Now, just as the FCC gets ready to issue the first LPFM licenses, the commission has returned a final ruling on the legality of Turro's current operation of the adult standards outlet known as "Jukebox Radio."
Some history, first: W276AQ, which serves northern Manhattan and Bergen County from atop the Mediterranean Towers apartments overlooking the Hudson, began as a translator of WPST (97.5 Trenton) in the mid-eighties. For a few years, it switched to WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), and then WKXW (101.5 Trenton), until Turro found a way to do his own programming.
Buying a tiny (8-watt) noncomm FM 40 miles away in Franklin Lakes, Turro changed its calls from WRRH to WJUX, and began programming it with oldies as "Jukebox Radio." Since the FCC allows noncommercial stations to own their own translators even in areas outside their protected contours, Turro was able to operate WJUX (88.7) and W276AQ from studios in Dumont, N.J., feeding the translator via a microwave station, WMG-499.
The drawback to being noncommercial, of course, was that it was hard to make money on the station...and that's where things started to get interesting.
In 1994, a friend of Turro's, Wesley Weis, acquired the construction permit for WXTM (99.7) in Monticello, N.Y., about 100 miles away from Fort Lee. Once WXTM signed on that fall, it began running the "Jukebox Radio" format from Dumont under a time-brokerage agreement with Turro -- and W276AQ (along with another translator, W232AL on 94.3 in Pomona, N.Y.) became a WXTM translator. (WXTM changed its calls to WJUX in early 1995, after the Franklin Lakes station was shut down).
Almost immediately, Universal Radio (licensee of rival Bergen County outlet WVNJ 1160 Oakland) complained to the FCC about the arrangement, claiming that Turro was in fact controlling the operations of the primary WJUX outlet (a violation of FCC rules), and that the Fort Lee translator was receiving programming directly from Dumont via WMG-499 instead of over the air from WJUX (or from W232AL in between).
At first, things looked pretty bad for Turro. An FCC inspection of WJUX's "main studio" (a rented production room in the studio building of WVOS AM-FM Liberty N.Y.) suggested that the only way to put the main studio on the air instead of the Dumont feed was to travel to the 99.7 transmitter 15 miles away and switch cables in a patch bay. The FCC inspector then visited Fort Lee with a half-watt transmitter, which he fired up on 94.3 (the W232AL frequency), 99.7 (the WJUX frequency), and 951 MHz (the WMG-499 input frequency) -- only to find that the only one that shut off the output audio on 103.1 was the 951 MHz test.
Case closed? Not hardly. Last August, following a hearing to determine whether Turro was obeying the translator rules and whether Weis' Monticello Mountaintop Broadcasting (MMBI) was a fit licensee for WJUX, Administrative Law Judge Arthur Steinberg ruled that everything was in fact being run by the books.
On Turro's end, Steinberg agreed with the unusual explanations offered for the results of the FCC experiments. Turro said WMG-499 did have an audio input to the transmitter, but that it was mainly used for telemetry to control the 103.1 transmitter. He claimed to have wired a "fail-safe" that would switch programming to the microwave audio feed if the telemetry feed was disrupted -- which, he argues, is exactly what happened when the FCC transmitter fired up at 951 MHz. Turro also claimed that he had found a "hot spot" on the roof at Fort Lee in which the WJUX signal could be clearly heard, despite first-adjacent WBAI (99.5 New York) just across the river. (NERW's own experiments this past spring proved, at least to our satisfaction, that it is possible to hear the WJUX signal fairly reliably at the W232AL site in Rockland County, and since we also heard W276AQ while parked at the base of the W232AL tower, we're willing to believe the reverse is true as well.)
[Steinberg did conclude that Turro had no authority to use WMG-499 in the way he did, but the point was moot already, since the WMG-499 license had been returned to the FCC in late 1995.]
As for Weis and MMBI, Steinberg found that the management presence at the WJUX "main studio" (two staffers who worked full-time for WVOS) was sufficient; that the public affairs broadcasts on WJUX (time-shifted repeats of WVOS' talk shows) met the public service requirements; and that Weis, not Turro, controlled the finances and operations of WJUX. (Turro paid a monthly fee of anywhere from $3600 to $8500 for the airtime of WJUX, which Steinberg found acceptable as a traditional time-brokerage deal).
This week, the full Commission upheld Steinberg's findings, finally removing the last questions about whether the translator/primary relationship is legal.
"We knew when we left the courtroom that we had won this thing," Turro tells NERW.
Upstate, Ed Levine's Galaxy group is adding another Syracuse outlet. Levine already has three formats running in Central New York: modern rock (WKRL North Syracuse, WKRH Minetto, WKLL Frankfort), standards (WTLA North Syracuse, WSGO Oswego, WTLB Utica), and classic rock (WTKW Bridgeport, WTKV Oswego, WRCK Utica), and now he's adding urban with the purchase of WRDS (102.1 Phoenix). Robert Short walks away with $3.75 million from the sale of his only station...and the rumors start flying about a format change at WRDS.
Two deals that won't happen: Citadel and Titus Broadcasting have dropped their plans to swap frequencies in Binghamton, where Titus was to have given up the 680 kHz home of its WINR in exchange for the lesser 1360 kHz facility of Citadel's WKOP. (The WKOP format would then have moved to Citadel's 1290 signal, displacing news-talk WNBF to 680.) The FCC has also dismissed the transfer of WKPQ (105.3) and WHHO (1320) in Hornell from Bilbat Radio to "Hornell Radio," which we believe to be the name Sabre Communications was using for its purchase of the two stations.
One deal that is happening: The Justice Department approved the mammoth Clear Channel-AMFM merger this week, and with that approval comes a surprise: Only 99 stations have to be spun off, not the expected 110. Among them, it seems, is WTRY (980 Troy) -- which is why the proposed transfer from AMFM to Concord Media Group has been cancelled. Expect this one to stay with the new Clear Channel instead.
A quick overnight trip to the Finger Lakes this week turned up a lot of satellite programming, which we expected...as well as a format change we hadn't noticed: WENY (1230 Elmira) has dropped talk for satellite oldies under its new ownership.
An hour away in the Binghamton market, soft AC WLTB (101.7) just won FCC approval to change community of license (from Owego to Johnson City) and tower site (from a hill near Owego, 20 miles west of Binghamton, to the WIVT-TV site on Ingraham Hill with the rest of the Binghamton FMs). That's precisely the location of WLTB's current translator, W273AB (102.5), which we assume will disappear eventually. The folks at WLTB tell NERW they hope to be broadcasting from the new site by the first week of September.
WLTB's former sister station, WEBO (1330 Owego), doesn't seem to be going adult standards after all. Instead, we're told the station is mixing jazz with news/talk and other block programming.
Clarifying a few points from last week: The new FM allocation for Minerva, near Lake Placid, will be 100.7, not 97.1. Expect religion there; Bible Broadcasting Network is the petitioner asking for the channel. And we now know where Kevin Hilley is headed after his short stint at Albany's WCPT: He tells NERW he's taking the morning shift at modern AC WCZT (94.3 Avalon NJ) in the Atlantic City market.
Looking for some Rochester radio history? WHAM (1180) jack-of-all-trades Allan Harris checked in to alert us to his new Web site. On it, you'll find a very nice set of pages detailing WHAM's nearly eighty years of service to the region. (Hey Allan...we have some photos we know you'll love!) Much of the rest of the market is, of course, documented right here at the Upstate New York Radio Archives, so give that a try too if you haven't visited in a while.
Some radio people on the move in the Buffalo market: Jennifer Roth returns to her old job as GM of public radio WBFO (88.7) after a brief stint in the same position in the Twin Cities (at WCAL 89.3 Northfield MN). Roth headed WBFO from 1990 until her departure last year. Across town at "Oldies 104" (WHTT 104.1), Tom Schuh is out as PD, replaced by Buffalo veteran Jim Pastrick. His last gig was as PD of WGR (550) before Entercom flipped that station to all-sports. Up in the Watertown market, Joe Munroe leaves his position as PD/afternoon guy at active rock WOTT (100.7 Henderson) to head to Richmond, Virginia and mornings at WDYL (101.1).
And up in Lockport, little WLVL (1340) is moving to an adult standards format, though the overnight talk with Joey Reynolds will remain.
Down in Portland (where Clear Channel would have a hard time building a cluster unless it buys the existing Saga or Citadel groups), there's a change of cast on the WGAN (560) morning show. Jim Crocker stays, but Willy Ritch leaves, replaced by Mike McCardell. Never heard of him? That's because he's a former salesman who was "discovered" by WGAN management after he became a regular caller to the show. (NERW wonders: in the absence of small-market radio to develop new talent, is this the wave of the future?)
Just down the hallway at 420 Western Ave., there's also a change of cast on WMGX (93.1)'s morning show. After a year as Tim Wright's co-host, we hear Heather McGregor is out, replaced by Liz Borden from Milwaukee's WLZR (102.9). McGregor replaced Lori Voornas last year after Voornas switched allegiances to Citadel and WTPN (98.9 Brunswick).
Up north, we're told WREM (710 Monticello) is still on the air with a rock format after all...and we see WREM's former sister station, WEGP (1390 Presque Isle), is being sold from Star Radio Company to Decelle/Smith Media. More on this one next week...
Speaking of sales, we now have a price to go with ABC's purchase of Hibernia's Radio Disney outlets (including WMKI Boston, WHRC in Rhode Island, and WDZK in Connecticut): $19.8 million total.
The spring 2000 Arbitrons are out for Boston, and (at least on the 12+ front) they don't look terribly promising for Greater Media's new talk entry. WTKK (96.9) barely budged from its initial winter showing, still last among the big Boston signals (edged just barely by AAA sister WBOS). The news was a bit better for Radio One's WBOT (97.7 Brockton), which cracked a 2 share 12+ in its second Boston book, not to mention showing a bit in the Providence numbers -- still without live jocks! (We'll know when the summer book comes out how WBOT does as a full-fledged station.) The top five remain unchanged: WBZ, WXKS-FM, WMJX, WRKO, and WJMN.
Where are they now? We hear former WRKO (680) PD Kevin Straley is now with soon-to-debut XM, the satellite radio folks, as PD of their talk format. Also joining XM is former WBCN'er Mark Parenteau, who'll be PD of the comedy service when XM launches this fall. And remember Tory Gates, erstwhile second-in-command at Bob Bittner's WJIB (740 Cambridge) and WJTO (730 Bath ME)? He checked in to let us know he's now half of the morning team at WCOJ (1420 Coatesville PA). (From our Useless Radio Trivia Dept: WCOJ was the first radio stop in the career of Bob Ames, later of WEEI, WBZ, and WBUR.)
That's it for another week; we'll see you next Friday!