In this week’s issue… FMs move in Buffalo, south Jersey – Univision swaps Boston signals -WMEX for sale – HD Radio at the CBC? – New AM in Ottawa
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We’re always suckers here for good tower pictures – and that one at the right, courtesy of Bill Weeks and his drone, is a doozy for more than one reason. Not only does it depict a tower near us here in lovely western NEW YORK, it may well be one of the last pictures you’ll ever see of this particular tower, the aging guyed stick on Grand Island, just north of Buffalo, that holds Entercom’s WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls).
Antenna bays went up last week on one of the WBEN (930) towers a couple of miles away (left, also courtesy Bill Weeks), and once WKSE starts operating from that site under Special Temporary Authority – which should be any day – the old Kiss tower on Staley Road will come down and construction can get started on its replacement. (Entercom had planned at one point to abandon the old Staley Road site entirely, moving WKSE permanently to a new tower it planned to build on the WBEN site.)
The Staley Road site dates back to the 1950s, when Niagara Falls’ WHLD(AM) moved from 1290 to 1270 and built a new two-tower array on Grand Island; WHLD eventually moved off the island and down to a diplex on the AM 970 site in Hamburg, south of Buffalo, leaving WKSE (the former WHLD-FM) all alone on Staley Road.
*There’s a tower coming down in NEW JERSEY, too, where Press Communications’ WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) tells the FCC it lost its lease on its longtime tower last week, with demolition set to begin on Friday. After losing its battle to move to 99.3, swapping frequencies with Equity’s WZBZ, WBHX had to settle for now for a temporary antenna on one of those “COW” (cell-on-wheels) trailers, which will be parked next to the water tower in Beach Haven while Press keeps looking for a new permanent tower site.
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*In MASSACHUSETTS, silent WMEX (1510 Boston) is headed to auction in less than two weeks. Broker George Kimble is advertising a Dec. 15, 5 PM auction for the 50,000-watt station, which fell silent in July. Minimum bid for the license is $300,000 (with a $25,000 deposit), but that’s just the start of the complicated economics that have doomed previous attempts to keep the venerable signal alive. There’s a $6,000 monthly power bill for the aging Nautel transmitter – and on top of that, the lease for the Waltham transmitter site, which is $12,000 monthly on a 10-year agreement the buyer would have to sign.
Can WMEX find a bidder willing to shoulder more than $200,000 in annual expenses just to put out a signal, especially when the market knows that at least one other AM (iHeart’s WKOX 1430) has to be sold in the near future, while another (iHeart’s WXKS 1200) may at least be available soon for lease? We’ll know in time for our Dec. 18 issue, perhaps…
(And then there’s the translator issue, with no space available on the FM dial for WMEX – or WKOX or WXKS – to pick up an FM home in the next translator window in 2018. One more AM that also won’t be going to FM is Principle’s WESX (1230 Nahant), which has dropped its proposal for a 92.1 translator after getting MX’d out of contention in the last window.)
*Why is Entercom moving a venerable Boston callsign back to the market whence it came? “WBMX” was on 102.7 in the Chicago market for most of the 1970s and 1980s before arriving in Boston on 98.5 (ex-WROR) in 1991, then moving to 104.1 in the 2009 format shuffle that killed WBCN. Does the WBMX callsign really carry any heritage back in Chicago? Entercom seems to think so, which is why it’s putting WBMX on its new “104.3 Jams,” ex-WJMK, in Chicago – and why it’s filed to make Boston’s “Mix 104.1” into “WWBX.”
*Univision and Entravision are swapping channels in four of their shared markets nationwide, including greater Boston. Entravision-owned WUNI (Channel 27), which has carried Univision since 1995, moves its programming today to Univision-owned channel 66, formerly WUTF with the secondary UniMas network. The stations are swapping calls along with their affiliations, so it will be WUNI on channel 66 with Univision and WUTF on channel 27 with Unimas. Both stations will apparently continue to be operated under an LMA by Entravision, which produces the “Noticias Univision Nueva Inglaterra” newscast that runs in both Boston and Hartford.
Univision says the changes (which are also happening in Tampa, Orlando and Denver) won’t affect cable or satellite viewers, so it’s apparently working with those providers to keep “WUNI” and “WUTF” where they’re presently seen, which is 17 (SD)/816 (HD) for WUNI and 21 (SD)/817 (HD) for WUTF for Comcast’s Boston-area systems.
Sunday was also “rescan day” for WFXZ-CD (Channel 24) in Boston, which sold its spectrum at auction and had its “zombie license” donated to public broadcaster WGBH (Channel 2). As of today, WFXZ is now sharing spectrum with WGBH, currently on RF 19 but moving to RF 5 once the repack kicks in next year. (Want to learn more about how this whole “zombie license” thing works for public broadcasters? I have a long article in the new issue of Current for your perusal…)
One more channel share that’s coming: Ion’s sale of the spectrum out at WDPX (Channel 58/RF 40) on Cape Cod won’t kill that license – instead, the “zombie” WDPX will share ion’s own WBPX (Channel 68/RF 32) in Boston, presumably giving the “ion Life” subchannel must-carry status as its own “separate” license. (And no, you won’t get the WBPX signal very well, if at all, out at its old community of license on Martha’s Vineyard, which is why WDPX will change COL from Vineyard Haven to Woburn when it begins sharing on WBPX.)
*And we note the passing of Kevin Linagen, whose many years in broadcasting included long runs on WPLM (1390/99.1) in Plymouth and the old WJIB (96.9) in Boston. Linagen was 74 when he died Nov. 24 at South Shore Hospital.
*Two RHODE ISLAND AMs have new FM translator sisters to kick off December. As we noted last week, WSTL (1220 Providence) has its new 94.9 on the air from the WHJY (94.1) tower in East Providence – and the new FM came with a return of the AM signal, which had been silent. It’s now “Mega 94.9,” doing Spanish tropical under the aegis of Quilvio Perdomo, who’d been programming crosstown WKKB (100.3) for John Fuller. Perdomo’s apparently in the process of buying the AM and the translator, and presumably selling WSTL’s other translator at 93.7.
Meanwhile, iHeart’s acquisition of the former EMF K-Love translator at 104.7, W284BA in Warwick, has created (at least for now) an FM outlet for iHeart’s talk WHJJ (920), giving it at least some FM presence to counter Cumulus’ WPRO (630) on full-power (but not quite full-market) WEAN (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale).
*The VERMONT Association of Broadcasters celebrated the state’s top broadcasters at its annual banquet Saturday. This year’s Hall of Fame class included 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 went to Lynn Beaudoin of Vermont Broadcast Associates, Mark Esbjerg of Sison Broadcasting and Steve Pelkey of Hall Communications. Brattleboro’s WTSA took home the Alan Noyes Community Service Award for their annual “Project Feed the Thousands” campaign, and Greg Towne, engineer for WVNY-TV (Channel 22) received the Snyder-Teffner engineering award.
*Radio People on the Move in New York: Jill Kempton, who’d been APD, music director and imaging director for iHeart’s WLTW (106.7 New York), moves down to Washington as the new PD of sister station WASH (97.1). That creates a hole for Cara Hahn, who takes over next week both as WLTW APD/MD and in the same role down the hall at WHTZ (Z100), where the APD job had been vacant since Jagger’s departure for Hartford more than a year ago. (And here’s a Where Are They Now – Kempton’s new morning man at WASH is Toby Knapp, who got his start at WBHT in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.)
And former WHTZ PD Sharon Dastur is leaving iHeart, where she’d had a senior management role, to join Republic Records as senior VP of promotion.
Up the Thruway in Albany, Ashley Marie has exited mornings at WFLY (92.3), where they’re now looking for a co-host to work alongside Jake Allen.
*Is there a post-Christmas format change coming in western PENNSYLVANIA? WCNS (1480 Latrobe) dropped its talk format last week for holiday tunes, promising “we have a big announcement to make in December” – and the elves at RadioInsight.com have picked up on a domain registration for “973LiteFM,” which is WCNS’ translator frequency, hinting at AC music on the way, perhaps?
*It was a busy week in CANADA, including some surprises: Canadian Radio News reports the CBC has turned on its first HD Radio signal, putting “ICI premiere” CJBC (860)’s programming on the HD2 of “ICI musique” sister station CJBC-FM (90.3) in Toronto.
To the west, the end of November was supposed to have been the absolute, final, we’re-not-kidding-this-time, drop-dead deadline for Elliot Kerr to put his new CKNT (960) on the air in Mississauga – but instead, the CRTC granted a fourth extension that pushes the deadline out to June 30, 2018. Kerr’s request for the extension cited delays in Transport Canada’s approval of his latest proposed site, which followed several unsuccessful attempts to find workable sites elsewhere in Mississauga.
In Ottawa, an AM frequency that fell silent in 2015 is coming back on the air under new ownership. CIRA-5 (1350) was the Gatineau/Ottawa outlet for Montreal’s Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA 91.3) for three years before leaving the AM dial. Now the CRTC has approved a new license for Radio Communautaire Francophone et Francophile de l’Outaouais to use the same facilities – 1000 watts days, 180 watts nights, non-directional – for its new French-language community station, CHFO, which must be on the air by November 2019.
*Back in Toronto at Corus’ AM640 (CFMJ), Saturday night host Fred Bell lost his “A View from Space” show after complaints about anti-Semitic content on a recent broadcast.
*And while it’s not directly broadcast-related, the big newspaper swap last week between Postmedia and Torstar/Metroland may open up some local advertising opportunities in the Ontario markets where it led to the abrupt closure of daily newspapers. The Barrie Observer and Orillia’s Packet and Times were shut down without any advance notice last Monday after being swapped to Torstar, leaving both cities without a daily print newspaper – and potential new audiences available to the local radio stations in those communities, as well as CTV’s CKVR (Channel 3) in Barrie, which has long been the only TV newsroom to cover that area.
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