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In this week’s issue… The Boston studio shuffle begins – KQV files displacement – WABC’s new show – Buffalo newsman missing – Remembering a Boston talk pioneer

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

Ex-WSBK, now CBS Radio's FMs*If the legal logistics behind the big CBS Radio/Entercom/iHeart/Beasley station shuffle last week were complex, it’s nothing compared to the challenge involved in actually physically moving all of those stations to their new homes.

How complex? For a deal that closed (and took immediate effect) on November 17, it’s taken almost three months for the very first station to begin its studio move. That’s Entercom’s WMJX (106.7), which used to be part of the Beasley (ex-Greater Media) cluster before Entercom and Beasley added a twist to the CBS Radio spinoffs by swapping former CBS Radio sports outlet WBZ-FM (98.5) for Beasley’s “Magic 106.7.”

Read on for all the logistical fun that’s just getting underway…

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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 13, 2017

*We’re still a few weeks away from the FCC’s release of the full list of who’s getting displaced where by the impending repack of the TV spectrum – but details are beginning to emerge about a few stations that are planning to leave the airwaves and others that will change bands or enter into channel-sharing deals with other stations.

The FCC released stations from the mandatory silent period last week, though most of the big corporate owners who dominate local TV are remaining silent so far by choice about what their individual stations are doing.

Several public broadcasters did open up about their plans, especially in Pennsylvania, where state budget cuts have pushed stations to make some difficult choices.

In Pittsburgh, for instance, WQED will reap $9.9 million in auction proceeds in exchange for giving up its high-band VHF signal on channel 13 in favor of a low-band VHF channel. In the heavily-cabled Pittsburgh market, WQED expects the change to have little effect for most viewers while helping to raise much-needed funds that can help retire the station’s longstanding debts.

In Harrisburg, WITF will get $25 million in exchange for agreeing to share its UHF spectrum with a yet-to-be-announced partner; the money will go into WITF’s endowment fund and the proceeds will pay for several new initiatives including a media literacy program and expanded statewide news coverage.

*In Rockland County, NEW YORK, Alexander Broadcasting has done a partial about-face with its recent format flip at WRCR (1700 Pomona), where the English-language talk format gave way last November to a full-time Indian format. Owner Alexander Medakovich moved the station’s talk programs to a streaming platform, but he says there was enough listener outcry to bring veteran morning host Steve Possell back to the AM airwaves – and so Possell’s show is now heard weekdays from 6-10 AM on 1700, which remains in the hands of its Indian programmers the rest of the day.

Five Years Ago: February 11, 2013

*In nearly 20 years of writing this column, we’ve covered plenty of storms as they’ve raged across the territory we cover. From coastal hurricanes to derechos to big winter snowfalls, we’ve seen pretty much everything nature can dish out at a broadcaster. So by those standards, the blast that hit NERW-land beginning on Friday was at most a medium-big deal, inconveniencing many with as much as 40 inches of snow but inflicting little to no permanent damage.

For hundreds of thousands of people from the Maritimes to Long Island, of course, that was cold comfort as power lines went down and roads jammed. Where were radio and TV in the midst of all that? On the air, mostly – there’s no word of any tower collapses or even many extended station outages. (One exception was in southern MAINE, where NBC affiliate WCSH Channel 6 in Portland was knocked off the air for reasons that remain vaguely unclear, with the station telling viewers its transmitter had been “fried” by the storm; there were also stations knocked off by power outages in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including big-signalled WCTK 98.1 New Bedford/Providence and the Quincy-based main signal of WUMB-FM 91.9 Boston.)

There were plenty of good stories of radio and TV stepping up to the plate with extended coverage: plenty of TV newsrooms went wall-to-wall with snow coverage, of course, and our old colleagues at WBZ (1030 Boston) were on the air non-stop with coverage, for instance, as were WPRO in Providence, New York’s WCBS and WINS, and some smaller outlets such as WSAR in Fall River.

But there were also some disturbing signs that things out there are changing. Take, for instance, the major radio group that proudly sent out a press release over the weekend touting the public service it offered during the storm – noting that one of its flagship stations had “kept its listeners safe and informed throughout the blizzard via social media with continuous updates about concert postponements, traffic bans, power outages, and [transit] service closings.” That was no doubt a comfort to listeners with access to power, but probably wasn’t much help at all to hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or broadband access. Isn’t that what radio itself was supposed to be for?

One of the oddest bits of timing involving the storm and radio happened off the MASSACHUSETTS coast last Friday night.

The end of WMVY (92.7 Tisbury) wasn”t meant to coincide with a massive winter storm, to be sure, but the sale of the class A FM signal from Joe Gallagher’s Aritaur Communications to Boston University’s WBUR-FM (90.9) closed…and once it had closed, the AAA programming that had been airing for three decades on 92.7 had to give way right on schedule at midnight to WBUA, the new simulcast of WBUR-FM.

PD Barbara Dacey signs off WMVY on 92.7
PD Barbara Dacey signs off WMVY on 92.7

For WMVY’s programmers, of course, the end of 92.7 is the start of a new road. As we’ve been reporting here in NERW, the nonprofit “Friends of MVY” helmed by PD Barbara Dacey had just two months to raise $600,000 to buy the station’s studios and intellectual property in order to keep it going as a noncommercial streaming operation. They made their goal with a few hours to spare, and so the end of WMVY over the air on Friday was less of a funeral than a celebration of what was coming next.

Dacey and the rest of the WMVY airstaff were in the studio (“at the end of a dirt road on Martha”s Vineyard”) for the final couple of hours on 92.7, playing some of their favorite songs and giving shout-outs to listeners on the Vineyard and all over the world, but as they were broadcasting, the weather was worsening outside…and so while the final 20 minutes of WMVY programming on 92.7 leading up to the midnight handoff to WBUA/WBUR were the sounds of an ocean’s waves, streaming listeners lost the signal a few minutes earlier when WMVY’s net connection went down in the stormy weather.

Ten Years Ago: February 11, 2008

*Just short of its twentieth anniversary as NEW YORK’s smooth jazz station, Emmis” WQCD (101.9) abruptly dropped the format on Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 5), playing short pre-recorded farewells from several “CD101.9” staffers before a 4 PM flip to WRXP, “101.9 RXP, the NY Rock Experience.””Adult rock” is the company’s official name for the new format, a broad-based music mix that draws from alternative rock, AAA and classic rock, with an obvious debt to the former WNEW-FM (102.7), and perhaps a less-obvious debt to at least some of the previous incarnations of 101.9 itself in its WPIX-FM days, especially its flirtation with New Wave music in the late seventies.

WQCD PD Blake Lawrence is the only survivor from the old format, and he”s promising to hire an airstaff that will actually have input into the music they play. So far, there”s just one live jock on WRXP”s air – Bryan Schock, in afternoons.

The former “CD101.9” continues on the HD2 channel of 101.9, and there are promises that it – and the main channel – will eventually be available as a webcast, too.

Fifteen Years Ago: February 10, 2003

For the first time in nearly half a century, the top of Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE is silent as NERW goes to press late Sunday night. A fire Sunday afternoon destroyed the former WMTW-TV (Channel 8) transmitter building atop the Northeast”s highest peak, more than 6200 feet above sea level. While channel 8 left Mount Washington almost exactly a year ago (NERW, 2/4/2002) for a new tall tower in Baldwin, Maine, its transmitter building remained behind on the mountaintop, home to generators supplying power to the entire mountaintop. The building also continued to house the transmitter of WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington).

The fire broke out around 4 PM, cutting off power to the Mount Washington Observatory nearby. Four observatory staffers were in the Sherman Adams Building that sits a few dozen yards from the WMTW building; they were evacuated Sunday night amidst concern that worsening weather over the next few days could leave them stranded for several days without heat or power. Sources tell NERW that by the time a snow tractor reached the summit Sunday evening, the WMTW building was “burnt to a crisp,” with only the entranceway still remaining. No damage was reported to the nearby Yankee Building (home to the transmitter and antenna of WPKQ 103.7 North Conway NH), or to the Sherman Adams Building. It”s not clear at press time whether the WHOM antenna suffered any damage.

The WMTW building was built in 1954 for the start of TV service on the mountain, which had already become an important broadcast facility thanks to Edwin Armstrong”s FM experiments there in conjunction with the Yankee Network, which lasted from 1938 until 1948. WHOM”s presence on the mountain dates to 1958, when 94.9 signed on as WMTW-FM. Its two transmitters sat near the door that connected the TV/FM transmitter room in the WMTW building to the living quarters there. Until last summer, when WMTW-TV removed the last of its equipment, channel 8 staffers were stationed on the mountain all year long, working rotating shifts and living at the transmitter building for weeks at a time. (NERW wonders whether an on-site engineer would have caught the fire before it could have done any damage; we may never know.)

With its transmitters destroyed, it will likely be late into spring or early summer before WHOM can resume its broadcasts from the mountain, which reached listeners within about a hundred-mile radius — south to Boston, north well into Quebec, east to central Maine and west to Lake Champlain and beyond. In the meantime, Citadel, which owns WHOM and WPKQ, has moved WHOM’s soft AC format to WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), breaking the modern rock “CYY” simulcast with WCYY (94.3 Biddeford) for the duration. We’re told WHOM will apply for special temporary authority to use the licensed auxiliary facility of Citadel”s WBLM (102.9 Portland), running 100 kilowatts at 150 meters from a site in New Gloucester, Maine.

As for WPKQ, its transmitter and antenna are intact at the mountaintop but lack any source of power. The observatory, which took over responsibility for power generation on the mountain when WMTW left, plans to attempt to get a generator to the top of the mountain on Monday, so WPKQ’s broadcasts could be restored this week, if weather permits — a big “if” on a peak known for having some of the worst weather in the country. (At the time the fire started, Mount Washington was reporting temperatures of 1 degree Fahrenheit, 54 MPH winds, blowing snow and freezing fog — and that’s a good weather day up there!)

Twenty Years Ago: February 12, 1998

Radio Disney is coming to the Nutmeg State. Hibernia Broadcasting, the Craven/Thompson owned group that runs Mouse affiliates WPZE (1260 Boston) and WHIM (1450 West Warwick RI) is buying WRDM (1550 Bloomfield) from Ital-Net Broadcasting, which has been running Spanish programming on the 5000/2400 watt DA-2 Hartford-market AM. No word yet on what happens to WRDM”s affiliated LPTVs, WRDM-LP 13 Hartford and WDMR-LP 65 Springfield MA.

Elsewhere in CONNECTICUT, it”s the sounds of silence for WNLC (1510 New London). The standards station is temporarily dark while engineers try to find a permanent fix for problems stemming from a fire in one of the doghouses of the (eight-tower) AM array last year. The standards roll on for now on co-owned WNLC-FM (98.7) East Lyme.