In this week’s issue… AM change coming in NYC – Big honor for WNY talker – Remembering PA’s Klein – Power boost in Toronto – PLUS: Baseball on the Radio – NY-Penn League
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*We lead this column with NEW YORK radio fairly often, it’s true. But it’s not so often that we lead off with Spanish-language radio in New York – and even less often when we have two such items as our lead stories.
This is one of those weeks, and it starts with the only signal Disney still owns in market number one. That’s WEPN (1050 New York), which flipped from English-language ESPN to the ESPN Deportes Radio Spanish-language network in 2012 after Disney entered into a long-term lease of Emmis’ 98.7 to become WEPN-FM with the English-language sports format.
Seven years and a day after its Sept. 7, 2012 flip, WEPN(AM) will flip again this fall now that ESPN has announced it’s shutting down Deportes Radio as a full-time network, effective September 8.
“It’s no secret Hispanic fans skew heavily on digital and social which is why we made the decision to discontinue ESPN Deportes terrestrial radio,” the network said, promising to continue to serve Spanish-speaking audiences on its digital and TV platforms.
It’s equally true, of course, that in its network form, Deportes Radio had barely a dozen significant affiliates, hampered in no small part by the wildly different sports preferences of the different Spanish-speaking demographics in various parts of the country. That even affected WEPN – while the station served New York’s heavily Dominican and Puerto Rican communities, its control room was actually in Miami at the network’s headquarters, with the “local” afternoon show co-hosted by several Miami-based personalities and a host in one of the WEPN-FM studios on West End Avenue.
What happens to 1050 once the network goes away? It will apparently revert to English-language sports, carrying the full ESPN Radio network lineup, most of which is preempted during the day by local shows on WEPN-FM. It’s not yet clear what becomes of the Mets’ Spanish-language broadcasts, which had been 1050’s flagship play-by-play offering; we’d assume they’ll run until the end of this season on 1050, and for 2020, who knows?
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*Our other story comes from SBS and WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson), which despite being licensed to New Jersey has transmitted from New York for many decades. Until the morning of September 11, 2001, of course, WPAT-FM was one of the big FMs atop the old 1 World Trade Center, and within days it had returned to the air from temporary facilities at the Empire State Building.
For more than 17 years, the FCC has continued to consider WPAT-FM’s existence at Empire as “temporary,” even as SBS built out a new transmitter room (right) for it and sister WSKQ (97.9), and even as the other WTC refugees – WKCR, WNYC-FM and WKTU – eventually returned to fully licensed operation, the latter two also from Empire.
Now WPAT-FM has applied for fully licensed operation from Empire as well, going from the 4 kW it’s used under special temporary authority to the 6 kW used by full-power class B stations on the Empire master antenna. That’s a move WPAT hasn’t been able to make because of spacing restrictions to co-channel WHYN-FM (93.1) in Springfield, Massachusetts – and there’s nothing in the WPAT application explaining what has changed to make full 6 kW operation from Empire possible.
If it’s granted, WPAT-FM’s move back to licensed operation will finally end a very long chapter in broadcast engineering history, closing the chapter we began writing back in 2001 when we first examined the slew of STA grants the FCC made in the hours after the 9/11 attacks.
*How many radio stations can boast a Medal of Honor recipient on their airwaves? In a couple of weeks, Buffalo’s WBEN (930) will be one, as afternoon talk co-host David Bellavia travels to Washington to be so honored at a White House ceremony June 25.
Before he was a political operative in western New York, Bellavia was an Army staff sergeant in Iraq – and it was there, in 2004 in Fallujah, that he fought back against insurgents attacking his platoon from a residential neighborhood. Fighting house to house, Bellavia killed at least four of the attackers as he rescued his platoon. Bellavia will become the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor.
One more upstate New York note: Jeff Andrulonis’ silent WAGL (96.7 Portville) has applied to pick up the WYAY calls that were in Atlanta before Cumulus sold its talk station there to EMF to become K-Love. Does Andrulonis have plans for the calls at one of his clusters down south, closer to where WYAY’s identity was better known?
Granted, the team in Pittsburgh might balk – but New England’s second-largest city has been a hotbed of unlicensed radio activity for a long time now without much FCC or police traction against the problem.
Last week, if nothing else, the theoretical price tag on that operation ticked up a notch as the Commission reached a consent decree with a Worcester church and a pirate broadcaster who already had a long history with the Enforcement Bureau. Vasco Oburoni and Christian Praise International Church had been busted once on 102.3, only to be operating again on 97.1 the next time the FCC showed up.
Oburoni had agreed on a payment plan for a $15,000 fine for the 102.3 operation, though it’s not clear if he’d actually paid over it; this time, the FCC says it’s a $75,000 fine – but only if Oburoni and the church don’t abide by a deal to surrender their equipment and refrain from future pirate operation.
Will it work? We probably wouldn’t bet $15,000, or even $15, on that proposition…
*There’s a morning change coming in Boston, as soon as Beasley can find a replacement for Jackson Blue on WKLB (102.5 Waltham). After more than two years on the early shift, Blue will shift to afternoons soon, replacing Kevin Kennedy. Ayla Brown, who’s been Blue’s co-host for the last year or so, will stay on in mornings with Blue’s successor, whoever that may turn out to be.
(And perhaps Beasley’s talent needs will eventually be filled, at least in part, by graduates of the Beasley Radio Talent Institute, which kicks off today in Boston and runs through June 26th. Beasley COO/EVP Brian Beasley will deliver the keynote address before participants spend the rest of their time learning from industry experts and the teams from Beasley’s Boston stations.)
*Over in the public radio realm (did you read our recent Boston Globe op-ed about the leadership changes at WBUR and WGBH?), there’s a new voice coming to “Radio Boston,” the local mid-afternoon show on WBUR (90.9). After Meghna Chakrabarti moved down the hall to become co-host of the national NPR/WBUR production “On Point,” the local show has brought former Boston College professor Tiziana Dearing into the host chair. She’s already a familiar WBUR voice as a commentator on the station.
*In MAINE, there’s a replacement for Crash Poteet as PD of Saga’s WPOR (101.9 Portland). Jonathan “JR” Ruppel makes the long drive north from Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he’d been Saga’s cluster OM, to take over at the country station in Portland.
*The NEW JERSEY Broadcasters Association held its annual convention Thursday in Atlantic City, naming veteran local talk host Harry Hurley (now of WPGG) as its very first Broadcaster of the Year. The NJBA’s Hall of Fame class this year included our friend and colleague Tom Taylor, who was of course a Jersey broadcaster at WPST before he became the voice of the industry. (Hear our interview with Tom on our Top of the Tower Podcast)
Inductees also included Beasley CEO Caroline Beasley, Salem Radio’s Phil Boyce, iHeart’s Darren Davis, WFPG (96.9 Atlantic City) morning man Eddie Davis, Emmis chairman Jeff Smulyan, the late talk host Bruce Williams and Townsquare CEO Bill Wilson.
When Klein joined the staff of WFIL-TV (Channel 6) in Philadelphia in 1950, the station had been on the air for just over two years. As a young director and producer, Klein was involved with many years of local TV productions, including the early years of “American Bandstand,” where he eventually served as executive producer. (Photo: Temple University)
In 22 years at WFIL-TV, Klein rose rapidly through the ranks, serving as program director, creating the kids’ show “Captain Noah’s Magic Ark,” and eventually becoming director of TV programming for all of Walter Annenberg’s Triangle stations. When Annenberg sold the stations in 1972, WFIL-TV went to Capital Cities, becoming WPVI – but the rest of the stations went to a new company, Triangle, with Klein as one of the ownership partners.
Triangle’s holdings included WNBF-TV/WBNG (Channel 12) in Binghamton, WLYH (Channel 15) in Lebanon, WFBG-TV/WTAJ (Channel 10) in Altoona and WOWK (Channel 13) in Huntington, WV. Under Klein’s leadership, first as executive VP and then, from 1984-1993, as president, Triangle was a prominent player in local TV.
Klein taught for five decades at Temple University, which eventually named its communications program for him; he served as president of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia in 1975-76 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1993. He was 91.
*In Philadelphia, Paris Nicole is the new PD at Radio One’s WPHI (103.9 Jenkintown), where she’s been the middayer and has served as acting PD for “Boom 103.9.”
And while we’re in the market, we wonder what Multicultural Broadcasting will do with WTTM (1680 Lindenwold NJ), which has been an ESPN Deportes Radio affiliate for the last few months and which will again be looking for new programming come September.
High above the parade route atop First Canadian Place, one of Toronto’s smaller FM stations is about to get a little bigger. “Indie 88,” CIND (88.1), has finally been granted a long-sought power increase meant to make it more competitive with the bigger owners’ bigger signals. When CIND tried for the increase a couple of years ago, the CRTC said its proposal might have blocked another new Toronto signal on 106.5 from getting a spot on the FCP rooftop.
This time, CIND and the new 106.5, CFPT, applied jointly to swap positions on their tower atop First Canadian Place – and it worked: CIND will go from 4 kW to 12 kW max DA (2.1 kW to 4.8 kW average), moving up from 281 to 298 meters AAT; CFPT will make a subtler shift that won’t change its coverage much, going from 2.6 to 2.95 kW max DA (1014 to 1150 watts average) and dropping down from 298 to 280 meters AAT.
*Montreal, meanwhile, has been waiting for a while for a championship of any kind (um… congratulations, Alouettes, on the 2010 Grey Cup?) – but at least one of its smaller FMs also got a power boost this week. CHAA (103.3 Longueuil) lost its longtime transmitter site on the Olympic Stadium tower (right) to new observation deck development there – and as of last week, it’s testing its new signal from the CBC’s master FM antenna at Mount Royal. The new signal goes from 1.4 kW max DA/192 m at Olympic to 1.7 kW max DA/284 m at Mount Royal, and Steve Faguy reports there are plans to add two HD Radio subchannels if reception tests prove successful.
*Where are they now? Colleen Rusholme, late of CING (95.3) in Hamilton, is making a long ride up the 401 to co-host mornings on Corus’ CJOT (Boom 99.7) in Ottawa, where she’ll join the “Morgan in the Morning” show starting July 2.
Heading the other way on the 401, Brent Freeman has been promoted to morning co-host on Corus’ CIMJ (Magic 106), where he and Lisa Richard are now paired on “The Breakfast Club with Lisa and Brent.”
*And finally this week, just because it’s that time of the year and because we spent our Friday night enjoying a night out at the first home game of our sort-of-hometown Batavia Muckdogs, it’s the final installment of this year’s Baseball on the Radio, wherein we survey the ever-dwindling number of broadcast outlets still carrying the lowest rung of pro ball, the short-season New York-Penn League.
That’s kind of a shame, because it’s at places like the Muckdogs’ Dwyer Stadium that budding Jim Brockmires can get the on-the-job experience they need to become big-league voices. In just the last two seasons, Muckdogs announcers have moved up to AA (Binghamton) and AAA (Buffalo), which means this year’s opening day was also the very first professional play-by-play ever for new announcer Tyler Helvin, who just graduated from Westminster College in Pennsylvania and who’s now heard on home games over WBTA (1490/100.1).
Where else can New York-Penn League ball be heard over the air? The Connecticut Tigers and WICH (1310 Norwich) have a long relationship now, but with a new voice in the main play-by-play chair as Elijah Gonzalez moves up from the second seat to replace Kevin Gehl. The Lowell Spinners stay in place on WCAP (980), with veteran voice John Leahy in the booth. In Pennsylvania, it’s WLYC (1050/92.7) for the Williamsport Crosscutters and WRSC (1390) for the State College Spikes.
Closer to home, the Auburn Doubledays at least have an outside partner for their broadcasts, albeit streaming-only via FL1 Radio, now in its second year. It’s in-house streaming, apparently, for everyone else around the NERW-land parts of the league – the Vermont Lake Monsters, Tri-City Valley Cats, Hudson Valley Renegades, Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees. (The Renegades, at least, will be looking for a new announcer next year, when Josh Carey moves south to join the new Rocket City Trash Pandas (!) in Huntsville, Alabama.)