In this week’s issue… Boston TVs on the move – Vox shuffles Burlington – Saga, Cumulus shuffle translators – Remembering CT’s Dresner – and more to come tomorrow!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Welcome to 2019! This year, we’ll be marking the 25th anniversary of what started as “New England Radio Watcher” back in 1994 – and after our annual New Year’s hiatus, we have so much news to kick off the new year that we’re actually splitting our NERW report in half this week.
So today, you get “New England RadioWatch,” with all the headlines from Connecticut to Maine. We’ll bring you the news from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and eastern Canada in part two of this week’s report, bright and early tomorrow morning. Need a reminder? Don’t forget to sign up on the right side of the page for our email list, which sends you a free reminder every day there’s new content here on Fybush.com.
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*Most of the commuters headed to work over New Year’s week in eastern MASSACHUSETTS probably didn’t register any big visual difference as they sped down Route 128 or Route 9. But a few of them – and no doubt any NERW readers who might have been among them – noticed something very big missing from the candelabra tower that’s been a Route 128 landmark for almost half a century just off Highland Avenue in Needham.
If you’d wanted to book a room on an upper floor of the Sheraton right under the tower over the last weekend of December, you would have been sent downstairs – the top floors of the hotel were closed, bought out for safety issues (and to house tower crews) as a huge helicopter hovered repeatedly over the tower to remove the antennas that used to carry WFXT (Channel 25), WSBK (Channel 38) and WLVI (Channel 56), the three UHF stations for whom the tower was built in the early 1970s.
WSBK moved its digital signal over to the other big tower in Needham (on Cedar Street) a decade ago when analog TV went away, and WLVI sold its spectrum last year, moving its signal to share the spectrum of sister station WHDH-TV at that station’s tower just down the road across the Newton city line. That left Fox affiliate WFXT as the big UHF signal on the Cabot Street tower, which it was sharing with auxiliary transmitters for several FM stations and an FM translator.
With the upcoming repack, though, Boston’s TV broadcasters and American Tower, which owns all the Newton-Needham towers except for WHDH’s, saw an opportunity to do a more comprehensive rebuild of the market’s transmission capabilities. In particular, after multiple failures of the master TV antenna at the Cedar Street site over the last few years, the post-repack plan will create a full auxiliary facility when it’s all done: the stations that use Cedar Street for their main transmitters (WBZ-TV, WCVB, WSBK, WGBX) will have backups at Cabot Street, while WFXT’s main transmitter at Cabot Street will have a full auxiliary facility at Cedar Street.
Getting there, however, will be a little more of a challenge, and that’s where the big helicopter lift at the end of December came in: in order to make room for a new master UHF antenna that will be mounted right at the top of the Cabot Street tower, the existing antennas on the three arms of the candelabra had to be removed, and that took multiple helicopter lifts over the course of the weekend. It also required WFXT to move to Cedar Street for now; later in the process, the Cedar Street stations will move to their new auxiliary facilities at Cabot Street when the Cedar Street antennas are removed and replaced.
Still later on, there will be more motion: Telemundo’s WNEU will move from New Hampshire down to the Cedar Street tower, while WGBH-TV, relocating from UHF to VHF on RF channel 5, will get a shiny new antenna on the Cabot Street tower. In the meantime, though, those who know will be forgiven if they keep looking up at the Needham skyline and thinking something looks a little off for now. (And yes, those three arms of the candelabra will remain, without their antennas, even after the new antenna rises from the center of the tower.)
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