*We’re still a few weeks away from the FCC’s release of the full list of who’s getting displaced where by the impending repack of the TV spectrum – but details are beginning to emerge about a few stations that are planning to leave the airwaves and others that will change bands or enter into channel-sharing deals with other stations.
The FCC released stations from the mandatory silent period last week, though most of the big corporate owners who dominate local TV are remaining silent so far by choice about what their individual stations are doing.
Several public broadcasters did open up about their plans, especially in Pennsylvania, where state budget cuts have pushed stations to make some difficult choices.
In Pittsburgh, for instance, WQED will reap $9.9 million in auction proceeds in exchange for giving up its high-band VHF signal on channel 13 in favor of a low-band VHF channel. In the heavily-cabled Pittsburgh market, WQED expects the change to have little effect for most viewers while helping to raise much-needed funds that can help retire the station’s longstanding debts.
In Harrisburg, WITF will get $25 million in exchange for agreeing to share its UHF spectrum with a yet-to-be-announced partner; the money will go into WITF’s endowment fund and the proceeds will pay for several new initiatives including a media literacy program and expanded statewide news coverage.
We know that Connecticut Public Television had already stated its intent to take WEDY in New Haven off the air, putting its valuable UHF spectrum near the crowded New York City market into the auction. CPTV hasn’t yet revealed how much it’s getting for WEDY.
What happens next, and what else can we glean from the first week’s announcements? That insight is in our subscriber-only section…
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*Fox Television Stations reported last week that it expects to receive $350 million from the spectrum auction, while Sinclair says it will get $313 million, Tribune expects $190 million and Gray will get just over $90 million.
Even without official announcements about who’s going away and who’s staying, we can make some extremely educated guesses. For Fox, a figure as big as $350 million means major markets are involved – and in particular, it’s likely that the company’s MyNetworkTV signals (which are mostly the same stations that Fox acquired from Chris Craft for $5.5 billion back in the headier days of 2000) will be fading away.
In NERW-land, that points to New York’s WWOR (Channel 9, occupying valuable UHF spectrum at channel 38), likely to be one of the bigger prizes of the entire spectrum auction. As a standalone Fox station, Philadelphia’s WFXT (Channel 29, RF 42) will likely be untouched, though it will be repacked to a lower UHF station as everything above RF 36 goes away.
Sinclair has been a prolific duopoly operator, which means it and its partner companies have plenty of excess spectrum to yield the company’s big auction payout. In NERW-land, Sinclair or its partners have duopolies (or more) in markets that include Portland, Albany, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Harrisburg, and we’d expect many of those markets to see duopolies going away in the auction.
Tribune has fewer duopolies to easily shed, though in NERW-land we’d pay particular attention to its Hartford combination of WTIC-TV (Channel 61) and WCCT-TV (Channel 20), which both have valuable UHF spectrum in the crowded Northeast corridor. It’s hard to imagine Tribune getting to that $190 million number without WCCT going away; as with most of these scenarios, we’d imagine WCCT’s CW programming would live on as a WTIC-TV subchannel.
Gray’s holdings don’t include anything in NERW-land, though its stations in West Virginia could contribute to clearing out Pittsburgh-area spectrum.
The biggest shoes, of course, have yet to drop – we still know very little about what will go away at big spectrum accumulators and duopoly operators such as Ion, Univision, Nexstar and CBS, none of which has broken the silence yet. We’ll be following these developments closely, of course.
*While Entercom works through its planned purchase of CBS Radio, life goes on at the company’s individual local stations – including in MASSACHUSETTS at WKAF (97.7 Brockton), where the urban AC format that launched in January is now staffing up.
After its jockless debut, “The New 97.7” launched its morning show last week, and it comes with another healthy dose of the DNA from Boston’s original station, WILD (1090), that has permeated so much of the new FM outlet. “The Morning Wake Up with KJ and Kesha” is helmed by KJ Carson and Kesha Monk, marking Carson’s return to the market 17 years after he left the old WILD to embark on a radio adventure that took him to North Carolina, Kansas City, Atlanta and Washington. Monk’s great-uncle was jazz great Thelonious Monk, and she’s worked in Chicago, LA and New York City. They’re heard from 6-10 weekday mornings on WKAF, where more talent announcements are expected soon.
*In VERMONT, Ion Television is now on the air in the Burlington-Plattsburgh market via the 3.3 subchannel of CBS affiliate WCAX, joining the “Movies!” subchannel on 3.2.
*Western CONNECTICUT‘s Berkshire Broadcasting has added one more translator to its growing roster in the Danbury market. News-talk WLAD (800 Danbury) is now on the FM dial via W231DJ (94.1), joining two other full-power stations and three other translators for a total of five program streams on the FM dial, plus two AM simulcasts.
*A few new callsigns for RHODE ISLAND: in Pascoag, the new Catholic signal on 91.5 will take the calls WSJQ, with the “SJ” standing for St. Joseph’s Radio Station, the licensee; meanwhile, once Rhode Island Public Radio completes its purchase of WUMD (89.3 North Dartmouth MA) and moves it to a new city of license of Newport, the station will take the WXNI calls that once lived on AM 1230 in Westerly.
*We’re still a few weeks away from the start of our Baseball on the Radio coverage for 2017, but there’s a new Red Sox affiliate for the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast: Binnie’s WTSN (1270 Dover) and its new 98.1 translator will bring Sox coverage back to the area this year after the team had been off the local airwaves for the 2016 season. (Before that, iHeart’s WQSO 96.7 held the rights.)
*Speaking of Binnie, it’s getting close to a format change in MAINE: the website for “W-BACH” WBQX (106.9 Thomaston) and its Portland translator, W245AA (96.9), has been shut down, ahead of what we’re hearing will be the end of the classical format at the end of February.
*In Rockland County, NEW YORK, Alexander Broadcasting has done a partial about-face with its recent format flip at WRCR (1700 Pomona), where the English-language talk format gave way last November to a full-time Indian format. Owner Alexander Medakovich moved the station’s talk programs to a streaming platform, but he says there was enough listener outcry to bring veteran morning host Steve Possell back to the AM airwaves – and so Possell’s show is now heard weekdays from 6-10 AM on 1700, which remains in the hands of its Indian programmers the rest of the day.
In the Hudson Valley, Sunrise Broadcasting has flipped WGNY (1220 Newburgh) from ESPN sports back to country.
*In New York City, WNSH (94.7 Newark) ups Katie Neal from weekends to middays, filling the gap left behind by Shila Nathan’s departure. Neal has risen quickly through the Cumulus ranks, starting in 2011 at the company’s legendary small-market top-40 WBNQ in Bloomington, Illinois before joining WNSH two years ago.
Where are they now? Rick Thomas, who left CBS Radio’s WBMP (92.3 New York) last month when his contract ended, has joined Cox in Tampa as operations manager for the company’s six-station cluster; he’s also programming top-40 WPOI (Hot 101.5) there.
Roy Schwartz went from WIBG in Philadelphia to New York’s WHN in the 1960s, then on to WVNJ in New Jersey as general manager in the 1970s. Schwartz, who was also a founder of Shadow Traffic, died Feb. 2 in Toms River, New Jersey.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Jon Marks has made the move from WPEN (97.5 the Fanatic) to competitor WIP (94.1), where he’s taking the 6-10 PM hosting shift as well as the Phillies pre- and post-game shows that will often displace his regular shift during the baseball season. Marks replaces Brian Haddad, aka “Sludge,” who moves into a production role as WIP’s creative services director.
*A big sports move in CANADA: Dean Blundell is out at Rogers’ CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) in Toronto, where he’s been a controversial presence for the last two years. Replacing him, in what Blundell and the station call a mutual decision, is former CJCL morning host Greg Brady and Montreal’s Elliott Price, who start Feb. 27 with “Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup with Brady and Price.” (Price, a former voice of the Expos, had been leasing time on Evanov’s CFMB 1280 until just last week.)
Way up north of Ottawa, Radio Communautaire F.M. de la Haute-Gatineau applies for a power boost at CHGA (97.3) in Maniwaki, Quebec. It would go from its present 2.9 kW/214 m to 11.9 kW average/16.9 kW max DA/205 m.
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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: February 15, 2016
*Not that it’s ever been a great time lately to be a radio employee, but the beginning of February has been a rough time indeed for staffers at many of the mid-size clusters around the region.
Albany-based Pamal made cutbacks last week at each of its clusters, and we’re still putting together all the details. At Pamal’s Albany cluster, Marissa Lanchak is out as afternoon jock/APD/MD at WFLY (92.3 Troy) after almost a decade. Carmen Hsieh is out from afternoons at WAJZ (Jamz 96.3), and Bob Green is retiring from WROW (590). In the Hudson Valley, WXPK (107.1 Briarcliff Manor) promotions director Dina Dresner is out – and so is the entire news department that served WHUD, WSPK, WBNR/WLNA and WBPM. That includes news director Brian Jones and anchor Sue Guzman.
And Thursday brought a big surprise from Boston’s top-rated country station: veteran WKLB (102.5 Waltham) morning man John “JW” Willis (right) is out after a run that started 22 years ago with afternoons at the station’s predecessor, WBCS (96.9). Willis ended up in mornings when WBCS was merged in with the original WKLB (105.7) to create a new WKLB on 99.5, and he’s been the only morning show WKLB has had for its entire run at 102.5.
Also out is his co-host, Lori Grande, who keeps her gig with Metro Networks; Greater Media says it will announce a new WKLB morning show sometime soon.
*There’s a new tower on the air on the south coast of MASSACHUSETTS, where Hall has completed the buildout of its new self-supporting 600′ tower for WCTK (98.1 New Bedford). The new tower went live on Tuesday, replacing the nearby guyed tower that will be coming down to make room for expanded port facilities. Sister station WNBH (1340) has already moved to another new tower at a different site.
Five Years Ago: February 13, 2012
*Of all the big names who graced the airwaves at WBZ (1030 Boston) over the decades, few wore as many hats as gracefully as Dave Maynard, who died Friday in Florida at age 82.
After beginning his career at two smaller stations, Medford”s WHIL (1430, later WXKS and now WKOX) in 1952 and then Boston”s WORL (950), Maynard came to WBZ in 1958 as part of the legendary “Live Five,” the station”s crew of top-40 DJs. But while most of those jocks moved on in the sixties, Maynard became a WBZ fixture, shifting from evenings to late mornings, then to afternoons in 1976.
By then, Maynard had become much more than just a radio host, taking over the reins of WBZ-TV”s “Community Auditions,” introducing the “Phantom Gourmet” to WBZ radio’s weekend lineup, making appearances on WBZ-TV”s “Evening Magazine” and, for a few years, serving as the one and only voicetracked host on the otherwise-neglected WBZ-FM (106.7). It was rather surprising, then, when new management at the station moved Maynard to the overnight shift in 1979 – but instead of working out the remainder of his contract and moving on, the versatile host flourished as a late-night talker, putting him in the right place at the right time a year later when WBZ”s venerable morning host Carl deSuze retired after nearly four decades on the job.
“Maynard in the Morning” quickly became a WBZ tradition in its own right, spawning a never-ending series of community fundraisers and some of the most memorable TV commercials in radio history. For the station that had long branded itself as “The Spirit of New England,” Maynard embodied that spirit, leading the show to a decade at the top of the ratings.
WBZ’s shift toward all-news moved Maynard back to late mornings in 1990, and a year later he retired from full-time work after more than three decades with the station. For several years afterward, Maynard and longtime producer Ruth Clenott were still occasional presences at WBZ, where your editor was fortunate enough to be a producer and writer on a series of features that Maynard hosted during the station’s all-news blocks. In 2009, Maynard was inducted into both the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the WBZ Hall of Fame, where he became the third member alongside his longtime colleagues Gary LaPierre and Gil Santos. (In 2011, they were joined posthumously by Carl deSuze.)
Ten Years Ago: February 12, 2007
*If you ever had any doubt that radio’s a fickle business – and that RHODE ISLAND is a particularly insular place – just ask Dave Barber. A year ago, the talk host left the Flint, Michigan market after more than a quarter of a century there, bound for Providence to take over Steve Kass’ former 9-11:45 AM shift on WPRO (630).
As of Wednesday, Barber’s out of that shift, and out of WPRO, as the station brings John DePetro back to Providence to take over mid-mornings. DePetro made his name in Rhode Island across town at WHJJ (920 Providence), before leaving in 2004 to do mid-mornings at Boston’s WRKO. That gig, of course, ended disastrously last fall when the station fired DePetro after a series of anti-gay slurs (not to mention weak ratings), and now DePetro”s returning to a less hostile market, where he’ll presumably be a little more careful with his choice of language. (2017 update: Or, you know, maybe not…)
What now for Barber? The Flint Journal, reporting that WPRO had replaced Barber with a “Jerry DePetro,” says it”s not clear whether the Rhode Island native will now return to Michigan radio. (He was last heard at Flint”s WWCK 1570 before taking the job at WPRO.)
*Over at DePetro’s former station in MASSACHUSETTS, there’s change in the air, too. Scott Allen Miller did his last morning show at WRKO (680 Boston) on Friday, and he’s now looking for a new gig, even soliciting career advice from his audience. Replacing him as of this morning, of course, is former state House speaker Tom Finneran. With only some fill-in talk gigs in his past, does the radio novice have what it takes to hold an audience day in and day out in one of the toughest talk markets in the country? We”ll be listening…
*There”s yet another new station coming on the air in CANADA“s largest market, as Evanov begins testing its new 50-watt signal on 103.9. The new station will be called “Proud FM,” and while it”s boasting of being North America’s first gay radio station, that”s not quite true – there was a pair of AMs in Seattle a few years back, among others. Mary Jo Eustace and Ken Kostick will be the new station’s morning hosts, with former CKFM producer “Bingo Bob” on board as their producer.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 11, 2002
Up in CANADA, listeners in Montreal will have to rearrange their morning radio habits next week. As part of the restructuring of its Montreal properties, Standard Radio flipped CHOM (97.7) from modern rock to classic rock over the weekend. Next Monday, Terry Dimonte, who was CHOM’s morning host from 1984 until 1993, will return to the FM side from sister station CJAD (800), bringing with him co-host Ted Bird and his production staff. Ric Peterson, who’s been hosting CJAD’s afternoon drive, will take the morning shift on the AM side, with former CHOM morning host Andrew Carter moving to Peterson’s old afternoon gig on CJAD. (Carter’s co-host, Pete Marier, is off to Winnipeg and CFWM…)
But wait, there’s more: CHOM is also moving out of its longtime Westmount home at 1310 Greene Street this coming weekend, joining CJAD and CJFM (95.9) at 1411 Fort Street. (Former CHOM sister station CKGM will stay put at Greene Street, we believe.)
From MASSACHUSETTS comes word that public broadcasting behemoth WGBH will soon be in a new home. We’ve reported several times in the last few years that Harvard, which owns some of the buildings in WGBH’s Western Avenue complex, has been urging the station to move so its property can be used for a Harvard Business School expansion; now it appears that plans are being firmed up to move the station a few blocks west to the Brighton Landing complex that’s already home to Entercom’s Boston stations. The plan calls for WGBH’s offices to occupy much of an existing building on the property, which is also home to the headquarters of New Balance. The studios would go into a new building nearby on Market Street, next to the parking garage across Guest Street.
There’s a format change, of sorts, in southeastern CONNECTICUT, as WAXK (102.3 Stonington) drops the hard edge from its rock format to become classic hits “XL102.3.” We’re hearing there are still some current tunes in rotation at the New London-market station, which is reportedly changing calls to WUXL.
Twenty Years Ago: February 8, 1997
Welcome to the first issue of NERW to come to you from our new home base in Rochester NY…and wouldn’t it just figure that nearly all the news this time is still from New England? Onward…
With just three days to spare, AM 1060 in Natick MA is back on the air. The erstwhile WBIV (and before that, WTTP and WGTR), returned to the air Thursday morning with a mighty 500 watts, daytime-only, non-directional, as contemporary Christian WJLT, “J-Light 1060.” Owner Alexander Langer is using the WKOX (1200) facilities in Framingham for the station, which would have lost its license on Sunday if it had not returned.
Local ownership is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in Waterbury, Connecticut. Both of the city’s FMs are now owned by conglomerates and operating from Hartford, and long-dark WQQW (1590) will vanish from the FCC files next week – and now WWCO (1240) has been sold. Buckley Broadcasting is buying the station from the Johnson family for $550,000. Buckley owns WDRC AM-FM in Hartford and WSNG in Torrington, and the company says it plans to simulcast Brad Davis’ morning show from WDRC(AM), but has made no other programming plans. WATR (1320), which reportedly had an interest in buying WWCO, is now the last local station in Waterbury. Thanks to NERW Connecticut correspondent Bill Dillane for that tidbit.
Call it “CBS”: The broadcasting half of the Company Formerly Known as Westinghouse spent 30 grand to hire a consulting firm to tell it what to call itself – and the surprise answer was: “CBS.” Not only that, but the highly-paid consultants came to the remarkable conclusion that the best logo for the new company was, you guessed it, the eye that CBS has used for almost 40 years. So…mark down “CBS Inc.” as the corporate ownership on Boston”s WBZ (1030), WBOS (92.9; for sale), WOAZ (99.5), WZLX (100.7), WODS (103.3), WBCN (104.1), and WBZ-TV (Channel 4).
In this week’s issue… Western PA AMs sell - KDKA vet steps back - New FM on the Rock - Changes coming at ESPN NY, Townsquare Buffalo - Remembering WPLJ's Banks, PA's "Banana Joe," NYC jazz legend Schaap, Binghamton's Fionte