In this week’s issue… End of the line for Brine – Spanish public radio in danger? – Radio-Canada unveils new home – AVR signs off at last
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When Wally Brine came to suburban Boston’s WVBF (105.7 Framingham) in 1981 and moved to mornings a year later, the wakeup airwaves in Boston belonged to names such as Jess Cain, Dave Maynard and Charles Laquidara.
Partnered with Loren Owens, Brine outlasted all of them and many others, not to mention surviving through multiple incarnations of the 105.7 frequency itself, from “Electronic Mama” to “F105” to country WCLB/WKLB to today’s classic hits WROR. But after the Dec. 16 edition of the “Loren and Wally Show,” Brine will retire from the now-Beasley-owned station, ending a broadcast career that stretches back nearly 50 years.
Wally Brine is, of course, the son of legendary WPRO morning man Salty Brine; he even grew up for his first few years in the apartment the Brines shared at the WPRO transmitter site in East Providence. (That’s now part of the facility dubbed the “Salty Brine Building.”)
Wally Brine started in radio in 1968 at WPRO-FM (“I knew somebody,” he joked in his official bio), then continued at WGAN, WLOB and WJBQ-FM in Portland, MAINE before he came to WVBF in 1981. Once he and Owens joined forces, they became one of the Boston market’s most enduring morning teams. Among other honors, they were inducted into the MASSACHUSETTS Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2013.
Making the announcement just before Thanksgiving, Brine portrayed the decision to retire as being entirely his own, and the new Beasley management at WROR is honoring him with several weeks of on- and off-air celebrations. Behind the scenes, though, we’re hearing that budget cuts as Beasley took over from Greater Media may have been responsible in part for Brine’s retirement – was he asked to take a significant pay cut under the new owners?
It appears the WROR morning show will continue with Owens and the rest of the cast, including Lauren Beckham Falcone, Hank Morse and producer Brian Bell.
CALENDARS — CALENDARS — CALENDARS
Yes, we are working on the 2021 Tower Site Calendar, soon to be released — but you can order it NOW.
This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. It’s still being designed, but we promise you we’ll have plenty of gorgeous tower shots to decorate your walls for the entire year.
As we’re working on it you can order the calendar in advance for 25% off — the lowest price of the season.
And while you’re getting your calendar, don’t forget the other great products in our store.
*More news from a holiday-shortened week:
More than a month after it failed for a second time, things still aren’t back to normal at the TV tower that serves many of Boston’s biggest signals. When the top half of the antenna at the Cedar Street tower in Needham failed Oct. 22, it knocked out broadcasts and satellite service for WBZ-TV (Channel 4), WCVB (Channel 5), WSBK (Channel 38) and WGBX (Channel 44), disrupting service for several days that included a Patriots game on WBZ.
Engineers worked up a temporary solution a few days later, shifting WGBH (Channel 2) to a lower-powered auxiliary antenna partway down the tower owned by WCVB and freeing up the functioning lower half of the master antenna so that the rest of the stations could resume transmissions. But the top antenna still isn’t fully back in service – despite attempts to put it back on at full power, engineers found that there were still transmission line problems last week.
(infographic courtesy NECRAT.us)
For now, they’ve managed to return channels 4, 5, 38 and 44 to the top half of the master antenna at about 40% of their usual power level, which in turn allowed WGBH to move channel 2 back to the lower half of the antenna; engineers say they’ll try to find a permanent fix to the problems there starting this week.
*Where are they now? Veteran Boston programmer Tyler Cox is retiring next week from his most recent gig as PD of Cumulus’ WBAP (820)/KLIF (570) in Dallas – and that creates an opening that’s once again being filled by a Boston PD. Kevin Graham is leaving his post as brand manager for Entercom’s WEEI and the Red Sox Radio Network (as well as sports radio format captain for the company) to take over for Cox in Dallas. No replacement has been named yet at WEEI.
George Colajezzi, Jr., who died Nov. 16, was a veteran of South Coast radio, including a stint from 1990-1998 as managing partner and part-owner of the former WPEP (1570 Taunton). Colajezzi later hosted a talk show on WSAR (1480 Fall River) and ran a business called Colajezzi Communications. He was just 62.
*It’s likely yet another false start in the long story of NEW YORK‘s WBAI (99.5), but it’s perhaps worth noting that another part of the crumbling Pacifica Foundation empire is now pushing for a sale of the network’s most valuable asset, that class B commercial-band signal in the nation’s largest market.
The “Pacifica in Exile” blog reports that the advisory board at Pacifica’s Bay Area flagship station, KPFA, has submitted a proposal to the national board calling for WBAI to explore a signal swap that would trade some of WBAI’s big reach for much-needed cash to keep Pacifica alive. It’s not clear at this point who’d be on the other end of that swap – if it’s another commercial-band signal, the only likely swap partners would be WNYC Public Radio’s classical WQXR (105.9 Newark NJ), with its class B1 signal from the Empire State Building, or possibly Cumulus’ class B WNSH (94.7 Newark NJ) or its WNBM (103.9 Bronxville), which is a class A signal with only partial coverage of the city.
Will anything come of this proposal, which comes with some questionable valuation about what the signal swap could be worth? Given the long history of inertia as WBAI has slipped into decline, it’s hard to see anything changing any time soon…but we’ll keep watching for you.
*Up north in Plattsburgh, WTWK (1070) is back on the air under buyer A&J Radio, which is paying Steve Silberberg $140,000 for the daytime-only signal. For the moment, WTWK is simulcasting A&J-operated country “Moose” WZXP (97.9 Au Sable), but it’s going to be paired with translator W242BS (moving from 96.3 to 103.7). And what will be on the 1070/103.7 pair? Aaron and Jessica Ishmael are teasing that, it appears, at whatis1037.com.
*And we hope you keep WBEN (930 Buffalo)’s Allan Harris in your thoughts over the holidays. The western New York broadcast veteran was on the air doing traffic Wednesday morning when he got word that a kidney had become available at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital. Harris, who suffers from a congenital kidney disorder, raced to Rochester and spent the day waiting for a transplant; alas, it turned out that the kidney wasn’t suitable and he was sent back home to keep waiting for another chance.
*RHODE ISLAND‘s Latino Public Radio is looking for funding to buy the Providence AM signal it’s been leasing for more than five years. The nonprofit station started out as a tenant on the Wheeler School’s WELH (88.1 Providence) before the 2011 swap that put Rhode Island Public Radio on WELH and leased out RIPR’s WRNI (1290 Providence) AM signal to LPR.
That lease expired in September, and the Providence Journal reports LPR is now operating on a six-month extension while attempting to buy the 10 kW AM signal from RIPR at a price estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.
“Latino Public Radio is in peril,” CEO Dr. Pablo Rodriguez told the paper. If LPR can’t come up with the purchase price next year, he said, the 1290 signal may be sold to an outside buyer.
*In CONNECTICUT, WSGG (89.3 Norfolk) is applying to relocate to nearby Canaan, going from its present 140 watts/92′ to 250 watts/-403′ at a site in the middle of North Canaan where US 7 and US 44 meet up. The Revival Christian Ministries station is currently under a silent STA, but we’ve heard multiple reports that its main 89.3 signal has rarely, if ever, actually been on the air, instead serving as a nominal primary to translator W261BU (100.1 Talcottville) in the Hartford market.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Derrick “DC” Cole is taking on new duties with iHeart – in addition to serving as PD of WLAN-FM (96.9) and WLAN (1390) in Lancaster, Cole has been named senior VP of programming for iHeart’s cluster in Delaware.
*The long, sad story of Aboriginal Voices Radio in CANADA appears to have finally come to an end. More than a year after the CRTC pulled AVR’s remaining licenses back in June 2015 for repeated non-compliance with its rules, a federal court upheld the CRTC’s decision earlier this month, and now the remaining AVR signals in Vancouver and in Toronto (CKAV 106.5) have been silenced.
The last straw appears to have been AVR’s request to the court for a delay in the case while the group tried to raise funds to replace a lawyer who’d resigned after AVR was unable to pay. “This is of particular concern in circumstances when the Commission in the decision under review noted that Aboriginal Voices’ financial viability had been of recurring concern to the Commission,” the court wrote.
The CRTC now has an application process pending for new licensees seeking the former AVR frequencies, which also include 95.7 in Ottawa. The nationwide APTN aboriginal network is among the parties reportedly interested in starting a new service on those FM channels.
*From the “They paved paradise…” file, we note that the bulldozers recently moved in on 1331 Yonge Street in Toronto, the historic longtime home of CHUM (1050) and CHUM-FM (104.5). The studios had moved out a few years ago to a new Bell Media facility on Richmond Street downtown, and now the uptown site is being turned into an upscale 11-story condominium, like pretty much everything else in Toronto these days.
*There’s building news from Montreal, too, where Bell Media’s changes at CJAD (800) include the departure of afternoon host Barry Morgan and the move of veteran mid-morning host Tommy Schnurmacher from his former 9-noon slot to a new one-hour slot from noon to 1.
Leslie Roberts, the former Global Toronto TV anchor, takes over the 9-noon slot, becoming the third generation of Roberts to work at CJAD; Natasha Hall picks up the 1-3 PM hours out of Morgan’s former shift.
Across the street from CJAD’s Boul. Rene-Levesque studios, there are some big changes coming at Maison Radio-Canada. The network unveiled the first public set of drawings for the new home it will occupy on the site starting in 2020, after it vacates the 1970s-era Maison Radio-Canada skyscraper next door. That building has already been sold to a developer which will reuse it for non-broadcast purposes; Radio-Canada/CBC will relocate to what’s now a parking lot on the east side of the property at the corner of Rene-Levesque and Ave. Papineau, directly across from Bell’s radio and TV digs.
Unlike the current fortress-like building (which we toured earlier this year and featured recently in Tower Site of the Week), the new Maison Radio-Canada will be a low-slung glass-fronted complex with a four-story atrium and a rooftop patio. Instead of owning the building, Radio-Canada will lease it from a private developer for 30 years.
Construction on the new building is slated to start in September.
*Israel “Sruki” Switzer is being remembered for his long career building cable systems, starting in central Canada and later in the U.S., Hong Kong and New Zealand. But Switzer also made a lasting mark on broadcast TV in the 1970s when he and then-wife Phyllis founded CITY-TV (then on Channel 79) in Toronto, pioneering UHF television in Canada. Switzer later sold the station to Moses Znaimer. He died Nov. 17 at his winter home in Arizona, at age 87.
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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 30, 2015
*Whatever Cumulus’ plans might be to revive its flagging flagship, NEW YORK‘s WABC (770), they won’t include one of the station’s star personalities. Geraldo Rivera still appears on the WABC website as we finish the column Sunday night, but the 10 AM-noon host hasn’t been on the air since Tuesday and he won’t be coming back. On Wednesday, Rivera posted on Facebook that Cumulus’ new CEO, Mary Berner, and market manager Chad Lopez “do not intend to honor the handshake deal I made with the ousted company chief John Dickey, an agreement to extend my current contract for a year.”
Cumulus hired Rivera in 2012 to host back-to-back local shows for WABC and KABC in Los Angeles, then swapped out his KABC shift for national syndication a few months later. The national syndication ended in early 2014, leaving Rivera as a (presumably) highly-paid local-only host, a tenuous situation at a company that’s been trying hard to cut costs at its local stations.
*We promised you we’d post the video of our big night at the Empire State Building last month as soon as it became available, and thanks to our friends at This Week in Radio Tech, it’s now here for your viewing enjoyment! Thanks again to everyone at Empire, publicist Peggy Miles, AES and David Bialik and the SBE for making it all possible…
*There’s a new permanent morning host at NEW JERSEY 101.5 (WKXW Trenton). With the sad announcement that Jim Gearhart’s recovery from a head injury and concussion is still ongoing and he won’t be able to return to the morning show, the Townsquare Media talker has named fill-in host Bill Spadea as Gearhart’s replacement.
*A very happy birthday to one of the deans of PENNSYLVANIA broadcasting. Myron Jones turned 90 on Friday, and he’s still going strong long after selling off the Erie stations he founded, WJET radio and TV. It was back in 1951 when Jones put WJET on the air at 1570, followed by WHOT in Youngstown, Ohio and then by WJET-TV (Channel 24) in 1966.
Jones was inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1997. He tells WJET-TV his secret to living to 90 is “behaving yourself.”
Five Years Ago: November 28, 2011
*Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time chronicling the gradual disappearance of AM radio in CANADA. Since the CRTC began routinely allowing AM stations to migrate to the FM band more than a quarter-century ago, the AM band has fallen all but silent everywhere outside Canada’s biggest cities, leaving sizable communities such as Halifax, Moncton, Sherbrooke, Kingston and Sudbury with no AMs at all.
But as the Canadian FM dial, once sparsely populated, has filled to bursting, broadcasters seeking dial space in a few of the largest Canadian cities are turning back to the AM band, and this week we can report on new AMs coming to both the Toronto and Montreal markets in the months to come, as well as a new format that’s about to make a big splash on the Canadian AM dial.
In the Greater Toronto Area, the CRTC approved a brand-new facility last week: sports marketing agent Elliot Kerr (on behalf of a corporation to be incorporated) will get 2 kW days/280 watts at night on 960, serving Mississauga. That’s a frequency that has never before been used in Toronto, though it did see use 80 km to the west in Cambridge, where CFTJ/CIAM used 960 from 1977 until it moved to FM in 1998 (it’s now Corus’ CJDV 107.5).
*If AM is staying alive in the Toronto area, it’s crawling back from near-death in Montreal. Over the last two decades, we’ve chronicled the demise of most of the mass-market AM signals that once dominated the field in Canada’s largest Francophone community: the Telemedia-Radiomutuel merger that silenced CJMS (1280) in 1994, the demise of CKLM (1570) the same year, the CBC/Radio-Canada moves to FM in 1999 that took away CBF (690) and CBM (940), the subsequent moves of CKVL (850) and CIQC (600) to the former CBC frequencies, the sudden silencing of those new 690 and 940 signals (now CINF and CINW) in early 2010, and then the equally sudden silencing of French-language sports on CKAC (730) earlier this year to clear the way for a provincially-subsidized all-traffic service. That left just a pair of English-language players keeping the AM band alive: Astral’s market-dominant CJAD (800) and Bell’s “TSN Radio” sports outlet, CKGM (990), along with a motley assemblage of smaller signals broadcasting to niche audiences.
As of last week, that picture is about to change, and in a pretty dramatic way. The CRTC’s approval of three AM applications in Montreal not only promises more options for Anglo- and Francophone listeners, it also sets the stage for still more AM frequencies to come back into play in Montreal.
*A station sale in upstate NEW YORK: EMF Broadcasting ended up with one station more than it needed to serve the Utica market, and now it’s unloading its original signal there. The station on 100.7 was WVVC when EMF bought it for $1.25 million back in 2001, and it spent most of the next decade as “K-Love” outlet WKVU before a flip last December moved K-Love and the WKVU calls to the much bigger 107.3 signal, at which point the smaller 100.7 facility became an “Air 1” outlet as WRCK. Now EMF is unloading the 100.7 facility – but not the WRCK calls or the tower site southeast of Utica – to Roser Communications Network, which will pay $425,000 for the 1.6 kW/623′ class A facility. Roser isn’t saying yet what its plans are for the new addition, which will join “Kiss” simulcast WSKS/WSKU, “Bug Country” WBGK and the WUTQ combination that includes two AMs (WUTQ 1550/WADR 1480) and an FM translator. Could 100.7 become the new WUTQ-FM?
Ten Years Ago: November 29, 2006
Who’ll replace Gary LaPierre on the morning news at WBZ (1030 Boston)? Former WOR (710 New York) morning anchor Ed Walsh, that’s who. Walsh has been working nights at WCBS (880 New York) for the last few months, and he’ll take over from the veteran LaPierre on January 1, 2007.
This year, there’s an unusual flip amidst the normal batch of AC and oldies stations suddenly playing “Little Drummer Boy” over…and over…and over again. It’s Clear Channel’s WFKP (99.3 Ellenville), which last made headlines here in April 2005, when it flipped from top 40 “Kiss” (simulcasting with WPKF 96.1 Poughkeepsie) to soft AC “Lite” (semi-simulcasting with WRNQ 92.1 Poughkeepsie) by way of a couple of days as “Cupid 99.3.”
Now WFKP is flipping again. Beginning December 25, it’ll be simulcasting yet another of Clear Channel’s Poughkeepsie-cluster FMs, market-leading country outlet WRWD-FM (107.3 Highland). But until then, it’s playing a nonstop diet of country Christmas tunes. Once it flips, WFKP will help extend WRWD’s reach into the Catskills to compete with Cumulus’ “Wolf” country WKXP (94.3 Kingston)/WZAD (97.3 Wurtsboro); we’d note, too, that WRWD-FM is already simulcasting in Ellenville on WRWD (1370), though the AM signal doesn’t reach down to Middletown as the FM does.
*Our big headlines from MASSACHUSETTS this week are mostly TV-related, starting with the FCC’s approval of Tribune’s sale of CW affiliate WLVI (Channel 56) to Sunbeam Television, which already owns Boston’s NBC affiliate, WHDH-TV (Channel 7). Sunbeam has set a date – December 19 – for the launch of its own WHDH-produced 10 PM newscast on Channel 56, which means the current “Ten O’Clock News” will shut down sometime before that, putting a talented staff out of work just before Christmas. WHDH general manager Mike Carson tells the Herald that there may eventually be a morning newscast (again) on WLVI, but he won’t be around to oversee it. He’s retiring next July 1, handing the reins over to sales manager Randi Goldklank.
Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Boston’s CBS station, WBZ-TV (Channel 4), is preparing to ditch its unpopular “CBS 4 Boston” branding early next year, returning to branding itself simply as…”WBZ.” (We’re at least mildly amused to see the newspaper coverage that makes it sound as though the station actually changed its call letters or something; here at NERW, where we believe the callsign is sacred, we’ve never called them anything but “WBZ-TV.”)
Speaking of WBZ, the radio side of the operation proved the value of a full-time newsroom last week when a chemical plant exploded early Wednesday morning. While WBZ’s overnight local newscasts are pre-recorded, its talk shows aren’t, and so WBZ listeners had updates from callers (and, soon, from WBZ reporters who awoke and rushed to the scene) while a certain other newsroomless talk station was deep in “Coast to Coast AM.” (And, its posted schedule on its website notwithstanding, said station didn’t have “Boston this Morning With Rod Fritz” on the air at 6, either.)
The two-year investigation into the finances of Boston University’s RHODE ISLAND public radio stations, WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly), has wrapped up with a clean bill of health from state Attorney General Patrick Lynch. The probe began when the stations’ parent operation, WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston), announced in September 2004 that it was putting the Rhode Island signals on the market. Local donors who’d contributed much of the money to buy the signals from their previous commercial owners complained, and that triggered the investigation. BU backed off its plan to sell WRNI/WXNI, and Lynch agreed to close the investigation after the university named a full-time general manager and created a local advisory board for the stations. That GM, Joe O’Connor, tells the Providence Journal-Bulletin that “this chapter in WRNI’s history is closed,” and that “every penny that is donated to WRNI is specifically allocated just for this station.”
Up in CANADA, Thanksgiving’s been over for weeks now, and the CRTC was open for business all last week, granting Corus its move off the AM dial across most of Quebec.
CJRC (1150 Gatineau-Ottawa) will go to 104.7 (11 kW DA/95 m); CHLT (630 Sherbrooke) will move to 102.1 (23 kW DA/91 m); CHLN (550 Trois-Rivieres) will move to 106.9 (100 kW DA/87 m) and CKRS (590 Saguenay) will move to 98.3 (100 kW DA/148 m).
With the closure last week of CKTS (900) in Sherbrooke, that city will have no AM station once the CHLT move is complete, while the CKRS move will silence the AM dial in the Saguenay region and the CHLN move will leave only relay station CKSM (1220 Shawinigan) on the air in the Mauricie region.
Fifteen Years Ago: November 26, 2001
It’s not exactly a “fad format,” but there’s no mistaking the wave of format changes sweeping across NERW-land over the Thanksgiving weekend: stations all over the country, in fact, are dropping AC and oldies formats to go all-Christmas music for the next month. It’s largely a Clear Channel thing (and no wonder; it’s easier to make a flip like this when you own eight stations in the market!), with that group’s flips including WRNQ (92.1 Poughkeepsie), WALK (1370 Patchogue; the FM side stays AC), WTRY-FM (98.3 Troy), WMXW (103.3 Vestal), WYYY (94.5 Syracuse), WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) and WJJJ (104.7 Pittsburgh). But other groups are also getting into the holiday spirit: Barnstable, with WLVG (96.1 Center Moriches) on Long Island’s East End; Vox, with the satellite standards on WENU in Glens Falls going all-Christmas; Citadel, with WLEV (100.7 Allentown); and independents WHLM (930 Bloomsburg PA, using the Christmas music as a stunt to launch regular programming early in 2002) and WLSH (1410 Lansford PA, which has done this every year since it signed on!)
We’ll start the rest of this holiday-shortened week in the one part of NERW territory where it wasn’t a holiday: CANADA. While those of us south of the border were gorging on turkey and stuffing, Corus was busy getting rid of Howard Stern’s last Canadian outpost. As of this morning (Nov. 26), Stern will be off Toronto’s Q107 (CILQ 107.1), which was the first station in Canada to pick him up back in September 1997. Why drop Stern now? Q107 managers tell the Toronto Star ratings weren’t a consideration, that it was simply time to refocus the station on the Toronto market. To that end, Q107 and its sister station “Mojo 640” (CFYI) will move this week from their studios on Yonge Street in North York downtown to the Hard Rock Cafe at Yonge and Dundas. (If that happens to help Corus’ cost-cutting efforts, too, we wouldn’t be surprised…) Replacing Stern in mornings will be current Q107 afternoon jock (and former FAN 590 morning guy) John Derringer. As for Stern-heads in Toronto, they’ll have to point their antennas south to Buffalo’s WBUF (92.9), which continues to carry Howard.
Twenty Years Ago: November 25-29, 1996
Boston’s business-radio station is raising a lot more questions than it’s answering with its public pronouncements this week. WBNW (590) has been the subject of repeated sale rumors over the last few weeks, and now station owner Back Bay Broadcasting has gone to the trouble and expense of hiring veteran Boston PR man George Regan to spread the word that “there will be no change of owner.” In an article in Saturday’s Boston Herald, Regan is quoted as saying, “as far as (Back Bay owner) Peter Ottmar is concerned, no one has an option on the station.” The very next paragraph begins by noting that Salem Communications has an option on WBNW. It also answers a question we’ve been puzzling over here at NERW headquarters: it seems Salem picked up the option on WBNW in the process of selling KDBX(FM) Banks-Portland, Oregon to American Radio Systems this fall. This is the first solid confirmation we’ve seen of the long-held speculation that ARS had an option to buy WBNW ever since the station went on the air in September 1994.
Back to the denials: Regan tells the Herald that the departure of WBNW’s general manager, Peter Crawford, this week was a “mutual parting of the ways,” and he says October was WBNW’s most successful month yet. We’ll be keeping a very close ear on 590…at least as long as the station audio isn’t drowned out by all those denials.
It’s the radio saga that just won’t end: Alexander Langer’s attempts to return two dark New England AMs to the airwaves. Last year, Langer bought WBIV (1060) in Natick, Mass., which had been off the air since selling its transmitter site and equipment to Douglas Broadcasting for the new WBPS (890) Dedham-Boston. Shortly thereafter, he picked up WRPT (1050) in Peterborough, NH, which has been off the air for about four years. Ever since then, we’ve seen application after application for different ways to put the stations back on the air, including a dismissed application earlier this year to move WRPT down to Foxboro, MA (a move of over 100 miles!) with a change of frequency and power, to 650kHz. Now Langer’s trying again. An article in Tuesday’s Middlesex News alerted NERW to his latest application, this time to move WRPT to Ashland, MA as a 250 watt daytimer on 650. The transmitter site being proposed is that of WKOX (1200) in nearby Framingham.