In this week’s issue… EMF files for site change, Boston boosters – iHeart trust donates Boston AM – Forever’s Lebanon format change – Saga, Cumulus, Radio One make cuts

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*From the 1960s until the early years of the 21st century, no signal was listenable in more of the big population centers of New England than Worcester’s WAAF (107.3). Not only was the big rocker listenable almost from end to end on the Mass Pike, its huge reach from the top of Mount Asnebumskit gave it listeners in Providence, Hartford, southern New Hampshire and Vermont, and occasionally even as far as Albany.

As commercial radio’s business models changed, of course, it became more important for Entercom to focus WAAF’s signal within the Boston market – and so 107.3 left Asnebumskit just after the turn of the millennium, relocating to a new home on the Stiles Hill tower in Boylston, then home to WUNI (Channel 27). It was closer to Boston, yes, but the move didn’t end up giving WAAF that much more “oomph” over the big city when it was all done.

And so it was perhaps a little ironic that the company that ended up buying WAAF from Entercom, EMF Broadcasting, is the sort of noncommercial operator that doesn’t care about commercial market boundaries – and that would have probably loved the out-of-market reach that 107.3 enjoyed from its original signal.

A series of moves on adjacent frequencies meant that EMF didn’t have the option to return 107.3 (now WKVB, licensed to Westborough) to Asnebumskit – but last week, the company made a series of filings designed to modify its signal, with a move and downgrade of its main signal and the addition of three new on-channel boosters.

*The main signal, first: EMF is proposing to relocate WKVB from its present 9.6 kW/335m DA class B signal on the old channel 27 tower in Boylston, moving it to a 2.1 kW/321m class B1 signal, non-directional from a new four-bay antenna on the tower in Hudson that’s home to WUNI (Channel 66).

It’s not a huge downgrade, all things considered; while 107.3 will lose even more of its Worcester County coverage than it gave up with the move off Asnebumskit, moving several miles east to the Hudson site will nicely center 107.3’s strongest coverage over a big swath of Boston’s western suburbs and the “MetroWest” region. Giving up the old directional antenna will also push 107.3’s coverage out better toward the Merrimack Valley north of Boston and into the city’s southern suburbs, though that area also hears K-Love quite well from WLVO (95.5 Providence).

(And it’s worth noting, too, that other recent K-Love expansions will fill in the other current 107.3 coverage areas that will be lost – that stretch down the Pike and 395 to the southwest can hear WCCC 106.9 from Hartford, and the area northwest of Worcester can hear WFNX 99.9 from Athol.)

(map via FCCData.org, showing existing contour in blue and proposed new in red)

So why move? It’s not just to push more signal from the main site toward Boston. And it may or may not be related to the future of the tower in Boylston, where 107.3 has been Entravision’s only tenant since the tower owner moved its own Channel 27 signal to a new post-repack digital home in Needham. (Will that tower, now a half-century old, remain in use at all after 107.3 leaves?)

No, there’s another piece, too: just as two other Boston-rimshot FMs, WXRV (92.5 Andover) and WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg), have found success with on-channel boosters closer to the big city, EMF is applying to join them in the booster club.

WKVB filed three applications last week for highly directional on-channel boosters: WKVB-1 would run just 1.5 watts from the John Hancock Tower in Boston’s Back Bay, aimed east over downtown and East Boston; WKVB-2 would be a 190-watt signal sharing WXLO’s booster antenna in Lexington, at the old WCOP-FM 100.7 site; and WKVB-3 would be a 265-watt signal, aimed east-southeast from Bear Hill in Waltham over Watertown, Newton, Brookline and much of Boston.

If and when all the pieces come together, EMF would have a mesh of K-Love signals on 107.3 that would be strong across MetroWest, the western suburbs and well into the city.

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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

Or click here to subscribe and enjoy full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and two decades of searchable archives -- for as little as 25 cents per day.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I can’t imagine Forever will keep the classic hits format alone on WLBR-1270 for long (if forever). For one thing, their signal quality might be fine for talk and Phillies baseball, but not for the classic hits we know and love. To the south in Elizabethtown is WPDC-1600, also doing oldies on 102.1 To the west in Carlisle is WHYL-960, which long ago added 102.9, and it’s “greatest hits” is making a mark on Central PA.

    Perhaps Forever will swap formats and call-signs with WQIC ? WFVY takes 1270 and does soft rock, and Wilbur moves to 100.1 (which covers Harrisburg and Lancaster)? Without such a move, Harrisburg can look for iHeart (now Alt 99.3) or Cumulus (country WCZY ?) to try classic hits. Cumulus already has the WWKL calls on CHR 106.7, grabbed when Kool 99.3 gave them up in 2001.

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