After more than eight years on the air, Mary Ann Sorrentino's contract with WPRO (630 Providence) isn't being renewed. Sorrentino was allowed on the air for the first few minutes of her 9-noon shift last Friday to say goodbye to her listeners. Afterward, she held a news conference to express her disappointment with WPRO management, particularly operations manager Ron St. Pierre. Morning host Steve Kass has had an extra hour added to his shift, which now ends at 10, and WPRO is looking for a replacement host for the 10-noon show.
Down in Newport, WADK (1540) is back on the air after a series of technical mishaps kept it mostly silent for several days. WADK's transmitter was damaged by lightning in June, and a transformer blew last Friday morning, knocking the station off the air for the weekend. The station was back to normal by Tuesday midday, according to Providence newspaper reports.
Two more digital TV CPs have been granted in Boston: WHDH-DT will be on channel 40, while WFXT-DT will operate on channel 31. The next big question: now that Boston's "big four" affiliates all have their digital CPs, who'll be the first to air with a digital signal? (Our bet's on WHDH, if for no other reason than that Channel 7's policy of not leasing space on its tower means there's no problem at all mounting a DTV antenna there.)
Speaking of WHDH-TV, can it really be five years already? It was on this week in 1993 that the Sunbeam folks blew into town and changed the face of Boston TV news forever. Your editor fondly remembers that afternoon in another newsroom across town, looking up at the flashy red-and-black "new look" of 7 News for the first time. In the years since, everyone in town has increased story count, shortened newscasts (those hour-long 6 PM newscasts were probably obsolete even in 1993, anyway), and shuffled talent to compete. Like 'em or not, here's to WHDH and Sunbeam for shaking things up (and giving us plenty to write about over the years).
Congratulations to WBZ (1030) for winning two NAB Marconi Award nominations, one for Major-Market Station of the Year, an award it won in 1995 (an event we at NERW remember fondly, since your editor also wrote the winning entry), and another for Legendary Station of the Year. Also nominated was WBCN (104.1) for Rock Station of the Year. Listen for the whoops of joy (or dejected sighs of defeat) from Soldiers Field Road and Boylston Street on October 17 when the winners are announced.
While we're thinking of CBS, the Boston Globe ran an AP story mentioning how CBS was last to the plate with live video from the Capitol shooting last Friday, and how WBZ-TV (Channel 4) stayed on the air until 7 PM with CNN video, running Dan Rather 30 minutes late. The story went on to describe how CBS's "WKYW-TV" in Philadelphia handled its coverage. We'll be sure to mention it to the KYW-TV folks down in Philly...
Radio People on the Move: After more than two years at WSRS (96.1) in Worcester, midday jock/APD Moneen Daley has driven down Asnebumskit Hill for the last time. Daley was at Boston's WMJX for six years before her Worcester stint, and she tells NERW she's looking for a new gig in Boston. The 55 minutes of silence heard on WSRS and WTAG (580) Wednesday afternoon weren't in her memory, by the way -- we hear power to the entire town of Paxton was out, forcing the Capstar stations to a backup generator.
More Worcester news: We hear unlicensed "WSCW" (94.9) at Worcester State College isn't programming this summer -- but they've left their transmitter up with dead air anyway (and wasn't it a similar "Summer Full of Dead Air" adventure that claimed WSCW's old carrier-current transmitter when it overheated a few years back?). "WDOA" at 89.3 is still dead, but its frequency isn't; there was rock music there on Monday, and now we hear it's a mono simulcast of WICN (90.5).
Last weekend's Lowell Folk Festival drew rave reviews from the music critics, but only a "so-so" from NERW's listening audience in the Merrimack Valley. We hear most of the stations stayed close to the Boarding House Park stage, never getting to the wide variety of music at the city's other stages, with the exception of the folks at WJUL (91.5) at UMass Lowell. Technical problems also kept both AM stations in town from filling as many hours with live Folk Festival coverage as they'd hoped. NERW has one request: how about a live audio stream from any of the stations covering the Fest next year?
And from the "where are they now" file: former WXKS-FM (107.9) morning co-host Lisa Lipps will be appearing this weekend hawking makeup at the South Bay Shopping Center K-Mart in Boston, according to the Boston Herald.
A few new calls: F. James Whalen's 101.1 in Machias has been granted WBEO, but that's a sequential assignment and we suspect it will be changed before the station ever hits the Down East airwaves. Back in the Portland TV market, Waterville's Channel 23 is WBDJ for now -- but that's sure to change when PaxNet buys the as-yet-unbuilt CP. The Paxson folks filed for the sale this week.
And amidst the mourning for "Buffalo" Bob Smith, who died today at his North Carolina home, we remember that after his "Howdy Doody" TV career, Smith became a radio station owner as well, buying several Maine stations including WQDY in Calais. Smith suffered from cancer. He was 80 years old.
Last week's mention of Radio Free Vermont and its website at http://www.sover.net/~rfv triggered a testy response from webmaster Monty Butterfield, which spent more time sniping at NERW's writing style (a few hints: we put the state name in CAPS at the start of every state's section every week, and how about looking up "royal we" in any writing textbook?) than in defending the, um, interesting legal justification for RFV's "legality" (see the website for more details). In any event, "we" now understand that RFV is in Rutland, and sure enough, we've heard from a NERW reader who says he's heard something or other occupying the 96.5 frequency there. RFV also claims more than five years on the air, something NERW can't confirm from years of driving through Rutland spinning the dial in the NERW-mobile. And just for clarification: NERW is as much a journal of opinion as it is of news (as we state in the boilerplate that appears at the end of NERW when "we" feel like putting it there), and we reserve the right to offer whatever opinions strike us about any station information and websites submitted to us. If we like a station, we say so (hence all the nice things that get said here about WMVY, WRSI, WXRV, et al), and if we think something's not right, we say so, too (just ask any radio station that cuts news staff or local programming). If you've been reading us for a while, you'll note that we've swung both ways when it comes to unlicensed stations over the last few years. We don't think our readers would want it any other way, and anyone who does can go read one of the "big time" trades...or come argue their position at our sister mailing list.
OK, off the soapbox, down I-91 (or US 5; it's a nicer drive), and back to the news:
In the Hudson Valley, it looks like WVIP (1310 Mount Kisco) won't go permanently silent after all. Jonathan Becker's Suburban Broadcasting, which owns WGCH (1490) just over the Connecticut state line in Greenwich, has agreed to pay the estate of Martin Stone $675,000 for the dark station. You'll recall that WVIP was silenced last fall by a fire that destroyed its studio.
The doors at 3136 South Winton Road just stopped swinging, and here's the results of the changes at WPXY (97.9) in Rochester: "98PXY" morning show sidekick Krista Bettino has left the station after just a few months to return to her old stomping grounds of Buffalo. Her predecessor, Athena, is also gone after several months as very-early-morning jock and morning show producer. Her new gig is in Fresno, as morning sidekick at KVSR (101.1). Replacing Athena is Jeff Walker, late of WNKI (106.1 Corning, or "WINK Elmira" if you believe their top-hour IDs).
What's the callsign, Lowell?: There's still a lot of confusion over the call letters of the future PaxNet stations upstate. Batavia's (or, if you're PaxNet, "Buffalo/Rochester's") WAQF (Channel 51) is still listed as such in the FCC database, but on the website at http://www.pax.net it becomes WUPX (which should just thrill the Fox folks at WUTV Buffalo and WUHF Rochester). Syracuse's Channel 56 appears on the website both under its current WAUP calls and its future identity as WSPX. From what we hear, neither station will be ready for air when PaxNet launches August 15.
A few tidbits from market number one: Fox flagship WNYW (Channel 5) has been granted a digital CP. WNYW-DT will be on Channel 44. And out in the 'burbs, the long-expected sale of WJHR (1040 Flemington NJ) from Carl Liu to his father, ethnic broadcaster Arthur Liu, was finally announced this week. Dad's paying $1.4 million for his son's station, which just signed on last spring as a locally-run AC outlet. NERW readers with long memories may recall that WJHR was the station that kicked the NERW tower-hunting crew out of the building during a Jersey expedition last spring. For once, we actually hope this one goes to an all leased-time format...
A few more tidbits from the ratings bin, as the last of the Spring books trickle in: It's a flip-flop in Albany, as WGNA returns to its customary #1 position from its (almost too close to call) third-place Winter 12+ finish. WFLY and WGY again make up the rest of the top three, followed by a dropping WYJB and a surging WQBJ/WQBK. In Syracuse, country monster WBBS stayed at the top despite a slight dip in ratings, followed by Cox sister stations WSYR and WYYY. Pilot's WNTQ and WAQX were next, with WNTQ's CHR challenger WWHT picking up steam to make number six. And down the road in Rochester, it's a 12+ tie between last book's number one and two finishers, country WBEE-FM and news/talk WHAM. AC WRMM-FM stays at third, with CHR WPXY gaining in fourth, followed by hot AC WVOR, the biggest gainer, in fifth. Among the newcomers, it's still probably too soon to evaluate the effects of oldies WKLX dumping the satellite to become WBBF; it stayed flat this book. Also flat were Jacor's soft AC duo of WYSY/WISY, while new rhythmic CHR WMAX-FM ("Jam'n 107") doubled its minuscule ratings from its last book as smooth jazz WRCD.
In Toledo, Ohio, WVOI (1520) has applied to change calls to WDMN. So what, you may ask? Well, NERW hopes that this may mean that 1520 actually intends to use its real calls on the air now. For years, everyone who's passed through the area has noted that WVOI has been ID'ing -- even at the top of the hour -- as "WJCM, Toledo," which would be fine if those calls didn't belong to AM 960 in Sebring, Florida. Oddly, the FCC never seemed to notice or care...
And anyone who's ever used the Broadcast Station Location Page at http://www5.jagunet.com/~kodis/station.html will be saddened, as we were, to learn that creator John Kodis has been forced to take the service off-line because it was putting too much load on his ISP. Kodis' page was unique in its ability to map out every station within a specified distance of a specified point, and we here at NERW used it often in planning our trips. The good news is that Kodis has offered the code he used to create the page, and we sincerely hope that somewhere out there in NERW-land is someone who's both able and willing to host this extremely valuable service. If you can help John, and by extension, the entire radio community, please contact us here at NERW and we'll put you in touch. Some things are too good to lose, and this is one of them.
It's summer, and that means a NERW road trip almost every weekend while the weather holds out. This time it's down to Olean and Rock City for the Worldwide FM-TV DXers Association convention. We look forward to meeting some of you down there, and for the rest, expect all the latest on the Southern Tier radio scene in next week's issue. See you then!