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In this week’s issue… FCC takes on Dodge – Remembering Zacherle – Montreal’s 940 returns – WHEC’s Lomax retires

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*The wheels of justice may grind exceedingly slowly, but they’ve at least finally ground out some small form of vindication for those who’ve followed the long, strange tale of Brian Dodge.

wckl-dodgeWe’ve been reporting on the New England broadcaster and his antics for most of the 22 years we’ve been writing this column, observing what have appeared to be repeated violations of FCC rules ranging from the use of fake names in filings to unauthorized transmitter sites and power levels to blatant violations of LPFM multiple ownership rules.

All the while, it had appeared that the Commission was turning a blind eye to most of the problems, allowing Dodge and his many aliases to clog the tubes of bureaucracy with repeated sloppy applications that sometimes blocked other, more responsible broadcasters from making their own legitimate moves.

Well, guess what? It turns out the FCC was paying attention all along – and on Thursday, it released a consent decree that it reached with Dodge to settle some matters that had been left hanging for literally decades.

Under the agreement, Dodge will surrender a number of his licenses and CPs, including WCKL (560 Catskill NY) and LPFMs in Westhampton MA (WDOE-LP 97.5) and Williamsburg MA (97.9). He’ll be granted a license for WWNH (1340 Madbury NH), which operated from 1989 until 2010 under program test authority but was never actually licensed. And he’ll be granted license renewals for three translators in New Hampshire and Vermont whose sales had been pending for most of the year.

Those renewals mean the sales of the translators (two to Costa-Eagle, for $150,000 total and one to RHODE ISLAND‘s WNRI 1380, for $75,000) will be allowed to proceed – but $100,000 of that $225,000 will go straight to the FCC as a “voluntary contribution” from Dodge that’s part of the consent decree.

So what does it all mean? Our analysis continues for subscribers (and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you can join for as little as $15 a year or read a single column for $2.99…)

MAY I HAVE ANOTHER CALENDAR SALE?
Yes, you may.

Four months have passed on our Tower Site Calendar. Four glorious tower pictures.

But they’re still good for eight months, and still on sale. (But it’s fine to display January through April. The pictures look great any time of the year.)

Go to our store, click on the “Broadcasting Calendars” tab, select the options for the Tower Site Calendar (be sure to click on “yes” or “no” for a storage bag) and add it to your cart. Click on the “View Cart” button, and you are ready to check out.

And don’t forget our hand-numbered autographed calendar. It’s also on sale, but this is a limited edition.

2017-calendar-coverJohn Schneider’s “Radio Historian’s Calendar” has been so popular this year we’ve had trouble keeping it in stock, but we’re still selling it, and it’s price is lower, too. This year’s calendar features buildings that once housed radio.

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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

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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: November 2, 2015

*It’s not every day that a major-market broadcast facility marks its 50th anniversary as a useful, even vital part of broadcast infrastructure. But the 32 elements that make up the Alford FM master antenna at the Empire State Building are unique in so many ways – not least in the party that celebrated their history on Thursday night in New York.

It was actually early December 1965 when WHOM-FM (92.3, now WBMP) became the first of more than a dozen stations to use the Alford antenna. With the Audio Engineering Society convention in town, just down 34th Street at the Javits Convention Center, late October turned out to be a more amenable time to celebrate the anniversary, though. And what a celebration!

Empire’s recent renovations included the installation of a massive LED lighting system, which showed itself off to maximum effect with a light show at dusk set to the soundtrack of Steely Dan’s “FM” (what else?), simulcast on Empire tenant WCBS-FM (101.1), which led into the song with a montage of “radio” songs and a special message from jock Dan Taylor saluting the antenna’s long history of providing more FM service than pretty much any other site in the world.

Here’s what it looked like from the party atop a rooftop bar a block away as AES attendees began the celebration…

And here’s what the show looked like from the air, in an amazing video produced by Empire itself that got the attention of media outlets as far afield as Rolling Stone

As spectacular as the light show was for the whole city, what followed for a select audience in an Empire State Building conference room was even more remarkable: your editor had the signal honor (alongside AES’s David Bialik) of moderating a panel discussion about the fascinating history of FM from Empire.

*After more than 60 years of getting its CBS programming from Syracuse or Albany, the Utica market is finally getting its own full-time CBS affiliate. As of November 22, Heartland Media’s NBC affiliate, WKTV (Channel 2), will launch a CBS subchannel on 2.2. The new “CBS Utica 2” will likely replace Syracuse’s WTVH (Channel 5) on cable lineups around the market, though a quirk in market boundaries means that viewers in nearby Rome and the rest of western Oneida County will continue to be within the boundaries of the Syracuse market, and will thus keep getting WTVH.

*A legend of NEW JERSEY radio has died. Pinky Kravitz was an Atlantic City broadcast fixture through six decades, starting at WLDB (1490, now WUSS) and moving to WOND (1400) back in 1958. That’s where Kravitz remained right up until this past May 14, when his declining health took him off the air. What started as a temporary absence became permanent when Kravitz formally retired in August. At 88, his family said at the time, “all good things must come to an end.” Kravitz died Saturday, ending a legacy of civic promotion that extended through some of the city’s highest and lowest moments.

Born Seymour Kravitz in West Virginia, the 6-foot-5 Pinky worked for many years as a teacher during the day before turning to radio and TV at night. In addition to his long-running “Pinky’s Corner” radio show on WOND, Kravitz was also a fixture on the old WMGM-TV (Channel 40) until it lost its NBC affiliation and ended local programming at the end of 2014. A memorial service for Kravitz is set for Wednesday in Atlantic City.

*John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting is growing in a big way in its native CONNECTICUT, RHODE ISLAND and western MASSACHUSETTS with the acquisition of four stations from Davidson Media Group. Davidson, which has been shrinking its footprint fairly rapidly, is entering an immediate LMA with Red Wolf to operate Spanish hits WKKB (100.3 Middletown/Providence), Spanish tropical WSPR (1270 Springfield) and oldies WACM (1490 West Springfield)/WXCT (990 Southington) while it files to buy the four stations for an as-yet-undisclosed sum.

Five Years Ago: October 31, 2011

*Some weeks, it just hurts to sit down and write this column. Over 17 years, we’ve chronicled a lot of ups and downs in the radio business all over the northeast, and in the last few years it seems like there have been more downs than ups many weeks.

But this past week – this past Wednesday, to be specific – set a new level of ugly, as dozens of talented, hard-working, dedicated radio people all over the region found out their jobs had been pulled out from under them, and by several different companies all at once.

Industry gossip leading up to Wednesday made it pretty clear that local Clear Channel Radio employees in small and medium markets would be the targets of some pretty extensive firings as part of the company’s plan to centralize more of its operations. (We could reprint the press-release PR-speak about “improving local service” and whatnot, but really, why bother?)

It wasn’t just Clear Channel Radio making cuts on Wednesday, though: Townsquare Media pulled the plug on local airstaff in one of its markets, Cumulus eviscerated one of its big markets out west, affecting several New York veterans along the way, and Clear Channel’s traffic services, operated separately from the radio stations, went through their own Black Wednesday, leaving at least one local office reportedly unable to fully service its clients on Thursday.

*A few new signals to report in MASSACHUSETTS: in Marshfield, WUMT (91.7), the new relay of Boston’s WUMB-FM (91.9), has applied for its license to cover, while out west in “Baptist Village” (in reality, Hampden, east of Springfield), construction on the new religious outlet WJCI (89.5) wrapped up just before the snow started flying.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: At midnight, Clear Channel pulled the trigger on its big facility shift in the Springfield market, killing off WRNX (100.9 Amherst) and flipping the frequency to country as “Kix 100.9.” For now, it’s a simulcast of WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) – but not for long, since the 97.9 facility is moving south to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, with a new transmitter site in downtown Hartford.

Ten Years Ago: October 30, 2006

Even as Clear Channel was making national headlines over the possibility that it might go private, the company quietly went through a “restructuring” on Friday that leaves several veteran employees in western NEW YORK out of work. While the in-house memo that went out Friday afternoon said “these individuals have not been fired,” we’re not sure how else to describe the status of the five Clear Channel Radio employees in Rochester who are collecting severance pay and unemployment checks this week. Craig Kingcaid was the cluster’s chief engineer; Susan Ashline had been reporting for WHAM (1180) for several years; Rob Jason had joined the WHAM news staff just last year after leaving the executive producer’s slot at WROC-TV (Channel 8); Mike DiGiorgio was Bob Lonsberry’s producer for his midday talk show; and Jonathan Wallace was in the promotions department. (Another veteran of the cluster, Dan Guilfoyle, left the sales department recently in what was apparently an unrelated move; we’re also hearing that some of the remaining staffers may have some of their titles shuffled.)

The memo says the “restructured” employees will be encouraged to apply for jobs elsewhere in the company, including (we’d presume) the “many new positions (that) are being created during this restructure in an effort to continue to super-serve our advertising and listening community.” It goes on to say “the positions being created will focus on our online products and will also include an expansion of our sales force.” And, oh yes – it reminds the remaining staffers that “those outside of our stations may not fully comprehend the changes that are taking place,” and reminds them not to talk to the media, leaving that duty to the cluster’s market manager. Since the news broke late on Friday, and NERW goes to press Sunday night, we’ve been unable to reach the local management; we’ll be happy to report their comments in next week’s issue.

Longtime New York program director John Mainelli is returning to the PD chair, this time at CBS Radio’s “Free FM” WFNY-FM (92.3). Mainelli, whose resume includes stops at WABC and WOR, was most recently the radio reporter for the New York Post – even while continuing to do consulting for talk radio around the country.

In Westchester County, Bill O’Shaughnessy is bringing a venerable callsign back to the airwaves. On Wednesday (Nov. 1), he’ll flip WRTN (93.5 New Rochelle) to WVIP-FM, paying tribute to the late Martin Stone’s WVIP in Mount Kisco, an erstwhile sister station to O’Shaughnessy’s WVOX (1460). The WVIP calls are still in use on 1310 in Mount Kisco, though that station’s now merely a simulcast of Spanish religious WWRV (1330 New York); the former WVIP-FM on 106.3 in Mount Kisco is now WFAF.

Western MASSACHUSETTS’ new sports station signed on right on schedule Thursday afternoon at 2, as Entercom put WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton) on the air from Mount Tom. Before the station’s simulcast of WEEI (850 Boston) kicked in, it stunted for a few hours with readings from Dr. Seuss books, paying tribute to the author’s hometown, Springfield. WVEI-FM will take the Red Sox broadcast rights from Springfield’s WHYN (560) and Northampton’s WHMP (1400) next season; the Sox will apparently continue on WHMP simulcast WHMQ (1240 Greenfield).

It’s the end of an era in Atlantic CANADA: CHNS (960) in Halifax, Nova Scotia is silent for good, now that Maritime Broadcasting System has completed its AM-to-FM conversion. CHNS-FM (89.9) signed on in July as classic rock “Hal FM.” With the three-month simulcast period over, so is the run of CHNS on AM, which dated back to 1926.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 29, 2001

Even as Clear Channel was making national headlines over the possibility that it might go private, the company quietly went through a “restructuring” on Friday that leaves several veteran employees in western NEW YORK out of work. While the in-house memo that went out Friday afternoon said “these individuals have not been fired,” we’re not sure how else to describe the status of the five Clear Channel Radio employees in Rochester who are collecting severance pay and unemployment checks this week. Craig Kingcaid was the cluster’s chief engineer; Susan Ashline had been reporting for WHAM (1180) for several years; Rob Jason had joined the WHAM news staff just last year after leaving the executive producer’s slot at WROC-TV (Channel 8); Mike DiGiorgio was Bob Lonsberry’s producer for his midday talk show; and Jonathan Wallace was in the promotions department. (Another veteran of the cluster, Dan Guilfoyle, left the sales department recently in what was apparently an unrelated move; we’re also hearing that some of the remaining staffers may have some of their titles shuffled.)

The memo says the “restructured” employees will be encouraged to apply for jobs elsewhere in the company, including (we’d presume) the “many new positions (that) are being created during this restructure in an effort to continue to super-serve our advertising and listening community.” It goes on to say “the positions being created will focus on our online products and will also include an expansion of our sales force.” And, oh yes – it reminds the remaining staffers that “those outside of our stations may not fully comprehend the changes that are taking place,” and reminds them not to talk to the media, leaving that duty to the cluster’s market manager. Since the news broke late on Friday, and NERW goes to press Sunday night, we’ve been unable to reach the local management; we’ll be happy to report their comments in next week’s issue.

Longtime New York program director John Mainelli is returning to the PD chair, this time at CBS Radio’s “Free FM” WFNY-FM (92.3). Mainelli, whose resume includes stops at WABC and WOR, was most recently the radio reporter for the New York Post – even while continuing to do consulting for talk radio around the country.

In Westchester County, Bill O’Shaughnessy is bringing a venerable callsign back to the airwaves. On Wednesday (Nov. 1), he’ll flip WRTN (93.5 New Rochelle) to WVIP-FM, paying tribute to the late Martin Stone’s WVIP in Mount Kisco, an erstwhile sister station to O’Shaughnessy’s WVOX (1460). The WVIP calls are still in use on 1310 in Mount Kisco, though that station’s now merely a simulcast of Spanish religious WWRV (1330 New York); the former WVIP-FM on 106.3 in Mount Kisco is now WFAF.

Western MASSACHUSETTS’ new sports station signed on right on schedule Thursday afternoon at 2, as Entercom put WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton) on the air from Mount Tom. Before the station’s simulcast of WEEI (850 Boston) kicked in, it stunted for a few hours with readings from Dr. Seuss books, paying tribute to the author’s hometown, Springfield. WVEI-FM will take the Red Sox broadcast rights from Springfield’s WHYN (560) and Northampton’s WHMP (1400) next season; the Sox will apparently continue on WHMP simulcast WHMQ (1240 Greenfield).

It’s the end of an era in Atlantic CANADA: CHNS (960) in Halifax, Nova Scotia is silent for good, now that Maritime Broadcasting System has completed its AM-to-FM conversion. CHNS-FM (89.9) signed on in July as classic rock “Hal FM.” With the three-month simulcast period over, so is the run of CHNS on AM, which dated back to 1926.

Twenty Years Ago: October 30, 1996

After 52 years of radio and 70 years of a full life, Norm Nathan passed away on Tuesday night, October 29, at his home in Middleton, Massachusetts. Norm was not only one of the finest broadcasters New England has ever known, but he was also a colleague and, I’m proud to say, a friend. I trust NERW readers will understand if I depart from the usual rundown of news items and indulge in some remembrances of Norm.

Over the years, Norm came to find himself as the last of the breed, as colleagues such as Jess Cain, Dave Maynard, and Larry Glick left radio or went into semi-retirement. I know Norm was crushed when his old radio home, WHDH, disappeared from the airwaves in August 1994, especially when he found out the last noise heard on the station was a toilet flushing. In the end, Norm’s show sat alone even on WBZ. At the end of a week filled with hard news and the political, hard-edged talk of David Brudnoy and Bob Raleigh, Norm’s show was where we all went for a soft chuckle, a smile, and the feeling that there was somebody out there who just wanted to cheer you up.

There’s something more than a little bit eerie about the timing of Norm’s death. For the last few months, WBZ has been in the process of moving out of its old studios, and into a new facility on the other side of the building. The new studios are cleaner, brighter, and better-equipped…but I will never picture Norm anywhere other than in the dark, somewhat musty old talk studio. It was just a few days ago that they finished tearing out the guts of that studio, and it was unsettling to walk into that familiar room and find only an empty physical space. Suddenly, it’s not merely physically empty; there’s a huge spiritual hole there too. It’s 2 A.M. as I write this; Norm’s time of the night. This was the hour when he hit his stride, making life a little brighter for listeners all along the path of BZ’s booming signal. Norm’s producer, Tony Nesbitt, found the right phrase on BZ tonight, when he talked about “a hole 38 states wide.” So did another colleague, who asked simply, “What will I listen to now?” Out there in the vast corporate world that’s radio in the 1990s, there are still a few remnants left of a simpler time, in the days before shock jocks and satellites, when a jazz record and a joke could be the foundation for a half-century of great radio. We’ve just lost one of the best. Goodbye, old sport.

There’s one fewer silent AM station in Massachusetts this week, with the return to the airwaves of Worcester’s WNEB (1230). The station has been silent since 1991, but it signed back on last Thursday (Oct. 24) under the ownership of Bob Bittner, who also owns WJIB (740) Cambridge and recently sold WKBR (1250) in Manchester NH. WNEB uses 947 watts, non-directional, from the old tower site on Worcester’s west side, near Chandler Street. Programming for now is largely a simulcast of WJIB’s beautiful-music, although plans include Spanish-language broadcasts at night.

With WNEB’s return, only two AMs in Massachusetts remain silent, and in danger of losing their licenses in February: WBIV (1060) in Natick and WCEG (1530) in Middleborough.

In business news, SFX Broadcasting’s Hartford group has hit near-maximum size with last week’s purchase of WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury). “Country 92.5” was owned by the Gilmore family, who will keep their WATR (1320) in Waterbury, along with $25.25 million of SFX’s cash. SFX’s Hartford properties include WKSS (95.7, CHR), WHCN (105.9, classic rock), WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury, modern rock), and WPOP (1410, mews-talk). The company also owns WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT) in the Springfield MA market and WPLR (99.1) New Haven, which has an LMA with Yale University’s WYBC (94.3).

Boston University’s public radio station is about to expand its reach on Cape Cod. WBUR (90.9) already simulcasts most of its programming on three small Cape noncomms, WSDH (91.5) at Sandwich High School, WKKL (90.7) at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, and WCCT (90.3) at Cape Cod Voc-Tech in Harwich. Now WBUR is buying car dealer Ernie Boch’s WUOK (1240) in West Yarmouth. WUOK has been simulcasting sister FM WXTK (94.9) for a year or so…but it can trace its roots all the way back as the Cape’s oldest station, WOCB.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I noted some time ago that Dodge had applied for a license to cover for WWNH in Madbury back in the 90’s, but the FCC apparently never acted on it. So was his long time operation under the CP legal all along?

    • AIUI, once the application for a license to cover is accepted for filing, the CP expiration is tolled, and provided all the other requirements for program test authority are met, the permittee may operate the station until the license application is disposed of by the FCC. That said, last time I visited the Seacoast, WWNH was not on the air and I could see no evidence of where it had previously been, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some sort of further filing (either technical STA, silent STA, or minor change) before the station comes back on the air. Scott and I saw the then-existing WWNH back in 1995ish on one of our first trips.

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