New England RadioWatch: August 9, 1996
I-90, Boston to Buffalo
Before I launch into a quick look at what's happening along I-90 for
about 400 miles west of here, a few brief news items from New England:
- WRCZ (101.7) in Pittsfield MA has returned to its original calls of
WBRK-FM, and is using ABC's syndicated AC "Star" format as "Star
101.7." "FMedia!" reports "Z101" was the lowest-rated FM in Berkshire
- After about 2 years as morning host of Boston's WMJX "Magic 106.7,"
Gary Dickson is headed off to Houston's oldies KLDE (94.5). The move
brings Dickson back to his old employer, Entercom, for whom he had
worked in Pittsburgh before coming to Boston as Tom Bergeron's
replacement on Magic. Mike Addams moves across the hall from WMJX's
sister station WBCS "Country 96.9" to handle morning duties on Magic,
and Addams' former co-host, Tom Doyle, will keep things going on WBCS
while Greater Media figures out how it's going to drop country from
either WBCS or newly-purchased WKLB (105.7), probably within a month.
- It looks as though WXTK (94.9 West Yarmouth MA) plans to build a new
tower as part of its plan to move to 95.1 with 50kw DA from 262' AAT.
The application includes a "new transmitter location," which turns out
to be just a few feet north of the existing tower on South Sea Avenue
in West Yarmouth.
- And now, on to a quick look at what I heard and saw as I drove across
upstate New York last weekend, starting with the Albany market, where
not much had changed since my last visit a few months back. The
former oldies WXXO (96.7 Clifton Park) has flipped to religious
WDCD-FM, simulcasting WDCD 1540 Albany (ex-WPTR). The new CP for 89.9
Rensselaerville is not yet on the air. Public radio WAMC's hourly
station ID keeps getting longer -- it now includes seven primaries and
three translators! I meant to check out WMVI (1160 Mechanicsville) to
see whether it had fixed the transmitter problems it was having last
March, but I never quite got around to doing so...so it will be
checked in August.
- Down the road 70 miles or so in greater Utica, the
off the Thruway to check out the nifty cluster of towers atop Smith
Hill, including studios of WKTV-2 and WUTR-20, and transmitters for
those two, along with WRCK 107.3, WUNY 89.5 (on the channel 2 tower, I
think), WLZW 98.7, and WOUR 96.9. Back on the air after a long
absence was WNRS 1420 Herkimer, running satellite sports talk.
- There were plenty of changes to hear in Syracuse, where the market
has essentially consolidated under two ownership groups plus a handful
of smaller stations. Here's how it shakes out: Cox bought sports-talk
WHEN (620) and country WHEN-FM (107.9) from Park Communications this
spring. When Cox then bought NewCity, adding news-talk WSYR (570),
AC WYYY (94.5, "Y94"), and country WBBS (104.7 Fulton, "B104.7") to
the mix, WHEN-FM was sacrificed, becoming (very briefly) "Quick 108"
before turning up as CHR "Hot 107.9," WWHT. There are "Hot 107.9"
billboards up all over town -- every mile or so along I-690 as you
drive through the city, including one just east of downtown that's
back to back with a board for CHR rival WNTQ (93.1, "93Q"). WNTQ is
now owned by Pilot Broadcasting, along with former Osborn sister
station WNSS 1260. "W-News" is the former country WNDR, now
reincarnated as an all-news signal, at least some of which seemed to
originate locally. Also in the Pilot family is rocker WAQX (95.7
Manlius, "95X"). The Radio Corporation has standards WTLA (1200, now
also heard on WSGO 1440 Oswego, and at least partially simulcast with
WTLB 1310 Utica), modern-rocker WKRL (100.9 N. Syracuse, simulcast
with WKLL 94.9 Frankfort-Utica as "K-Rock"), and classic-rock WTKW
(99.5 Bridgeport, now also heard on WTKV 105.5 Oswego, and simulcast
with WRCK 107.3 Utica). And WOLF 1490 is back on the air as a talker
(I heard Don and Mike in PM drive), now co-owned with SW Smooth FM
affiliate WXCD (105.9). Not yet on were WNDR-FM (103.9 Mexico) or
WKRH (105.9 Minetta), two more CPs due on in the Salt City. Also not
yet on was WRVD (90.3), the new Syracuse outlet in the
SUNY-Oswego/WRVO public radio chain.
- In my hometown of Rochester, cool little AAA station WMAX (106.7
Irondequoit) has been doing some growing. They're now simulcast on
the former WLKA, now WMHX 102.3 Canandaigua, and ID'ing as "WMAX 106-7
and 102-dot-3." Tom Sheridan, formerly of WZLX in Boston, is PD and
morning host. Co-owned with WMAX is SW Smooth FM affiliate WRCD
(107.3 Honeoye Falls), with a decent signal over the city. I stopped
in to visit AIRWAVES reader Ellis B. Feaster on his last week on
morning drive at WKLX (Oldies 98.9)...he's off to Salt Lake City's
KBEE (98.7) next week to do mornings. Rochester's newest station,
WAQB 94.1 Brighton, has reportedly been testing with country music.
This new station will use a short tower adjacent to the big FM/TV
sticks on Pinnacle Hill near downtown. No word on the fate of little
class D noncomm WIRQ (94.3) at Irondequoit High School, which faces
being bumped from a third frequency, after moving from 90.9 in the
early 80s and then from 93.3 in the early 90s. No sign yet of WASB-FM
(105.5) in Brockport. As for the biggies, it's all in the hands of
just two big groups. American Radio Systems has news-talk WHAM
(1180), hot talk WHTK (1280), sports-talk WCMF (990), rocker WCMF
(96.5), CHR WPXY (97.9), AC WVOR (100.5), and AC WRMM (101.3), along
with a sales agreement with modern rock WNVE (95.1 South Bristol and
W238AR 95.5 Rochester). Heritage has market-leading country WBEE
(92.5), oldies WKLX (98.9), and standards WBBF (950). There's also
locally-owned urban WDKX (103.9) and jazz/variety WJZR (105.9).
- And that brings us to Buffalo, where your NERW enjoyed a
of driving around the hills south of the city visiting all the towers.
WIVB-TV (4) and WKBW-TV (7) both had informative signs at the ends of
their driveways with the tower heights listed -- very nice! The
shared transmitter site of WWKB (1520) and WGR (550) in Hamburg NY
still has the old "WKBW INC. / ABC" signs on the side of the very
attractive transmitter building -- downright heartbreaking. Also nice
was the WBEN (930) site on Grand Island -- a very attractive Art Deco
building and two well-maintained towers. Your NERW found himself in a
downtown hotel room facing the Rand Building just a few blocks away,
with the 50kw transmitters of WBLK (93.7 Depew), WJYE (96.1) and WYRK
(106.5) all pounding copious intermod into the airchecking equipment.
A particularly bad mixing product of WBLK and WJYE wiped out WBNY
On the air, Buffalo is largely controlled by three radio groups. ARS
now holds adult-standards WECK (1230 Cheektowaga), smooth-jazz WSJZ
(92.9), urban WBLK, AC WJYE, and country WYRK. Sinclair has
sports-talk WGR (550), news-talk WBEN (930), leased-time WWWS (1400),
satellite country WWKB (1520), CHR WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls), and AC
WMJQ (102.5). And Mercury Broadcasting has simulcast/leased-time WHTT
(1120), rocker WGRF (96.9), modern rock WEDG (103.3), and oldies
WHTT-FM (104.1). All that shuffling has meant a lot of moving for
Buffalo's radio stations, and many are still in transition (the
Sinclair stations are in four different locations around town, with
the staff of WGR/WWKB/WKSE apparently split between studios at 695
Delaware Ave. and additional offices at 6 Fountain Plaza, adjacent to
the hotel where I was staying. Mercury is consolidating at the old
WGR studios at 464 Franklin, and all the ARS stations except WSJZ and
WBLK are in the Rand Building).
Canadian radio is also still a factor in the Buffalo market, with many
Toronto stations audible, as well as rocker CHTZ (97.7), modern/dance
CKEY (101.1 The Planet), and AC CHRE (105.7) among the strongest
signals from just across the border. And little travelers-information
CFLZ 91.9 Niagara Falls seems to be using a lot more than 8 watts -- I
was getting it 45 miles outside Buffalo on the Thruway!
- We'll come back to New England next NERW...stay tuned!
Previous issues of New England RadioWatch
The Boston Radio Archives