In this week’s issue… Repack moves CW in RI, gives WGBH a new partner, creates studio issues for TBN – Rocket move impending in Erie – First Entercom spins hit Scranton market – Halls of Fame induct in Mass., VT, Buffalo
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Channel-sharing hits home for some RHODE ISLAND viewers today, at least if they’re fans of “Jane the Virgin” or “Supergirl” on the CW network. As of yesterday, the CW relocated from WLWC (Channel 28) to the 64.2 subchannel of WNAC, the result of Nexstar’s recent acquisition of WLWC’s “non-license assets” (essentially the CW affiliation and some syndicated programming) for $4.1 million. The “myRITV” subchannel that had been on 64.2 with MyNetworkTV moves to the 12.2 of sister station WPRI, which bumps Bounce to a new 12.3 subchannel there.
What’s left of WLWC stayed with OTA Broadcasting, and for now that’s just a license: WLWC’s RF 22 transmitter in Freetown, Mass. shuts off at 12:30 this afternoon, replaced by a channel-share that has WLWC’s 28.1 channel operating via the transmitter of Ion’s WPXQ (Channel 69/RF 17). Will OTA find someone who wants to buy the remains of WLWC, which is pretty much now the rights to one channel of cable must-carry in the Providence market?
(For now, that 28.1 designation is going to the Ion Life channel that had previously been a WPXQ subchannel; it appears that will give Ion Life cable and satellite carriage alongside the main Ion channel, though we’re still trying to figure out how cable and satellite providers will handle both the must-carry of “WLWC 28.1” and continued carriage of “CW Providence” via 64.2.)
But WLWC’s situation is far from the most unusual in this brave new world of repack – for that, follow us over the fold to the subscriber-only part of this week’s column for an exclusive look at what’s happening with a longtime staple of the Boston TV dial.
The 2022 Tower Site Calendar – PREORDERING OPEN NOW!
This is a special year for our calendar – it’s the 20th anniversary for us, and the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. This special edition of the calendar will showcase the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations.
Though it’s not off the presses yet, don’t wait or risk shipping delays – you can order it right now.
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*As we’ve been reporting the last few weeks here on NERW, the channel-sharing situation in eastern MASSACHUSETTS is one of the more complex dances that will be playing out around the country in the next few months. We told you last week about WBIN (Channel 50) relocating to a channel-share on the RF 27 signal of WUTF (Channel 66), and about the eventual move of WMFP (Channel 62) from RF 18 in the core of the market to a share with WWDP (Channel 46) on RF 10 south of Boston.
But those are all shares of commercial stations with other commercial stations, and the FCC is allowing some much stranger bedfellows, allowing noncommercial stations to yield up some of their bandwidth to provide bits that commercial TV stations can use (and pay for!) to stay on the air.
We’d initially thought that was all that was happening to WFXZ-CD (Channel 24), the Azteca America outlet that’s been running a 15 kW directional signal from the FM128 master tower site on Chestnut Street in Newton. The Rodriguez family collected a whopping $64 million in auction proceeds to give up RF 24. How much were they going to pay to have the WFXZ-CD signal hosted on some of the spectrum of WGBH (Channel 2), after the market’s senior public TV station completed its own move from RF 19 down to the wastelands of low-VHF on RF 5?
As it turns out: WFXZ is paying nothing for its new home. That’s because, according to the channel-share plan recently filed with the FCC, the WFXZ-CD license is being donated to the WGBH Educational Foundation. WGBH is already in line for $162 million in auction proceeds for its move to low-VHF. It was also keeping a UHF signal via WGBX channel 44, which moves from RF 43 to 32 in the repack. And now, WGBH will end up with a third license in the market in the form of WFXZ. As a class A low-power station, the WFXZ license doesn’t come with any must-carry rights for cable or satellite, but it does at least come with that “commercial” designation, which means that WGBH could find a commercial tenant to lease out WFXZ’s portion of the new RF 5 signal for whatever viewers in the market can see it on low-VHF. (Or even use a for-profit subsidiary to operate WFXZ commercially itself; that’s something WGBH has done in the past with other non-broadcast ventures.)
WGBH isn’t alone in this deal – in Miami, public broadcaster WPBT is also getting a low-power commercial station via donation, which will give it the ability to use some of its repacked UHF spectrum commercially if it so chooses.
However this plays out, it will be part of a bigger set of changes at WGBH. As one of the industry’s innovation hubs, it’s a near-certainty that WGBH will use one of its signals in the short term as a market test bed for the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. We’d expect that RF 5 will be used for that purpose, which probably means a swap at some point amidst the repack to put the familiar WGBH calls on what’s now the WGBX UHF license, which will likely be the new home for WGBH’s main 2.1 channel. (Confused yet?)
Stay tuned, too, for another repack-driven signoff: at some point in the next few months, WLVI (Channel 56) will disappear from its RF 41 signal, with the CW on “56.1” moving to a channel-share on sister station WHDH-TV’s RF 42 transmitter, which will repack to RF 35. (Now are you confused?)
*Bloomberg Radio has been betting at least moderately big on finding an audience in the Boston market, where it’s leased WRCA (1330 Watertown) and its in-town 106.1 translator from Beasley, then added WNBP (1450 Newburyport) and its 106.1 North Shore translator.
And now it’s adding a veteran radio voice to afternoon drive, where Pat Carroll will be anchoring for Boston from Bloomberg headquarters in New York City, where she spent nearly two decades at WCBS (880); she’d worked before that at several Boston stations.
*The Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame held its annual induction luncheon on Thursday at the Quincy Marriott, and we wish we could have been there this year, because one of the inductees was longtime WBZ (1030) afternoon anchor Diane Stern, who was one of your editor’s mentors back in the day. (Congratulations, Diane!)
She was part of an all-star roster that also included Red Sox TV voice Jerry Remy (who’s been back on the air lately as he continues to battle cancer), longtime WSBK (Channel 38) general manager Dan Berkery, former Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth, WHDH-TV’s Byron Barnett, WBZ (1030) “NightSide” host and longtime WBZ-TV reporter Dan Rea, WXKS-FM (Kiss 108)’s Dino Costa, veteran Springfield TV anchor Dave Madsen and Tom Martin of Cramer Productions, who received the MBHOF’s “Pioneer Award.”
(Stern/Remy photo: Neil Ungerleider, via Facebook)
*It was the end of an era in Springfield, where the longtime studio of WMAS (1450/94.7) on West Avenue was demolished last week. Cumulus had long since moved the stations’ studios out to the Basketball Hall of Fame building south of downtown, while the transmitters for WMAS-FM and what’s now WHLL(AM) are in a smaller building out by the tower that still remains after the old studio building became history.
*CONNECTICUT is the focus of our Tower Site of the Week this week and next, and we have a retirement to note from one of the stations featured this week. Phil Zocco, who’d been an engineer at WTNH (Channel 8) in New Haven for 38 years, retired on Friday from the ABC affiliate. Zocco started out up the road in Springfield at WHYN-TV (Channel 40, now WGGB) in 1976 before moving to WTNH.
In Waterbury, John “J.B.” Bunnell was a doo-wop radio fixture for more than 40 years, hosting shows on then-WNVR (1380 Naugatuck), WWCO (1240) and eventually on WATR (1320), where he was heard for decades. Bunnell, who was retired from his day job in sales for McGuire Manufacturing, was 77 when he died Saturday.
*In VERMONT, the big shoe that’s yet to drop is the filing for Ken Squier’s sale of his Radio Vermont stations to Steve Cormier. “Corm” took over at 9 Stowe Street over the weekend under what’s presumably an LMA, but as this column goes to virtual “press” Sunday night, there’s still no price tag on this very big deal. Not only does it take WDEV (550 Waterbury) and its sisters out of Squier family control for the first time since 1931, it also means the departure of WDEV morning man and operations guru Eric Michaels – and perhaps other longtime staffers at a station whose middle name all these years has been “stability.” We’ll update you as we learn more about the price tag, LMA details and staffing for Corm’s big Radio Vermont deal, both here and on our Top of the Tower podcast (you’re listening….right?)
Squier and Michaels are already inductees into the Vermont Association of Broadcasters hall of fame, and they’ll get new company on December 2 when VAB inducts this year’s class at its Hall of Fame Banquet at the Hilton Burlington. This year’s class, announced late last week, includes Tom Beardsley, who worked for WDEV/Radio Vermont for 30 years as part of a career that also included time at WIKE in Newport, WHWB in Rutland and WPTZ-TV (Channel 5); WSYB (1380) morning man Brian Collamore (a fixture there since 1974!) and WCAX-TV’s Judy Simpson, Vermont’s first female news director and still host of the station’s “Across the Fence” midday show.
Distinguished Service Awards will go to Lynn Beaudoin of Vermont Broadcast Associates, Mark Esbjerg of Sison Broadcasting and Steve Pelkey of Hall Communications. Brattleboro’s WTSA will receive the Alan Noyes Community Service Award for their annual “Project Feed the Thousands” campaign, and Greg Towne, engineer for WVNY-TV (Channel 22) will receive the Snyder-Teffner engineering award.
*It’s been many years in the making, but now the “Rocket” is on the move in Erie, PENNSYLVANIA. On October 20 at noon, Connoisseur’s WRKT (100.9 North East) will complete its move up the dial to 104.9, which comes with a significant signal upgrade that relocates its class B1 signal from a site just over the New York line to the better-located tower of sister station WRTS (103.7) just southeast of Erie.
WRKT’s move to 104.9 has been in the works since 2011, part of an FCC reallocation process that opened up a new class A 100.9 allotment at Westfield, New York. That channel went up for auction in 2015, triggering a bidding war that ended with a $714,000 winning bid from Rick Rambaldo’s ERIE Radio Company. Rambaldo (who’d created WRKT and built the cluster that now belongs to rival Connoisseur) had planned to do oldies on that new 100.9 signal – but a glitch in making the first auction payment led the FCC to cancel Rambaldo’s CP and return the 100.9 frequency to the allocation pool to be re-auctioned, possibly sometime in 2018.
For now, though, 100.9 in the Erie area will fall silent in a few weeks for the first time since it went on the air back in 1970 as WHYP-FM.
*Down I-79 at the edge of the Youngstown, Ohio market, Forever has quietly flipped WWGY (95.1 Grove City) from its usual “Froggy” brand of current country to “Willie,” playing country hits from the 1980s and 1990s. It’ll soon have new calls, WYLE, to match its new format.
*At the western edge of the sprawling Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market, Entercom has found a buyer for WGGI (95.9 Benton), the class A “Froggy” simulcast it has to spin as part of its impending acquisition of CBS Radio. WGGI was grandfathered in over the market cap when the current ownership rules went into effect, but that grandfathering doesn’t survive the “Reverse Morris Trust” maneuver that will bring the CBS stations into Entercom’s hands – and so WGGI goes to EMF as part of a three-station deal that rather more prominently includes KSWD (100.3), Entercom’s sole Los Angeles station, and KSOQ (92.1 Escondido CA), a San Diego-market class A in a similar situation to WGGI.
The entire deal is valued at $57.5 million, most of it for Los Angeles; WGGI (and its booster in Bloomsburg, WGGI-1) is valued at just $275,000, give or take some expenses involved in cleaning up its transmitter site.
EMF already operates in the market via WLKA (88.3 Tafton); WGGI will join WLKA on the K-Love network once the deal closes, augmenting K-Love’s coverage to the south and west of WLKA. (There won’t be an LMA, and if the entire Entercom-CBS deal closes before the Entercom-EMF deal is complete, WGGI and the other stations in this deal will go into a spinoff trust.)
For Entercom, meanwhile, “Froggy” will go on at the top of the market via its main signal, Scranton-licensed WGGY (101.3).
*Management on the move: iHeart is moving Drew Salamon from senior VP/sales in its Pittsburgh region to the same role in its Virginia-Carolina region. Salamon is the son of veteran country programmer Ed Salamon; he’s worked at iHeart in Pittsburgh his entire career.
*In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney of the Daily News has been filling in for a while now as morning co-host at Beasley’s WPEN (97.5 Burlington NJ) alongside Anthony Gargano; as of Sept. 11, he’s now officially part of the morning show at “The Fanatic.”
Beasley followed up that announcement with word that it’s extended its deal with the 76ers to keep carrying those games under an unspecified “multi-year” deal. WPEN has been the home of the Sixers since 2012; Tom McGinnis, who’s been the voice of the Sixers since long before there was a “Fanatic,” continues with the team in his 23rd season.
*Reggie Lavong, who died September 19, started in broadcasting at Temple University’s WRTI in the 1950s, becoming a star in the black radio universe in other cities before returning to Philadelphia in the mid-60s to become a part-owner of WPHL (Channel 17). He went west later in the decade to work for Capitol Records in Los Angeles, coming home again in 1976 to buy WHAT (1340), making it the city’s first black talk station. Lavong sold the station in 1989 and began a new career as a stockbroker. Lavong was 84.
*Ready for more repack confusion? The FCC’s main studio rule is likely to go away soon – but until it does, it’s causing an interesting new headache for TBN’s Philadelphia-market signal, WGTW (Channel 48/RF 27). WGTW took an $80.8 million payout for its UHF spectrum in the auction, retaining its cable must-carry by entering into a channel-sharing deal with WMGM-TV (Channel 40/RF 36) in Wildwood, NEW JERSEY.
That deal will keep WGTW on cable and satellite across the Philadelphia market, but it restricts its over-the-air signal to just the small chunk of south Jersey where WMGM’s signal reaches. And that means WGTW’s current main studio in Folcroft, Pennsylvania will no longer comply with the rules, in part because WGTW has to relicense from its current city of license of Burlington, N.J. to more distant Wildwood, N.J.
TBN asked the FCC for a permanent waiver of the main-studio rule to stay put in Folcroft; the FCC denied that request but agreed to give TBN a one-year waiver, saying it’s in the public interest to reduce the confusion caused by the repack. (And with a hint, of course, that by the time that year is up, the main studio rule will be history anyway.)
*A follow-up to last week’s story about WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes): it turned out that the agreement to donate the station to the borough of Pompton Lakes was moving along much faster than anyone was letting on. Even as WGHT owner John Silliman was saying there was “no news” to report, his Mariana Broadcasting was already filing the FCC assignment application for the donation.
Under the agreement with the borough, none of the station’s “tangible personal property” can be disposed of within the three years after the deal closes, and if any part of the WGHT operation (as in, its license) is sold within those three years, the proceeds will flow back to Silliman. All of which means that at the end of those three years, Silliman will be able to claim a tax deduction on that donation of…well, that will take a FOIA request to the borough, we suspect, because there’s no valuation attached to the transfer as filed with the FCC.
*In western NEW YORK, the Buffalo Broadcasters took over the big studio at WNED-TV Thursday night for this year’s Hall of Fame induction, and it was a particularly top-notch crowd of radio and TV folks joining that illustrious group this year: Dick Greene, the owner of Lockport’s WLVL (1340) and, until recently, WECK (1230 Cheektowaga); veteran 97 Rock and WHTT jock Jim Pastrick; WKBW-TV meteorologist Mike Randall; 97 Rock afternooner Carl Russo and Nashville Predators announcer (and ex-Buffalonian) Pete Weber were all there in person. Veteran Buffalo newsman Ray Marks was the posthumous inductee this year.
Here in Rochester, Entercom’s WPXY (97.9) once again has a local body in the studio during middays. Whitney Young, a Rochester native who’s been working on entertainment shows in New York and Los Angeles, replaces Natalia Soniak, who’d been voicetracking from sister station WNVZ in Norfolk, Virginia.
In Syracuse, Craig Fox has installed his “Dinosaur” oldies format on another signal, that being the 5000 big AM watts of his newest acquisition, WFBL (1390). With the oldies cranking out from WFBL’s AM transmitter along with WNDR (103.9 Mexico) up north and WMBO (1340 Auburn) to the west, it would appear that most of the Dinosaur FM translators (94.1 at the studio site in the Inner Harbor, 95.3 in DeWitt, 103.7 to the east in Oneida) could now claim WFBL as their primary instead of an HD subchannel of WCIS (105.1 DeRuyter), which Fox no longer owns.
And we can’t leave Syracuse without noting the death on Sunday of S.I. “Si” Newhouse, Jr. Newhouse’s family gave its name (and millions of dollars) to his alma mater, Syracuse University, to fund one of the nation’s top journalism schools. Newhouse himself worked for his father at the Syracuse Post-Standard after dropping out of SU. He made his name within the company at the helm of its magazine division, leading Conde Nast titles such as Vogue, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair in their glory years while his brother Donald oversaw the company’s lucrative cable TV operations. Si Newhouse was 89.
*Happy 90th birthday to Binghamton’s WNBF (1290): the news-talk station, now owned by Townsquare, marked its anniversary on Friday with a party at the Roberson Mansion that was full of displays of the station’s long and proud history.
*In an otherwise sleepy week in CANADA, here’s about the best we can offer: some 50 km east of Quebec City near the Maine border, the CRTC has reauthorized a new transmitter for CIQI (90.3 Montmagny). Radio Montmagny had been granted a new signal on 92.5 in St.-Fabien-de-Panet back in 2013 but didn’t get it built; now that same facility (12.6 kW average/17.5 kW max ERP/123.1 m) has again been given approval. If it gets built this time, it will be known as CIQI-1.
And we remember David Mainse, one of the first televangelists north of the border. Starting at CHOV-TV (Channel 5) in Pembroke, Ontario in the 1960s, Mainse went on to start “100 Huntley Street” in the 1970s, using the show (now the longest-running daily TV show in Canada) as the backbone of what would become Crossroads Christian Communications, licensee of CITS-TV (Channel 36) in the Hamilton/Toronto area, now known as “Yes TV.” Mainse died last Monday at 81.
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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: October 3, 2016
*Quick – what NEW YORK radio host held the Guinness world record for longest-running show with a single host?
That was WNYC’s Oscar Brand, whose 70-plus years as host of “Folksong Festival” came to an end on Friday with his death at age 96. The folksinger’s career on radio started on a whim with a 1945 letter to the city-owned station offering to present a program of obscure Christmas songs. That one-off show turned into a fixture on WNYC’s schedule that survived, well, everything: Brand stayed on the station through the blacklists of the 1950s (he was listed in the infamous “Red Channels”), through its transition to an NPR outlet in the 1970s, through its move out of city ownership in the 1990s, right up until what turned out to be his final show Sept. 24.
Over all those years, Brand never had a contract with WNYC and never received a penny from the station for doing his show, which had most recently been relegated to a 10 PM Saturday slot on WNYC’s AM 820 signal.
And over all those years, Brand had everyone on his show, from a young Bob Dylan to a blacklisted Pete Seeger to Woody Guthrie and his son, Arlo, to the Weavers to…well, everyone in the folk community. All along, Brand carried on a prolific career as a writer and performer, receiving a Peabody Award in 1995 for his contributions.
In an autumn when we’re losing icons all over the place, including the retirements of Charles Osgood and Vin Scully, Brand’s death marks yet another end of an era, the last link between today’s big-budget WNYC and its early shoestring days when any New Yorker could get a shot at airtime just for writing a persuasive letter. We’ll not see his like again.
*A big station sale in VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE: after the death earlier this year of his wife, Sheila, Bob Vinikoor is selling his stations to a new group called Sugar River Media, LLC, headed by veteran broadcasters Rob and John Landry. Rob’s a familiar face around Boston, having served a long run as chief engineer at WCRB; his brother John is at Westwood One in New York. They’re paying $1.95 million to Koor Communications and the estate of Sheila Vinikoor for the station group that includes news-talk WNTK-FM (99.7 Newport NH), news-talkWUVR (1490 Lebanon NH)/W255CF (98.9 West Lebanon NH), oldies WCFR (1480 Springfield VT)/W293BH (106.5 Springfield VT), classic country WCVR (1320 Randolph VT) and country WCNL (1010 Newport VT)/W234BN (94.7 Claremont NH).
Sugar River is putting $97,000 down, paying $1.493 million at closing and paying the remaining $360,000 over 20 years. On the noncommercial side, the Sugar River Foundation will pay the Vinikoor Family Foundation $10,000 for classical WSCS (90.9 New London).
*In PENNSYLVANIA, Radio One is on the move again with its Philadelphia FM cluster. On Tuesday, gospel “Praise 103.9” (WPPZ Jenkintown) and classic hip-hop “Boom 107.9” (WPHI Pennsauken) traded spots on the dial, returning the WPHI calls to the 103.9 facility they called home from 1997 until 2005. The “WPHI” identity has now gone full-circle around the Radio One cluster, having spent time at 100.3 (now WRNB) from 2005 until 2011. Moving “Boom” to the 103.9 signal, a class A from the Roxborough tower farm, gives the format somewhat better suburban coverage, trading off with better in-city coverage from Praise’s new 107.9 home, on the One Liberty skyscraper in Center City.
Along with the frequency change comes a shift in the musical mix at “Boom,” replacing some classic hip-hop with a more straightforward classic R&B sound.
Five Years Ago: October 1, 2012
*The last time we wrote about the Plum TV network in this column was back in February, when we noted that “(u)nless you vacation in a high-end hotspot such as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket or the Hamptons, you’ve probably never heard of” the network aimed at upper-crusters. At the time, Plum’s future looked a little shaky; the network was in the midst of a bankruptcy sale that put it in the hands of a new group called PMG Media, headed by the team that had created the “LX.TV” lifestyle network and sold it to NBC Universal.
This week, Plum gets to play on a bigger stage: effective today, Plum programming moves beyond its traditional home on leased cable channels in ritzy resort areas into full-market coverage in Boston, replacing MeTV’s retro programming on the 62.1 main channel of WMFP-TV. While it’s licensed, ironically enough, to the very un-glitzy, un-resort city of Lawrence, WMFP’s over-the-air signal comes from the centrally-located Needham/Newton tower farm, and the station has cable and satellite coverage across most of eastern MASSACHUSETTS and NEW HAMPSHIRE.
*As we get ready to ship out the first batches of Tower Site Calendar 2013, it turns out we have a little competition in the arena of “tower-site illustrators.” Randall Munroe’s xkcd.com has long been a favorite of ours for its thrice-weekly mix of “romance, sarcasm, math and language,” and the Somerville-based artist way outdid himself with his recent “Click and Drag,” a massive (165,888-pixel wide!) entire world inside a single cartoon. (After you’ve spent some time clicking and dragging, you can find a zoomable version of the entire thing here.)
The big revelation here, at least for NERW-land, is that Munroe is apparently a closet tower-geek: among the things you’ll spot as you click and drag your way around Munroe’s cartoon world is the KVLY-TV tower in North Dakota, the tallest in the nation – and another hilltop site that, upon closer examination, turns out to be Great Blue Hill in Milton, complete with the observatory and a rendition of the WGBH (89.7)/WKAF (97.7) tower that includes a bit of artistic license: Munroe chopped off WGBH’s main antenna on top, but left its auxiliary/HD Shively there on the left side, very much recognizable, albeit with a bit of extra mechanical beam tilt!
(Could Munroe have been reading our tour of that very site just a few weeks ago?)
*Speaking of competing tower-site illustrators, there’s some big news from our very good friend Mike Fitzpatrick, proprietor of NECRAT.us. Mike’s day job is TV engineering, and starting next week he’ll be doing it as a transmitter engineer for Fox owned-and-operated WFXT (Channel 25) in Boston, a nice move up from his current engineering post at LIN’s WPRI (Channel 12)/WNAC (Channel 64) in RHODE ISLAND. (Congratulations!)
*VERMONT Public Radio’s expansion continued in late September with the official debut of two new signals. WVBA (88.9 Brattleboro) signed on last Monday (Sept. 24), bringing VPR’s main network to a full-power facility in the state’s southeastern corner for the first time. WVBA replaces VPR’s current Brattleboro translator at 94.5. which will slide over to VPR’s classical network once the transition is complete; it also comes with a new Brattleboro studio at the Marlboro College Graduate Center. Over the weekend, VPR held its annual listener picnic in Brattleboro, featuring an appearance from “Splendid Table” host Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
VPR Classical also arrived in the Rutland area earlier in the month, as the network moved translator W223AV (92.5) from the Manchester area over to its Grandpa’s Knob transmitter site, where its 114-watt signal brings classical programming to Rutland and vicinity for the first time.
*It’s another (mostly) bad week for AM in CANADA. Despite announcing that they’d seek buyers for the last remaining AM signal in Quebec City, and despite openly-expressed interest from two potential buyers of CHRC (800), the owners of “Quebec 800” pulled the plug on the station Sunday night, ending a legacy that dates back to 1926 and putting 14 people out of work. It’s not clear yet whether CHRC’s license has actually been returned to the CRTC or whether a sale to one of the station’s suitors is still a possibility.
Those suitors include Bell Media, which hopes to put a French-language “RDS Radio” sports station on the air in Quebec if it’s also granted permission to flip CKGM (690 Montreal) to French – and also TTP Media, which is building a new French-language talk station on 940 in Montreal and applying for an English-language talker on 600, and which Montreal media blogger Steve Faguy reports is now seeking further expansion.
Ten Years Ago: October 1, 2007
*A month after the death of beloved MASSACHUSETTS talk host Paul Sullivan, WBZ (1030 Boston) has named a replacement for its weeknight 8-midnight slot – and in keeping with tradition at the CBS Radio-owned news-talk station, it’s an in-house move.
“NightSide with Dan Rea” makes its debut Monday night on WBZ, and if it doesn’t sound like a major shift in the station’s sound, that’s the idea, since Rea has been sharing fill-in duties on Sullivan’s old timeslot for months now. (WBZ weekend/swing host Jordan Rich has been the other regular fill-in on Sullivan’s show; he’ll return to his usual duties now.)
Rea, of course, is best known to Boston audiences for his 33-year reporting career on WBZ-TV (Channel 4), which included the exoneration of convicted murderer Joe Salvati. But before he joined the TV side in 1974, Rea was a talk host on WBZ radio, so in a sense he’s coming home to his roots by rejoining the AM station.
*After years of effort and planning, VERMONT Public Radio achieved a long-held goal Monday morning, as it split its programming into two statewide networks.
The “original” VPR network (WVPS 107.9 Burlington, WVPR 89.5 Windsor, WVPA 88.5 St. Johnsbury, WRVT 88.7 Windsor, WBTN-FM 94.3 Bennington and several translators) has become a 24/7 news-talk service, with a new midday lineup that includes BBC news at 9, On Point at 10, The Story at 1 and Day to Day at 2. Meanwhile, the classical programming that was heard in middays on the main VPR network has moved to the new VPR Classical network, with new flagship WOXR (90.9 Schuyler Falls NY), WVTQ (95.1 Sunderland) and WNCH (88.1 Norwich), as well as HD-2 subchannels on WVPS, WVPR, WVPA and WRVT. VPR, which also launched a redesigned website at www.vpr.net as part of the relaunch, promises additional VPR Classical frequencies in the months to come.
*Our PENNSYLVANIA news begins, sadly, with the death of a well-known local tower climber. Dan Plants Sr., whose Daniel Plants Tower Service was based in Triadelphia, WV, was killed last Monday (Sept. 24) when he fell more than 100 feet from one of the towers of WGBN (1150 New Kensington), where he was working on dismantling a self-supporting tower that was to be replaced after being damaged in a thunderstorm earlier this year. Plants, 51, had worked on many of the towers in southwestern Pennsylvania; OSHA is now investigating the fall that killed him.
In other Steel City news, the “Man Talk” format at CBS Radio’s WTZN (93.7 Pittsburgh) is over, just six months after “The Zone” was launched in early April as part of the company’s highly-touted “Free FM” talk initiative.
On Monday, the station began stunting with Christmas music, while dropping hints about a possible return to the frequency’s heritage with top 40 as “B94” WBZZ. (As we go to press Monday night, there’s a site up at www.pitts-urgh.com that makes copious reference to that “missing B” in the middle…get it?)
Out of work are midday host John McIntire, afternoon host Scott Paulsen and late morning host Paul Steigerwald – and off the air, at least for now, are syndicated hosts Opie & Anthony and Dennis Miller.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 30, 2002
It was supposed to be NEW JERSEY’s newest radio station, but 14 years after its first construction permit was granted, WKNJ (550 Lakewood) has become radio history — without ever broadcasting so much as a station ID. When the FCC cancelled Steven Wendell’s construction permit and deleted the call letters last week, it ended a story that began back in 1988, when Wendell originally proposed a station in the north Jersey community, just south of the New York state line. Neighbors of the proposed site on the New Jersey side of the line fought the construction, and when the FCC began cracking down on long-unbuilt CPs a few years ago, Wendell tried another tack to get his station built.
Changing the community of license to Harriman NY, Wendell modified the CP to specify 250 watts, daytime only, from the existing site of WRKL (910 New City), on US 202 in Pomona, Rockland County. But while WRKL rebuilt its site, adding two towers for night use, WKNJ remained unbuilt. The FCC said last winter that it would cancel the CP (which had been renewed most recently in December 1998), but Wendell appealed, telling the commission this year that he had been unable to build WKNJ because engineers in the New York area had been too busy with the World Trade Center recovery.
The FCC didn’t buy it, noting that Wendell made no effort to hire engineers from outside the area, and WKNJ is now officially gone. (The back politics here: WKNJ’s existence would have made the upgrade of WLIE, on 540 in Islip, impossible; while the Long Island station pushed to have WKNJ taken off life support, Wendell filed for another 540 facility, this time in Jaffrey, N.H. That application is still pending….)
An obituary to report in PENNSYLVANIA, but the passing of Walter Annenberg ends a broadcast chapter that extended far beyond the Keystone State. Annenberg’s Triangle Broadcasting group was best known for its ownership of WFIL AM-FM-TV (now WFIL 560, WIOQ 102.1 and WPVI-TV 6) in Philadelphia, but it also included WNHC AM-FM-TV (now WYBC 1340, WPLR 99.1 and WTNH-TV 8) in New Haven, Connecticut, WNBF AM-FM-TV (now WNBF 1290, WAAL 99.1, WBNG-TV 12) in Binghamton, N.Y. and WFBG AM-FM-TV (now WFBG 1290, WFGY 98.1 and WTAJ-TV 10) in Altoona, Pennsylvania, among others. Annenberg’s print holdings included the Philadelphia Inquirer and TV Guide, which he founded nationally in 1953. In later years, he served as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. He died Tuesday (Oct. 1) at his home in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, reportedly of pneumonia. Annenberg was 94.
Twenty Years Ago: October 2, 1997
Rochester, NEW HAMPSHIRE’s 96.7 unveiled its new format Monday morning, and it turns out to be oldies. The former WSRI is applying for the WQSO calls. Oldies had last been heard on the Seacoast on “Cool 95.3” WCQL (York Center, Maine), which is now hot AC WXHT. The new WQSO keeps Imus in the Morning from its previous modern AC format.
There’s a new program director at WEEI (850). Jason Wolfe had worked as the sports station’s assistant sports director. His first big task will be to oversee the new 10-noon talk show featuring John Dennis (formerly of WHDH-TV) and Gerry Callahan of Sports Illustrated, which replaces the Fabulous Sports Babe.
The long, strange saga of WVAY (100.7) in Wilmington, VERMONT has taken yet another turn: WVAY is now simulcasting AAA WRSI (95.3) from Greenfield, Mass. This is the fourth station WVAY has simulcast in less than three months. A simulcast with Richard Lightfoot’s WKVT-FM (92.7) Brattleboro ended August 1, when Lightfoot’s option to buy WVAY expired. Since then, WVAY has simulcast three different area stations owned by Jeff Shapiro (WHDQ Claremont NH, WSSH Marlboro VT, and now WRSI), as well as offering its own programming for a brief time when the deal to sell the station to Shapiro stalled.
On to NEW YORK, where there’s been a programming shakeup at ARS rocker WCMF (96.5) in Rochester. Nighttime DJ Beth Donahue and afternoon cohost “Bull” are out, with “BJ” going solo in afternoons and Uncle Roger taking over evening dutries. Down the hall at AC WRMM (101.3), evenings are now being handled by Audiovault automation.
In Buffalo, a successor has been named to replace Michael Collins as head of the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association. Donald Boswell comes to WNED-AM-FM-TV, WNEQ-TV, and WNJA-FM from North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA FM-TV/KDTN-TV) in Dallas. He’ll start in January.
In the New York market, WXLX (620 Jersey City NJ) is set to go all-sports on Tuesday, and new owner One-on-One Sports has applied for the WJWR calls to go with the new format.
And just over the state line in Tunkhannock, Pa., the classic rock format of “Endless Mountains Rock,” WEMR-FM (107.7) has come to an end. WEMR-FM and its sister AM station on 1460 have been sold to Citadel, and it’s now rebroadcasting the CHR format of WBHT (97.1) Mountaintop-Wilkes-Barre. Citadel also owns WARM (590), WKQV (1550), WKQV-FM (95.7), WMGS (92.9), and WZMT (97.9) in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.