In this week’s issue… How NBC got “channel 8” – Syracuse gets a “Beat” – Toronto veteran exits
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Yeah, yeah, it’s another week leading off the column with more news about NBC in eastern MASSACHUSETTS – but (a) we think this week’s news pretty much sums things up until the Peacock Network actually makes its move in six weeks or so, and (b) it’s either that or write about the election, and you’d rather hear about NBC Boston, right?
Thought as much. So: as of this past Thursday, “channel 8” has lit up for viewers near the Needham/Newton antenna farm, thanks to a reprogramming of the encoder at WBTS-LP (RF 46), which had formerly been using virtual channel 60 for its relay of Telemundo outlet WNEU from NEW HAMPSHIRE. Viewers who rescan their TVs can now see a temporary simulcast of Comcast’s New England Cable News on 8.1 (with NBC Boston promos and a few of the syndicated shows that will be part of the NBC Boston schedule in 2017), plus WNEU’s Telemundo programming on 8.2, Comcast’s COZI classic TV channel on 8.3 and Telemundo spinoff TeleExitos on 8.4.
Meanwhile on WNEU, it’s Telemundo on 60.1 – but the “NBC Boston Preview” is now being seen in New Hampshire and areas north of Boston on 60.2, with TeleExitos now shifted to 60.3 and COZI to 60.4. (This is a change from NBC’s initial announcement that NBC Boston’s programming would appear as virtual “8.2” from the WNEU transmitter; we’d assume that someone from Hearst raised concerns about signal overlap between WNEU and the western fringe of its WMTW signal from MAINE, which has been “channel 8” in the region for many decades.)
Which brings us to the question we couldn’t answer last week. Joe Davis of Chesapeake RF Consultants unearthed the request that Comcast filed with the FCC in mid-October to use virtual channel 8 in Boston, and here’s their logic:
As we’d surmised in earlier columns, WBTS told the FCC that it can’t use virtual channel 46 in the Boston market, since that belongs to WWDP (RF 10) in Norwell. Nor can it use virtual channel 10, given the considerable overlap with Providence’s WJAR (RF 50). Because of its long period of silence, WBTS told the Commission that the marketplace had no familiarity with its previous analog channels, 32 and then 67, both of which would otherwise have been available for use as virtual channels in Boston. (As would “51,” which was WJAR’s original digital RF channel.)
Because it’s an LPTV, WBTS suggested to the FCC that the rules for assigning virtual channels should be interpreted a little more loosely, and since “8” was otherwise unused both in Boston and neighboring markets (except for WMTW, which doesn’t overlap WBTS itself), “8” it was. (NERW notes that other channels, such as 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and perhaps even 3, would also have worked just fine – but none of those will put NBC just one virtual click away from its soon-to-be-former home on WHDH, channel 7.)
And with that, we think we’ve said about everything we can say about NBC Boston until we get to the end of the year, when the NBC affiliation will disappear from WHDH and the full lineup will appear on WBTS/WNEU and cable channel 10/810.
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*The region’s one and only big format change of the week comes from upstate NEW YORK, where Craig Fox’s WMVN (100.3 Sylvan Beach) dropped its “Movin” rhythmic AC format on Wednesday to go rhythmic top-40 at 4 PM as “96.5/100.3 the Beat.”
The 96.5 is translator W243AB Westvale, which fills in the rimshot 100.3 signal for central Syracuse, where the format is really aimed. It’s been a while since Syracuse has had a station targeting the urban audience (save for iHeart’s “Power 620” WHEN on the AM dial), and it appears the new “Beat” is trying to get that audience as well as pulling from the two mainstream CHRs in town, iHeart’s WWHT (Hot 107.9) and Cumulus’ WNTQ (93Q).
So far, there’s no airstaff announced for the new “Beat.”
Steve Richards is leaving Sinclair’s WRGB (Channel 6)/WCWN (Channel 45) in Albany after the November sweeps are over. He’s been there for two years, after spending 27 years in Rochester at WHEC (Channel 10).
*In Elmira, John Kessler is the new evening anchor at WETM (Channel 18), returning to his Southern Tier roots after more than three decades in bigger markets such as Detroit, Charlotte, San Diego and San Francisco.
On the radio side, Community Broadcasters’ news-talk WWLZ (820 Horseheads) is now being heard on 101.3, the translator formerly known as W282AH up in Alexandria Bay.
*There’s a translator fight brewing along the Massachusetts-NEW HAMPSHIRE line, where Costa-Eagle wasted no time putting a new 92.1 translator on the air in Haverhill once the FCC signed off on the consent decree that allowed Brian Dodge to renew the translator’s license and transfer it to become a relay of WCEC (1490 Haverhill).
Blount Communications’ WDER-FM (92.1 Peterborough NH) says it quickly began getting calls from its listeners complaining of interference, and now WDER-FM has filed a complaint with the FCC, which also alleges that construction on the 92.1 translator began before the CP had been issued.
Meanwhile, Blount has its own new translator on the air: as of Thursday night, the former W293BN from Cape Cod is on 101.5 from the historic Yankee Tower on Mount Asnebumskit in Paxton, giving WVNE (760 Leicester) a 24-hour signal over Worcester. (Fybush Media served as technical consultant for this project.)
In Boston, Colton Bradford moves to the 3-8 PM slot at iHeart’s country “Bull” (WBWL 101.7 Lynn), swapping air shifts with PD Lance Houston, who moves to nights. Over at Entercom, Jerry Thornton exits WEEI-FM (93.7), where he’d been part of the “Dale and Holley with Thornton” afternoon show; he’s returning to a podcasting gig with Barstool Sports.
*More Greater Media-to-Beasley job cuts in PENNSYLVANIA: the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Marilyn Russell is gone from the morning slot at variety hits WBEN-FM (95.7 BEN-FM). Mark Vizza is also gone from the station, where he’d been promotions director.
Where are they now? We now know where Chris Ryan is headed next after being PD of WRTS (Star 104) in Erie – he’s headed back to central Illinois as PD of WSOY-FM in Decatur.
And Southern Belle/Seven Mountains is requesting a call change in the Twin Tiers, changing WNBQ (92.3 Mansfield) to WOGA, presumably ahead of a simulcast split from AC sister WNBT-FM (1490 Mansfield). Does “OG” spell a “Froggy” in the signal’s future?
*In CANADA, Erin Davis is leaving CHFI (98.1) – and Toronto, for that matter – after a remarkable 28 years on the morning show. Davis made the announcement on Wednesday’s show, and she’ll wrap up her time at the Rogers-owned AC station with a live broadcast December 15 from Casa Loma before relocating to British Columbia.
On the Niagara Peninsula, the CRTC has opened a call for applications for a new station serving the communities of Grimsby and Beamsville, just east of Hamilton. The call was triggered by an application by Evanov’s Dufferin Communications for 2 kW (4 kW max DA) on 88.5. Despite opposition from the owners of the larger stations in Hamilton and St. Catharines, the CRTC found that there’s indeed economic room there to put a new local station on the air.
Applications for the new Grimsby/Beamsville station will be due March 30, 2017.
*West of Hamilton, the CRTC has approved a power boost that will take First Nations signal CKRZ (100.3 Ohsweken) from 250 to 5000 watts, shifting campus station CKMS Waterloo from 100.3 to 102.7.
In Ottawa, Antoine Karam has applied for a new ethnic station on 1630, using 10 kW day/1 kW night, and that’s triggered a call from the CRTC for comments on whether the Ottawa-Gatineau market can support more stations. Comments are due Dec. 5.
In the Maritimes, the CRTC has rejected a bid from Atlantic Broadcasters to add a second FM signal in Antigonish, N.S. alongside its CJFX (98.9). Competitors MacEachern Broadcasting (CIGO-FM) and Hector Broadcasting (CKEC-FM/CKEZ-FM) complained that Pictou County couldn’t support a sixth station, and the CRTC agreed that since CKEZ has been in the market for only a year, it’s too early to determine whether another new station is viable.
*And what of the November 9 “drop-dead” date for TTP Media’s new English-language signal on 600 in Montreal? It appears TTP has requested a third extension for that – and since a third extension was granted for its French-language sister on 940 (which runs out later this week), it’ll probably be granted, dragging this interminable story on just a little bit interminable-er.
We’re a community.
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 16, 2015
*How do you replace a market legend? If you’re Cumulus in Buffalo, NEW YORK, you stay within your cluster and tap another solid talent who’s already in the building. WGRF (96.9) morning man Larry Norton is just a few weeks away from his final show December 4, and last week Cumulus announced that his spot on 97 Rock will be filled by Rich Gaenzler.
“The Bull” has plenty of name recognition in town, most recently as the afternoon host on sister station WEDG (103.3 the Edge) and the midday sports guy on WHLD (1270). He’ll keep the rest of the 97 Rock morning team (Christine Klein, Rob Lederman and producer Steve Tripi) with him as he moves over to the WGRF corner studio.
*In Albany, “Magic” came back to the FM dial last week with the debut of W263CG (100.5 Colonie), the new FM translator for Albany Broadcaster’s soft AC WROW (590 Albany). The new high-power translator operates from the same tower as sister station WKLI (100.9 Albany), which was the home of the “Magic” format from 2001 until it moved to WROW in 2010.
*Traci Beard’s radio career started in VERMONT and eventually extended into New Hampshire as she moved from the old WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) to WXXK (Kixx Country 100.5) and eventually to Binnie Media’s Wolf stations in the Granite State, paired with Paul Quitadamo on the “Traci and Paul Morning Show.” Binnie pulled the plug on the show a week ago, taking it off the air at the “Wolf” stations (WXLF 95.3/WZLF 107.1) as well as WFNQ (Frank 106.3) in Nashua, and now Beard and Quitadamo have launched a “Traci and Paul” podcast to keep their partnership going.
Five Years Ago: November 14, 2011
*So, where were you at 2 PM on Wednesday? The first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System had broadcasters (and especially broadcast engineers) on alert themselves, waiting to see whether the system would actually work as federal officials attempted to deliver a test message from Washington to every broadcast station, cable operator and satellite provider in the nation.
To hear the mass-media reports after the fact, the test was a failure, and it’s not hard to see why listeners and viewers would have reached that conclusion: if they were in fact paying close attention just after 2, they’d have heard the usual EAS alert tones (the fabled “duck farts”), followed either by dead air in some areas or by muddy, doubled audio in others – and then a few more “duck farts” and right back to normal programming.
But behind the scenes, it’s increasingly clear that for the most part, broadcasters upheld their part of their “voluntary” partnership to help deliver emergency information: the test data and audio delivered from FEMA to the Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations around the region was successfully passed down the daisy chain to most of the local stations expecting to hear it. It’s just that the audio coming into the system was painfully bad – and the fault for that didn’t lie with the broadcasters but rather with FEMA itself, which reportedly fed it to the PEP stations via a garden-variety telephone conference bridge, only to have audio echo back into the bridge from one of the PEP locations.
*In NEW YORK‘s capital city, DJR Broadcasting pulled the plug on oldies “Legends 96.7” (WPTR-FM Clifton Park ) on schedule on Friday – and it dropped the venerable callsign, too: the class A FM signal is now WDCD-FM, simulcasting the religious format of sister station WDCD (1540 Albany).
Congratulations to WBEN (930 Buffalo/WLKK 107.7 Wethersfield) newsman Steve Cichon, who’s just been promoted to news director at the Entercom news-talker. In addition to his on-air work at WBEN, Steve’s also renowned for his collection of bowties – and for his other career as a local history author, most recently of the newly-released “Irv! Buffalo’s Anchorman: The Irv, Rick and Tom Story,” a volume we very much need to add to our bookshelf here at NERW Central.
Ten Years Ago: November 13, 2006
*What’s the most stable radio station in the nation’s number one market, NEW YORK? You could make a pretty good case for Clear Channel’s “Lite,” WLTW (106.7), where morning man Bill Buchner had been in place for 17 years, midday jock Valerie Smaldone for 22 years and night jock J.J. Kennedy for 18 years.
That longevity, however, was apparently no match for the nationwide restructuring that’s hitting Clear Channel markets from coast to coast. Early last week, WLTW pulled Buchner and Kennedy off the air. While PD Jim Ryan tried to paint the moves in the best light possible, telling the New York Daily News that Buchner’s dismissal was “100% based on improving the product” and unrelated to the nationwide Clear Channel shakeout, it’s hard to see the timing as coincidental. (For whatever it’s worth, Ryan says that while Buchner’s numbers overall were good, the station was weak in the morning hours before 8:00; he also tells the News that Clear Channel considered putting Whoopi Goldberg’s new syndicated morning show on WLTW before placing it on sister station WKTU over the summer.)
Buchner’s been replaced with a team that includes his former co-host, Christine Nagy, along with Karen Carson and weather from Nick Gregory. The new morning show debuts today on WLTW.
*Binghamton’s not the sort of market you’d think of as a hotbed for progressive talk, so it’s no great surprise that Citadel is pulling the plug on the format at WYOS (1360) after a year and a half. The format never got much promotion at WYOS, which has the city’s worst AM signal (5000 watts days, just 500 watts at night) and has long been a weak sister to the city’s heritage news-talk outlet, WNBF (1290). As of Monday, WYOS joins ESPN Radio, becoming Binghamton’s second all-sports station after Clear Channel’s WENE (1430 Endicott), which programs Fox Sports Radio.
*We can now set a date for the long-awaited format swap in eastern MASSACHUSETTS: WCRB (102.5 Waltham) is now promoting December 1 as the date when its classical music moves down the dial – and 25 miles north – to what’s now WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell). WCRB will keep its present Waltham studio and its airstaff when it changes dial positions and owners, passing from Charles River Broadcasting to Nassau. Meanwhile, WKLB is promoting a “big change” on the air, but it’s not yet directing its listeners to its new, full-market spot at 102.5; those promos will presumably appear a little closer to the day of the swap.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 12, 2001
Last week, we had no news from CANADA…so why not start off this week with news of a new AM outlet for Montreal? The new 1000 watt station at 1610 kHz will be the first full-time expanded band AM station in Canada (the now-defunct “portable” CHEV 1610 Etobicoke, Ont. was the first overall), and it will run a multilingual format aimed at Francophone Montrealers of Haitian, Latin American and African descent. “CPAM Radio Union.com, Inc.” is the licensee for the new station authorized this week by the CRTC, and we can tell you we know nothing whatsoever about them – but we’ll pass along anything we find out!
We’ll slip back across the border, logically enough, in MAINE, where Maine Public Broadcasting puts its newest signal on the air Tuesday (Nov. 13). WMEP (90.5 Camden) will serve an area of the mid-coast that’s had spotty reception from the existing transmitters in Portland, Bangor and Waterville.
Across the river in VERMONT, Bob Vinikoor buys WNBX (1480 Springfield) from Bob and Shirley Wolf, for a reported $75,000. We suspect Vinikoor will use WNBX to relay the talk programming of his WNTK-FM (99.7 New London NH) into the lower reaches of the Connecticut River Valley.
We’ll start our NEW YORK news by observing that no New York City mayor in history has had his own radio station – until now. But don’t expect Mike Bloomberg to sell WBBR (1130 New York) or the rest of his Bloomberg, L.P. empire; despite reports that competitors such as Thomson (which, being British, would have to sell the radio property) have been sniffing around, the word from 499 Park Avenue is that the company is now being operated at a sufficient arm’s-length from Hizzoner-to-be that it won’t be on the block any time soon.
Meanwhile, the New York City schools won’t be handing the keys of WNYE-FM (91.5) and WNYE-TV (Channel 25) to competitors WNYC (820/93.9) and WNET (Channel 13), after all. The school board didn’t approve Chancellor Harold Levy’s plan to let the bigger public broadcasters take over management of the stations; instead, WNYE will stay in school hands as part of a broadband platform for delivering educational material to schools.
Twenty Years Ago: November 14, 1996
Wanna buy a full class B Boston FM? That’s the question CBS will have to be asking, after yesterday’s agreement with the Justice Department to sell Infinity’s WBOS (92.9 Brookline-Boston) and CBS’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) in exchange for Justice approval for the CBS-Infinity merger. Justice was apparently worried that the new CBS/Infinity group would control in excess of 40 percent of the market revenue in both Boston and Philadelphia, as well as giving CBS/Infinity near-total control of the rock audiences in both cities.
This means the final CBS/Infinity group in Boston will include news/talk WBZ (1030), smooth jazz WOAZ (99.5 Lowell-Boston), classic rock WZLX (100.7), oldies WODS (103.3), and modern rocker WBCN (104.1). What happens to WBOS now? It’s possible that one of Boston’s other major groups will work out a trade with CBS for WBOS. Likely candidates include Evergreen and American Radio Systems. Other possible local buyers include Woody Tanger’s Marlin Broadcasting, which is known to want a stronger signal for its North Shore classical outlet, WBOQ (104.9 Gloucester), and which is flush with cash after selling its Philadelphia and Detroit stations. And who’s celebrating the most? Probably the folks at little WXRV (92.5) up in Haverhill, who could end up as the city’s only AAA outlet if new owners change WBOS’s low-rated “rock of the 80s and 90s” format.