Here's what Nassau gets for its $185 million:
While Aurora and principal Frank Washington walk away, by NERW's math, with an $88.5 million profit on their $97 million investment, it's not a bad deal for Nassau, either. That's because the Westchester and Connecticut stations go a long way towards Nassau's goal of ringing New York city with a solid chain of suburban clusters. It's something the company is already doing in New Jersey, where it dominates markets from the Jersey shore all the way through Princeton and Trenton to the Poconos to Port Jervis, New York. The only piece of the ring still missing is Long Island, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Nassau make a move there eventually.
Now comes word that Smith Broadcasting, the seller of WETM, is also selling Watertown's ABC affiliate, WWTI (Channel 50), to Ackerley. Ackerley takes over via an LMA April 1, with the deal to close later this year.
Smith keeps the Fox affiliation for Watertown, moving it from a secondary status on WWTI to primary status on two LPTVs, W25AB Watertown and W28BC Massena, both of which had been WWTI relays.
WWTI general manager Nickolas Darling will stay with Smith at the new Fox affiliate, which the Watertown Daily Times reports will be on the air by the fall.
NERW notes that WWTI is likely to join Rochester, Utica, and Binghamton's ABC stations in having most of its technical and back-office operations handled from WIXT in Syracuse, with a local newsroom and sales office remaining in Watertown.
NERW also wonders how long it will be before Ackerley finds a way to acquire the remaining ABC affiliates upstate, Albany's WTEN (whose parent Young Broadcasting is extending itself trying to afford San Francisco's KRON) and Buffalo's WKBW (owned by Granite).
Speaking of Buffalo (and vicinity), Newman Communications has been granted a CP for the 106.9 in Lakewood that it won at auction a few months back. The station will run 5200 watts from 218 meters above average terrain from a tower site just south of Jamestown (and actually across the state line in Pennsylvania). It looks to us like this will serve both Jamestown and Warren, PA.
Upstate, Craig Fox shifts calls at his "Border" CHR combo in the Watertown market. WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent) has been simulcast for the last few years on WWLF-FM (106.7 Copenhagen); now the 106.7 gets WBDI calls to match. The WWLF calls replace WKGJ on 1340 down in Auburn, fitting with 1340's Radio Disney simulcast with WOLF Syracuse and WOLF-FM Oswego. (WOLF-TV is Fox's, er, Fox network outlet licensed to Hazleton and serving the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre market; ironically, that channel 56 outlet was once known as WWLF-TV when it simulcast the original WOLF-TV on channel 38 in Scranton....)
Mike Roach checked in from the Northern New York bureau to let us know that the "Bolt in the Morning" show that's been on WRCD (101.5 Canton) since the station took on its rock format in 1998 is no more; Dave Bolt has been replaced by Don Imus.
And a follow-up on WNUC (107.7 Wethersfield) and its slight format shift to "The Bullet": Owner John Casciani tells the Buffalo News that the goal is to appeal more to young male listeners...which we guess is happening during the daylight hours when the station is live and local; the satellite service that runs nights and weekends is still heavy on Dixie Chicks and the like (not that NERW sees anything wrong with that, mind you!) WNUC's downtown Buffalo translator, W287AE (105.3), is applying to boost power from 13 watts to 90 from the Marine Midland, er, HSBC Tower.
We'll start things off in the majors, where four of the five teams in NERW-land are still with the same flagships as last year. In New York, that means WABC (770) for the Yankees and WFAN (660) for the Mets. We'd tell you more about the networks for each team (33 stations for the Yanks, 6 for the Mets), but that info is nowhere to be had on either team's Web site at the moment. On TV, the Yanks get 50 games on Fox's WNYW (Channel 5) and the rest on MSG; the Mets get 50 games on Tribune's WPIX (Channel 11) and the rest on Fox Sports NY. (And if you think it still looks weird to say "Mets" and "Channel 11" in the same sentence, join the club!) The Mets will also be heard in Spanish on WADO (1280) for 94 games.
The Red Sox radio network remains largely unchanged (though we wonder whether now-Spanish WARE in Ware is really an affiliate as claimed), with 56 affiliates and flagship WEEI (850) in Boston (though Hartford's WTIC on 1080 will continue to be the signal of preference for Sox fans outside the region). It's (pardon the expression) a whole new ballgame on the TV side, where Gene Jankowski's JCS deal is no more, replaced by a three-year deal with Fox's WFXT (Channel 25). WFXT is paying $8.7 million for rights to 67 games this year, on a network that will include WTXX in Connecticut, WLNE in Rhode Island, WPME in the Portland market, and a split between CBS affiliate WABI-TV and low-power WBGR in Bangor. Vermonters will see the Sox on low-power WBVT, while fans in western Massachusetts will need cable or a good line of sight to Connecticut. NESN, which is half-owned by the Sox, will do 85 home games again this year.
On the Canadian side, no changes in the Blue Jays' network of 30 stations fed from CHUM (1050) in Toronto (with CHML 900 in Hamilton still the DX'ers choice for hearing the Jays) or in the split of rights between CTV Sportsnet and TSN (which is being bought by CTV anyway) on the TV side.
And then there are the Expos...who can't even seem to give away their broadcasting rights for free. Late word out of Montreal is that CKAC (730) is close to a deal to carry the team's games in French, but there's still no resolution with potential English outlet CJAD (800). No TV for the Expos, either.
Down in the minors, here's how things look heading for Opening Day:
In the International League, status quo reigns: Buffalo Bisons' games will interrupt the CHR simulcast on WWKB (1520); the Rochester Red Wings' weekday games will be heard on WHTK (1280), with weekend games on the 50 kilowatt blowtorch of WHAM (1180); the Syracuse SkyChiefs continue to be heard on WHEN (620); and we believe the Pawtucket Red Sox will be heard on WSKO (790) -- where fans won't have to see that new mascot! It's not clear that there's any radio deal this year for the Ottawa Lynx (the capital city's sports station, CFGO 1200, has the Jays again this year), but Rogers Cable channel 22 will carry about a dozen games on TV.
The Double-A Eastern League will be all over the Connecticut airwaves, thanks to the new network the New Britain Rock Cats have assembled. WMRD (1150 Middletown) is this year's flagship, with the rest of the network jumping in and out depending on the day of the week. Buckley's AM stations (WDRC 1360, WWCO 1240, WMMW 1470, WSNG 610) will carry Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday games; WPRX in Bristol, last year's flagship, will carry Friday games; and WLIS (1420 Old Saybrook) will carry what it can when there's no major league game to commit to.
The New Haven Ravens stay on WAVZ (1300), with bigger sister station WELI (960) simulcasting on weekends, and the Norwich Navigators will be heard on WSUB (980) in Groton.
Portland's Sea Dogs stay on WZAN (970), with a network that includes WTME (1240 Lewiston), WKTQ (1450 South Paris), WOXO (92.7 Norway), WTBM (100.7 Mexico), and WRKD (1450 Rockland) -- although WOXO and WTBM are also on the Red Sox network.
The Binghamton Mets will be heard on WNBF, wherever it ends up on the dial (although the deal to move it from 1290 to WINR's 680 spot appears to be on hold for now).
And while the short-season New York-Penn League won't start playing until June, here's what we know so far from its teams:
The Lowell Spinners stay on WCCM (800) out of Lawrence; the Pittsfield Mets will be heard on WBRK-FM (101.7); the Vermont Expos show up the parent team with a four-station network (WKDR 1390 Burlington, WFAD 1490 Middlebury, WWSR 1420 St. Albans, and WSKI 1240 Montpelier); the Hudson Valley Renegades will be on WBNR 1260 Beacon; the Auburn Doubledays' road games will air on college station WDWN 89.1; and the Batavia Muck Dogs will be heard on SUNY Brockport's WBSU 89.1. No radio, as best we can tell, for the Staten Island Yankees (where's WSIA when you need it?), the Oneonta Tigers, the Utica Blue Sox, the Jamestown Jammers, or the St. Catharines Stompers (actually, there's a good reason for that last one...seems they're relocating to Brooklyn, where they probably won't have radio coverage either).
We'll try to get up to speed on the independent leagues by next issue!
Finally this week, a "Mini-Rant" on one of our favorite topics, LPFM:
Even as the FCC moved closer this week to opening the window for the first set of LPFM applications, the powers that be at the House Commerce Committee sent H.R. 3439 (the "Preservation of Broadcasting Act") along to the full House for what's likely to be an easy victory.
The approval comes amidst nasty words back and forth between the FCC and the National Association of Broadcasters, whose high-powered lobbyists distributed a CD on Capitol Hill that they claimed simulated the kind of interference full-power stations would receive from LPFMs on third-adjacent channels. The FCC says the CD blatantly misrepresents the actual interference that might result; the NAB, unsurprisingly, has filled its Web site with expert testimony to the contrary.
Meantime, the Senate version of the bill continues its path to a vote as well.
NERW has little doubt about how this will all end. Money talks in Washington, and the NAB and its members have plenty of it to spend. They'll get their way in the end, and the idea of legal LPFM will become not much more than an interesting footnote.
But we can't let it die without once more pointing out an amazing bit of hypocrisy that, incredibly, has gone all but unmentioned by almost everyone involved in the LPFM issue.
Sitting down? Good. Listen:
LPFM has existed legally in the United States for decades.
LPFM, as it now exists, is in some cases operating with precisely the same technical specifications that the NAB and friends claim to be so worried about.
Many of the beneficiaries of LPFM as it now exists are precisely the same broadcasters most vociferous in their support for the NAB's campaign against LPFM as it might exist.
Longtime NERW readers will by now know exactly what I'm talking about; the one word that's been all but verboten in the public LPFM debate: translators.
It's been increasingly hard to sit quietly and watch the NAB, the FCC, and everyone else claim that there's no way to tell what kind of interference a station on a third-adjacent channel will give to a full-power station, when the examples are all around us.
So the NAB claims full-power FMs will be permanently hurt by LPFMs three channels away? Show me the public outcry from listeners to Boston's WZLX, a full B at 100.7, then. After all, there's been a legal LPFM operating on 101.3 less than a mile from WZLX's transmitter for more than a year. (You could argue that the station in question, WFNX's translator W267AI, is only 7 watts -- but it's up so high on the Hancock Tower than once you adjust for height, it's not much different from the FCC's proposed LP-100 service).
For that matter, where's the public outcry from WZLX listeners affected by third-adjacent WBRS at 100.1 in Waltham, with its mighty 25 watts just 600 kHz away?
Why, for that matter, have big broadcasters like Disney/ABC rushed to shoehorn second-adjacent allocations as close to their major market stations as possible? (Case in point: KMEO in Flower Mound, Texas, running a full 100 kilowatts just 0.4 MHz and sixty-odd miles on the other side of the Dallas/Fort Worth market from ABC's highly successful KSCS 96.3). How is it that listeners in the San Francisco Bay Area have no problems with the San Jose stations on second-adjacent channels from San Francisco? (While we're at it, what about all the second-adjacent issues that you'd think would exist in the 50 miles between Boston and Providence?)
Turn to the noncomm end of the dial and the engineering realities become even more apparent: Just 3.1 miles of Beacon Street separates WZBC's 1000 watts on 90.3 and WBUR-FM's 50 kilowatts on 90.9, yet the public outcry from listeners "denied...clear reception of their favorite stations" (the NAB's words) has been, well, less than deafening. NERW suspects WBUR even has listeners in the very Boston College dormitory where WZBC's antenna is located.
The point here is this: The engineering argument against third-adjacent LPFMs is specious at best. It's clear from the real world that third-adjacent spacing on FM works fine in cases involving much more power than LPFMs would...and we haven't even had to turn to Canada (where real live LPFM has existed without interference concerns for years) to make our case.
It's no surprise to see the NAB and its allies on the Hill using this engineering smokescreen; it certainly sounds persuasive to a lawmaker with other things to worry about -- after all, who'd vote to deny an elderly listener her favorite station? (Again, the NAB's argument, not mine!)
And it's no surprise to see the word "translator" so obviously missing from the NAB's arguments. After all, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a major supporter of the NAB's efforts, and if lawmakers understood that the thousands of KAWZ, WPCS, WJFM, and WJSO translators out there were also "LPFM" -- and thus a threat (by the NAB's logic) to the continued stability of American broadcasting (not to mention the flag, apple pie, and possibly motherhood itself), who knows what kind of legislation might result?
But it is surprising that Bill Kennard's FCC, otherwise so sensible in its attempts to restore at least a bit of the broadcast environment to the public, has been so quiet about the translator issue. We'd have thought someone in the FCC might have come up with similar real-world examples to the ones just offered...yet the word "translator" has been just as absent from the FCC's vocabulary, even as behind the scenes, KAWZ, WJFM, WPCS, and company are quietly getting to gobble literally hundreds of frequencies a month that could have been used by LPFM if it had been allowed to happen. It's amazing to pick up M Street each week, see column after column of translator applications from the same half-dozen broadcasters, and realize that nobody wants to touch that part of the issue, or even acknowledge that it is an important part of the LPFM fight.
It's even more surprising that the LPFM supporters have been so understated about the translator land-grab of the last few years. We can understand why the equipment manufacturers haven't said anything; the same products they'd love to sell to LPFM stations are already selling just fine to religious translators, after all. Where's the NFCB on this issue, though? And what of the trade magazines that all but ignore translators? (NERW wonders how many staffers at Broadcasting & Cable even know what a translator is...)
It's no great surprise to us to see the LPFM battle of 1999-2000 ending this way. We just wish all sides had been a little more honest about what was really at stake, instead of hiding behind the fraud of "interference concerns." Shame on you, Eddie Fritts. Shame on you, Mike Oxley. Shame on you, Bill Kennard. And shame on all of you would-be LPFMers who haven't spoken out loudly enough. It will be a long, long time before low-power broadcasting has another chance to become a legal local reality and not just a tool to be abused by big national religious broadcasters.
[Guess we need to add the usual disclaimer: NERW has nothing against religious broadcasting, per se. Our bias is against the way a handful of broadcasters have taken blatant advantage of an unintentional loophole in FCC rules to create nationwide networks of hundreds of low-powered stations explicitly forbidden to provide any local programming, and against the FCC's continued willful blindness to the monster it created when it allowed satellite-fed translators.]
That's it for this week; back next Friday with the usual update. See you then!