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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

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

A few programming notes: we’re making this week’s edition of NorthEast Radio Watch free for all readers on this Labor Day. If you enjoy what you’re reading here, this would be a great time to think about becoming one of our regular subscribers. For as little as 29 cents a week, you’ll get this kind of in-depth coverage of the radio and TV landscape every single Monday morning – and you’ll show your support for the service we’ve been providing to the industry since 1994.

If you’ve subscribed in the past and had lapsed, we’d love to have you back. We realize that our membership system hasn’t always worked as well as we’d like it to, and we’re working to change that this fall; in the meantime, Lisa is ready to respond more quickly to your emails and phone calls than has been the case in the past. Contact her if you’d like to renew your membership, start a new subscription or reach our audience with affordable advertising for your product or service!

We’re also free this week to draw your attention to our Radio Show Kickoff Party Tuesday night in Austin, Texas – if you’re at the Radio Show, so are we, and we’d love to see you there as we “Keep Radio Weird!”

And we’re also making this week’s edition free to kick off sales for Tower Site Calendar 2018. We need stronger sales of this year’s edition to justify continuing production in future years – so stock up now for early holiday gifts at our pre-issue price!

*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.

Here in NERW-land, we got a tangible reminder this past week that winter is around the corner.

But no snow or ice will keep the 2018 Tower Site Calendar away from you.

That is, after you order it.

If you have already placed your order, thank you. You should receive it just before or just after Thanksgiving (the American one).

If you haven’t ordered it yet, please go to our store today. You can buy the standard calendar or the signed and numbered limited edition.

*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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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: September 6, 2016

*Here’s a secret we don’t much like giving away: some of the finest weather and best scenery you’ll find anywhere in the country happens right around now, right near us in upstate NEW YORK‘s beautiful Finger Lakes.

And if you’re lucky enough to get to spend some time up this way, you’ll hear some different sounds on the radio now that Alan Bishop has taken over at the Finger Lakes Radio Group, where two of its FM signals swapped formats last week and a third took on new branding.

wllw-wflkHere’s how it played out: first, classic rock “The Wall” WLLW made its second frequency shift in its two decades on the air, this time from 99.3 in Seneca Falls westward to a slightly smaller class A facility, the 101.7 in Geneva that was formerly country WFLK. The swap also extends westward to 101.7’s AM/translator simulcast in Canandaigua, WCGR (1550)/W283BF (104.5), which are now, er, another brick in “the Wall.” (Sorry.)

After a couple of days of playing “Change”-related songs and audio clips, including at least one “Doctor Who” regeneration (which was a big hit among the little NERWlings), 99.3 came back to life Friday afternoon as WFLK, “Classic Hits 99.3.”

Down the dial at AC WNYR (98.5 Waterloo), there’s new imaging as “Mix 98.5.”

And there’s a new lineup of airstaff as the stations move from syndicated talent and music to a much more local approach.

At the Wall, the syndicated Bob & Tom Show is gone, replaced by Paul Szmal in mornings and Tiffany in afternoons; on Classic Hits 99.3 it’s Ken Paradise mornings and Mike Smith in afternoons; and on Mix it’s Jim and Mary in mornings (with Jim Schreck tracking solo 9-noon), Sorah in afternoons and John Tesh after 5.

*Back to VERMONT: the addition of a translator means a format change at WSNO (1450 Barre), which dropped talk Friday and went top-40 as “105.7 the Beat.” The “105.7” part comes from translator W289CH; the new format includes Elvis Duran’s syndicated morning show and all of the high school sports that were already WSNO fixtures. Behind the scenes at Great Eastern Radio, Jim Severance will serve as WSNO’s PD as well as handling PD duties at sister WWFY (Froggy 100.9).

*A format change at one of CANADA‘s southernmost points: the former CKJN (92.9 Haldimand-Norfolk) took on a new format and callsign last week as Durham Radio took over. Instead of “Country 92.9,” the Hamilton rimshot is now CHTG, “92.9 the Grand,” with classic hits.

Five Years Ago: September 3, 2012

*When the University of Buffalo sold WBFO (88.7 Buffalo) to its erstwhile public broadcasting rival, WNED, questions began swirling almost from the start about the fate of WNED’s AM signal. AM 970, the former WEBR, was the first commercial station in many decades to be sold to a public broadcaster when WNED bought it and its sister FM station (now classical WNED-FM 94.5) in 1976, but the AM station’s signal deficiencies had made it hard for WNED’s news-talk AM format to compete with WBFO’s big FM signal – and once WBFO came into the WNED orbit and began simulcasting with AM 970, it was pretty clear that the AM station would be on the block just as soon as WNED could find a buyer.

Last week, that buyer emerged, and it turns out to be another established Buffalo broadcaster. Crawford Broadcasting, the Denver-based owner of religious WDCX-FM (99.5), will pay WNED $850,000 for the AM signal, returning it to commercial operation after 36 years. The AM station’s 5000-watt signal is probably a better fit for WDCX than for any mass-market commercial operator: from a five-tower directional array in Hamburg, south of Buffalo, it shoots most of its signal in a tight pattern due north over Buffalo and Niagara Falls and over the lake into Canada. Like WNED, WDCX has long depended on listeners across the border, and it’s faced increasing problems with getting its FM signal heard in Canada as the CRTC keeps crowding the dial there. The AM signal won’t be a complete solution (especially with new CKNT 960 due to sign on in Mississauga sometime soon), but it should give WDCX another way to be heard in at least some of the Toronto area, which is about the only explanation we can find for Crawford’s reported plan to simulcast the superpower 100 kW FM signal’s programming on AM 970.

This will be a big week for WEPN: on Thursday afternoon at 2, it will leave its longtime home at 1050 on the AM dial and go FM-only on 98.7; 1050 will become the new New York home for the ESPN Deportes Radio Spanish-language sports network.

*On the TV front, the big news this week comes from Syracuse, where Peter Naughton over at CNYRadio.com broke the news that a Syracuse TV institution is leaving the airwaves. After 34 years at the anchor desk on WSTM-TV (Channel 3), Jackie Robinson was strangely absent from the station’s State Fair coverage this week, and if you don’t think that’s a big deal, you’ve never worked in Syracuse TV.

The official word came out over the weekend: Tuesday’s newscasts will be Robinson’s last at Channel 3, where she became the market’s first black anchor not long after joining the station’s staff as a reporter in 1978. Naughton reports morning anchor Megan Coleman appears to be in line to take over from Robinson on the station’s evening newscasts, and he says WSTM isn’t saying much about reports that Robinson’s departure is less than voluntary.

*In NEW JERSEY, modern rock WJSE returned to the airwaves south of Atlantic City last week. Those calls and that format last graced the 102.7 spot on the dial (now top-40 WWAC) from 1994-2006, and as of Friday they’ve replaced “Fun 106.3” classic hits on the former WFNE (106.3 North Cape May).

*Few radio people have ever been more closely associated with a single station for as long as Dave MacNeill was with WCRB. MacNeill was stricken with polio right after his 1949 graduation from Waltham High School, and after spending a year recuperating and listening to WCRB (then on AM 1330) in the hospital, he went down to the station and was hired. With the exception of a brief detour to the west coast to launch a classical format on KCBH (98.7, now KYSR) in Beverly Hills, MacNeill stayed put at WCRB, eventually becoming a fixture as the station’s Boston Pops announcer. MacNeill also served for a time as WCRB station manager and ended up owning a small piece of licensee Charles River Broadcasting. Even after Charles River sold WCRB’s 102.5 facility and the intellectual property shifted to Nassau and to Lowell-licensed 99.5, MacNeill continued to be heard on the classical station. He died Tuesday (August 28) in Framingham, at age 80.

Ten Years Ago: August 27/Sept. 3, 2007

*Will one of the flashpoints in the coming battle over HD Radio on AM at night end up being upstate NEW YORK?It’s starting to look that way, thanks to Bob Savage, founder and owner of WYSL (1040 Avon). The famously independent broadcaster (and longtime friend of this column and its editor) has been stirring up a hornet’s nest with his “call to action” for fellow small AM stations facing what he says will be ruinous interference from nighttime HD broadcasts on the AM dial.

In Savage’s case, his 500-watt night signal, which does a surprisingly good job of reaching Rochester, 20 miles to the north, will likely be all but extinguished (possibly even within its own city of license, Savage says) on many nights by the digital sidebands from WBZ (1030 Boston).

Savage says he’s received support for his campaign from several big guns in the industry, including WSM (650 Nashville) chief engineer Watt Hairston, and he’s asking other stations in similar situations to his to contact Congress and the NAB to call for action to save their signals from interference.

“Any gain from implementation of HD-AM, no matter how slight, will come at the expense of massive trauma to small and medium market AM operators,” says Savage. He says he stands to lose a significant amount of sports revenue – and potentially a good chunk of his retirement, too, having staked it on the success of WYSL – if the station can’t be heard at night.

Could WYSL end up being one of the test cases for the interference disputes that are bound to arise come mid-September, when nighttime HD on AM is legalized? We’ll be listening.

In Albany, Regent has not only returned to sports on WEEV (1300 Rensselaer) after the demise of the GreenStone Media talk network – it’s also returned to the station’s former calls of WTMM. Will the format change (which creates a simulcast with WTMM-FM 104.5 Mechanicville) be permanent?

And in Plattsburgh, WTWK (1070) keeps its “Eve 1070” identity despite losing GreenStone’s programming. Its new lineup includes Stephanie Miller, Dr. Joy Browne and Sally Jessy Raphael.

Fifteen Years Ago: Aug. 26/Sept. 4, 2002

The big shuffle in the Niagara Region began over the weekend with the disappearance of modern AC from CKEY-FM (101.1 Fort Erie), replaced by a computerized countdown voice which so unnerved some residents that they asked the Niagara Regional Police to check in and make sure nothing was wrong at the station. It turned out to be a stunt leading to a new dance-CHR format at the former “River,” newly reborn as “Wild 101.1.” But the start of that new station was just one of several shifts in the works over in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Labor Day also brought the end of the AC/full service format on CJRN (710 Niagara Falls), replaced by modern AC as “The River 710.” That, however, is only a temporary format: on Friday morning at 6, “The River” will make its final move, back to FM on CFLZ (105.1 Niagara Falls). The travelers’ information programming that had been heard on CFLZ, including interminable ads for Casino Niagara, will move to 710 that morning, with a promise of more live talk and tourist information to come. It’s a new challenge for Buffalo CHR WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) and urban WBLK (93.7 Depew), both of which have had almost no competition in years; it’s bad news for fans of “The River,” who will have to try pretty hard to hear the 105.1 signal from the top of the Skylon Tower anywhere much beyond Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Canada.

Up in Toronto, the fallout continues from the demise of CHUM’s “Team” sports format. We’re told 44 people lost their jobs when the plug was pulled last week on the national network and its local outlets in Halifax, Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and Winnipeg; among the casualties was the CHUM National News operation based in Toronto. On the local level, CHUM (1050) itself is back to oldies, with Brian Henderson in mornings and voicetracks the rest of the day, just as it was before that format had its plug pulled in May 2001. Voicetracked oldies are back as well at CKKW (1090 Kitchener), we’re told. Kingston’s CKLC (1380) is back to the oldies/AC format it used before the launch of “The Team,” while out in Halifax, CJCH (920) is back to news-talk, with the “Hotline” local talk show returning to 920 from CFDR (Kixx 780). The Team continues in Ottawa (CFGO 1200) and Montreal (CKGM 990).

Twenty Years Ago: September 4, 1997

We’re back from four days, four nights, and 1100-plus miles of radio fun in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York’s Southern Tier…and what do we find when we return but a whole bunch of radio miscellany from across the region? Let’s dig in…

The big news story of the week, bar none, was the death of Princess Diana, and Boston’s radio and TV stations are responding in earnest to the challenge of covering a story an ocean away. WHDH-TV (Channel 7) had roving reporter Dan Hausle on a plane to London as soon as the news broke, and WCVB (Channel 5) dispatched Jack Harper not long after. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) was seriously handicapped by its CBS affiliation; when the news came in that Diana was dead, BZ’s weekend news crew had already left the station, and the network failed to pick up the slack for nearly two hours. (BZ was far from alone with this problem; NERW was watching CBS’ KYW-TV in Philadelphia with CNN coverage, while other CBS stations like WGME in Portland and WROC-TV in Rochester were left hanging with syndicated fare while the rest of the world had already flipped away. BZ is trying to pick up the slack, sending TV reporter Alica Becerra and radio anchor Gary LaPierre to London for the funeral. The only other radio outlet with long-form Diana coverage was public broadcaster WBUR-FM (90.9), which went to the BBC World Service and stayed there all night.There’s another shakeup taking place on the TV side at WBZ: anchor Jack Williams is being pulled off the 11pm newscast and relegated solely to 5 and 6pm duty. Sean Mooney gets to add the 11 to his current duties as 5:30 anchor. 11pm co-anchor Liz Walker stays where she is for now, but expect more changes if BZ’s sagging ratings don’t pick up.

Radio in MASSACHUSETTS? Yep, there’s some of that in the bag too this week…starting with a station sale in Taunton, where WPEP (1570) is being sold by Silver City Broadcasting to Willow Farm Broadcasting. Does that name sound familiar? They’re the same group that bought the 1570 in Beverly, WNSH, last week. Could this be the prelude to a 1570 move-in in Boston? We’ll keep an eye on it…Get out those scorecards, folks…Greater Media’s beginning to file call-letter changes for its 96.9 and 99.5 stations. The 96.9 Boston outlet that _was_ legally WKLB-FM will now be WSJZ. Still to come is the other half of the call swap, wherein the current WOAZ at 99.5 will legally become WKLB-FM Lowell.

Sports radio WEEI (850) has some programming changes in the works. The Fabulous Sports Babe is reportedly on her way out of the 10pm-noon slot, with Mike Adams (formerly of New England Cable News) on the way to replace her.

Out west, Winchendon’s WINQ (97.7) has dropped its “97-7 Q FM” moniker to become “All Hit 97.7.” No big changes in the station’s format, which was already more or less CHR.

One bit of NEW HAMPSHIRE news, with a familiar name. Nashua’s WMVU (900) is being sold by Nashua Community Broadcasting to Willow Pond Broadcasting — yes, the WNSH/WPEP folks. A lot of people have talked about uniting many of the suburban stations around Boston into a network; NERW suspects the Willow Pond folks are really doing it.

Two sales in MAINE: Harpswell’s WMSJ (91.9) is being sold by Downeast Christian Communications to the Bible Broadcasting Network, based in South Carolina. And Harvey Communications is selling Skowhegan’s WHQO (107.9) to Mountain Wireless, which has been running the station for several months anyway as a simulcast of its sports-talker WSKW (1160).

And so we move on to NEW YORK, where we’ll start at New York City’s WCBS-FM (101.1), where veteran midday DJ Ron Lundy will hang up his headphones after the September 18 show. Lundy’s “Hello, Love” was first heard on the old WABC (770) back in 1965, and after WABC went to music in 1982, Lundy joined CBS-FM two years later. Dan Daniels (himself a veteran of the now-defunct WHN and WYNY, among others) will take over Lundy’s midday slot.

“The Border” is playing it on both sides in the Watertown area. The new CHR outlet started out this summer on 102.7 Cape Vincent (ex-WKGG, now WBDR). Now it’s added WWLF (106.7 Copenhagen) to the simulcast, but with a twist. Ads on 102.7 are targeted to the Canadian audience in Kingston, Ontario, while the spots on 106.7 are aimed at the US side of “The Border.”