In this week’s issue… Vermont morning team to sign off – Nexstar/Tribune deal means spinoffs – Tower down in PA – Hooray for Bollywood (on LI!)
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When the VERMONT Association of Broadcasters held its annual awards banquet over the weekend, WVMT (620 Burlington) was especially well represented. Veteran morning co-host Ernie Farrar emceed the event, which included a Distinguished Service Award to his longtime morning drive partner, Charlie Papillo. (photo: WVMT via Facebook)
But the moment was a little bittersweet, because just a couple of days earlier, Ernie and Charlie made a big on-air announcement: their last day together at the station will be December 21, when both will retire. It’s not related to WVMT’s upcoming sale from Sison Broadcasting to Vox, they say – just time to stop waking up so early.
That’s been a long time coming for Farrar, especially, who’s been with WVMT for a remarkable 51-year run. Papillo came to the station in 1998 and has been paired with Farrar in mornings since 2000. WVMT hasn’t announced a replacement yet for its morning drive, but is expected to do so later this week.
As for the VAB awards, another Distinguished Service Award went to engineer Glenn Dudley, recently retired from WEZF and Vermont PBS. The VAB Hall of Fame added three new inductees: the late Jim Condon, the VAB’s former executive director and longtime morning man; Terry Jaye of WJJR in Rutland and Great Eastern Radio owner Jeff Shapiro. Mike Seguin of VPR received the Snyder-Teffner Award for engineering excellence, while Burlington’s WOKO won the Al Noyes Community Service Award.
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*If the early media reporting over the weekend is correct, today will bring official word of a new suitor for Tribune Media. After regulators quashed Sinclair’s $3.9 million bid for the stations on market-concentration concerns, it’s now Nexstar stepping forward with what’s reportedly a $4.1 billion offer for Tribune.
For Nexstar, which has specialized in small- and medium-market operations, the addition of Tribune will mean entry into some much bigger arenas: WPIX (Channel 11) in New York, WGN-TV (Channel 9) in Chicago and KTLA (Channel 5) in Los Angeles are among the big prizes in the Tribune group.
In NERW-land, WPHL (Channel 17) in Philadelphia is the other big-market Tribune outlet that would go to Nexstar – but things get more complicated after that, because the rest of Tribune’s stations around the region are in markets where Nexstar already operates.
In CONNECTICUT, particularly, there will inevitably be a spinoff, since Nexstar owns ABC affiliate WTNH (Channel 8) and MyNetwork outlet WCTX (Channel 59) in New Haven, which can’t be co-owned with Tribune’s Fox affiliate WTIC-TV (Channel 61) and CW affiliate WCCT-TV (Channel 20) in Hartford.
There are conflicts in eastern Pennsylvania, too: in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, between Nexstar’s NBC/CBS duopoly of WBRE-TV (Channel 28) and WYOU-TV (Channel 22) and Tribune’s dominant ABC affiliate, WNEP (Channel 16); and in the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York market, where Nexstar picked up ABC affiliate WHTM (Channel 27) from an earlier Sinclair-driven spinoff, while Tribune has long owned Fox affiliate WPMT (Channel 43).
While Sinclair was barred from acquiring all of Tribune, it’s likely to be an eager buyer for at least some of the spinoffs if this deal goes through. It can’t buy in the Pennsylvania markets, but either WTNH/WCTX or WTIC/WCCT would fit well between existing Sinclair outlets in Albany and Providence. (And would Meredith, which is the third big competitor in Hartford, be an interested buyer in Harrisburg or Scranton? Or could Hearst, with strong presence in New England and in Pennsylvania, be interested in WTNH or WNEP?)
For Nexstar, meanwhile, the addition of WPIX in particular would fill an interesting hole: it would become the first owner in the history of the medium to have stations in every market in New York State. And owning powerful big-market CW affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and other big markets might also give Nexstar leverage to move that network into its own clusters in smaller markets where other owners now control the CW affiliation.
*In north central PENNSYLVANIA, it was a very bad Thanksgiving weekend for WHGL (100.3 Canton), where “Wiggle 100” was knocked off the air on Friday morning in what the station soon figured out was a tower collapse.
As station owner Mike Powers told us in an interview for last week’s Top of the Tower Podcast, a town plow that was clearing the road to the WHGL site snagged a guy wire, bringing down the tower and taking Wiggle’s usual class B1 signal off the air. (photo: WHGL via Facebook)
Powers and his crew immediately started planning for a replacement tower and transmitter (the falling tower crushed the transmitter building), but in the meantime they’re getting help from Family Life Network. The regional religious broadcaster had a spare transmitter and emergency tower, which it loaned to WHGL to get back on the air at reduced power to reach the immediate Troy-Canton area. Over in nearby Towanda, Powers made a temporary flip at his AM/translator combination, WTTC (1550)/W299CM (107.7). Instead of the usual oldies simulcast with WTZN (1310 Troy), 1550/107.7 are now carrying “Wiggle” country for Towanda until the big 100.3 signal can be restored – and given winter weather and such, Powers says that could be a few months.
*In Philadelphia, there’s a morning change at Beasley’s WXTU (92.5), which is on the hunt for a replacement for Frank Lario. He resigned from the “Morning Crew” there just before Thanksgiving, after two and a half years with the country station; for now, co-host Andie Summers is handling the shift solo.
And over at WIP (94.1), production guru Brian “Sludge” Haddad is exiting after seven years and “it has to be 20,000 pieces of production,” as he said in his Twitter announcement. Haddad hosted nights at WIP for a bit, but mostly he’s been responsible for the distinctive sound of the Entercom sports station. Haddad says he’s lined up a new gig elsewhere that he hasn’t announced yet.
*Saga is shuffling its “metro signals” (we still call them translators!) in NEW HAMPSHIRE, where “Hits 94.1” gave way to “Rewind” in Manchester on Nov. 23. That 94.1 signal is translator W231BR, fed by the HD2 of Saga’s big AC, WZID (95.7 Manchester). As RadioInsight first reported, “Launching with 10,000 songs commercial free, the new format will flank sister Classic Rock “96.5 The Mill” WMLL against Binnie Media Classic Hits “106.3 Frank-FM” WFNQ.” The move ends Saga’s stab at top-40 in the market, where it used to have “Hits” on both 94.1 in Manchester and another “metro signal,” 103.1 in Concord, which flipped from top-40 to country last year as “Outlaw.”
*In the Providence, RHODE ISLAND market, Maddie Grimaldi moves up from part-time to middays at Hall’s WCTK (98.1 New Bedford MA). That shift had belonged to Meredith Thompson before she exited the radio industry.
*One of the most respected reporters in MASSACHUSETTS is retiring. Jorge Quiroga has been in the field for WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston since 1977, racking up well-deserved accolades all along the way. An Emerson College graduate, Quiroga worked at WBZ-TV early in his career, as well as teaching in elementary schools before joining WCVB in 1974 as creator, producer and host of a new Spanish-language news show called “Aqui.” In typically self-effacing fashion, Quiroga announced his retirement (planned for the end of this year) in one brief tweet last week accepting a Silver Circle award from his colleagues in the Boston chapter of NATAS.
*Out west, the FCC had a tough message last week for Deane Brothers Broadcasting, owner of WJDF (97.3 Orange): if it doesn’t make arrangements to pay nearly ten thousand dollars it owes to the federal government, the station’s license could be in danger of revocation.
The Commission says WJDF hasn’t paid its annual regulatory fees since 2013, and with interest and fees, that adds up to $9641.73 that’s now in arrears. Deane Brothers has 60 days to make that payment, or show the Commission why it can’t or shouldn’t have to do so.
The answer? “Bollywood” – as in the giant Indian film industry and the music that’s such an important part of those movies. Universal Media already had a “Bolly” station out west, KSJO (92.3), serving the big Indian community in San Jose and the Bay Area. As of Saturday, it’s imported the “Bolly” brand to Long Island on the new “Bolly 540.”
The Bollywood format replaces Spanish-language religion “Radio Adonai,” which had been the tenant on WLIE for the last few years.
Upstate, Tower Broadcasting quietly made some changes to its Elmira-market formats earlier in the autumn: WELM (1410 Elmira) added a translator at 106.5 and has dropped CBS Sports Radio in favor of classic rock, where it’s now “The Pirate.” Up the road in Bath, WABH (1380) dropped its simulcast with standards/soft AC WEHH (1600 Elmira Heights-Horseheads), and is instead running satellite-driven classic country.
*The Catholic Relevant Radio network has added a third outlet in NEW JERSEY, where WVNJ (1160 Oakland) dropped its leased-time talk last week after being purchased by Relevant owner Immaculate Heart Media. WVNJ’s signal over Bergen County (and adjacent Rockland and Westchester counties in New York) complements Relevant’s existing WNSW (1430 Newark) just to the south, as well as WWJZ (640) down in south Jersey.
*Just down the road in Wayne, William Paterson University was still called “William Paterson State College” when it put WPSC (88.7) on the FM dial 30 years ago this month – and this week the station will be saluting its entire history (even back to the carrier-current AM that preceded 88.7) with a weeklong alumni takeover.
Each day of the takeover (see a complete schedule here) will recreate a specific era in the station’s history (today, for instance, will sound like “WPSC 59 AM Radio” from the 1980s), wrapping up with an alumni brunch next Saturday.
*In CANADA, the CRTC is once again calling CKWR (98.5 Waterloo) on the carpet for regulatory compliance issues. CKWR’s licensee, Wired World Inc., drew short-term renewals in 2008 and 2013, and now it’s happened a third time. Between now and the end of the next short-term renewal period in August 2020, Wired World has to show the CRTC that it’s complying with requirements to file annual reports (an ongoing problem at the community station), maintain emergency alerting equipment and meet its CanCon requirements. If the CRTC’s latest mandatory order isn’t obeyed, it could lead to a loss of license down the road – though we’d note that community stations like CKWR tend to get a pretty wide berth from the agency.
In Montreal, Cogeco has completed a big FM consolidation that now has all four of its signals sharing a master antenna up on Mount Royal. The biggest change, of course, is to CKOI (96.9), which has signed off for good from its longtime grandfathered 307 kW home atop the Bank of Montreal skyscraper downtown (shown at left in 2016), moving up in height to Mount Royal but dropping power to 148 kW to maintain its superpower coverage.
Joining it on the new antenna are three other FMs that were already on other spots at the Mount Royal site – CKBE (92.5), CHMP (98.5) and CFGL (105.7), the last of which gets a slight power boost from 41 kW to 48 kW.
And in Toronto, Wednesday is the final morning show for Roger Ashby after more than 50 years at CHUM-FM (104.5). After Ashby announced his retirement plans back in October, CHUM launched a listener contest to pick the crowd of guests who’ll be in the audience starting at 5 AM at the Sheraton Centre Toronto’s grand ballroom. Ashby tells the Toronto Sun he’s been asked by Bell to stay around in a part-time capacity to create content for the Canadian version of the IHeartRadio platform, but rather notably didn’t say whether he’s said yes. (Or will “Zoomer Radio” CFZM, which has been pitching on-air for Ashby’s services, land him instead?)