In this week’s issue… Next steps for CBS-Entercom deal – Major Lazer expansion – Bell cuts go deeper – TVO cuts OTA broadcasts – Quebec broadcasters reflect after mosque killings
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Is the impending merger of CBS Radio into Entercom going to be “the biggest story of 2017,” as our colleague Tom Taylor declared Friday? That might be a premature declaration – but there’s no question the multi-billion-dollar deal is going to be a huge topic in the months to come.
In our NERW Extra on Thursday, we answered some of the immediate questions that arose from the deal, but those were just the beginning of what’s going to be a complex process. (If not necessarily a slow one – Entercom showed its determination to move this deal forward quickly when it announced Friday that it’s returning its license for KDND in Sacramento. That’s the station that got in FCC hot water with its “Hold your wee for a Wii” contest a few years back in which a listener died, and rather than wait out the wheels of FCC justice, Entercom decided sacrificing a license worth perhaps $20 million was a reasonable price to pay to get faster FCC approval for the CBS Radio deal.)
Which brings us to the questions we’re pondering this Monday morning:
Is Entercom up to the all-news challenge? Those of us who’ve worked in all-news radio (can it really be 20 years this month since your editor left Boston’s WBZ?) know that it’s a particularly difficult format to execute. By its nature, it’s as expensive as radio gets, requiring a team of reporters, writers, editors and anchors for every shift. It takes years to build an audience (remember “FM News” in New York and Philadelphia?), and its current audience isn’t getting much younger.
The CBS Radio deal will give Entercom most of the nation’s all-news stations, as it inherits the legacies of both the original CBS (including WCBS in New York) and of Westinghouse (WINS in New York, KYW in Philadelphia and WBZ in Boston). Entercom has never run all-news, and it has only a handful of major news-talkers around the country. Will the company be willing to make the continued investment needed to keep its all-news jewels healthy? How much of the existing CBS management will stay? And how much of the $25 million in cuts that Entercom plans to make will come out of those expensive newsrooms?
And given its mixed track record with moving spoken-word formats to FM (successfully at KIRO in Seattle and KMBZ in Kansas City, less so at WBEN in Buffalo), will Entercom be any more aggressive than CBS has been in moving those legacy all-news formats to FM?
Who’s looking for trades? To comply with FCC ownership caps, Entercom plans to get rid of at least 14 stations nationwide in addition to shutting down KDND. Those include signals in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco/San Jose, Seattle and of course Boston, where at least three of the combined ten CBS and Entercom stations will have to go.
In its conference call, Entercom said it intends to pursue tax-free swaps instead of sales. So who’s out there who might want some combination of spinoffs from the CBS and Entercom clusters in Boston? The likeliest contender is iHeart, whose Boston cluster of three FMs (“JAMN” WJMN, “Kiss” WXKS-FM, “Bull” WBWL) and two AMs (talk WKOX and business WXKS) has always lagged in size behind Entercom, CBS and the Greater Media cluster that’s now part of Beasley. Indeed, iHeart may be the only logical suitor for one especially troubled Entercom property, talker WRKO (680). Could Rush Limbaugh, now in high-dial AM exile at WKOX, make yet another return to WRKO in the end?
What about the smaller markets? Rewind a couple of decades to the deregulatory 1990s, and you might recall that one of our big stories was the CBS acquisition of American Radio Systems – which in turn forced Justice Department-mandated spinoffs of some excess signals, including what became the core of Entercom’s Boston cluster. But CBS kept other stations in smaller ARS markets for many years, until its management decided that it made more sense to focus the company’s efforts on the big money that it could make in the biggest markets.
That strategy paid off for many years, but now Entercom seems poised to reverse it, setting itself up for the same challenges that have bedeviled big operators such as iHeart and Cumulus: how do you set up a management structure that works for both a New York cluster billing tens of millions of dollars a year and for a cluster in Wilkes-Barre or Rochester? (Or, for that matter, Entercom’s standalone WEEI relays in Providence, Worcester and Springfield?)
Might Entercom package some of its smaller markets for a swap? And could some smaller ex-CBS markets like Hartford come along for the ride?
Who’ll run the ship? It hasn’t escaped notice at the CBS New York cluster that one of Entercom’s board members is former CBS Radio chairman/CEO Joel Hollander, whose tenure at the company was controversial, to say the least. Hollander at least has big-market experience. Will Entercom look to move its own people, whose experience is largely in medium markets, into management in its new top-10 markets?
And oh yeah, what about that Boston sports rivalry? It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little more than seven years since CBS launched WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) as a shot against the Boston bow of Entercom’s WEEI. For all the speculation going on in the last few days, we simply do not yet know whether the combined CBS/Entercom will keep both brands alive as profitable rivals, whether it will attempt a risky merger between them, whether it will try transplanting WEEI to a better FM signal – or whether it might even spin one off to appease regulators.
The loser here, almost certainly, will be team owners looking for big payouts for radio rights. In retrospect, did Sports Hub pass up the chance to bid for the Red Sox last year because CBS was already talking to Entercom about putting WBZ-FM under the same roof as WEEI? We may never know – but with the prospect of putting all of Boston’s pro sports rights in Entercom’s hands, rights fees are almost certain to decline in years to come.
*One more note from last week: the FCC quietly inaugurated a new policy of open access to regulations that had previously been secretly “on circulation” among commissioners. The first such proposal, which will go before the Commission later this month, would expand the area within which an AM station can site an FM translator. That’s good news for many AM owners; we’ve already heard from several who are hoping to use the relaxed rules to upgrade their signals.
Can Fybush Media‘s consulting services help your AM station benefit from the new rules? Let’s talk…
OUR CALENDARS ARE ON THE MARCH
If you’re still waiting to buy your Tower Site Calendar, we’ve got a great reason not to put it off…it’s on sale!
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.
John 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.
*CONNECTICUT‘s WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport) is no more. Owner People’s Broadcast Network, LLC had told the FCC it was taking the station silent on Feb. 1, 2016, then applied for a second six-month silent period last September.
Because it didn’t return to the air by Feb. 2, 2017, the 5,000-watt daytimer has now had its license cancelled. Most of its leased-time programmers have found new homes in the year since WDJZ went silent; WNLK (1350 Norwalk) seems to have absorbed the majority of the former WDJZ programming.
In Hartford, Liz Grey Godbout has been named news director at Tribune’s WTIC-TV (Channel 61), replacing Coleen Marren; she’d been working in communications for Frontier Corp. but had served previously as news director at WTNH and WVIT.
And we salute Fran Schneidau, who retired last week after an amazing 40-year run as Connecticut bureau chief for WCBS (880) in New York. Schneidau, who’s 78, had worked as a stockbroker and then at WICC (600) in Bridgeport before joining WCBS in 1977; her departure was noted by governor Dannel Malloy, who declared “Fran Schneidau Day” in her honor.
*There’s a format flip in Saga’s NEW HAMPSHIRE translator lineup: in Concord, translator W276BJ (103.1) has dropped its simulcast of “Hits” from WZID (95.7-HD2), replacing it with country fed by WZID-HD3 as “Outlaw 103.1.” The Hits format continues on another Saga translator, 94.1 in Manchester – and in Concord, Outlaw brings back a brand that was last heard in the market on the old WOTX (102.3) from 2000 to 2004.
*In western MASSACHUSETTS, Saga is expanding the reach of its “Lazer” active rock format. WLZX (99.3 Northampton) doesn’t reach all the way down the Pioneer Valley into Springfield very well, and now it’s being augmented by a format flip at WHNP (1600 East Longmeadow).
The AM station changed calls to WLZX on Thursday when it flipped from a simulcast of progressive talk WHMP (1400 Northampton) to WLZX-FM – and it’s now being heard on translator W286DB (105.1 East Longmeadow), which is the former 97.7 translator from Saga’s cluster in Ithaca, New York. With its bigger coverage, Lazer pairs up with Saga’s classic rock WAQY (102.1 Springfield).
*National sentiment may not have favored the Patriots to win a fifth Super Bowl last night, but it was surely a good night for the home-team Fox affiliate, Cox’s WFXT (Channel 25) – and we note that the local newscasts there no longer include “Fox 25” in the bug, just “25 News.” Cox has never been big on putting network branding on its local news, so perhaps this should be read as just the continuing Cox-ification of the former Fox O&O.
(WFXT, incidentally, received permission from Fox to delay the network’s post-Super Bowl premiere of “24:Legacy,” instead going to local news as soon as the Fox network post-game show ended and running “24” at 1:30 AM.)
*There’s a new LPFM in Franklin: the town’s public access TV channel put WFPR-LP (102.9) on the air Thursday morning at (when else?) 10:29 AM. The Milford Daily News reports the station is still building out studios while it runs a mostly-automated music format.
*Meanwhile back in upstate NEW YORK, Saga replaced progressive talk on 97.7 and its former AM partner, WNYY (1470 Ithaca), with oldies on Wednesday. The new “Pure Oldies 94.1” replaces WNYY’s old translator with a new one, W231DK (94.1, moved from East Liverpool, Ohio), running 250 watts from the WNYY site on Ithaca’s South Hill. It’s one of eleven formats Saga runs in the market.
Where’s Jud Heussler headed as he leaves Entercom’s WKSE (Kiss 98.5) in Buffalo? The afternoon jock/APD is joining Curtis Media in Raleigh, N.C. as PD of “Pulse” WWPL/WPLW, his first PD gig.
Rick Warboys grew up in Rochester, went to school at Grahm College in Boston, then came back this way after graduating in 1978 to work at WGVA in Geneva, WSYR-FM in Syracuse and WMJQ and WKLX in Rochester. After leaving WKLX in 1990, Warboys worked in retail and eventually ended up in Indianapolis. He died there last week, at age 58.
*In a quiet week in PENNSYLVANIA, we note that Jimmy Steele is out as PD/morning man at iHeart’s WRFY (102.5 Reading); he also served as PD of sister WRAW (1340 Reading) and programmed for iHeart’s Salisbury, Maryland cluster. Former co-host Andi continues solo in mornings on Y102.
*Over-the-air TV is already a decidedly hit-or-miss affair in CANADA: outside major cities, you need cable or satellite service in most areas to see a full offering of networks (many of which happen to be owned by those same cable or satellite providers, of course.)
Now it appears that antenna-using TV viewers in Ontario will lose access to the province’s public TV network, TVOntario, unless they live within range of the network’s main transmitter on the CN Tower in Toronto. TVO officials announced last week that by July 31, they’re pulling the plug on their transmitters in Belleville, Chatham, Cloyne, Kitchener, London, Thunder Bay, Windsor and even in Ottawa. That will save TVO approximately C$1 million in annual operating costs and eliminate seven transmitter maintenance jobs – and it will mark the end to what was once an extensive network of transmitters that once operated in more than 100 communities. TVO says it expects the shutdown to affect less than 1% of its viewers across the province.
*While TVO cuts back, the CBC continues to make expansions to its radio coverage in bits and pieces. It’s just received CRTC permission to put up a new Sarnia relay of ICI Premiere outlet CBEF (1550 Windsor). The new CBEF-3-FM will run 1,886 watts/104.7 m on 101.5.
*It appears last week’s dismissal of veteran CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto) midday host Ingrid Schumacher wasn’t just a one-off event; Bell Media now says it’s making an unspecified number of job cuts across Canada. In Montreal, that included Heather Backman, who’d been co-hosting mornings at CHOM (97.7) with Terry DiMonte for the last five years, as well as CHOM part-timer Paul Beauregard.
Also in Montreal, Steve Faguy reports that the nightly “Sportsnight Tonight” on CFMB (1280) came to an end Friday night, a year after host Elliott Price began doing English-language sports on the multilingual station. The former CKGM (TSN 690) host says the show never quite got the support it needed from Montreal’s Anglo community, and he told listeners in a farewell Facebook message, “please invest in our future or soon none of us will live here or our culture will be completely gone.”
Meanwhile, Quebec’s Francophone radio community was also doing some soul-searching after the deadly attack on a mosque in Ste.-Foy last week. Quebec City has long been known for its “trash radio,” featuring prominent hosts such as Andre Arthur and Jeff Fillion and often including a strong streak of xenophobia.
While it’s not clear that the alleged attacker was a listener to those shows, Quebec’s premier is speaking out, as is at least one radio host. Sylvain Bouchard of CJMF (93.3) tells Le Journal de Montreal that he feels he “failed his duty” to understand Quebec’s Muslim community, noting that after more than a decade doing radio in the capital he still had no Muslim names or numbers in his address book and he had no idea who to contact in the community after six of its members were killed.
“I think we should have made connections and talked with these people,” he said. “It is in dialogue, it is in talking to the world, it is there that one realizes that we are not so far from each other. We have differences of opinion, but we are the same. They are Quebeckers who work, who raise families. I think there was a lack of dialogue.”
We’ve seen previous promises to clean up Quebec’s “trash radio,” most of which have yielded few results. Will this attack, which left six dead and several more critically injured, bring about more change?
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: February 8, 2016
If you’re trying to make sense of where Boston TV is heading, here’s a bit of advice that’s been true ever since 1972: don’t bet against WCVB (Channel 5). While Sunbeam’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7) is working out its post-NBC future next year and Comcast is getting ready to launch its new “NBC Boston,” one of the market’s biggest local news stars is now on board with WCVB, where she’s helping to launch a new newscast that will take on her former employer directly.
That would be Maria Stephanos, who reappeared on Channel 5 last week to end five months of local TV exile after her departure last September from Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25). Her exit from WFXT was a blow to that station as it settled in under new Cox ownership, and it could have been a huge boon for Comcast in its attempt to give Boston viewers a reason to try out the new local newscasts it will launch next year on its new NBC affiliate.
But instead of going to the new NBC Boston, or to Sunbeam to help bolster WHDH after the loss of NBC, Stephanos is joining the already formidable WCVB newsroom, where she’s now anchoring at 7 and 11 PM with Ed Harding.
And Stephanos’ new job comes with a new newscast, too: WCVB is about to become the last of Boston’s big four TV newsrooms to launch a 10 PM broadcast, which Stephanos will anchor on WCVB’s MeTV 5.2 subchannel.
*Last week began with a surprise format change in NEW YORK City, where WWRL (1600) went from regional Mexican “Radio Invasora” to South Asian “Radio Zindagi” on Monday morning.
For now, it’s an LMA between Zindagi programmer NJ Broadcasting LLC and WWRL owner Access.1, but NJ Broadcasting plans to buy the 25 kW signal. NJ Broadcasting is owned by Dr. Nimisha Shukla of Edison, NJ, and its programming had been heard on an HD subchannel of WQHT (97.1) and on several translators. (RadioInsight reports those signals are now carrying another South Asian service, Radio 8K, also heard on WWTR 1170 in New Jersey.)
*In MASSACHUSETTS, there was a stealth format change in Boston: Alex Langer’s WZBR (1410 Dedham) flipped to an urban format last week as “The Bass of Boston.” Will the new leased-time programmers try to find a translator to get their new format on FM?
*In the years when RHODE ISLAND‘s WLKW (990/101.5 Providence) was one of the top beautiful-music signals in the country, Norm Jagolinzer was that station’s distinctive voice. Jagolinzer also worked at WARA in Attleboro and WPRO in Providence. He retired in 2004 and was inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame. Jagolinzer died Feb. 1 at 83.
Five Years Ago: February 6, 2012
*Less than a year after New Jersey governor Chris Christie handed over operation of the state’s public TV and radio network to out-of-state broadcasters, RHODE ISLAND‘s PBS outlet is facing the prospect of losing its state funding.
A budget proposal last week from governor Lincoln Chafee would reduce state support of Rhode Island PBS (WSBE-TV 36) from just under a million dollars in fiscal 2011-2012 to $425,000 in 2012-2013 and then to zero in subsequent years.
Beyond the end of state funding, Chafee apparently isn’t envisioning a complete shutdown of the “RI PBS” service. Like the old NJN networks, the WSBE license is held by a state agency, the Rhode Island Public Telecommunications Authority – but unlike NJN, “RI PBS” has long looked beyond state funding as its major source of support, depending on a combination of membership and underwriting ($1.2 million in last year’s budget) and Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants ($700,000 last year) to make up about 60% of its $3 million total annual budget. Chafee says the station should be looking to those sources, especially fundraising, to make up for the state budget cut, but station officials say underwriting support was sharply down last year, making that prospect doubtful.
*Blueberry Broadcasting is once again shuffling formats in Bangor, MAINE. Just months after moving Fox Sports WAEI-FM from the big Bangor-licensed 97.1 signal down the coast to the Brewer-licensed 104.7 and sending country “Bear” WBFB to 97.1, we’re hearing there’s another flip on 104.7, which has become classic hits “B 104.7.” That leaves Fox Sports in Bangor as an AM-only format, on WAEI (910). The new “B 104.7” is announcing new calls of WBAK, which suggests that it’s being set up as a near-clone of Blueberry’s successful WABK (104.3 Gardiner) in the Augusta-Waterville market.
*The big news out of NEW YORK is once again at Merlin Media’s WEMP (101.9), where another of the station’s founding executives is out. Liz Aiello came in last June as vice president of programming, boasting a resume that included executive positions at Sirius XM and WABC-TV, but no all-news radio experience. With “FM News 101.9” still struggling to get ratings traction, Aiello’s last day at the station was Thursday; Tom Taylor reports the day’s cuts at WEMP also included production VP Jerry Rohira and senior director of digital programming Rich McLaughlin.
Ten Years Ago: February 5, 2007
*The FCC’s continuing to deal with the flood of applications it’s received under its new “one-step” rules for moving radio stations’ cities of license – and that means a few more interesting applications in PENNSYLVANIA and NEW YORK for us to tell you about this week.
The biggest application in this week’s batch comes from Cumulus, which filed to move WFAS-FM (103.9 White Plains) to Bronxville, New York. For now, WFAS-FM will stay put at its current transmitter site in Greenburgh, just off the Sprain Parkway, but NERW expects a subsequent application to move the station’s transmitter within New York city limits.
As a pre-1964 grandfathered station, WFAS-FM doesn’t have to protect its second-adjacent neighbors on the Empire State Building, WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) and WAXQ (104.3 New York), but it does have to stay at least 15 km from WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ), which is also on Empire. That means it’s likely to end up somewhere in the Bronx, where it will probably end up joining another move-in, Cox’s WCTZ (96.7 Stamford CT, moving to Port Chester NY).
Will Cumulus hang on to the station after the move, or will it become trade bait? Stay tuned…
Meanwhile, out at the other end of the state, Farm and Home Broadcasting is applying to get WFRM-FM (96.7 Coudersport PA) out of its economically-troubled hometown and into the larger Olean market. Coudersport was the home base of Adelphia Communications, and the economic boom there under the Rigas family has quickly gone bust, with the collapse of the company, the convictions of its founders and the impending closure of the Adelphia call center that provided much of the town’s employment base.
While WFRM (600) will stay in Coudersport, the FM side wants to cross the state line to Portville, New York, running 460 watts at 155 meters from a communications tower on Savage Hollow Road in Olean.
*There’s a new tower up in MASSACHUSETTS. Carter Broadcasting’s WCRN (830 Worcester) put up a new fourth tower at its transmitter site on Thursday, and with the tower up and a new ground system in place, “True Talk 830” is almost ready to boost its night power from its present 5 kW to 50 kW – just in time for Red Sox opening day, as the station becomes the Sox affiliate for Worcester and much of the Metro West region, where new flagship WRKO (680) doesn’t reach well after dark. Veteran consultant and station owner Clark Smidt is on board at WCRN helping the station take maximum advantage of its impending power increase, too.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, we can clear up some callsign confusion in Erie: though it initially announced it was changing calls to WFGO, the oldies station on 1330 will remain WFNN for now. Why not pick up the calls of the former “Froggy” FM (now WXBB, “94.7 Bob FM”) along with the format? NERW suspects the idea is to keep the WFNN calls out of the hands of crosstown WRIE (1260), which has picked up the sports format formerly heard on 1330.
In the York area, Cumulus is applying to move WGLD (1440 Red Lion) to a new city of license and a new transmitter site. WGLD (ex-WTHM, ex-WGCB) has been operating on and off from a longwire antenna at its Red Lion site ever since tower construction for sister station WSOX (96.1 Red Lion) disrupted its original facility. Now Citadel wants to change WGLD’s city of license to Manchester Township, moving the station to the WSBA (910) site with 730 watts day, 53 watts night, non-directional.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 4, 2002
A 48-year legacy of television broadcasting from the highest point in the Northeast is coming to an end within days, as WMTW-TV (Channel 8) shuts down its transmitter atop Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE in favor of a new tower west of Sebago Lake in Maine. While Portland-area viewers will notice little change in their WMTW-TV service, the move is causing some interesting side effects in the North Country. Cable systems in places like Berlin, Gorham and Lancaster all used WMTW-TV as their ABC affiliate, but they won’t receive service from the new Sebago Lake site.
And that, in turn, ends up being very good news for Manchester ABC affiliate WMUR-TV (Channel 9), which has long operated two LPTVs in the North Country. W27BL in Berlin and WMUR-LP (Channel 29) in Littleton carried WMUR newscasts, but were barred from carrying WMUR’s ABC programming because of WMTW-TV. With channel 8 gone from the area, both signals (which dropped Fox late last year and were running only the local newscasts) will begin carrying the full WMUR schedule to North Country broadcast and cable viewers this week.
That brings us to MASSACHUSETTS, home of the World Champion New England Patriots, and we’re just sorry we don’t still live in Boston as we write this Sunday night. Sure, we’re happy for Messrs. Kraft, Belichick, Brady, et al…but we’re especially pleased for the team’s longtime radio announcers, former Pats coach Gino Cappelletti and veteran WBZ sports director Gil Santos. It’s taken far too long for Gil and Gino to be able to announce a championship, and for a while there, we were afraid they’d both retire without getting the chance. (Alas, only those within range of the WBCN signal were able to hear Gil and Gino’s call of the game; NFL rules restrict home-team coverage to flagship stations only, so the rest of New England had to listen to the Westwood One network coverage.)
The Pats’ win will be one of the last big stories to be covered on Fox Sports New England’s late-night “Regional Sports Report.” Budget cuts at the regional network mean FSNE’s 10 PM and weekend reports will be cancelled at the end of this week, leaving only the 6:30 PM show. Among the job cuts: anchors Eric Frede and John Holt.
The big news in NEW YORK came from Buffalo – and we don’t mean the windy, windy weather last Friday. The winds of change continued to blow hard at the Entercom cluster in the Queen City earlier in the week, as Clip Smith was informed (upon arriving to work on Tuesday) that his 6-10 PM talk show on WBEN (930) had been cancelled and his services were no longer required. Smith, a former sports anchor at WKBW-TV, came to WBEN in early 2000 as part of the format changes that turned his former home of WGR into an all-sports station. Smith’s time slot is being filled by an hour of news at 6, followed by the Laura Schlessinger show formerly heard from 9 AM until noon. Moving into that slot is Tom Bauerle, who finally leaves the WGR sports format in which he’d been an uncomfortable fit since being paired with Chris “Bulldog” Parker in 2000. There’s already plenty of speculation in Buffalo media circles that Bauerle’s being groomed for morning drive at WBEN – and that the Laura move is just a prelude to her disappearance from the Buffalo airwaves.
Twenty Years Ago: February 1, 1997
Wanna buy a tower? The five-tower site in Ashland MA that’s home to WBPS (890 Dedham-Boston) is up for sale, according to an ad in this week’s Broadcasting & Cable. The ad claims the 40-acre site can be used for all kinds of communications, including beepers, cellphone, LPTV, and FM. The site is priced at $3.5 million. This could be interesting for WBPS, as word has it that they’ve had a hard time maintaining their directional pattern as it is. The site was built in 1980 for John Garabedian’s WGTR (1060 Natick), which was upgrading from a 1000-watt non-directional daytimer. WGTR later became WBIV (with a few stops along the way), and then in 1994, the station’s physical plant was sold to Douglas Broadcasting, which used them to put WBMA (later WBPS) on the air on 890, leaving 1060 dark.
An unusual partnership between a noncommercial FM and a commercial AM station is making headlines in Amherst MA. WFCR (88.5) is leasing eight hours a day from WTTT (1430 Amherst), to broadcast programming that’s otherwise unavailable in the area. The “WFCR on WTTT” schedule runs weekdays from 10am till 6pm, and includes “The Connection” from Boston’s WBUR, “Monitor Radio Midday Edition,” “The Derek McGinty Show” from WAMU in Washington, “Talk of the Nation” from NPR, “The World” from WGBH in Boston, and “The Diane Rehm Show” from WAMU. WTTT broadcasts short underwriting announcements at the start and end of each hour, and the stations split the revenue. The public radio programming replaces Bloomberg business news on WTTT.
More from the pirate front: It seems Bloomfield CT’s “Praise 105.3” was even claiming to have call letters for a time. “FMedia!” says the station went by “WPRZ,” calls which belong to AM 1250 in Warrenton VA. The station was reportedly running 60 watts. Meantime, “Radio Free Allston” in the Boston area is looking far and wide for support. Its founder has been running notices in the newsletter of the National Writers Union local, asking for support for the station and promising that it will feature copious coverage of local arts. No sign of any actual broadcasting on 88.5 so far.
O Canada…where have you gone?: That’s what CBC listeners in New England could be wondering in a few years. The CBC has applied to move its Montreal outlet, CBM, from 940 to 88.7 FM. CBM’s 50 kilowatt signal blankets the region at night. Another Montreal-area AM, CKVL (850 Verdun) is one of the applicants for the vacant 95.1 FM slot. With CKVL gone, night power could be in the offing for WREF (850 Ridgefield CT), and Boston’s 50kW WEEI could improve its pattern to the northwest considerably. Competing for 95.1 is the CBC’s French-language CBF (690), which has one of the best AM signals in the northeast. Another Montreal FM frequency could open up if CIME 99.5 Ste.-Adele is granted a move to 103.9. One broadcaster has already applied for 99.5 in Montreal.
And that closes the books on the final column to come to you from Waltham MA. NERW hits the road this weekend, and you can expect the next column to arrive from Rochester NY sometime next week. We’ll see you then!