwhile, two broadcasters are hoping to put new signals on the air around Toronto. North of Newmarket in Georgina, at the southern end of Georgian Bay, My Broadcasting is asking to use 93.7 with 1.6 kW average/3 kW max DA. Closer in, in Aurora, Bhupinder Bola wants 91.7 with 45 watts average/150 watts max DA. The CRTC has issued calls for comments on the ability of both markets to support new signals.
In Ottawa, there’s a new morning host coming to CJOT (Boom 99.7): Tim Morgan is taking over there, moving from his current gig at Q107 in Calgary.
*And in the Maritimes, we share the sad news of the death of Jeff Cogswell, who became a fixture at several stations in Saint John and Halifax during a career that was cut short by illness. Cogswell was just 43 when he died July 7.
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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 20, 2015
*How many sportscasters can truly say they became the iconic voices of their markets? Gil Santos and the Patriots in Boston, Harry Caray and the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago, Jack Buck in St. Louis, Vin Scully in Brooklyn and then LA… and to that list, you’d surely have to add Van Miller, the longtime voice of the Buffalo Bills who died Saturday at 87.
Miller was a part of the Buffalo broadcast market as far back as 1955, when he started as a summer replacement announcer on WBEN (930) after having cut his teeth at home in Dunkirk on WFCB (now WDOE). When the Bills started playing in the AFL in 1960, Miller was tapped to call the games on WBEN, and for decades he became a fixture in the booth. Except for a brief period from 1971-1977, Miller remained the Bills’ play-by-play voice through the team’s Super Bowl seasons and beyond, finally retiring from the booth in 2003. That alone – a longer relationship between broadcaster and team than any other NFL club in history – would have ensured Miller the Hall of Fame legacy he enjoyed.
But Miller’s relationship with Buffalo went far deeper. His “Fan-demonium” and “Fasten Your Seatbelts!” calls extended beyond the Bills to Braves basketball in Buffalo’s NBA days, Bisons baseball, college sports and beyond. Miller hosted bowling shows on Buffalo TV, spent 16 years at the helm of “It’s Academic!,” the high school quiz show, and, oh yeah, he was also the sports director on WBEN-TV/WIVB (Channel 4) for many years until his retirement from that gig in 1998.
Miller was added to the Bills’ Wall of Fame last year. So far, no public memorial service has been planned.
*First up, the surprise sale of Connoisseur Media: Petrus Holdings, part of Ross Perot’s Texas-based empire, announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with Jeff Warshaw and the current Connoisseur management team to acquire the company and its 42 stations. No terms were announced for the deal, which will keep Warshaw in charge as his original funder, venture capital firm Farallon, exits.
Will Petrus put more money behind Warshaw’s expansion plans for Connoisseur, which have recently focused on what it calls the “Golden Ring” surrounding New Jersey? The company has made some dramatic moves in recent years, acquiring Buckley’s Connecticut stations and WALK-FM, the former Clear Channel station on Long Island that had been in a divestiture trust for years.
*There’s no question CBS Radio is cutting back on staffing, but some caution is in order about some of the most hyperbolic trade-media reports making the rounds. Has the company really cut 200 or more jobs since the start of the year? Perhaps – but in a stealthy way, for the most part. In New York, the most visible cut is at WWFS (Fresh 102.7), which now has precisely zero fulltime air personalities since the quiet dismissal a few weeks ago of Kim Berk, the surviving half of the “Jim and Kim” morning show that Fresh imported from Long Island. Across the hallway at WCBS (880), it’s emphatically not true that all part-timers have been let go; indeed, the only apparent change there for now is the addition of a full 30-minute CBS Evening News simulcast at 6:30 weeknights and an increased use of sports reporters from sister station WFAN (660/101.9) downstairs. In Philadelphia, Vince Hill is out a few years ahead of his planned retirement as business editor at KYW (1060); Hill had been with KYW since 1979, when he came on board as the station’s youngest anchor.
On Martha’s Vineyard, WMVY (88.7 Edgartown) wasted no time completing its power increase. After returning to the FM dial last year with 580 watts/83 m DA, WMVY is now blasting away with 13 kW/83 m DA, a bigger signal than it ever had in its commercial days on 92.7 (the facility that’s now WBUR’s relay, WBUA). Up the dial, community LPFM WVVY-LP is applying to move from 93.7 to 96.7.
Sad news from Boston: Dr. Murray Feingold was a fixture for decades on WBZ (1030) and WBZ-TV (Channel 4) as the stations’ health reporter. But Feingold, who died Friday at 84, was more than just a warm presence on the air. He was also a prominent researcher in both genetics and pediatrics, serving as the chief physician at Waltham’s Feingold Center for Children and founder of the Genesis Foundation for Children. Feingold was inducted into the Mass. Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004, a well-deserved honor for a kind, decent man who helped to pioneer broadcast health reporting.
A surprise format flip from Steve Silberberg’s cluster in Burlington, VERMONT: after running comedy on WCAT (1390 Burlington) and WRSA (1420 St. Albans), the newly-renamed “Burlington Big Cat” relaunched last week with a mix of ’50s/early ’60s oldies and classic country.
And why is it “Channel 98”? Because it’s now also being heard on W252CJ (98.3 Burlington), which runs 220 watts from the WCAT tower site in Burlington’s Intervale neighborhood.
Five Years Ago: July 18, 2011
We’re still waiting for the shoes to finish dropping at the 101.9 spot on the NEW YORK radio dial, where Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media group took over WRXP from Emmis Communications on Friday.
Here’s what we know so far: WRXP in its current form came to a close Thursday, as the jock lineup (Steve Craig, Leslie Fram, Matt Pinfield, “Drelio”) exited the station and said their on-air goodbyes. The music continued into Friday, when it was replaced by something called “101.9 FM New,” which at least for the weekend appeared to be a female-friendly hot AC mix.
The week may also bring new calls to 101.9, which has requested “WEMP” (perhaps for the “EMPire State”?), a set of calls more familiar from their longtime use in Milwaukee. But what of the domain names that were registered for “WYNY” on 101.9? As always with Michaels and the programmers he’s assembled, it’s hard to tell what’s smokescreen and what’s real until it becomes official.
Whatever the new 101.9 format will be, it didn’t materialize this morning: the “FM New” programming continued with longtime 101.9 veteran Paul Cavalconte hosting and former WINS (1010) traffic voice Jeff McKay giving the traffic information – but, as of yet, no sign of the news or talk that’s been rumored for the station.
*Radio People on the Move: Aaron Read has exited the GM post at WEOS (89.7 Geneva) after four years on the job – and he’s headed all the way west to become chief engineer at KCSB (91.9) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (That explains why the column is coming from New Mexico this morning; your editor hit the road with Read, a longtime friend, to help him get to the West Coast quickly – and to experience the majesty of a coast-to-coast road trip. Expect some interesting Tower Site of the Week installments soon…) Back at WEOS, station manager Greg Cotterill has taken over from Aaron.
Ten Years Ago: July 17, 2006
It was a bad week at NEW YORK’s Black Rock – but even more so for more than a hundred CBS Radio staffers around the country, including some veterans of the company, whose jobs were cut in a mass layoff.
Among the biggest names in New York City to fall under the budget-cutting axe were Chad Brown, general manager of “Jack FM” WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) and Rob Barnett, president of programming at CBS Radio. Out in Los Angeles, where he led KROQ to revenue dominance, general manager Trip Reeb (a veteran of Rochester’s WCMF, way back when) lost his job.
WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie) has a new morning guy – Chris Marino moves north from WLDI (95.5) in the West Palm Beach, Florida market to take the spot last occupied by “Woodman,” who’s reportedly leaving the business. Marino starts his new gig August 4.
Across town in Poughkeepsie, the old WKIP (1450) building at 20 Tucker Drive was demolished last Tuesday. Chief engineer Bill Draper tells NERW that Clear Channel originally planned to keep the building (which dated from 1968), but with no easy way to connect it to the two-year-old studio complex next door that now houses WKIP and its sister stations, the decision was made to demolish it and replace it with a new addition to the current studio building. (Longtime WKIP/WRNQ morning man Van Ritshie came up from Florida to take the first whack at the old building.)
Fifteen Years Ago: July 18, 2001
We’ll begin this week in CANADA, where CTV is consolidating its hold on the broadcast outlets that carry its network signal across the country. Out in Vancouver, the CTV-owned “VTV” (CIVT Channel 32) is about to begin carrying CTV network programming after several years as an independent, and back East, the network has struck a deal to acquire its Montreal affiliate for a whopping C$ 121,500,000. CFCF-TV (Channel 12) was part of the WIC group that merged with Global earlier this year, causing all that shuffling out west as well. In Montreal, though, Global already owned CKMI (Channel 46), which meant CFCF needed to be put in trust until a buyer could be found. CTV and parent BCE were the obvious choice, since CTV has been on an acquisition spree that’s snapped up almost all of the stations that were once privately-owned affiliates. (You’d have to look all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we believe, to find the biggest private CTV affiliate remaining!) What will become of CFCF’s distinctive on-air look and its “Pulse” newscasts when the Great Homogenizers of CTV take over? We suspect the generic blue set and CTV logo will end up gracing CFCF once the deal closes…we’ll keep you posted.
We’ll cross back to the States in NEW YORK, noting that Buffalo’s WWKB (1520) is still running that business format (with no legal ID noticed on one recent top-hour break) instead of the promised 70s pop, and there’s no sign of Opie and Anthony on WCMF here in Rochester, either.
Twenty Years Ago: July 20, 1996