We've watched over the last few years as Clear Channel entered the Northeast, starting in New Haven, adding Radio Equity Partners' Springfield and Providence operations, buying TV in Albany and Providence, bursting into Albany and Utica with the purchase of Dame Media, then Rochester with the purchase of Jacor and Syracuse through a station swap with Cox. Meantime, AMFM slowly assembled itself through various Hicks, Muse-controlled entities, including Chancellor (which built groups in Boston through the purchase of Evergreen and in New York City through a series of acquisitions), Capstar (which first entered the region by buying Commodore Media in the New York suburbs, then swallowed Knight Quality Group, yielding stations from Burlington to Worcester, followed by SFX's Providence, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven, Long Island and Albany stations), and several TV groups.
Now the two are coming together in a $56 billion merger (which might have been a big story in the business press if it hadn't been overshadowed by the even bigger MCI WorldCom-Sprint conglomeration), which will create an 830 station group and spin off nearly a hundred more.
Here's how NERW-land will be affected, market by market:
It goes without saying that we'll be following this whole mess as it makes its way through Justice and the FCC, and, if it's approved, as all the format and call changes take place. Stay tuned -- if you can stand it!
Vox already owns WKXL (1450/102.3) in Concord, and the word is that WKXL-FM and WNHI will share a (country?) music format once the deal closes. The news-talk format of WKXL(AM) will be simulcast on WRCI, replacing the classic rock-and-Imus "I-station" simulcast that station now shares with WNHI. WJYY's CHR won't be affected, at least for now. All the stations will somehow squeeze into WKXL's Redington Road facility.
(And keep in mind that the only other major Concord station was also sold this year, as WNNH Henniker changes hands from Clark Smidt to Tele-Media...)
Congratulations to New Hampshire Public Radio talk host Laura Knoy; the former NPR reporter became a mother this week, and we hear both mother and child are doing just fine.
Boston listeners have been enjoying the rarely-heard "all-dead-air" format on WCAV (97.7 Brockton), which is apparently making a very slow transition from KJI Broadcasting's country format to Radio One and urban. WCAV staple "Ed the Detective" stays with KJI, moving his country oldies show to WBET (1460 Brockton) on Saturdays from 2-4.
That loud squeal you're hearing from Worcester is the air brakes on "The Bus" as it's parked for good. WORC-FM (98.9 Spencer) dumps the classic rock for "Greatest Hits of the 70s, 80s, and 60s," with former WEGQ PD at the helm (and handling afternoons) and Jay Bailey coming across the hall from WXLO to do mornings. Speaking of mornings, Mancow Muller is now being heard in Worcester via WORC (1310) and WGFP (940 Webster). He's big in the Midwest; will he work on two little AM stations in New England? One last beit of late Worcester news: we hear Paul Tuthill is leaving his post as WTAG (580)'s news director after 17 years.
So, let's say you're the established talk station in a major market, with almost two decades in the format. And let's say you're suddenly facing competition from a new FM talker. How do you respond? Well, if you're WRKO (680), you shuffle your already-confused local talk lineup again! Facing off against Don Imus on WTKK (96.9) (those calls became official for the former WSJZ this week, by the way), WRKO now offers the morning team of Andy Moes (ex-WROR, WEEI, etc) and Peter Blute (ex-state government by way of an incident with a scantily-clad young woman, a boat, and Boston Harbor). Blute and Moes replace the ill-fated morning team of Jeff Katz (now benched with 15 months left on his WRKO contract) and Darlene McCarthy, who's rumored to be heading to nights on 'RKO in a revived "Two Chicks Dishing" show with ex-Chick Lori Kramer. Down the hall at 116 Huntington, WQSX (93.7 Lawrence) names night guy Danny Meyers music director.
Over at Greater Media, WROR (105.7 Framingham) PD Harry Nelson is edging his way out of the building, en route to a new career consulting. Former WWBB/WWRX Providence GM Matt Chase is now running the sales department at 'ROR, which adds "Rockin'" to its "Hits of the 60s and 70s" nickname.
It's not easy to rack up a 56-year career in radio, but that's just what Gus Saunders managed to do. At WMEX, the Yankee Network, and for the last 22 years at Carter Broadcasting's WROL, Saunders became one of New England's longest-running radio personalities -- but Friday, October 1, marked his last "Yankee Kitchen" show on WROL and a New England network. Congratulations to one of the few radio guys who managed to go out his way, in style...
And we leave the Bay State with a belated obituary for Ruth Clenott, who died Sept. 14. Clenott was Dave Maynard's producer at WBZ (1030) and WBZ-TV (4) for decades, starting with "Community Auditions" in the fifties, and continuing in recent years with the annual WBZ Farmstand.
Some belated notes from Connecticut Public Radio: Storrs translator W258AC (99.5) signed on July 8, with some help from tower-mate WHUS (91.7) at UConn. A month later (Aug. 7), CPR turned on WRLI (91.3 Southampton NY) on the East End of Long Island, this time with help from WPBX (88.3) in Southampton.
Clear Channel is doing the format shuffle in Albany, as modern rock migrates from "The Edge" (WQBK 103.9 Rensselaer/WQBJ 103.5 Cobleskill) down the dial to the former home of smooth jazz, WHRL (103.1 Albany). That station flipped to "Channel 103.1, the new music alternative" just before midnight October 1, filling the void created a week earlier when the Edge stations switched to active rock as "Rock Radio, 103.5/103.9 the Edge." (NERW detects shades of the Rochester format change in January that moved then-Jacor-owned WNVE from modern to active rock). WQBJ/QBK PD Rod Ryan adds WHRL to his portfolio, with Edge middayer Jason Keller moving over to mornings at WHRL.
William Walker is selling his newest station, WWHW (102.1 Jeffersonville). The little station-without-a-format goes to DeWit Broadcasting, which has been buying big just across the state line in Honesdale and Hawley, Pennsylvania (it owns the entire market, which consists of Honesdale's WDNH and WWCC and Hawley's WYCY).
The radio-news wars are heating up in Rochester, albeit in a very 90s way, as WYSL (1040 Avon) dumps its CNN Headline News simulcast to pick up AP All News Radio -- and a whole bunch of liners proclaiming it to be "Rochester's only all-news station." We suppose that doesn't sit too well at Clear Channel's big gun, WHAM (1180), which can at least tout one street reporter to WYSL's, um, zero. (Local news on WYSL, for the most part, comes from simulcasts and headlines from WOKR(TV)'s newsroom).
There's a nomenclature fight brewing between Rochester's oldies stations, as Entercom's WBBF (98.9) has been heard calling itself "Cool 99," which must come as a surprise to Clear Channel's rhythmic oldies WLCL (107.3 S. Bristol), aka "Cool 107.3." 'BBF is also doing some jock swapping, moving Ellis B. Feaster to afternoons and Mike Vickers to mornings. (We've been enjoying listening to the live-and-local Feaster twitting WLCL's voicetracked automation...)
On the TV dial, we hear WBGT-LP (Channel 40) will soon add its long-awaited second transmitter in the Rochester area. Channel 26 from Baker Hill in Perinton will bring "Big TV" and its UPN programming to the east side of town by mid-October (Just in time, if we're real lucky, to tune in the last episode of "Shasta McNasty.")
Buffalo's WIVB-TV (Channel 4) is in the midst of a union battle, as owner LIN Broadcasting locks out 31 union engineers. Non-union replacements have been brought in at 2077 Elmwood for the time being. It was just last year that a lengthy union spat at WGRZ (Channel 2) ended with the decertification of that Gannett station's union.
On the LPTV front, TCT and TBN religious programming return to the antennas of Buffalo viewers with the arrival of W15BH, which relays WNYB (Channel 26) from Jamestown. WNYB's programming used to be on Buffalo's Channel 49, before a swap two years ago flipped 49 to the WB and WNYO-TV. WNYB is also seen in Rochester via W59BV.
If you want to visit a brighter era of Buffalo broadcast history, stop by the new Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers site. Sounds, pictures, even the story of a UHF station we never knew existed (are you listening, Clarke Ingram?) -- it's all there and worth a visit. Also of note is a comprehensive site on radio history north of the border. We stumbled on the Canadian Communications Foundation site by accident, only to spend an hour or so caught up in the tales of long-gone Canadian stations.
Just over the state line in Erie, Pennsylvania (a market nobody seems to cover much; perhaps we'll add that to our regular NERW coverage), WFLP (1330) changes calls to WFNN. We're guessing the sports station is now calling itself "The Fan," and we'll find out for sure when we head that way again in a few weeks.
Does a town of 684 people need an FM allocation? RJ Broadcasting says Canaseraga does, and the FCC seems to agree. RJ challenged the proposal to allot 97.1A to Wellsville, and the result was that both communities will end up with pointless new allocations. The 97.1 goes to Canaseraga (near Dansville and Hornell, some 60 miles south of Rochester), while Wellsville (already home to an AM/FM combo) gets 93.5A instead. Those with long memories will recall that Wellsville's WJQZ used to be on 93.5 before moving to 103.5. (The FCC notes in its ruling that Canaseraga -- which, you'll recall, has fewer than 700 people -- is already served by at least 15 radio signals, whilst Wellsville gets at least 20.)
We'd use this as yet another rallying call against the inanity of the current COL rules, if it weren't for an even better case. We give you a ruling involving WPLY (100.3) in Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb (at least in the world you and I inhabit) of Philadelphia. "Y100" is short-spaced to co-channel WHTZ in the New York market, and is thus hampered by a tower site 15 miles west of Philadelphia. To rectify the situation, WPLY asked the FCC for permission to move to the Roxborough tower farm shared by most of Philly's FMs, stating that any short-spacing to WHTZ would be countered by a reduction of interference to other stations in the area (WQIC 100.1 Lebanon, WBIG 100.3 Washington DC, etc), not to mention the additional service WPLY could provide to people driving near Roxborough, whose car radios overload from the strong signals there and thus cannot hear WPLY.
But COL rules being what they are, the FCC had little choice but to deny the application. Why? Seems the interference doesn't actually affect anyone in Media -- and after all, WPLY is a Media station, not a Philadelphia station. WPLY countered, logically enough, by pointing out that if it were really meant to serve only Media, why would it have a class B allocation instead of an A? But logic and reality are, as we know, no match for the power of an obsolete allocations scheme and an entrenched bureaucracy, so for the time being, commuters on the Schuylkill Expressway are safe from the sounds of Media's own Y100 as they head to work.
If the US can overbuild a radio market, so can Canada, it seems -- at least, if Hamilton is any guide. The CRTC will hold hearings December 6 on three applications for a new station at 94.7. Douglas Kirk and Rae Roe's proposal for a smooth jazz station will battle proposals from Newcap and from Affinity, which already owns much of the market. (Hey, Canada, isn't that just a *bit* close to Buffalo's grandfathered super-power WNED-FM at 94.5?)
After 40 years in Toronto radio, Don Daynard is calling it quits. December 10 will be the last morning for CHFI (98.1)'s top-rated jock. No word yet on a replacement...
Up in Ottawa, Rogers has completed its takeover of CHEZ (106.1), complete with a change of morning show. Jim Hurcomb, John Rogers, and Dave Brown are out, replaced by Don Halen, Connie Bernardi, and Randall Moore from crosstown CKQB (106.9 The Bear). Danny Kingsbury comes from stints at CFNY and Q107 in Toronto to become CHEZ PD, while former PD Steve Colwell moves to sister station CFMO (101.1 Smiths Falls). The Smiths Falls AM station, CJET (630), will reportedly try to move to FM sometime next year (there's an open 92.3A allocation there).
Also making changes in Ottawa are the CHUM Group stations (CFRA/CKKL), which add the former Rawlco pair of CFGO and CJMJ. Rawlco GM Diane Wilson exits to head up the Ottawa Senators Charity Fund, while all the sports programming from CFRA (580) heads up the dial to "OSR 1200" (CFGO). CFRA becomes all news and talk as a result. CFGO and CJMJ leave their Carling Road studios for CFRA's Walkley Road digs, at least for now -- but all four stations will consolidate with CHRO-TV in Ottawa's Byward Market early next year.
Over in Montreal, there's some question about where the Expos will land next year. The team's English broadcasts had been heard on CIQC (600), but with that station's upcoming move to 940 and an all-news format, management wasn't interested. CJAD (800) looks to be the leading contender for next season's Expos action in English, with CKAC (730) remaining the French flagship.
And there could soon be a new FM station in Saint John, New Brunswick. The CRTC has received one application and is calling for more; a check of the database shows an open commercial allocation at 88.9C, along with unused allocations for the CBC at 88.1 and for an educational outlet at 90.1.
That's it for this week; we'll be back next Friday with more tales of Northeast radio, and we hope you'll be there as well. See you then!