The FCC this week reversed a decision rejecting WKOX's application for the higher power from the WNTN (1550) tower on Rumford Avenue in Newton, a site erroneously identified as "River Street" in the application. We'll be interested to see whether WKOX and owner Fairbanks Broadcasting are actually able to build on the site; we'd heard last year that WNTN was leery about allowing WKOX to diplex off its tower.
WKOX also holds a CP for 50 kilowatts day and night from its current site on Mount Wayte Avenue in Framingham; that application has long been stymied, though, by local officials' refusal to allow WKOX to tear down its two tall lit towers and replace them with three shorter unlit ones (no, NERW doesn't quite get it either...)
WKOX was also trying to get permission from Sudbury town officials to build a three tower array along route 30 in that town, but that project appears to have stalled out.
NERW suspects the deciding factor in the FCC's turnaround was WGNY in Newburgh NY, which lost its special temporary authority for the use of 1200 over the summer, being forced back to its original daytime status on 1220. WGNY's petition to deny had thwarted the original WKOX application for 50kW from Newton, but without WGNY to contend with, WKOX was free and clear to make the move.
NERW also wonders whether boosting power will still make financial sense for WKOX. Long-running industry gossip had WKOX being sold to Westinghouse/CBS -- not an option now that CBS' purchase of ARS brought more powerful AM signals such as WRKO and WEEI into the fold. Ditto the speculation last year that Salem might buy 1200 to pair with its 1260, now that Salem has sold that 1260 signal and moved its WEZE to the better 590 signal, ex-WBNW and WEEI. Will Fairbanks want to spend the money to go 50kw just to keep leasing out time on the signal? We'll know when and if that transmitter gets delivered to Rumford Avenue...stay tuned.
Elswehere in the Bay State, Boston's WNFT (1150), the oft-forgotten stepsister in the CBS/ARS group, was doing some simulcast-hopping this week. WNFT was heard with sister hot AC station WBMX (98.5) last Friday, returning to its usual simulcast of WAAF (107.3 Worcester) for a few days only to switch again for a little while, this time to CHurban WJMN (94.5) -- which, oddly enough, is NOT a CBS/ARS station. An accident at the WNFT broadcast facility? Only the engineers know for sure.
Speaking of that CBS/ARS deal, petitions to deny were filed this week against every last one of the 99 stations involved. More on these as we find out who's behind them.
Farewell to that 89.3 South Shore pirate we mentioned recently; it's been silent since the weekend. Happy birthday to Gordon Swan, the veteran general manager of WBZ radio and television, now retired and living on the South Shore. Swan turns 93 next week; he's been a part of New England broadcasting almost since the beginning. And our apologies to Worcester's WNEB (1230); their new slogan is "Solid Rock 1230" -- not Hard Rock, as we said last week.
Over at oldies station WDRC-FM (102.9) in Hartford, morning host Jerry Kristafer has been ousted after 15 years. Replacing Kristafer for now is weekend jock Don Brooks, with the station's website announcing Marc Sommers as the permanent replacement. Sommers comes to "Big D 103" from a stint with New York's WCBS-FM (101.1). No official reason was given for Kristafer's dismissal beyond the usual "philosophical differences," but Kristafer tells a local newspaper he thinks low ratings were to blame.
And little WQTQ (89.9), the Hartford-based high school station, has been granted a power boost from 70 to 120 watts.
Among Maine's living AM stations, Portland's WGAN (560) has named a new news director. Leslie Doppler, who's been at WGAN since 1993, takes over the reins from the recently-departed Dennis Spellman.
St. Lawrence University's public radio network is growing again. The FCC has granted a construction permit for a new translator in Keene, New York. W209AZ on 89.7 will relay WSLL (90.5 Saranac Lake), which itself relays flagship WSLU (89.5 Canton).
Sinclair Broadcasting is adding two Syracuse stations to its TV group. Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68) is part of Sinclair's $225 million purchase of Max Media, with LMA partner WNYS (Channel 43, UPN) coming along for the ride. Sinclair is a major radio group owner (for the moment) just down the Thruway in Rochester and Buffalo.
The low-power TV dial in Rochester is changing. WAWW-LP (Channel 38) vanished from the air this week; it had been running the VCC home-shopping channel. Meantime, WBGR-LP (Channel 40) has been seen testing with color bars from its new site at the WRMM-FM (101.3) tower on the west side of town. Channel 40 was last seen in the early 1990s as W40AG, running Channel America programming from the WBEE-FM (92.5) site in Penfield.
And here's a painful little contest, courtesy of WFLY (92.3 Troy). The folks at "Fly 92" gave Troy Goldenberg free tickets to this weekend's Phish concert...but he had to spend 28 1/2 hours locked in a studio, listening to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" over and over and over again. We at NERW think we'd probably rather pay the TicketMaster surcharges...
And with that we'll bring this week's edition to a close. We'll be back next Thursday with another week's worth of NorthEast radio news...see you then!