North East RadioWatch: November 19, 1999

TV Duopoly Arrives in N.Y.

by Scott Fybush

One more late-breaking DX note: X-band fans out there may want to check out 1660 kHz Saturday night (11/20) after midnight ET for a four-hour DX test from WMIB (1660) from Marco Island, Florida. Word has it they'll be playing '60s music with the full 10-kilowatt daytime power.

Which brings us to the second portion of our travelogue from the Seattle/Vancouver/Victoria trip, in which we head north from Seattle to British Columbia...

First, though, we stopped for the night in Bellingham, about 90 minutes north of Seattle. All five commercial stations in town are now under common ownership -- news-talk KGMI (790), country KIXT (930), talk-sports KPUG (1170), "Independent Rock" KISM (92.9), and soft AC KAFE (104.3). The city can also hear two music AMs from Mount Vernon, to the south: co-owned country KAPS (660) and oldies KBRC (1430). On the non-comm side, there's KUGS (89.3) at Western Washington University and KZAZ (91.7), the local public radio outlet affiliated with Washington State University's Pullman-based network.

There are also two unusual TV operations in Bellingham. KVOS (Channel 12) used to be a CBS affiliate, but is now an independent serving a primarily Canadian audience. KBCB (Channel 24) runs infomercials and multilingual programming from the International Channel.

The few miles between Bellingham and the border are occupied solely by religious stations aimed north at Vancouver. KCCF (1550) in Ferndale, KLYN (106.5) in Lyndon, and KARI (550) in the border town of Blaine are all pointed were we.

Crossing the border put us in the land of Vancouver's AM transmitters, which, like all good Canadian AMs, are located south of town and aimed north. Spread out through the communities of Delta and Richmond are the directional arrays of CKBD (600, standards), CISL (650, oldies), CBU (690, CBC Radio One, with towers right on the water's edge), CKLG (730, hot AC "LG-73"), CKST (1040, standards), CKWX (1130, all news), CHMB (1320, Chinese), CFUN (1410, talk), and CJVB (1470, Chinese). The only Vancouver-area AMs that aren't in this cluster are news-talk CKNW (980), with transmitter out in Surrey, to the west, and CKMA (850, oldies) way out west in Abbotsford.

We didn't see any of the Vancouver TV or FM sites, since they're clustered on Mount Seymour northeast of town, but we sure heard them. The FM dial sounded like this:

What's more noteworthy in Vancouver is a very mixed-up TV dial, the result of all the mergers and swaps in Canadian broadcasting in recent years. The only stations not facing changes in the near future are the CBC's outlets, CBUT (Channel 2) in English and CBUFT (Channel 26) in French. CTV programming, at least for now, is shared by two stations owned by WIC (Western International Communications); Vancouver-based "BCTV" (CHAN Channel 8) and Victoria-based CHEK (Channel 6, whose logo is -- surprise -- a check mark!). But CTV actually owns a different Vancouver station, independent "VTV" (CIVT Channel 32), which went on the air a few years ago under Baton ownership before Baton bought out the CTV network. Finally, there's Global's Vancouver outlet, the former independent CKVU (Channel 10). But with Global's parent company, CanWest Global, acquiring most of WIC's TV properties (including BCTV and CHEK), something will have to be spun off. Logic might suggest a three-way deal in which CTV sells off VTV and acquires CHEK and BCTV, and might further suggest CHUM Group (which already owns CFUN and CHQM) as VTV's new owner -- but we'll just have to wait and see...

Our thanks, by the way, to the nice folks at CBC Vancouver for a tour of their very sizable facility downtown, which was built in 1976 and is now undergoing a very extensive refitting to bring it into the digital era. Many of the building's studios are leased out on a regular basis for the many US productions that now call Vancouver home.

So from Vancouver, we took the ferry across to Victoria, a beautiful European-style town whose only failing is that all its transmitters are located on inaccessible islands offshore. We could listen, though...and we heard:

This dial will change dramatically over the next year or so, as CKXM moves to 91.3, CFAX gets a modern-rock FM sister at 107.3, and just up the coast, CKAY in Duncan moves from 1500 to 89.7 FM. We also heard the stations in Nanaimo, 60 miles north: country CKEG (1570) and rocker CKWV (102.3).

The final day of the trip found us ferrying once more, south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles, Washington. As the ferry docked, we saw the tower of KONP (1450) just a block away. KONP is news and talk, while sister KIKN (1290) runs satellite country. The only FM in Port Angeles is KNWP (90.1), relaying Bellingham NPR KZAZ (91.7).

A long drive down the Olympic Peninsula in the rain took us through Shelton (home of AC KMAS on 1030) and into Olympia itself as darkness fell. We took a quick drive around town and a quick spin of the dial:

At this point, Seattle's radio scene began taking over again as we headed north towards the airport and our flight home, but there were still a few "South Sound" signals that we could hear in Tacoma but not up in Seattle:

Since it was dark, we saw no towers...just returned the rental car, headed for SeaTac airport (in the lovely city of Sea Tac, Washington!), and flew home, wrapping up an exciting (if overly damp) week in the Puget Sound. We'll be back someday!

A quick correction on last week's look at Seattle: KVI (570) is indeed a non-directional, 5-kW fulltime Class III operation, one of the very few in America. There was no second tower, no matter what we wrote!

That's it for this week...back next Friday with a turkey-stuffed look at the holiday-shortened week in NERW-land...

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