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: June 5, 2017
*When some groups come into new markets, they’ll immediately put out a statement that says “we don’t anticipate making any immediate changes.” PENNSYLVANIA‘s Seven Mountains doesn’t make those statements – and with good reason, as their moves last week along the I-80 corridor around DuBois made perfectly clear.
Last fall, Seven Mountains put down $4.5 million to buy four FMs and an AM from First Media, just a few months after paying Cary Simpson $400,000 for two FMs and an AM up in the Wellsboro/Mansfield market.
Now the company, led by second-generation broadcaster Kristin Cantrell, has pulled the trigger on big shuffles in both markets, and here’s how it plays out:
On Tuesday, our suspicion that country WOWQ (102.1 DuBois) would become another Seven Mountains “Bigfoot Country” outlet came true, but with a twist: WOWQ takes new calls WIFT, and it picks up a simulcast to the west in the form of the former WZDD (101.3 Strattanville), which is now WKFT, extending “Bigfoot” into the Clarion/Brookville area with a stronger signal.
WZDD’s former rock simulcast partner, WZDB (95.9 Sykesville), keeps on rocking, but it’s swapped out the John Boy & Billy morning show for another syndicated show, Free Beer & Hot Wings – and it takes on a new name, “Clear Rock 95.9,” perhaps referring to the eastern edge of its coverage into Clearfield? (The AM station Seven Mountains bought there, WCPA 900, continues with its present oldies format for now.)
Up north in Wellsboro, Seven Mountains made one move in late May, when WNBT-FM (104.5 Wellsboro) dropped its sleepy AC format for another “Bigfoot,” and it telegraphed two others with call changes earlier on that bore fruit with a Friday format shift. That’s when WOGA (92.3 Mansfield) dumped its longtime WNBT-FM simulcast, going classic hits as “WOGA in Tioga.”
To the west down US 6, WOGA has a new set of frequencies in Wellsboro, where it’s now simulcasting on the former WNBT (1490), which dumps its standards format and takes new calls WNDA. The AM signal, in turn, simulcasts on two translators, W233CB (recently moved to 93.1 in Wellsboro) and W228DM (93.5 Tioga).
For Seven Mountains, the addition of the Wellsboro and DuBois signals extends a reach that’s already very significant in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, where two other “Bigfoot” simulcast groups serve the Susquehanna Valley and the Huntingdon/Mount Union area, augmenting a big Seven Mountains cluster in State College.
Five Years Ago: June 3, 2013
*CANADA‘s public broadcaster has long had a challenging relationship with commercials. What we now know as the CBC grew out of openly commercial predecessors, the old Canadian National Railways network and the subsequent CRBC – and even after becoming a government service in the 1930s, CBC continued to carry commercial programming on its French and English radio services right up until 1974, when those networks finally went fully non-commercial. CBC Television and its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada, have continued to carry commercials ever since. And now CBC’s Radio 2 network and Radio Canada’s Espace Musique service will once again be carrying their own commercial load, thanks to a decision in last week’s CRTC renewal of the CBC’s licenses.
To say the proposal has been controversial would be an understatement: while CBC makes the case that federal budget cutbacks have forced the networks’ hand, Canada’s commercial stations don’t want the extra competition and listener groups are worried (not without reason) that limited commercial interruptions on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will eventually lead to commercials, probably in even larger doses, on the flagship Radio 1 and Premiere Chaine networks, which remain commercial free for the moment.
The CRTC is playing its decision as an experiment: it’s giving the CBC three years to see how a limited advertising load on Radio 2 and Espace Musique will work, with some tight restrictions. Each network will be allowed to run no more than four minutes of national advertising each hour, with no more than two minutes of spots at a time; no local ads will be allowed – and in 2016, the CRTC will revisit the issue to see how it’s worked and decide whether the CBC can continue running ads.
*Along the US 6 corridor in north central Pennsylvania, it’s the end of an era in the small town of Kane, which is now without a local commercial radio station for the first time in almost 60 years. WADP (960) signed on in Kane in 1954, back when the borough’s population topped 6,000, and while the AM station (later WKZA and WQLE) left the air two decades ago, it was succeeded by an FM competitor on 103.9 known at first in the 1980s as WRXZ and then WIFI, and later on as WLMI. Former Boston broadcaster Chuck Crouse owned the station through much of the 1990s, selling it in 2006 to Olean-based Colonial Radio Group – and after going through several formats and calls over several years, Kane’s 103.9, now known as WBYB, went silent for the last time last week, with a Colonial memo citing “the continuing dismal economic conditions” in the Kane area, which now has barely half the population it did in the 1950s.
Unlike the old AM 960 facility, which simply went dark, the 103.9 license will stay alive at a new home. It’s moving to a new city of license of Eldred, with a new 1.2 kW/737′ class A signal on the same tower east of Smethport that’s home to Colonial’s WXMT (106.3 Smethport) and competitor WHKS (94.9 Port Allegany). It appears that once the 103.9 Eldred signal signs on in a few weeks, it will be carrying Colonial’s “Big Bob Country,” which had been on 103.9 in Kane before it began simulcasting news-talk WVTT (96.7) from Olean and which has lived on through HD-subchannel-fed translators.
(Ironically, that 96.7 signal, now licensed to Portville, N.Y., was another Colonial move-in from a smaller Pennsylvania town, having moved from Coudersport a few years back.)
Ten Years Ago: June 2, 2008
*It was just five years ago this summer that Access.1 Communications spent $22 million to buy the former Howard Green stations in the Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY market – NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (Channel 40 Wildwood), plus two FM and three AM stations. Two years later, Access.1 added another FM to the cluster, paying $5 million for modern rock WJSE (102.7 Petersburg). And now Access.1 is selling most of its Atlantic City radio cluster, putting the signals – WJSE, classic rock WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City), oldies WTKU (98.3 Ocean City), news/talk WOND (1400 Pleasantville) and progressive talk WTAA (1490 Pleasantville) – in the hands of a new group called “Atlantic Broadcasting.”
The new owners are local, led by president Brett DeNafo, programmer Paul Kelly (currently at WAYV, though today will be his last day there), engineer Michael Ferriola and promotions director Joseph Borsello, and they say they have a “well thought out and innovative game plan to bring the stations back to the high ratings and revenue level they once achieved.” The cluster’s current GM, Dick Irland, and sales director, Mike Kazala, will stay on board.
The purchase price hasn’t been announced, but we hear that Atlantic is getting the stations, plus the studio building in Linwood and two transmitter sites, for considerably less than Access.1 paid for the stations back in 2003.
*In western PENNSYLVANIA, it didn’t take long for ESPN management to pull the plug on WEAE (1250 Pittsburgh) afternoon host Mark Madden, once the headlines about his controversial Ted Kennedy comments started spreading. Madden was off the air last Monday, and by Tuesday the word came down from Bristol that ESPN was exercising its “contractual rights” to remove Madden from the air. The move comes at perhaps the worst possible time for the station, what with the hometown Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals and all, and WEAE is trying to make the best of it with a rotating cast of fill-in hosts until a permanent replacement for the high-profile Madden can be named.
*One of Atlantic CANADA‘s oldest AM stations made an abrupt disappearance from the dial late last week, as CTV wasted no time moving CJCH (920 Halifax) to its new home on the FM band.
After less than a week of testing, CJCH-FM (101.3 Halifax) signed on for real Friday morning (May 30) at 10 AM, with none of the usual FM/AM transitional simulcasting that’s common in Canadian FM-to-AM moves. Instead, the 25 kW AM signal went to a “move to FM” loop for a few hours, then went silent for good.
The new FM signal isn’t picking up the AM station’s oldies format, either. Instead, it’s doing top 40 as “101.3 the Bounce.” Out as part of the transition is 30-year station veteran Rick Howe, who’d hosted the “Hotline” talk show that was heard in middays on CJCH(AM).
*It’s the end of the line for NEW HAMPSHIRE‘s WMEX (106.5 Farmington); with the sale of the station to EMF Broadcasting, its current oldies format goes away at 10:00 this morning, to be replaced right away by satellite-fed “K-Love” contemporary Christian. Program director/morning man Gary James is taking WMEX out with a bang, filling the last weekend with deep-cut oldies and original PAMS jingles; the station also held a free “Last Dance” party for listeners on Saturday night. The new calls on 106.5 once K-Love takes over will be WKHL, an ID last heard down in Stamford, Connecticut on what’s now WCTZ. (Useless trivia, NERW-style: that Stamford station was once WQQQ, a set of calls now in the hands of Dennis Jackson, who’s selling WMEX to EMF.)
Fifteen Years Ago: June 3, 2003
The radio scene in western MASSACHUSETTS took another step toward consolidation late last week, when Vox Media, which bought WBEC (1420/105.5 Pittsfield) last year for $4.3 million, turned that pair into a cluster.
Vox will pay about $3 million to buy WUHN (1110) and WUPE (95.9) from Philip Weiner, who has owned a piece of the stations since 1977 and has owned them outright for the last 15 years.
Right now, WUHN carries satellite classic country on its 5000-watt daytime signal, while WUPE carries an AC format on its class A FM signal. Expect some changes when Vox takes over, to better complement the news-talk format on WBEC(AM) and the CHR of “Live 105” WBEC-FM…and we’d expect to see a consolidation of studio facilities between WUPE/WUHN (now east of downtown on Housatonic St.) and WBEC (west of downtown on Jason St.)
The “Party”‘s over on 890 in Boston; Mega pulled the plug on Air Time Media’s LMA of WBPS (890 Dedham) last Thursday night (5/29) at 6, flipping the calls to WAMG and the format to Spanish tropical “Mega.” Sound familiar? The calls and format move down from 1150 Boston, which Mega is selling to Salem. 1150 picks up the WBPS calls for now, as it continues to simulcast “Mega” until the sale closes – but expect yet another call change there soon, cementing 1150’s hold on the “most callsigns in Boston radio history” title. (NERW counts nine different ones: WCOP, WACQ, WHUE, WSNY, WMEX, WROR, WNFT, WAMG and now WBPS!)
Plenty doing in CANADA this past week (after all, it wasn’t a holiday there) – and most of the action was in the nation’s capital, where CHUM Group pulled the plug on CHR “Kool 93-dot-9” CKKL (93.9 Ottawa) at 9:39 AM on Friday. In its place, starting at noon, is “Bob,” a classic hits/hot AC mix that describes itself as “80s, 90s and Whatever,” with a format and nickname borrowed from CHUM’s CFWM (99.9) out in Winnipeg. The station is running jockless for a week, but most of the Kool airstaff is expected to be back when the station goes live again later in June.
Twenty Years Ago: June 4, 1998
The tornadoes that ripped across upstate NEW YORK on Sunday claimed two broadcast towers in Binghamton. The 500-foot guyed tower of WIVT-TV (Channel 34) came down in the storm while the ABC affiliate’s two master-control operators hid under the board for safety. When they came out, they found the station’s studio/transmitter facility in shambles (it was later condemned), and their cars in the parking lot destroyed. WIVT has not been on the air since the tower fell, as best NERW can determine.
Just up Ingraham Hill Road, one of the self-supporting towers of WNBF (1290) was toppled as well. WNBF is operating on the rest of its night array under special temporary authority.
Elsewhere in the region, the storm silenced several Rochester and Albany area stations briefly, including WDCZ (990) in Rochester and WPYX (106.5), among others, in Albany.
The long saga of New Haven’s WNHC (1340) is over for now, and the Yale Broadcasting Company’s WYBC (94.3) is the winner. On Wednesday, YBC and Buckley Broadcasting, the owner of WDRC in Hartford, faced off in federal bankruptcy court over WNHC’s assets. When it was all over, YBC raised its initial bid by more than $100,000, to pay $775,000 for the 1000-watt station. The bankruptcy judge ordered WNHC owner Edie Rozier to sign the station’s current urban fornat off the air, which she did at 10:20 Thursday morning, saying closing the station was “like losing two families” – one at the station, and the other in New Haven’s black community. WYBC isn’t saying much about its plans for 1340, except that when it returns to the air, it will be from YBC’s 165 Elm Street facility instead of WNHC’s old Whalley Street studios. We’ll keep you posted as YBC gets its AM facility up and running.