In this week’s issue… Remembering Alan Colmes – DTV repack details emerge – “Frank” shifts on ME coast – Erie, Utica FMs seek upgrade – TVO stays on air
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When news broke from NEW YORK about the death of Alan Colmes Thursday morning, the headlines were predictable – “Liberal half of Hannity and Colmes dies,” and the like. But in the extended universe of radio people, Colmes enjoyed a much longer and larger legacy in a five-decade career that included multiple stops in Boston, New York City and elsewhere.
The Long Island native worked at WRHU (88.7) while attending Hofstra, then started his professional career at WERI (1230/103.7) in Westerly, RHODE ISLAND in the early 1970s. He did mornings at Boston’s WEZE (1260) from 1972-1975 as the station went through a brief spurt as an oldies/top-40 mix, later working at WACQ (1150), New Haven’s WNHC (1340), New York’s WHN (1050) and back in Boston at WZLX (100.7) in the early 1980s.
Moving from music to talk (and making use of his skills as a stand-up comic), Colmes joined New York talker WABC (770) in 1984 as morning host (“W-Alan-B.-Colmes”), then segued over to WNBC (660), where he became the last voice heard on the station when it signed off in October 1988. Colmes also worked at WMCA (570) for a brief time before the station was sold to Salem and went religious, and he signed off WEVD (1050) after it was leased to Radio Disney.
By the early 1990s, Colmes was a successful second-tier syndicated talker, which led to “Hannity and Colmes,” which ran on Fox News Channel from 1996 until 2009. Colmes remained with Fox News as a commentator right up until his death Feb. 23. Ironically enough for the last voice heard on “66 WNBC,” Colmes was 66 years old.
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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 29, 2016
*Radio’s oldest technology isn’t going down without a fight.
As the FCC continues its evaluation of new rules for the AM band, several broadcasters who own class A AM signals are looking for evidence they can bring to the Commission to show that skywave reception of distant AM stations still matters.
From Schenectady to Waterloo, Iowa, those big (lower-case) clear channel stations are asking listeners to check in and let them know if they’re still tuning in outside their local coverage areas. WGY’s version of the pitch goes like this:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed measures that would permit greater interference on WGY, which will reduce WGY’s ability to provide you with quality broadcasting at night. That means if their proposal passes, it will make it very difficult for many of you to hear our programming at night and during morning and evening drive times.
It’s all part of the ongoing “AM Improvement” proceeding, the same one that created the AM translator window that’s been so busy lately. As the FCC moves into the next phase of the proceeding, one proposal on the table would take away the protection that class A stations still enjoy for their skywave signals.
Those in favor of the idea say it would give smaller-market AMs an opportunity to extend their programming after sunset; on 810, for instance, stations in places such as Annapolis, Maryland and Grand Rapids, Michigan that must now protect WGY’s distant signal would be able to retain more of their daytime coverage areas at night.
On its face, it looks like a good idea; wouldn’t a strong local voice be more important to local listeners in Maryland or Michigan than a faint distant signal from upstate New York? (It does the argument no favor, either, that the nighttime programming WGY touts as being so important all comes from elsewhere – syndicated hosts Michael Berry and Mark Levin and the ubiquitous Coast to Coast AM.)
But here’s the problem: as we’ve noted over and over again, both here and in filings to the Commission, the medium-wave frequencies at which AM radio operates simply don’t play by neat rules. Whether or not it’s of any economic advantage, the signal WGY sends out will travel at night – and so will the signals that get added to class A channels like 810 if the FCC reduces or eliminates skywave protection.
Which means not only that the stations getting new night signals may find they don’t get very far, but that stations like WGY, KDKA, WTIC and WBZ that are now the only truly viable AM signals across their sprawling markets will get significant added interference within those home markets, reducing their ability to reach local audiences effectively and rendering them more like the increasingly noisy class B channels that now typically reach only parts of large markets clearly. How, exactly, does that benefit AM radio overall?
*There’s a new format coming this morning in CANADA‘s biggest market. As we hinted last week, Newcap has flipped classic hip-hop CFXJ (Flow 93.5) to rhythmic AC as “93.5 the Move.”
Most of the Flow airstaff remains in place, except for morning co-host Melanie Martin and middayer Miss Ange; Mastermind is now on the air from 6 AM until noon, followed by JJ at noon and Peter Kash at night.
*There’s a new “Bigfoot” in central PENNSYLVANIA: as of last Monday, Seven Mountains has flipped “Big Country” (WYGL 98.3 Elizabethville/WWBE 100.5 Elizabethville) to a second “Bigfoot Country” simulcast, joining its existing WIBF (92.5 Mexico)/WDBF (106.3 Mount Union). The new “Bigfoot” adds two more signals to 98.3 (now WQBG) and 100.5 (now WRBG) – it’s also simulcasting on the big signal that was WFYY (106.5 Bloomsburg) and is now WCFT.
Seven Mountains, run by the wife and daughter of Forever’s Kerby Confer, is picking up on Forever’s use of cutesy air names (as, for instance, at its “Froggy” stations); former WWBE/WYGL afternoon jock Kyle Alexander is now in mornings as “Kyle Hunter,” alongside “Shelly Woods,” ex-Shelly Marx. It’s now “Beti the Yeti” (really?) in middays, followed by ex-middayer Todd Stewart (now “Harry Mann” ) in afternoons and “Mikey Mannimal” at night.
There’s yet another format shift in the cluster: WVSL-FM (92.3 Riverside) drops ESPN and goes classic hits as “Hanna” with new calls WHNA. Former WFYY morning man Mark Roberts is now doing mornings at that Susquehanna Valley signal (which is where that name comes from…)
Five Years Ago: February 27, 2012
*It’s taken a long, long time to get a signal on the air at 94.9 in Montauk, NEW YORK.
It was way back in September 1989 when a group called “Women Broadcasters, Inc.” first applied for a class A construction permit way out there on the eastern tip of Long Island. That incarnation of 94.9 never came to fruition; after years of delays, the permit was cancelled in 1996 and the frequency was left fallow for more than a decade before being offered again at auction.
Last year, 21 rounds of bidding for the 94.9 signal ended with a $180,000 bid from “CSI Media Research,” part of John Fuller’s growing media presence based in southeastern CONNECTICUT, which is the area Fuller will be targeting when he officially signs on the station, now WJJF, this week.
The new WJJF (its calls are Fuller’s initials, previously used on his first station in the area, now WCRI 1180 in Hope Valley, R.I.) will be a news-talk outlet calling itself “94.9 News Now” and anchored by a local morning show hosted by Lee Elci. Elci’s been working for Cumulus (and before that, Citadel) for the last six years at another talker in the region, WXLM, following that talk format and those calls as they’ve moved around the dial from 104.7 (another Montauk-licensed signal) to 102.3 to 980.
*Country music fans in the southern part of the New York metro area already have their dials pointed to 106.3 to hear Press Communications’ WKMK (106.3 Eatontown NJ) – and as of Thursday, their counterparts at the northern end of the market will be able to hear country on 106.3 as well.
That’s thanks to Cumulus, which is flipping WFAF (106.3 Mount Kisco) from a simulcast of adult contemporary WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) to a simulcast of “Kicks Country” WDBY (105.5 Patterson), which operates out of the Cumulus cluster in Danbury/Brookfield, Connecticut. The new “Kicks” simulcast will reach from the Danbury area south to central Westchester County; depending on the behavior of the Bronx pirates who also use the 106.3 frequency, it will sometimes be audible in southern Westchester and into the Bronx as well.
*Buffalo’s WBFO (88.7) officially changes hands Wednesday night – and so far, there’s little official word about what will be heard on that frequency (and simulcasters WOLN 91.3 Olean/WUBJ 88.1 Jamestown) once new owner WNED takes over.
Behind the scenes, we’re hearing the transition will actually take place at 10 AM on Thursday, following one last WBFO-produced “Morning Edition” with host Bert Gambini to close out the station’s Allen Hall studios on the UB South Campus. After that, it appears most of what will air on WBFO will come from WNED’s existing news staff, largely as a simulcast with WNED (970). Informed sources tell us WBFO news director Eileen Buckley will join the WNED news staff, but most of the rest of the existing WBFO news staff won’t make the transition.
Ten Years Ago: February 26, 2007
*While the FCC’s commissioners spent Friday in Harrisburg, PENNSYLVANIA talking about media consolidation (and staying longer than planned, as big public turnout pushed the scheduled 2:30 PM ending time to 3:30 PM), a real-life example of the trend was playing out up north in CANADA.Just after the markets closed, Standard Radio and Astral Media, already two of the largest broadcasters in the country, announced plans for a C$1.3 billion sale that will put Standard’s 52 radio stations in the hands of Astral, creating the largest privately-owned radio group in Canada.
For Astral, the purchase will finally take the company’s radio holdings national, expanding beyond its current footprint in Quebec and the Maritimes. It’s a goal Astral has had for some time, including an unsuccessful bid for CHUM Limited last summer. For Standard, it marks the end of 22 years of Slaight family ownership. (The family will retain Standard’s other assets, including a share in Sirius Canada.)
The merger gives Astral a toehold in Toronto, where Standard owns news-talk CFRB (1010), soft AC “EZ Rock” CJEZ (97.3) and hot AC CKFM (99.9), as well as a new presence in Hamilton, London, and most of Canada’s major western markets.
It also creates new clusters in Ottawa/Gatineau, where Standard’s CKQB (106.9 the Bear) joins Astral’s “Energie” CKTF (104.1) and “Rock Detente” CIMF (94.9), and most dramatically in Montreal, where Standard’s English-language news-talk CJAD (800), AC CJFM (Mix 95.9) and rock CHOM (97.7) join Astral’s “Rock Detente” CITE (107.3), “Energie” CKFM (94.3), as well as rimshot “Boom FM” outlets CFEI (106.5 St.-Hyacinthe) and CFZZ (104.1 St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu). Will the CRTC mandate a sale of some of those overlapping signals?
*There’s plenty more news from north of the border this week, including a new station on the air in Montreal.
Test transmissions from “Radio Shalom,” CJRS (1650), have been widely heard by DXers in the eastern US and as far afield as Scotland. When the station begins regular programming soon, it will feature a lineup of shows aimed at the Jewish community, as well as several other ethnic groups.
*Crossing the border to upstate NEW YORK, we can now put a price tag on the deal between EMF Broadcasting and Galaxy Broadcasting, which turns out to involve a third Galaxy station. In addition to the two Albany-market FMs that flipped from “Bone” rock to EMF’s satellite-delivered religious formats last week (WBOE 94.5 Ravena to “K-Love,” WOOB 93.7 Scotia to “Air One”), EMF’s $3.65 million purchase from Galaxy also includes Syracuse-market WSCP-FM (101.7 Pulaski), which is heard in Syracuse via translator W267AL (101.3).
WSCP-FM dropped its classic country format late last week and flipped to contemporary Christian “K-Love,” creating a network of “K-Love” outlets along the Thruway that now stretches from Rochester’s WKDL (104.9 Brockport) through Syracuse to WKVU (100.7 Utica) and the Albany stations.
And what of WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek), the erstwhile AM simulcast of WSCP-FM? When we tuned in Sunday afternoon, it had flipped from classic country to a simulcast of Galaxy classic rocker WTKW (99.5 Bridgeport)/WTKV (105.5 Oswego), “TK 99 and TK 105.”
*In PENNSYLVANIA, CBS is getting ready to vacate the Independence Mall building that’s been home to KYW (1060) and KYW-TV (Channel 3) since the early seventies, and more recently to WYSP (94.1) and WPSG (Channel 57) as well.
The radio stations are moving a block away, to 400 Market Street (is that close enough to keep using the “From Independence Mall” stagers on Newsradio 1060?), and the TV stations are moving to the huge office building at 1500 Spring Garden Street. Some business offices have already moved, and the last of the studio and newsroom operations should be gone from Independence Mall by mid-March, we’re told. The KYW building at Fifth and Market will be demolished and replaced by a new museum of American Jewish history, scheduled to open in 2010.
Fifteen Years Ago: February 25, 2002
A pair of station sales in NEW HAMPSHIRE and VERMONT top this week’s brief report, as Saga adds four more outlets to its New England cluster and Tele-Media further shrinks in the region. The properties in question are the venerable AM/FM combos of WKVT in Brattleboro, Vermont and WKNE in Keene, New Hampshire; the former consisting of a 1 kW news-talk graveyarder on 1490 and a class-A rocker on 92.7, the latter of news-talk on 1290 and the big-signal CHR on 103.7. The price tag? Saga will pay $9.08 million to add the Brattleboro-Keene stations to a group that includes nearby holdings in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and Manchester, N.H. Will the AMs join the three-station simulcast that includes WHMP in Northampton? We’ll keep you posted…
Not much to report from MASSACHUSETTS, except for the effort on Beacon Hill to persuade the NFL to allow WBCN (104.1) and WEEI (850) to present the rebroadcasts of the Super Bowl play-by-play they’d hoped to offer the week after the Patriots’ big win. The NFL stepped in and barred WBCN from rerunning the Gil Santos/Gino Cappelletti call, as well as preventing WEEI from presenting the Westwood One national call that was never heard in Boston; now state lawmakers want to urge the NFL to change its mind and allow the broadcasts.
We’ll start our NEW YORK news with the conclusion of the auction for channel 51 in Pittsfield, Mass., which will serve the Albany market when it signs on. Venture Technologies won the station with a $1,323,000 bid; its down payment is due March 4, with a completed application for a construction permit due to the FCC March 20.
Down in New York City, Pete Fornatale was off the air at WFUV (90.7) for the past two weekends, as he negotiates his future with the Fordham University-owned public radio station. Fornatale is apparently upset about criticism he received from station management for political comments he made on his February 9 “Mixed Bag” show; he’s also negotiating for extra money for the Web archives of the show, we hear.
Twenty Years Ago: February 28, 1997
Two of Boston’s largest FM stations have new owners. CBS is trading WBOS (92.9 Brookline-Boston) and WOAZ (99.5 Lowell-Boston), along with WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia) to Greater Media, in even exchange for Greater’s KLSX (97.1 Los Angeles) and KRLA (1110 Pasadena-Los Angeles). CBS was under Justice Department orders to sell WBOS and WMMR, as part of its purchase of Infinity. WOAZ simply went along with the deal, just as it did when Infinity acquired it from Granum just a few years ago. No immediate format changes are expected at AAA WBOS or at smooth jazz “Oasis,” which now form a group with AC WMJX (106.7), oldies WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham-Boston), country WKLB-FM (96.9), and WNFT (1150). WNFT is in search of a new format, following the demise of KidStar, the Seattle-based childrens’ network that had been leasing 1150 for some four months. KidStar folded abruptly last week, sending 1150 back to its default mode of simulcasting 96.9 until someone else signs up to lease it. Rumor has it that rival kids’ programer Radio AAHS is contemplating a deal for 1150.
We now know what Salem will call AM 1260, the former WEZE Boston. The new calls are WPZE, for “Praise 1260.” The WEZE calls move to 590, the former WBNW. Both stations are still simulcasting for the moment, but separate programming for 1260 is expected soon.
Squeaking through: WRPT (650 Ashland MA) made it on the air with just hours to spare before the February 9 deadline for keeping its license. Like sister station WJLT (ex-WBIV) 1060 Natick, WRPT is operating from one tower of the WKOX (1200) site on Mount Wayte Avenue in Framingham. WRPT is running the “Talk America #2” network programming for now. Also back in time were WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY), which is being leased by crosstown WZBZ (1070) to simulcast its talk programming, and WAUB (1590 Auburn NY), which is simulcasting WLLW 93.7 Clyde NY for now. We don’t know the fates of WHWB (970 Rutland VT), WEGP (1390 Presque Isle ME), or WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek NY) — and we’d like to hear from anyone who does! Dead and gone are WQQW (1590 Waterbury CT) and WLNG (1600 Sag Harbor NY).
Rhode Island’s got something to dance to: WDGF (100.3 Middletown) has dropped its simulcast of WDGE (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale, “The Edge”) to become dance music “The Beat.” WDGF is the former smooth jazz WOTB; it had been simulcasting WDGE for only a year or so.