We start in Maynard, where high school station WAVM (91.7) was fighting for its survival, with its application to upgrade from class D status pitted against competing 91.7 applications from several religious broadcasters and from UMass/Boston's WUMB, which hoped to add a 91.7 transmitter in nearby Stow.
With a stellar 27-year record of service to its community, WAVM went on the public relations offensive a few months back, rallying support in the newspapers and among lawmakers.
NERW stepped into the fray in our February 25 issue, prompting a response from WUMB general manager Pat Monteith, whose open attitude towards the issue led us to make this observation:
"NERW wonders whether, given WAVM's limited broadcast schedule, some kind of share-time arrangement could be the saving grace here?"
And indeed, it seems to be. Wednesday morning, officials from WUMB and WAVM gathered at Maynard High to announce just such an arrangement, under which WUMB programming will be heard on WAVM whenever students aren't broadcasting (in practice, all day long except for 6:30-7:30 AM and 2-9 PM weekdays and Sunday mornings during the school year). What's more, WAVM's talented students will now be able to do internships at WUMB.
Of course, WAVM's application for a power upgrade to 150 watts will still need FCC approval (against several competing religious satellite-fed applications), but with the political firepower behind the WAVM-WUMB deal (including Congressman Marty Meehan), we suspect the Commission will have some answering to do if the upgrade isn't granted.
As promising as the WAVM-WUMB compromise is, there's an even more exciting development bridging the Charles River a few miles to the east.
Unlike just about every other commercial broadcaster in the country, WJIB (740 Cambridge) owner Bob Bittner is (gasp!) a fan of the low-power FM movement -- and this week he put his license where his mouth is. Starting tomorrow, Bittner is donating his Saturday night airtime (starting at 9PM) to Allston-Brighton Free Radio, Steve Provizer's micropower community station that's currently having a hard time being heard on 1580 kHz with its hundred milliwatts of legal power.
WJIB will carry ABFR's hyper-local informational programming, shows like "Boston's Seniors Count" and "Children's Health Connection," bringing them to a far wider audience (even on 740's little 5-watt night signal!) than the 1580 transmitter can provide.
NERW's take: In the grand scheme of American broadcasting these days, WJIB and WUMB are themselves the "little guys." But if they can see community radio as something other than a threat to their very existence, maybe Eddie Fritts and the mega-groups who support the NAB could learn a little something, too.
Not quite as exciting, but there is a format change of sorts to report in the Springfield market. WPNT (1600 East Longmeadow) drops its simulcast of WAQY-FM (102.1) until Labor Day to become a nonstop ad for the Six Flags amusement park.
Boston talker WRKO (680) has a new Web site (www.wrko.com), complete with streaming audio -- but you'd best not be in a hurry when checking it out; even on our cable modem, this overesigned monstrosity takes forever to load!
Arnold Hanson Jr. and Stephen Griffin, who own a steel company in Berlin, approached owners Bob and Gladys Powell after hearing that WMOU was closing.
The Berlin Daily Sun reports that while neither man has any broadcast experience, they didn't want to lose their community's only local radio voice. No purchase price was announced.
Hanson and Griffin tell the Sun they plan no changes to WMOU's format or staff -- and for once, we actually believe it!
While we're up in the northern reaches of the Granite State, we note that the FCC has resolved a disputed FM allocation. Veteran engineer Dana Puopolo asked the FCC to allocate 99.1A to Whitefield, a few miles north of Littleton, while station owner Barry Lunderville asked the Commission to put 99.1A in Northumberland, a few miles north of Lunderville's WXXS (102.3) in Lancaster. The Commission favored Puopolo's request, but hasn't yet opened a window for applications.
Up north, Rick DeFranco is wrapping up his 15-year radio career in Ogdensburg next month. He'll leave WPAC (92.7) after his show June 30 to go full-time at WWNY (Channel 7) in Watertown, working as a St. Lawrence County bureau reporter during the week and continuing his current role as a weekend weatherman.
Is Rochester the worst city in America when it comes to radio stations' Web presences? We tried to check out the schedule of WWWG (1460) the other day, only to be told (at http://www.wwwg1460.com) that the date was "June 1, 100" and that the site was under reconstruction. Even at that, it was better than the alleged site of WHAM (1180) (http://www.wham1180.com), which contains *no* actual information about WHAM programming or personalities, although several inside pages do carry "WTAM AM 1100" headings on them, straight from the Cleveland Clear Channel station whose site apparently provided the model for WHAM's. (And in fairness to our Clear Channel friends, we do hear that the WHAM site is just a place-holder now for something much bigger to come...)
Heading over to the Toronto suburbs, we hear that CKDX (88.5 Newmarket) has shed its year-old country format for rhythmic oldies as "Dancin' Oldies 88-5." To the east, CJKX (95.9 Ajax) has its new relay, CJKX-1, up and running on 89.9 in Sunderland to serve the northern reaches of Durham Region.
And with that, we end this week's NERW. See you next Friday!