In this week’s issue… FCC denies translator objection – Toronto radio manager ousted – New TV at 1WTC – Buffalo FM meets deadline – Remembering Albany’s Martin
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When the LPFM activists from the Prometheus Radio Project in Philadelphia joined with Common Frequency, Inc. and the Center for International Media Action to try to halt the FCC’s processing of new FM translator applications, they swung for the fences, filing an informal objection on May 16 against nearly a thousand pending applications.
It didn’t work, in the end: on Friday, the FCC dismissed the petition and immediately resumed granting translators – as you’ll read later in the column, several dozen construction permits were awarded just in the few hours between the dismissal and the end of the Audio Division’s work week Friday afternoon.
At issue, of course, is the filling of the FM dial. After thousands of applications for new FM translators were filed in what came to be known as the “Great Translator Invasion” window of 2003, there’s been a tug of war between LPFM proponents and full-power broadcasters for control of the limited FM spectrum that remained. LPFM advocates won passage of the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA) in 2010, clearing away hundreds of translator applications that had been pending for years and opening channels for an LPFM application window in 2013.
More recently, the momentum has tipped back toward translators. The “AM revitalization” proceedings championed by FCC chairman Ajit Pai have been something of a misnomer – they haven’t done much to improve the lot of AM radio as a medium, but they’ve provided new opportunities for thousands of local broadcasters who have migrated their programming from AM to new FM translators. (And yes, by way of disclosure, Fybush Media has provided consulting services to many of them, just as we’ve done for LPFMs over the years.)
In a series of windows over the last few years, the FCC cleared the way for AM stations to move existing translators hundreds of miles to new channels, then provided two “last chance” opportunities for new translators, first in “Auction 99” in 2017 and then in this year’s “Auction 100,” whose first construction permits had just started to roll out of the FCC when Prometheus’ objection stopped all processing dead three weeks ago.
Prometheus’ claim was that the translator windows violated the provisions of the LCRA calling for LPFM and translators to be “equal in status” and for opportunities to exist for translators, boosters and LPFM all to apply for new channels. There were valid concerns there; Michelle Bradley at REC Networks conducted a study and found that translators might preclude new LPFM opportunities in several dozen congested markets.
But Prometheus and its partners drew immediate ire from much of the broadcast community with the broad extent of their objection, which also halted processing of translators in many areas where plenty of spectrum remained open for LPFM. For many of the small broadcasters who’d invested in translator applications, paid for structural analysis on towers and even signed leases for FM antenna space, the Prometheus objection added needless delay and expense, especially as the weeks began to drag on without a clear promise of a resolution. (It didn’t help, either, when Prometheus dropped several dozen of its objections and called on other broadcasters to reach out to Prometheus’ PR contacts to request that their applications also be dropped from the objection.)
In the end, the Prometheus objection turned out to be more of a speed bump than a brick wall: the FCC ruled on Friday, in essence, that Prometheus hadn’t done its homework, submitting only a “cursory examination” of ten applications and no evidence at all against 988 others.
Nor, said the Commission, did the LCRA obligate it to provide a 50/50 split of channels between LPFM and translator use.
“We reject Objectors’ conclusion that equality of status as secondary services necessarily implies that the Commission must ensure that all remaining available spectrum in all
markets is equally apportioned among FM translators, FM boosters, and LPFM stations,” the FCC wrote.
What’s next? There are still several hundred pending translator applications from Auction 100 beyond those granted on Friday. Most are “singletons” for which construction permits should arrive in the next few weeks; meanwhile, this week brings the end of a settlement window for several dozen applications that had been designated as mutually exclusive. Those that can’t be handled through settlements will eventually proceed to auction.
And then the fight will resume in earnest, as LPFM advocates push for a new filing window and rule changes to improve the quality of their service – and, no doubt, as translator proponents push back.
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*In an otherwise quiet week in MASSACHUSETTS came the news that Bill Littlefield will do his last “Only a Game” show on WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) and nationally on NPR on July 28. Littlefield, an English teacher at Curry College in Milton, began doing sports commentary on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in 1984. From WBUR’s studios, he launched “Only a Game” into weekly syndication in 1993, offering a relaxed, public radio approach to sports that was always a world apart from the sports talk heard elsewhere on the dial.
As an important part of WBUR’s national lineup (it was their second offering after “Car Talk,” later joined by the daily “Here and Now” and “On Point”), “Only a Game” will continue with a new host, for whom there’s now a national search underway.
*Out west, Spectrum Cable in Berkshire County made good on its intention to drop carriage of Boston’s WCVB (Channel 5), the only Massachusetts-based station left on most of its system, last week. Lawmakers at the state and federal levels have protested the decision, thus far to no avail.
*New translator CP grants in the Bay State: W255CL (98.9 Springfield, WHYN 560); W261DX (100.1 Quincy, WJDA 1300); W266DQ (101.1 Weymouth, WMEX 1510 Boston).
*In CONNECTICUT, iHeart’s WUCS (97.9 ESPN) has made it official: it’s hiring Bob Joyce to serve as executive producer of UConn sports, which are moving to iHeart and WUCS from their longtime home at Entercom’s WTIC (1080). As we told you last week, that move meant Joyce’s departure from WTIC after 26 years, as well as the end of his on-air partnership with Joe D’Ambrosio, who stayed on at WTIC and won’t be part of the UConn women’s basketball broadcasts when they move to WUCS.
New translator CPs in the Nutmeg State: W297CP (107.3 Bridgeport, WICC 600); W245DK (96.9 New Haven, WELI 960); W280FX (103.9 Norwalk, WNLK 1350); W273DS (102.5 Meriden, WMMW 1470); W277DT (103.3 Hartford, WDRC 1360).
(And while we’re in Maine, a very belated note that when we weren’t looking at the end of March, Ion Media changed the calls of its Portland affiliate, Lewiston-licensed WPME Channel 35, to WIPL, presumably for “Ion Portland/Lewiston.”)
*Radio People on the Move in PENNSYLVANIA: At Beasley’s “Fanatic” in Philadelphia (WPEN 97.5 Burlington NJ), there’s a new summer lineup in place while the Flyers and Sixers are in their off-seasons: Devon Givens and Geoff Mosher are holding down the 6-9 PM slot, with Joe Tordy on the air 9-midnight. At the other end of the broadcast day, Eytan Shander and Jamie Lynch now lead off the morning with “The Fanatic at 5” – and over on the AM dial, sister station WTEL (610) quietly rebranded earlier in the spring as “ESPN 610” while none of us were looking.
Up at Entercom in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Tori Thomas is now promotions director for the cluster (country “Froggy” WGGY, top-40 WKRZ/WKRF, classic hits “Max” WMQX, news-talk WILK). Thomas, a veteran of the airwaves in eastern Pennsylvania, had been doing part-time work over at WBSX (97.9) at the Cumulus cluster; she replaces Sara Chaparro at Entercom.
Where Are They Now?: Jeff Daly and Josh Foreman started as interns at Philadelphia’s WIOQ (Q102), building new on-air identities as “Ratboy and Staypuff,” later shortened to “Rat and Puff” at WFLZ in Tampa and then back at Q102 in afternoons. Their show moved to mornings at CBS Radio’s WDZH (AMP 98.7) in Detroit in 2015 – but last week new owner Entercom cancelled it, leaving Rat and Puff in search of a new gig.
*We join the entire radio community in mourning “Uncle Ricky.” Richard Irwin was born in Flushing, Queens, grew up in North Carolina, and worked at WJAR in Providence, WFEC in Harrisburg and WNOW and WQXA in York in the mid-seventies before heading out west to spend most of his career in Sacramento.
It was out there, of course, that he began assembling the majestic online streaming audio museum known as “Uncle Ricky’s Top 40 Reelradio Repository,” where he prided himself on maintaining only the best-quality airchecks alongside stories and photos from top-40 radio’s history.
Irwin had been suffering from severe health problems in recent years, which led to the shutdown of the website a few months ago. He was only 67 when he died June 7 in California, and his site is dearly missed.
(Looking for an aircheck fix in Uncle Ricky’s absence? Our friend Steve West has Airchexx.com on this side of the border, while Dale Patterson’s Rock Radio Scrapbook has an immense store of material up in Canada.)
*New translator grants in Pennsylvania: W290DP (105.9 Pottsville, WPPA 1360); W255DJ (98.9 York, WOYK 1350); W229DK (93.7 Gettysburg, WGET 1320); W283DI (104.5 Altoona, WFBG 1290); W259DG (99.7 Altoona, WVAM 1430); W227DV (93.3 State College, WRSC 1390); W239CR (95.7 Beaver Falls, WMBA 1460 Ambridge); W262DO (100.3 Lewistown, WKVA 920); W231DW (94.1 Corry, WWCB 1370).
*It’s licensed in New Jersey, but WJLP (Channel 33/RF 3) serves as the MeTV outlet for the NEW YORK City market – and will soon have a better signal for some New York-area viewers. The PMCM-owned station, which famously moved from Ely, Nevada to 4 Times Square a few years back, now holds a construction permit to move south to 1 World Trade Center, joining the critical mass of New York TV stations that will be transmitting from the highest point in the city.
WJLP will run 9 kW/476m from 1WTC, after making the case to the FCC that it needs maximum power and height to overcome all the new construction that’s rapidly outgrowing the midtown 4 Times Square spire.
The WJLP move comes as part of a coordinated set of power increases at the low end of the dial, in which four stations agree to accept whatever interference they’ll receive as a result: in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Philadelphia-market WACP (Channel 4) gets permission to go from 10 kW to 34 kW; in Philadelphia, Wilmington-licensed KJWP (Channel 2) goes from 9.36 kW to 34 kW; and down in Charlottesville, Virginia, WVIR (Channel 29) will move to RF 2 as part of the repack and joins the mutual-interference pact as well.
*There’s a new FM signal on the air in the Buffalo market. Last Monday (June 4) was sign-on day for WZDV (92.1 Amherst), a directional class A signal (1.4 kW/94 m) from the WBFO (88.7) tower near the University of Buffalo north campus. (Shown at right is a worker from Patriot Towers up on the tower in late May, working on the transmission line to the new one-bay WZDV antenna below the WBFO directional panels.)
The new station beat an August construction permit deadline. It’s being programmed with contemporary Christian as “Dove FM” by owner Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier, part of the “Dove” network that originates to the south at WTWT (90.5 Bradford PA) in the Olean market. (Buffalo, it’s worth noting, is now the second-largest market in NERW-land where EMF’s K-Love network has yet to take root; the largest, of course, being Boston.)
There’s one more change at Ed Levine’s Galaxy group, though you’ll have to listen closely to hear it: WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek-Pulaski) is changing calls to WZUN, which means “Sunny” WZUN (102.1 Phoenix/Syracuse) legally becomes WZUN-FM. Will WSCP’s ESPN Deportes Radio format be changing to a “Sunny” simulcast very soon on the AM daytimer – and on the Oswego/Fulton translator at 106.1, W291BU, that’s now linked to the AM? (That translator started out a decade ago as a relay of what’s now WZUN-FM.)
*Where are they now? Steve Hammel served as news director in Harrisburg (WHTM, 1979), Syracuse (WSTM, 1982) and Rochester (WHEC-TV, 1986) before leaving the region in 1993 and making his way into upper management. For the last decade he’s been VP/general manager at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, overseeing one of the most technologically advanced stations in the country (see our 2016 tour here). In March, Hammel announced he’d be retiring from WRAL once a successor was named, and now that’s happened: Joe Davis will be moving east from KGTV in San Diego to replace Hammel in the next few weeks.
*Chris Martin was a fixture on the Albany airwaves from the mid-1950s until his retirement in 2015, starting out as a journeyman announcer at WROW (590) and then settling in at WABY (1400). Over the years, Martin’s repertoire included hosting Greek and Italian shows and then many years as the voice of adult standards, following the WABY calls to their later home with Ernie Anastos and then Empire Broadcasting on AM 1160 and 900 (“Moon Radio”), where he was working when poor health forced him off the air. Martin, who was born Christ Hermedes in Bradford, PA and grew up in Queens, had served in the Army and then played minor-league baseball before going into radio. He was 89 when he died June 2.
*In Elmira, Community Broadcasters is looking for a new operations manager for its cluster (top-40 “Wink” WNKI, country “Wolf” WPGI, classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ, talk WWLZ) as Jerry Mac packs his bags and hits I-86 westbound for the new job he starts today with Cumulus in Toledo, Ohio. Mac has big shoes to fill out there: he’s taking over as PD of country WKKO (K100), replacing 33-year veteran Gary Shores, who stays on as morning man.
*New translator grants in New York: W240EA (95.9 Watertown, WTNY 790); W245DI (96.9 Sodus, WACK 1420 Newark); W238DE (95.5 Spencerport, WYSL 1040 Avon); W298DC (107.5 Liverpool, WFBL 1390); W226CO (93.1 Gloversville, WFNY 1440); W282CU (104.3 Northville, WIZR 930); W221EJ (92.1 Binghamton, WNBF 1290); W292FV (106.3 “New York”, WFME 1560, actually up in New Rochelle); W238DD (95.5 Lancaster, WXRL 1300); W240EC (95.9 Albany, WOFX 980 Troy); W241DC (96.1 Syracuse, WSKO 1260); W232DC (94.3 Peekskill, WLNA 1420); W243EM (96.5 Beacon, WBNR 1260); W298DA (107.5 Horseheads, WLNL 1000); W227DW (93.3 Saratoga Springs, WAIX 1160 Mechanicville); W226CP (93.1 Glens Falls, WWSC 1450).
*On the NEW JERSEY shore, Dave Coskey is exiting after seven years as president of Longport Media’s Atlantic City cluster. Coskey arrived with the new Longport group in 2011 as it bought the former Atlantic Broadcasting stations (WMGM-FM, WOND, WTKL, WBSS, WWAC) out of bankruptcy, and he was instrumental in building the stations back up, including turning WOND into a regional news voice after the demise of local news at Longport’s next-door neighbor, WMGM-TV, a few years back. Coskey is headed off to work with his wife at their marketing company, while Paul Kelly will manage the Longport stations on an interim basis.
*New translator CPs in the Garden State: W228EH (93.5 Lakewood Township, WOBM 1160); W244EE (96.7 Asbury Park, WADB 1310); W289CR (105.7 Glen Gardner, WRNJ 1510 Hackettstown).
*CANADA‘s biggest jazz station is looking for a new leader after Ross Porter’s exit from CJRT (JAZZ.FM91), where he’d been president and CEO since 2004. While the station’s official statement said Porter had stepped down to “spend more time with his family and ailing wife,” local media are widely reporting that Porter was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation at the station.
For now, Porter remains with CJRT as host of “Music to Listen to Jazz By” on Saturday mornings, and his interim replacement as president, former Massey Hall/Roy Thomson Hall president Charles Cutts, is saying Porter’s departure from the top job wasn’t related to the investigation. (More here, from the Globe and Mail.)
On the HD Radio dial, Bell’s CHUM-FM (104.5) has turned on its digital signals again after the fire last year at the CN Tower that silenced them. Our ears in Toronto report that CHUM’s sister AM stations are now being heard on CHUM-FM’s subchannels, CFRB (Newstalk 1010) on HD2 and CHUM (TSN Radio 1050) on HD3.
*Across town, Rogers’ CFTR (680 News) spent last week celebrating its 25th anniversary in the all-news format, which was a big deal when the former top-40 format that long defined CFTR gave way to the newswheel (based on Group W formatics from WINS in New York) in 1993.
Back in its top-40 days, CFTR’s late-night hours belonged to Gary Bell, who had also worked at CKGM in Montreal. Bell went on to host an out-there late-night talk show on Corus’ AM 640 (CFMJ), “A View from Space,” until the station pulled the plug last year citing anti-Semitic content. “The Spaceman” had been fighting cancer, and he lost that fight last week, at age 69.
In Kitchener-Waterloo, they’re mourning Don Cameron, who called games for the Kitchener Rangers OHL team from the early 1960s until his semi-retirement in 2015. Cameron was a fixture on local radio as far back as 1958, when he arrived in town to become sports director at CKCR (later CKKW) after short stints in St. Catharines and at CJRW in his native Summerside, PEI. Cameron was 82 when he died Thursday in Kitchener.
*And way, way out on the distant Îles-de-la-Madeleine out in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Steve Faguy reports there’s a proposal for a new over-the-air TV service. Télé Inter-Rives’ TVA affiliate CHAU (Channel 5) in Carleton, on the Gaspé peninsula, is applying to add a 12th relay signal, CHAU-DT-12, on channel 12 in Cap-aux-Meules, where it would run 100 watts.
We’re a community.