In this week’s issue… Boston weather icon dies – WKNY goes nonprofit – Williams out in Rochester – WJIB hits FM dial – Rockland AM loses site
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When you make a list of MASSACHUSETTS weather broadcasting icons, a few names always go to the very top of the list: the late Don Kent, of course, who all but invented the job – and then Dick Albert, who came to WCVB (Channel 5) right after the Blizzard of 1978 and stayed on the job there until his retirement in 2009.
Albert, who died Friday, was a key part of the team that took channel 5 from an upstart to one of the most influential local television stations in the country, working alongside Natalie Jacobson and Chet Curtis at the anchor desk. It didn’t hurt that he was a native, having grown up in Newton before joining the Air Force and then working for TV stations in Denver (KOA-TV), San Francisco (KRON) and Albuquerque (KOB-TV) prior to his return home.
His death prompted an outpouring of remembrances, including extensive tributes on WCVB itself, where another Boston weather icon, Harvey Leonard, now serves as chief meteorologist. Albert, who’d been suffering from pneumonia, was 73.
*North of Boston, Bloomberg emerged last week as the new owner of WNBP (1450 Newburyport) and its translator at 106.1, paying a cool million dollars to Port Broadcasting for the signal. What does Bloomberg want with an AM up there? Probably nothing – but that 106.1 translator meshes nicely with Bloomberg’s LMA of Beasley’s WRCA (1330 Watertown) and its 106.1 translator in downtown Boston, providing a solid “Bloomberg 106.1” signal all the way up the north shore.
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: August 8, 2016
*What’s in the water this week in Boston? While the feud between WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and DirecTV continues to boil (more on that in a bit), there’s a new battle starting that may break up the long-running morning show on WEEI-FM (93.7).
John Dennis is on vacation this week from the station and from the “Dennis and Callahan Morning Show,” but the Globe reports he may not be rejoining on-air partners Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane when he returns.
As Chad Finn reported over the weekend, Dennis threatened to quit the station Thursday night, leading to a lengthy conversation with GM Phil Zachary on Friday.
“Our plan is to keep him on the WEEI team until at least September 2017,” Zachary told Finn. “[Dennis] and I spoke at length today about a number of priorities for the next few months, and Dino’s very much on board.”
Those priorities may not include the morning show, though; Finn quotes several sources as saying that when Dennis returns in two weeks, “it would be a major surprise” if it’s as part of what appears to be becoming a Callahan and Minihane morning show.
*MAINE was the region’s call-change capital this past week, thanks to several groups doing shuffles. We told you last week about Dick Gleason’s moves, which culminated with WTBM (100.7 Mexico) becoming WOXO-FM, WKTQ (1450 South Paris) becoming WOXO and WOXO (92.7 Norway) becoming WEZR-FM. In Bangor, Blueberry Broadcasting is apparently keeping WAEI (910) after attempting to sell it; it’s now WABK(AM), while WABK (104.3 Gardiner) becomes “WABK-FM” again on the FCC’s books. And the new owners of WNZS (1340 Veazie) have changed the calls of that Bangor-market station to WBAN.
*In Olean, Community Broadcasters kicks off this Monday with a format flip at WHDL (1450) and its brand-new FM translator W296DB (107.1), the former W228AT (93.5 Elmira). The new AM/translator combo drops satellite sports talk (ESPN “the Huddle”) in favor of top-40 as “Hot 107.1.” WHDL will use the syndicated Kidd Kraddick for mornings.
*In PENNSYLVANIA, they’re mourning Charlie Morgan, who was a fixture for many years at Susquehanna Radio. A native of Pittston, Morgan joined hometown WARM (590 Scranton) early on, serving as that big station’s chief engineer and eventually becoming senior VP of radio for its parent company, Susquehanna. Along the way, he also branched out on his own, founding and building WTLQ (102.3 Pittston), which eventually became today’s WMQX. Morgan served the larger industry as the longtime chair of the National Radio Systems Committee; he received the NAB’s Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 1993 for his service. Morgan died July 30 in Wilkes-Barre. He was 82.
Five Years Ago: August 6, 2012
*The Albany, NEW YORK television market is only the third-largest in the Empire State – at number 58, it ranks far behind #1 New York City, of course, and also just back of #50 Buffalo. Until now, though, Albany has boasted something Buffalo didn’t have, and neither did lower-ranked Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira, Utica, Watertown or Burlington-Plattsburgh: among all the upstate markets, only Albany could claim four independently-operating local TV newsrooms at each of its “Big Four” network affiliates.
With the selloff of Newport Television’s properties, that’s about to change. Newport’s Fox affiliate in Albany, WXXA-TV (Channel 23), wasn’t part of the big chunks of station sales announced a week ago, in which most of Newport’s stations were split up among Nexstar (which got the Syracuse, Watertown, Binghamton and Elmira markets), Cox and Sinclair, which already owns the Albany-market duopoly of WRGB (Channel 6)/WCWN (Channel 45).
Instead, WXXA has now been sold to a new group called Shield Broadcasting, headed by veteran broadcaster Sheldon Galloway. Shield will pay $19.4 million for WXXA, but it won’t operate the station – instead, it plans enter a shared-services agreement under which WXXA will be run by Young Broadcasting’s ABC affiliate, WTEN (Channel 10).
When WEEI-FM set up shop at 93.7 on the dial (the Lawrence-licensed signal previously known as “Mike FM” WMKK) last fall, it was widely anticipated that the 850 signal would be repurposed, and the very scenario most often floated is the one that’s coming true: while 93.7 will carry WEEI’s local talkers, Red Sox baseball and Celtics basketball, the 850 signal will become a full-time ESPN Radio outlet. The national network hasn’t had a full-time presence on the Boston dial since the demise of WAMG (890)/WLLH (1400) a few years back, and while it won’t draw huge ratings in a market that’s obsessed with its local teams, it will provide an inexpensive source of programming for an AM signal that’s still one of the market’s best – not to mention at least a small new revenue stream for Entercom, which gave up the “Mike FM” revenue stream to protect WEEI last year.
*A familiar callsign and format will return to southern NEW JERSEY at the end of August. WFNE (106.3 North Cape May) quietly changed calls to WJSE in June, and now it’s preparing to relaunch the “JSE” modern rock format that lived for many years at 102.7 on the dial in Petersburg (now WWAC 102.7 Atlantic City).
There’s a website up now, as well as a TV ad indicating that the syndicated Bob & Tom morning show will stay in place when the format shifts from classic hits to modern rock around August 31.
Ten Years Ago: August 7, 2007
*So there we were on Friday night, wearing our “editor of 100000watts.com” hat, plugging in call letter updates, when we noticed a new callsign – WKEL, for EMF’s new signal in Confluence, PENNSYLVANIA.
That was all well and good – except for one question: what new signal in Confluence, PA? Actually, there was a second question, too: where the heck is Confluence, PA? And a third: how did a new signal in an obscure western Pennsylvania town slip right past us?
After a bit of frenzied digging, it turns out that the class A signal on 98.5 isn’t a completely new facility after all – it’s the infamous “Meyersdale FM” that went unclaimed in one round of FCC spectrum auctions, then went to EMF for $376,000 in another round of auctions back in January. It also turns out that, under the FCC’s new rules for moving an FM allocation, it’s going to be much easier for moves like this one to happen in the same stealthy way this one did, through a minor amendment to a pending application.
In this particular case, it turns out that EMF filed the application way back in February, it was accepted in March, and was granted in late June.
So where is Confluence, and why would EMF want to move an unbuilt station there from Meyersdale? It’s a community of some 800 people, on the Youghiogheny River about 10 miles west of Meyersdale and 15 miles southeast of Uniontown – but the application calls for a transmitter site well to the northwest of Confluence, near Mill Run in Fayette County.
By itself, the new WKEL won’t even approach Pittsburgh rimshot status – it’ll be nearly a 50-mile shot, on a channel that’s first-adjacent to in-town WOGI (98.3 Duquesne). But it will put a decent signal over much of Fayette County, including Uniontown and Connellville, and it will eliminate the need for EMF to feed its chain of (as yet unbuilt) “K-Love” translators serving Pittsburgh from a primary station way down in Grafton, West Virginia.
At the same time, EMF eliminates a big overlap that would have existed between the Meyersdale signal and its existing WLKH (97.7 Somerset), which already serves Johnstown and a big swath of territory to the south.
*In upstate NEW YORK, all the numbers are in now on the big Clear Channel/Galaxy/Roser/EMF deal that’s about to shake up the Utica radio dial, and it’s clear that both Galaxy’s Ed Levine and Ken Roser of Roser Communications come out as big winners.
The big number first – Galaxy will pay Clear Channel $3.1 million for its nine-station cluster in Utica/Rome. But Levine won’t need anywhere near that much cash by the time he’s done spinning off five of the Clear Channel stations and one more from his existing cluster.
EMF will pay Galaxy a total of $1,574,000 – $1,224,000 for Galaxy’s big-signal WRCK (107.3 Utica) and another $350,000 for Clear Channel rimshot WOKR (93.5 Remsen). This piece of the deal also allows Galaxy to obtain an independent appraisal of those stations’ fair-market value, and to take a charitable deduction on the difference between that value and the actual sale price.
Roser, meanwhile, will pay just $650,000 for the “Kiss” combo (WSKS 97.9 Whitesboro/WSKU 105.5 Little Falls) along with WUTQ (1550 Utica) and WADR (1480 Remsen) – a remarkable price, considering Roser sold the two FMs and then-WLFH (1230 Little Falls) to Clear Channel for $2.15 million just five years ago.
As for Galaxy, Levine ends up paying a net price of just $876,000 to add rocker WOUR (96.9 Utica), hot AC WUMX (102.5 Rome) and sports WIXT (1230 Little Falls)/WRNY (1350 Rome) to his cluster, plus whatever charitable deduction he can get from the EMF sale – plus the competitive edge he’ll obtain from owning WOUR and eliminating its rock-format competition, WOKR and WRCK.
It’s no wonder, then, that Levine described the purchase to NERW as “the best deal I’ve ever done.”
Fifteen Years Ago: August 12, 2002
*The Energy has run out in CANADA’s largest market. Corus is pulling the plug on the “Energy FM” dance-CHR format that’s been running on CING (95.3 Hamilton) and replacing it with country music on the 100 kW signal that serves the entire Golden Horseshoe area from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Energy moved to 95.3 with high hopes a couple of years ago, after launching on the weaker 107.9 signal licensed to nearby Burlington. (That signal became home to classic rock “Y108” CJXY, which had occupied 95.3 as “Y95.”) In the meantime, Energy had expanded to four other signals: CKGE 94.9 Oshawa, which has since returned to its old modern AC format; CHAY 93.1 Barrie and CFHK 103.1 St. Thomas-London. CHAY and CFHK will stay with the Energy format, as far as we know. Corus launched “Country 95” on the frequency last Friday (August 9), and the format is running jockless for the moment, with a full launch scheduled for next Monday (August 19). Energy’s airstaff was largely shown the door, though we hear morning jock “Big D” is headed to sister station Y108.
Heading across the border, we’ll start our U.S. report in PENNSYLVANIA, where a long-dead call and format returned to life in Philadelphia last week. WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) dropped the “Sunny” nickname and soft AC format in 1990 to go hot AC as WYXR “Star,” then went modern AC in 1999 as “Alice” WLCE. “Alice” was replaced by a day of non-stop “Here Comes the Sun” last Friday, followed by the relaunch of the old soft AC format and “Sunny” nickname, followed a few days later by the WSNI calls. Sunny challenges market-leader WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia), one of the last individually-owned major market FM stations in the country; it promises to be a good fight.
The NERW-mobile passed through the Scranton area on our way to and from New York City this past week, and we know we’ll always find something different there each time we turn on the dial. This trip was no exception: on Monday (Aug. 5), Citadel flipped WCWI (94.3 Carbondale) from a simulcast of CHR WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top) to country as “Cat Country 94.”
If that sounds familiar, it certainly should; under the calls WCTP, 94.3 did country as “Cat Country” from 1998 until 2000, when it became WBHD and began simulcasting WBHT. At the time, “Cat” was simulcast on WCTD (93.7 Dallas), which later became active rock WBSX. When the WBSX calls and format moved to the former WAOZ (97.9 Hazleton) in April and 93.7 changed calls to WCWQ, there was speculation that “Cat” would reappear there as well; for now, though, 93.7 is still simulcasting 97.9.
And what of the third Citadel call change this past spring, in which WEMR-FM (107.7 Tunkhannock) became WCWY? That frequency is still simulcasting soft AC WMGS (92.9 Scranton), leaving NERW to wonder what the long-term plans – if any – might be for this cluster (and to note that the Scranton-market stations that don’t flip calls and format annually, like country behemoth “Froggy” WGGY 101.3, do much better in the market than their oft-flipping competitors…)
Up in the Merrimack Valley, Costa-Eagle is getting ready for some big changes at its cluster in the Lawrence area, aimed largely at putting Spanish programming on its Lawrence-licensed 800 signal. Come September 8, that signal will take the WNNW calls and tropical programming now being heard on 1110 in nearby Salem, N.H. The English-language news, talk and sports now on 800 will move, along with the WCCM calls, to 1490 in Haverhill (now WHAV). And WHAV’s Spanish talk programming will move to 1110 Salem under the calls WCEC. What becomes of the Lowell Spinners’ baseball now heard on WCCM? More on that next week, we hope…
Twenty Years Ago: August 7, 1997
We’ll start this week up in VERMONT, where TV viewers are still awaiting the debut of Burlington’s newest TV station. WFFF-TV (Channel 44) is now shooting for an August 31 start date, to coincide with the start of regular-season NFL football on Fox. Burlington is the largest TV market with no primary Fox affiliate; once WFFF starts up, Fox will have outlets in every top-100 TV market.
On the radio side, Wilmington’s WVAY (100.7) switched its simulcast from WKVT-FM (92.7 Brattleboro) to WHDQ (106.1 Claremont, N.H.) on August 1, after WKVT owner Richard Lightfoot’s offer to buy WVAY expired. The Brattleboro Reformer reports the problem was WVAY’s tower leases on Mt. Snow and Haystack Mountain. The leases from the state were non-transferable, and Lightfoot was unable to strike a deal to get the tower space. Further complicating matters was interference WVAY was allegedly causing to state police communications. Lightfoot offered to fix the problems, but he apparently wanted to reduce the purchase price by some $60,000 to cover the added costs. Now it’s WHDQ owner Jeff Shapiro in the buyer’s seat, offering a reported $180,000 for WVAY. In addition to WHDQ (plus its booster in Rutland and translators in Hanover and Keene), Shapiro owns WRSI Greenfield, Mass., WZSH/WSSH Bellows Falls-Marlboro, WTSV Claremont, and several Upper Valley stations.
Moving south to MASSACHUSETTS, there’s a new owner in the future for Worcester’s WNEB (1230). Bob Bittner is selling the station to a group of local businessmen called “Heirwaves, Inc.,” and word is that they’ll try to run an all-local format on the station. WNEB has been rebroadcasting Bob’s beautiful music from WJIB (740 Cambridge), with some separate leased-time programming on weekends. Further up the Worcester dial, we hear the mystery foreign-language pirate on 1620 has moved to 1610, while Spanish-language programming continues to be heard on 1680.
Up in MAINE, Lewiston’s Channel 35 made its debut on schedule last Friday, with general manager Doug Finck introducing the station, followed by an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager.” The calls are now legally WPME(TV), having changed from WWLA.
There’s a new source for smooth jazz in upstate NEW YORK. Auburn’s WPCX (106.9) shed its AAA format last Friday to become “Smooth Jazz CD 106.9.” The station is aimed squarely at Syracuse, whose last smooth jazz entry, WXCD (now soft rock WLTI) was owned by Salt City Broadcasting, the same company that recently bought WPCX. (Salt City sold WLTI to Pilot last year.) “CD 106.9″ is operating from studios on Burnet Street in downtown Syracuse, and it’s planning to use the calls WHCD once the change is granted (until then, the WPCX “legal” ID is buried as early as :32 past the hour!).