In this week’s issue… After WBRU, the lawsuits – Remembering Tom Osenkowsky – Format flip in Binghamton – New tower in Ithaca – New signals near Hamilton?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*The on-air existence of Brown Broadcasting Services’ WBRU (95.5) in Providence, RHODE ISLAND ended at midnight Friday, but the legal wrangling over the $5.63 million sale to EMF Broadcasting may be just getting started.
The Brown students who run WBRU went out in style with their last few hours Thursday night, taking listener calls and sharing memories of the pioneering modern rock station in its last evening, though things got a little profane on the air in the final minutes before the midnight handoff to EMF and the launch of the national K-Love contemporary Christian format on what’s now WLVO.
Behind the scenes, though, there’s acrimony aplenty. The decision to sell the 95.5 facility had produced a split in the Brown Broadcasting board, leading some dissenting WBRU staff and alumni to speak out publicly against the sale.
They have some powerful ammunition: an email that was leaked to Providence’s WPRI-TV on Wednesday revealed that back in April, the president of Brown University had offered WBRU a loan to help it keep the FM signal afloat and avoid a sale. (Here’s the usual reminder: Brown itself does not own WBRU or control BBS, which is an independent corporation.)
The email from Brown president Christina Paxson reminded BBS that “the financial assets of the station (mainly the signal) were created through the generosity of generations of alumni and friends of WBRU. I believe that the WBRU Board has an obligation to do all it can to honor the intent of those who have given to the station over the years.”
And that bit about “intent” just might have some teeth. As we’ll explore further in the next episode of our “Top of the Tower” podcast, to be released Tuesday, Rhode Island has unusually strong laws that could at least put a stumbling block in the sale of the 95.5 license to EMF, which is operating the signal for now under an LMA with BBS.
Meanwhile, we still don’t know very much at all about what’s next for the WBRU calls in their new home on Brown Student Radio’s portion of the as-yet-unbuilt 101.1 LPFM in Providence. While WBRU managers are still promising that their programming will somehow return to FM, for now the modern rock format and the “360” R&B format that was a Sunday staple are each operating as full-time streams without any broadcast component. The LPFM signal, which Brown Student Radio will share with two community groups, has until January 2018 to get on the air.
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*CONNECTICUT was where Tom Osenkowsky made his home, but he made a national name for himself across the broadcast engineering community as an editor of the “NAB Engineering Handbook” and longtime contributor to publications such as Radio World.
“Smokin’ Tom Gary” started his radio career on the air at WLAD in Danbury but soon found his calling in engineering, working at WLAD and sister station WDAQ, WAVZ/WKCI in New Haven and eventually for many other stations in the region and far beyond.
Tom was a regular presence in the various engineering forums online, always contributing both deep knowledge and his particular brand of dry wit. In recent months, he’d been open about the battle he was fighting with cancer, especially as it became clear he wasn’t going to win this one. Paul McLane of Radio World penned a touching story a few weeks ago about Tom’s quiet dignity, a story especially worth reading after news of Tom’s death August 28. He was just 62.
*On the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast, JC Coffey has departed after a year as operations manager/brand manager for Townsquare, where he was programming country WOKQ and WPKQ and overseeing the classic rock “Shark” duo of WSAK/WSHK. No word yet on what’s next for Coffey, who has had a long run at various stations around the area.
*One of the finest radio engineers in MASSACHUSETTS has changed jobs. Paul Shulins had been with the Greater Media/Beasley cluster in Boston for 28 years, overseeing projects that included the consolidation of five FMs in a new cluster studio in Dorchester as well as plenty of transmitter work, especially up on the Prudential Tower. Now he’s exited his post as director of engineering for Beasley in Boston to join Burk Technology, where he’ll take over as VP and chief technology officer starting Sept. 18.
On the South Coast, Stan Lipp was a talk icon at WNBH (1340) and WBSM (1420) from 1964 until he retired from his “Open Line” talk show in 2001. He died in Florida last Monday at 89.
*While Brown students in Rhode Island are exiting FM radio, their Ivy League counterparts in upstate NEW YORK are betting on the medium’s future. WVBR (93.5 Ithaca), the Cornell-affiliated commercial station, raised its new tower on Hungerford Hill this week.
The new 141-foot ERI tower and antenna complete a multi-year rebuild of the station that started with its move to a new studio home back in 2014; it replaces a 1960s-era Wincharger tower that was dropped with much ceremony a week ago. The new tower also comes with a small power increase from 3 kW to 3.8 kW, pushing a little more signal up Cayuga’s waters.
(photo courtesy Mark Humphrey)
*Down the road in Binghamton, Equinox has brought hip-hop to the market with the launch of “Hot 92.9,” replacing classic rock “Z93” on W225BC (92.9) and the HD3 of WCDW (106.7). The new “Hot” takes on noncommercial WJOB (93.3), the Urban League’s hip-hop station just up the dial, as well as more mainstream top-40 offerings from Cumulus (“Wild” WWYL 104.1), iHeart (“Now” WBNW-FM 105.7) and locally-owned “Magic” WLTB (101.7). (WLTB is getting ready to launch a new format itself on its 102.5 translator, though the details remain under wraps.)
Here in Rochester, Genesee Media is moving its “Team” sports format from W288CS (105.5) to its newly-launched translator at 97.5, W248BH. The new translator, which relays WRSB (1590 Brockport), is now simulcasting “Team” with 105.5 ahead of the impending sale of 105.5 and an eventual new hip-hop format on that frequency.
*In NEW JERSEY, Dennis Lamme is the new market president for Townsquare’s Monmouth/Ocean cluster. Lamme, who’s spent many years in leadership roles around the region with Clear Channel/iHeart, takes over in Monmouth/Ocean from Michael Ruble, who’d been overseeing both that market and the Atlantic City market and will now focus solely on Atlantic City.
*In western PENNSYLVANIA, CBS Radio has added entertainer Chris Jamison to its morning show at WBZZ (Star 100.7) in Pittsburgh. Jamison, who’ll also do Sunday afternoons, has been linked to Star since the station promoted him back in 2014 as a contestant on “The Voice.”
*There’s a new signal on the air for Labor Day on the Lake Erie shoreline in CANADA. My Broadcasting launched CKNC (99.7 Simcoe) at noon Friday. The new “Oldies 99.7” is My’s second station in the market, pairing with the existing “My 98.9,” CHCD.
In Mississauga, Elliot Kerr is applying for yet another new transmitter site for his yet-unbuilt CKNT (960). Canadian Radio News reports Kerr is now requesting to use a site at 6550 Danville Road, still with 2000 watts by day, 280 watts night – and he has only until November 30 to get the station built or lose the permit.
*In Niagara Falls, Vista Radio is selling its two FM stations to Christopher Byrnes’ Byrnes Communications. It’s paying C$800,000 for CJED (105.1 2dayFM) and CFLZ (101.1 Juice FM), and we’d bet that those Vista-specific brands won’t last long once Byrnes takes over from Vista.
Back up the QEW, the CRTC will consider several applications for new stations in the Grimsby/Beamsville area at a hearing November 30. Durham Radio (which owns CHKX 94.7 in nearby Hamilton), Dufferin (Evanov) and Byrnes are all applying for 88.5 there. The Dufferin/Evanov proposal is for “modern easy listening,” which would parallel Evanov’s “Jewel 88.5” up north of Toronto, while Durham and Byrnes both propose to do classic hits.
North of Toronto in Georgina, My Broadcasting, Frank Torres and Radio Markham York are both applying for new stations at the Nov. 30 hearing, too: My wants an AC format on 93.7, Torres wants classic hits on 93.7 and Markham York wants classic hits on 94.5.
*More AM-to-FM flips for low-power CBC transmitters: in McAdam, N.B., CBAX (600) wants to move to 95.5 as CBZF-1, using 50 watts/29m. In Natashquan, Quebec, CBSI-5 (1100) wants to move to 99.9 with 258 watts/-0.7m.
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