From our narrow Northeast broadcasting perspective, this has just one immediate effect: assuming all the appropriate regulatory approvals, it creates Boston's first TV duopoly, pairing CBS' WBZ (Ch. 4) with Viacom's WSBK (Channel 38, and its Providence LMA, WLWC 28 New Bedford). The rumors are already aswirl about what a duopolized channel 38 could look like, especially if (as expected), CBS/Viacom is forced to spin off the UPN network. Could the market see a return of "WBZ News 4 on TV 38"? (And what of Detroit, where CBS's WWJ-TV has no news department, but Viacom's WKBD is the company's only station that still has nightly news?)
As with all the big deals, we'll be following this one closely, with updates to follow as required.
Up in Pomfret, the Pomfret School has call letters to go with its new 91.1 CP: "WBVC."
Connecticut Public Radio has signed on its newest outlet, albeit not one in Connecticut. WRLI (91.3 Southampton) brings the sounds of CPR to the East End of Long Island, which is probably only fair, considering how well WPBX (88.3 Southampton) gets into southeastern Connecticut.
Marc Bramhall checked in to let us know where to find NFL action on the dial around Hartford this fall: The Jets appear on WCCC (106.9/1290), the Giants on WPOP (1410), and the not-moving-to-Hartford Patriots still get a radio presence (this season, anyway!) on WZMX (93.7).
Bruce Elving's FMedia! showed up in the NERW mailbox today, bearing word of a "Free Radio Rhode Island," supposedly operating on 87.9 with a kilowatt of power (!) into a two-bay circular-polarized antenna some 150 feet in the air, and parroting the by-now-tiresome line about "providing a powerful voice to oppressed minorities and opinions that the mainstream media won't give time to." More to the point, how about the massive interference such an operation would provide to local channel 6 (WLNE New Bedford), not to mention first-adjacent WELH (88.1 Providence), whose Spanish-language programming would, NERW suspects, serve just those same oppressed minorities, etc. Anybody actually heard "FRRI" on the air? Yeah, thought as much...
Established talker WRKO (680) isn't taking all this lying down -- it's bolstering its local identity by dropping Metro Networks news service to return to in-house news, led by market veteran Rod Fritz. He's coming back from exile in the land of PR to head up a morning news block to replace the Jeff Katz/Darlene McCarthy show. We also hear Andy Moes and Lori Kramer will have roles to play in 'RKO's latest reincarnation.
A big congratulations goes out to the folks at WBZ (1030) for their second Marconi award as "News/Talk/Sports Station of the Year." Your editor was part of the team that won said award in 1995; a repeat performance just four years later is most impressive -- nice work (and we hope there'll be more jackets this year!)
Speaking of 'BZ, Channel 4 entertainment guru Joyce Kulhawik will get to reprise her "Siskel & Ebert" co-hosting duties on the renamed "Roger Ebert and the Movies" next season; she's been picked as part of a rotating series of co-hosts. Thumbs way up!
Down in New Bedford, WBSM/WFHN GM Wayne Leland gets a promotion, becoming chief operating officer of parent company Spring Broadcasting.
Over in Worcester, the "Twin Towers of Talk" have a new identity, as "Extreme Talk 1310 & 940 - The Raven." Listen closely at the top of the hour and you'll still hear the legals as WORC Worcester and WGFP Webster...
And Brockton's WMSX (1410) was off the air for a few days with transmitter power-supply problems, but is now back in action.
A much earlier era of WKBR's history was commemorated last month at the old Front Street (in Manchester itself!) studios -- and you can see some of the fun, thanks to Ed Brouder's Man from Mars Web site.
We're told $1.6 million is the price tag on Steve Mindich's purchase of WNHQ (92.1 Peterborough); no word yet on when this one will become a WFNX relay.
WPHX-FM (92.1 Sanford) has been granted a power boost from 1200 to 1800 watts. The antenna also drops four meters down the tower, from 160 to 156 meters.
A few staffing changes in Portland: Lori Voornas is out as morning co-host on WMGX (93.1), reportedly in a dispute over her pay. We hear she may surface across town on WJBQ (97.9)...And there's a new news director at Sinclair CBS affiliate WGME (Channel 13). Ron Wolfe comes to town from Santa Rosa, California, indie KFTY (Channel 50).
A new LPTV will soon be operating from Mount Ascutney. W17CI is the old Burlington channel 69 CP, now relocated down the dial and 60-some miles away.
New calls -- again -- for Waterbury's 103.3, which is reportedly dropping the WDOT calls it took on just a few weeks ago, in favor of WLKC (last heard in Henderson NY a year or so ago). We'd love to hear from our Central Vermont readers about what programming's actually on this transmitter now...
The FCC has dismissed Sullivan Broadcasting's application to transfer WUTV (Channel 29) Buffalo and WUHF (Channel 31) Rochester to a third party, apparently because of some missing paperwork.
Buffalo country giant WYRK (106.5) gets a new PD, as Mark Lindow comes on board from Scranton's WGGY (101.3).
We know more now about WLOF (101.7 Attica), the Catholic radio station whose calls stand for "our Lady Of Fatima." It's being operated by a Buffalo-based Catholic radio group, and programming comes mostly from EWTN in Alabama. The station (which is still legalling with the old WXOX calls, by the way) has been granted a CP to jump from 1250 to 3600 watts, with the extra power going into a directional array pointed right at the south side of Buffalo, just the spot where the current 101.7 signal has trouble penetrating from 30-odd miles away. Just to help matters a bit more, WLOF is using mono most of the day instead of stereo.
Lancaster's WXRL has been granted a power boost, going from the current 2400 day/2500 night to 5000 day/2500 night, different directional patterns.
Family Life Radio's application for an 89.3 Grand Island translator (for WCOU Warsaw) has been restored to pending status.
In Rochester, some big changes are in the works at CBS's cluster, as John MacCrae moves down the Thruway from Syracuse's WAQX (95.7 Manlius) to take over PD reins at WCMF (96.5). He replaces Rick MacKenzie, who stays on the 17th floor but focuses on modern AC WZNE (94.1). The first step in breathing some life into the Zone? A new morning team -- and one that Boston listeners would recognize. After a brief interlude in Connecticut, Karlson and McKenzie (NOT Rick!) began their new Zone gig Thursday morning. First caller? A guy who told them to "shut up and play more music" (!)
The duo were last at WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence-Boston), until the "Eagle" folded its wings and became "Star" last spring; the demo CD Zone sent out to local media was made up entirely of bits from the old WEGQ show.
Clarke Ingram, lately PD of WPXY (97.9), has rebounded nicely after departing the CBS group: he starts his new gig next week as PD of Pittsburgh jammin' oldies WJJJ (104.7). He'll also be on-air back in his hometown; that part of the job starts September 20.
One more Rochester note: We hear the FCC will be on hand to listen when "WOOO" fires up at SUNY Brockport Saturday night on 91.9. So will we. (And hey, FCC, while you're listening up here: Bet you $50 you won't hear a legal ID on WBER 90.5 -- check it out!)
Down to greater Elmira for a moment, to note a call change at WGMF (1490) in Watkins Glen. The little AM is shedding the only calls it's ever had (they date back to the old AM 1500 daytime days and stand for "Watkins Glen - Montour Falls") in favor of WBZD, which apparently stands for nothing in particular. A field trip to the Glen will no doubt follow to check this one out...
(As long as we're down that way, two call changes across the Pennsylvania line: WHGL 1310 in Troy changes to WTZN, and we suspect an end to the simulcast with FM 100.3 in the process; and in the Williamsport market, WHTO 93.3 Muncy has dropped the hits and "Hot 93" to go oldies as WBZD-FM -- and yes, it's co-owned with the new WBZD(AM) up in Watkins Glen. Call warehousing, perhaps?)
Near Ithaca, the Grace Christian School applies for an 88.1 translator at Groton to relay WOTJ Morehead City NC, which we're sure has plenty of local service to provide to central New York.
Binghamton's "Lite 102" wants to change city of license. WLTB (101.7 Owego) has filed a petition for rulemaking to move that allocation to Johnson City, which would allow WLTB to move its transmitter a few miles east into Binghamton. Not a bad idea, probably (and especially if WLTB drops its 102.5 translator in the process) -- but there's still something a bit unnerving about seeing the amount of lawyerly effort expended on proving that Johnson City deserves its "first local aural service" when it's blanketed by something like 20 Binghamton-area signals, and WLTB would offer not one iota of additional local content to Johnson City in particular. Hello, FCC? It's 1999. Time to change the COL rules already...
(Speaking of COL-related rants: We humbly acknowledge our Catskills geography was a bit at fault last issue. Narrowsburg, which we still think doesn't need an FM allocation, is in fact in the *western* -- even southern, depending on who's asking -- part of the range, not the northern Catskills. OK?)
Up north: Canton's WVNC (96.7) ended the stunting on September 1 to become "the all-new Valley 96.7," adding 70s tunes to its 80s-90s AC mix. Jim Hill and Bob LaRue handle mornings for the station, which is now under Tim Martz' ownership. Martz is also buying the CP for WAZV (96.1 Norwood) from Syracuse engineer Sinan Mimaroglu for a reported $500,000. The new station (with an application pending to boost the current 6kw CP to 25kw) is expected on the air around New Year's Day.
Two more power boosts: WNCQ-FM (102.9 Morristown) doubles from 2400 watts to 4800, while WTOJ (103.1 Carthage) jumps from 870 watts to 1800.
St. Lawrence University has been granted a new translator for WSLU (89.5 Canton). W201CB will be on 88.1 in Lowville (rhymes with Cow-ville, if you're keeping track!)
WSLK (106.3 Saranac Lake) has applied for an on-channel booster to help its signal reach nearby Lake Placid.
We note another city-of-license application: WPTZ (Channel 5) wants to drop the pointless "North Pole" city of license in favor of the realistic "Plattsburgh." The notice of proposed rulemaking is a hoot to read; the FCC seems to actually admit its rules are silly in acknowledging that the only thing at "North Pole" is the seasonal "Santa's Workshop" tourist trap -- er, attraction.
Did the sparsely-populated area north of Glens Falls need another religious translator? Probably not, which is all the reason Bible Broadcasting Network needed to stick W214AX (90.7) on the air with a whopping 250 watts in Pottersville. (Where's George Bailey when you really need him?)
September 6 was the scheduled date for Schenectady's WMHQ (Channel 45) to return to commercial status as WB affilate WEWB -- and sure enough, Albany bureau chief Gavin Burt just checked in to report that change has taken place.
Down in the Hudson Valley, WEOK (1390 Poughkeepsie) and WALL (1340 Middletown) have resurfaced as "News Talk 13." Programming includes local guy Larry Hughes in the morning, Rush, "Dr." Laura, ESPN Radio overnights, and New York Giants football. As for WEOK's old standards format, we hear it will resurface in leased-time form on WHVW (950) up in Hyde Park.
While the Big Apple awaits the change to talk at WNEW (102.7), there IS a format change of sorts to report at WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ), as "Caliente" cools down to a "Latinomix" format of Dominican and Puerto Rican hits and ballads. And on the TV side, WNYW (Channel 5) has been granted a license to cover for WNYW-DT (Channel 44). (Hmm...NERW wonders if the change of ownership down in Atlanta on WFOX(FM) could mean Rupert could finally grab the calls for his Fox TV New York O&O?)
A special-event station in Toronto will reappear this November on 106.3. "Jump FM," which we heard faintly during our CBL-signoff visit in June, is aimed at an aboriginal audience and is looking for staffers for this fall.
Out in Quebec, say goodbye to CKRN (1400) Rouyn-Noranda and CKVD (900) Val d'Or. They move to FM as part of a new "Go-FM" network with the calls CHGO. Val d'Or is the primary at 104.3; CHGO-FM-1 is at 95.7 in Rouyn-Noranda; and CHGO-FM-2 replaces CKLS on 102.1 in La Sarre. In addition, the network has been granted 104.9 in Mirabel as CHGO-FM-3.
And this just in: We hear Shaw is buying Power Broadcasting, which gives the company a huge group of small-town radio and TV stations in markets like Peterborough, Kingston, Barrie, and more. We'll have details on this one next week...
And so we arrive at the travelogue portion of our NERW: We took off from Rochester last Thursday, heading for the National Radio Club convention in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and this is what we saw and heard:
Our first stop was in the Erie market, as we finally caught a real legal on little WEYZ (1530 North East). A drive to the transmitter site found the studios of non-co-owned WRKT (100.9 North East) and WRTS (103.7 Erie), complete with mock road signs for "I 101" and "US 104" lining the dirt road down to the building.
Heading south, we passed Titusville and little satellite-fed WTIV (1230), en route to the Oil City-Franklin market. It's all co-owned now, with WOYL (1340/98.5) and WKQW (1120/96.3) sharing space in the Franklin studios of WFRA (1450/99.3). Each frequency does its own thing, but all were sat-fed that afternoon, with 1120 doing '50s oldies, 1340 doing talk (Dr. Dean Edell and the Dolans), 1450 doing standards, 96.3 doing oldies, 98.5 country "the Well", and 99.3 with AC. The WKQW transmitters are on a hill southeast of town, while WOYL's directional (on 1340!) array sits above the old studios due south of downtown. We tried to get to the WFRA(AM) site, but ended up on a dead-end dirt road behind a trailer park and gave up.
Crossing I-79, we headed for New Castle as night set in, arriving in time to see the two towers of WKST (1280), with the studios of WKST-FM (92.1 Ellwood City) there as well, and the four-in-a-row of WBZY (1200) high above route 60 west of town, too. Lots of high school sports on WKST, while WBZY had satellite oldies.
Down PA 60 we drove, arriving in Beaver Falls to see WBVP (1230) and WAMO-FM (106.7) a few minutes after sunset. Also noted here was local religious WITX on 90.9.
Thursday night found us in Pittsburgh, awaiting a Friday-morning appointment with history at the transmitter site of KDKA-TV (Channel 2). DuMont historian (and new WJJJ PD) Clarke Ingram has been corresponding with KDKA-TV CE George Jacob, and the outcome was two hours spent perusing the original transmitter logbooks from the pioneering days of what was then WDTV, Channel 3. You can soon read more about what we found at Clarke's DuMont tribute site.
Leaving the KDKA-TV site, we headed south for Morgantown, West Virginia, where we saw the sites of WAJR (1440) and WCLG (1300/100.1). Morgantown is at the north end of the market where we would spend the rest of Labor Day weekend, and as we headed south toward its center at Clarksburg, we stopped by the Fairmont studios of WTCS (1490) and WRLF (94.3), which also supply LMA'd WMMN (920).
We arrived in Bridgeport accompanied by the sounds of convention station WNRC on 1610, masterfully programmed by club members with automated oldies, news, and weather all weekend.
The rest of the market sounded kinda like this:
Needless to say, most of the airchecks rolled on this trip were "legal ID only"! We did visit some of the transmitters and studio sites on Saturday, though finding some was tough (WOBG was a laser-printed sign attached to a disreputable-looking doorway next to a NASCAR memorabilia sign on the old bypassed highway east of town; WDCI was in a trailer next to the tower on a hill north of town).
There are four TV stations in the market, with NBC represented by Clarksburg's WBOY-TV 12, CBS coming from 30 miles south in Weston and WDTV 5 (albeit with studios right in Bridgeport, just down the street from the convention hotel), Fox on Clarksburg's WVFX 46, and PBS on WNPB-TV 24 Morgantown (one of three West Virginia Public TV outlets, each with its own studios and management, yet running a common schedule and IDs). Cable offers Pittsburgh's affiliates as well.
Sunday found us heading north again, with a stop for lunch in Pittsburgh, then a drive east on the old Lincoln Highway towards Johnstown, where nightfall found us at the WJAC-850 nine-tower array south of town.
On Labor Day morning, we saw the rest of what Johnstown had to offer, beginning with the studios of WJAC and WKYE (95.5) next to a shopping mall and the nearby, historic-looking, facility of WJAC-TV 6. We couldn't get to the mountaintop site of WJAC-TV/WKYE (and also WGLU 92.1 and WQEJ 89.7). We did see the lone stick of WCRO 1230, now running satellite standards and owned by the city school district, as well as the stick of news-talk WNTJ 1490, just down the road from the tall tower of sister country outlet WMTZ "The Mountain" 96.5. (The two used to be WJNL AM-FM, and were co-owned with WJNL-TV 19, which also used that tall tower; it's now relocated 20 miles southwest to serve the Pittsburgh market as WNPA Jeannette.)
Speaking of TV, Altoona and Johnstown share a market, with ABC and Fox coming from a common source in Johnstown. WWCP (Channel 8) is the Fox station licensed to Johnstown, WATM (Channel 23) handles ABC from Altoona, and both share studios on Scalp Avenue in Johnstown. We watched their Sunday night newscasts, which were essentially the same show with different graphics! WJAC-TV is the NBC station for both cities, and has the honor of being western Pennsylvania's oldest TV station.
We also saw WFJY AM-FM Portage, some 15 miles north of Johnstown off US 219. These guys simulcast WFGY 98.1 Altoona.
The market as a whole:
And from there it was over the mountains towards Altoona, where the AMs were very directional and clustered towards the south end of town, starting with WFBG 1290's four towers at the studio site on Logan Blvd. These studios are now home to WFBG, WFGY "Froggy 98," WALY "Wally Oldies 104," and WMXV Hollidaysburg, which was stunting in preparation for a Tuesday-morning format change (which, alas, we had to miss!) Just to the north are the three sticks of WVAM 1430, at the hilltop site shared with the studios of WPRR 100.1. Nearby, we found the old-looking studios of WTAJ Channel 10, the CBS affiliate that used to be WFBG-TV, up the street from the studios of "Q94", the classic rock simulcast of WBXQ (94.3 Cresson) and WBRX (94.7 Patton).
Heading into downtown, we saw the studios of talker WRTA (1240), but couldn't get to the transmitter site on a hill south of downtown Altoona, so we headed north instead, to the Wopsononock Mountain site of channels 10 and 23, WPRR, WFGY, WALY, WMXV, and religious WKBS (Channel 47, relaying WPCB 40 in Greensburg). It was an impressive bunch of towers, but equally impressive was the cloud cover gathering force. As we drove down from the mountain and started north towards Tyrone (where little WTRN 1340 slid through the Pirates' ID break without ID'ing at least once!), the remnants of Hurricane Dennis caught up to us, putting an end to tower-hunting for this trip.
Before we leave Altoona, a look at that market...
So the NERW-mobile headed north on "I-99"/US 220 in the driving rain, pulling off at State College to sample radio there, which sounded like this:
It was a very live, local market, a far cry from West Virginia! The road called, though, so we pointed the NERW-mobile back up US 220 towards Lock Haven, Avis, and Williamsport (where we heard WLYC 1050 not legalling again, although the Liberty Works network heard on WLYC runs a Talk America-style group legal at :50 that did not include WLYC!)
From there, it was the usual long drive up US 15, NY 17, and I-390 to home.
One final note before we go this week: We were saddened to learn of the passing September 1 of Bill Pfeiffer, the creator and moderator of rec.radio.broadcasting/AIRWAVES Radio Journal. It was back in 1991, at the birth of r.r.b., that a college student in Boston began contributing local items to Bill, who always welcomed them with the same respect and professionalism with which he greeted items from "big-time" industry folks like Rich Wood and Mark Howell.
As I moved ahead in my career, Bill was always there at the other end of the e-mail, offering advice, humor, and sometimes a dissenting (but always civil) viewpoint. In the last year or so, we crossed ways a bit when it came to distribution of NERW -- but always in a friendly fashion, ending with a solution we could both agree upon. We corresponded almost daily for eight years, and though we never met in person, and talked by phone maybe half a dozen times in all those years, the news of Bill's death in a crash caused by a drunk driver came with as much of a jolt as the loss of a close local friend would have.
Bill was a staunch crusader for local radio, and even though his own career in the field was spotty at best, I'd like to think he inspired a lot of us to strive for the kind of radio he loved best. He died far too young, just a few months shy of his long-awaited marriage, and just three years after the death of his beloved mother following a tragic fire in their home in Missouri.
Bill Pfeiffer leaves a void in the on-line radio community that won't soon be filled. So long, friend...hope there's a dozen live, local stations on the dial where you are now.
That's it for this week. We'll be back next Friday...