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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*As we predicted when this whole scenario started to unfold last fall, the hub of the action (pun fully intended) is the former CBS Radio Boston studio facility at 83 Leo Birmingham Parkway in Allston. This was originally Storer’s WSBK (Channel 38) studio, then went through a huge gut renovation after WSBK ended up in CBS hands and moved a mile down the road to the WBZ-TV studios on Soldiers Field Road. Under CBS Radio, the Leo Birmingham studios had four FM stations spread out over three floors – “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5) downstairs, AC “Mix” WBMX (104.1) in the middle and top-40 “Amp” WODS (103.3) and classic rock WZLX (100.7) flanking the lobby on the top floor. (It’s built on a slope, so the top floor leads out to the visitor parking along the roadway.)

For the moment, all four of those stations are still there, with three different owners sharing the building. While Entercom runs WODS and WBMX, Beasley now has WBZ-FM and iHeart ended up with WZLX (as well as WBZ 1030, which is a tenant for now in its forever home over with WBZ-TV.)

WMJX’s new studio

And as of last week, WMJX has joined them as a fifth station in the building, operating from what had been a WZLX production suite just off the lobby adjacent to WZLX’s air studio in the corner. The move took WMJX out of the studios it had called home for almost 20 years, in the former Greater Media cluster on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, just north of the former WLVI-TV studios and the recently-vacated Boston Globe headquarters.

Beasley is now at work on the mirror-image move: it’s taken a pair of production studios at Morrissey Boulevard and is rebuilding them as a spacious new home for the Sports Hub. (It needs more than just a radio studio, since its hosts are also seen on TV simulcasts that require additional lighting and set design – not to mention its role as the originator of the Patriots and Bruins radio networks.)

WZLX, too, will be on the move before long. It was just last year when iHeart moved its existing stations across the street to the One Cabot office building in Medford, and now iHeart has leased an additional 21,000 square feet there to provide room for its new additions. WZLX will join WJMN (Jamn 94.5), WBWL (101.7 the Bull) and WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) in Medford, as well as R&B WKAF (97.7, now at the Entercom studios on Guest Street in Allston) and two stations that will need more complicated studio setups: talker WRKO (680), also currently at Guest Street, and the news staff of WBZ, moving from Soldiers Field Road sometime later in 2018.

(Will iHeart need any studio space for its remaining AM, WKOX 1200, once its Bloomberg programming ends in the next few weeks? An iHeart move out west at another CBS Radio acquisition might provide a clue: it replaced the CBS Sports Radio branding at its KFNQ 1090 in Seattle with a brand extension of iHeart’s own established sports talker, turning it into “KJR 1090.” Could we see a “WRKO 1200” with a separate talk lineup when the dust settles?)

We also still don’t yet know exactly how Entercom will then divide up its remaining stations. Will WEEI-FM (93.7) and WEEI (850) move across from Guest Street to the space WBZ-FM is leaving behind on Leo Birmingham? If it does, that will leave a lot of empty space back at Guest Street without WEEI or WRKO, and we’d have to imagine the last remaining Entercom station there, WAAF 107.3, would also follow suit if there’s still room left at Leo Birmingham.

*Speaking of WEEI, it was in the headlines Friday when morning hosts Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan exposed a hoax that ended up seriously embarrassing Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges. On Thursday, Borges posted a story (which hit print on the sports cover of the Herald‘s Friday edition) claiming Tom Brady was planning on boycotting the Pats’ preseason workouts unless he got a big raise. And then on Friday morning, caller “Nick in Boston” told Minihane and Callahan that he’d been texting Borges, pretending to be Brady’s agent Don Yee, and had sold him on the bogus story. WEEI posted screenshots of Nick’s texts with Borges – and the Herald quickly retracted the story and suspended Borges.

And then, Boston sports radio being what it is, WEEI turned around and stepped right back in it: the hosts of the midday show decided to do a dramatic reading of the text exchange, with Christian Fauria playing the role of Yee in a fake Asian accent. Deadspin quickly caught the segment, calling it “a truly impressive amount of racism to pack into three and half minutes of sports radio,” and by Friday night Fauria, too, had been suspended for the week.

*And speaking of WRKO, one of the signature voices from its talk heyday was silenced last week. Janet Jeghelian started her career in the late 1970s on WJMQ (1170 Norfolk, later WJCC/WDIS), then became one of the first female talk voices on WBZ (1030) in the early 1980s before finding her biggest audience on WRKO, where she held down morning drive alongside Ted O’Brien. Jeghelian also worked at WHDH (850) in that station’s final years, then moved into politics, running unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Senate, the lieutenant governorship and the House. Jeghelian was 83 when she died on Feb. 3 in Walpole.

*Out on Cape Cod, Thursday was the end of the line for WDPX (Channel 58/RF 40) as a standalone Ion station, ending 33 years of Cape-and-Islands TV broadcasting that started in 1985 when channel 58 was independent WCVX, licensed to Vineyard Haven. After almost a decade as an indie, channel 58 was sold to Boston University in 1994 to become WZBU, relaying WABU (Channel 68) in Boston, and it stayed tied to channel 68 when Ion took over in 1999. After selling its spectrum for $43.4 million, Ion kept the WDPX license, which will become a channel-share with channel 68 (now WBPX) in Boston, carrying the Ion Life channel that had been 68.3 and is now “58.1.” WDPX’s new city of license is Woburn, since the WBPX signal doesn’t get anywhere near the Vineyard.

*iHeart is betting on morning stability in RHODE ISLAND, where it’s given a three-year contract extension to WHJY (94.1 Providence) morning hosts Paul Fuller and Al Matthews. If they serve out the full three years, they’ll hit the 30-year mark with their “Paul and Al Morning Show.”

*In VERMONT, Mike Smith is the latest departure as management changes at Radio Vermont’s WDEV (550 Waterbury)/WDEV-FM (96.1 Warren). Smith, who came to the station after serving as the state’s secretary of administration and of human services, had been hosting the mid-morning “Open Mike” talk show for just over two years. He’ll wrap up that gig on Feb. 19, and is also leaving his role as a columnist for several Vermont websites and magazines. (And we note here, by way of an update, that there’s still been no FCC filing to transfer WDEV and its sister stations from Ken Squier to prospective buyer Steve Cormier, who’s apparently operating the stations under an LMA.)

*In MAINE, Mountain Wireless’ application for a translator for WSKW (1160 Skowhegan) was one of 19 dismissed last week by the FCC. What doomed the application for 94.9? WSKW filed form 349, the application for a translator construction permit – but it didn’t file the companion form 175, which would have established eligibility for an auction had anyone else filed a competing application. (And even though nobody did, the rules still required a form 175 to be filed. Such is bureaucracy.)

*The failure to file form 175 also appears to have thrown a big wrench into the resurrection of a venerable signal in western PENNSYLVANIA. That’s KQV (1410 Pittsburgh), which had its application for a translator on 98.9 dismissed because seller Calvary, Inc. didn’t file that second form.

What KQV did file last week, at least, was its application to leave its current tower site on the north side and relocate to a diplex with its soon-to-be sister station, Bob Stevens’ WEDO (810 McKeesport). At that tower in North Versailles, in eastern Allegheny County, KQV proposes to run 5000 watts by day and just 75 watts at night, non-directional. That’s a far cry from its present 5000 watts into five towers at night; even the day signal won’t put 5 mV over the entire city of Pittsburgh.

The dismissal of the KQV translator application appears to leave the other 98.9 application, from Rev. Loren Mann’s WGBN (1360 McKeesport), as a singleton – but WGBN has plenty of issues of its own with the FCC. PBRTV.com reports the Commission cited WGBN last week for several issues with its nighttime antenna system, including an inability to monitor its directional parameters or even its power level. Meanwhile, WGBN has finally given up on the 5 kW daytime facility in Pittsburgh it used for many years; it’s now formally filed to go to 1 kW non-directional days from its night site in Lincoln, which was also its old daytime facility before the move to Pittsburgh decades ago.

And not far away, Radio 1150 LLC has taken over from Mann’s Pentecostal Temple Development at WMNY (1150 New Kensington), which is now airing Hindi-language programming.

*In NEW YORK City, Cumulus has added Rita Cosby as Curtis Sliwa’s noon-3 weekday co-host at WABC (770). Is it really the midday “dream team” the station’s touting – or is WABC laying the groundwork for its morning replacement when Don Imus signs off in a month and a half? Cosby had already been with WABC doing weekends; her experience includes time downtown as a host at WOR (710) in its Buckley days, as well as on cable news in the 1990s.

On the heels of big airstaff cuts a few weeks ago at SBS’ New York stations, WSKQ (97.9) and WPAT-FM (93.1), VP/GM Eric Garcia has now exited as well. Garcia also served as the corporation’s audio revenue chief; he’s being replaced on an interim basis as New York GM by SBS COO Albert Rodriguez.

*In Buffalo, John Zach abruptly exited Buddy Shula’s WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) on Feb. 2, doing his usual morning news shift and then quitting with no notice. Where did the veteran newsman, who was a morning voice for years at crosstown WBEN (930), go? Shula tells the Buffalo News’ Alan Pergament that he hasn’t heard directly from Zach since his departure, and Pergament himself was also unable to reach Zach, whose whereabouts remain a mystery.

We send our condolences just down the road to WBTA (1490 Batavia), where sportscaster Wayne Fuller died Friday. Fuller, 70, started with WBTA in 1967, spent much of his career running operations for the Empire Trailways bus line, then returned to WBTA two decades ago. In addition to his on-air work for WBTA, Fuller was the longtime PA voice of the Batavia Muckdogs minor-league baseball team.

Up north, WNBZ-FM (106.3 Saranac) relaunched Friday under new owners Bill Dickerson and Amanda Dagley. Their new community-focused programming kicked off after a repeating loop that was reminiscent of the old shortwave numbers stations. Josh Carter, formerly at Hall’s WOKO/WKOL across the lake in Burlington, is doing mornings, with music from the 1960s-2000s filling most of the rest of the day on what they’re calling “the new broadcasting zenith.”

*In NEW JERSEY, Chris Christie’s “Ask the Governor” era may be over – but the new speaker of the state’s general assembly is starting a monthly talk gig. Craig Coughlin will join Bert Baron on the second Tuesday of every month at 9 AM on Beasley’s WCTC (1450 New Brunswick), making his first “Speak to the Speaker” appearance tomorrow.

*In an otherwise quiet week in CANADA, we make good on our solemn promise to you to provide comprehensive coverage of any and all broadcast news emanating from Ear Falls, Ontario. Back in November, the CBC applied to move Radio One outlet CBOI (690) over to FM, and now the CRTC has granted that application, which will see the station go to 95.5 with 50 watts/15 m.

Down the road in Geraldton, the CBC wants to boost the signal of Radio One outlet CBLG (89.1): it would go from its present 5.95 kW/133 m, non-directional, to 3.5 kW average/25.1 kW max DA/157 m, sharing an antenna with Radio-Canada’s CBON-FM-22.

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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.