In this week’s issue… Bold Gold buys in the Catskills – FM flip in Gatineau/Ottawa – Thoughts from the Radio Show

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*A big chunk of the broadcast industry was away in Nashville last week, enjoying the food and music at the NAB/RAB Radio Show. That included your editorial team both here and at RadioInsight, our sister site, and you’ll hear much more in a bit about our thoughts on the show.

wsul-wvosBack home, meanwhile, the radio scene in NEW YORK‘s Catskills made a big shift with Bold Gold Media Group’s $1.6 million addition of Watermark Communications’ three-station group. Bold Gold, which owns country “Thunder 102” WDNB (102.1 Jeffersonville), is adding AC WSUL (98.3 Monticello) and classic hits WVOS-FM (95.9 Liberty) and AM simulcast WVOS (1240 Liberty) to its cluster, creating a much bigger presence in the region.

For Vince Benedetto’s Bold Gold group, the Catskills now join its home base in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as a cluster market; over in northeast Pennsylvania, Bold Gold does a sports simulcast on multiple AMs and translators, as well as FMs with AC and satellite-fed talk; in the Poconos, Bold Gold has AC WDNH (95.3), classic hits WYCY (105.3) and news-talk WPSN (1590).

Bold Gold says the deal with Watermark should close by the end of this year. It’s not clear yet whether WDNB will join WSUL and WVOS at their studios just off Route 17 – or what will become of WVOS(AM), which is likely to split from its FM simulcast and take on a sports or talk format accompanied by a translator if Bold Gold follows its usual pattern.

The new combined Bold Gold-Watermark cluster will compete against Townsquare’s WPDA (106.1) and WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro), which simulcast rock WPDH and country WKXP from the Poughkeepsie-Kingston market; they’ll also compete with Bud Williamson’s Middletown-based WALL (1340), which reaches into the Catskills via translators. And they’ll be competing from what’s now a very dominant position in the market, hoping to take advantage of at least a bit of a development boom in the region. We’ll keep watching closely as Bold Gold settles in with its new acquisitions…

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*In MASSACHUSETTS, Portuguese-language WJFD (97.3 New Bedford) is ramping up its attempt to keep any translators from nibbling away at the edges of its signal. After successfully sending WORC (1310 Worcester)’s 97.3 translator application to a new frequency, WJFD has trained its sights on Barry Armstrong’s Money Matters Radio and WBNW (1120 Concord).

wjfdWBNW has already modified its application to move W249CV (97.7 Saranac Lake NY) to 97.3 in the Boston area, replacing a plan for 97.3 in Needham/Newton with a scaled-back application for a 40-watt translator signal on 97.3 from Bear Hill in Waltham. But WJFD isn’t pleased with that proposal, either, and now it’s submitted a new petition to deny, full of affidavits from Portuguese-speaking listeners who regularly travel Route 128 in the area. What’s more, WJFD now says, it can show that there’s nowhere in the WBNW coverage area where a 97.3 translator wouldn’t interfere with WJFD. Can WBNW find an alternative frequency in the very crowded Boston FM landscape?

*Up north, equipment tests are now underway at WHAV-LP (97.9 Haverhill), and any day now we’ll have word from Tim Coco and his crew that their long-sought return of community radio to the FM dial is complete.

*Out west, the fight over community programming at WMUA (91.1 Amherst) has led one of those community programmers to go commercial. Starting October 2, Todd Zaganiacz will give up his “Polka Carousel” show after nine years on UMass Amherst’s WMUA, moving the show to a new four-hour slot, 8 AM to noon Sunday, on WHMP (1400). Zaganiacz’ show had been cut back from three hours to two as part of WMUA’s reduction of polka programming from 12 hours to four hours a week back in January.

*In MAINE, veteran broadcaster Rick Snyder was inducted into the Maine Broadcasters Hall of Fame Friday night. Snyder’s career also included stops in Syracuse (WOLF) and Albany (WTRY) before his time at WLOB in Portland, and then several management gigs in Florida. The event also inducted longtime WCSH (Channel 6) weatherman Kevin Mannix and WLBZ (Channel 2)/MPBN reporter Don Carrigan.

*A NEW YORK AM station is rebuilding its tower site across the Hudson. WZRC (1480) has been using the same four-tower site off the side of the Turnpike in Ridgefield Park, NJ for more than sixty years, going back to its days as WHOM and WJIT. Owner Multicultural Broadcasting tells the FCC that the towers were in dire need of replacement, so it’s rebuilding them one by one. That’s meant that drivers passing by have seen several shorter towers in recent days. When the reconstruction is all done, WZRC will also get a new tenant, as Radio Vision Cristiana moves its diplex of WWRV (1330) from the 970 site  in Hackensack to the Ridgefield Park site.

Back at the edge of the Catskills, WRRV (92.7 Middletown)/WRRB (96.9 Poughkeepsie) is looking for a new morning co-host as the incumbent, “Deuce,” heads off to law school.

In Albany, Doug Sherman will leave WRGB (Channel 6) at the end of October, giving up his post of sports director after a 19-year run to become a full-time play-by-play announcer with ESPN. No replacement has been named yet at the Sinclair-owned CBS affiliate.

In Buffalo, Kate Glover is the new news director at WGRZ (Channel 2), moving back home after two years in the same post at KOIN (Channel 6) in Portland, Oregon. Glover had worked at WKBW-TV and at WGR radio before heading west. Glover replaces Jeff Woodard, who’s now doing PR for SUNY Fredonia.

In Binghamton, we send happy 50th anniversary wishes to WHRW (90.5). The station that started out at Harpur College has carried along as its parent institution became today’s Binghamton University, and it marked its milestone with a reunion gala over this past homecoming weekend. (We also can’t let the 50th anniversary of Rochester’s WXXI-TV go without another mention; it was the reason for a huge open house at the station on Saturday, at which your editor was pleased to play a role.)

scully*And of course we can’t let the impending retirement of Vin Scully go by without recognizing his role in New York radio – not just as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 until 1955, but also his education before that at Fordham University, where he was an early part of WFUV (90.7). We’ll never see Scully’s likes again, and he’s going to be deeply missed on both coasts.

*In NEW JERSEY, WYNE-LP (95.9 Wayne) has filed for its license to cover. The new LPFM belongs to the Preakness Valley United Reformed Church.

At Salem’s WNYM (970 the Answer), there’s a new schedule in the wake of John R. Gambling’s retirement. Joe Piscopo is now on from 6-10 AM, followed by Mike Gallagher from 10 AM-1 PM.

cftx-pop*In CANADA, there’s a format change to report in the Gatineau/Ottawa market, where CFTX (96.5) drops “Capitale Rock” (and a daytime simulcast of French-language sports CKLX 91.9 Montreal) to go to “Pop 96.5,” playing hits from the 1970s through the 1990s.

The flip on Thursday at noon was the second in just two weeks in the market, following the transformation of blues-rock “Dawg” CIDG (101.9) to an alternative rock format as “Rebel 101.7” on its new frequency.

*In Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, CBC Radio 1 outlet CBMA (99.9) has been granted a power increase, frequency change and site move; it will go from 1 kW/145m to 2.7 kW/110m as it moves down the dial to 91.9.

*The festivities at the Radio Show in Nashville included plenty of NERW-land wins at the Marconi Radio Awards, leading off with a Legendary Station of the Year honor for WINS (1010), a year after the award went to Philadelphia sister all-newser KYW (1060). CBS Radio also took home a major-market Personality of the Year award for Toucher and Rich at Boston’s “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5).

In between those big markets, CONNECTICUT‘s Chaz and AJ took home medium-market Personality of the Year for WPLR (99.1) in New Haven.

In PENNSYLVANIA, major-market Station of the Year went to Philadelphia’s WBEB (101.1 More FM). And our friends at Seton Hall’s WSOU (89.5) in New Jersey can add to their sizable awards shelf with a well-deserved Marconi for non-commercial Station of the Year.

*What else can we tell you about the Radio Show? For broadcasters, the FCC presence at the show didn’t produce any earth-shaking news, a big change from last year’s Atlanta announcement that led to this year’s AM translator window. Sure, Ajit Pai made some noise with his endorsement of the proposed “C4” FM class that could provide an upgrade path for many class A FMs – but unless he can get two more commissioners to join him in the remaining few lame-duck months before a new president names a new FCC lineup, it’s unlikely that C4 will see reality.

We spent some time listening to FCC and FEMA officials discuss the upcoming national EAS test that’s going to take place on Wednesday, and we’re far from convinced that the ETRS (Electronic Test Reporting System) will be terribly successful. Commission staffers tacitly acknowledged that they’re not going to get the simple “Form 2” in ETRS (basically a “yes/no” on whether each station successfully relayed the test) to be universally completed before day’s end on Wednesday – and so the form will apparently be staying active for another few days after the test.

But there’s still a gap between an active form and the reality that many of the FCC’s licensees (including lots of small standalone AMs, LPFMs and the like) don’t have anyone on staff with the technical or regulatory know-how to accurately work their way through the three-part ETRS system. Do the staffers behind the scenes in Washington understand how many stations depend on contract engineers, who can’t possibly service dozens or hundreds of stations’ ETRS filing needs in a single afternoon? And while the FCC says there will be no penalties for stations that don’t relay the test successfully, they’re not saying what will happen to stations that don’t complete the ETRS process on the FCC’s tight schedule.

The FCC also got some static from broadcasters over its new online public file rules that will soon take effect for radio, about which we’ll have more to say in the weeks to come.

nab-price-smFinally, we were heartened indeed by the big turnout our friend and colleague Howard Price of ABC received for his Wednesday morning presentation on emergency preparedness for broadcasters.

Promising some “indigestion before lunchtime,” Howard delivered, showing how easily hackers can attack the computer systems that are the lifeblood of today’s automation-dependent broadcasters. He also offered some solid advice on how even the smallest stations can make themselves emergency destinations should their communities experience natural disasters.

Is radio listening? Based on the packed crowd, we sure hope so.

Oh – and did we see some neat towers and studios in the Music City? Did we ever! Watch Tower Site of the Week over the next few months and you’ll get to join along on one of the best weeks of station visits we’ve ever enjoyed…

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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: September 28, 2015

*It’s been a busy year in central PENNSYLVANIA for the Confer family. Kerby Confer’s wife and daughter have been realigning the FM dial in and around State College with their Seven Mountains Media group – and now Kerby Confer’s Forever group is pushing eastward across the mountains with the $4.25 million acquisition of WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) and WGET (1320 Gettysburg) from the Times & News newspaper, which has owned the stations since putting the AM signal on the air back in 1950.

What’s in the mix now for these stations, which have long occupied an enviable niche at the western edge of the sprawling Harrisburg-York-Lancaster market? Forever is a country expert, so it’s hard to imagine any change in WGTY’s core format – but could 107.7 soon be sporting the “Froggy” branding that Confer uses in many of his other markets? As for WGET, it’s been doing sports for a while now, and while Forever doesn’t do a lot of AM these days, WGET has a decent signal that’s a notch above some of the failing AMs that Confer has turned off in recent years.

*In Erie, Lilly Broadcasting spent a good chunk of money not long ago to build out a second control room to allow NBC affiliate WICU (Channel 12) and CBS affiliate WSEE (Channel 35) to originate simultaneous live newscasts from the old WICU studios on State Street. But the move apparently hasn’t paid off; as of October 12, Lilly will stop originating separate newscasts on each station. Instead, WICU and WSEE will simulcast a common “Erie News Now” newscast at 6 and 11 on weeknights and from 6-7 AM on weekday mornings, just as they already do on weekends. Amanda Post and Mike Ruzzi will be the weeknight anchors, with Geoff Cornish doing weather. Mark Soliday, Kara Coleman and Katie McGraw will anchor the morning show, which will also air from 5-6 AM exclusively on WICU. The NBC side of the Lilly pair will also add the market’s first weekend morning newscast beginning Oct. 17.

WGBH in MASSACHUSETTS is growing again. Through its subsidiary Public Radio International, the public broadcaster is acquiring GlobalPost, the Boston-based international journalism center founded by Phil Balboni, previously of WCVB (Channel 5) and New England Cable News. Nine of GlobalPost’s dozen or so staffers will make the move to PRI and WGBH’s Allston headquarters, where they’ll contribute Post-branded segments to “The World” and other PRI offerings.

Five Years Ago: September 26, 2011

*We spend a lot of time in this column writing about bad things that happen in radio. Stations get bought out by giant, cost-cutting corporations; people get laid off; veteran broadcasters die; historic broadcast facilities meet the wrecking ball.

So it’s nice, from time to time, to be able to lead off on an otherwise slow news week with some good news: whatever they’ve had to weather in the real world of today’s broadcasting, when you put enough broadcasters in one room for an evening, you can’t help but have a good time – and to feel pretty good about what we as broadcasters do.

That was true when Rochester’s broadcast veterans held their first reunion last week, it was true when Massachusetts broadcasters inducted their Hall of Fame honorees, it was true when Buffalo’s broadcasters did the same on Thursday night, and it was especially true when Binghamton’s broadcasters came together for their biennial reunion on Saturday night.

It’s been a rough time in Binghamton: entering the Riverwalk Hotel from the parking lot, the effects of the flooding a few weeks ago were immediately apparent in the bare studs and plastic sheeting where the hotel’s ground floor was being repaired after being inundated. But upstairs in the ballroom, the radio and TV veterans of the Southern Tier share the kind of camaraderie that can only come from spending time in a small but ambitious market like Binghamton.

Over the course of a three-plus-hour program, emcee and reunion organizer Ray Ross managed to introduce and praise nearly all of the 200 or so attendees, and what a crowd it was! This year’s special guests included legendary Chicago jock Dick Biondi, an Endicott native whose broadcast career started in town at WINR, WKOP and WENE, and singer Gary Lewis, who’s now a resident of upstate New York himself.

*If you listened to New York’s WABC (770) in the 1960s and 1970s and happened to write in for a QSL card, the odds are very good that the engineer’s signature on the back of the card is that of “Win Loyd.”

Winston H. Loyd worked for WABC and sister station WPLJ (95.5), as well as for ABC-TV, from 1952 until his retirement in 1987. His work for the station was noted at the time with the placement of a bronze plaque (right) at the base of the WABC tower in Lodi, New Jersey honoring his “loyal, dedicated service” over 35 years.

After his retirement, Loyd went back to college to earn his associate’s degree.

Win Loyd died September 18 in New Jersey, just shy of his 89th birthday.

*It’s not every day a radio station turns 90 (at least until next year, when several hundred venerable stations will hit that mark), but Boston’s WBZ (1030) made the most of its new nonagenerian status when its birthday rolled around last week.

No pretense to unbiased reporting here: your editor, of course, is a proud alumnus of the WBZ family, and it was an honor to be on hand for many of the celebrations. On Monday morning, Boston mayor Tom Menino stopped by the station’s Allston studios to proclaim “WBZ Day,” and later in the day the station made the fourth addition to its “Hall of Fame” wall just outside the building’s main entrance.

Carl deSuze is the first posthumous inductee to the very exclusive club, but his addition fits an ongoing pattern: like deSuze, the rest of the club’s members were beloved WBZ morning voices – Dave Maynard, Gary LaPierre and Gil Santos. In his 43 years at WBZ, deSuze set the stage for his successors, establishing the station’s morning slot as a New England institution. While deSuze died in 1998 at age 83, his wife and two daughters were on hand for the ceremony unveiling his plaque. (Daughter Samantha is keeping up the family tradition; her radio career currently finds her at WCTK in the Providence market.)

Ten Years Ago: September 25, 2006

SEASIDE, Oregon – NERW’s on the other side of the country this week, attending the International Radio Club of America convention in this most scenic resort town, and we bet some of the folks at NEW YORK’s WOR (710) might like to be this far from home at the moment too, after a breakdown in communications led the heavily-promoted demolition of the station’s old three-tower antenna array to be indefinitely postponed at the very last minute. We were there last Wednesday (Sept. 20), having flown down for the day, and we’ve never seen so many people so excited to watch a bunch of towers fall down. WOR threw a party for its clients at its new transmitter site, about half a mile north of the old site, and many engineers from the city’s other stations showed up to see the action as well, as did plenty of TV and newspaper reporters from New York City and north Jersey.

Right up to the scheduled demolition time at 10 AM, excitement at the site was running high. Cameras were trained on the old 689-foot towers, waiting for the moment when the tower crews would cut one side of guy wires on each towers, letting the guys on the other two sides pull the towers down in a matter of seconds. Then…nothing happened. After about an hour of rumors, word emerged that the Lyndhurst police department had called a halt to the demolition – and after another half-hour, Lyndhurst police chief James O’Connor appeared at the new site (in neighboring Rutherford, N.J.) to tell the gathered reporters why he’d stopped the demolition. O’Connor says he only learned about the demolition at 8:30 that morning, and he was worried about what would happen when drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike (which runs alongside the old site, in full view of both the towers and the Manhattan skyline to the east) suddenly saw the WOR towers come tumbling down.

WOR engineering director Tom Ray, who’d hoped that the demolition would provide a celebratory cap to the years of work that have gone into the station’s relocation, says the responsibility for notifying O’Connor and other public safety officials rested with “another party.” (NERW believes that other party would be the developers behind Encap, the huge golf resort project that will eventually use the old WOR site.)

Fifteen Years Ago: September 24, 2001

The AM radio landscape in the Merrimack Valley of MASSACHUSETTS is about to change again, thanks to Costa-Eagle’s $1.5 million sale of WCCM (800 Lawrence) to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The sale leaves Eagle-Costa with two of the valley’s five AM stations: the facilities that are now running Spanish-language programming as WNNW (1110 Salem, N.H.) and WHAV (1490 Haverhill). The plan, as we understand it, is to combine their programming under the WNNW calls on the 1490 facility, with the English-language WCCM programming and calls moving to 1110.

The move will effectively take the Eagle-Costa stations out of contention in Lowell, where WCCM had been trying to compete with Lowell-licensed WCAP (980) with programming that included Lowell Spinners baseball. As a daytimer, the new WCCM 1110 won’t be able to carry Spinners’ night games, and its day signal is hard to hear in Lowell even under the best of circumstances. As for the AM 800 signal, with 1000 watts by day and 244 watts at night, it’s not heard well outside the central Merrimack Valley, which leads us to wonder why the Archdiocese is spending all this money on a facility its leaders won’t even hear at their suburban Boston headquarters. Could a move south be in the offing? (This isn’t the Archdiocese’s first broadcast effort, by the way; back in the 1960s, it owned WIHS-TV 38, ancestor of today’s WSBK!) The switches are expected to take place sometime around January 2002. (The purchase never happened, and WNNW eventually moved to 800, with WCCM taking the 1490 spot.)

Twenty Years Ago: September 25, 1996

The ubiquitous Dr. Laura Schlessinger has added yet another New England outlet. Hartford’s WTIC (1080) has bumped Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe from his mid-morning slot and dropped in Dr. Laura instead. McEnroe will be heard doing commentaries on TIC’s morning and afternoon drive shows, as well as on a Sunday night talk show. Across town at WDRC (1360), Bob Grant has been dropped from the schedule, reportedly because programmers there don’t think his abrasive talk fits with WDRC’s standards format. Phil Callan moves from middays to PM to fill Grant’s timeslot. And at WHCN (105.9), new owner SFX is moving towards classic rock, both to pull WHCN away from its new stablemate, modern-rocker WMRQ (104.1), and to go after ARS’s 70s rocker, WZMX (93.7).

A bit further south in Connecticut, Quinnipiac College seems to be making big plans for its newly-purchased AM. The former WXCT (1220) in Hamden is now dark, but will reportedly resurface sometime in January with the WQUN calls. Quinnipiac has been advertising in the trades for a GM/PD, a morning host/operations manager, and two newspeople to work alongside the student staff. The station’s in good hands; NYC radio veteran Lou Adler is apparently the driving force behind the project.