In this week’s issue… New translator window opens – WHDH/WLVI battles DirecTV, Dish (and NBC) – Dark days for AM in Canada – Maine’s “Z” gets big
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s a busy start to August all over the dial and all over the region, from a satellite carriage dispute in New England to the demise of several AM signals in Canada to all the new translators that will soon be popping up across the country.
Your editorial staff of one worked through the night – literally! – to dig through 244 translator applications filed on day one of the new window for class A and B AMs that opened Friday.
As a reminder that we depend on your subscriptions to have the resources to do all that reporting, all that data is in our subscriber-only section this week…so read on, or subscribe if you haven’t already. There’s much more to the column than just the free taste we offer of our lead story each week!
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The NBC and CW stations disappeared from Dish Network several weeks ago, and now they’ve been pulled from DirecTV as well in what’s shaping up to be a somewhat unusual variation on the typical retransmission-consent dispute. Normally, of course, station owners play up the value of the network content they carry, especially on a week like this when NBC is getting ready to kick off its Summer Olympics coverage from Rio.
This time, though, the satellite companies know that whatever deal they make based on NBC’s value to their customers will vanish in just a few months when Comcast pulls the NBC affiliation away from Sunbeam and WHDH. Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin knows that if he tries to drive satellite customers over to cable to see his stations, they’ll just be enriching the pockets of his arch-enemy Comcast. And while he won’t come out and say it, Ansin probably sees a long-term value to the dispute, if it gives him financial damages that he can show against Comcast for pulling the NBC affiliation. (Not to mention giving NBC lower national ratings for a do-or-die Olympics broadcast if big chunks of market #10 can’t see the broadcast!)
And in the meantime, there’s more drama playing out across town over at WFXT (Channel 25), Cox Media’s Fox affiliate in Dedham. The huge studio/newsroom complex there has been off viewers’ screens for the last few days while newscasts originate from the old studio down the hall. Behind the scenes, the newsroom is being renovated, we hear, into a more traditional studio setup that won’t take full advantage of the enormous two-story space. Over in the corner, news director Lee Rosenthal has exited, less than two years after Cox moved him across the country in its Fox swap with KTVU (Channel 2) in Oakland.
Cox management has gone so far as to send a memo to WFXT employees saying there’s no truth to rumors than NBC is looking to acquire channel 25 – but there’s clearly something happening at a station that’s been dealing with declining ratings and in-house instability lately, and we note, as always, that Comcast/NBC has still yet to say definitively where “NBC Boston” will be landing on TV dials January 1.
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Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
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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: August 3, 2015
*There’s a format change coming in NEW HAMPSHIRE: at RadioInsight, their new exclusive “Domain Insight” feature picked up on a registration last week that points the way for Tri-Valley Broadcasting’s WYRY (104.9 Hinsdale) to shift from “New Country 104.9” to “NASH Icon,” picking up Cumulus’ syndicated country format.
*We now know where Amber (Huyghe) Stone is headed for her next act after departing VERMONT and WZRT (97.1 Rutland): she’ll be the new midday host at Adams Radio Group’s WJFX (Hot 107.9) in Fort Wayne, Indiana…which means we’ll probably be hearing her in just a few weeks when we’re next out that way to visit the family.
*Is there much more to be said about CBS Radio’s budget cuts? In PENNSYLVANIA there sure is: despite sitting at the top of the ratings, WOGL (98.1) cut station manager Jim Loftus, night jock Bob Charger and, perhaps most dramatically, morning man Ross Brittain last week. The Philadelphia Business Journal reports Loftus was offered transfers to either Pittsburgh or Seattle but chose to take early retirement instead. Brittain, who’d been on the morning shift at WOGL since 2004, at least got a farewell show on Friday before his departure; up the road at WCBS-FM in New York, Brittain’s old Z100 morning partner Scott Shannon got a “multi-year” contract extension from the company.
*It’s the radio equivalent of the “Popemobile”: CBS Radio in Philadelphia has launched the “Popecast,” a 24/7 HD subchannel devoted to all things Pope Francis in advance of the pontiff’s visit to Philadelphia next month. Produced by KYW (1060)’s news staff, the channel will air on WZMP (96.5)’s HD3 through the papal visit on September 27th.
*”Jolly Joe” Timmer was a polka legend in the Lehigh Valley, producing live shows and hosting a local cable access show long before he became a radio owner there in 1992. The former owner of WGPA (1100 Bethlehem) died Monday in a nursing home in Nazareth, just a few months after his trustees filed to sell his radio station after Timmer was stricken with dementia. The $95,000 sale of WGPA to CC Broadcasting LLC hasn’t closed yet. Timmer was 85.
Five Years Ago: August 1, 2011
*The ranks of major-market independent broadcast owners are a little smaller this week. Rick Buckley, longtime CEO of Buckley Broadcasting, died of a brain embolism Sunday morning, a few hours after taking ill at his Hamptons beach home Saturday afternoon.
Buckley was a second-generation broadcaster, son of former WNEW (1130 New York) executive Richard D. Buckley, Sr., who partnered with WNEW colleague John B. Jaeger in 1957 to form Buckley-Jaeger Broadcasting.
The elder Buckley started his company with the purchase of WHIM in Providence, but soon added a second signal, WDRC (1360 Hartford) – and it was that station that became the core of the Buckley broadcast holdings, which grew to include stations in San Francisco, Seattle, the Los Angeles suburbs and Minneapolis.
Buckley-Jaeger Broadcasting became simply Buckley Broadcasting in 1968, when Jaeger sold his interest in the company, and with the death of Richard Buckley Sr. in 1972, the company ended up in the hands of Rick Buckley, then overseeing sales at the company’s California stations, who guided it to success over four decades.
*Another longtime NEW YORK broadcaster died last week as well. Robert Lessner was one of the founders of Beacon Broadcasting Corporation in 1967, making WBNR (1260 Beacon) the start of a broadcast group that grew to include WSPK (104.7 Poughkeepsie), WENE/WMRV in Binghamton and WTHT in Portland, Maine. Lessner began his career as a sound engineer (including work on “Candid Camera”), and he appeared on-air at WSPK for many years as “Word Builder Bob” during WSPK’s morning show with Mark Bolger. Lessner sold his radio stations in the mid-1990s, but continued to own the Mount Beacon tower site until 2006. He died July 25 at age 77.
*One of the worst-kept secrets in Buffalo radio in recent years has been the plan to sell public broadcaster WBFO (88.7) to its longtime crosstown competitor, WNED. Even before both stations acknowledged way back in February 2010 that they were talking about joining forces, there was little question that the State University of New York was looking to unload its Buffalo radio operation.
It took longer than just about anyone expected, but last week finally brought the official word that WNED’s parent, the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association, will pay $4 million for WBFO and its Southern Tier simulcasters, WUBJ (88.1 Jamestown) and WOLN (91.3 Olean), merging those signals into an operation that already includes WNED-TV (Channel 17), classical WNED-FM (94.5)/WNJA (89.7 Jamestown) and news-talk WNED (970), whose programming has increasingly overlapped with WBFO in recent years.
*More upstate TV news: In Buffalo, there’s a new identity coming to independent station WNGS (Channel 67), which becomes WBBZ-TV today. New owner Philip Arno says the new calls stand for “Buffalo’s Buzz,” and that’s what he’s hoping to create with an ambitious plan to launch a slate of local programming from new studios in the Eastern Hills Mall. The station is moving its current This-TV programming to a subchannel as it affiliates with the growing MeTV network – and that’s just part of a sudden burst of new MeTV affiliations up and down the Thruway, as the Chicago-based program service also lands on subchannels of Hubbard’s WHEC-TV (Channel 10) in Rochester and WNYT (Channel 13) in Albany. Albany recently added an Antenna TV affiliate as well, on the 51.2 subchannel of WNYA.
*In Erie, they’re mourning one of the market’s best-loved radio voices. Frank Martin started out in Erie radio back in 1954 and spent most of his career at WJET, first as a top-40 “Good Guy” at its original home at 1400 on the AM dial and later at WJET-FM (102.3), where he was half of the popular Martin and Warvel morning team. Martin (whose real name was Francis Wambaugh) later went on to WFGO (94.7, now WXBB) before retiring in 2003. Dubbed “The Morning Mayor” by a former (real) Erie mayor, Louis Tullio, Martin was inducted into the hall of fame at the Museum of Radio and Television in 1994. Martin died last Monday after a struggle with lung cancer; he was 85.
Ten Years Ago: July 31, 2006
It is, at long last, official – Nassau and Greater Media made the announcement Monday afternoon that they’ve completed negotiations to send Greater’s 99.5 Lowell signal (now country WKLB) to Nassau, in exchange for Nassau’s Philadelphia move-in, WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ). At the same time, Greater Media has completed its deal to acquire WCRB (102.5 Waltham) from Charles River Broadcasting, setting the stage for the long-anticipated format and call swap that will move WCRB’s classical format down the dial to 99.5 and WKLB’s country into the heart of the Boston market at 102.5. Nassau says it intends to keep the classical format and WCRB calls on 99.5, making it the “new flagship” of the company’s chain of classical signals in northern New England. In Philadelphia, 97.5 will get a new format (as yet undetermined) as it joins the Greater Media cluster of WPEN, WMMR, WBEN-FM and WMGK.
Two familiar names in Northeast broadcasting have returned to ownership, via a $5.5 million deal to buy seven northern NEW YORK stations. Jim Leven was one of the principals of the old Pilot group, whose stations in Syracuse and elsewhere ended up as part of the Citadel group a few years ago. Bruce Mittman was station manager at WAAF (107.3 Worcester) and several other stations around Massachusetts. As “Community Broadcasters LLC,” they’re the new owners of most of what was the Clancy-Mance group in Watertown and Ogdensburg.
Here’s what they get in the deal: news-talk WATN (1240 Watertown), rock WOTT (100.7 Henderson/Watertown) top 40 “Border” WBDI (106.7 Copenhagen/Watertown) and WBDB (92.7 Ogdensburg), AC WTOJ (103.1 Carthage/Watertown), oldies WGIX (95.3 Gouverneur) and talk WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg). Noticeably missing in the deal is WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent), which stays with Clancy-Mance. As country “Kix 102.7,” WBDR functions as a Kingston, Ontario station, programmed and operated out of CIKR (K-Rock 105.7)’s Kingston studio.
There’s a TV station sale in central PENNSYLVANIA, as the Television Station Group (formerly known as SJL Broadcasting) sells WTAJ-TV (Channel 10) in Altoona and WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon to Nexstar, for $58 million. WTAJ is a dominant CBS affiliate, while WLYH is a UPN (soon to be CW) affiliate that’s operated under an LMA by Clear Channel’s WHP-TV. Will Nexstar, whose operating philosophy calls for the creation of duopolies wherever possible, be looking to make additional acquisitions in those markets? (It already has a duopoly in Erie, at WJET/WFXP, and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, at WBRE/WYOU, as well as nearby outlets in Rochester, Utica and Hagerstown.)
There’s yet another new station on the air in eastern CANADA, as Newcap’s second FM in Charlottetown, PEI signed on Wednesday (July 26) at 5 PM. As we’d reported earlier in NERW, the new “K-Rock 105.5” is legally CKQK, and it kicked off with the island’s top 105 rock tunes before launching into its regular programming.
Fifteen Years Ago: July 30, 2001
One of the biggest vacancies in MASSACHUSETTS radio has been filled. More than half a year after Christopher Lydon and his “Connection” staff parted ways with WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), the station has named a permanent replacement. Dick Gordon is a familiar name to our readers north of the border, where he’s a frequent guest host and regular reporter for “This Morning” on CBC Radio One. Gordon was one of three finalists for the “Connection” job, which he’ll start in September. As for Lydon, he’s telling the Boston newspapers that he’s still looking at his options for a return to the airwaves, but there’s still no definite word about where or when.
On the commercial side of things, you can stop sending resumes to “Kiss 108” (WXKS-FM 107.9 Medford-Boston). The CHR powerhouse has named the replacement for departed station manager/PD John Ivey, and it’s a familiar name within the Clear Channel Boston family: “Cadillac Jack” McCartney. He comes to Medford from the PD seat at WJMN (94.5 Boston), opening a vacancy at “Jam’n” that was quickly filled by assistant PD Dennis O’Heron.
Twenty Years Ago: July 31, 1996
We now know where Cape Cod talker WXTK (94.9) wants to go…95.1. The West Yarmouth-licensed 50kw FM has filed an application to move up the dial one channel, with a directional antenna. The move would get WXTK out from some sticky co-channel problems with WHOM, Mount Washington NH. WHOM is almost 200 miles away…but with 50kw from the top of New England’s tallest mountain, 3742 feet above average terrain, it can cause serious interference to WXTK, especially in outlying areas of the Cape when the trops are up. Here in Boston’s western suburbs, about twice as close to West Yarmouth as to Mt. Washington, WHOM is the usual occupant on 94.9.
Also happening in Eastern New York: Starview Media of York PA is paying $450,000 to pick up a third FM in the Glens Falls area, north of Albany. Country WZZM 93.5 Corinth will join Starview’s country WSTL 1410 South Glens Falls, talk WBZA 1230 Glens Falls, ac WENU 101.7 Hudson Falls, and hot ac WHTR 107.1 Hudson Falls (ex-WMJR). About the only stations in the market Starview doesn’t control are Normandy Broadcasting’s talk/standards WWSC 1450/country WYLR 95.9 Glens Falls, William Walker’s oldies WCKM 900 Saratoga Springs/WCKM-FM 98.5 Lake George, and Fair Way Communications’ WJKE 101.3 Stillwater.