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In this week’s issue… Learning last week’s lessons from Chicago – Format flip in the Hudson Valley – Remembering Frank X. Feller, Christine Loeber – Canadian TV station goes dark

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*While much of NERW-land shoveled out from a succession of winter storms last week (they didn’t do much permanent damage, from what we can tell, though some stations along the coast lost power), the biggest news in broadcasting was coming from ILLINOIS, Chicago to be exact.

WLUP's performance studio
WLUP’s performance studio, 2011

That, of course, is where EMF Broadcasting made its latest strike, paying just over $25 million to pick up WLUP (97.9 Chicago) from Merlin Media, which had been leasing it and a sister station, WKQX (101.1), to Cumulus for the last few years.

The sudden demise of the legendary (if faded) “Loop” made national headlines. So too, to a lesser extent, did the news out of the FCC last week that WBBM (780) had its application granted to leave its longtime transmitter site in Itasca and diplex with sister station WSCR (670) a few miles away.

And while they were Chicago stories through and through, they both have resonance here in our corner of broadcast-land, as we’ll explore in this week’s NERW…

The Fybush Media podcast is back!

Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.

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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

Or click here to subscribe and enjoy full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and two decades of searchable archives -- for as little as 25 cents per day.

If you are already a member, please login to view the rest of this column. (If the site does not recognize your username, don't panic! Either your subscription has expired and we need to reactivate your account, or your username and email do not match our payment records and we need to link them. Please email Lisa,  or call her at 585-442-5411, for instructions.)

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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: March 12, 2017

*It’s been a rough week for all of us in western NEW YORK, where record high winds whipped through last Wednesday. The gusts that hit 81 miles per hour at the Rochester airport took down trees across the region, pulling down power lines and plunging more than 100,000 customers in the area into darkness just as temperatures began settling into seasonally cold levels.

We were fine here at NERW HQ, thankfully – but the wind did a number on many broadcasters around the area. In Salamanca, near the Pennsylvania border, WGGO (1590) lost its tower, which collapsed in the wind sometime Wednesday. The talk station, part of a Sound Communications simulcast with WOEN (1360 Olean), is already talking with insurers about rebuilding.

(2018 update: WGGO is now rebuilding with a shorter Valcom whip antenna.)

*It was more than just wind shaking up the Empire State during the week: a massive talent realignment in Albany and a surprise station sale in Buffalo also made big headlines.

Dick Greene’s WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and its FM translator, W275BB (102.9), are headed to new ownership under “Radio One Buffalo, LLC,” led by one William Ostrander of Depew. He’s much better known as Buddy Shula, veteran sales executive at the Entercom Buffalo cluster – and he’s paying $655,000 for “Timeless WECK,” a substantial discount from the million-dollar-plus price tag originally attached to the station, not to mention the $1.3 million that Greene paid when he bought the AM (pre-translator) from CBS in 2007.

(The documents filed with the FCC show that the original sales price was $550,000, plus four years of rent from WECK’s tower diplex lease to WUFO 1080; that was later modified to give Ostrander the WUFO rent money from day one.)

Greene’s Culver Communications retains WLVL (1340 Lockport) and its new 105.3 translator in Niagara County, but otherwise it’s bound by a non-compete as part of the deal.

*In Albany, two of the market’s most popular morning shows have new homes after a big shuffle played out early last week. We told you in last week’s issue that Sean McMaster was departing Townsquare country station WGNA (107.7), and no sooner did that issue go out than McMaster announced his destination – he’s taken over morning drive at Albany Broadcasting’s AC WYJB (95.5), where he’s paired up with Meredith McNeil.

But McMaster’s move to Albany Broadcasting/Pamal came with a reverse trade: Albany Broadcasting’s top-40 WFLY (92.3) is losing its morning team, Brian Cody, Chrissy Cavotta and producer Jess, to WGNA. That leaves a big opening at WFLY, and we don’t yet know who’ll be filling it.

Five Years Ago: March 10, 2013

*CANADA‘s biggest media deal in recent years isn’t going away easily. In October, after the CRTC denied Bell’s application to swallow Astral Media for C$3.38 billion, both companies promised they’d be back at the table with a new proposal.

As of last week, they’re now halfway back to the finish line after Canada’s Competition Bureau signed off on the revised plan, which is now in front of the CRTC for reconsideration. This time around, Bell and Astral have identified a buyer for at least some of the expanded list of stations they’re planning to spin off in order to stay under CRTC ownership caps.

The plan puts Corus in the buyer’s seat in Ottawa, where it will enter radio ownership with the purchase of CKQB (106.9 the Bear) and CJOT (99.7 EZ Rock), currently owned by Astral. The radio sales are part of a C$400 million spinoff to Corus that also includes several Canadian cable networks.

Bell and Astral also plan to put stations in four other big markets up for sale, including CHBM (Boom 97.3) and CFXJ (93.5 Flow FM) in Toronto. Boom is currently an Astral property, while Flow comes from the Bell portfolio.

Ten Years Ago: March 10, 2008

The Citadel budget cutbacks have claimed local sports radio in RHODE ISLAND. The struggling broadcast company pulled the plug this morning on “The Score” (WSKO 790 Providence/WSKO-FM 99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale), replacing it with satellite-fed True Oldies Channel on the AM side and with an FM simulcast of news-talk WPRO (630).Since there’s already a WPRO-FM (Citadel’s top 40 station on 92.3), the move presents a bit of a branding issue, being resolved for now by calling the news-talk simulcast simply “630 WPRO & 99.7.” Don Imus’ morning show remains in place on the 790 AM signal, and we’re hearing the venerable WEAN calls may be resurrected there. (Right now, 790 is using new calls WPRV; we suspect those calls may actually be destined for 99.7 when the changeover is complete.)

*New York’s mayor is looking for a new radio home. Michael Bloomberg had a regular weekly appointment with John R. Gambling at WABC (770), but with Gambling’s recent departure from the station in a flurry of budget cuts, the mayor is looking around for another slot. Will Gambling’s WABC replacement, Curtis Sliwa, get the nod? Or will the mayor look to rival talk stations, perhaps WOR or WNYC? (One unlikely possibility is Bloomberg Radio’s WBBR 1130; the mayor has maintained a hands-off stance toward his own media properties since taking office.)

Upstate, Ticonderoga’s WIPS (1250) went silent at noon on Feb. 29, and it won’t be returning to the air, at least not under current owner BisiBlue LLC. The company, a division of Crown Point Network Technologies, tells the Plattsburgh Press Republican that ad revenue never developed in the seven years it owned the station, and that it was sustaining losses of $3,000 a month at the end to keep the 1 kW daytimer on the air.

*There’s a frequency flip coming in southeastern CONNECTICUT, though one of the stations involved actually transmits from RHODE ISLAND and the other from Long Island.

On March 18, Citadel will swap facilities between talker WXLM (102.3 Stonington CT) and classic rock “Wolf” WMOS (104.7 Montauk NY). The idea is to improve the reach of the Wolf, which broadcasts from studios at the Mohegan Sun casino but has trouble being heard in much of the region because of a signal that sometimes doesn’t make it across Long Island Sound very well. Moving the Wolf to 102.3, with a transmitter site just north of Westerly, will solve that problem; the talk format on WXLM, meanwhile, will run in mono when in moves to 104.7, which should make the weaker signal more tolerable.

Fifteen Years Ago: March 10, 2003

What a busy week it’s been in NEW YORK! We’ll start with two station sales, one expected, the other a surprise: Disney won approval this week to convert its LMA of WEVD (1050 New York) into a $78 million purchase from the Forward Association. Since Disney took over in September 2001, WEVD’s been the New York flagship for ESPN radio — and even made a slight showing in the latest Trends there. We hear that sale will close on or about May 1.

The surprise sale was Mega’s announcement that it will sell WLXE (1380 New York) back to Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Broadcasting, which sold the station to Mega three years ago for $33 million ($24 million in cash and two Washington, D.C. AM outlets). 1380 was leased-time WKDM then; Mega spent quite a bit of cash relaunching the facility as Spanish all-news WNNY. That didn’t last, and most recently 1380’s been doing regional Mexican as WLXE, “La X 1380.” With this sale, we expect the regional Mexican to end and leased time to return to 1380, for which Liu is paying $37 million.

The deal gives Multicultural four leased-time AM outlets in New York: WPAT (930 Paterson NJ), WNSW (1430 Newark NJ), WZRC (1480 New York) and WLXE, along with religious WNYG (1440 Babylon) out on Long Island.

Liu still doesn’t have a monopoly on leased-time AM in New York, though; Sporting News Radio has pulled still more of its own programming off “flagship” WSNR (620 Jersey City NJ), which is now leased to ethnic programmers from 6 AM all the way to 2 AM. (Sporting News Radio’s overnight show is the last remnant of the network to be heard weekdays on WSNR.)

Twenty Years Ago: March 12, 1998

The heads are beginning to roll at the former Knight Quality stations in New England. Here’s what we’ve heard so far from our sources around the region: Six staffers were dismissed from WTAG (580) and WSRS (96.1) in Worcester early this week, including WTAG program director Skot Pare, morning host Tom Gorham (a 26 year veteran of the station), and evening news anchor Ann Kenda. George Brown, who was recently moved from afternoons to pair with Gorham, stays on morning drive, while talk hosts Upton Bell and Jordan Levy keep their jobs as well.

Up north in New Hampshire, all three staff members at WXHT (95.3 York Center ME) are being dismissed, as “Heat 95.3” cools down and picks up a satellite modern AC format. In the same building, WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth) PD/OM Glenn Stewart has been named PD of sister station WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester) as well. WHEB’s new GM is Kim Jones, husband of WGIR PD Ruth Jones. WHEB sales manager Shari Soffen has been dismissed as well. At WGIR, news director Bill Rossi, production manager/talk host Terry Benz, and FM program director Tim Sheehan are all reportedly out, along with sales manager Cathy Cram, who has resigned. Get ready for a simulcast between WGIR-FM and WHEB as well; word has it there’s a 15k stereo line being installed to allow the two stations to share late-night and weekend programming.

The number-one radio station on Cape Cod, MASSACHUSETTS is buying another station. Gregory Bone’s Sandab Communications already owns WQRC (99.9 Barnstable); now it’s paying $1.7 million for WOCN (103.9 South Yarmouth). Ironically, WOCN seller Donald Moore was himself a former owner of WQRC. ‘QRC programs an adult contemporary format, while WOCN is adult standards.

2 COMMENTS

  1. WRKO is in protected wetlands that flood much of the year.. have to take a rowboat out to the east and center tower at times…

  2. In Albany, 900am is now “the X”.
    Top of hour: WABY 900 the X.
    1160/106.1 is “the Jockey”.
    Top of hour: “WAIX 106.1 the Jockey Mechanicville”. /
    I presume 900 will ultimately become WAIX, 1160/106.1 WJKE. /
    The stations are now Albany-oriented. When we have WJKE-the Jockey-Mechanicville, surely they will have to reorient to Saratoga Springs?
    There might have been signal changes, 900 and 106.1 were really strong today up here.
    I don’t find an online presence at the moment.

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