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In this week’s issue… Maine loses a Pine Tree – Big cuts at CBS Radio News – So long, Diane – Another WCVB founder dies – Third CHIN for Toronto?

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

wwnz*It’s been an interesting downeast MAINE radio adventure for DC-based broadcaster Chuck Begin, but his Pine Tree Broadcasting is now preparing to leave the Pine Tree State. After selling WRMO (93.7 Milbridge) to Maine Public Radio, which took over the coastal FM signal on Thursday, Pine Tree filed on Friday to sell its three Bangor-area AM stations and its remaining Bangor translator to Port Broadcasting.

The $172,000 sale of AC “Wave” WBAN (1340 Bangor)/W231CH (94.1 Bangor), classic country “Country Road” WCYR (1400 Veazie) and oldies WGUY (1230 Veazie) came on the heels of a big week for Port, which also filed for a merger with Aruba Capital Holdings that wrmohad been announced more than a year ago. Aruba’s WXEX (1540 Exeter NH, plus translator W246BP) and WXEX-FM (92.1 Sanford ME) will join up with Port’s WWSF (1220 Sanford) and WNBP (1450 Newburyport MA) and their translators in the new Port. Port’s Carl Strube and Pete Falconi will each have 22% of the new company, while Aruba will have 29.1% and Aruba principal Andrew Hartmann will have 26.9% as his personal piece of the company. (Port has been operating WXEX and WXEX-FM under an LMA since April 2015.)

The addition of the Bangor-market stations will give the new Port a reach of more than 200 miles along the New England coast, and we’re excited to see what radio vets Strube and Falconi have planned for their newest market.

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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: December 8, 2015

*The last sizable market in PENNSYLVANIA whose top-rated stations are locally-owned independents is about to go fully corporate. On the heels of its acquisition of WGTY (107.7) and WGET (1320) from the Gettysburg Times and News, NERW has learned that Forever Broadcasting is about to acquire the other station group at the top of the York ratings, WYCR (98.5) and WHVR (1280) from longtime owner Radio Hanover, Inc.

wycrThe combination of country WGTY and classic hits “Peak” WYCR, along with their AM sisters, will give Forever a stronger beachhead as it moves eastward from its home turf in western Pennsylvania. WGTY is already at the top of the 12+ ratings for York with nearly double the market share of its closest Nielsen-subscriber competitor, Cumulus active rocker WQXA (105.7), but it’s believed that non-subscriber WYCR is right there at the top as well. For its part, Cumulus makes up most of the rest of the market’s listening via AC WARM-FM (103.3), classic hits WSOX (96.1) and several rimshots from its nearby Harrisburg cluster.

wgrf-norton-smAcross town, it was a tearful farewell Friday morning for Larry Norton at WGRF (96.9). After a laugh-filled benefit roast the previous night, the “Norton in the Morning” team assembled one last time to look back at Norton’s long career in Buffalo.

Just before the show’s end, Norton announced that he’ll stay in radio as a fundraiser for the market’s Catholic station, WLOF (101.7) – and that Buffalo will be one of several northeast stops on Bruce Springsteen’s just-announced tour, too. Rich “the Bull” Gaenzler moves across the hall from sister station WEDG (103.3) to take over 97 Rock’s morning drive today.

*Is the end near for CANADA‘s first and only French-language radio station aimed at the GLBT community? Less than a year after Evanov put CHRF (980 Montreal) on the air as “Radio Fierte,” the format disappeared last week, replaced by French-language Christmas music as “Noel 980.”

chrf-noelIs it more than coincidental that the logo for the new temporary format has a distinct resemblance to the “Jewel” soft AC format that Evanov runs just west of Montreal on CHSV (106.7)? And will Evanov make the case to the CRTC that it simply can’t survive with the specialty format it initially promised?

Five Years Ago: December 5, 2011

WCBS 880’s Broadcast Center studios, 2009

*For most of radio’s first century, most of the major broadcasters of NEW YORK CITY had something in common: their studios were all tightly clustered within a few dozen blocks of midtown Manhattan, in close proximity to the ad agencies of Madison Avenue and – once upon a time – to the entertainment district around Times Square from which many of the performers of radio’s heyday were drawn.

Over the last decade, though, the rise in midtown rents has been drawing stations south – and as of Friday afternoon, the last major English-language commercial station operating from north of 34nd Street has relocated to lower Manhattan.

That’s WCBS (880), which moved in 2000 from CBS’ “Black Rock” corporate headquarters on W. 52nd Street to the CBS Broadcast Center on W. 57th Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

We’ve known for a few years that it was destined to follow its CBS Radio sister stations southward as they migrated from their own midtown studios to a cluster of new studios spread out over two floors of 345 Hudson Street (or, at least in the on-air announcements, “Hudson Square.”) When CBS moved five of its stations – WXRK (92.3 NOW FM), WCBS-FM (101.1), WWFS (Fresh 102.7), WINS (1010) and WFAN (660) – into that building in 2009, it set aside a corner of one floor for a future move of WCBS(AM). That future arrived on Friday afternoon at 2, when WCBS wrapped up its last newscast from the Broadcast Center and began broadcasting from Hudson Square.

WCBS’ new Hudson Square digs

For those keeping score at home, the WCBS move now means that in not much more than a decade, nearly all of the city’s major English-language radio stations have moved below Canal Street: CBS, Emmis and Merlin’s WEMP are all lined up along Hudson Street, Clear Channel is in the old AT&T building on Sixth Avenue, WOR is now way downtown near Trinity Church and WNYC, once the only station with downtown studios, is in its new digs on Varick Street. The only uptown holdouts are Cumulus’ WABC/WPLJ and ESPN’s WEPN, at Penn Station; Inner City’s WBLS/WLIB at 34th and Park; Bloomberg’s WBBR at Lexington and 58th – and in Spanish, the SBS stations (WSKQ/WPAT) on 56th Street and Univision (WXNY/WQBU/WADO) in the old CBS building at 485 Madison, near 52nd Street.

On a practical level, aside from a new commuting pattern for the station’s staffers, the WCBS move probably doesn’t mean as much as some might think: despite sharing an address with the CBS Radio News national newsroom and WCBS-TV (Channel 2) for more than a decade, there was little synergy taking place within the Broadcast Center, where the 880 studios and offices were so isolated behind their own locked doors up on the eighth floor that at times, some of the network staffers downstairs didn’t even know the radio station had moved into the building.

Likewise, while the move makes physical neighbors out of two stations that were long bitter rivals until coming under common ownership in the 1990s, it doesn’t necessarily portend more cooperation between WCBS and WINS. The two all-newsers are on separate floors of the building (WINS and WFAN are on one level, while WCBS is upstairs with the three FM stations), and as long as each station remains among the top revenue producers in the market, they’ll continue to be very separate operations.

Upstate, we know what WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) general manager Mark Vogelzang will be doing next year: he’s been hired by the MAINE Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) to take over as president and CEO, replacing Jim Dowe when he retires at year’s end after five years on the job.

Vogelzang came to WBFO two years ago in an interim capacity, hired by the State University of New York to oversee the station while it was in the process of being sold. That sale, putting WBFO in the hands of former crosstown rival WNED, will close early in 2012. By then, Vogelzang will be working out of MPBN’s Lewiston and Bangor offices, managing the statewide radio and TV networks. The MPBN job will be his first in TV; his career thus far has been spent entirely in public radio, where he was program director of Philadelphia’s WHYY and then spent 16 years at the helm of Vermont Public Radio.

*In CANADA, Cogeco is making good on its promise to the CRTC to sell several of the stations it bought last year from Corus. CJEC (91.9 Rythme FM) and CFEL (102.1 CKOI) would have put Cogeco above the market ownership cap in Quebec City, and after operating under a trustee they’re now headed to Leclerc Communication. No purchase price has been announced, and Cogeco says it still hasn’t found a buyer for the third station in trust, CJTS (104.5 Sherbrooke).

Ten Years Ago: December 6, 2006

It’s been rumored for years, anticipated for months, and scheduled for a few weeks now – but you’ll forgive us if we think the move of one of the most venerable FM stations in MASSACHUSETTS is still pretty big news.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for a while now, you know what this is all about: Charles River Broadcasting exiting the Boston market after almost 60 years of owning first WCRB(AM), now WRCA, and then WCRB-FM on 102.5; Greater Media upgrading its country WKLB by purchasing the 102.5 signal; and Nassau entering the market and preserving the WCRB classical format by acquiring WKLB’s former home on the Lowell-licensed 99.5 signal.

The swap took place at noon last Friday (Dec. 1), with Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” as the last piece played on WCRB at 102.5, while WKLB finished off its run at 99.5 with the “Star-Spangled Banner.” WCRB apparently finished first, with a short interval of dead air on 102.5 while the anthem finished on 99.5 – and as the anthem faded out, the signals were switched, both stations ID’d on their new frequencies, and it was on to the “Hallelujah Chorus” for WCRB on 99.5 and “Life is a Highway” for WKLB on 102.5.

There’s new management in place at WCRB under the new ownership: Nassau’s New England director of sales, Paul Kelley, is now general manager, while Mark Edwards becomes Nassau’s director of programming for New Hampshire and Boston, adding the role of PD at WCRB to his duties.

WCRB’s also doing extensive television advertising to promote the move, using Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Keith Lockhart as a spokesman. (In the ads, Lockhart picks up a Bose Wave radio – is it more than coincidence that Bose print advertising has long displayed “102.5” on every radio shown? – and literally moves it a few notches to the left…)

For WKLB, the move to the more centrally-located 102.5 signal promises a better signal on the South Shore and in many areas west and south of Boston, as well as in parts of the city that aren’t overwhelmed by the powerful FM signals on the Prudential Tower. For WCRB, it’s a mixed blessing – we’ve already heard from listeners on the southern fringe of the 102.5 signal in Rhode Island and northeastern Connecticut who can’t hear the 99.5 signal, but on the other hand, the station’s now audible in much more of New Hampshire than ever before. (And, perhaps most saliently in an era when classical radio is fading fast, it’s still there, period – and Nassau’s already promising a celebration of WCRB’s 60th anniversary in 2008.)

Sadly, one of the people most closely associated with WCRB for much of its run at 102.5 didn’t live quite long enough to see the station move. Richard L. Kaye, longtime station manager and host of WCRB’s eclectic Saturday night program, died Wednesday (Nov. 29). Kaye came to WCRB in its AM-only days, before the 1954 debut of the FM signal, and oversaw many of the technological developments at the station in the ensuing decades, from the early AM/FM stereo broadcasts through to the quadrophonic experiments of the 1970s. Kaye also engineered the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s broadcasts on WCRB, as well as many of their recordings, and he held the second-largest stake in Charles River Broadcasting, behind the family of founder Ted Jones.

*VERMONT Public Radio has signed on its newest signal. WJAN (95.1 Sunderland), formerly one of Pamal’s “Cat Country” outlets, returned to the air last week from Mount Equinox, carrying VPR’s main program service to an area stretching from Brattleboro up through Manchester and Poultney, as well as a big chunk of New York State north of Albany. Cat Country remains on the air in Rutland, at WJEN (94.5); expect new calls on the Sunderland signal soon.

*Speaking of Albany, NEW YORK‘s capital has a new (or at least moved-in) FM station. Many months after its Glens Falls-area predecessor, WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury), went silent back in May, WBZZ (105.7 Malta) signed on last Wednesday from the Bald Mountain transmitter site of WNYT (Channel 13), simulcasting hot AC “Buzz” WABT (104.5 Mechanicville). Expect a new format sometime soon for the 104.5 half of what’s now being called “Buzz Radio.”

Fifteen Years Ago: December 3, 2001

NEW HAMPSHIRE’s highest court will hear the case of a broadcaster’s long-running attempt to put a new AM station on the air. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed this week to accept Bob Vinikoor’s appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld the city of Hanover’s decision not to allow Vinikoor to build three towers for WQTH (720 Hanover). The city’s zoning laws limit towers to 45 feet in areas where they’re permitted at all, and city lawyers point to the controversial Cross-Field Antenna (tested in Egypt, but not approved by the FCC or conclusively even demonstrated to work) to show that the rule doesn’t prohibit new AM towers completely. Vinikoor, who owns WNTK (1020 Newport/99.7 New London) and WNBX (1480 Springfield VT), says that’s just what the rule does, and he’s asking the court to rule that the city can’t keep him from building his station.

Up in MAINE, Rob Gardiner announced this week that he’ll leave his post as president of Maine Public Broadcasting sometime next year. Gardiner has led the statewide network since 1988, weathering controversies that included the format shift on Maine Public Radio from classical to news/talk-intensive. In a memo to employees obtained by NERW, Gardiner says his plans after leaving MPBC in a year or so include “a long vacation,…time with my family, and enjoy[ing] some months with few schedule demands or responsibilities that would keep me awake in the middle of the night.”

A change of command in CONNECTICUT: Kirk Varner has been named news director at WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven. The Nutmeg State news veteran (WFSB and ESPN, among others) has spent the last few years with Time Warner as head of the company’s local all-news operations (which would make him your editor’s ex-boss’s-boss’s-boss’s-boss, if you follow the chain of command up that far!) Varner starts the new gig at WTNH on January 7.

We’ll jump over to NEW JERSEY next, as Nassau and Multicultural Broadcasting flip their holdings along the Delaware River. Here’s how it works: Nassau picks up WVPO (840 Stroudsburg PA) and WSBG (93.5 Stroudsburg PA), which the company used to own before selling them to Multicultural, along with WJHR (1040 Flemington NJ), which Multicultural bought a couple of years ago. Multicultural gets sports WTTM (1680 Princeton NJ) and business-talk WHWH (1350 Princeton NJ), one of Nassau’s original stations. But before any format-change rumors get started: Nassau’s been operating the Multicultural stations under an LMA all along, and will continue to LMA WHWH, so very little will change for listeners.

Twenty Years Ago: November 29 – December 9, 1996

Winning an “A.I.R.” award wasn’t enough to save Boston newsman Dave Faneuf’s job. Just two days after he was named best newscaster, Faneuf was let go from CBS’s oldies station, WODS (103.3). “Oldies 103” management tells the Boston Herald that afternoon news on a music station no longer makes economic sense in Boston. Morning news guy Gordon Hill appears to be safe for now.

The dark AM/FM combo up in Lincoln, Maine has been sold. WTOX (1450) and WHMX (105.7) had been in bankruptcy; they’re being transferred to the Bangor Baptist Church, which owns WHCF (88.5). No word on exactly what WHCF plans with its new outlets, both of which serve territory that’s already well within the reach of WHCF’s 100kw transmitter.

A familiar voice has returned to the Boston airwaves on WROR (105.7 Framingham-Boston). Joe Martelle, the longtime morning host at the original WROR (98.5, now WBMX) began his new afternoon shift at the new ‘ROR last week, after his non-compete agreement with WBMX came to an end. It’s been more than a year since Martelle’s been heard in Boston; he was sidelined by illness, then ousted from his morning spot at WBMX in favor of John Lander.

The holiday spirit is in full swing on the New Hampshire seacoast, as WSTG (102.1 Hampton NH) returns to an all-holiday music format for the second year in a row. “The Stage” used holiday music for all of last December as a transition from its old “Seacoast 102” AC format to the current mix of AC and standards. This year’s run of holiday music started December 1 and will last through Christmas.

Sold!: Clear Channel Communications has closed on its purchase of Radio Equity Partners, creating a new radio-TV combo in the Providence market, as WWBB (101.5 Providence, oldies “B101”) and WWRX (103.7 Westerly, classic rock “WRX”) join CBS affiliate WPRI-TV 12 under the Clear Channel umbrella. The deal also gives Clear Channel WHYN and WHYN-FM in Springfield MA. WHYN is a news-talker on 560, and WHYN-FM is hot AC on 93.1. Congratulations to WHYN PD Gary James and the staff, by the way, for what NERW hears was a phenomenally successful reunion sock hop last month!

Also closed is the deal that transfers news/sports WNEZ (910 New Britain-Hartford CT) from American Radio Systems to Mega Spanish Broadcasters. Look for a format change at WNEZ any day now; we’ll keep you posted.