In this week’s issue… Mansfield TVs recover from fire – CNY TV station signing off – Remembering NY’s Dague, PA’s Mace – Morning show changes in Philly, LI – Cutbacks claim Bell talkers in Canada
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The pictures from VERMONT‘s tallest peak Tuesday morning were terrifying: the TV/FM tower complex that Burlington-market broadcasters had spent decades and millions of dollars building and rebuilding was on fire.
It’s a different era up on Mount Mansfield these days, of course. As recently as a few years ago, a fire there would have had an immediate response from the WCAX-TV (Channel 3) engineers who were still living up on the mountain 24/7. But these days, the site runs unattended most of the time – and so it was mostly shaky telephoto images that gave us our first looks at what was burning.
What was burning, it turns out, was the top antenna on one of the two 2008-vintage towers up there, the one that is shared by WCAX (RF 20) and WPTZ (Channel 5/RF 14, plus channel-share WNNE 31.) Almost a week later, we still don’t really know what set the antenna on fire, but we know that the other stations on the towers got lucky, because the fire didn’t damage the shared FM antenna just below the WCAX/WPTZ antenna, used by Vox’s WEZF (92.9) and Vermont Public Radio’s WVPS (107.9). Nor was there any damage to the antenna on the other tower just a few yards away, used by WVNY (Channel 22) and WFFF (Channel 44).
That was cold comfort to Gray’s WCAX and Hearst’s WPTZ, though, because once the fire took out their antenna on Tuesday, their signals vanished from the sets of over-the-air viewers and anyone watching a cable or satellite signal that depended on the OTA signals from those stations. In the aftermath, WCAX and WPTZ restored their signals fairly quickly to some cable providers as well as to DirecTV and Dish; other smaller cable companies had to wait a little longer, and then there’s Canada, where cable systems in Montreal and around Quebec that normally get CBS and NBC from WCAX and WPTZ ended up with alternate feeds from Boston and other US markets.
What happens now? A permanent replacement for the damaged antenna will take a while, especially with winter already firmly setting in up on Mount Mansfield. Instead, WCAX and WPTZ quickly secured a temporary broadband antenna from Dielectric and arranged for a crew (no easy feat during the repack!) to be rushed up to the site to get it installed. (“Physically, this effort is like trying to hang a school bus in the sky and making sure it doesn’t fall. But we have to build the school bus, too,” is the way WCAX explained it in their note to viewers.)
Work on the temporary antenna started Friday and is expected to wrap up in the next few days, which should restore the stations to nearly all their viewers for the winter as they await a full-power permanent fix next spring.
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*Our NEW YORK news starts with two big stories from Long Island, including a bankruptcy filing that could throw a whole bucket of wrenches into several pending station sales.
Lawyers for NEW JERSEY-based Radio Cantico Nuevo Ministries, Inc. filed a petition on Thursday listing $673,000 in debts against just over $22,000 in assets, with some $550,000 of that debt owed to WIN Radio for the airtime Cantico Nuevo was leasing on WNYH (740 Huntington) before WIN finally pulled the plug on that lease.
WIN sued RCN for that debt in state court, apparently prompting the bankruptcy filing. But what happens now to Cantico Nuevo’s ongoing broadcast operations? That $22,000 Radio Cantico Nuevo listed as assets doesn’t include WLIM (1440 Medford), WNYG (1580 Patchogue), WTHE (1520 Mineola) or several translators on Long Island, nor does it include WXMC (1310 Parsippany-Troy Hills) and WCNM (103.9 Hazlet) in New Jersey. Those licenses all belong to a separate company under Pastor Erick Salgado, Cantico Nuevo Ministry, Inc. And it’s that company that’s also in the process of buying WALK (1370 Patchogue) from Connoisseur, while related companies buy WALK’s transmitter site and are attempting to acquire WLIX-LP (94.7 Ridge).
What happens next, especially with those pending purchases? We’ll be watching closely to see how the bankruptcy courts treat the Radio Cantico Nuevo entity separately from Cantico Nuevo Ministry.
*Meanwhile over at Connoisseur’s WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), the flip to Christmas music on Nov. 15 also meant a big change to a longtime morning show. Mark Daniels, who’d been a fixture at WALK since 1985, is out – and as happens so often these days, even after 34 years with the station (and nearly 30 of those in mornings), there was no farewell. WALK says it will launch a new morning show in January, with Daniels’ co-host Jamie Morris handling mornings solo until then.
*What does a Syracuse TV station have to do with a newspaper in Dayton, a radio station in Tampa and an FCC loss in Federal court? In the case of Northwest Broadcasting’s WNYS-TV (Channel 43), it’s Apollo Global Management, the equity firm that’s buying both Northwest and Cox Media Group. Apollo had hoped that its deals for Northwest and Cox would be able to fall under the FCC’s revised media ownership rules, the ones that finally did away with the long-obsolete ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership and relaxed certain ownership caps.
Unfortunately for Apollo, those rules ended up being challenged in court – and so far, the FCC has been losing, most recently last week in a federal appeals court, where the same panel of judges that has been rejecting the FCC’s attempts for more than a decade once again handed down a 2-1 defeat.
So in order to get its deal through the FCC under existing rules, Apollo had to modify a few provisions, most notably in Ohio, where Cox will cut back print editions of the Dayton Daily News and two sister stations to three days a week from seven, thus making them not “daily” newspapers and exempt from the crossownership ban. (Even if it’s only a temporary move pending a waiver, how is the public interest being served there, we wonder?)
And in Syracuse, Cox won’t be allowed to own both MyNetwork affiliate WNYS and Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68), which means one of the stations (presumably WNYS) will hand in its license, moving its programming to a subchannel of the other. For over-the-air viewers, that will mean a rescan from 43.1 to 68-dot-something; for cable and satellite viewers, presumably nothing at all will change.
(What else does Apollo get as part of its Cox purchase? In NERW-land, Fox affiliate WFXT Channel 25 in Boston, NBC affiliate WPXI Channel 11 in Pittsburgh, plus Long Island’s WBAB-WHFM and WBLI. And from Northwest, the new Apollo-backed Cox gets Binghamton’s Fox affiliate, WICZ Channel 40.)
*In Buffalo, Buddy Shula filed his $50,000 deal to buy translator W262CM (100.3) from Edgewater Communications. He’ll move the signal to 100.1, transmitting from Harris Hill in Clarence as the new east-side signal for his WECK (1230), augmenting the existing downtown 102.9 and north-side 100.5 translators. (The FCC filing notes that there’s a pending lawsuit against Edgewater from Totally Gospel Radio, which had its own deal to buy W262CM that fell through. The translator had been carrying Totally Gospel’s programming via WBBF 1120, and we’d heard it continuing to carry Totally Gospel audio long after their WBBF lease ended.)
*If Ed Dague wasn’t the dean of Albany TV newscasters, he sure was close. Dague, who died yesterday at 76, spent the last two decades of his career at WNYT (Channel 13), but along the way the Buffalo native spent time at almost every station in the market. His Albany career began when he was a student at RPI in the 1960s, working at WRPI (91.5) and managing WHAZ (1330) in his senior year, back when RPI still owned the AM signal. (photo: WNYT)
After college, Dague joined WTEN (Channel 10) in 1966 as an engineer, all the while doing radio on WOKO (1460) and WPTR (1540). He served as WOKO’s news director in 1968, moved to the newsroom of WGY (810) in 1969, then quickly moved down the hall to then-sister station WRGB (Channel 6) as assignment editor and producer. By 1973 he was anchoring weekends, and in 1976 he became the station’s main 6 and 11 PM anchor.
In 1984, Dague moved over to WNYT, where he was the lead anchor for 19 years before retiring in 2003. Dague was inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007. He’d been suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, his son told WNYT.
*On the outskirts of Altoona, PENNSYLVANIA, religious WMMH (91.9 Houtzdale) is changing hands, passiing from Cedar Ridge Children’s Home and School, Inc. to Catholic broadcaster JMJ Radio Inc. The Scranton-based company, which owns WQOR (750 Olyphant), WAZL (1490 Hazleton) and WCOZ (91.7 New Albany) in northeastern Pennsylvania, will simulcast its format into Altoona once the $120,000 deal closes.
In Philadelphia, Glenn Kalina is back in the game as morning co-host on WOGL (98.1), where he started last Monday alongside Marilyn Russell on what’s now “Glenn Kalina and Marilyn in the Morning.”
In Harrisburg, they’re mourning Gregg Mace, who joined WHTM (Channel 27) as weekend sports anchor in 1979, soon became sports director, and was still in that role when he died on Saturday. Mace had recently been honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards; he’d been married for 35 years and had one son. Mace was 65.
*Back in New England, a veteran CONNECTICUT Public Radio host is leaving the station after almost four decades. Faith Middleton began hosting “The Faith Middleton Show” on the statewide network back in 1982, and continued the daily broadcast until 2015, when she stepped back to a weekly role hosting “Faith Middleton’s Food Schmooze.” Last week, Middleton announced she’s ending that show as well and retiring from Connecticut Public Radio. “I’ve adored the privilege of these 39 years at Connecticut Public,” she said in a statement announcing the immediate end of the broadcast.
And we’re saddened to note the death of Herb McCord, who made a huge name for himself in the 1970s as general manager of the legendary CKLW (800 Windsor), then went on to become a prominent station owner in the 1990s. McCord left CKLW for Greater Media in 1979, spent the entirety of the 1980s running that company’s growing radio division, and then started the 1990s by founding his own company, Granum Communications.
In MASSACHUSETTS, Granum made its name as one of the earliest duopoly operators, starting with WBOS (92.9 Brookline) and then adding WSSH (99.5 Lowell) in late 1992, as soon as the FCC began allowing those pairings. Granum flipped 99.5 to smooth jazz as WOAZ in 1995, just before McCord sold his company to Infinity for $410 million. (And then, of course, Infinity was acquired by Westinghouse, touching off some of the biggest consolidation shuffles in Boston radio history.)
McCord had reportedly been suffering serious heart and kidney issues in recent years. He died Tuesday, at age 77.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, there’s a new morning man at WNTK (100.5 New London)/WUVR (1490 Lebanon): Jason Place, who’s worked all over the Upper Valley at stations such as WXXK, WMXR and WGXL, is the new host of “First Look” on the Sugar River Media talk stations. Keith Hanson, who’d been hosting the show for four years, was ousted from that role last month after a series of vulgar social media attacks.
*It’s not a holiday week in CANADA, but a lot of broadcast folks still won’t be working this week. That’s because Bell Media went through another round of staff cuts just over a week ago, following the same “a little here, a little there” pattern that’s made so many broadcast staffers uneasy on both sides of the border.
Broadcast Dialogue has the most comprehensive list we’ve seen so far, and it includes some veterans who long predated Bell’s ownership of their stations. In Lindsay, Ontario, CKLY (91.9 Bob FM) lost its morning team of Dave Illman and Julie Corlett, a move that’s drawn local protests. Illman had been with CKLY for 29 years (back to its days on AM 910), while Corlett was an 18-year veteran.
In St. Catharines, Larry Fedoruk is out of afternoons at CKTB (610), while midday talk host Rob Snow is gone at CFRA (580) in Ottawa after two decades. Eramelinda Boquer had been with CJAD (800) in Montreal since 1999, doing weather and talk hosting; down the hall, Rick Moffat is out at CKGM (TSN 690), where he was co-hosting the morning shows and calling Alouettes football and Impact soccer games. Manny Paiva, news director at CKLW (800) in Windsor is also out, and we’re sure there are more out there as well that we haven’t yet heard about.
Way, way up north along the Trans-Canada Highway in the mining country near the Quebec border, Lee Marshall is retiring this week from CJBB (101.3 Englehart ON), where he was doing mornings and serving as GM and music director. Marshall, whose Canadian radio career goes back to the early 1970s with stops that included CKEY and CKFM in Toronto, is suffering from COPD.
And in some happier news, Melani Mariani is returning to Toronto’s airwaves next month as the new midday host on CIND (Indie 88). Mariani had most recently been morning co-host at Corus’ CFNY (102.1 the Edge).
Over at the CBC, Matt Galloway will start the 2020s in a new role, hosting “The Current” on the national CBC Radio One network. Galloway last changed jobs a decade ago, when he succeeded Andy Barrie as host of “Metro Morning,” the top-rated local morning drive show on Radio One’s CBLA (99.1 Toronto).
When Galloway joins “The Current” January 6, he’ll take over from Laura Lynch, who’s been guest-hosting the show since the departure of Anna Maria Tremonti, who had been in the chair on “Current” since the 1990s. No replacement has been announced yet for “Metro Morning.”