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.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, HAPPY NEW CALENDAR!
Still don’t have a new calendar on your wall for 2023? We can fix that – and fast!
The Tower Site Calendar for 2023 is brighter and better than ever: more historic dates, more great photos of broadcast sites near and far (everywhere from Navajo Nation on the cover to Boston to Toronto to Texas, and beyond), plus a lovely “centerfold” you can keep on your wall for 2024.
It’s still shipping daily, and you can have yours in just a couple of days!
Order your copy and you’ll see what we mean.
If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
*In Philadelphia, KYW (1060) has found a replacement for Steve Butler, who’s retiring soon after a long career with the station that took him all the way to corporate news format captain for Entercom. His successor as KYW’s program director will be Alex Silverman, whose career has rocketed him from Syracuse University (where he still looks after student top-40 station WJPZ) to New York’s WCBS, first as a reporter/weekend anchor and most recently as assistant news director. Silverman starts his new Philadelphia gig Sept. 24, and Butler will head into retirement a few weeks later.
There’s a new brand on Aztec Capital Partners’ WHAT (1340) in Philadelphia. The former “El Zol” is now “Z99.9,” reflecting translator W260CZ in North Philadelphia and downplaying the AM signal.
*We’ll be writing a whole new round of “WBZ is moving” stories out of MASSACHUSETTS again before long. No sooner did we write last week’s story about WBZ (1030) leaving its longtime Soldiers Field Road home in Allston than news broke about a move for its erstwhile sister stations, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38). The Globe reports National Development and the Mount Vernon Company have reached a deal with owner CBS to redevelop most of the 8-acre site that’s been home to WBZ since 1948. But unlike the radio station’s move up to Medford (into the shiny new facility shown in a sneak peek above – we’ll have much more on that facility soon!), the TV stations are staying put, more or less.
The development companies will be building WBZ-TV and WSBK a new, smaller building in what’s now the parking lot just west of the 1948 building; once that’s finished (likely no earlier than 2020), the old building and its many additions and renovations will come down and be replaced by new development.
(Why a smaller building? It’s not just the departure of the radio station and its 100 or so employees – it’s also the impending move of the TV stations’ master control to a centralized hub facility out of town, among other changes in the way the TV business runs these days.)
*When we stopped by Saga’s Cayuga Radio Group cluster in Ithaca, NEW YORK a couple of weeks ago to see its big translator facility south of town, we noted that the company was offering a whopping nine different formats in that small market, on a combination of two AMs, four full-power FMs and seven translators.
Make that ten formats, eight translators and a total of 14 frequencies in the market, thanks to the recent move of the WHCU (870) news-talk simulcast from W240CB (95.9) to the new W249DW (97.7). That’s opening up 95.9 to do something new in September – but until the new format launches, it’s stunting as “XA Radio,” playing only music from Ithaca’s X Ambassadors.
*In Buffalo, Entercom is shifting its translator lineup a bit: W297AB (107.3 Williamsville), which has relayed what’s now WLKK (107.7 Wethersfield Township) through its various calls and formats for almost 25 years, is apparently flipping to a relay of co-owned WWWS (1400), formerly known as “Solid Gold Soul” and now as “Classic R&B 107.3 & 1400.” In July, Entercom filed to move the 107.3 signal a few blocks east from its longtime home at 715 Delaware Avenue (the old WBUF 92.9 studio and Entercom FM aux site) to a hospital rooftop off Ellicott Street, with a power boost from 55 to 73 watts. (WLKK, now “Alternative Buffalo,” has a second translator at 104.7 that largely overlaps the 107.3 coverage.)
Up in the Adirondacks, Ricki Lee and his wife Hanna Kaleta had been fighting for most of 2018 to get FCC approval of their purchase of long-silent WRGR (102.1 Tupper Lake). Because Lee is a UK citizen and Kaleta a citizen of Poland, their purchase (under the “Border Media” banner) required them to become some of the first to test the Commission’s new foreign ownership policy, which required a national security review – and after going through all the red tape, last week they received the good news that they’ve been cleared to buy the station. Will they get “102.1 the Lake” back on the air before the long, hard mountain winter sets in?
(Want to hear more? We talked to Ricki about his plans in an episode of our Top of the Tower Podcast earlier this spring…)
*Across Lake Champlain in VERMONT, Vox is changing sports outlets in the Burlington market on WCPV (101.3 Essex). On Tuesday, it drops ESPN and picks up Fox Sports Radio, becoming “101.3 the Game.” Its local show, “The Huddle with Rich, Arnie and Brady,” stays in place in afternoon drive.
*The syndicated Brooke & Jubal morning show is getting a toehold in CANADA‘s capital city starting tomorrow: Corus’ “Jump! 106.9” (CKQB) will start airing Brooke & Jubal tomorrow, replacing Jesse Reynolds and Jenna Mo, out after just over three years with Jump.
It’s been a long, hard slog to get the little AM signal on the air, with multiple delays and extensions as Kerr tried to find a workable site for his new Valcom whip antenna. The signal finally hit the air with test programming earlier this summer, but today’s the official start of programming. We still don’t know much about exactly what will be part of CKNT’s news-talk format, though it will at least include games from the Mississauga Steelheads hockey team that Kerr owns.
We’re a community.
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.