In this week’s issue: Remembering Carl Beane – More local at Philly’s “IQ 106.9” – CPTV loses Huskies – WKAJ tries once more – WXBR evicted from Brockton studios – Brian Thomas leaves CBS-FM
by SCOTT FYBUSH
*Over-the-air TV viewers in eastern MASSACHUSETTS are one big step closer to once again having reliable reception of the signals transmitted from the Richland Tower master TV site in Needham.
On Monday, tower crews pulled off the high-stakes, high-altitude task of removing the upper master UHF antenna that failed back in April. That antenna, which appears to have suffered a massive failure of its power divider, is now back at the Dielectric factory in Maine being rebuilt, and that means up to another month of temporary operation at the Needham site.
Here’s how it all plays out: since a week or so after the burnout, the four stations that used the upper master antenna (CBS’ WBZ-TV Channel 4/RF 30 and WSBK Channel 38/RF 39, public television WGBX Channel 44/RF 43 and Hearst’s WCVB Channel 5/RF 20) have moved their operations down to the identical lower master normally used by WGBH Channel 2/RF 19. WGBH, in turn, has been operating from the much lower auxiliary antenna belonging to WCVB – at least when there aren’t workers on the tower, in which case all the stations shift to other, lower-powered auxiliary antennas recently mounted on the tower, or briefly sign off while climbers are passing through their antenna apertures.
The project is expensive and potentially very dangerous to the climbers (it’s been only a few months since a climber died on the nearby “FM-128” tower while doing similar work high up on that tower), and it’s giving Boston’s TV stations a renewed realization of how many viewers in the digital age still depend on antennas to receive their signals.
With any luck, the upper antenna will be rebuilt and returned to the Needham site by early June…and it’s a good bet that larger TV broadcasters will be thinking a little harder about the need for better backup facilities for their DTV transmissions.
*Meanwhile in Brockton, it’s turning out to be a very bad month for WXBR (1460), the AM signal long known as WBET. For several years now, WXBR has been the last remaining tenant in the mostly vacant office building at 60 Main Street that was the longtime home of the Brockton Enterprise, the radio station’s former parent company. But on May 2, sheriff’s deputies padlocked the studios for non-payment of rent (reportedly some $7,000 worth), ousting local host Ron van Dam five minutes into his show.
WXBR’s current owner, Business Talk Radio Network, has kept the station on the air since then with satellite feeds, but there’s been no local programming and it’s not clear if there will ever be any more under this ownership. A sale of the station to Florida-based Azure Media is still awaiting FCC approval.
*Radio People on the Move: Matt Phipps is the new music director and afternoon host at WXRV (92.5 Andover), where he fills posts that have been officially empty for a while now. Phipps began doing the afternoon shift at “The River” over the winter following the departure of the station’s longest-running jock, Bob Stuart; the music director position had been vacant since PD/MD Catie Wilber left at the beginning of the year. Phipps had been working for Metro Networks and, before that, for WBOS (92.9) in its own AAA days.
CBS Radio’s WBMX (Mix 104.1) has a new morning sidekick: Ryan “Salt” McMillan moved north from North Carolina last month to join Karson and Kennedy in morning drive at the hot AC signal.
*We send our very best wishes out to Boston (and southern MAINE) radio maverick Bob Bittner, owner of WJIB 740 Cambridge and WJTO 730 Bath, who’s recuperating from a minor heart attack he suffered late last week while undergoing another medical procedure at Maine Medical Center. Word is that Bob will have a stent put in today, and he’s expected to be home in Bath as early as Tuesday.
*And of course we join in the mourning for Carl Beane, the Red Sox PA announcer who died in a car crash after suffering a heart attack Wednesday afternoon. Carl is being remembered fondly (most touchingly, perhaps, in this ESPN obituary by Gordon Edes) for his passion for the Sox and for the colorful figure he cut at Fenway. But we remember him, too, for his many years in and around New England radio.
When he died, Carl was on his way home from a morning substitute shift at WARE (1250 Ware), where he’d started his career in the 1970s. He’d also worked over the years at WESO (970)/WQVR (100.1) in Southbridge and at WXLS (98.3, now WILI-FM) in Willimantic, Connecticut – and for the last couple of decades, he’d made a name for himself as a solidly dependable sports stringer, providing reports from Boston sports venues to a list of stations that included Boston’s WBZ (1030, where he was a frequent guest on the Steve LeVeille Broadcast) and New York’s WFAN (660).
Carl was just 59.
*What’s happening with the Nassau Broadcasting properties in NEW HAMPSHIRE, VERMONT and Maine? Amidst rumors that Nassau’s biggest creditor, Goldman Sachs, wasn’t happy with the bargain price ($12.5 million) at which Jeff Shapiro and Bill Binnie had scored two dozen Nassau signals in this month’s bankruptcy auction, we checked in with Shapiro – and he tells us “it’s a bit early to be too specific, but everything is on track” for those signals to end up in the hands of his partnership with politician-turned-broadcaster Binnie.
*It was a bad week for CONNECTICUT Public Television. Just weeks after launching its “CPTV Sports” service as a broadcast subchannel on its DTV transmitters around the state, the network lost out on its bid to continue carrying University of Connecticut women’s basketball.
Over 18 years of carrying the Huskies, CPTV had carved out a distinctive niche for itself as one of the rare public broadcasters with a major sports presence, and it didn’t hurt to have the UConn women’s team shooting to national championship after national championship along the way. That eventually attracted the interest of bigger commercial players, which is why UConn ended up signing a four-year deal to place the games on SNY, the New York-based home of the Mets.
The move will give UConn better visibility outside Connecticut, especially in the big New York City market, but it’s a blow to CPTV, which has depended on revenue from underwriting for UConn games to finance much of its growth.
“In preparation for receiving this news, we have been working toward developing a new strategic plan which builds upon our new initiatives. We are confident that our future is financially sound,” says CPTV president/CEO Jerry Franklin, who says the network is looking forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary later this year.
*More translator news from the Nutmeg State: while it fights to hang on to translator W250AA (97.9 Naugatuck), Danbury’s Portuguese broadcaster WFAR (93.3) is selling its Bridgeport translator, W285DE (104.9), to John Fuller’s Red Wolf Broadcasting. The deal includes some unusual provisions: in addition to a $75,000 cash payment, Red Wolf will also relay WFAR’s programming over the HD3 subchannel of its own WMRQ (104.1 Waterbury) for at least the next five years, giving WFAR the potential for a much stronger signal over the Hartford market, But what about radios to receive the new WFAR signal on WMRQ’s HD signal? Red Wolf will provide WFAR with 50 HD Radio receivers, at a cost of no more than $60 per radio.
*Remember WKAJ (1120 St. Johnsbury), the upstate NEW YORK AM construction permit that went forward with construction of a brand-new four-tower directional 10 kW facility even after its CP had officially expired last fall? Permittee Cranesville Block Company isn’t giving up on the signal even after the FCC refused to issue a license to cover earlier this year, deleting the call letters and cancelling the CP.
Last week, the FCC issued a public notice that Cranesville had filed a petition in late April for a waiver of the FCC’s usual rules that dictate a strict “build it by the deadline, or it goes away” policy for new CPs. So far, the Commission hasn’t acted on the petition, nor has it released the details of Cranesville’s appeal…we’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
(Speaking of near-expiration CPs, Holy Family Communications has been testing its new Auburn-area signal, WTMI 88.7 Fleming, but while the construction permit ran out last Monday, May 7, there’s been no filing that we can find for a license to cover, nor for the program test authority that WTMI would have to have obtained before the end of the CP in order to proof its directional signal.)
*Radio People on the Move: in New York City, Brian Thomas is moving on from a huge success in the PD chair at WCBS-FM (101.1), where he revived the oldies – er, “classic hits” – format after the “Jack FM” interregnum. Thomas will keep his title of VP/Classic Hits Programming (and will keep working with CBS-FM and sister station WODS in Boston) as he moves south to Tampa to become VP/programming for CBS Radio’s six-station cluster there. (The cluster includes classic hits WRBQ-FM 104.7, which Thomas programmed back in the days when it was owned by Clear Channel.) No replacement has been named in New York.
Down the dial, WRKS (98.7 New York) has requested new calls to go with its new ESPN Radio format, and they’re no surprise: it will become “WEPN-FM” any moment now, matching soon-to-be-ex-AM-simulcast-partner WEPN (1050). It’s not yet clear whether Emmis will park the WRKS callsign on another of its stations somewhere else.
*In Glens Falls, they’re mourning Rick Knight, morning man at Pamal’s WNYQ (101.7 Hudson Falls). Knight, whose real name was David Titterington, died suddenly Saturday morning, ending a 40-year radio career that had also included stints at the old WAYI (107.1 Hudson Falls, now WFFG) and WKBE (100.5, now 100.3 Warrenton) as well as at WFLY in the Albany market. Knight was just 59.
*In NEW JERSEY, they’re mourning April Kauffman, who hosted talk shows on WIBG (1020 Ocean City) and WOND (1400 Pleasantville). Best known for her tireless support of veterans’ issues, Kauffman was found shot to death at her home in the Atlantic City suburb of Linwood on Thursday. She was 47; police say the crime wasn’t random, and they hope to make an arrest soon.
*A decidedly unexpected HD Radio development from western PENNSYLVANIA: we’re hard pressed to think of any market where a full-power commercial station is using one of its HD subchannels to carry the programming of a competing commercial operator – and for no compensation, at that.
Locally-owned Steel City Media isn’t your usual operator, though, and unlike its bigger corporate competitors it has the flexibility to try something creative on not much more than a whim. Steel City’s WLTJ (92.9) and WRRK (96.9) have been running a bunch of creative formats on their HD2, HD3 and, yes, HD4 channels – and last week, chief engineer Paul Carroll decided it would be interesting to use WLTJ’s HD3 (which had been running an automated classic rock format) to bring the classic rock format of WKVE (103.1 Mount Pleasant) to a wider audience.
WKVE is owned by Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications Inc., which competes with Steel City within the greater Pittsburgh market, but the WKVE signal doesn’t reach into Pittsburgh itself very well. That’s where 92.9-HD3 comes in – not only will it make “KVE” available to whatever Pittsburgh residents might have an HD Radio receiver, it will also put the programming on a stream for the first time. (WKVE didn’t even have a website until the very recent debut of www.kve.fm.)
Stevens, meanwhile, is expanding his reach south of the Mason-Dixon line: he’s buying three western Maryland stations from a bankruptcy receiver. Pittsburgh broker Ray Rosenblum handled the $775,000 deal, which adds WMSG (1050 Oakland MD), WWHC (92.3 Oakland MD) and WKHJ (104.5 Mountain Lake Park MD) to the Broadcast Communications family.
*Susan Koeppen is returning to Pittsburgh TV tonight, making her first appearance since undergoing surgery in March to repair a faulty heart valve. The KDKA-TV (Channel 2) anchor first discovered she had heart problems when she collapsed while running last November. She’s been on and off the air ever since, but she’s hoping to be back on the desk at KDKA for good beginning at the end of May.
*Radio People on the Move: Zack Williams has departed CBS Radio’s WBZZ (Star 100.7) in Pittsburgh, where he was assistant music director and night jock. Williams is heading back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; no replacement has been named yet.
*The newest talk station in the Philadelphia market made a few more additions to its on-air lineup last week. WWIQ (106.9 Camden) is using former WKXW (New Jersey 101.5) evening talk host Michelle Jerson to fill the noon-3 PM slot that’s widely expected to go to Rush Limbaugh once he’s off WPHT (1210 Philadelphia); “IQ 106.9” is also carrying morning traffic reports from Jeff McKay of sister station WEMP (101.9) in New York.
As for WWIQ’s former callsign of many years, it’s staying in the Family Stations family at the other end of Pennsylvania: the former WXFR (88.3 State College) is now WKDN, even though it’s unlikely anyone in Centre County ever knew that callsign from its days on 106.9.
Over at Temple University’s public station WRTI (90.1 Philadelphia), general manager Dave Conant is pulling back a bit from what’s been a heavy workload: he’s stepped down as the station’s morning host, ending more than four decades on the air with classical radio, first at the old WFLN (95.7/900) for 26 years and then at WRTI since 1997. “It’s now necessary for me to focus full-time on guiding the station into a vibrant and exciting future,” he says. For now, Gregg Whiteside (late of New York’s WQXR) is hosting mornings while WRTI conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
*Religious station WPEL-FM (96.5 Montrose) wants to relocate its Williamsport translator. It’s applying to move what’s now W269AJ (101.7) up the dial to 102.1, moving it to a taller new county-owned tower near its existing site. The move would get the translator out of the way of another Williamsport translator that was recently displaced from 88.5 to 101.3, and it would allow for a better signal over Montoursville, east of Williamsport.
*There are some new FM signals coming to eastern CANADA. Last week, the CRTC approved applications for new FM signals in Fredericton, New Brunswick and New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
In Fredericton, the new signal on 93.1 (with 50 kW/150 m, non-directional) will be the second station for Newcap Inc. in the market, joining classic rock CFRK (92.3 Fred FM). The new 93.1 will program top-40, with a minimum of 120 local hours of programming (and four hours of local news) each week.
In New Glasgow, Hector Broadcasting is adding a sister station to its existing CKEC (94.1 East Coast FM), the only existing signal in town. Hector’s second signal will run 46.7 kW (100 kW max DA)/246.3 m on 97.9, programming a mix of classic rock, classic hits and contemporary rock. The grant of a new station came over objections from Atlantic Broadcasters, which runs CJFX (98.9 Antigonish) with a signal that reaches into parts of New Glasgow and Pictou County; the CRTC says while CJFX can be heard in New Glasgow, it’s licensed to serve Antigonish and thus won’t really be competing with Hector’s new offering.
*The CRTC also approved a license for a new native FM station at Wasauksing First Nation, in Ontario’s “cottage country” near Parry Sound. The tribe has apparently been operating on 91.3 as “Rez 91” for a while now; it’s not uncommon for First Nations stations in Canada to sign on first and seek a license later. The licensed signal on 91.3 will operate with the calls CHRZ, running 60 watts at 1 meter below average terrain.
*In Ottawa, Leigh Chapple stepped down last week after a remarkable 36 years with CJOH-TV (Channel 13), most of it spent anchoring the 11:30 PM newscast. Chapple will continue teaching at Algonquin College, where she’s been a part-time instructor for 15 years. CTV’s Ottawa outlet is also reworking “Regional Contact,” its long-running show featuring interesting people in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Show host Kathie Donovan and producer Gerry Wall left the station this week. At the end of the summer, “Regional Contact” will end its regular Sunday-night run, instead becoming a series of features during the weekday CJOH newscasts and an expanded hour-long Sunday newscast.
*In Montreal, Ted Bird has departed the morning slot at CKRK (103.1 Kahnawake) after a year with the station on the First Nations reservation just south of the city. Steve Faguy reports Bird’s salary was apparently being paid in part by a “private donor” who didn’t want to pony up for a second year; it’s widely expected he’ll end up at one of Montreal’s bigger commercial stations.
And we close by noting the death of Neil McKenty, whose “Exchange” show was Montreal’s top-rated talk program during his 14-year run at CJAD (800) from 1972-1985. McKenty also hosted “McKenty Live” on CFCF-TV (Channel 12) for three years. The former Jesuit priest (he left the priesthood in 1969) died Saturday in Montreal. He was 87.
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and – where available – fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: May 16, 2011 –
*This was supposed to be a big week for NEW YORK CITY‘s newest FM signal. But instead of launching a new format on Wednesday, Michael Celenza’s W293BU (which would have become W292DV with its move to 106.3) is silent and trying to resolve an interference complaint from a co-channel station.
Since the 106.3 signal began testing with 99 very directional watts from Manhattan’s Four Times Square on May 5, Press Communications’ NEW JERSEY country station, WKMK (106.3 Eatontown), has been logging interference complaints from its audience, which includes a population of fringe-signal listeners in New York City, northern New Jersey and Long Island who have no local country station.
In most cases, a station like WKMK that’s experiencing interference outside its protected signal contour (which, in the case of WKMK, doesn’t even touch any of New York City) would be out of luck. But the interference rules for translators are different: they look at “actual interference” to regular reception that takes place even outside a station’s protected contour, and they put the responsibility on the translator to fix the problem.
After spending several days soliciting interference reports from its listeners and sending them to the FCC, WKMK declared victory last Thursday night, telling its listeners: “We are pleased to announce that the radio station that had been causing interference since last Thursday May 5, 2011 to our Thunder 106 signal in NJ, Manhattan, Long Island, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, has suspended operations. Accordingly, you should no longer be experiencing any interference issues relative to the Thunder 106 in the communities we have previously been communicating to you. Over the next several weeks we will be meeting with the NYC radio broadcaster in an attempt to help them resolve their interference issues but IN NO WAY will we accept ANY interference to our Thunder 106 signal pattern and your right to receive and enjoy our THUNDER 106 Rockin’ Country Programming.”
*The fight for every millimeter of the Big Apple FM dial is extending to other corners of the spectrum, too. On 92.7, Univision’s WQBU (“Que Buena”) is applying to add two on-channel boosters to reinforce the signal from its main transmitter. The main WQBU signal, licensed to Garden City, runs 2000 watts/522′ from the North Shore Towers, just off the Long Island Expressway on the Nassau/Queens line. WQBU once had a construction permit for a booster near Lincoln Center that was never built; this time, it’s applying for 1200 watts, vertical-only, aimed west over Brooklyn and southern Queens from a site near JFK Airport, as well as for a smaller booster running eight watts, horizontal-only, aimed north up the west side of Manhattan from 450 West 33rd Street, the big building near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel that’s been home to the Daily News, Associated Press and WNET.
*The Boston Phoenix is selling its MAINE FM outlet. Since 1999, when Steve Mindich paid $1.02 million for the former WCDQ and its AM sister, WSME, WPHX-FM (92.1 Sanford) has been rebroadcasting the modern rock of WFNX (101.7 Lynn-Boston) to York County and parts of the Portland market.
But that’s about to change: Andrew Hartmann’s Aruba Capital Holdings, which owns WXEX (1540) just over the state line in Exeter, NEW HAMPSHIRE, is paying $1 million for the class A FM signal. The deal does not include WPHX (1220 Sanford), which has been silent since a transmitter failure last year.
*It’s all about translators this week in western PENNSYLVANIA, where there are new signals on the air at 97.5 and 100.1 in the Pittsburgh market.
The 97.5 facility, which signed on Friday, is Bob Stevens’ W248AR Monroeville, simulcasting WKFB (770 Jeannette) for Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs and extending that daytimer’s programming past sunset, when it’s carrying an oldies format.
On 100.1, it’s Tim Martz’ W261AX Pittsburgh, which began testing its potent 99-watt signal from the KDKA-TV tower over the weekend with a relay of WDUQ (90.5). That’s only temporary, though – the translator will soon be fed instead by an urban format, about to be launched on WPYT (660 Wilkinsburg), which Martz is in the process of acquiring.
Not far away in Green Tree, KDKA (1020) dedicated the newsroom in its new studio facility last week in memory of Fred Honsberger, the 30-year KDKA news and talk veteran who died in 2009. Honsberger’s widow, Chris, was at the station for the dedication ceremony.
*There are two new FM signals on the air in eastern CANADA.
In Peterborough, Ontario, Pineridge Broadcasting began testing the transmitter at CJWV (96.7) on Friday. The new “Magic 96.7” has hired Dan Duran as PD/morning man, bringing him back to radio after a long acting and TV career to do the wakeup show alongside actor Linda Kash. “Magic” becomes a new sister station to Pineridge’s Cobourg-based CKSG (Star 93.3) and CHUC (107.9 the Breeze).
Just south of London, My Broadcasting’s CKZM (94.1 St. Thomas) began testing Sunday, and it’s already promising a launch on Friday, running the same “My FM” AC format used at most of the company’s stations.
Just north of Toronto, Evanov’s Z103.5 (CIDC Orangeville) has named its new morning team. “Cory Kimm and Ami A.” come to the market from Edmonton, where they’ve been paired for the last couple of years on 102.3 Now Radio. Kimm’s been in Toronto before, at CHUM-FM and Kiss 92.5.
Five Years Ago: May 13, 2007 –
*The suspension is over for JV and Elvis at NEW YORK‘s WFNY-FM (92.3 Free FM). As of Friday afternoon, the mid-morning team who came to CBS Radio’s Free FM from San Francisco last year are out of work – and the talk station now has another daypart to fill in addition to its late-night slot.
Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay had been off the air for over two weeks, ever since a local Asian-American group began protesting a rebroadcast of an old segment (originally aired in San Francisco, then later aired at least once without incident on WFNY-FM) in which the show called a Chinese restaurant and mocked an employee’s accent.
What was acceptable even a few months ago, however, is now problematic in the wake of the Don Imus debacle – and so after a week of “best-of” shows and a week of fill-ins Cabbie and Larry Wachs, JV and Elvis are gone and questions are swirling about whether there’s a future for a deliberately edgy talk station in a world full of protests over any perceived slight.
The next Free FM hosts in the crosshairs are morning men Opie and Anthony, who now have Al Sharpton calling for their dismissal from CBS Radio over a segment that never even aired on the terrestrial simulcast of their XM Satellite Radio show. The duo began their XM show Friday by apologizing for the bit, which involved a homeless man ranting about Queen Elizabeth II, and signed off with the same line they’ve used in the past before previous dismissals in Boston and New York.
So far, CBS appears to be standing by Opie and Anthony, but we’ve seen how quickly that support can fade as protests build – and if the O&A show were to disappear from the Free FM schedule, the station would be on even shakier revenue ground, raising serious questions about how long the format can survive.
*Over at sister station WFAN (660 New York), the revenue hole created by Don Imus’ firing hasn’t been filled, either, and as Imus launches what’s reported to be a $120 million wrongful-dismissal suit against CBS Radio, the station’s still trying to fill the programming hole in morning drive, at the very least.
NBC News correspondent David Gregory is the latest fill-in, and when he takes the morning drive reins today, he’ll be the first post-Imus host to be heard on WFAN and seen on MSNBC, which will be producing the show in a reversal of the old Imus arrangement, in which WFAN owned the show and sold the content to MSNBC.
Will Gregory be able to pull off the balance Imus struck for so many years before his downfall, mixing low-brow morning humor with top-name political interviews? As a regular Today fill-in host, Gregory has the morning-show experience, and as NBC’s White House correspondent, he’s as well-connected as it gets. We’ll be watching (and listening) to see how the experiment works.
Ten Years Ago: May 13, 2002 –
We’ll start in NEW YORK, where last Wednesday (May 8) brought the long-expected end to the country format on Big City Radio’s “Y107” quadcast in the Big Apple’s suburbs. After a day of construction noises, the four stations on 107.1 (WYNY Briarcliff Manor, WWXY Hampton Bays, WWYY Belvidere NJ and WWZY Long Branch NJ) launched into their new life as “Rumba 107,” playing much the same diet of Spanish hits now heard on “Mega” WSKQ (97.9 New York) and “Latino Mix” WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ). Can the relatively weak in-city signals of the “Rumba” stations (aided slightly by the tower move at WWZY last week that now finds the station reaching Brooklyn much better from Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) compete with the strong signals of Mega and Latino Mix? Will the Belvidere (serving the Easton, PA area) and Hampton Bays signals stay with the simulcast? And what about the remaining staff at Y107, including morning guy Ray Rossi, who are now out of work, not to mention the country listeners in the big city who are again without a station? We’ll keep you posted…
Elsewhere in New York City, two noncommercial FM stations are at odds over a proposal by one to improve its Manhattan signal. Bronx-based WFUV (90.7), the radio voice of Fordham University, wants to put a 600-watt booster atop the Riverside Church, using the tower once occupied by the former WRVR (106.7, now WLTW from the Empire State Building). But the application has met with opposition from WFMU (91.1 East Orange), the community-supported station across the Hudson that draws some of its best listenership in the upper Manhattan area to be served by the proposed “WFUV-2.” NERW hopes both sides can find a way to work this out, especially after we’ve just spent some time listening to the many signals in Paris and London that are just 0.4 MHz apart — from the same tower, in some cases — and get along just fine.
Talker WOR (710) added Bill O’Reilly to its schedule last week (denying, the whole time, gossip that claimed syndicator Westwood One was making big payments to large-market stations to get clearances for the show), then lost PD John Mainelli the next day. Mainelli resigned from the Buckley-owned talker May 9, in what he and the station are calling an amicable departure. Mainelli had been at WOR for just a few weeks, arriving amidst high hopes that he could freshen up the aging station to compete against his old home, WABC. There’s no word about Mainelli’s plans, yet, nor about WOR’s plans for a replacement.
Syracuse Community Radio is at it again: with just hours to go before the expiration of its CP for translator W208AQ (89.5 Marcellus) on April 30, the SCR folks filed for a license to cover for the facility, which could be their best hope to actually put a listenable signal into Onondaga County. Only problem is, W208AQ hadn’t been built yet; several NERW readers who visited the site report seeing no sign of an antenna, nor any power connections to the transmitter! (This is not the first time SCR has done this; alert readers will recall the saga of WXXC, 88.7 in Truxton, which SCR falsely told the FCC was on the air, only to lose the license after several other area broadcasters informed the Commission otherwise. NERW’s take: SCR missed several good opportunities to win the friendly cooperation of the region’s existing broadcasters, and we don’t see what the group hopes to gain by misleading the FCC now, especially with the scrutiny it faces from other stations in the region.)
We’ll start the PENNSYLVANIA catch-up in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which saw plenty of action in NERW’s absence. Citadel reshuffled its deck in a big way, beginning with the demise of the doo-wop oldies format on WARM (590), which returns to the news-talk it had been doing for years. The doo-wop oldies end up on WEMR (1460 Tunkhannock), which is now “Mighty 1460,” breaking from the adult-standards simulcast with WKJN (1440 Carbondale) and WAZL (1490 Hazleton). On the FM side, the “Z-Rock” combo of WEOZ (95.7 Olyphant) and WAOZ (97.9 Hazleton) split as well, with WEOZ becoming “Z-Talk” and WAOZ shifting to a simulcast of new rock WBSX (93.7 Dallas). The Z-Talk lineup includes Bob and Tom, Don and Mike, Opie and Anthony, Phil Hendrie and Tom Leykis. WARM, meantime, starts its day with local host Rob Neyhard. The schedule also includes Dr. Joy Browne and Sean Hannity. WBSX, meanwhile, has been running promos announcing a move to “97.9 X,” and at press time the WBSX calls have moved to 97.9, with 93.7 now identifying as WCWQ. That, in turn, matches the new calls at two other Citadel stations: WBHD (94.3 Carbondale) is now WCWI, while WEMR-FM (107.7 Tunkhannock) is now WCWY. WBHD had been simulcasting CHR WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top), while WEMR-FM had been simulcasting AC WMGS (92.9 Scranton); speculation in the market is that WCWQ, WCWI and WCWY will all soon be doing “Cat Country,” a format that had been heard on 94.3 and 93.7 a few years ago.
In RHODE ISLAND, we hear half of the “Z-100” combo of WZRA (99.7 Wakefield-Peace Dale) and WZRI (100.3 Middletown) is breaking away; WZRA is becoming WSKO-FM, relaying the sports programming of WSKO (790 Providence) to southern Rhode Island. The FM side will split from the AM for some baseball play-by-play; 790 will take the Pawtucket Red Sox, while 99.7 will carry the Yankees when there’s a conflict. WSKO also shifts its schedule a bit, adding local sports talk in late mornings.
Fifteen Years Ago: May 15, 1997 –
We’ll start this mid-May NERW with the latest from Boston’s morning drive circus: Talker WRKO has hired “Morning Guy Tai” from modern rock WFNX (101.7) as the station’s new morning co-host. He’ll join Marjorie Clapprood in morning drive, replacing the departed Pat Whitley. The new “Clapprood and Company” morning show will debut next Monday at 5:30; it will be shortened by an hour to make room for an extra hour of Dr. Laura Schlessinger at 9 AM. WRKO program director Kevin Straley is defending his unorthodox choice, saying Tai (whose real name is Tom Irwin) is eager to move to the talk arena from his days as a rock jock.
From RHODE ISLAND comes word of new call letters for the erstwhile WPJB-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier). Now that the station is owned by Back Bay Broadcasting and simulcasting WWKX (“Kix 106”) Woonsocket, it’s going by WAKX(FM).
From MAINE comes some call letter confusion in the Bangor market, where WWFX (104.7 Belfast) isn’t going to become WEBR after all. Instead, the station now known as “the Bear” will be WBFB, a set of calls that was last seen in Rochester NY some 22 years ago, on the classical FM at 92.5 that’s today’s country WBEE-FM.
Here in NEW YORK, there are new calls for Buffalo’s “Alice @ 92.9.” The former WSJZ is now WLCE. And an historic set of Rochester AM calls, WPXN, will soon resurface in the Big Apple. With Lowell Paxson’s purchase of WBIS (Channel 31) in New York, the station will dump its locally-produced business, news, and sports programming for Paxson’s infomercials within a few months, and become WPXN(TV). Channel 31 was noncommercial WNYC-TV until just last year, when the City of New York sold it for $207 million. (The WPXN calls, by the way, were on the 1280 signal once known as WVET and WROC, later as WPXY and WKQG, and today as WHTK). Paxson owns or controls several New England stations, including WHAI-TV (Chanel 43) Bridgeport CT, WHCT (Channel 18) Hartford, WHRC (Channel 46) Norwell MA, WGOT (Channel 60) Merrimack NH, and W54CN Boston. His stated intent is to ally himself with programmers to create a seventh TV network in the US.