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In this week’s issue… Historic UHF stations start sharing with neighbors – Less local in Binghamton – Morning shift in Philly – LI FM flips – Trouble at Canadian community signal

By SCOTT FYBUSH

(Programming note: we’re happy to be able to report that Lisa, aka “Mrs. NERW,” is back home from her hospital adventure in the midwest, and she’s rapidly catching up with calendar orders and subscription inquiries. The chaos of this past week means this is a somewhat abbreviated NERW; if we’ve missed anything out there, please drop us a line and we’ll get it in the next issue. The “Top of the Tower” podcast is on hiatus for the moment as we try to rebalance our workload. Stay tuned.) 

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*For over-the-air viewers in several big markets, this is the week that the first serious visible effects of the FCC’s spectrum auction and repack are beginning to be visible.

On Tuesday morning, Sunbeam will turn off the Needham transmitter of WLVI (Channel 56/RF 41) for the last time. The CW affiliate began broadcasting on its new RF 42 home late last week, sharing the spectrum there with independent sister station WHDH (Channel 7) and presenting Boston viewers with a temporary lineup of two “56.1” services with the CW and two “56.2”s with the Buzzr game-show channel.

Sunbeam took in $162.1 million from the FCC’s spectrum auction for WLVI’s former 6 MHz chunk of UHF, in what would look like a slam-dunk win that allows owner Ed Ansin to pocket as much cash as the entire station was likely worth – and at the same time keep operating the station in a way that will be nearly transparent to viewers. (One analogy used by our engineering colleague Doug Smith, which we’ll embellish a bit: if someone offered you $250,000 for your house, but you could still keep living in the house just as it was, wouldn’t you take it? And in this case, the appropriate analogy would be that not even the house number out front would change, just the number on the tax roll at City Hall, right?)

It’s still not clear what will become of WLVI’s space at the Needham candelabra tower; Sunbeam was renting space there, but it owns the WHDH-TV tower down the road where WHDH-TV and WLVI’s shared broadcast now originates. (For now, only Fox affiliate WFXT will be broadcasting a full-power TV signal from the candelabra, which had been built back in the early 1970s for WLVI, WSBK and the future WXNE/WFXT.)

*In the Philadelphia market, secondary public broadcaster WYBE (Channel 35) has begun sharing spectrum with its eventual new owner, Lehigh Valley public broadcaster WLVT (Channel 39) – or rather, on RF channel 9 with WLVT’s eventual channel-share partner, WBPH (Channel 60). That means most over-the-air viewers in and around Philadelphia will lose access to WYBE, but it will presumably retain its cable and satellite must-carry, which is mostly what matters, right?

In central Pennsylvania, Tribune’s WPMT (Channel 43) in York left its home on RF47 on Tuesday; it’s now channel-sharing with Harrisburg public broadcaster WITF (Channel 33) on RF36, putting more signal into Harrisburg at the expense of some of its former coverage area to the south.

*In New York City, Univision’s WXTV (Channel 41) sold off its spectrum on RF40 and is now sharing with sister WFUT (Channel 68) on RF30; since WXTV used to duplicate its signal on 68.2 from WFUT and WFUT on 41.2 via WXTV, there have been some changes in subchannels. Bounce TV has moved from 41.3 to 41.2, Get TV from 68.3 to 68.2 and Justice from 68.5 to 68.3. Grit (formerly 41.4) and Escape (formerly 68.4), which had been on both WXTV/WFUT and competitor WJLP (Channel 33/RF 3), are now solely on WJLP.

The Fybush Media podcast is back!

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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 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: January 9, 2017

*The honor of “first surprise format change of 2017” went to CBS Radio in Philadelphia, which pulled the plug on top-40 “AMP Radio” at WZMP (96.5) at 10 AM on Thursday, flipping the station to a straightforward AC as “Today’s 96.5.”

WZMP had parted ways with two of its jocks at the end of 2016, morning host Jason Cage and afternoon jock Mike Adam; two other jocks, Bex (Rebekah Maroun) and Michael Bennett, will be back on the air with the new AC format after its jockless launch.

Bobby Smith remains as PD at WZMP, which now goes up against Jerry Lee Broadcasting’s AC heavy hitter, “More FM” WBEB (101.1) and iHeart’s “Mix” WISX (106.1). (The ever-crafty Lee may have preempted CBS’ use of its “Fresh” AC branding in Philadelphia; a few years ago, he licensed the name for WBEB and even used it on the air briefly – and now WBEB has been heard calling itself “Today’s More 101,” too.)

*Just an hour after CBS pulled its Philadelphia surprise, Entercom in Boston followed with a move that was no surprise at all: WKAF (97.7 Brockton) split from its simulcast with rock WAAF (107.3 Westborough) to go to R&B as “The New 97.7.”

The new WKAF is being programmed by Chris Malone, who moves to Boston from Memphis’ Cumulus cluster; its consultants include Elroy Smith, whose Boston roots go back to the market’s original urban station, WILD (1090). For now, WKAF is commercial- and talent-free, running 10,000 songs in a row while it puts a talent lineup together.

As it prepares to leave its longtime Newton studio/transmitter site behind, WNTN (1550) is getting a new owner. The $175,000 sale from Rob Rudnick’s Colt Communications to Delta Communications, LLC returns WNTN to the Demetriades family, whose patriarch Orestes (“Mr. D”) put the station on the air back in 1968, and whose family members still produce and host WNTN’s flagship “Grecian Echoes” show.

The sale includes WNTN’s license, but not the property on Rumford Ave., which is slated for redevelopment after the station completes its move to Cambridge, where it will soon be diplexing on the Concord Ave. tower of WJIB (740). (There are other odd exclusions, too: Rudnick is keeping the wntn.com domain, the station’s Newton phone number…and the office typewriter!)

*RHODE ISLAND Public Radio was late to the game, starting up in the 1990s after most states had already established public radio networks. And so the Providence-based operation has had to fight for signals, starting with its birth on the AM dial on WRNI (1290 Providence) and growing to three FM signals that cover most of the state, but not necessarily very well.

That’s about to change in a very big way with RIPR’s announcement Wednesday that it’s buying WUMD (89.3 Dartmouth) from the University of Massachusetts and moving the station to a bigger signal at a new location. The $1.5 million deal will also include ten years of underwriting announcements for UMass Dartmouth (valued at a total of $600,000), as well as support from RIPR for a new webcast-only version of WUMD, which has been a student-run freeform station.

RIPR will keep its three existing signals – WELH (88.1 Providence), leased from the Wheeler School, serves Providence and vicinity; WCVY (91.5 Coventry), owned by the local school district, reaches the central part of the state; WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier) covers southern Rhode Island – but it will gain considerable reach when it takes over WUMD and relocates 89.3 to a new home on the former WLNE (Channel 6) tower in Tiverton, R.I.

WUMD has already applied to make the move from its present site on the UMass Dartmouth campus to Tiverton, going from 9.6 kW/93 m to 7 kW/254 m DA; the station will also change city of license to Newport and will eventually take the WRNI-FM calls from 102.7.

Five Years Ago: January 7, 2013

*Greater Media has launched the official format on Boston’s 96.9. “Hot 96.9” launched at 11 this morning on the former talk WTKK, ending a week of “micro-formats” and, as widely expected, putting Greater right into the rhythmic top 40 game against Clear Channel’s WJMN (Jam’n 94.5) and WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) and CBS Radio’s WODS (Amp 103.3).

 

*Beyond the big Philadelphia talk shifts, much of the rest of the week’s news from PENNSYLVANIA was driven by Cumulus. After swallowing Citadel, the company had a big roster of ESPN Radio outlets from one end of the Keystone State to the other – and that meant a slew of shifts from ESPN to CBS Sports Radio as of January 2. The new Cumulus/CBS Sports Radio signals include WRIE (1260 Erie), WLLF (96.7 Mercer, serving nearby Youngstown, Ohio), WHGB (1400 Harrisburg, plus an FM translator at 95.3), WGLD (1440 Manchester Township/York) and WIOV (1240 Reading, plus an FM translator at 98.5). That’s nearly all of the full-time CBS Sports Radio signals in Pennsylvania so far, except for the one big CBS Radio clearance at WIP (610 Philadelphia), which we’d long known would be breaking away from its simulcast with WIP-FM (94.1). In Pittsburgh, CBS Sports Radio has no full-time clearance, but its updates are already airing on CBS Radio’s KDKA-FM (93.7 the Fan).

Ten Years Ago: January 7, 2008

*It was one of the biggest radio stories of the summer in NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE and the rest of northern New England last year: Entercom, programmer of Boston’s highly successful WEEI (850 Boston), was to partner with Nassau to spread WEEI’s sports format to Portland, Concord, the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley and Cape Cod – and in exchange, Entercom would take a half-interest in Nassau’s classical WCRB (99.5 Lowell) for the improbably-low-sounding sum of $10 million. (Nassau had paid $60 million for the station just a year earlier, after all.)

As 2007 wound to a close, Nassau began laying the groundwork for the format changes that would accompany the start of its WEEI simulcasts: in Concord and the Lakes Region, WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) moved from oldies to classic hits (“Frank”) to clear the way for classic rocker “Hawk” WWHK (102.3 Concord)/WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) to become WEEI affiliates. And the “Free Beer and Hot Wings” morning show heard on several Nassau stations started saying goodbye to listeners in Portland (“Bone” WHXR/WHXQ).

But then rumors started spreading about problems with the deal, and even as the champagne was being chilled and we were stepping away from the computer on New Year’s Eve afternoon, the companies pulled the plug on their plans for a network.

“The transaction hit an impasse,” was the word from Nassau’s Lou Mercatanti to Clea Simon at the Boston Globe, and we’ve still heard nothing definitive about what caused the deal to fall apart at the last minute.

So in the absence of hard fact, we’ll offer some educated speculation. First, from the Entercom side of the fence, there’s no question that the deal was more essential to announce in August than to close in December. In August, WEEI faced what could have been a serious challenge to its sports supremacy: while Entercom had locked up a long-term Red Sox contract, at no small expense, its morning stars John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were flirting with other suitors – not just the long-rumored Greater Media dream of flipping WBOS (92.9) to an all-sports format, but also a possible Nassau flip of WCRB to sports. Allying Nassau with WEEI took away that option for Dennis and Callahan, and it’s no coincidence that the pair re-signed with Entercom soon after the Nassau deal was announced.

Fifteen Years Ago: January 6, 2003

Radio listeners in PENNSYLVANIA’s largest market can be forgiven if they’re a little confused in the morning this week — and it has nothing to do with New Year’s revelry, just some staffing changes at two Greater Media FMs.

We’ll start with struggling hot AC WMWX (95.7), which brought familiar Philly voice Glenn Kalina to its morning airwaves this week. Mix also brought Brian Murphy (a Philly vet most recently heard on Boston’s WODS) to middays, displacing Lauren Valle, and moved former morning guy Joe Mama to afternoons, replacing Rick Stacy. Just to complete the shuffle, the station won’t be carrying Delilah’s syndicated nighttime show any longer; her replacement on Mix has yet to be announced. Down the hall at WMMR (93.3), Paul Barsky’s latest Philadelphia gig has come to an end. With Barsky’s contract not being renewed, ‘MMR is using sports guy “Vinnie the Crumb” and former WHFS Washington jock Graeme to handle mornings until a permanent replacement is named.

Twenty Years Ago: January 8, 1998

Radio listeners in southern Vermont and New Hampshire are mourning one of the area’s best-known morning jocks. Ian Taylor died in his sleep New Year’s Eve, just a few days before he was to have started a new job doing mornings on oldies WXOD (98.7 Winchester NH). Taylor was born Edward O’Donnell in Utica, New York in 1952, and attended the now-defunct Grahm Junior College in Boston. After working at stations in Utica and Albany, his career included stops at WEQX (102.7) Manchester VT, WPYX (106.5 Albany), and four years as morning host at WKVT-FM (92.7) Brattleboro VT. In recent months, he had been working as a salesman for WYRY (104.9) Hinsdale NH.

The oldest TV station in MASSACHUSETTS has a new look. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) unveiled its new logo featuring a “4” in a three-quarter circle Sunday night (you can see it at www.wbz.com, albeit in black and white), and was promptly dubbed “The Circle 4 Ranch” by sports anchor and station wag Bob Lobel. The retro-look logo accompanies the launch of BZ’s 50th anniversary campaign and revamped morning show.

Emerson College’s WERS (88.9) will move into new quarters in August. Emerson’s new Ansin Building at 180 Tremont Street gets its name from the parents of WHDH-TV owner Ed Ansin, who donated $1 million to the school. WERS has spent the last 14 years in second-floor studios at 126 Beacon Street.

1 COMMENT

  1. Other Philadelphia repack news effective three weeks ago:
    WMGM-TV RF36 (virtual 40) Atlantic City/Wildwood now carrying 7 sub channels….

    40.1 Justice TV (480i)
    40.2 GetTV (480i)
    40.3 WUVP-DT Univision (720p) channel 65 in Philadelphia
    48.1 WGTW TV Philadelphia TBN HD (720p)
    48.2 hillsong channel (owned by TBN (480i)
    48.3 enlace (Spanish religion/TBN 480i)
    48.4 salsa (TBN affiliate 480i)

Comments are closed.