In this week’s issue… KQV changes status – Another WBZ move on the way – New leadership at KYW – New station in a big Canadian market
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*As its nominal centennial approaches next year, there’s a new twist in the long, strange story of one of PENNSYLVANIA‘s oldest radio voices.
KQV (1410 Pittsburgh) has spent pretty much all of 2018 silent as it makes its way from its former owners, the Scaife family, into the hands of Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications group, where it will eventually become a diplexed partner to Stevens’ WEDO (810 McKeesport).
But as the work continues to relocate KQV from its longtime home in the North Hills out to WEDO’s White Oak site to the southeast, Stevens offered up a surprise last week, filing to transfer KQV from the commercial Broadcast Communications, Inc. to his noncommercial arm, Broadcast Educational Communications, Inc.
So far, that noncommercial entity owns only one station, WKGO (88.1 Murrysville), which Stevens programs with a right-back-like-it’s-1970 beautiful music format. Is that KQV’s future, too?
For now, we simply don’t know. Stevens tends to keep his own counsel on matters like these, and for now he’s not saying much about what he has in mind for KQV’s next steps.
As always, we’ll be following closely, and we’ll keep you posted as we find out more about the future of this little piece of radio history.
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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: September 4, 2017
*The on-air existence of Brown Broadcasting Services’ WBRU (95.5) in Providence, RHODE ISLAND ended at midnight Friday, but the legal wrangling over the $5.63 million sale to EMF Broadcasting may be just getting started.
The Brown students who run WBRU went out in style with their last few hours Thursday night, taking listener calls and sharing memories of the pioneering modern rock station in its last evening, though things got a little profane on the air in the final minutes before the midnight handoff to EMF and the launch of the national K-Love contemporary Christian format on what’s now WLVO.
Behind the scenes, though, there’s acrimony aplenty. The decision to sell the 95.5 facility had produced a split in the Brown Broadcasting board, leading some dissenting WBRU staff and alumni to speak out publicly against the sale.
They have some powerful ammunition: an email that was leaked to Providence’s WPRI-TV on Wednesday revealed that back in April, the president of Brown University had offered WBRU a loan to help it keep the FM signal afloat and avoid a sale. (Here’s the usual reminder: Brown itself does not own WBRU or control BBS, which is an independent corporation.)
The email from Brown president Christina Paxson reminded BBS that “the financial assets of the station (mainly the signal) were created through the generosity of generations of alumni and friends of WBRU. I believe that the WBRU Board has an obligation to do all it can to honor the intent of those who have given to the station over the years.”
*CONNECTICUT was where Tom Osenkowsky made his home, but he made a national name for himself across the broadcast engineering community as an editor of the “NAB Engineering Handbook” and longtime contributor to publications such as Radio World.
“Smokin’ Tom Gary” started his radio career on the air at WLAD in Danbury but soon found his calling in engineering, working at WLAD and sister station WDAQ, WAVZ/WKCI in New Haven and eventually for many other stations in the region and far beyond.
Tom was a regular presence in the various engineering forums online, always contributing both deep knowledge and his particular brand of dry wit. In recent months, he’d been open about the battle he was fighting with cancer, especially as it became clear he wasn’t going to win this one. Paul McLane of Radio World penned a touching story a few weeks ago about Tom’s quiet dignity, a story especially worth reading after news of Tom’s death August 28. He was just 62.
Five Years Ago: September 2, 2013
*It was the out-of-left-field radio deal of the year: we’d known that the ever-growing Cumulus Media behemoth was coveting one of its main syndication rivals, Dial Global, but until late last week, it wasn’t clear how the debt-laden Cumulus planned to pay the $260 million price tag for Dial Global. Now we do – it’s generating the cash through a pair of deals that will send 68 of Cumulus’ stations to one of its smaller competitors, Townsquare Media.
In NERW-land, the effects of the deal will be felt in MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, CONNECTICUT and upstate NEW YORK. In the Portland, Portsmouth and Danbury markets, the existing Cumulus clusters will go straight to Townsquare as part of an overall 53-station, 12-market deal in which Townsquare pays $238 million to Cumulus. (And was the rumor mill ever spinning heavily on this one; before the details of the deal were announced Friday afternoon, other markets mentioned as potential pieces of the Cumulus-to-Townsquare deal included Westchester and Syracuse, which would have formed a natural hub for Townsquare’s smaller upstate operations in Binghamton, Utica and Albany.)
And as with any of these big deals lately, there’s another piece: out west, the investment group behind Townsquare also has a big piece of Peak Broadcasting, which is sending its 11 stations in Boise and Fresno to Townsquare so that Townsquare can then swap them to Cumulus in exchange for 15 more Cumulus stations in Dubuque and – more to the point here – New York”s Hudson Valley.
*Brooks Brown may have been from Texas originally, but he became an essential part of southern VERMONT in his three decades at the helm of WEQX (102.7 Manchester), the station he put on the air in 1984 as one of the last built-from-scratch class B FMs in the northeast. From its transmitter site high atop Mount Equinox and its studios in an old house in Manchester, WEQX never wavered from Brown’s original commitment to provide an independently-owned source of alternative rock for a region that stretched across southern Vermont down toward Albany.
Along the way, WEQX became a training ground and jumping-off point for several generations of New England broadcasters; today there are former WEQX jocks and programmers working in the industry all across the country, from New England as far afield as Nevada.
Like any independent broadcaster in possession of a big signal, Brown was aggressively courted over the years by bigger companies looking to pay big dollars for WEQX, and he took pride in recounting the often profane ways in which those offers were summarily dismissed.
Sadly, Brown didn’t make it to the 30th anniversary of his station; we’re told he suffered a stroke in his sleep on Thursday night from which he didn’t recover, and he died later on Friday. He was just 66.
*Equity Broadcasting pulled a pre-Labor Day frequency swap in southern NEW JERSEY, sliding classic hits “Sunny” WSNQ from 105.5 Cape May Court House down the dial to the former WAIV (102.3 Cape May), while WAIV’s simulcast of top-40 WAYV (95.1 Atlantic City) moves to 105.5. The move will make WSNQ a little louder at the state’s southern tip and across the ferry in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
*It was a busy last week of August in eastern CANADA, where we now know for certain who’ll take the last of the Astral/Bell properties being spun off in that mega-deal. It’s Newfoundland-based Newcap that’s getting Astral’s CHBM (97.3 Boom) and Bell’s CFXJ (Flow 93.5) in Toronto along with three stations in Vancouver, and Newcap will pay C$112 million for the five stations in what will now be the company’s two biggest markets.
Ten Years Ago: September 1, 2008
*There’s a translator swap in southern MAINE: W277AM (103.3 Biddeford) is going to Bible Broadcasting Network (which will use it to relay WYFP 91.9 Harpswell), in exchange for two translators in Mississippi and Indiana.
There’s TV news from Maine, too: because of “significant equipment problems associated with its analog equipment” (it can”t get parts for its aging Comark transmitter, and a deteriorating klystron tube is forcing the station to chug along at 70% of licensed power), Portland CW affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) has been granted FCC permission to shut down its analog transmitter on Sept. 18. Its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WPME (Channel 35), received FCC permission to turn its analog signal off on August 21, allowing the station to complete its DTV antenna work before the Maine winters hit. Both stations are seen by most viewers on cable and satellite, anyway, and WPXT-DT (Channel 43) and WPME-DT (Channel 28) are both on the air.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Nassau is complying with the FCC”s order to immediately end its JSA with Vox’s WWHK (102.3 Concord), leaving Vox without the “Hawk” classic rock simulcast that WWHK has been using for the last few years. For now, we understand that 102.3 continues to carry a rock format, but entirely automated, with only a legal ID playing each hour.
In the meantime, WEEI is adding another station in the Granite State. Great Eastern Radio (whose ownership interlocks with Vox) announced last week that it’s getting ready to put silent WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT) back on the air from a new city of license – Swanzey, New Hampshire – and with new calls, WEEY-FM, bringing the WEEI network into the Keene market.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 1, 2003
*A station sale in southern NEW JERSEY: it”s been a given that the stations left behind when Howard Green died last year would be sold, and now we can tell you who”s buying them. For $22 million, Access.1 Communications (the old Unity Broadcasting) gets NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (Channel 40) in Wildwood, classic rock WMGM (103.7 Atlantic City), oldies WTKU (98.3 Ocean City), sports simulcast WOND (1400 Pleasantville) and WGYM (1580 Hammonton), and R&B oldies WUSS (1490 Pleasantville). About half the sales price will end up with the Salvation Army, chief beneficiary of Green”s estate.
*Labor Day weekend brought new calls and a new format to WEMG (104.9) in Egg Harbor City: after a four-month stunt as country and a day of nonstop heartbeats, it relaunched Friday as WOJZ, “Smooth Jazz 104.9.”
*Over the last few years, Clear Channel Radio has built a reputation as a non-stop purchaser of stations – but America”s biggest radio company sometimes sells stations, too, and that’s just what it did last week in western PENNSYLVANIA.
*In the Johnstown market, Clear Channel owned just two stations: country WMTZ (96.5) and news-talk WNTJ (1490), which wasn’t a tiny position (WMTZ is regularly the #1 station in the market), but was also far from the big clusters the company likes to build. Over in Grove City, on the eastern fringes of the Youngstown market, Clear Channel had the opposite problem – a cluster that was too big to fit within the FCC’s new guidelines for station ownership. For almost four years now, Clear Channel has been trying to buy country WICT (95.1 Grove City), standards WNIO (1390 Niles OH), top 40 “Kiss” WAKZ (95.9 Sharpsville) and oldies WBBG (106.1 Niles OH) from Gocom, which also owns Youngstown’s WKBN-TV (Channel 27) and the Fox LPTVs there – but the deal”s been held up because of market-concentration problems.
*Now there’s a solution to both problems, in the form of the growing Forever group. It’s paying $9.13 million for WMTZ/WNTJ and $2.28 million for WICT, getting Clear Channel out of Johnstown and clearing the way for Clear Channel to close on its purchase of the remaining Gocom stations, which it had been operating under LMAs anwyay. What Forever gets for its money is a dominant position in Johnstown, where it adds WMTZ/WNTJ to AC “Key” WKYE (95.5 Johnstown, the market’s #2 station), country oldies WLYE (850 Johnstown) and classic hits “Wuzz” (WUZY 97.7 Somerset/WUZI 105.7 Portage). Will WMTZ join forces with Forever’s “Froggy” WFGY (98.1) in nearby Altoona? Ribbit…
Twenty Years Ago: September 4, 1998
*In what has to be the biggest one-day set of radio transactions ever, Capstar is merging with Chancellor, while CBS is spinning off its radio operations under the old Infinity Broadcasting name. We’ll start with the Capstar-Chancellor deal, which has been rumored ever since Hicks, Muse began building two of the nation’s biggest broadcast groups.
*Chancellor was the big-market operator, with Boston’s WJMN and WXKS-AM/FM and New York’s WHTZ, WKTU, WAXQ, WBIX, and WLTW – along with WALK AM/FM on Long Island. Capstar was the smaller-market broadcaster, with WZNN, WTMN, WMYF, WXHT, WSRI, WHEB and WERZ on the New Hampshire seacoast; WGIR AM-FM in Manchester; WEAV, WEZF, WXPS, and WCPV in Burlington-Plattsburgh; WTAG and WSRS in Worcester; WHJJ, WSNE, and WHJY in Providence; WHMP AM-FM in Northampton; WPKX serving Springfield; WPOP, WWYZ, WKSS, WMRQ, and WHCN in Hartford; WPLR (and an LMA on WYBC) in New Haven; and WTRY AM-FM, WGNA AM-FM, WXLE and WPYX in Albany. The $4.1 billion deal makes the combined Capstar/Chancellor the largest radio operator in America, with 463 stations in more than a hundred markets — not even counting Hicks, Muse’s substantial TV holdings.
*Meantime, more than two years after CBS bought Infinity Broadcasting, the Infinity name is coming back. CBS is spinning off its radio assets, along with some billboards, into a new company bearing the Infinity name. Mel Karmazin stays in charge of the new Infinity, along with his post as President of CBS Corp., which will continue to own 80% of the new radio company. In our region, that puts the Infinity name on Boston’s WBZ, WNFT (still being held in a trust), WBMX, WZLX, WODS, and WBCN; Hartford’s WTIC AM-FM, WZMX, WRCH; New York’s WFAN, WCBS, WINS, WXRK, WCBS-FM, and WNEW; Rochester’s WZNE, WCMF, WPXY, and WRMM; and Buffalo’s WECK, WLCE, WBLK, WJYE, and WYRK.
*It’s a far cry from the original Infinity — WZLX, WBCN, WFAN, and WXRK, plus the since-sold WBOS and WOAZ in Boston and WZRC New York.
*Northern VERMONT won’t be able to listen to Howard Stern out of Canada any more; Montreal’s CHOM (97.7) has dropped him despite respectable ratings. CHOM’s owner, the CHUM Group, was under heavy pressure from the CRTC to take Stern off the air, especially after planning to add Stern”s TV show to its CITY-TV (Channel 57) in Toronto. Stern’s lone Canadian outlet now is CILQ (107.1; “Q107”) in Toronto, and NERW wonders if it too will dump Stern to curry the CRTC’s favo(u)r, since Q107 owner WIC is trying to sell its radio properties to Shaw. In any event, Stern can still be heard on WIZN (106.7) in Vergennes.