Arnold Lerner's Merrimack Valley Wireless Talking Machine Company has agreed to sell WLLH (1400 Lowell/Lawrence) to Mega Broadcasting for a reported $936,000. By early March, WLLH will drop its adult standards format (and leased-time ethnic nights and weekends) for a Spanish dance format, to be run in conjunction with Mega's WBPS (890 Dedham) and WNFT (1150 Boston).
Local English-language radio in the valley has been disappearing at a rapid clip in the last few years. The FMs in Lowell (99.5, ex-WLLH-FM, WSSH, WOAZ, and now WKLB-FM) and Lawrence (93.7, ex-WGHJ, WCCM-FM, WCGY, and now WEGQ) have been operating from Boston studios and aimed at Boston audiences for most of the 90s; Haverhill's WXRV (92.5) still operates from the old WHAV studios on How Street but targets a much broader audience; and WHAV (1490 Haverhil) and WNNW (1110 Salem) are running Spanish-language formats under the ownership of Costa-Eagle, which also runs mostly-English WCCM (800 Lawrence).
That leaves WLLH, with its synchronous transmitters in Lowell and Lawrence, and WCAP (980 Lowell) -- and soon, just WCAP, which is likely to keep going with its talk format and resist all purchase offers as long as founder Maurice Cohen lives.
The radio scene out in Southbridge is changing fast. On the FM side, WQVR (100.1) turned off its transmitter this week in preparation for a transmitter move and ownership change. The new site will put a better signal into Worcester and, we're told, come with a new format as well. There's a new format on WQVR's former AM sister station, WESO (970). PD Bruce Marshall checked in to report that WESO has switched from satellite standards to Jones' Good Times Oldies format, with a local morning show featuring Tony Powers, Marshall, and Ann Renda (formerly at WTAG). There's also a trading post show weekdays from 9-10 AM and a Saturday talk block. And while we're in Central Massachusetts, we'll note that WORC-FM (98.9) has been granted a city of license change from Webster to Spencer. Funny how the station's stated intention of "eliminating short-spacing to WPLR and WPLM-FM" also ends up putting it much closer to Worcester...
Cape Cod needs another FM allocation the way Howard Stern needs another FCC complaint...but where there's an open frequency there's sure to be an applicant or two, so the FCC added a class A allocation to Brewster this week at the request of the "Brewster Broadcasting Company" and Ernie Boch. The 94.3 channel was made possible by Boch's WXTK frequency change (to 95.1 from 94.9) last year -- and it's another case where the FCC was able to convince itself that Brewster had no "local broadcast service" even though it sits right on the edge of one of the most over-radioed markets, on a per-capita basis, in the country. Oh yeah, it's also home to the main studio of one station (WFCC) and transmitters of two (WFCC and WYST), not that that matters. Have we mentioned lately that we think the allocation rules need to be revised?
Before we leave the Cape, a note that WCDJ (102.3 Truro) has been granted yet another extension of its construction permit, still unbuilt after more than a decade. Oddly, this one wasn't marked in the FCC's daily releases with a note about the new "build it in 18 months or it dies" policy that's being applied to long-lived CPs like WCDJ.
Brockton's WCAV (97.7) has been granted a transmitter move that will put it north of town and closer to Boston.
And while we neglected to note it last week, WLVI (Channel 56) will be the new broadcast home of the Boston Red Sox for 1999. Is it time for spring training yet?
The NERW Roving Accuracy Patrol gives the Globe a free pass this week...but our teeth were gritting over February's Boston Magazine article about the selling off of local Boston businesses. Jon Marcus tries to claim that "Infinity was sold to CBS and, with it, radio stations WBZ, WBCN, WODS, and WZLX" -- which will come as a shock to anyone who was, like your editor, working at WBZ when its Pittsburgh-based owners (Westinghouse) bought Infinity (which was never based in Boston, anyway) and, later, CBS. Meantime, the article fails to mention how Boston's Rich Balsbaugh and American Radio Systems did indeed sell their stations to out-of-towners Chancellor, CBS, and Entercom...
Speaking of that FCC CP-cancellation policy, WLKW (550 Pawtucket) no longer has that long-standing CP to boost power to 5 kW-D/3.4 kW-N. They stay at 1000/500 watts, DA-N.
And we're told WKNE (1290 Keene) has dumped the oldies altogether and is now ID'ing as "News Talk 1290."
John Potter, late of Boston's WODS (103.3), has made the move to TV and Down East Maine. Starting February 15, he'll be anchoring the news on Bangor's ABC affiliate, WVII (Channel 7).
And as we'd predicted last year, WJJB (900 Brunswick) is now simulcasting the sports programming of WJAE (1440 Westbrook). Both stations use the "WJAB" calls except at the top of the hour.
WPRX (1120 Bristol) has been sold. Nievezquez Productions is paying Connecticut Communications House II $925,000 for the Spanish-tropical station.
Is "One on One Sports" about to disappear from the Hartford airwaves? The Courant reports WPOP (1410) will drop the network at month's end, possibly replacing it with a 24-hour ESPN Radio feed.
And the New Haven Register checked up on La Nueva Radio Musical in the wake of the FCC's talk of legal LPFM last week, to find that the station remains on the air at 104.5 while it awaits further rulings on LPFM. The FCC's Notice of Proposed Rule Making suggests that the agency will look much more favorably on unlicensed broadcasters who shut down right now and await legal LPFM, instead of the ones that are still on the air when it comes time to apply for LPFM licenses. We note also that 104.5 looks like it could qualify for at least 100, and possibly 1000, watts if the FCC's proposal becomes reality.
Also in the Big Apple, WWRL (1600)'s CP for 25 kilowatts has apparently been cancelled, which doesn't make sense to us here at NERW -- wasn't that why WWRL bought and silenced WQQW, WERA, and WLNG(AM)? And could this explain why something called the "Fair Communications Community" has applied for a noncommercial station of 1590 in Oakville, Connecticut? More next week...
Salvation Radio is applying for a 91.9 in Brooklyn, again.
Out on Long Island, John Thomas has departed his PD post at WBLI (106.1) over the usual "philosophical differences;" no replacement has been named yet.
Heading up the Hudson, the new WAJZ calls are in place on the former WPTR (96.3 Voorheesville). Across town, WPYX (106.5 Albany) PD Buzz Brindle checked in to let us know that his station hasn't exactly changed format to classic rock, it's just emphasizing the older stuff on the playlist. Three Albany-area FMs (WDCD-FM, WXCR, and WXLE) spent much of last Sunday off the air for tower work. Bob Grant fans in the Capital District will have to tune him on on his flagship station, WOR New York (not a diffficult task in that area) -- his show has been dropped by Albany's WROW (590) in favor of local politico Bob Schulz. And WQBK/WQBJ PD Kelli McNamara has departed for a marketing job at Underground Online in New York; no replacement has been named yet.
Dennis Jackson says the new WRIP calls on his 97.9 CP in Jewett stand for "Rip Van Winkle," the legendary inhabitant of the Hudson Valley who could have heard 97.9 if he'd only lived two centuries later. The station has applied for a chnge of COL to Windham, too.
Moving along to central New York, Bible Broadcasting has applied for WYFY as the new calls on 1450 in Rome, ex-WODZ. We'll be through that area in a few days and will be checking for an actual format change.
In Syracuse, WOLF (1490) has dropped its CP for 50-kilowatt daytime operation on 1510, and it's also switching to non-directional status on its licensed 1490 channel, now that the station it was protecting (CFRC Kingston) has been silent for more than a decade.
Up north, St. Lawrence University's public-radio arm has applied for new stations on 88.1 in Chateaugay (where WYUL 94.7 is applying to move its transmitter...more on this next week) and 91.1 in Morristown.
Rochester's Jacor "Kiss" simulcast is getting new call letters, at least on the half that will still be audible in the Flower City after Randy's Big Transmitter Shuffle later this spring. WYSY (106.7 Irondequoit) is shedding the old "Sunny" calls in favor of WKGS. No call change has been applied for at the other half, WMAX-FM 107.3 (already ID'ing with the new COL of South Bristol even though it hasn't moved), and the new calls weren't being used on the air as of Friday night. Speaking of Jacor/Rochester, it's been a week of sloppy audio all over the place -- WHAM (1180) has been working the bugs out of its new Prophet System digital audio server, leading to plenty of cut-off and miscued stagers and spots, while the remaining half of "Sunny," WISY 102.3 Canandaigua, failed to legal ID once in four hours of listening this afternoon. (The things we'll subject our sensitive NERW ears to in the name of research...)
A few more cancelled CPs: WACK (1420 Newark)'s for 730 watts at night (it remains at 500), and WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls)'s for 5000/750 watts from a new directional array.
Up across the border, Toronto's CISS (92.5) has been sold by Rawlco to Rogers, and promptly changed format late Friday (2/5) from country to CHR as "Power 92." Rogers also owns CFTR (680) and CHFI (98.1) in Toronto. NERW thinks this'll make it much easier for us to figure out which 92.5 we're hearing as we drive between Buffalo and Rochester, where the short-spaced allottments in Toronto and Rochester (WBEE-FM) clash noisily, and until now, both with country music. Toronto country lovers will have to try for Buffalo's WYRK (106.5) on the FM side or switch over to Hamilton's CHAM (820) or Oshawa's CKDO (1350) on AM. And in Cornwall, CJSS (1220) has been granted a move to FM on 101.9.
In BINGHAMTON, perennial leader WHWK jumped back into first place, followed by a sagging CHR WMRV. Rocker WAAL was flat in third, news-talk WNBF was down, and oldies WYOS was up. Among the newcomers, country WBBI and modern AC WCDW were both up...but still lingering in the lower realms of the ratings.
UTICA's ratings find country WFRG/WRUN up a bit to stay in first, followed by a sagging WLZW and mostly-flat performances for WOUR, WIBX, WSKS, and WKLL.
Up in BURLINGTON, Vermont, WOKO continued the country trend with a ratings gain to stay on top. CHR WXXX had a strong second-place finish, with WEZF flat in third. Dropping to fourth, and losing more than half its 12+ audience from Spring, was classic rock WCPV (despite the reunion of the Corm & the Coach morning show). Oldies WKOL nearly doubled its Spring numbers, followed by a rising WBTZ and a sagging WIZN.
As we head into MAINE, we find country WPOR leading the PORTLAND 12+ book, followed by a strong showing for news-talk WGAN and a flat book for classic rocker WMGX. Fuller-Jeffrey's CHR WJBQ and rocker WBLM were both down, with 'BLM dropping to fifth overall from first in the last book. Over in LEWISTON-AUBURN, though, WBLM led the pack, followed by country WTHT, WJBQ, and WPOR. Standards WLAM showed up in fifth -- but that doesn't include the simulcast with WZOU (1470 Lewiston), which, if added in, pushes the station to a tie with sister WTHT for second. Augusta-market WABK was in sixth, with Auburn-based (but Portland-focused) hot AC WMWX trailing it.
BANGOR's book finds country WQCB leading the pack, despite a drop from Spring. CHR WBZN stayed in second but also fell a bit 12+. Rising into third was talker WVOM and its new simulcast on WBYA, and dropping to fourth was rocker WKIT. Five stations all tied for fifth: standards WABI, country WBFB (with a very good book), AC WEZQ, hot AC WKSQ, and oldies WWMJ. Below them, sports-talk WZON and hot AC WWBX both posted gains from Spring.