In this week’s issue… Into the new world of channel sharing – Talent moves in Philly, Montreal and upstate – New FMs in Toronto, Ottawa – Remembering a religious radio pioneer – PLUS: Baseball on the Radio – The Minor Minors
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Think you understand what’s happening under the hood in the complicated world of local television broadcasting these days? Spectrum auction, repack, ATSC 3.0, UHF discounts…it all made for plenty of discussion at all sorts of levels at NAB in Las Vegas in April (and at an informative SBE Ennes Educational Seminar a week ago in Syracuse, too.)
We’ll spare you all the verbiage (unless you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case, have at it) and skip to the interesting part: when Binnie and Univision entered into this deal back in January, they did more than just make the “usual” (by today’s standards) detailed agreements about who’ll cover what costs and how much bandwidth each station will get when they move in together at WUTF’s Hudson transmitter site and shut down WBIN’s much less potent OTA transmitter north of the border.
Here’s the more interesting part: Binnie has an option to sell off the WBIN license to Univision, by way of a put/call agreement that was included in the sharing deal. Within 60 days of the FCC’s announcement of the auction results (which came in May), either side can trigger that sale, putting what remains of WBIN in Univision’s hands for (if we’re reading this correctly) a $16.76 million payment to Binnie.
It’s easy to see why the deal would be worth it for Binnie, who’d add even more cash to the very substantial proceeds he’s already received for WBIN’s spectrum. It also explains why Binnie was so quick to close down his NH1 TV news operation after the announcement that WBIN was going into the auction; what’s left on WBIN has been essentially filler programming, and the move to a channel share with WUTF wouldn’t have even allowed what remained of WBIN to broadcast in HD. (Binnie will, however, keep the WBIN calls; the deal explicitly states those don’t go to Univision if it buys the license.)
But what’s in it for Univision? Here’s what it looks like to us: if the sale goes through, the benefit to Univision is that it gets a second full-power TV license in the Boston market, effectively allowing it to turn its existing WUTF license into two stations that can each assert cable and satellite must-carry or negotiate for retransmission consent.
Could that eventually allow Univision to end its deal that allows Entravision to operate WUTF as a UniMas affiliate alongside Entravision’s own Univision affiliate, WUNI (Channel 27), instead letting Univision run both of its networks on WUTF?
Or – and here we’re getting purely speculative – could Univision have a deal in the works to sell the remnants of the WBIN license to NBC? Comcast doesn’t need the cable carriage, of course, but bandwidth on the WUTF Hudson transmitter would finally give NBC Boston what it’s still lacking: full over-the-air coverage all the way to the western and southern ends of the Boston market.
(And yes, in this brave new world of TV spectrum sharing, it’s not even impossible to imagine Comcast swapping spectrum on Univision’s WUTF for New Hampshire bandwidth on archrival Telemundo affiliate WNEU.)
Will Binnie or Univision actually pull the trigger on this deal? No such filing has been made with the FCC yet – but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the Commission to see if that changes in the next few weeks.
FEBRUARY IS ALMOST GONE
We are down to our final copies and they won’t be reprinted.
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*The brave new world of broadcasting is bringing changes to the radio landscape in NEW YORK‘s Hudson Valley, too: ahead of the FCC’s planned freeze on FM applications before it opens a new AM translator window in July, several translator permittees are applying for new facilities in the region.
In Poughkeepsie, iHeart had originally applied to move a translator from New Jersey (where it was W275AT 102.9 Four Corners) to 98.5, where the renamed W253BV was to have become an FM partner to talk WKIP (1450). But 98.5 is awfully close to iHeart’s own WCTW (98.5 Catskill) just up the valley – and so now they’re applying to move the translator to 99.7 instead.
Over in Middletown, Bud Williamson has two new applications in the pipeline – for his own WALL (1340), he’s applying to move W277DH (103.3 Quinns Corners PA) right into Middletown with 250 watts, while W244DK (96.7 Middletown) would move across the Hudson to Mount Beacon, where it would remain on 96.7 with 25 watts aimed southeast. (That translator is listed as relaying Sound of Life’s WLJP 89.3 Monroe.)
There’s no permanent replacement yet on WUTQ, where they’ve been using interim hosts on “Talk of the Town.”
*In Buffalo, Townsquare is making a change at its underperforming WMSX (96.1), where it’s dropped Laura Daniels as morning host. Daniels started at what was then WJYE in 2012, replacing veteran Joe Chille. She’s looking for her next radio address, and Mix 96 has yet to announce a permanent replacement in mornings, where middayer Juli Hinds is covering for now.
*Over at WECK (1230 Cheektowaga, and a translator at 102.9), July 10 is the date for new owner Buddy Shula to debut his new all-local lineup, starting with Tom Donahue, Gail Ann Huber and newsman John Zach on “Good Morning Buffalo” at 6. Jon Summers follows at 9 AM, then Harv Moore at noon, Mike Jacobs at 3 and Shula himself at 7.
*Mitch Davis had a long history in New York radio news, working upstate and then at the old WNEW (1130) before spending many years in network news management, most recently at Fox News Radio, where he’s been the network’s VP. Davis, who got Fox into the hourly news business beginning in 2003, will be retiring from the network effective June 23.
Where are they now? Don Brake, whose long career in country radio has included programming stops in Binghamton, central Pennsylvania and most recently in Frederick, Maryland, is going home to Morgantown, West Virginia. He’s now doing afternoons at WKKW (106.5).
*CBS Radio’s latest cuts fell last week in western PENNSYLVANIA, where Ally Butler and Andy Davis are out after a little over a year together in morning drive on WDSY (107.9 Pittsburgh). Butler had moved from middays to mornings to launch the new show back in February 2016, when Davis joined Y108. No replacement has been named yet at the country station, which has been struggling to hold its footing against Forever’s Froggy stations.
*Across the state, there were more changes on the Philadelphia FM dial, too, this time at Jerry Lee Radio’s WBEB (More FM 101.1), where Logan has departed the afternoon shift.
Just down the street at CBS Radio, there are three newly minted assistant PDs to fill the gaps left behind by recent cutbacks: WXTU (92.5) afternoon jock Mark “Razz” Radziewicz, WTDY (96.5) middayer Michael Bennett and WOGL (98.1)’s Nicky G (just moved from nights to afternoons) each take that role at their respective stations.
*There’s a new translator on the air just in time for summer at the NEW JERSEY shore: Press Communications’ WHTG (1410 Eatontown) put W264DH (100.7) on the air last week with 21 watts from the tower of sister station WKMK (106.3 Eatontown), right where the Garden State Parkway meets Route 18.
*In CONNECTICUT, NBC’s local management at owned-and-operated WVIT (Channel 30) broke with the network Sunday to preempt the controversial “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” episode featuring an interview with Alex Jones. It’s a sore subject in that particular market because of Jones’ claim that the Sandy Hook school shootings were faked.
“Because those wounds are understandably still so raw, we have decided not to air this week’s episode of Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” the station said in a statement, directing interested viewers to the NBC News website to watch the show instead.
*Speaking of Hall of Famers, who was that visiting Marc Lemay’s morning show on Haverhill’s WHAV-LP (97.9) on Friday? None other than local hero Tom Bergeron, who was back home to help Tim Coco’s local station raise money; it’s a cause Bergeron has been supporting since Coco started the new WHAV as a streaming operation a few years back, and we’re glad to see he’s still banging the drums for hometown radio.
*Costa-Eagle is applying for a big modification for its translator for WCCM (1570 Methuen). That translator, formerly VERMONT Public Radio’s W237BF (95.3 Middlebury), had tried to move to 92.1 in Lawrence before interference issues with WDER-FM in NEW HAMPSHIRE shut it down there, then applied for 105.3 near Salem.
Now Costa-Eagle is taking advantage of the FCC’s revised rules on AM translator siting to apply to move the translator again- still to 105.3, but now running 250 watts DA from a site all the way down in Charlestown. The directional signal will be aimed north-northwest from that new site, with a deep null protecting WWLI (105.1) from Providence.
*Out west, Leah Rantz comes to Saga’s WLZX-FM (99.3 Northampton)/WLZX (1600 East Longmeadow) to take over afternoon drive, filling the gap left by Pat Kelly’s move to mornings at “Lazer.” Rantz had been with Adams Radio’s WZBH (93.5) at the Delaware shore.
Saga has been as aggressive as anyone both in building translators and in challenging other broadcasters who don’t precisely comply with FCC regulations, and it turned its attention to WYHV-LP (98.7 Chicopee), challenging the Church of the New Covenant when it filed a license to cover for the new LPFM near Springfield. Saga says the station wasn’t constructed where its permit said it was supposed to be, and it persuaded the FCC to rescind the license to cover it recently granted. The church has 30 days to submit documentation to the FCC to prove it really built the station properly before its CP expired.
*In MAINE, Bob Bittner applies to downgrade his WJYE (1280 Gardiner) at night, dropping its present 5000-watt directional pattern to go to 40 watts, non-directional. WJYE will stay at 5 kW non-directional by day, and it will presumably make up for the lost night coverage with a translator on the FM dial.
APTN, the national TV network for aboriginals, applied for all five and told the CRTC that the applications weren’t severable, but the CRTC granted the network only two of the markets it sought. APTN’s new First People’s Radio will get Toronto (CFPT 106.5, 984 watts average, 2.6 kW max DA) and Ottawa (CFPO 95.7, 9.1 kW). The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta got AVR’s former frequencies in Calgary and Edmonton to add to its province-wide CFWE network, while Northern Native Broadcasting gets Vancouver to add to its network of aboriginal signals out west.
So what happens to Énergie after August 14? That’s still not at all clear, Faguy writes, and we’ll be keeping an eye on it for you.
Meanwhile on the AM dial, the countdown to the June 30 deadline for TTP Media to put its new English-language signal on the air at AM 600 has produced at least one result: the new station will use the CFQR calls that used to be on what’s now CKBE (92.5 the Beat). So far, TTP is playing only automated music on its CFNV (940), which is supposed to be doing French news and talk, and the group still has no studio or staff in place. Will the CRTC let them keep sliding?
We’ll post a more detailed tour of the new CBC studios at the London Public Library downtown later on over at Site of the Week – but for now, here are a couple of shots of the interesting open newsroom-studio that faces Dundas Street.
*And how about one last Baseball on the Radio installment? The short-season New York-Penn League is just getting underway for the summer, and there are still a few of those charming little class A teams that get radio coverage. Starting close to home, the Batavia Muckdogs stay in place on WBTA (1490), starting with their home opener tonight, while their Thruway rivals, the Auburn Doubledays, enter a second season on WAUB (1590/98.1), which will carry 34 home games on weekdays and Saturdays. Downstate, we somehow missed the cool news last year that the Hudson Valley Renegades‘ announcer is Josh Caray, grandson of Harry himself; he’s back for a second season with 38 home games and a handful of road games on WLNA (1420 Peekskill), WGHQ (920 Kingston) and WBNR (1260 Beacon). There’s once again no broadcast radio coverage for the Tri-City Valley Cats, the Staten Island Yankees or the Brooklyn Cyclones.
The Vermont Lake Monsters appear to be back on longtime flagship WEAV (960 Plattsburgh), the Lowell Spinners on WCAP (980) and the Connecticut Tigers in Norwich stay with WICH (1310), which carries the full season (yet isn’t mentioned anywhere on the team’s own website, oddly).
In Pennsylvania, the State College Spikes are in their second year with WRSC (1390), while the Williamsport Crosscutters have renewed their deal with WLYC (1050/104.1) for a tenth season. Station owner/GM Todd Bartley does home play-by-play; Ian Catherine does color commentary at home and play-by-play on the road.
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: June 20, 2016
*Ordinarily, we’d never think of leading a column by telling you that a cluster of radio stations is about to remain under the same management that’s been leading it for years.
That deal, inked in September 2014, was itself supposed to resolve uncertainty that stemmed from the personal bankruptcy of George Kimble. The veteran station broker owned two-thirds of the Finger Lakes Radio Group and its subsidiaries, continuing a family tradition that went back to his father’s ownership of WCGR (1550 Canandaigua).
At the bankruptcy auction, Danziger’s group outbid Bishop, who already owned a third of the cluster – and that led to the odd situation in which Bishop continued to manage the stations while waiting for Long Point to close on the purchase. Under Kimble and Bishop, the Finger Lakes group now includes most of the dial between Rochester and Syracuse: news/talk WGVA (1240 Geneva) and WAUB (1590 Auburn) plus translators; country WFLK (101.7 Geneva)/WCGR (1550, plus a translator); AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo); rock “Wall” WLLW (99.3 Seneca Falls) and country WFLR (1570 Dundee, plus two translators).
*Our NERW Extra on Wednesday told you about the FCC’s denial of the big Syracuse-market swap between Family Life Ministries and Craig Fox’s Foxfur group, and the $20,000 fine the Commission handed Foxfur for unauthorized transfer of control of what’s now WCIS (105.1 DeRuyter) as a result of Family Life’s LMA of the signal.
Because the FCC dismissed the original Family Life/Foxfur swap without prejudice, it can (and no doubt will soon) be refiled without the original LMA that created the ownership-cap issue that triggered the FCC’s attention; once the swap is actually complete, of course, there’s no issue with caps, since the swap of two FMs (105.1/96.7) for one (92.1) actually ends up reducing Fox’s attributable ownership in the Syracuse market.
*Al Dame was a legendary name in PENNSYLVANIA radio, with a career that started in sales in 1950 and ended with the last of two ownership groups a decade ago.
The Kittanning native was still in high school when he started working at WACB (1380 Kittanning, now WTYM). After graduating from Penn State, he ended up just a few years later managing a group of small western Pennsylvania stations, then, in 1967, becoming GM of WEEP (1080/107.9) in Pittsburgh. A year later, Dame became an owner in his own right, starting with WRSC/WQWK in State College, then adding WKBO in Harrisburg.
Dame Media was an early player in the deregulation game, creating clusters in Harrisburg (WHP/WRVV, WRBT, WWKL) and Albany (WGY/WRVE) that became the cores of Clear Channel’s presence in both markets when that mega-operator bought Dame out in 1999.
A year later, Dame was back in the game with a new group, Dame Broadcasting, that bought clusters in State College, Johnstown, Chambersburg and Hagerstown, Maryland before selling in 2005 in Dame’s final exit from broadcasting. By then he’d been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, where he was part of the class of 2004.
Dame was 85 when he died June 5 in Phoenixville.
Five Years Ago: June 18, 2012
*Drive through the Mohawk Valley of upstate NEW YORK on scenic Route 5 and you’ll spot something odd as you pass through the pretty little village of St. Johnsville, an hour or so west of Albany: tucked in next to an abandoned industrial building just off the highway, there’s a four-tower AM directional array for a station that doesn’t exist – and apparently never will.
This was supposed to have been WKAJ, a 10,000-watt day/400-watt night signal on 1120, and in recent months licensee Cranesville Block Company has waged a battle to get the station on the air, enlisting the assistance of local elected officials and even the area’s U.S. congressmen, Paul Tonko and Richard Hanna, who took part in a conference call with FCC officials last month to plead for the station’s continued existence.
Unfortunately for Cranesville, and for WKAJ, there’s a big obstacle to their quest: as NERW readers know, WKAJ’s construction permit expired (after two extensions) last December 15 – and at that point, as best anyone can tell, that plot of land next to the old warehouse in St. Johnsville was still an empty piece of land. From all accounts, the towers and transmitter building went up in January 2012, at a cost of $336,000.
Does the FCC look kindly on stations that commence construction after the expiration of their permits? As any competent communications attorney (or even your humble editor/consultant) could tell you: no, it does not, and never has. That’s a lesson Cranesville has been learning the hard way after exchanging its local law firm for a Washington lawyer, but no matter how well-connected the counsel, there are some precedents the FCC simply doesn’t want to alter.
And that’s where WKAJ sits, midway through what could have been its first year on the air: last week, the FCC once again tossed out the station”s latest procedural attempt to get its permit reinstated. This time around, the Commission didn’t even need to get to the substance of the “Petition for Waiver and Reinstatement”: procedurally, a waiver request had to be filed within 30 days of the February 23 FCC letter denying WKAJ a license to cover, but the petition wasn’t filed until April 23, a month after the deadline had expired. (Audio Division chief Peter Doyle strongly hints in the latest ruling that WKAJ wouldn’t have been reinstated even if its petition had been timely.)
*Anyone who had the pleasure of working with Joe Reilly during his long run at the helm of the New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA) knew that Reilly’s retirement a year ago couldn’t possibly keep him away from broadcasting for very long. Reilly came to NYSBA in 1979 from the world of broadcast ownership and management (including WERA in Plainfield, New Jersey and most notably WWOM in Albany), and now he”s returning to that world with the purchase of Ernie Anastos’ four Albany-area stations.
Reilly’s new Empire Broadcasting Corporation is paying $1.2 million for the signals, which include AC “Star” WQAR (101.3 Stillwater) and standards “Moon” WABY (1160 Mechanicville) in the Saratoga Springs area, oldies WVKZ (1240 Schenectady) and WUAM (900 Watervliet), which simulcasts the audio of Time Warner Cable’s YNN news channel and is also heard on translator W291BY (106.1 Albany). There’s no word yet on what Reilly and his partners have in store for their new acquisitions – but in the meantime, we welcome him back to the fray…even as it means the exit of veteran New York City TV anchor Anastos from radio ownership after several decades.
*Speaking of New York City TV anchors, Friday was the last day on the air for WNBC (Channel 4) icon Sue Simmons, and the station sent off the 32-year veteran with a full day of tributes during its newscasts, culminating with a six-minute “best of” montage at the end of its 11 PM show. Don’t call it “retirement” just yet; Simmons is hinting that she”d like to get back on the air somewhere in town before long.
Ten Years Ago: June 18, 2007
*No sooner did Grace Blazer move from WPHT (1210 Philadelphia) to MASSACHUSETTS to take the PD chair at WTKK (96.9 Boston) than the wheels began to spin at the Greater Media FM talker, in a way that will give Blazer plenty of challenges as she starts her Boston tenure.
That contender, of course, would be Mike Barnicle, the venerable Boston newspaper columnist and local media icon who’s been a star personality on WTKK since its debut. Most recently, Barnicle had been doing the 9-10 AM weekday show, and had added the 6-9 AM Imus shift most days since Imus” ouster.
*VERMONT Public Radio took a big step toward its plans for a two-network future last week when it announced it’s buying WAVX (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY) from Essex-based Christian Ministries, Inc. The $1.1 million purchase will give VPR a signal for its new VPR Classical service that will serve the state’s largest city, Burlington, as well as the Plattsburgh, N.Y. area across Lake Champlain. (WAVX is a 2.7 kW/1074″ DA C2 signal broadcasting from just west of Peru, N.Y.)
Fifteen Years Ago: June 17, 2002
NEW YORK has a new radio owner, thanks to the $3.5 billion purchase of Hispanic Broadcasting by Univision. The deal means that WCAA (105.9 Newark) and WADO (1280 New York) join forces with Univision”s WXTV (Channel 41) and WFUT (Channel 68) to create a high-powered marketing machine for the Big Apple’s Spanish-speaking audience (and that’s nothing, compared to the combos created in markets like Miami, L.A., and the big Hispanic Texas cities…)
The big news out of NEW JERSEY may actually be big news in Philadelphia, at least if you’re not the FCC. When WSNJ-FM (107.7 Bridgeton) was sold last year, speculation immediately began building about where the big signal could be moved. WSNJ filed an application to move its city of license to tiny Elmer, N.J., which made very little sense to us – but now it’s all clear.
By “moving” from Bridgeton to Elmer, WSNJ positioned its next move to look even better to the FCC. The station now wants to relocate from Elmer to Pennsauken and change channels to 107.9, downgrading from a full class B facility to a class A. From the FCC’s point of view, it’s a move from tiny little Elmer to much larger (35,000 instead of 1,571) Pennsauken, neither of which have their own “local” broadcast facility – and thus looks better than a move straight to Pennsauken from larger Bridgeton (which keeps WSNJ’s AM sister on 1240 to pacify the FCC.) But from the point of view of WSNJ’s new owners, the station will now throw a city-grade signal over 1.5 million more listeners, since (even though Pennsauken is, as WSNJ goes to great lengths to demonstrate, an independent community) the new site would be just across the river from Philadelphia. The move does eliminate short-spacings between WSNJ and WPUR (107.3 Atlantic City), WBYN (107.5 Boyertown), WGTY (107.7 Gettysburg) and WFSI (107.9 Annapolis); it would also force high school station WHHS (107.9 Havertown) and translators W300AD (107.9 Philadelphia, relaying WWFM Trenton) and W300AA (107.9 Levittown, relaying WRDV Warminster) to find new spots on the dial.
Twenty Years Ago: June 19, 1997
Brian Dodge is no stranger to FCC controversy, and now he”s in for much more. The New Hampshire religious broadcaster is already the subject of a complaint from the New Hampshire attorney general”s office of charities, and now he”s also the target of a lengthy complaint just filed with the FCC by Carter Broadcasting, with the assistance of several other New England broadcasters. The complaint was just filed yesterday, and NERW”s copy has yet to arrive, but stay tuned for a special edition of NERW over the weekend with all the details; and, we hope, a response from Brian Dodge. (2012 update: 15 years later, the FCC has still never acted on the complaint, the full text of which can be read here.)
In MAINE, hit radio has returned to the Bangor market after a half-year absence. WBZN (107.3 Old Town) flipped from 70s rock to CHR Wednesday morning, under the consultancy of Clarke Ingram of WPXY in Rochester. The new “Z107” is being run under an LMA by the folks at country WQCB (106.5 Brewer), but will stay in its existing studios in Old Town. The last attempt at hit radio in Bangor came from WWFX (104.7 Belfast), which underwent a species transformation from “the Fox” to “the Bear,” WBFB, last fall.
One of NEW HAMPSHIRE”s oldest radio stations is getting a new owner. WKBR (1250) in Manchester is being sold to Northeast Broadcasting, the company that owns AAA WXRV (92.5) and Spanish WHAV (1490; leased to Costa Communications) in Haverhill MA, along with AAA WNCS (104.7 Montpelier VT) and satellite stations WRJT (103.1 Royalton VT) and WSHX (95.7 Danville VT). No word on how much Northeast (operating under the Devon Broadcasting corporate name) is paying for the 5 kW fulltimer, which is now owned by ethnic broadcaster George Ketrelakis, who bought the station from Bob Bittner a few years ago.