In this week’s issue… Albany cluster goes silent – Translators on (temporary?) hold – Upper Valley format flip – Boston legends reunite 

By SCOTT FYBUSH

Jump to: MENHVTMARICTNYNJ PACanada

*The AM dial in NEW YORK‘s state capital is quieter than usual this week. After selling off its FM flagship WJKE (101.3 Stillwater) last year, Empire Broadcasting filed for silent STAs last week for its three remaining AM signals, taking them – and an FM translator – dark to avoid continued losses.

Empire took in $550,000 from EMF Broadcasting when WJKE became part of the K-Love network last fall. That, said Empire founder Joe Reilly, was enough to pay off Empire’s debt but not to keep the three AMs sustainable on their own. WJKE’s former “Jockey” AC format, focused on Saratoga Springs, landed on WAIX (1160 Mechanicville) and translator W291BY (106.1) after 101.3 was sold; WAIX’s former “X” AAA format moved down the dial to WABY (900 Watervliet), while the third AM, WPTR (1240 Schenectady), had been carrying “Empire News Network” news/talk, the last remnant of a format that had earlier been on the other AMs as well.

All three AMs had CPs or pending applications for additional AM translators: WABY a CP for W231DU (94.1) from a site in Clifton Park, WAIX an application on 93.3 from a site near Skidmore College in Saratoga and WPTR a CP for W246DS (97.1 Ballston Spa) from Bald Mountain near Troy.

What happens now? It’s likely the stations will all go up for sale as the Empire partnership breaks up almost six years after Reilly and his partners paid $1.2 million for the former Ernie Anastos stations. Reilly, the only broadcaster in the partnership, came to Empire after several decades at the helm of the New York State Broadcasters Association; before that, he’d owned 100.9 in Albany, the old WWOM (now WKLI). Despite reports in several trades, Reilly tells Albany’s Times Union that the decision to take the AMs silent wasn’t related to his retirement – that, he says, was a choice he made last fall.

The signals on 900, 1160 and 1240 join another silent AM in Albany. Crawford Broadcasting’s WDCD (1540 Albany) is approaching its one-year silent mark after concluding it couldn’t afford to keep operating at 50,000 watts, and it too remains on the market.

And there’s another interesting complication for WAIX and many other AMs that were awaiting grants of translators in the FCC’s current “Auction 100” window: on Thursday, LPFM advocate Prometheus Radio Project joined with two other advocacy groups to file an informal objection to the WAIX CP grant and hundreds of other pending translators. The objection temporarily froze the issuance of permits, which the FCC had been granting at the rate of dozens a day – and you can read our thoughts about it in a guest commentary we wrote for our content partner, RadioInsight.

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*Grand Island, which sits in the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, is full of towers – but there are two fewer sticks dotting the flat landscape there this week. As we told you back in December, Entercom’s WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls) is building a new tower at its site on Staley Road on the western side of the island – which meant that the old towers at the site had to come down, which they did on Tuesday.

Sister station WBEN (930 Buffalo) was there shooting video as tower crews cut the guy wires to bring down the 1950s-era Wincharger towers, which fell without hitting the old studio/transmitter building at the site. (It was originally home to Niagara Falls-licensed WHLD 1270, which moved its transmitter to Hamburg and a diplex with WDCZ 970 a decade ago; WKSE started out as WHLD-FM and was later WZIR and WRXT before becoming “Kiss” and eventually splitting ownership away from its former AM parent.)

WKSE built an auxiliary site over the winter a couple of miles away at the WBEN site at the southern tip of Grand Island, and it will broadcast from over there until a new tower can be erected at the Staley Road site in the next few months.

*Where are they now? Former WFAN (660/101.9 New York) morning co-host Craig Carton has been doing a streaming show on the FTNSY Sports Network since early April, and now he’s launching it into syndication. “Carton and Friends,” which broadcasts live from 9 AM to noon from Rock & Reilly’s Restaurant in Manhattan, will be available to local radio stations starting next Tuesday, so long as Carton remains a free man. He’s awaiting trial in October on charges of running a ticket-resale scam, which is why he and WFAN parted ways last fall.

*On Long Island, Holding Out Hope Church is remaining involved in radio even as it transfers the last of its broadcast licenses. The church, which used to program “Hope FM” on WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays), had owned a chain of translators, most of which it sold last year to EMF Broadcasting. That left one translator in the church’s hands, W243BF (96.5 Selden), which it’s now selling to Cantico Nuevo Ministries, which owns WNYG (1440 Medford) and is buying WLIM (1580 Patchogue).

In exchange for the translator, which now relays WNYG, Cantico will forgive $32,256 in back tower rent and allow Holding Out Hope to program “Hope” on WNYG, W243BF and W295CK (106.9 Medford) on weekdays from 6 AM to 6 PM and on Sundays from 11 AM to 2 PM through the end of August.

*For a day or two, the whole “is it Laurel or Yanny?” debate set the online world on fire – and a few clever radio stations got into the fray, too.

In Syracuse, Tom Mitchell and his team at Cumulus top-40 WNTQ (93.1) took advantage of the flexibility of digital outdoor advertising to transform one of their usual ads for 93Q’s veteran morning team of Ted and Amy into “Yanny & Laurel in the Morning.”

Not even public radio was immune – at Rochester’s WXXI, where your editor was hosting on Wednesday afternoon, the station’s former senior audio producer, Dave Sluberski (who now teaches at RIT) was enlisted to provide his expertise on the matter.

*Across the street, Megan Carter disappeared earlier this year from the “#TeamPXY” morning show and music director chair at Entercom’s WPXY (97.9), though news of her departure just hit the trades last week. Whitney Young, formerly in middays, has joined Corey James on the morning shift, while Orphan Andrew takes over middays.

*At the western edge of the state, WBKX (96.5 Fredonia)/WDOE (1410 Dunkirk) is mourning Mark James, who’d served as the stations’ operations manager and as morning man for several years on “Kix Country.” James, whose real name was Mark Hill, died Friday at 65 after a battle with cancer.

*Great Eastern Radio shuffled its format deck in Keene, NEW HAMPSHIRE on Monday, flipping WKKN (101.9) from AAA as “The Peak” to a harder-edged rock format. The new version of “The Peak” adds the regionally-syndicated Greg and the Morning Buzz morning show. The AAA version of the Peak had lasted three years on 101.9 (licensed across the river in Westminster, VERMONT) and on simulcast WTHK (100.7 Wilmington VT).

*In MAINE, the Catholic “Presence Radio Network” is transferring its five signals to Wisconsin-based Immaculate Heart Radio, which will flip them to its national “Relevant Radio” network. The $750,000 charitable contribution from Presence to IHR gives Relevant Radio WXTP (106.7 North Windham) in the Portland market, WXBP (90.3 Corinth) near Bangor, WTBP (89.7 Bath), WWTP (89.5 Augusta) and WEGP (1390 Presque Isle).

Up in Houlton, RadioInsight reports that Thursday will bring a format flip from hot AC to classic hits at WHOU (100.1).

*The 70th anniversary of television in MASSACHUSETTS – and therefore in New England – is coming up next month, which was all the excuse WBZ-TV (Channel 4) needed to reunite its legendary anchor team that ruled the market from the 1970s well into the 1990s.

Anchors Jack Williams and Liz Walker, sports legend Bob Lobel, entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik and meteorologist Bruce Schwoegler got back together last week on the WBZ news set, where the classic Group W logo (do not dare call it “Anklepants”!) was on display for the first time in more than two decades. Excerpts from the interview aired Thursday night (because, of course, it’s sweeps week now even if the actual anniversary isn’t until June 9), and the whole thing is available online.

Across town, Sarah Burgess has been promoted from managing editor to news director at Cox’s WFXT (Channel 25), filling the hole left by Mike Oliveira’s move to WSOC in Charlotte in March.

*In Brockton, Ed Perry is asking the FCC to reinstate the construction permit for W247CB, the FM translator he’s planning to put on 101.1, paired with WATD (1460). WATD, the former WXBR/WBET, has been silent on and off since Perry acquired the station back in 2016. He operated it under STA from behind a local church for about a year, then had to move because of interference to the church’s electronic systems, and now holds an STA for another nearby site. Perry’s new permanent site for the AM, meanwhile, has been held up in environmental and zoning issues, with plans to put the station back on the air at full power this summer.

In the meantime, the deadline to build out the translator’s CP on 101.1 had been tolled by the FCC until last summer, when the clock again began ticking toward expiration on April 14 of this year. But as Perry and his lawyer explained to the FCC last week, the Commission won’t issue an STA for an unbuilt FM translator to use a temporary site, and so the translator couldn’t possibly have operated legally.

While Perry waits for word on reinstatement of the Brockton 101.1 translator, we’re also keeping an eye on his other recent AM/translator purchase: WMEX (1510 Boston) is approaching a year of silence this summer, which means it will have to resume at least temporary operation to keep the license alive so it can be paired with a new 101.1 translator in Weymouth that will complement the co-channel Brockton signal.

WMEX’s Waltham transmitter site remains mired in litigation between the site owners, WMEX’s former owners and Perry (who didn’t buy the site along with the license); still, it’s the likeliest option for getting a temporary 1510 signal back up and running in the next few weeks.

*”Boston Emissions” has been a radio staple since the days when WBCN (104.1) PD Oedipus started featuring local rock on Sunday nights in the late 1980s. After Oedipus’ departure, Anngelle Wood took over the show, moving it to sister station WZLX (100.7) when WBCN went away in 2009.

With WZLX’s sale to iHeart, “Emissions” has emitted its last for now. The show ended May 6, though Wood says she’s working on reviving it elsewhere and she remains on the WZLX airstaff.

*More tales from the TV repack: Ion’s WPXQ (Channel 69) in RHODE ISLAND stays put on RF 17, as does its channel-sharing tenant WLWC (Channel 28), but it’s hoping for a new city of license. Last week, WPXQ asked the FCC to let it change city of license from offshore Block Island to Newport; for now, the station’s transmitter site in remote Hopkinton, in southern Rhode Island, would remain unchanged.

(The “Newport” broadcast dial is filling up fast – in addition to the longtime AM station there, WADK 1540, and now a “local” TV presence from WLWC, Rhode Island Public Radio is getting ready to hang its new WXNI 89.3 antenna on the old WLNE-TV tower in Tiverton, which will change that FM station’s COL from North Dartmouth, Mass. to Newport.)

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, KQV (1410 Pittsburgh) is back on the air – but don’t get too excited just yet. The station’s been off the air since New Year’s Eve, with a sale to Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications Inc. still pending. In the last few days, it’s been heard with old-time radio shows, which will buy some time on the next silent STA until Stevens can close on the sale and move KQV to his WEDO (810 McKeesport) site southeast of Pittsburgh. The existing KQV site in the North Hills, which is where the broadcasts have resumed for now, will eventually be sold for development and the five in-line towers will be razed.

In Philadelphia, Ray Koob is out at Beasley’s WMGK (102.9), where he’d been the night guy for years. There’s no replacement shown on WMGK’s schedule, and Koob says it’s the first time in 28 years he’s been unemployed.

*An unbuilt AM station in CANADA wants a new transmitter site. Radio Humsafar’s CFKA (1350 Brampton ON) told the CRTC that “unforeseen circumstances” made it impossible to use the originally-proposed site on Bramsteele Road; instead, CFKA now wants to use 1000 watts by day, 40 watts at night at an existing unused tower site at 1715 Britannia Road East, where it says it could be up and running fairly quickly.

In Montreal, ethnic stations CHWI (1410) and CJMS (1040) have been given short-term license renewals while the CRTC addresses “concerns with the licensee’s repeated instances of non-compliance.” The agency says Groupe Medias Pam hasn’t been filing its proper annual reports or providing audio recordings on request, and so it’s renewing those AM licenses only through 2020.

In Quebec City, the impending demolition of TVA’s old CFCM-TV tower on Ave. Myrand is forcing two tourist-information stations to move. CJNG (89.7) and CKJF (106.9) want to move west to a site on Ch. des Quatre-Bourgeois. English-language CJNG would go from 1 kW/133m to 200 watts/111m, while French-language “Sortir 106.9” CJNG would go from 250 watts/71m to 214 watts/108m.

*In southwest Ontario, we note the passing of Warren Furber, who bought CHLO (1570 St. Thomas) back in 1981. Known as “Vern,” Furber oversaw the transition of CHLO from AM to FM, creating what’s now CFHK (103.1) before selling the station in 1999. In later years, Furber owned several restaurants in London and Port Stanley. Furber was 83 when he died Thursday (May 17).

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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: May 22, 2017

*By the time the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks rolls around in a few months, there will once again be regular TV broadcasting from NEW YORK‘s World Trade Center.

As TVNewsCheck reported last week, NBC/Telemundo’s WNJU (Channel 47/RF 36) has its transmitter in place and will begin overnight test transmissions from the new 1 World Trade Center mast this week, followed very quickly – as soon as a week’s time – by a full-time move to 1WTC as its main transmission site.

The Durst Organization, which manages the site, has already installed one of two UHF master antennas and a VHF master antenna, with work underway to install the second UHF master antenna. When complete, the three antennas will reach from 1626 to 1706 feet above ground level – and they’ve added an additional tenant as well. In addition to the previous announcements that NBC (WNJU and WNBC, though WNBC will end up channel-sharing with WNJU after the repack), CBS (WCBS-TV), ABC (WABC-TV) and WNET (Channel 13) will be using 1WTC, ion Television has also signed up with Durst to put WPXN (Channel 31) on the tower.

WCBS will be the next station to move its main transmitter from Empire to 1WTC in the next few months. We’ll be following the process closely as the rebirth of Trade Center broadcasting continues.

(We send our congratulations, by the way, to Durst vice president of broadcasting John Lyons, who was honored by the NAB with its Television Engineering Achievement Award last month in Las Vegas.)

*Plans for a new FM station in northwestern PENNSYLVANIA are on hold after the FCC dismissed the ERIE Radio Company’s application for the construction permit it won at auction back in 2015.

Happi's downtown studioAs we’ve reported here, the $535,000 winning bid for a class A signal on 100.9 in Westfield, New York would have filled the gap left behind when competitor Connoisseur finally makes its long-delayed move of WRKT (100.9 North East) to 104.9, with an improved Erie signal for what will become “Rocket 104.9.”

How fierce is the radio rivalry in Erie? It was Connoisseur that asked the Commission to dismiss the 100.9 CP, noting that ERIE’s down payment for the winning auction bid was late arriving at the FCC. ERIE principal Rick Rambaldo – who, we’d note, sold WRKT and its sister stations to Connoisseur before launching ERIE as a competing operation – told the FCC he was out of town when the money was due, and his bank said it was an error at their end that kept it from being delivered properly.

ERIE later made the full payment for the construction permit several days early, but the FCC is taking a particularly strict “rules and rules” stance in this case: not only does Rambaldo lose the construction permit, he’s also out the $107,000 down payment plus an additional default penalty that will be assessed once the 100.9 Westfield allocation goes back up for auction.

Five Years Ago: May 20, 2013

*It’s been a week of big changes in western NEW YORK broadcasting, and nowhere, perhaps, bigger than in the newsroom at WBEN (930 Buffalo). News director Steve Cichon has become a fixture in the market over his 20-year career, starting out as a producer at WBEN, moving down the hall to WIVB (Channel 4) and then to the program director’s chair at the old WNSA (107.7) before returning to WBEN in 2003.

Cichon (photo: WBEN)
Cichon (photo: WBEN)

As news director at WBEN in recent years, Cichon has been as Buffalo as Buffalo gets – and when he”s not running the newsroom, he”s been busy writing books about the history of the Parkside neighborhood where he lives (“A Complete History of Parkside“) and about Buffalo”s legendary Channel 7 news team (“Irv! Buffalo”s Anchorman: The Irv, Tom and Rick Story“) – and blogging constantly about Buffalo history at StaffAnnouncer.comand on Facebook.

Which is why it was rather a shock early last week to see Steve”s announcement – yes, right there on Facebook – that he”s moving on from WBEN, and from broadcasting, at least for now. Cichon will leave WBEN on May 31, and in June he”ll launch a new company called “Buffalo Stories, LLC,” where he says he”ll be “working with small businesses and non-profits to tell their story.”

No replacement has been named yet at WBEN – and in the meantime, we send our very best wishes westward down the Thruway to Steve on his new venture!

There’s a format change in Buffalo: Wednesday morning brought a flip from soft AC to standards at Dick Greene’s WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and its FM translator at 102.9 in downtown Buffalo. The former “Buffalo”s Breeze” is now “Timeless WECK,” with Tom Donohue still in morning drive and Dial Global”s standards format filling the rest of the day. While the “Breeze” format went up against much bigger AC players including Townsquare’s WJYE (96.1) and Cumulus” WHTT (104.1), the new “Timeless WECK” has its format pretty much to itself after the demise last year of Cumulus’ “Swing 1270” (WHLD, now carrying CBS Sports Radio.) 2018 update: Cichon recently joined the staff of WECK, now in new hands, as morning news anchor and news director.

Ten Years Ago: May 19, 2008

If a PENNSYLVANIA shock jock plays a racially inflammatory song parody on his show March 21, does it make an impact? In the case of Kidd Chris, morning personality at CBS Radio”s WYSP (94.1 Philadelphia), the answer would appear to be “yes – but not until almost two months have passed.” Back in March, the show played a parody song called “Schwoogies,” which crudely stereotyped blacks. And while the song was reportedly played several times on March 21 and at least once more on March 24, CBS Radio management apparently didn’t learn about it until sometime very late last week.

Calling the song “highly offensive and completely inappropriate for broadcast on our airwaves,” WYSP fired Kidd Chris (real name: Chris Foley) and PD John Cook, and quickly cancelled a widely-publicized birthday party for Foley that had been set for Friday night.

Here”s what the official statement had to say: “When senior management of the station learned that it had been played, they took immediate steps to prevent it from ever appearing on the station again. At the same time, we launched an extensive internal investigation into the situation including a thorough review of the editorial controls and systems we have in place to prevent this type of content from airing. We instituted additional educational training for the station, and have taken appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of the individuals involved.”

And here’s what we’re wondering: given that the content of Kidd Chris’ show was hardly a secret, and given the kind of scrutiny CBS has faced in recent years over controversial content from Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony, JV & Elvis and so on, can we really believe that whatever “editorial controls and systems” CBS had in place could have completely overlooked the “Schwoogies” song for almost two months. And, furthermore, that CBS would just happen to have “learned” that the song had been played a few days after an e-mail went out from the group “Racial Dignity in Media” that (according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) called for complaints against the station?

Maybe we’re just cynical. Maybe it’s that we haven’t slept all week since welcoming a new baby to the NERW family last Tuesday morning (read on for the details)…but the whole thing seems more than a little odd from where we sit.

Fifteen Years Ago: May 19, 2003

NEW YORK’s oldies station is slowly returning some pre-1964 music to its playlist, after gradual changes over the past few years that removed pretty much everything from WCBS-FM (101.1 New York) that predated the Beatles. No, the “O” word hasn’t returned to the Infinity station’s imaging – and, yeah, there’s still some ’80s Billy Joel in the playlist – but the station made a concession to its older listeners over the weekend when it returned doo-wop music to its Sunday night schedule.

You’ll recall the outcry last August when CBS-FM eliminated the “Doo-Wop Shop” on Sundays; as of last night, it’s back, in a modified form – under the title “The Heart of Rock’n’ Roll,” and hosted by former WCBS-FM personality Norm N. Nite, who’s back in Cleveland and doing the show from the Alan Freed Studio at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Don K. Reed loses that Sunday night airshift, but remains on weekday overnights.

In Buffalo, we’d neglected to mention that WGRZ (Channel 2) dropped its 10 PM newscast on LMA partner WPXJ (Channel 51) a few weeks back, while we were out of town. We’ll miss the nice signal on the Buffalo news (WPXJ, licensed to Batavia, comes in quite well in Rochester!) – but we’ll be able to tune in to another sorta-Buffalo newscast in a few months, when Sinclair expects to launch its Maryland-based “News Central” on WB affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49); Sinclair’s bigger Fox affiliate, WUTV (Channel 29), will continue to carry syndicated shows at 10. The WPXJ newscast had been getting roundly beaten in the ratings by WIVB’s 10 PM news on sister station WNLO (Channel 23).

In NEW JERSEY, the last piece of the former Y107/Rumba “quadcast” returned to the air last week, as Press launched “107.1 the Breeze” on WWZY (107.1 Long Branch). The station shares its Jones soft AC format and “Captain Jack” Aponte morning show with sister WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) down the coast; we hear it’s looking to return to the Long Branch transmitter site it used to use before Big City moved north to the current site at Atlantic Highlands, which improved New York City coverage at the expense of the Jersey Shore.

Twenty Years Ago: February 1, 1998

The FCC has granted WXPS (96.7) a move from Vergennes, VERMONT to Willsboro, NEW YORK, on the opposite side of Lake Champlain. The 96 MHz part of the dial is getting active in New York”s North Country; WVNV (96.5) in Malone has been granted a change of class from A to C3, and the FCC has allocated 96.5A to Speculator, a tiny village high in the Adirondacks.