WQED (Channel 13) was among the first public television stations in the country when it signed on in the spring of 1954 (KUHT in Houston beat it on the air by more than a year, but WQED claims to be the first community-owned station, while KUHT was and is owned by the University of Houston); five years later, the station took an old black-and-white transmitter and added WQEX (Channel 16) to its lineup. Initially intended to provide in-school educational programming, WQEX eventually became an "alternative" public TV outlet. After going color in the eighties, WQEX operated for a time under completely separate program management from WQED, with a schedule that included classic TV reruns and PBS programs that weren't cleared on channel 13.
By the late nineties, though, WQED became determined to sell WQEX, to help meet what the station said was a serious financial shortfall. In 1997, WQEX began simulcasting WQED - something WQED hoped would be a brief temporary move before selling the station completely.
One plan involved the fledgling Pax network, which lacked a Pittsburgh outlet. Pax planned to buy commercially-licensed WPCB (Channel 40) in Greensburg from religious broadcaster Cornerstone TeleVision, which would then purchase channel 16 from WQED and move the WPCB programming there. A brief gasp of courage from several FCC commissioners, questioning whether Cornerstone's programming met the qualifications for a noncommercial channel, quashed that deal (although the FCC later backtracked on the new rules that were briefly put forth), and WQED then asked the FCC to "de-reserve" channel 16, allowing it to be sold for full commercial use.
That prompted a community outpouring of opposition, with several groups asking the FCC not to allow the de-reservation, under which WQED proposed to sell WQEX to ShootingStar, Inc., a new company formed by Diane Sutter, former general manager of WWSW (970/94.5) in Pittsburgh, for $20 million.
Last October, the FCC denied the request, but opened a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the case. That NPRM was closed this week when the FCC ruled that the de-reservation can proceed. Most of the commissioners agreed with WQED's argument that it needs the money from the sale for DTV conversion (something the station hasn't done yet, while working its way through the WQEX sale) and an upgrade of the WQED facility in Pittsburgh's Oakland district.
The ruling also acknowleged that Pittsburgh is under-served by television, with just seven commercial stations in the market (Viacom's KDKA and WNPA, Hearst-Argyle's WTAE, Cox's WPXI, Sinclair's WCWB and WPGH and Cornerstone's WPCB). Commissioner Michael Copps dissented, calling public television stations the "gems" of the television system, and noting that once a station is de-reserved, it's gone for good.
No word yet on when WQEX's simulcast of WQED might be replaced by commercial programming (from Pax, perhaps?) - stay tuned!
Southwest of Pittsburgh, in Washington, PA, the college station at Washington and Jefferson College is changing calls. The former WXJX (92.1) becomes WNJR; you won't hear those calls on the air, since the station is silent at the moment.
The Family Worship Center Church (Jimmy Swaggart's organization) has asked the FCC to dismiss a whole slew of translator applications around the country, including several in Pennsylvania - so say goodbye to the apps for 88.7 Bradford, 91.9 Lewistown and 88.7 Bloomsburg.
WBMR (91.7 Telford) and translator W245AG (96.9 Gladwyne) get transferred from United Educational Broadcasting to United Ministries, for whatever that's worth...
Down in Red Lion, oldies WSOX (96.1) applies to move from its current 50 kilowatts at 152 meters to 13.5 kilowatts, directional, at 290 meters. If that sounds familiar, it should: WSOX already holds a CP for that move, but it's expiring soon, and the station wants more time to build, especially since its current LMA holder, Brill, is working through bankruptcy.
Up in the Scranton market, WQFN (100.1 Forest City) is looking for a new transmitter site; the station (a simulcast of oldies WQFM 92.1 Nanticoke) has applied to move to a new site just across Route 6 from its current tower in the hills east of Carbondale.
The 1000-watt signal on 950 covers Monroe County quite well (in its heritage top-40 days, it was regularly the number-one station in town by wide margins), but it's a far cry from the market's dominant news-talker, Clear Channel's clear channel WHAM (1180).
Expect to hear Bill O'Reilly on 950 - and we hear rumors about Dr. Joy Browne, Sean Hannity, Tom Leykis, some sports coverage and perhaps a local morning show.
This is hardly the first time the format has been tried on this facility; when WBBF dropped that heritage top-40 format in 1982, the station went all-talk for several years, later going to country, standards (briefly using the WEZO calls) and then to oldies to help the poor coverage of the 93.3 FM signal back when it was licensed to Avon. With last year's move of the FM to the WBEE-FM tower in Penfield, there was no longer a need for the AM simulcast, and rumors about a flip to talk have been making the rounds locally ever since.
For the moment, AM 950 will be operating from the back production room at Entercom's facility in the B. Forman Building; it will get a "real" studio when the cluster makes the move to the High Falls neighborhood in a few months.
LATE UPDATE: Tuesday evening, WBBF flipped stunts to become "Swifty 950," doing the same music-testing snippets thing that we've heard in other markets as "Quick 108" or what have you.
(And yeah, we did say "classic hits" for WBZA's format; the station that started out as "the hits of the 80s and more" has been playing a lot of tunes from before and after the 80s these days, even if it's still imaging itself as an 80s station. Just up the dial, WVOR, aka "Mix 100.5," has also refocused its format, dropping most of the 70s classic rock to become a more straightforward modern AC - and sounding pretty good in the process!)
Down in New York City, WOR (710) has signed on to test Ibiquity's "in-band, on-channel" (IBOC) digital system. While WOR is making the right noises publicly about staying in the forefront of broadcast technology, behind the scenes it's clear that this will be a critical test of the controversial IBOC system - largely because "IBOC" is a misnomer. Ibiquity's system sends considerable signal out on the adjacent AM channels as well, and we expect WOR's neighbors WLW (700 Cincinnati) and WGN (720 Chicago) to be watching this test very closely to see what the system really does at night when the skywave kicks up. (It's yet to be approved for nighttime use, and many engineers are skeptical, at least in private, that it will really work in the after-dark RF environment.)
On the programming side, WOR has parted ways with 7-9 PM host Jay Diamond; no replacement has yet been named. Meanwhile, ESPN's WEVD (1050 New York) has moved Michael Kay from afternoons to middays; Kay's other committments forced him to make that move fairly often anyway. Wally Matthews takes afternoons on ESPN 1050.
The Radio Chick (aka Leslie Gold) is riding alone in mornings on classic rocker WAXQ (104.3 New York); PD Bob Buchmann has signed a new contract to stay with the station, but he's moving out of mornings, where his music-first style clashed with the Chick and the colleagues she brought with her. Buchmann will now be heard from 2-4 PM, between Maria Milito and Ken Dashow, while Gold, Chuck Nice and Butchie Brennan do their thing in morning drive.
Out on Long Island, the NY Radio Message Board reports that Bob Ottone is retiring after 23 years as station manager of WXBA (88.1 Brentwood), the Brentwood High School station. Ottone has also worked at WGBB, WGLI, WNEW and ABC television.
Moving upstate, the Sound of Life religious network wants to put its Troy translator back on the air. W230AC (93.9) had to go silent when WHTR-FM (93.7 Scotia) made its move into the Capital District from the Glens Falls market; a new application would move the translator up the dial to 94.1, with a very directional pattern aiming southwest from its site in the hills east of Troy. (W230AC would also switch primaries, from WHVP 91.1 Hudson to the currently-dark WSSK 89.7 Saratoga Springs.)
Syracuse Community Radio's W201CD (88.1 Lansing), which has been relaying WEOS (89.7 Geneva), had its application to move to 89.9 dismissed by the FCC this week. A few DTV notes: we stopped by the WSTM (Channel 3) site south of Syracuse late last week to see the new tower for WSTM, WSTM-DT and several other local stations. It's now at about the same height as the old channel 3 tower; when it's finished, the big stick will rise some 840 feet and be crowned by a candelabra. (More pictures to come!)
In Buffalo, WGRZ (Channel 2) returned to full power Sunday night; no word on when the new DTV antenna for WGRZ-DT (Channel 33) that was being installed there will go live.
Back in Syracuse, WSTM lost its first news director last week.
Fred Hillegas joined WSYR (570) in 1946; when WSYR-TV launched four years later, Hillegas became the one-man news department for the station. He remained with WSYR/WSYR-TV until 1972, when he retired as news director and moved to Arizona and then Oregon, where he died on Monday (July 15). Hillegas was 85.
As reported earlier in NERW, a Chicago-based company called Air Time Media will begin leasing WBPS (890 Dedham) from Mega Communications next month, replacing the current C-Net Radio tech talk with conservative satellite talk under the moniker "The Boston Talk Party."
The programming - mostly from out of town - will include Doug Stephan in the morning, Deborah Ray's health show at 9, Neal Boortz at 2, Rusty Humphries at 5, Michael Savage at 7 and Roy Masters from 10 until midnight.
The "big name," if you can call it that, will be Laura Schlessinger, returning to the Boston airwaves after being unceremoniously dumped from WRKO (680), which had exiled her to late-night tape delay at the end. WBPS will run her show from 10 AM until noon; the station still hasn't announced its entries from noon until 2 (against Bill O'Reilly on WTKK and Rush Limbaugh on WRKO), 4 to 5 PM (against Howie Carr on WRKO and Jay Severin on WTKK) or overnights and weekends.
Meanwhile, the rumors about Loren Owens and Wally Brine moving their long-running morning show to Infinity's WODS (103.3 Boston) proved to be just that; Loren and Wally signed a five-year deal last week that will keep them on Greater Media's WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham). The two have been paired on 105.7's various incarnations (WVBF, WCLB-FM, WKLB-FM, WROR) since 1981, making them by far the longest-running morning team on the same station in Boston.
There's a new PD on the way to Entercom's "Star 93.7" (WQSX 93.7 Lawrence); Jerry McKenna makes the move north from dance-CHR "Hot" WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket RI) and WAKX (102.7 Narragansett Pier RI) to fill the shoes recently vacated by Jeff Scott.
Eddie Andelman will soon be heard even better in Worcester. The longtime WEEI sports-talk host lost central Massachusetts when he moved to WWZN (1510 Boston) last year; even with a better daytime pattern, the Sporting News Radio outlet still doesn't really reach Worcester very well. So Andelman's show will be heard on WORC (1310 Worcester) beginning August 5, replacing G. Gordon Liddy in the noon-3 slot.
The World Champion New England Patriots will have new radio homes this fall in Worcester and Springfield; the team will move from WTAG (580 Worcester) to Citadel's WWFX (100.1 Southbridge) and WAHL (99.9 Athol) in central Massachusetts, and from WHYN (560 Springfield) to Saga's WAQY (102.1 Springfield), part of a region-wide move to the FM dial for the team.
We can explain that transfer of the 91.1 Winchendon CP that we reported last week: it was part of the settlement agreement between Friends of Radio Maria and Toccoa Falls College. The deal gave Toccoa Falls the CP, but with a clause allowing Radio Maria to buy that CP for $10,000 - which is just what Radio Maria did.
Out in vacation-land, WNCK (89.5 Nantucket) filed for a license to cover this week; we'd love to hear from any beach-bound NERW readers who can tell us if this new has really made it to air.
A few clarifications on the Waterville/Augusta market situation: Mountain Wireless' WHQO (107.9 Skowhegan) is not exactly a simulcast with Clear Channel news-talker WVOM (103.9 Howland); WVOM picks up the WHQO morning show, and the stations share a Premiere talk lineup until 6 PM, but they split apart after that (with WHQO doing sports at night). WHQO is simulcast on Clear Channel's WCME (96.7 Boothbay Harbor), which is considered to be part of the market. And Mountain still owns WCTB (93.5 Fairfield), which is in a JSA with Clear Channel.
The CRTC renewed the license of Genex's CHOI (98.1 Quebec City) for two years instead of seven, and denied the company's request to move CKNU (100.9 Donnacona) closer in to the Quebec market.
Out in New Brunswick, religious CKOE (100.9 Moncton) was granted permission to add commercials to its programming, over the objections of Maritime Broadcasting System, which owns commercial CKCW/CFQM in town.
The big news from Ontario is the demise of the CHUM Group's "Team" sports format, at least in the Peterborough market: CKPT (1420) dumped the format last Thursday (July 18), the Peterborough Examiner reported, to return to the adult standards it was playing before launching the Team a little over a year ago. The format has been plagued by poor ratings at flagship CHUM (1050 Toronto) and other outlets across Canada; it's being retooled with more local hosts, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it disappear from other smaller markets (such as Halifax and Kingston) in the months to come.
There's a new station in Cobourg: that new 93.3 signal there signed on for real on Thursday (July 18) at 9:33 AM as hot AC "Star 93.3," with full programming starting Friday. And the calls are...CKSG.
Up in Sudbury, Rogers is denying that it targeted CJMX (EZ Rock 105.3) jock Dave Lindsay for layoffs because he was the president of CEP Local 725-M, the station's union local. Rogers laid off three staffers at its Sudbury cluster last week, with several shifts now being filled by voicetracking from Ottawa, we hear.
In Toronto, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Commission slapped CFNY (102.1 the Edge) with a Code of Ethics violation for several incidents last November on Dean Blundell's morning show. The CBSC says the show slipped over the line into sexually-explicit territory, but denied to sanction the station for several other comments cited by an anonymous complainant (who couldn't even spell "Blundell" correctly); the punishment, if you can call it that, is that the station will have to make two on-air announcements that it has been sanctioned.
The CRTC gave CFXJ (93.5 the Flow) permission to boost its power; the urban station will jump in power from 298 watts to 1430 watts from the top of First Canadian Place.
Rogers has found a channel for its new "CFMT Too" television service; the broadcaster is asking the CRTC to let it use channel 44 in Toronto with 179 kW visual for the new sister station to multiethnic CFMT (Channel 47).
And we're very sorry to report the impending demolition of a bit of Canadian broadcast history: the old CBC TV tower on Jarvis Street in Toronto is being taken down, piece by piece, over the next five weeks or so.
The tower went up in 1952, rising more than 150 meters above the CBC television complex in a cluster of old buildings on Jarvis to become the tallest structure in Toronto for several decades.
In September 1952, it became home to CBLT (Channel 9, later channel 6 and now channel 5), the first TV station in Ontario. In later years, the tower was also home to CBC-FM (99.1, later CBL-FM on 94.1), French-language CBLFT (Channel 25), CJRT (91.1) and TVOntario's CICA (Channel 19).
With the construction of the CN Tower in the late seventies, the CBC moved its services (as well as CJRT and CICA) to that much taller mast, and the CBC tower was soon lost in a sea of tall downtown office buildings, losing any real viability as a broadcast site. Its fate was sealed when the CBC moved out of the Jarvis Street complex in the nineties, building the new Broadcast Centre near the CN Tower.
The CBC sold the Jarvis Street land to developers, who are building a condominium complex on the site; without the big tower, we wonder if anyone a generation from now will know why the development is called "Radio City"...
That's it for another week; we'll see you again next Monday on fybush.com!