In this week’s issue… Dozens file for new translators – KQV’s next chapter – TBN buys in NYC – King flips in Maine – FM eviction in Canada



*It’s a good morning to be Philadelphia’s WIP (94.1), isn’t it? The sports station has made a long-term bet on the Eagles, and it’s sure to pay off in a big way after the team’s Super Bowl win Sunday night in Minneapolis. We’d bet there are some very happy faces not only at WIP, but also at Entercom’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. After all, the matchup also gave Entercom’s WEEI (93.7) in Boston plenty to talk about, even after the station had to suspend host Alex Reimer for his insult aimed at Tom Brady’s young daughter. WEEI didn’t have the local call of the game – that was on WBZ-FM (98.5), now in Beasley’s hands – but it carried the network call via Westwood One, and its deal with the Patriots means Brady will be on the air on WEEI this morning to talk about the Pats’ loss.

On the TV side, NBC parent Comcast is also headquartered in America’s newest championship city. Once it figures out what went wrong with that spot break that went (very expensively) to black during the TV broadcast, NBC executives will probably be taking a very close look at the local ratings for the game in the Boston market: if a Patriots Super Bowl (and upcoming Winter Olympics) isn’t enough to get viewers to sample the ratings-challenged “NBC10 Boston,” after all, what else could possibly get them to find NBC’s new home on their dial?

*Beyond the big game, there was really just one big story this past week: while the FCC calls the process “AM revitalization,” there are few broadcasters who’d argue that the ongoing process of granting FM translator signals to AM stations is actually revitalizing an increasingly moribund AM band.

When the Commission closed its final window for AM broadcasters to apply for translators on Wednesday, more than 850 AM stations had applied for their own little slices of the FM dial, hoping to put their programming where more of today’s listeners are. (Meanwhile, the FCC continues to crank out construction permit grants for nearly 1000 stations that applied in last year’s window, which was limited to small class C and D stations.)

Much of this week’s NERW is a comprehensive list (the first, we believe, to appear anywhere) of those applications in the “NERW-land” territory we cover. You’ll see how several AM stations on the verge of going dark are hoping to use translators as a last gasp for survival – and how some much bigger (and still successful) AMs are hedging their bets with FM applications, just to make sure they’re not left out down the road.

A few notes on the process: the applications you’ll see below are “short-form” proposals that aren’t required to have complete technical details or even be grantable on the frequencies they’ve proposed. In some cases, applicants deliberately file for ungrantable channels in order to be able to modify their proposals later on when the FCC opens a window for complete “long-form” filings.

What happens now? In the next week or so, we expect the FCC to release its official list of applications, sorted into “singletons” that had no competition for their proposed channels and mutually-exclusive (“MX”) groups of competing applicants. Those MX groups will then proceed to a settlement window later this year where they can buy each other out or find suitable technical modifications that resolve their MX situation. And if they still can’t reach a deal? There will be an auction – but that’s a last-choice alternative for broadcasters trying not to spend too much on translators. Last week, the FCC released a list of 12 MX groups from its 2017 filing window that will now proceed to auction; in NERW-land, that included just one pair of competing applicants, Stephens (WMSA) and Waters (WPDM) in Massena for 92.9 and 93.3, respectively, with a proposed starting bid of just $750.

(By way of disclaimer, Fybush Media assisted many of this window’s translator applicants, both in NERW-land and around the country; we’ve noted those clients in italics in our state-by-state look at all the applications that were filed, which awaits subscribers just below…)


We have shipped piles of our 2021 Tower Site Calendar, and we’ll keep on shipping until it’s gone.

This is the 20th year we have been publishing our calendar. In addition to the beautiful cover shot of WEJL, we have photos from New Jersey, Nebraska, Texas, and much more!

You can get the regular calendar, or you can order a storage bag for it if you keep them, or you can get it signed by Scott (and get a complimentary bag).

And when you’re purchasing your calendar, don’t forget to take a look at the other great products in our store.


*In western PENNSYLVANIA, the headlines last week made it beyond the trade press into the mainstream media – “KQV might have some talk left in it, after all,” reported the Post-Gazette after Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications, Inc. filed a $55,000 deal with the FCC to acquire the license of silent KQV (1410 Pittsburgh) from Calvary, Inc. (Roger Rafson served as the broker for Calvary.)

That’s not a typo – for all its storied history and distinctive three-letter callsign, that’s all the 1410 signal could fetch once separated from its North Side transmitter site, which the Dickey family will sell in a separate deal, presumably for eventual non-broadcast development.

In the FCC filing, Stevens indicates that he plans to apply to relocate KQV to a diplex on the North Versailles transmitter site of WEDO (810 McKeesport), which will become one of four Pittsburgh-market AM sisters to KQV, alongside WKHB (620 Irwin), WKFB (770 Jeanette) and WQTW (1570 Latrobe) and FMs WKVE (103.1 Mount Pleasant) and WKHB-FM (103.9 Scottdale).

As a non-directional signal from North Versailles, KQV won’t be much of a signal, likely just 600 watts or so, barely reaching into downtown. Can that support Stevens’ claim to the P-G that he’s “looking to bring back the news format” that the Dickeys shut down at the end of 2017? (At the time, they claimed it was losing more than a million dollars a year.) Or will whatever’s left of KQV end up like the rest of Stevens’ AM stations, a mix of paid programming and some automated music as filler? It’s hard to be hopeful that there will much recognizable as “KQV” when the station’s centennial rolls around next year.

As expected, KQV did file in the translator window, applying for 98.9, which appears to be an odd choice right up against a CP for WJAS (1320)’s new translator at 99.1 on the WQED tower in Pittsburgh’s Oakland network.

*In addition to KQV, whose application will end up MX with another 98.9 application from WGBN (1360 McKeesport), translator applications in Pennsylvania included another MX for 102.9 in Pittsburgh between WWCS (540 Canonsburg) and WAOB (860 Millvale), as well as applications from WMBA (1460 Ambridge, for 95.7); WBUT (1050 Butler, for 97.3); WISR (680 Butler, for 107.5); WJST (1280 New Castle, for 97.5); WKST (1200 New Castle, for 97.9); WRSC (1390 State College, for 93.3); WCPA (900 Clearfield, for 98.5); WVAM (1430 Altoona, for 99.7); WFBG (1290 Altoona, for 104.5); WEJS (1600 Jersey Shore, for 104.1); WWCB (1370 Corry, for 94.1); WKVA (920 Lewistown, for 100.3); WLOA (1470 Farrell, for 102.3); WHYF (720 Shiremanstown, for 95.7 York); WOYK (1350 York, for 98.9); WHP (580 Harrisburg, for 103.7); WGET (1320 Gettysburg, for 93.7); WGMF (1460 Tunkhannock, for 107.9 Montrose); and WPPA (1360 Pottsville, for 105.9).

*New translator grants in Pennsylvania: W300DQ (107.9 Carbonale), to WCDL (1440); W254DI (98.7 Monroeville), to WPGR (1510).

*And the classic rock finally came to an end on Wednesday at WTPA (92.1 Palmyra), but as of the weekend EMF hadn’t yet consummated its purchase of the signal from Pat Sickafus, nor had the new K-Love programming launched there.

*It’s licensed to Edison, NEW JERSEY, but WDVB-CD (Channel 23/RF 22) transmits from the Empire State Building – and now it’s being sold to the broadcaster who just started channel-sharing on its signal. That’s Trinity Broadcasting Network, which sold off the spectrum of its New York-market rimshot WTBY (Channel 54) for $162.4 million in the auction.

WTBY’s channel share on WDVB, while at much lower power than its old Hudson Valley signal, covers millions more potential viewers – and paying $13 million to spectrum speculator LocusPoint for WDVB and sister station WLPD-CD in Chicago is a bargain compared to what TBN netted from its spectrum sale up the river.

That’s even more true in Chicago, where TBN pulled in $304 million for the spectrum of its full-power rimshot, WWTO. Indeed, TBN may have pulled off the best deal in the entire repack, netting over $450 million while ending up with much higher population counts for its signals in markets 1 and 3.

Right now, the WDVB transmitter carries seven streams, three in SD from WDVB itself and one HD/three SD from WTBY; it’s not clear whether the WDVB programming (Country Network/Song of the South/SonLife) will survive after TBN takes over ownership of the signal.

*New translator applications in New Jersey: WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes, for 98.3); WTOC (1360 Newton, for 95.9 Dover); WRNJ (1510 Hackettstown, for 105.7 Glen Gardner); WIFI (1460 Florence, for 103.7 Burlington); WWTR (1170 Bridgewater, for 104.7 Somerset); WADB (1310 Asbury Park, for 96.7); WOBM (1160 Lakewood Township, for 93.5); WMIZ (1270 Vineland, for 106.5); WWRL (1600 New York, for 103.9 Edison); WEMG (1310 Camden, for 106.5).

WTHE's studio
WTHE’s studio, summer 2017

*On Long Island, WTHE (1520 Mineola) started February off the air. The Universal Broadcasting-owned daytimer tells the FCC it’s lost the lease on its studio and transmitter site, though its black gospel format has continued streaming.

Will the 1000-watter find a way back on the air? It, too, has applied for a translator (though as you’ll read below, it faces an MX challenge), but a translator needs an AM signal to originate – and real estate in Nassau County isn’t exactly cheap.

Out at the east end of Long Island, WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) has named an overnight replacement for the late Al Case. “Big Tom” Lawler, based down in eastern North Carolina but with roots in the northeast, has been a frequent fill-in voice on WLNG – and now he’s taking over tracking the Tuesday-Saturday overnight hours.

*In Springville, south of Buffalo, it appears little WSPQ (1330) is getting another chance at life. Nothing’s been filed with the FCC yet, but veteran broadcaster Chris Lash says he’s buying the station, which also applied for a translator in the filing window (read on for our New York list.)

And in Binghamton, there’s a new live talent in afternoons at Townsquare’s WWYL (Wild 104), where Joshua B. takes the reins.

*Our look at translator applications in the Empire State begins with a potential MX situation on Long Island, where both silent WTHE (1520 Mineola) and Starboard’s Catholic WNSW (1430 Newark NJ) applied for 99.1, at Mineola and Manhasset respectively. Also on Long Island, WFTU (1570 Riverhead) applied for 104.9. And in New York City, Family Stations applied for 106.3 for its WFME (1560).

New translator applications upstate include two potential MXs in Rochester, where both iHeart’s WHAM (1180) and Genesee Media’s WOKR (1310 Canandaigua) seek 96.1, in Rochester and Fairport respectively, while WRSB (1590 Brockport) and Crawford’s WDCX (990 Rochester) seek 107.1. There’s one potential MX in Utica, where Townsquare’s WIBX (950) seeks 106.9 and Phoenix Radio’s WUSP (1550) seeks 107.1. Also in Utica, WTLB (1310) seeks 100.1 and WRCK (1480 Remsen) seeks 94.1.

And plenty of broadcasters look set with singletons: WDCZ (970 Buffalo, for 94.1); WSPQ (1330 Springville, for 100.7); WXRL (1300 Lancaster, for 95.5); WHIC (1460 Rochester, for 104.5 Chili); WYSL (1040 Avon, for 95.5 Spencerport); WACK (1420 Newark, for 96.9 Sodus); WAUB (1590 Auburn, for 96.3); WSKO (1260 Syracuse, for 96.1); WFBL (1390 Syracuse, for 107.5); WLNL (1000 Horseheads, for 107.5); WEHH (1590 Elmira Heights-Horseheads, for 96.7 Corning); WENY (1230 Elmira, for 96.5); WHCU (870 Ithaca, for 97.7); unbuilt WTRS (750 Lansing, for 101.1 Ithaca); WNBF (1290 Binghamton, for 92.1); WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsville, for 97.9); WIZR (930 Johnstown, for 104.3 Northville); WFNY (1440 Gloversville, for 93.1); WTNY (790 Watertown, for 95.9); WNBZ (1240 Saranac Lake, for 95.3); WWSC (1450 Glens Falls, for 93.1); WAIX (1160 Mechanicville, for 93.3); WOFX (980 Troy, for 95.9 Albany); WWLE (1170 Cornwall, for 100.1 Newburgh); WBNR (1260 Beacon, for 96.5) and WLNA (1420 Peekskill, for 94.3).

The week also brought one new translator grant from the 2017 window: W265DQ (100.9 Alden), to WCJW (1140 Warsaw).

*In Binghamton’s broadcast engineering community, Tom Siglin was a familiar, friendly face for many years, working for WMRV/WENE, WMXW and especially as the longtime chief engineer of WHRW (90.5) at Binghamton University, which he served for almost 40 years until illness forced him to retire last year. Tom had been in hospice care in Utah, where he died last Monday (Jan. 29) at age 70. A memorial service will be held for him in Owego on Feb. 24.

We remember Frank Stickle, a Buffalo native who’s remembered for his time in the 1960s and 1970s as a weekender at New York’s WMCA (570) in the waning days of the Good Guys era, and later as a newsman in New Haven at WTNH (Channel 8). Stickle died Jan. 27 in North Carolina; he was 85.

And there’s a coda to our obituary last week for Dennis Curley (aka Doug Christiansen), longtime owner of the “Channel X” stations up in northern Maine: before he moved up to Aroostook County in the 1980s, he did radio in the Hudson Valley – first in the Newburgh market in the 1960s and then as owner of WBZA (1230) and WXQL/WNIQ (107.1) in Glens Falls in the 1970s, where he’s still fondly remembered by former colleagues and competitors.

*New translator applications in MASSACHUSETTS included Ed Perry’s plan for an FM outlet for WMEX (1510) once he takes it over: he’s hoping to use 101.1 in Weymouth. Other applications: WACE (730 Chicopee, for 95.1); WHYN (560 Springfield, for 98.9); WBIX (1260 Boston, for 97.3); WJDA (1300 Quincy, for 100.1); WSAR (1480 Fall River, for 95.9); WBSM (1420 New Bedford, for 99.5); WNBH (1340 New Bedford, for 101.3).

New translator grants: W266DK (101.1 Southbridge), to WESO (970); W229DC (93.7 Fall River), to WHTB (1400).

*In MAINE, Stephen King is flipping formats at WZON (620), giving up progressive talk in favor of oldies as “Z62, Retro Radio.” That “Z62” branding goes back to the station’s top-40 days as WLBZ; its programming, however, will still be a bit of a melange, retaining WABI-TV news simulcasts from 4:30-6 AM and 6-6:30 PM and the “Downtown” talk show from 4-6 PM. Don Cookson, who’d been doing mornings, moves to middays on sister station WKIT (100.3).

*WZON didn’t apply for a translator in the window; instead, new translator applications in Maine included a potential MX in the Portland area, where Saga’s WGAN (560) applied for 98.3 and WLOB (1310) for 98.5 in Freeport. Others included WLVP (870 Gorham, for 105.1); WLAM (1470 Lewiston, for 97.3); WRED (1440 Westbrook, for 103.5 Freeport); WSKW (1160 Skowhegan, for 94.9); WJYE (1280 Gardiner, for 106.3) and WABK (910 Bangor, for 105.3).

*Who applied for new translators in NEW HAMPSHIRE? Here’s the list: WDER (1320 Derry, for 92.1 Manchester); WGIR (610 Manchester, for 101.5); WKXL (1450 Concord, for 101.9); WPKX (930 Rochester, for 107.7); WKBK (1290 Keene, for 94.1); WSMN (1590 Nashua, for 95.3).

*There was one new translator grant in New Hampshire as wellW298CS (107.5 Littleton), to WLTN (1400).

*New translator applications in VERMONT include: WEAV (960 Plattsburgh NY, for 97.1 Colchester); WTSA (1450 Brattleboro, for 99.5); WBTN (1370 Bennington, for 96.5); WVNR (1340 Poultney, for 96.3) – plus a “Pulaski VT” application that actually belongs to WBLB in Pulaski, Virginia…

*The list of translator applicants in RHODE ISLAND included some big players and potential MX battles for 102.9 and 107.5: iHeart’s WHJJ (920 Providence) for 97.7; Cumulus’ WPRV (790 Providence) and Rhode Island Public Radio’s WRNI (1290 Providence), both for 102.9; plus WSJW (550 Pawtucket, for 107.5 Warwick) and WPVD (1450 West Warwick, also for 107.5).

*In CONNECTICUT, translator applications included three from the Connoisseur stations being sold to Full Power Radio – WDRC (1360 Hartford, for 103.3); WMMW (1470 Meriden, for 102.5) and WSNG (610 Torrington, for 104.5). Additional applications included WATR (1320 Waterbury, for 97.7); WNLK (1350 Norwalk, for 103.9); WELI (960 New Haven, for 96.9); WICC (600 Bridgeport, for 107.3); WFNW (1380 Naugatuck, for 104.5); WICH (1310 Norwich, for 96.1); WLIS (1420 Old Saybrook, for 97.3).

And we salute Joe DiMaggio – not the baseball Hall of Famer, but the veteran engineer at NBC’s WVIT (Channel 30), who’s just retired after a long run at the New Britain-based station that included its big move to a new studio building a few years back.

...and its FMs*One of the more unusual transmitter sites in CANADA is trying to shed its FM tenants. The tower of Olympic Stadium in Montreal has been home to several broadcasters over the years, including the DTV operations of Tele-Quebec (CIVM 17) and two community stations, CIBL (101.5) and CHAA (103.3).

Now Steve Faguy reports that CHAA is applying for an expedited move to Montreal’s main TV/FM site, Mont Royal, as it faces eviction from the Olympic tower. The stadium site has been undergoing renovation, Faguy writes, and there are plans to open the outside of the roof to tourists, which wouldn’t be compatible with continued FM use there.

CHAA’s move to Mount Royal would take it from 340 w average/1.4 kW max DA/192.5m to 403 w average/1.7 kW max DA/284.6m; Faguy says the station is looking for funding to cover the C$200,000 cost of the move and increased rent at its new site. It’s not yet clear what will become of CIBL (already in financial difficulty) or CIVM-DT as they, too, are presumably forced to move off the stadium tower.

*And we’re watching for an impending pair of format changes in Niagara Falls, where Byrnes Media is taking over “Juice” CFLZ (101.1 Fort Erie) and “2Day FM” CJED (105.1) from Vista; “Juice” and “2Day” are Vista proprietary formats, and we suspect Byrnes may be looking to extend its own “Heart” brand over from its CIHR (104.7 Woodstock).


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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: February 6, 2017

*Is the impending merger of CBS Radio into Entercom going to be “the biggest story of 2017,” as our colleague Tom Taylor declared Friday? That might be a premature declaration – but there’s no question the multi-billion-dollar deal is going to be a huge topic in the months to come.

In our NERW Extra on Thursday, we answered some of the immediate questions that arose from the deal, but those were just the beginning of what’s going to be a complex process. (If not necessarily a slow one – Entercom showed its determination to move this deal forward quickly when it announced Friday that it’s returning its license for KDND in Sacramento. That’s the station that got in FCC hot water with its “Hold your wee for a Wii” contest a few years back in which a listener died, and rather than wait out the wheels of FCC justice, Entercom decided sacrificing a license worth perhaps $20 million was a reasonable price to pay to get faster FCC approval for the CBS Radio deal.)

Who’s looking for trades? To comply with FCC ownership caps, Entercom plans to get rid of at least 14 stations nationwide in addition to shutting down KDND. Those include signals in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco/San Jose, Seattle and of course Boston, where at least three of the combined ten CBS and Entercom stations will have to go.

In its conference call, Entercom said it intends to pursue tax-free swaps instead of sales. So who’s out there who might want some combination of spinoffs from the CBS and Entercom clusters in Boston? The likeliest contender is iHeart, whose Boston cluster of three FMs (“JAMN” WJMN, “Kiss” WXKS-FM, “Bull” WBWL) and two AMs (talk WKOX and business WXKS) has always lagged in size behind Entercom, CBS and the Greater Media cluster that’s now part of Beasley. Indeed, iHeart may be the only logical suitor for one especially troubled Entercom property, talker WRKO (680). Could Rush Limbaugh, now in high-dial AM exile at WKOX, make yet another return to WRKO in the end?

*CONNECTICUT‘s WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport) is no more. Owner People’s Broadcast Network, LLC had told the FCC it was taking the station silent on Feb. 1, 2016, then applied for a second six-month silent period last September.

Because it didn’t return to the air by Feb. 2, 2017, the 5,000-watt daytimer has now had its license cancelled. Most of its leased-time programmers have found new homes in the year since WDJZ went silent; WNLK (1350 Norwalk) seems to have absorbed the majority of the former WDJZ programming.

*It appears last week’s dismissal of veteran CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto) midday host Ingrid Schumacher wasn’t just a one-off event; Bell Media now says it’s making an unspecified number of job cuts across Canada. In Montreal, that included Heather Backman, who’d been co-hosting mornings at CHOM (97.7) with Terry DiMonte for the last five years, as well as CHOM part-timer Paul Beauregard.

Five Years Ago: February 4, 2013

*For decades now, broadcasters in the U.S. have played the move-in game: get licensed to a community somewhere near a big city, put a signal on the air and begin soliciting advertising from that larger market. (Just ask that station that’s getting all the attention in the New York City market right now – you know, WNSH 94.7 from “Newark, New Jersey”!)

crtcBut in CANADA, things work a little differently: if you’re licensed to Newark (so to speak), you’d better not be programming to New York. Or, to put it more concretely: if you’re licensed to St. Catharines, Ontario, you’d better not be programming to Toronto.

That, in a nutshell, is why the CRTC denied the latest attempt to revive AM 1220 in St. Catharines, the frequency vacated last year when the agency ordered that channel’s longtime occupant, CHSC, to leave the air. This time, the proposal came from Subanasiri Vaithilingam, who operates CJVF (105.9 Scarborough), a low-wattage ethnic station that really does serve part of the Toronto market. Vaithilingam’s proposal for 1220 in St. Catharines called for most of the station’s programming to be in English, but with 15 hours a week of “third-language programming in Filipino, Tamil, Russian, Portuguese, and South Asian languages” as well.

*Off the coast of MASSACHUSETTS, the nonprofit “Friends of MVYradio” has scored a big victory along the way to its goal of keeping the AAA format of WMVY (92.7 Tisbury) alive after Aritaur Communications completes its sale of the broadcast license to Boston’s WBUR-FM (90.9). The “Friends” group, led by longtime WMVY programmer Barbara Dacey, set an ambitious fundraising goal of $600,000 in just two months to acquire WMVY’s studio facility on Martha’s Vineyard and relaunch the station as a web-only operation. As of January 25, the Friends announced they’d made their goal and will be able to keep ‘MVY alive on the web at least through the end of 2013. “We are already starting to look ahead,” says the group’s announcement, with plans to secure grants and underwriting support in hopes of also finding a new FM home once 92.7 switches to a WBUR simulcast under new calls WBUA. (The exact date for that switch hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s expected to happen within the next few weeks.)

Ten Years Ago: February 4, 2008

A surprise format change in New York – at 4 PM Tuesday, Emmis pulled the plug on smooth jazz WQCD (101.9), relegating “CD101.9” to the station’s HD2 channel (which wasn’t even on the air at launch time) and replacing it with a classic rock-leaning AAA format (they’re calling it “adult rock”), as “101.9 RXP, The NY Rock Experience.” New calls are WRXP, and there’s at least the start of a new staff – Brian Schrock is shown as music director and afternoon host on the station’s new website, while Blake Lawrence remains on board as PD.

*It’s been a popular parlor game in eastern MASSACHUSETTS radio circles for more than a decade now – when will Greater Media flip formats on its perennially ratings-challenged AAA station, WBOS (92.9 Brookline) – and to what?

If you had “February 1, 2008, at 5 PM” in the pool, and “classic alternative” as the new format, congratulations – you’ve just won something. If, on the other hand, you had “WBOS disc jockey” after your name, the news isn’t so good. The newly-renamed “Radio 92.9” has parted with its entire airstaff, with no plans to replace them any time soon.

Off the air completely are afternoon jock John Laurenti (late of WHJY in Providence), night guy Dominick Lewis and overnight voice Paul Jarvis, as well as the station’s weekenders, including Holly Harris and her Sunday night blues show. Morning host George Knight is gone from that shift, but his Sunday morning show remains in place. And middayer Dana Marshall is off the air, but she drops “interim” from her PD title and continues programming the new station.

So what’s this “classic alternative” business all about? Our best guess here at NERW is that it’s a play to siphon off some of the older listenership to Boston’s other “alternative” rockers, WBCN (104.1) and WFNX (101.7) – but after years of rumors about more dramatic format changes at 92.9, in particular some very credible reports that the station was on the verge of going sports a few months back, there’s reason to believe that Greater Media didn’t have any long-term plans of sticking with the long-running triple-A format, which had been running in one form or another on WBOS since its 1989 flip from country.

*Even before WBOS made its surprise Friday flip, we were planning to lead this week’s column with a Boston format change: last Monday morning (Jan. 28), regular listeners to the conservative talk on Salem’s WTTT (1150 Boston), what few there were, awoke to a shock – instead of the lineup that included Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, WTTT’s 5000-watt signal was running Spanish-language religion as “Radio Luz.”

In just over four years since launching its talk format in November 2003, WTTT never achieved significant visibility or ratings in the crowded Boston talk arena, despite several stabs at local talk and the addition of WBZ castoff Paul Harvey. “Radio Luz” enters a fairly crowded field, too, with Spanish-language religious programming already airing in the market on WESX (1230 Salem)/WJDA (1300 Quincy), but the leased-time programming will at least provide some steady revenue to bolster Salem’s bigger signals in town, religious WEZE (590 Boston) and WROL (950 Boston).

*Speaking of out-of-state religious broadcasters, California’s EMF Broadcasting is getting its first toehold in NEW HAMPSHIRE, with a $1 million purchase of WMEX (106.5 Farmington) from veteran New England broadcaster Dennis Jackson.

Fifteen Years Ago: February 3, 2003

CONNECTICUT’s longest-running morning team hung up their headphones last week after nearly two decades on the air — and not completely willingly. It’s been no secret for the last year or so that Bruce Barber was looking to leave the “Smith & Barber” morning show on WPLR (99.1 New Haven), but it still came as a surprise to listeners when the show was nowhere to be found last Friday morning.

Station officials say Barber had mentioned several times that he was getting bored with the show; they considered keeping co-host Brian Smith as a solo act, but decided instead to buy out the rest of the duo’s contracts. The decision came as a surprise to Smith, who tells Connecticut media outlets he wasn’t expecting the show to end when it did. The show’s sidekicks, Megan Doll and Billy Winn, will stay on board when WPLR’s new morning show launches later this month. Chaz and AJ come to the Cox rocker from Barnstable’s WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) on Long Island; Chaz is a former night jock at WPLR.

MASSACHUSETTS is home to one of the two stations in America whose call letters are the same as its city of license (WACO in Waco, Texas being the other) — and listeners to WARE (1250) in Ware have something new to enjoy this week. New owner Success Signal Broadcasting (helmed by Marshall Sanft, former owner of WESO in Southbridge) launched an oldies format on WARE Saturday, featuring veteran central Massachusetts jock Fred King in morning drive, a daily “Polka Hour” from 11 to noon (and all morning on Sunday), and an interesting lineup of local talk shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dennis Jackson (of WQQQ/WMEX/WRIP fame) has a hand in this one too; he and programmer Jay “Biggie” Fink are behind the deep, deep oldies format on the 5000-watter, which blankets the territory between Springfield and Worcester. (2013 note: WARE’s oldies format is still going strong, as is another project Dennis had a hand in launching that same week a decade ago, Phil Drumheller’s oldies WIZZ 1520 in Greenfield. Here’s to many more!)

Down to NEW JERSEY we’ll go, next, to find another change of simulcast at Millennium’s cluster in the Atlantic City market. WKXW (101.5 Trenton)’s talk programming moved last year from WBSS (97.3 Millville, now hot AC “Mix” WIXM) to WKXW (1450 Atlantic City, the former WFPG) — and at the same time, the hot AC moved from “Shore” WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) to WIXM. WKOE became CHR “Hot 106.3,” but it didn’t last; as of Saturday, “Hot” is gone and WKOE now carries the simulcast from “New Jersey 101.5.” What of WKXW(AM), then? It’s now doing ESPN radio, still with Harry Hurley’s local morning show.

Twenty Years Ago: February 5, 1998

Sinclair Broadcasting is leaving the Burlington-Plattsburgh TV market, just a few months after arriving. You’ll recall that Sinclair is buying the broadcast properties of Heritage Media from Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, Sinclair said it will sell WPTZ (Channel 5) Plattsburgh-Burlington and WNNE (Channel 31) White River Junction, along with the LMA to WFFF (Channel 44) Burlington, to Sunrise Television for $72 million. Sunrise is the “small-market” television arm of media giant Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst. Elsewhere in the region, it owns WKTV (Channel 2) in Utica and WROC (Channel 8) in Rochester. Through its LIN Television arm, Hicks, Muse also owns WTNH (Channel 8) New Haven and WIVB (Channel 4) in Buffalo.

The broadcast scene in VERMONT was a busy one this week even before the WPTZ deal was announced. Up-and-coming rocker WCPV (101.3 Essex NY) is bringing back the “Corm and the Coach” morning show that was dropped last fall by rival WIZN (106.7 Vergennes). The show will replace Don Imus in morning drive on “Champ 101,” with the I-man reportedly moving down the dial to WXPS (96.7 Vergennes). Over at WIZN, station manager Mike Bussiere is reportedly taking over the morning airwaves of “The Wizard.”