From the NERW Archives
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, fifteen and – where available – twenty 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: August 17, 2015
*Almost exactly one year after announcing it was putting all but one of its broadcast signals on the market, Radio Disney has completed the selloff of its last NERW-land signal. After unloading its New York station to Family Stations and its Boston and Pittsburgh signals to Salem, Disney announced last week that its Philadelphia-market station, WWJZ (640 Mount Holly, NEW JERSEY), is going to the Starboard Media Foundation to become a “Relevant Radio” outlet.
Disney paid $14 million for the station back in 1999, a generous price for a signal whose 50,000 watts do pretty well by day, but disappear from most of the market after dropping to 950 watts at sunset. Starboard will pay $3.5 million for the station, linking it to its existing signals in the region (WNSW 1430 Newark/New York City and WSJW 550 Pawtucket/Providence) as the midwestern Catholic chain extends its eastern reach. The move brings some (presumably friendly) competition to the region’s other Catholic stations, WFJS (1260) in Trenton and WISP (1570) in Doylestown, PA.
In the Susquehanna Valley, Max Media is selling its four stations to Judith Confer and Kristin Cantrell, whose Southern Belle/Seven Mountains groups are paying $3.8 million. Confer and Cantrell (wife and daughter of veteran Forever Broadcasting honcho Kerby Confer) will add country “B98.3” (WWBE 98.3 Mifflinburg/WYGL-FM 100.5 Elizabethville), sports WVSL (92.3 Riverside) and hot AC “Y106.5” WFYY Bloomsburg to their existing station group, which stretches from the edge of Altoona over to nearby Beaver Springs.
*Yet another AM in CANADA is going to FM: the CRTC gave Vista Radio the go-ahead last week to move CJCS (1240) in Stratford, Ontario to 107.1 on the FM dial. The new FM signal will run 900 watts average/4 kW max DA/32.6 m, and station officials say they’ll keep the existing airstaff and much of the local feel that CJCS now has.
Five Years Ago: August 15, 2011
*The low end of the FM dial in RHODE ISLAND has been going through a big transition this summer: first came Bryant University’s deal with Boston’s WGBH to put classical programming on the upgraded signal of WJMF (88.7 Smithfield), then the recent news that the Wheeler School had abruptly terminated its longtime lease of the evening hours on WELH (88.1 Providence) to Brown Student Radio. That move, we were told, was meant to clear the way for a new full-time tenant on WELH, which itself recently upgraded its signal – and now we know how all those pieces come together.
In a filing last week with the FCC, Rhode Island Public Radio revealed that it will soon become the new full-time occupant of Wheeler’s WELH, whch will become the new flagship signal for RIPR. The new RIPR will consist (at least initially) of three FM signals: WELH itself, covering Providence, Pawtucket and vicinity with its new 4 kW/135′ DA signal from a site in Seekonk, Mass.; RIPR’s existing southern Rhode Island FM voice, WRNI-FM (102.7 Narragansett Pier); and to fill some of the gap between those two signals, WCVY (91.5 Coventry), where RIPR recently struck a deal to fill most of the airtime when high school students aren’t operating the station. WCVY is also on the upgrade path: it’s just filed an application to boost its power from 200 watts, non-directional, to 6 kW DA, with most of that power going west and southwest over rural central Rhode Island.
So what becomes of RIPR’s existing flagship signal, WRNI (1290 Providence)? According to RIPR’s application, the 10 kW AM signal is going Spanish, providing a full-time home for the Cranston-based Latino Public Radio programming that’s been heard during the day on WELH. (The FCC filing last week requested a new main-studio waiver for the WRNI-FM signal in Narragansett Pier; it had been operating as a satellite of WRNI 1290, but will now instead be carrying programming from WELH, which remains licensed to the Wheeler School.)
The net effect of all the summertime changes is probably a positive for most public radio fans in the Ocean State: after decades of tuning to out-of-state signals from Boston and Connecticut and then 13 years of tuning to WRNI on an AM signal, listeners in much of Rhode Island will soon have FM signals carrying both WRNI’s news-talk and WGBH’s classical service (which used to be audible in Providence until WGBH split its formats in 2009, moving classical from the big WGBH-FM 89.7 signal to WCRB 99.5 north of Boston).
*It’s almost anticlimactic after all the buildup it’s been getting for the last few months, but “FM News 101.9” is finally a reality in NEW YORK, where Merlin Media’s WEMP (101.9) launched its new format on Friday morning after a four-hour test run in the midst of the “FM New” hot AC format that’s been running on an interim basis.
At least one of the on-air personalities from “FM New” makes the transition to “FM News”: Jerry Barmash at FishbowlNY.com reports that Paul Cavalconte, who’s survived previous format changes on 101.9 from smooth jazz WQCD to rock WRXP, stays on the frequency once again as an anchor at “FM News.”
Like its sister station in Chicago (WWWN 101.1) that launched two weeks earlier, the initial reviews for “FM News 101.9” have been decidedly mixed: there were frequent moments of on-air technical blunders and anchors sounding unprepared – or so we hear. As with its Chicago sister, there’s no streaming (or, indeed, any significant online presence at all) for WEMP, leaving those outside the market to wonder just what Merlin honcho Randy Michaels and programmer Walt Sabo are up to.
*Two radio groups are changing hands upstate, most notably along the I-88 corridor between Binghamton and Albany where Double O Radio assembled a cluster that eventually included most of the commercial signals in and around Oneonta. Now those 11 stations, as well as 15 others in Texas and Missouri, are going to Townsquare Media in an $11 million deal.
Townsquare, of course, is the former Regent Communications, and the Oneonta-area signals become part of a group that includes clusters in Albany and Utica, as well as down the Thruway in Buffalo.
In Oneonta, the cluster includes classic hits WZOZ (103.1), hot AC WSRK (103.9) and classic country WDOS (730); in Norwich, it’s big-signalled AC WKXZ (93.9), country WBKT (95.3) and standards WCHN (970); in Walton, standards WDLA (1270) and country WDLA-FM (92.1); in Delhi, adult hits WTBD (97.5) and oldies WDHI (100.3), which simulcasts on WIYN (94.7 Deposit).
The second transaction is in western New York, where Mark and Julie Miller’s Miller Media is selling Dansville’s WDNY (1400) and WDNY-FM (93.9) to Brian Patrick McGlynn’s Genesee Media Corporation. McGlynn doesn’t own any other stations, but he launched a company called Orpanc, which built the online DreamRadio service. Broker Dick Kozacko handled the $350,000 sale.
Ten Years Ago: August 14, 2006
Smooth jazz fans in southeast PENNSYLVANIA are without a radio station this week, and plenty of other listeners in and around Philadelphia may soon be punching buttons, listening for other changes on the city’s dial.
The big, immediate news was the long-rumored end to smooth jazz at Clear Channel’s WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia), which ended that format last Thursday (August 10) at noon, signing off with a montage of its artists and with Hall and Oates’ “She’s Gone” before relaunching with rhythmic AC as “Philly’s 106.1,” the new home (effective this morning) of the syndicated Whoopi Goldberg morning show. At the same time, the soft AC “Sunny” format on sister station WSNI (104.5 Philadelphia) came to its own end, signing off with Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – and launching into a slightly-delayed simulcast of WJJZ.
That, however, is only a temporary move – a new format for 104.5 is expected to arrive as soon as today, and we’ll update the column accordingly when it launches.
Why pull the plug on smooth jazz, a format that had attracted a stable and loyal, if not enormous, audience for Clear Channel in Philadelphia? There’s speculation that the format was drawing too many listeners away from the company’s powerhouses in the market, urban AC WDAS-FM (105.3) and urban WUSL (98.9). (WUSL, by the way, has a new morning man – Sam Sylk, who started last week, returning to the station from a stint at WGCI in Chicago.) With Clear Channel looking to make some high-profile rollouts of its new Whoopi morning show, the WJJZ flip became all but inevitable. And in a market that’s always been friendly to rhythmic formats, the rumor mill was already working overtime about the new “Movin'” rhythmic AC format that debuted earlier this summer at Sandusky Radio’s KQMV in Seattle – a format that just happens to target the same female audience that Whoopi’s show does.
Clear Channel’s not the only format-flip player in the market right now, either. There’s still the open question of what becomes of Greater Media’s new 97.5 signal when it moves in to the market soon. There’s ongoing speculation about Greater’s long-term committment to adult hits on its WBEN-FM (95.7). There’s the Radio One cluster, where Daisy Davis just arrived this week as the new operations manager, and where WPHI (100.3 Media) hasn’t been performing up to its potential. (Could smooth jazz land on one of Radio One’s signals?)
The other big Philadelphia news last week was the death, on his 81st birthday, of Mike Douglas, who moved from his first career as a big-band singer to new fame as a TV talk-show host in the sixties. Douglas’ first show was on Westinghouse’s KYW-TV in Cleveland – but when Westinghouse reversed its 1956 station swap with NBC in 1965, the KYW-TV calls and most of its staff moved from Cleveland to channel 3 in Philadelphia. The Mike Douglas Show became one of the era’s most successful syndicated offerings, and it continued to emanate from Philadelphia until 1978, when Douglas moved the show to Los Angeles.
In Scranton, they’re mourning Terry McNulty, the longtime morning host on WARM (590) who died Friday (Aug. 11) at 70. McNulty worked briefly at WSCR (1320 Scranton) in the fifties, then came to WARM and stayed, making features like “Pass the Pineapple” fixtures on local radio.
McNulty remained at WARM until 1998, when he was let go by Citadel. An age-discrimination lawsuit followed, which was settled in 2004. That’s also when McNulty returned to the airwaves, spending a year doing mornings on WNAK (730 Nanticoke) before retiring in 2005.
The next piece of the WCRB saga came together late last week, when Charles River Broadcasting confirmed that it’s selling its RHODE ISLAND stations – classical WCRI (95.9 Block Island) and CNN Headline News WCNX (1180 Hope Valley) – to Christopher Jones, son of WCRB founder Ted Jones. No format changes are expected at either station, and here’s the interesting part: in the press release, Jones said he hoped to also acquire Charles River’s remaning MASSACHUSETTS stations, Cape Cod’s classical WFCC (107.5 Chatham) and rock WKPE (104.7 Orleans), as well as the World Classical Network service that’s being run out of WCRB.
There’s plenty of AM-to-FM action in southern ONTARIO this week – and a rare AM-to-AM move, too. In Oshawa, Durham Radio’s CKDO (1350) pulled the plug on that AM frequency just after the 10 AM news on Sunday, returning to the air later that night on its new frequency of 1580, where it boosts power from 10 kW days/5 kW nights to 10 kW fulltime. CKDO is also heard on an FM relay at 107.7 in Oshawa, and that’s where most of the listeners are these days, we suspect.
To the east, CHUC (1450 Cobourg) signed on its new FM facility at 1 PM last Friday. The new CHUC-FM (107.9) is known on-air as “107.9 the Breeze” (no connection, we’re pretty sure, to the ill-fated fast ferry that briefly connected Toronto to Rochester), and after a 90-day simulcast period, the AM signal on 1450 will go dark for good. There’s a connection here to the CKDO move – CHUC was granted a move from 1450 to 1580 a few years ago, but then abandoned that plan in favor of the move to FM, opening the 1580 frequency for use in Oshawa.
To the west, CKOT (1510 Tillsonburg) will remain on the air as Canada’s only daytimer, but it will soon have a 24/7 FM signal as well. The CRTC last week granted CKOT a license to use 107.3 (with 4.5 kW average ERP and a directional antenna) as a 24-hour signal for its AM country programming. CKOT also has separate soft AC programming on the long-established CKOT-FM (101.3 Tillsonburg).
Fifteen Years Ago: August 20, 2001
We’ll begin our New England report up in MAINE, where there’s been plenty of news in our absence. Over at Portland’s Saga cluster, Ken McGrail resigned from his PD/afternoon gig at oldies WYNZ (100.9 Westbrook); he’s headed for PD/morning drive down the coast at WQEZ (104.7 Kennebunkport). Down the hall, Chris Duggan gives up his PD job at country WPOR (101.9), though he’ll stay on the air middays until a replacement is named. Saga’s WZAN (970) shuffled its programming lineup, replacing G. Gordon Liddy with Phil Hendrie from 10 AM till noon, and adding Jim Rome in Ed Tyll’s old noon to 3 PM slot. WZAN also adds Fox Sports on weekend overnights, and Patriots football (formerly on the WJAE/WJJB network) once the season starts. The “Big Jab,” meanwhile, grabs the Portland Pirates AHL rights for the fall from WZAN. The stations have now joined WRED (95.9 Saco) at the WLOB facility on Warren Avenue, leaving the old WJAE/WJBQ quarters a few blocks away on Warren vacant.
Bangor’s WWBX (97.1) officially entered the Clear Channel family this week, moving over from Gopher Hill Broadcasting on the same day Clear Channel sold WGUY (102.1 Dexter) to Mark Jorgenson’s Concord group. (No coincidence there; Clear Channel had to spin something before it could acquire WWBX).
A format change on the other side of the Connecticut River: in VERMONT, WZSH (107.1 Bellows Falls) and WSSH (95.3 White River Junction) move from “Lite FM” to hot AC “Star.” Programming includes the syndicated Bob and Sheri in mornings, Westwood One hot AC in middays, PD Art Steinberg in the afternoons and Delilah at night.
MASSACHUSETTS finally has Opie and Anthony to kick around again. Three years after being booted from WAAF (107.3 Worcester) for that moronic “Mayor Menino is Dead” April Fools’ stunt, Infinity finally brought the pair back to Beantown, inserting them (against some internal pressure, we hear) into the WBCN (104.1) lineup. Since their start on ‘BCN last week, former afternooner Nik Carter has moved to middays, sending middayer Bill Abbate to evenings. We hear the duo spent their entire first show recounting the WAAF stunt, which must have been absolutely riveting to listeners of their other affiliates around the country…
Twenty Years Ago: August 19, 1996
Two Cape Cod radio stations spent some time off the air this weekend. WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee MA; ex-WFAL, WUNZ) and WJCO (93.5 Harwich Port; ex-WFXR, WUNX) were recently bought by car dealer Ernie Boch, and just last week changed from a modern rock simulcast to classic rock (WWKJ) and soft AC (WJCO). And then, over the weekend, someone cut the cables leading out to the stations’ satellite dishes. Wire- service reports claim the damage was sufficiently severe to take both stations off the air, and to keep WJCO off the air through Monday. Boch is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the crime.
NERW is considering buying earplugs to block out the roar of rumors concerning the impending demise of one of Greater Media’s two Boston country FMs. The best-sourced rumor so far has Greater Media going to a simulcast on WBCS (96.9) and WKLB (105.7) on or about Monday, August 26…and then launching some new format on one of the stations a week or so later.
American Radio Systems has been making big headlines by buying stations, but the Boston-based company also sells a station from time to time. The latest ARS sale involves WNEZ (910), until recently their sole AM property in the Hartford CT market. WNEZ has been drawing minimal ratings with a CNN Headline News/sports talk format, but it’s been a very minor player in the ARS Connecticut stable, which also includes or is about to include WTIC (1080 Hartford; full-service), WZMX (93.7 Hartford; 70s), WTIC-FM (96.5 Hartford;hot AC), and WRCH (100.5 New Britain; AC). Now ARS is selling WNEZ to Mega Broadcasting for $750,000. Mega plans to take the station Spanish, just as it’s doing with its other East Coast acquisition, WURD (900) Philadelphia. WNEZ will join WPRX 1120 Bristol, WRYM 840 New Britain, WLAT 1230 Manchester, and WRDM 1550 Bloomfield in broadcasting all or part of the day in Spanish. WNEZ’s signal is adequate in most of the area by day, but at night the New Britain-licensed 5 kW station is hampered by a directional pattern that aims southeast from its Farmington transmitter site, away from Hartford. No word on whether Mega is buying the Birdseye Road transmitter site as well (the building used to house the station’s studios back when it was WRCQ).