Meantime in the Big Apple, Chancellor Media dropped "Big 105" from WBIX (105.1) Friday night, Dec. 4. The new format is "Jammin' Oldies," similar to what the company has been doing with great success in Chicago, LA, and other markets. New calls are sure to follow.
And Chancellor has hired former WNEW (102.7) jock and New York radio legend Scott Muni. Early next year, he'll start doing a one-hour show weekdays at noon, playing music and offering commentary and interviews. The show will give midday jock Maria Milito a one-hour lunch break during her shift. Yes, that was Muni who surfaced on WFAN (660) for a guest slot talking sports last week...
Elsewhere in NEW YORK, it's been a busy couple of weeks for Jacor's "second tier" of stations in the Rochester market. On Thanksgiving eve, they looked like this: WYSY (106.7 Irondequoit) and WISY (102.3 Canandaigua) simulcast very soft AC as "Sunny 106." WMAX-FM (107.3, still licensed Honeoye Falls but already ID'ing with its new South Bristol city of license) was rhythmic CHR as "Jam'n 107."
Then things began shifting. First WYSY dropped the "Sunny" format and began simulcasting "Jam'n" on the evening of Nov. 25 -- while WISY kept going as though nothing had changed. For a week, in fact, WISY continued to ID as "Sunny 106" and act as though it still had a sister station in Rochester. The only thing missing was a legal ID. Finally, the voicetracks caught up with reality, and WISY now IDs properly as "Sunny 102" -- but the soft AC and Delilah can't reach most Rochester listeners anymore.
Next up, "Jam'n." Monday afternoon (Dec. 7), it began announcing "The End of Jam'n." And with all the excitement of a roll of toilet paper being changed, the ID that hit a few minutes after 5 PM was the first to call the station "Kiss 107." And aside from adding a few more non-rhythmic hits (Shawn Mullins, anyone?), nothing else has changed at WYSY/WMAX-FM. The station still has no jocks, for starters. Why the new name? Gee, we noticed Jacor's new Cincinnati CHR is called "Kiss 107" while we were there last week...
One more Rochester-area note: WASB-FM (105.5 Brockport) was heard testing for a few hours on Friday, November 27, with a loop of country music -- but has not been heard since. When it comes on for real, it will have a hard time in eastern Monroe County, where Oswego's co-channel WTKV puts in a very respectable signal on 105.5.
Elsewhere in the state, the FCC is opening up applications for a new FM channel in Wellsville, a class A on 97.1. NERW wonders: does a community that already has an AM and FM, both all-satellite, really need a third signal?
While we're in the Southern Tier, FMedia! reports that long-silent 96.9 in Ridgebury PA, rimshotting Elmira, hoped to be back on the air by December 7 as WREQ with Christian contemporary music. We'll be down that way next weekend and will check it out.
A corrected address for Rochester's CBS radio stations: WZNE, WCMF, WPXY, and WRMM are at 1700 Marine Midland Plaza, Rochester NY 14604.
Up north, Tim Martz is buying WXQZ (101.5 Canton) from Closs Communications. WXQZ has been simulcasting Martz' WNCQ (102.9 Morristown) for a few weeks now, but a format change is planned for next year.
The "WPTR" call letters that graced one of the towers of Albany's AM 1540 for decades have come down, but we'll give Don Crawford half a point for respecting history: we're told he's replaced them with letters bearing the station's new calls, WDCD. The station's studio/transmitter building is on Albany Street, but the letters face towards the back of the property and Route 5. Guess where the NERW-mobile will be heading next time we're in the Capital District?
On the fringes: Affinity Broadcasting is applying for a new station on 102.3 in London, Ontario...which should make the frequency a lot of fun when the summer trops kick in and WJET-FM, on 102.3 just across the lake in Erie PA, booms in. Brantford's CKPC (1380) has applied for an FM relay some 30km south of the city, on 98.9 in Simcoe, with 1090 watts. Want to see the CBL 740 transmitter while it's still there? Check out a fine web page for transmitter pictures and links. Up along the St. Lawrence River, Seaway District High School in South Dundas, Ontario has received a license for CISD (107.7), a 50-watt community station that will begin broadcasting next spring from the top of the Iroquois Water Tower. And just in: We hear CFLZ, the tourist-info station in Niagara Falls, has started simulcasting on 105.1 in preparation for dropping its current 91.9 MHz spot early next year.
Along the southern border, we note that WILK-FM (102.3 Pittston PA) has changed calls to WSHG, but we don't know why, yet. WCDL (1440 Carbondale PA) is now simulcasting WARM (590 Scranton). And in New Jersey, the new owners of WSPW (1170 Bridgewater) have applied to change calls to WWTR, to match WMTR (1250 Morristown).
Home shopping "en espanol" is on its way to southern Connecticut, with the sale of Paxson's WBPT (Channel 43) in Bridgeport to a company called "Cuchifritos Communications." They're paying $22 million for the signal so they can use it as the first outlet for "Compar de su Casa," which means (drumroll, please) "Shop at Home." Paxson says it will sell all its non-PaxTV outlets, which presumably means WHCT (Channel 18) in Hartford is available as well.
Meantime, WERI's Mark Urso says the local programming from AM 1230, including a popular weekend sports-talk show, will migrate to WERI-FM (99.3 Block Island).
The Providence Bruins will move stations next season, as they sign a five-year deal with WLKW (550 Pawtucket) to replace current flagship WPRO (630). Wonder if they'll add an affiliate whose signal actually reaches Providence at night?
Jerry Villacres is the new general manager of Mega's Boston-area Spanish stations. WBPS (890 Dedham) and WNFT (1150 Boston) took their new names and formats Dec. 1, becoming contemporary "Estrella 890" and CHurban "Mega 1150," respectively. Villacres was president and GM of the now-defunct CBS Americas network.
Down the Cape, WKPE (1170 Orleans) returned to the air this month under new calls, becoming WFPB and relaying WUMB (91.9 Boston). WFPB(FM) in Falmouth, also 91.9, becomes WFPB-FM. (And yes, that makes sense to the FCC, anyway...) Meantime, Ernie Boch has signed a two-year deal to keep the Red Sox on his Cape stations, WXTK (95.1 West Yarmouth), WWKJ (101.1 Mashpee), WCOD (106.1 Hyannis), and WYST (93.5 Harwich Port).
Up on the Nahth Shah, Newburyport's WNBP (1450) is running all holiday music for now, with a promise to unveil a new format at 3 o'clock Christmas afternoon.
Eastern Media has sold WESO (970 Southbridge) to Marshall Sanft's Evergreen Communications for $175,000.
Congratulations to Yiddish radio host Ben Gailing, who celebrates his 100th birthday (!) next week, and may well be one of the longest-running radio personalities anywhere in America. And congratulations to Sean Grande, who's leaving WEEI (850) to become the announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves, should the NBA ever play again.
Out West, some changes are in the works at Clear Channel's newly-acquired WNNZ (640 Westfield), with former owner Curt Hahn vacating the morning-drive slot to be replaced by WHYN afternoon personality Dan Yorke. And on the TV side, former WWLP (Channel 22) evening anchor Barry Kriger returns to the sttaion after three years, most recently at WPRI in Providence.
Lori Dee is the latest WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth) jock to leave the Capstar fold for Fuller-Jeffrey, joining WXBB (105.3 Kittery ME) and WXBP (102.1 Hampton).
Heading north, Northeast Communications, which owns WFTN (1240/94.1) Franklin and WSCY (106.9 Moultonborough), is buying WPNH (1300/100.1) in Plymouth as well. WPNH-FM is expected to drop its album rock format once the deal closes.
WZID (95.7 Manchester)'s Tom Kallechey checked in to tell us about their new Web site, and to mention that the station is looking for weekend part-time air talent. You can contact Tom at WZID99F@prodigy.com for more information.
And we mourn the passing of Donn Tibbets, who died on Nov. 27 just two days short of his 68th birthday. Tibbets' broadcast career began at WKBR in 1949 and included stops at WTSV, WTSL, WKXL, WFEA, and Boston's WHDH before arriving in 1954 at WMUR TV and radio. Tibbets stayed with the radio station, which became WGIR, for 18 years before joining the Manchester Union-Leader as statehouse correspondent. He retired last January.
Portland's WPOR (101.9/1490) has a new program director. Clint Marsh was with Saga Broadcasting out at WIXY in Champaign IL from 1992 until 1996, then spent a couple of years as midwest regional promotion manager for Columbia Records' country divisiion. Interim PD Jon Shannon returns to midday and production director duties. Marsh will also handle 3-6 PM air chores.
DXers, get those antennas ready: WEGP (1390 Presque Isle) will stick a morse code ID in at 2 AM, Monday, December 14, using its usual night pattern aimed northeast. Also of note to northeastern DXers: from 1:05-1:15 that morning, WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh) will be running 5 kilowatts non-directional, followed by sister station WPTT (1360 McKeesport) from 1:15-1:25 AM. Unless you're in Attleboro or Hartford, these should be decent catches.
Excalibur's WMNM (92.1 Port Henry NY) changes calls to WXNT but continues to simulcast WSYB (1380 Rutland) for now; the new station manager there is Mike Cameron.
"Baby, if you've ever wondered"...wondered what ever became of NERW: We checked out all the air in Cincinnati (and Dayton and Fort Wayne) just after Thanksgiving, and here's some of what we saw and heard during our week away:
The drive to Fort Wayne was as uneventful as always, and the only highlight was hearing WSWR (100.1 Shelby OH) actually using its calls and city of license at the top of the hour. A dinner stop in Toledo found us tuned to 88.3, the shared-time signal of the University of Toledo (WXUT) and the Toledo schools (WXTS). Nighttime is WXUT's time, but the techno music they were playing was uninterrupted by any IDs at all.
Fort Wayne itself has become an increasingly strange market. Until now it's been untouched by any of the big national groups -- but in this case, some national programming assistance might actually help matters. The alleged CHR station, WMEE (97.3), plays a few currents -- but, so help us, we heard them segue right from Jewel into Rick Springfield, and it wasn't an isolated incident. Meanwhile, the putative modern AC station, "Star 94", (WYSR 94.1 Roanoke/WGL-FM 102.3 Auburn, although they legal as "WYSR Fort Wayne"), sounded more active and CHR-like than WMEE most of the time. The market's lone urban station, WJFX (107.9 New Haven), now goes by "107-9 Jamz" instead of "Foxy," but is still mostly satellite-delivered. There is no college radio in Fort Wayne, so several high school stations are about it in the way of diversity -- and one of them, WJHS (91.5 Columbia City), was stuck in the 70s for much of the time we listened. Religion is all over the Fort Wayne FM dial; besides locals WLAB (88.3) and WBCL (90.3), there are translators at 89.7 for WPCS from Florida and at 103.3 for WQKO Howe (a part of KAWZ's CSN Network).
There's not much to recommend the AM dial in Fort Wayne, either. WFCV (1090) was staying on the air until 7:15, which is odd, since our search of the FCC database turns up "no controlling legal authority" (with apologies to the Vice President) authorizing them to be on past sunset. Wonder if WBAL or KAAY know or care? WHWD (1380) has shifted from satellite standards to satellite sports. WGL (1250) is all satellite talk, and WLYV (1450) is more religion.
Oh yeah, that other Fort Wayne AM: WOWO (1190) seems to be back to 50kw nights for at least a little while. Its day signal is still solid for miles and miles, and was listenable as far out as Dayton and Cincinnati. New morning guy Dave Macy was entertaining, too. After dark, there's nothing WOWO offers that would be of particular interest to distant listeners these days -- a minute of local weather once an hour, no local news, satellite-delivered talk, barter spots, and that's about it.
One more note about radio in the Fort: Just after we left, Jacor plunked down almost $4 million to buy WDFM (98.1 Defiance OH), a Fort Wayne rimshotter that now runs a sleepy AC format. NERW suspects Randy is about to make a major move on the market...we can't wait to see what happens.
From Fort Wayne, your NERW editor and our Indiana Radio Watcher colleague Blaine Thompson headed down to Cincinnati, and here's what we found on the way:
We forgot to check out 104.9 in Lima, Ohio for the new WUZZ call letters, which is too bad, since we now note that the station has applied to go back to its old WAJC calls. Other than that, Lima radio seemed unchanged from our last visit last fall. Heading south, we applauded the 24/7 live, local operation at WMVR (105.5/1080) in Sidney, and listened with puzzlement to the all-Garth Brooks stunt format on WLSN (106.5 Greenville), which has since gone to a "real" country format. Nice of Garth to do the station IDs, too...
Down I-75 a bit in Piqua, WPTW (1570) had a long noon news block complete with police blotter and, yes, the death notices.
Dayton proved to be an easy market to visit -- almost all the big stations are in just three groups. Jacor dominates the market, with standards WONE (980, and WIZE 1340 Springfield), urban WBTT (94.5 Englewood), soft AC WLQT (99.9 Kettering), modern rock WXEG (103.9 Beavercreek), rocker WTOU (104.7), and hot AC WMMX (107.7) all housed in an old warehouse building in a downtown historic district. (You can see a picture at their website, http://www.arsdayton.com/). Up for sale are the three Clear Channel stations in the market, WING (1410), CHR WGTZ (92.9 Eaton), and classic rock WING-FM (102.9 Springfield), which operate from the WING transmitter site south of town. And Cox owns not only the local newspaper and WHIO-TV (Channel 7), but also news-talk WHIO (1290), oldies WCLR (95.7 Piqua) and WZLR (95.3 Xenia), and country giant WHKO (99.1). WHIO(AM) has a strong local news committment and good local morning and afternoon news-talk blocks. WING has talk in the afternoon, too, but mornings were filled with a bunch of leased-time infomercials, oddly enough. WONE's morning show comes from Cincinnati sister station WSAI (1530). And WGTZ still uses that classic legal ID: "WGTZ, Eaton Dayton and Springfield ALIVE!"
Smaller commercial stations included urban daytimer WDAO (1210), gospel daytimer WGNZ (1110 Fairborn), and the urban duo of WROU (92.1 West Carrollton, with rap) and WRNB (96.9 Troy, with R&B oldies). There's religion on WFCJ (93.7 Miamisburg) and WEEC (100.7 Springfield), "Rebel" country on WPFB-FM (105.9 Middletown), and satellite standards on WPFB(AM) on 910.
On the noncomm end, that quirky AAA-loving side of us kicked in as we tuned in to WYSO (91.3 Yellow Springs) at Antioch University, a darned fine little station indeed. WDPS (89.5) is run by the Dayton Public Schools from 9:15 every morning until 4:30 every afternoon, when it yields to share-time religious operation WQRP. WQRP *used* to be on 88.1 in West Carrollton, but traded that signal to Dayton Public Radio, WDPR, last year. The Kettering schools had rock music playing on WKET (98.3), with some WKET programming also coming from Wilberforce and WCSU (88.9) later at night. The University of Dayton's student-run station, WGXM (98.1, with an on-campus 99.5 translator), was doing the most unusual programming of all -- 35 minutes of a CD skipping! Anyone home?
After finding a hotel with a good south-facing room where Cincinnati's FMs would be easy targets in the morning, we headed south towards Mecca; in this case, the WLW (700) tower just off I-75 in Mason. This must be the most amazing nighttime view in the country, with the giant illuminated "W L W" letters stretching across the broad center section of the diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox tower.
After dinner in Cincinnati, a night in Dayton, and a morning of airchecking, it was back to Mason, WLW, and a most enjoyable visit with engineering manager Paul Jellison.
What can we say about the WLW site? We've visited, by our estimate, at least 1000 transmitter sites in the last few years. There has been none finer than WLW. The Blaw-Knox stick is as impressive by day as by night, but that's just the beginning of the history that lives along Tylersville Road.
The building that's now home to the Jellison family was the original transmitter and studio of WSAI radio in the 1920s, and if you look closely above the door, the faint image of the WSAI calls can still be seen. (The building closely resembles the WTIC transmitter in Avon, Connecticut, by the way).
Next door is the WLW transmitter building. Walk in the front door and you'll see four transmitters: the original, and recently-restored, 1927 Western Electric 50kw transmitter; a unique Crosley "Cathenode" transmitter, designed for high-fidelity (but low-efficiency) operation and later converted to a more traditional design; the current Harris DX50; and the 1975-vintage Continental 317 that's now a backup.
Walled off in a back room is the true gem: the one-of-a-kind 500kw transmitter that was a joint project of GE, Westinghouse, and RCA in the 1930s. It's no longer in working condition, alas, but it's still a monumental sight at a room-filling 54 feet long and 15 feet high. It was water-cooled, and the cooling pond still sits out front.
Jim Hawkins has done a better job than I ever could at picturing this magnificent piece of history; visit his page and you'll be planning your own trip to southwest Ohio!
(Many thanks to Paul Jellison for his gracious hospitality; he spent more than an hour showing us everything from the bomb shelter downstairs to the STL equipment hiding in a lead-lined cabinet of the old 500kw monster.)
From WLW, it was off to see the rest of the market, starting in Kentucky at WLW sister station WKRC (550), with five broadly-spaced towers just off route 9. Northern Kentucky seems to be a hotbed of the "Americana" format (imagine AAA crossed with country), and WNKU (89.7 Highland Heights) was on the radio in the rental car for several hours with just that very mix of music. Also on the Kentucky side were WCVG (1320 Covington), in an inconspicuous location behind a strip mall; WSAI (1530), with four towers on the southern bluffs of the Ohio River and a funky pastel-painted transmitter building; and WTSJ (1050), whose tower literally backs up to I-71/75 as it heads for the bridge back to Ohio.
We didn't spot any radio stations doing flying-turkey promotions, thankfully, but Cincinnati offered plenty of good listening. Jacor's group now spreads across three floors of a hilltop office building, including WLW, WKRC, WSAI, rocker WEBN (102.7), classic rocker WOFX (92.5), CHR WKFS (107.1 Milford, and the "Kiss" prototype for Rochester's WYSY/WMAX-FM, it seems), and hot AC WVMX (94.1). Actually, they spread out beyond the St. Gregory Street building, since WKFS and WVMX have some facilities in Jacor's Cincinnati TV building at 1906 Highland Ave., home to WKRC-TV (Channel 12) -- and to competing CHR WKRQ (101.9), which is now owned by CBS. Must be an interesting landlord-tenant relationship, indeed...
CBS also owns oldies WGRR (103.5 Hamilton) and modern AC WYLX (97.3 Lebanon), which have studios in non-Jacor buildings.
Chancellor is the Queen City's other big radio group, led off by country WUBE-FM (105.1) and hot country WYGY (96.5 Hamilton, with transmitter atop the WLW stick!). Also in that group are two sports stations, "Bob" WBOB (1160 Florence KY) and "Bob 2" WUBE (1230). (Not to be outdone, Jacor runs sports on "Homer" WCKY 1360!). And Susquehanna runs AC WRMM (98.5) and NAC WVAE (94.9 Fairfield).
Smaller - but not neglected - are urban "Wiz" WIZF (100.9 Erlanger KY), all-jazz (!) WNOP (740 Newport KY), and R&B oldies WCIN (1480).
There's plenty to keep NERW's dial spinning on the non-comm dial in Cincinnati, too -- everything from share-time community programming on WJVS and WAIF on 88.3, to standard public radio classical fare on WGUC (90.9), to great jazz on WVXU (91.7) and its X-Star network, to pop standards on WMKV (89.3, from the Maple Knoll Village nursing home in Reading!), to a whole slew of little high-school stations including WLHS (89.9 West Chester, not that they ever ID'd) and WHSS (89.5 Hamilton, which did!). WOBO (88.7 Batavia) had more adult standards, WAKW (93.3) had religion, and despite a recent report that it's now on the air, we sure didn't hear WJYC (90.1 Delhi Hills).
A few more sites of note: Most of the Cincinnati FMs and TVs are on a series of tall towers along a ridge just north of downtown, with the most notable being the WSTR-TV (Channel 64) and WGRR tower on Winton Road, which is a pre-stressed, curvy tower with a hole in the middle, similar to the WBDC (Channel 50) tower in Washington DC. WUBE (1230) is in the city's Eden Park along the Ohio River; WCKY (1360) is in the northwest part of town; and urban WCIN (1480) seems to have given up its old site, now being bulldozed for a housing development. We couldn't find its new site, supposedly along the Ronald Reagan Cross-County Parkway near I-75, but we could hear its signal, albeit not very well.
Leaving Cincinnati, we caught religion on WCNW (1560 Fairfield) and local news at 5 on WMOH (1450 Hamilton). Our return to Fort Wayne was by way of Richmond, Indiana, where WFMG ("Hits" 101.3) was playing all of Alanis Morrissette's new album, WQLK (96.1) was all country, WKBV (1490) was doing some sort of local radio-thon, and WECI (91.5) was all over the map, like good college radio should be. Heading up US 27, we passed Union City, where WTGR (97.5) rocks on long after its sister AM WBNN (1030) was deleted, and Winchester, where WZZY (98.3) was playing AC music.
The next morning, we started the long drive home to NERW-land, stopping off to grab bumper stickers in Toledo on the way. WTOD (1560) is still a simulcast of country WKKO (99.9), and the two WTOD towers flank the studios, which are also home to WRQN (93.5 Bowling Green), which has segued from 60s oldies to 70s rock oldies. Jacor dominates this market, too, and a stop at 125 South Superior Street yielded stickers for standards/sports WCWA ("Seaway" 1230), CHR WVKS (92.5), and rock WIOT (104.7). Also in the buildings, but without sitckers, are news-talk WSPD (1370) and AC WRVF (101.5). The WCWA transmitter proved to be an undistinguished little stick next to the railroad tracks southeast of downtown, and the final stop was out in the town of Oregon, where the four towers of WLQR (1470, all-sports) surround the studio buildings of WLQR, hot AC WWWM (105.5 Sylvania), and rock WXKR (94.5 Port Clinton). From there, it was back to I-280, the Ohio Turnpike...and the long drive home.
We missed the call change in Cleveland, where Radio Disney's WMIH (1260) is now WWMK, but we did stop for dinner near Ashtabula to marvel at the live, local oldies programming on the amazingly directional (just listen to the phasing on I-90 west of the transmitter!) WFUN 970, "Fun Radio." And if WVCC (101.7 Linesville PA) had actually run a legal ID instead of dead air before the network news, we'd now have a complete set of legal IDs from that area.
And we'll close this out by returning to the region, where the NERW-mobile came to rest for a few minutes in the Buffalo area, in hopes of watching WNEQ (Channel 23) sign off at 11 PM, as they'd been doing. Alas, it was not to be -- as WNEQ slowly grinds towards its eventual sale to Sinclair, it's stopped doing its own prime-time programming. It now seems to sign on mid-afternoon, run separately from WNED-TV (Channel 17) for a few hours, then simulcast WNED prime-time and sign off sometime around midnight. We didn't stick around to wait for it.
That's it for this huge double issue. Next week, we'll return to a more manageable size, for one week, and then we'll offer our traditional two-part Year in Review issues. Look for them around December 25, 1998, and January 1, 1999.