In this week’s issue… LPFMs use pandemic for power boost – Remembering CT’s Harris – Seven Mountains adds PA market – EAS skit = big Entercom fine – More job cuts across region
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s been a long April, hasn’t it? And somehow we’re not even halfway through the month that was supposed to be kicking into high gear this week as so many of us would have been getting on planes and heading to the NAB Show and all its associated events in Las Vegas.
Instead, here we all are at home, or keeping near-empty studio and transmitter sites humming as essential services to our communities. It’s been exhausting for all of us, no doubt – and you’ll forgive your editor, we hope, if the podcast episodes we’ve been promising have been slow to arrive. This week? We’re hoping to do better, as circumstances allow at this end.
We hope you’re all staying safe, too – and we want to hear your stories of how your stations are surviving this strange time in our lives.
*On with the week’s news, beginning with two low-power FM stations in MASSACHUSETTS that are hoping to become a little less low-power for the duration of the emergency.
The city of Boston owns WBCA-LP (102.9), which shares time with two other Boston-area LPFMs on the channel, and the town of Acton, 20 miles or so to the northwest, owns WAEM-LP (94.9). Each currently operates with the most power allowed by the FCC’s normal LPFM rules – 14 watts from an apartment rooftop for WBCA, 21 watts for WAEM.
But as outlets for public agencies seeking to convey important emergency information to the public, both stations (with the aid of ace consultant Dave Doherty) saw an opportunity to request special temporary authorization to provide better coverage to their communities (and, in the case of WAEM, the adjacent town of Boxborough) for the next few months.
With a comprehensive set of technical exhibits backing up their claims that no interference issues will result from the power increases (both are far removed from the nearest full-power co-channel stations, and the other co-channel LPFMs and translators nearby have fewer protections), WAEM and WBCA both won FCC approval for their increases last week.
WBCA will go to 50 watts for at least six months, or longer if a state of emergency remains in effect; WAEM will go to 85 watts for three months.
(Can your LPFM station do the same? If it’s not government-owned, probably not. There’s more good advice to be had from Michelle Bradley’s REC Networks on that front…)
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Brad Harris started at WADS (690 Ansonia) in 1964 and stayed with the station for 25 years until it was sold in 1989, as a DJ, talk host and sports commentator. Along the way, he ran (unsuccessfully) for mayor of Ansonia. In later years, Harris worked on the air and in sales for several local cable operators and newspapers.
Harris had been living at the Bishop Wicke Convalescent Home in Shelton, which is where he died on Thursday at 85.
*In northern NEW YORK, Brian Mann has been a frequent on-air contributor to NPR from his perch at North Country Public Radio (WSLU 89.5 Canton, etc.) – and now he’s trading his freelance status there for a full-time job, becoming NPR’s first reporter covering addiction.
“I lost my father and my step-brother to substance abuse. I’m excited by the challenge of breaking down some of the stigma around this part of our lives and helping people talk about addiction more factually,” Mann said in the memo announcing his move to NPR.
He’ll start his new job in mid-May; until then, he’ll be working for NCPR, continuing to cover the pandemic and its effects on New York State.
*Several familiar voices are missing from the Buffalo airwaves, as the pandemic and its effect on ad revenue take their toll on locally-owned WECK (1230, plus translators at 100.5 and 102.9.)
Owner Buddy Shula says market legends including Danny Neaverth, Jon Summers and Harv Moore have been furloughed, both for their own safety (though Neaverth had been working from home anyway) and because of economic conditions; he says the moves are temporary and they’ll be back when things get better – well, except for Neaverth, who seems to be gone for good amidst some bad blood with Shula that spilled out in a Buffalo News article about the cuts.
Over at Townsquare, Juli Hinds is gone from middays at WMSX (96.1) as part of larger cuts across the company, and Entercom’s cuts have extended to furloughs for several on-air staffers at WLKK (Alternative Buffalo 107.7), middayer Axe and night jock Kennedy. Entercom has also pulled the Rush Limbaugh show off the air at WBEN (930), replacing the substitute hosts from noon to 3 with Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings and talk host David Bellavia for the rest of the shift.
And in New York City, Entercom’s WNEW (102.7) used a one-second snippet of EAS alert tones in a morning show bit back in October 2018 – which might be one of the most expensive seconds in New York radio. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau doesn’t look kindly on any use of those tones outside of actual EAS alerts and tests, and now it’s handed down a $20,000 proposed fine against WNEW. Why so much more than the usual $8,000 fine? The FCC says it’s because WNEW is in the biggest media market in the country and the test thus reached a lot of listeners who might have been confused, especially because the bit aired on the same day as the FCC’s big national EAS test.
*A format change in northern NEW JERSEY: WXMC (1310 Parsippany-Troy Hills) and its translator way to the south, W244DU (96.7 Edison), are now being LMA’d out by owner Cantico Nuevo Ministry. New operator Sunil Hall has flipped the stations to the south Asian “Radio Zindagi” network, simulcasting with WBWD (540 Islip) out on Long Island.
WXGN’s “Truth that Rocks” format will continue on two LPFMs, WXRM-LP (101.1 Cape May Court House) and WRWL-LP (107.7 Galloway).
*In northern PENNSYLVANIA, Seven Mountains Media is making a move into the Williamsport market, closing a big gap between the stations it owns to the north in Wellsboro and Mansfield (and Elmira-Corning NY) and its sizable clusters in the Selinsgrove and State College areas.
The company’s first move into Williamsport is a $100,000 purchase of translator W234AQ (94.7 Muncy) from Family Life Ministries, which has duplicate coverage in the market from another translator at 103.3. But as RadioInsight first reported, the purchase agreement for W234AQ also notes that Seven Mountains is planning to purchase the Colonial Radio Group’s stations in the market, WLYC (1050) and its translators on 92.7 and 102.3, as well as WEJS (1600 Jersey Shore) and its two translators on 104.1.
What will Seven Mountains do with those stations, now doing news and sports talk – and how will it compete with the Backyard and iHeart clusters that dominate the market? We’ll be watching.
In Philadelphia, Radio One’s nationwide cutbacks claimed K Foxx’s midday job at WRNB (100.3).
*Back in MASSACHUSETTS, there’s a schedule change at iHeart’s WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) in the Boston market: as part of nationwide program changes expanding many morning shows to a temporary 6-11 AM schedule, Kiss has shifted Ryan Seacrest’s syndicated show to nights. Romeo moves from afternoons to middays, and Mikey V goes from nights to afternoons for now.
*Just one story this week made its way across the mostly-closed border from CANADA: My Broadcasting won CRTC approval for a power increase at its CJML (101.3) in Milton, outside Toronto. My says the station’s present signal, 228 watts average/950 watts max DA, isn’t enough to overcome interference from two other 101.3 signals, CJSA Toronto and CKOT Tillsonburg, within the growing Milton area, where it’s the only local station.
While the commission rejected some of My’s claims – in particular, the need for more power to make the station economically viable – it found that CJML’s circumstances were compelling enough for the grant of more power, which will take the “My FM” station to 480 watts average/2 kW max DA.