In this week’s issue… Claims, counterclaims fly in LI AM dispute – Buffalo TVs plan signal swap – Leadership shuffles in the North Country – Another new FM in Toronto? – Remembering Kaolian, Durian
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For most listeners in and around NEW YORK, the year since WTHE (1520 Mineola) went dark has passed without notice. The little 1000-watt daytimer in Nassau County only reached a small part of Long Island even when it was on the air, and its clear-channel neighbor WWKB from Buffalo puts a powerful skywave signal into the area that has long caused WTHE significant interference during “critical hours” after sunrise and before sunset.
So when Universal Broadcasting took WTHE silent on January 25, 2018, it wasn’t at all obvious that the station would ever return to the air. At the time, Universal’s brief filing with the FCC said the station had been “evicted” from its transmitter site. Eleven months passed without much visible action – and it wasn’t until after the FCC reopened last week that we saw WTHE’s filing stating that it had returned to the air under Special Temporary Authority with reduced power from a temporary site.
But there’s much more to the story than that, it seems – not to mention a fight brewing between two rival broadcasters. Read on…
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*Here’s where WTHE’s STA filing gets interesting: it alleges that when Universal tried to put the station back on the air from its original Mineola site, it was informed that the site was unavailable because its owner had entered into an exclusive option with Dr. Richard Yoon, who, it says, had identified himself to the landlord as the owner of WTHE.
Yoon, of course, is a station owner – not of WTHE but of WNYH (740 Huntington), a rival AM broadcaster in the leased-time business. In WTHE’s STA filing, Universal alleges that Yoon hoped to either force the company to sell WTHE to his WIN Radio “at a price dictated by WIN,” or to eliminate WTHE as a rival by “forc(ing) the station to forfeit its license” by not returning to the air within a year of going silent.
Those are serious allegations, albeit of the sort that the FCC usually prefers to see addressed in court rather than in front of the Commission. While we wait to see whether Universal goes that route, it’s telling the FCC it does expect to eventually return to Mineola once Yoon’s option on the site expires. In the meantime, it’s been granted an STA to run with 100 watts, daytime only, from a longwire at an address it gives as 132 Greenwich Street in Hempstead, about three miles from its licensed site.
WTHE filed a notice of resumption of operations during the shutdown, on January 16, which would appear to suffice when it comes to meeting that hard Congressionally-set deadline of one year of silence before the license would have been deleted. But there may be a problem there, too: we’ve yet to hear from any listeners in the area who have actually heard WTHE back on the air, and that Greenwich Street address points to a house in a residential area where it’s not clear there’s even room for a 200-foot longwire strung up 25 feet above the ground, as the STA specifies.
If the FCC investigates Universal’s accusations against Yoon, we’ll be interested to see what it learns about WTHE’s return to the air, too – and if nothing else, it’s a certainty that this story is far from over.
*Just up the dial and just to the west in NEW JERSEY, Multicultural Broadcasting has withdrawn its application to build a new antenna for WJDM (1530 Elizabeth). The company gave no explanation for the decision, which leaves the leased-time station running under STA at 250 watts, daytime-only, from one tower of the site of sister station WPAT (930) in Clifton. When it applied for the STA back in 2015, WJDM told the Commission it planned to apply for permanent operation from the Clifton site – which it did, proposing 10 kW daytime-only operation diplexed into all four WPAT towers. (Triplexed, actually, since WPAT also shares the site with Catholic WNSW 1430.)
Late last year, Multicultural told the FCC it couldn’t justify the big investment in building out that diplex, and instead proposed building a low-profile “HEBA” (High Efficiency Broadband Antenna) on a church rooftop in Elizabeth. It’s not clear what’s next now that WJDM has withdrawn that proposal, but we’ll keep following closely.
*When the FCC came back to work last week, we expected a small flood of station sale transactions that had been bottled up by the month-long shutdown – but for the most part, it didn’t materialize. We did, however, at least get a closer look at one big deal that hadn’t gotten to the filing stage back in upstate NEW YORK when the shutdown hit: the Seven Mountains/Southern Belle purchase of Community Broadcasters’ Elmira and Olean station clusters now has a price tag attached to it.
As with most of these deals, the license assets for the stations will go to Judith Cantrell’s Southern Belle LLC, while her daughter Kristin’s Seven Mountains takes all the physical facilities and non-license assets and will actually operate the stations. The $3.9 million all-cash deal takes Seven Mountains north of the state line for the first time, giving it five stations (top-40 “Wink” WNKI 106.1 Corning, classic rock “Wings” WNGZ 104.9 Montour Falls, country “Wolf” WPGI 100.9 Horseheads, talk WWLZ 820/101.3 Horseheads and classic country WRCE 1490 Watkins Glen) in the Elmira market and two (country WPIG 95.7 and top-40 WHDL 1450/107.1) in Olean. (Community paid $3.6 million for the clusters back in 2013.)
*Up the road in Buffalo, Nexstar and Sinclair have formally filed a proposal that had been rumored for some time: they’re asking the FCC to swap the RF channels and transmitter sites they’d initially proposed as part of the repack process there.
Nexstar’s WNLO (Channel 23/RF 32) became the host station last year for its CBS sister station, WIVB (Channel 4), after WIVB sold its own RF 39 spectrum at auction. That moved WIVB’s signal from Colden, in the hills south of Buffalo where the station had operated since the 1950s, up to WNLO’s transmitter plant north of Buffalo on Grand Island – and it took WIVB from a tower site Nexstar owned outright to a space it was leasing from public broadcaster WNED.
In the upcoming repack, WNLO/WIVB was to have stayed on RF 32, moving just west on Whitehaven Road to the nearby tower of Sinclair’s Fox affiliate WUTV (Channel 29) – and WUTV was to have moved from RF 14 on Grand Island (the only site the station has ever used since it signed on in 1970) to RF 36 from the old WIVB tower down in Colden.
That didn’t appear to make a lot of sense, and now we know why: the two companies plan to swap their post-repack facilities, keeping WUTV in place on Grand Island on what had been WNLO/WIVB’s RF 32, while moving WNLO/WIVB back down to Colden on what was to have been WUTV’s RF 36. Each company will get to keep its own tower (Sinclair will also use Grand Island for the post-repack facility of its WNYO-TV 49, which will move from its present site in Wyoming County, while Nexstar will continue to lease space at the old WIVB site to Entercom’s WTSS 102.5), and WIVB will restore a signal to areas south and east of Buffalo that have trouble with the Grand Island signals. (The tradeoff will come across the border, where Canadian viewers who’ve enjoyed a better CBS signal from the WNLO Grand Island plant will once again need a better antenna to see the Colden signal.)
One more piece of the Buffalo repack: Ion Media’s WPXJ (Channel 51) plans to move from its current site in Pavilion, halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, to the current WNYO-TV site, improving its new signal on RF 24 into Buffalo at the expense of viewers in Rochester – but if we have a hankering for “Criminal Minds” reruns, we can see Ion just as well on the 10.3 subchannel of local WHEC-TV these days.
*Up north, several veteran public broadcasters are all moving on at once. At North Country Public Radio in Canton, Ellen Rocco has set a retirement date in June, ending a four-decade career at the station, the last 34 of those years as station manager. Rocco oversaw NCPR’s massive expansion from a single station, WSLU in Canton, to a regional network with dozens of transmitters reaching from Watertown to Vermont.
A month after Rocco leaves in June, NCPR will also say farewell to news and public affairs director Martha Foley, who’s been a fixture at the station since 1981, building the station’s formidable news operation from the ground up.
And speaking of Watertown, Lynn Brown will also retire at the end of June after 20 years with WPBS-TV (Channel 16), where she’s been station president since 2013.
*In Albany, “DJ IROC” is off the air at Pamal’s WAJZ (96.3), where he’d been the night host on “JAMZ.” The jock, whose real name is Brian Angelo, was arrested last week in Rensselaer County on charges of sexually assaulting minors. Police say Angelo’s victims were between 8 and 14 years old; the 49-year-old is being held in Rensselaer County Jail, and he’s been removed from the WAJZ website.
Kaolian’s reports were heard on WICC for three decades, but they weren’t all he did in the air. He branched out into aerial photography, supplying images to the Connecticut Post and other newspapers and making a name for himself as an art photographer as well.
Kaolian was 90.
*There’s a new leader coming to Connecticut Public, the parent of Connecticut Public TV and WNPR public radio. Mark Contreras, who’s served as dean at Quinnipiac College in Hamden for the last two years, will take over as president and CEO at Connecticut Public on March 5. He replaces Jerry Franklin, who retires after 34 years at the helm of the public broadcaster.
*Plenty of broadcasters in MASSACHUSETTS will probably be sleeping a little late this morning after celebrating yet another championship (go Pats!), though Boston’s TV stations will also be busy preparing the by-now-customary extended coverage as the duck boats parade through the city tomorrow.
(And of course we can’t let the Pats’ win go by without a mention of Michael Telek, the KDKA-TV producer in Pittsburgh who got national attention but lost his job after typing in a chyron identifying “Tom Brady, Known Cheater.” In a statement, KDKA said “(t)he graphic that appeared Monday violated our news standards.” Telek, 27, had been working at KDKA since June and promptly launched a GoFundMe to help support himself after the end of his career there.)
Back home in New England, sports disappeared from the air at Hall Communications’ WNBH (1340 New Bedford) just a few hours before the Super Bowl. After almost exactly a decade as an ESPN Radio outlet, WNBH is now stunting with classic hits and promoting upcoming simulcasts on the HD2 of sister WCTK (98.1), as well as the impending launch of its new translator on 101.3.
And far away from the sports fray, public station WBUR (90.9) has been busy: it’s hiring a Washington correspondent, Kimberly Atkins, who’s been the DC bureau chief for the Boston Herald (and a frequent on-air contributor at MSNBC.) She starts her new WBUR job today. Back in Boston, WBUR has also opened a spiffy new streetside performance/recording space – more on that in next week’s NERW!
*At the other end of the state, “Lady B” is coming back to Urban One a little over a year after being displaced from her afternoon shift on WRNB (100.3). At a news conference this morning, the company will announce that the jock (real name: Bahiyyah Clark) will join the airstaff of its most recent launch, “Classix” WPPZ (107.9). She’s been a fixture in Philadelphia urban radio since 1979, when she started at WHAT (1340), later moving to WUSL (98.9) and then to 100.3.
And while Dave Durian was best known for his many decades as a radio and TV anchor in Baltimore at WBAL radio and TV and Maryland Public TV, he’s remembered, too, for his time in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s, when he co-hosted “Evening Magazine” on KDKA-TV (Channel 2). Durian was 72 when he died last Monday in Maryland, of complications from cancer and a stroke.
*Is there room for yet another new FM signal in the biggest market in CANADA? A religious broadcaster seems to think so, and the CRTC is prepared to let them make their case. International Harvesters for Christ Evangelistic Association, which runs Christian stations in Halifax, N.S., Charlottetown, P.E.I. and Moncton, N.B., is applying for a new 88-watt signal (150 watt max DA) in Scarborough, on the east side of Toronto.
Because Harvesters’ proposed frequency of 105.3 is one of the last possible spots into which a new Toronto-area FM could possibly be shoehorned, the CRTC has opened a call for comments on the capacity of the market and the “appropriateness” of issuing a call for competing applications. Comments are due by March 1, with reply comments due March 18.
*In Montreal, Steve Faguy reports “Cousin Vinny” Barrucco has departed mornings at Cogeco’s CKBE (92.5 the Beat), headed for an as-yet-undisclosed new gig. Andy Wilson, former producer at Bell’s Virgin 99.9 (CKFM) in Toronto, joins CKBE as the third chair on what’s now “Mornings with Nikki, Sam and Andy.”
And back in Toronto, Elliott Price is out at Sportsnet 590 THE FAN (CJCL), where he’d been morning co-host for the last two years. Greg Brady and Hugh Burrill will continue on the morning show there.