In this week’s issue… NBC’s latest Boston signal move – Gambling retires (again) – Lawsuits tangle MRBI, Sheridan – Neil Rockoff, RIP
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We still don’t know with any certainty exactly where most over-the-air viewers in will see the new “NBC Boston” when the affiliation moves from WHDH (Channel 7) at the end of 2016 – but there’s a new signal on the air in greater Boston that may give us another clue into at least some of NBC/Comcast’s contingency plans.
While the station Comcast already owns in the market, Telemundo affiliate WNEU (Channel 60), can only be seen over the air in its home base of NEW HAMPSHIRE, WNEU has long had a low-power repeater in the Boston market. WTMU-LP had been on analog channel 32 from the Pru, then held a CP for digital operation on RF 46 from the towers on the Malden/Medford line. In 2009, it applied for more digital power (11.2 kW) from the 350 Cedar Street tower in Needham, home to many of the market’s full-power DTV signals (CBS’ WBZ and WSBK, Hearst’s WCVB and public TV WGBH/WGBX).
A CP for that move was granted in 2010 and was set to expire more than a year ago, on September 1, 2015. And that was that, right?
Not so fast…because that very facility signed on just last week from Needham, with a signal that’s being seen decently within much of Route 128.
WTMU-LP is far from a perfect solution for “NBC Boston,” if that’s what’s behind this surprise addition to the Boston DTV dial. Even if there’s some explanation for how the new DTV signal made it to air a year after CP expiration (and we suspect there’s some answer out there), its signal is still far inferior to the megawatt flamethrowers of WBZ, WCVB and WHDH. And there’s also the complicating factor that NBC/Comcast doesn’t actually own WTMU-LP, which is licensed to Spanish-language ZGS Broadcasting.
Monday midday update: We’re told the FCC suspended CP expiration dates for low-power stations as part of the DTV repack, which explains why the signal could be activated now – and Monday morning, Comcast filed a $100,000 deal to buy WTMU-LP from ZGS, with new calls WBTS pending.
*Even if we don’t yet know exactly where NBC Boston will be seen, we’re learning more about who’ll be seen there. Phil Lipof, who left WCVB (Channel 5) in June, and who’d been widely rumored to be headed to NBC Boston and New England Cable News, officially joined the team there last week. Lipof and NBC Boston/NECN VP/news Kenny Plotnick have worked together before – Plotnick hired him at WABC-TV (Channel 7) in New York in 2006.
And there’s another new sight on the Boston airwaves: Cox’s Fox affiliate, WFXT (Channel 25), took the wraps off its new newsroom set Sunday night. After six weeks of originating news from a temporary set in another studio down the hall, WFXT is back in its huge two-story newsroom studio in Dedham.
The new set features a huge video wall (20 feet long and 6 feet tall) and several additional video screens that flank a view of newsroom cubicles and control rooms; it also removes the last on-air vestiges of the old Fox O&O “25” logo that was replaced last year.
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*John R. Gambling has ended his rambling on NEW YORK radio, this time apparently for good. The third-generation Gambling hosted the family morning show, “Rambling with Gambling,” on WOR (710) from 1985 until 2000, then worked at WABC (770) from 2000 until 2008, went back to WOR until 2013, and had most recently been doing the 11 AM to 1 PM shift at Salem’s WNYM (970).
On Friday, Gambling told listeners to “970 the Answer” that because of health problems – a broken kneecap – he can’t even do the show from his home studio, as he’d been doing, and so he’s ended the show effective immediately. It’s not yet clear who’ll take over that slot at WNYM, which is mostly syndicated after Joe Piscopo’s morning show.
While Gambling departs, a familiar name has returned to the New York airwaves after a long absence. Joey Reynolds, a longtime fixture at WNBC and WOR, started a new weekend show Sunday night at WABC (770), where he’s being heard at 9 PM. The new Reynolds show will also air on KABC (790) in Los Angeles (did you see our farewell to their classic studios in Tower Site of the Week this week?) and will eventually be syndicated. (photo by Russ DiBello)
*Upstate, Tias Schuster has departed iHeart in Rochester, leaving a vacancy in the PD chair at WDVI (100.5 the Drive) and WKGS (Kiss 106.7). Schuster’s been promoted to senior VP of programming at iHeart’s Norfolk, Virginia cluster, where he’d been PD at crosstown WNVZ from 2007 until 2012. (And we note, belatedly, that WKGS has picked up the syndicated “Brooke and Jubal” morning show, apparently back in July.)
*In Syracuse, Craig Fox’s Foxfur group has reached a $16,000 settlement to close out a dispute over whether it exceeded ownership caps as it was swapping signals with Family Life Ministries earlier this year.
The FCC says when Foxfur began LMA’ing Family Life’s 92.1 (ex-WSEN-FM, now WOLF-FM), the LMA became attributable under Fox’s ownership cap, putting him in control of more stations than the FCC allows. (That’s true even though Family Life simultaneously began operating Fox’s 105.1 signal, ex-WOLF-FM, now WCIS; even though Fox wasn’t operating the signal, it still counted under both his cap and Family Life’s, thanks to the quirky FCC rules.)
The FCC originally proposed a $20,000 fine for the violation, but the consent decree reduces that fine and allows the station swap to proceed. (In the meantime, Fox put the “Wolf” country format on its WOSW 1300 Fulton, then granted Family Life permission to “simulcast” WOSW on 92.1, which effectively allowed Fox to keep his programming on 92.1 while staying within the letter of the FCC’s rules.)
*We’re sorry to report the death of Neil Rockoff, whose career in radio management included time in New York City in the late 1970s as VP/GM of WHN (1050) in its country heyday, as well as chairman of the radio division of parent Storer Broadcasting. Rockoff also headed NYMRAD, the marketing alliance of New York radio broadcasters. He later worked in Miami and Los Angeles, including a stint at the helm of KHJ. Rockoff was 78 when he died Sept. 7.
*Across the river in NEW JERSEY, a newly-filed lawsuit is bringing some light to the murky world of leased-time ethnic radio. The suit by Korean Radio Broadcasting (KBC) against Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Broadcasting (MRBI) alleges that MRBI let the signal of WWRU (1660 Jersey City) deteriorate in 2013, without ever giving KBC credit for time that the station was at reduced power or off the air.
KBC moved its programming to WNYZ-LP (Channel 6, aka 87.7) in late 2014, and it’s also suing K-Radio, the Korean-language programmer that replaced it on WWRU. KBC’s lawsuit against K-Radio accuses its employees (some of them former KBC employees) of representing themselves as still working for KBC.
How much was KBC paying MRBI for a 24/7 lease of WWRU? The lawsuit says the most recent lease was for $156,000 per month, which means MRBI was taking in just shy of $2 million a year just to keep the station on the air.
*In Worcester, MASSACHUSETTS, Gois Broadcasting’s WORC (1310) is trying for a new translator frequency after its plans to move W230AO (93.9 Speculator NY) to 97.3 hit major opposition from New Bedford’s WJFD. The Portuguese-language broadcaster from the South Coast has a loyal audience even in areas like Worcester where its signal is fringe at best, and it’s been protesting both the WORC translator and Barry Armstrong’s attempt to use 97.3 to the east as a translator frequency for WBNW (1120 Concord).
Now Gois is instead applying to move W230AO to 106.1, where it would beam into Worcester with 45 very directional watts from a site in Leicester. (It had originally hoped to use 130 watts on 97.3).
*A happy 95th birthday today to Boston’s WBZ, which signed on September 19, 1921 from the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield! It’s a reminder that we’re nearing a whole bunch of centennials in the next few years, including those of 9XM/WHA in Wisconsin and Montreal’s XWA/CFCF (now, sadly, defunct) in 2019 and then the 2020 centennial at KDKA in Pittsburgh that will get plenty of media attention while keeping all of us media historians busy arguing that radio as we know it did not, in fact, start in November 1920 in western Pennsylvania. (But will we be in Pittsburgh on November 2, 2020? Of course we will…)
*Radio People on the Move in CONNECTICUT: Zac Davis exits as PD of iHeart’s top-40 stations, WKSS (Kiss 95.7) in Hartford and WKCI (KC101) in New Haven, headed to a new post as senior VP of programming at iHeart in Richmond, Virginia.
*In RHODE ISLAND, Holly Paras moves up from sales director to VP/market manager for Cumulus in Providence, filling the gap left by John Sutherland’s departure in June. Paras is the third to take the helm at that cluster (WPRO/WEAN, WPRV, WPRO-FM, WWLI, WWKX) in just over a year.
*More shuffles may be on the way in eastern PENNSYLVANIA: Jon Marks is reportedly exiting the morning show at Greater Media’s WPEN (97.5 the Sports Fanatic) when his contract is up a month from now. Marks is working on his own new website, PhillyFootballTalk.com, and the rumor mill has him resurfacing on the radio, perhaps across town at WIP (94.1), which still hasn’t replaced Josh Innes. (Innes, meanwhile, has been active online, hosting live streams from his sofa on Facebook while he looks for a new gig…)
Sheridan lost control of American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) back in May, and while AURN says it’s been paying rent to stay in the third-floor offices it occupied in Sheridan’s building, SBC says it hasn’t been getting the money. So Sheridan has now padlocked the floor, and we’re following the New Pittsburgh Courier‘s ongoing reporting to see how this dispute plays out.
*In CANADA, the CRTC has told CFMS (105.9 Markham) that it can’t have the power increase it’s been seeking. “105.9 the Region,” which combines English-language suburban programming and ethnic shows aimed at an Indian audience, wanted to go from 379 watts average/1.3 kW max DA/9 m up to 981 watts average/2.5 kW max DA/51 m, moving the transmitter west from Markham to Richmond Hill. That didn’t sit well with the CRTC, which expressed concern that the proposed increase would extend the CFMS signal to Richmond Hill and Vaughan without actually improving it in Markham, the station’s home base. The CRTC also rejected CFMS’ claim that the power increase would improve its HD Radio signal; “while the Commission is supportive of efforts to experiment with HD Radio,” it wrote, “it is of the view that such efforts do not justify an increase to the service area of a station’s main analog signal.”
Catching up on some news out of Quebec: Saroja Coelho is the new host of “Breakaway,” the CBC Radio One provincial afternoon show heard everywhere outside Montreal and Gatineau-Ottawa; she moves from a correspondent job in Berlin to become the first permanent host of the show in two years since Jacquie Czernin’s departure.
On TV, Laura Casella is leaving CITY-TV (CJNT 62)’s Breakfast Television to take the morning anchor job on Global Montreal (CKMI 46)’s Morning News, starting October 2. Former CKBE (92.5 the Beat) jock Kim Sullivan has been named to do weather alongside Casella. And police in Montreal are investigating a second arson attack against Haitian radio station CJWI (CPAM Radio Union 1410). Police say someone threw an incendiary device through the window of the station on Boulevard Cremazie E. early Sunday morning, doing only minor damage and causing no injuries. There had been a similar attack there several months ago. (The studio there is now also used by sister station CJMS 1040.)
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