In this week’s issue… WLNE launches new TV group – LI brand returns – Morning shift in NYC – New Mass. FM cancelled

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*Every few years, we lead off this column with news that a certain RHODE ISLAND TV station has been sold to a new owner who promises to lead it out of the ratings basement – and it’s time again.

WLNE (Channel 6) is technically a New Bedford, Mass. station, which may help to explain why it’s always been something of an afterthought for most of the viewers on the Rhode Island side of the Providence TV market. Until the advent of digital TV, it suffered from a challenging transmitter site, more distant from the core of the Providence market than the two long-dominant signals, NBC affiliate WJAR (Channel 10) and CBS affiliate WPRI (Channel 12).

Even after achieving signal parity more than a decade ago, WLNE bounced around from owner to owner as longtime operator Freedom handed it off to a new entrant called Global Broadcasting. Global lasted barely four years before going bankrupt; in 2011, WLNE went to Phil Lombardo’s Citadel Communications, becoming an odd New England outpost for a company that was primarily a small- and medium-market TV operator in the Midwest.

Citadel sold most of its TV stations to Nexstar a couple of years ago, but with Nexstar already in control of WPRI and its Fox shared-services sister, WNAC (Channel 64), WLNE had to stay put with Citadel until another buyer emerged.

And last week, one did – a new company called Standard Media, which announced Thursday it will pay $83 million for WLNE and its remaining Citadel ABC sister, KLKN (Channel 8) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Standard is led by Deb McDermott, who brings an extensive resume as an executive at Media General (which owned WJAR) and Young Broadcasting.

“We look at this acquisition as the first of many as we work to create a new competitive player in the consolidating broadcast TV industry,” McDermott said in the announcement of the new Standard group. (Who else is out there to be acquired in the now heavily-consolidated local TV marketplace? In New England, the only network affiliates rumored to be for sale right now are Meredith’s WGGB/WSHM in Springfield and WFSB in Hartford, whose parent company is seeking a buyer for its entire TV group.)

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*The week’s other big stories came out of the FM dial in NEW YORK, where the AC format landscape is about to get unsettled with the end of Cumulus’ WPLJ (95.5) in just two weeks.

Downtown at iHeart, WLTW (106.7) is looking to bring some younger listeners up the dial from sister station WKTU (103.5), which is handing off longtime morning man Paul “Cubby” Bryant later this month. Starting May 28, Cubby will pair up with Christine Nagy on the new “Cubby and Christine Morning Show” on Lite FM, where he replaces Bob Bronson. Bronson did his last show May 10, telling fans on social media he’s hoping to be back on the airwaves somewhere else sometime soon.

What happens to KTU’s morning drive? That will be the next shoe to drop, especially as we learn more about where some of WPLJ’s familiar voices will head next once the 95.5 signal is handed off to EMF’s K-Love format.

*Meanwhile to the east, the station everyone calls “K-Joy” is… back to being “K-Joy.” That’s Connoisseur’s WKJY (98.3 Hempstead), which dropped that nickname in 2013 to become “K-98.3.” But when even contest winners call you “K-Joy” when they call in, it’s hard to fight your listeners – and so on Friday afternoon at 5, to the tune of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?,” the K-Joy moniker returned. There’s a staffing change here, too, with the departure of music director/afternoon jock Jodi Vale. John Tesh’s syndicated evening show now starts at 5 PM on “K-Joy.”

On the AM dial, WKJY and sister AM station WHLI (1100) could soon have company at their transmitter site along the Southern State Parkway; silent WTHE (1520 Mineola) has applied to diplex on the WHLI site, where it would run 1000 watts day, 278 watts critical hours.

*In Albany, WAJZ (Jamz 96.3) has a new night jock: she’s Alexandria Wurst (“Ayeee-Dubb”), who moves east from WQLQ in South Bend, Indiana.

*A NEW JERSEY weekend institution is ending. Bob Levy hosted the Sunday “Topic A” talk show on WOBM-FM (92.7 Toms River) and its AM sister stations WOBM (1160 Lakewood)/WADB (1310 Asbury Park) for almost 40 years before his death in 2018; after that, co-host Jeremy Grunin kept the show going. Now Grunin says he’s leaving the Townsquare stations, and the company says the show won’t continue.

*Where are they now? Brett Holcomb left WBZC (88.9 Pemberton) and traded south Jersey for Florida a few years back, joining the University of Florida’s WRUF in Gainesville. Holcomb had just left WRUF when we visited there last September (see our tour in this week’s Site of the Week!), and we caught up with him a few days later in his new gig as assistant PD at Tampa public radio stations WUSF/WSMR. Now he’s back in Gainesville, where he’s brand manager of WRUF’s ESPN sports outlet.

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, Sean McDowell announced his retirement last week after just over a quarter-century at WDVE (102.5 Pittsburgh). McDowell will leave his afternoon shift at the iHeart classic rocker on July 31, ending a 41-year radio career. No replacement has been named yet.

*A strange FM story on the North Shore of MASSACHUSETTS appears to have come to an end after five years. Back in 2014, Joseph McDonough’s New England Broadcasting Educational Group filed an application for a new signal on 88.3 in Newbury, claiming shared-time hours not being used by the existing 88.3 up there, Masconomet Regional High School’s WBMT (88.3 Boxford).

The application was granted in March 2016, with the WVCA callsign that famously lived up that way on the old 104.9 in Gloucester. The FCC later dismissed another application to drop the share-time by moving WVCA to full-time operation on 88.1. And as the construction permit’s three years were about to run out on March 30, New England filed for its license to cover on the new WVCA on March 26.

There was a problem, though: WVCA’s applications had caught the eye of a neighbor on the dial, WSEW (88.7 Sanford, MAINE), which itself wanted to move to 88.1 and cover more of the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast and a bit of Massachusetts as well. WSEW’s application for 50 kW on 88.1 was granted back in 2018, but the station kept an eye on WVCA. And when WVCA requested its license, WSEW cried foul: it told the FCC that WVCA’s facility had been constructed at lower power than specified (100 watts instead of 500), with a different antenna than specified, at a different height, in a tree instead of an actual tower, and without the proper proofs of performance. (Can you spot the antenna in this photo from WSEW’s filing?)

Instead of waiting for the FCC to rule on the issue (and potentially assess fines), WVCA withdrew its license to cover application and surrendered its construction permit last week, ending its quest for a new signal on the state line.

*Down in Middleborough Center, Steve Callahan is selling his WVBF (1530) and W259DD (99.7). They’re headed to Marc Pacheco’s MRP Communications and Consulting, LLC, which will pay $100,000 for the licenses and a separate $100,000 transaction for the studio and transmitter facility (which used to be the old WPEP 1570 in Taunton). If Pacheco’s name sounds familiar to Taunton-area listeners, it sure should – he’s spent more than 30 years representing the area on Beacon Hill, where he’s now the dean of the state Senate.

*In Worcester, Cumulus promotes WWFX (100.1 the Pike) PD/middayer Chuck Perks. He keeps his WWFX duties and also takes over Mark Veau’s old duties as operations manager at sister station WORC-FM (98.9 Nash Icon). Keith Stephens, who’s been promotions director for the cluster, moves up to become PD of WORC-FM, filling the rest of Veau’s former job, and promotions guy Matt Henry takes Stephens’ place.

*As summer holiday season gets closer in CANADA (and a happy Victoria Day to our readers up north!), there’s a format change in Cottage Country. Canadian Radio News reports Bayshore Broadcasting started the month by tweaking “89.1 MAX FM” (CISO) from classic hits to alternative rock, just a few months after flipping from AC “Sunshine 89.1.” The classic hits remain at sister “MAX” station CHGB (97.7 Wasaga Beach) – and in Orillia, MAX is offering a “No Nickelback Guarantee,” promising 5000 nickels to the first listener who calls in if a Nickelback song gets on the air.

In Montreal, Alain Gravel is out and Patrick Masbourian is in as morning host at CBF (95.1), the flagship station of the ICI Radio-Canada Première network. Steve Faguy reports that Masbourian will get a weekday show and will do some TV work for ICI Radio-Canada.

Back in Ontario, along the Trans-Canada highway east of Ottawa, the CRTC approves the conversion of tourist information station CJRO (107.7) to a low-power community station. The change in license class will allow the Carlsbad Springs Community Association to run a wider variety of programming, mixing English and French; the 14.8-watt signal on 107.7 in Carlsbad Springs will be accompanied by a 1.3-watt rebroadcast signal on 107.9 in nearby Vars, Ontario.

In Schreiber, Ontario, way way way out west on the Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay, the CRTC also approved the CBC’s request to move low-power relay CBLB (1340) to FM. The Radio One outlet (relaying CBQT Thunder Bay) will run 130 watts on 90.9.

And back in Quebec, Canadian Radio News reports Arsenal Media has rebranded CFLM (97.1 La Tuque) as “O 97,1,” moving from French AC to French hot AC/CHR.

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