[Publisher's Note: This special double issue combines the material that was to have appeared in the lost-for-good July 7 issue with this week's new material.]
Saga will pay $13.4 million to pick up four Ithaca radio stations from Eagle Broadcasting: news-talk WHCU (870), satellite oldies WTKO (1470), AC WYXL (97.3), and country WQNY (103.7). A quick check of the most recent (Fall) Arbitrons shows Eagle's four stations with a total market share of 40.1% among listeners 12 and older; we'd expect to see this one flagged by the FCC for market-concentration review. (The only major in-market competition to the Eagle group comes from Citadel's WIII Cortland and from WVBR Ithaca, run by Cornell students as a commercial operation).
Meanwhile out on Long Island's East End, Peter Ottmar's AAA Entertainment is also growing. AAA will pay $2.7 million to buy soft AC WBAZ (101.7 Southold) and AC WBSQ (102.5 Southampton) from MAK Communications. The stations will join AAA's existing WEHM (96.7 East Hampton) and WBEA (104.7 Montauk) in the cluster.
While we're out in the neighborhood: M Street reports that silent WFOG (1570 Riverhead) will return to the air around the end of the year. Arthur Liu's WNYG (1440 Babylon) isn't going silent after all; instead of turning it off to improve the signal of co-owned WNSW (1430 Newark NJ), Liu's Multicultural Broadcasting is now running WNYG as a student-operated CHR outlet and training ground. And big congratulations go to J.J. Rice, who's adding new duties to his current job as PD of Cox's WBLI (106.1 Patchogue). Rice is now Cox's top-40 programming coordinator -- and to think NERW knew him when he was just a humble night jock at 98PXY here in Rochester...
Or maybe it was J.J.'s brief stint as PD at WWHT (107.9 Syracuse); after all, another former Hot 107.9 PD is moving on up this week. Tommy Frank is headed to Infinity in Cincinnati, to be PD at WKRQ (101.9), where he'll get to wage the CHR war with Clear Channel on the other side of the corporate fence.
Albany's Point (WCPT 100.9) is again looking for a morning host; Kevin Hilley (ex-WJYY Concord NH) is out after a short stay on Dennis Terrace. No word yet on his next gig...
Up north, the FCC has allocated two new channels in the Plattsburgh area. John Bulmer and Dannemora Broadcasting both wanted 97.9A added to the dial; the FCC preferred Dannemora's suggestion of the town of Dannemora as community of license to Bulmer's proposed Keeseville. (And yes, either way it's short-spaced to CHOM 97.7 Montreal just an hour away!). Over by Lake Placid, 97.1A gets allocated to Minerva NY. No filing windows yet for either; they're caught up in the FM freeze.
We hear religious WWJS (90.1 Watertown) is on the air; we'll be passing through that area in just a few weeks and we'll let you know.
News from the southern tier: Modern rock on AM is now just a memory in the Binghamton area. Word has it that WEBO (1330 Owego) has swept "The Web" away in favor of adult standards (already heard in the area on Binghamton's WINR 680 and WKOP 1360) from the satellite. We'll admit that we never heard a jock -- or for that matter, a paid spot -- on WEBO. We'll admit that we may have been the station's only listener. We'll still miss it...all five liners and legal ID.
SUNY Alfred's WETD (90.9) wants to change frequency to 90.7 and boost power from its current 360 watts. (Just how much we won't know until the FCC's nearly-useless CDBS database gets caught up with month-old applications...aargh!)
And don't look for WCQA (96.5 Fredonia) to be moving any closer to Jamestown after all. The station asked the FCC to dismiss its proposal to change city of license to the Jamestown suburb of Falconer.
WIC will be split into three parts, with its Cancom satellite arm going to Shaw and its radio division and cable-TV networks going to Shaw spinoff Corus. (That includes Toronto's "Talk 640" CHOG and "Q107" CILQ, as well as Hamilton's CHML 900 and CJXY "Y95".)
The real fireworks, though, come with the sale of WIC's broadcast television arm, most of which will end up in the hands of CanWest Global, the group that's spent the last decade or so creating a nearly coast-to-coast collection of TV stations operating under the "Global" banner.
The addition of the WIC stations in Alberta will close that chain (though it will still leave Global without a Newfoundland outlet), but that's not the really interesting part of this deal. That comes in the markets where CanWest and WIC both hold stations, and in the CRTC's decision to pull back from its usual "one-to-an-owner" stance.
We'll start out west in British Columbia, where CanWest will spin off its existing Global outlet, CKVU (Channel 10) Vancouver in order to be allowed to buy WIC's stations. The flagship there is "BCTV," the province-wide network anchored at Vancouver's CHAN (Channel 8) -- but the CRTC says CanWest can also continue to own longtime BCTV sister station CHEK (Channel 6) over in Victoria. The duopoly comes at a price, though: CHEK will have to drop much of its simulcast with BCTV, beef up local news coverage, and replace most of its US-derived fare with Canadian originals.
(The sale will also trigger a switch in network affiliations, as BCTV drops its CTV affiliation, which will go to CTV-owned CIVT Vancouver, operating until now as an independent. BCTV will pick up Global from CKVU. And rumor has it that CKVU will be sold to the CHUM Group, which was also granted a new Victoria-Vancouver license -- channels 53 and 17 respectively -- this week. NERW suspects that CKVU will go to a Citytv-style format, perhaps with the CITT calls, while the new Victoria licensee, to be CIVI, will emulate CHUM Group's "New VR" and its sister stations in Ontario.)
The CRTC also set conditions in Ontario, where CanWest will continue to own the province-wide Global service seen over a network of CIII transmitters from Windsor to Ottawa. In adding WIC's CHCH (Channel 11) in Hamilton, as well as its relays around the province, CanWest will have to commit to a huge increase in local news (20 extra hours a week) and a reduction in the use of US programming.
And in Quebec, the CRTC ruled that WIC will have to sell its interest in CTV affiliate CFCF (Channel 12) Montreal separately, as well as its interest in multicultural CJNT (Channel 62), which Global has again applied to purchase. (Global already serves Quebec from CKMI Quebec City and its relays in Sherbrooke and Montreal.)
A couple of additional Canadian notes before returning stateside: The 1220 frequency is about to return to the airwaves in Cornwall, Ontario. CJSS vacated that facility last year to move to 101.9 FM, but owner Tri-Co took advantage of radio duopoly rules to apply for a "new" outlet on 1220, which was granted this week. The new station will use a nostalgia format, sharing news programming with CJSS-FM and Tri-Co's CFLG (104.5 Cornwall).
Just to the north in Hawkesbury, on the Quebec line, CIMF (94.9 Hull) has been granted a relay on 107.7, with 1850 watts.
And say goodbye to CKFL (1400) in Lac Megantic, Quebec; it was granted a move to FM, with 5 kilowatts ERP on 106.7.
We also hear WREM (710 Monticello) has again gone silent.
And we see that Portland's UPN affiliate, WPME (Channel 35) Lewiston, is being sold from New England Television to KB Prime Media; we're not clear yet on whether or not this creates a formal duopoly with LMA partner WPXT (Channel 51) Portland.
Live programming finally hit the airwaves at "Hot 97-7" (WBOT Brockton) at the end of June. Radio One's Russ Parr morning show arrives by satellite from WKYS (93.9 Washington DC), joined by Cherry Martinez (of sister station WILD 1090) middays, Chuck Dogg (of WJLB Detroit) afternoons, and Lamar (Lil' Big Daddy) Robinson of sister Radio One outlet WERQ (92.3 Baltimore) at night. WBOT and WILD were both knocked off the air last weekend, we're told, by the same power outage that claimed the July 7 issue of NERW.
WBZ (1030) was also off the air one night last week -- but the Independence Day outage was planned. We're told the station took both its Hull transmitter plant and its Allston backup facility off the air to complete tuning work on the rebuilt Hull towers, and we're told it's the last time 1030 will be silent on purpose for many years to come. (Anyone nab any good DX?)
Radio People On The Move: After just a few months, Rob Walker exits the PD chair at WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg) amidst changes at Citadel's Worcester cluster. Pete Falconi becomes the group's operations manager, handling PD duties for WORC-FM, WWFX, and WCAT-AM/FM, while Walker's former assistant PD, Amy Navarro, takes interim PD stripes at WXLO. Dave Faneuf returns to Boston from his successful revitalization of the WCAP (980 Lowell) newsroom, joining WBUR-FM (90.9) to do nightside news duties. WCAP opens the search for a new news director as a result (and no, your editor has no intention of going back!) Down in Houston, Joe Martelle's contract isn't being renewed as his station, KLDE, moves from 94.5 to 107.5...could Martelle return to his old stomping ground in Boston once he recovers from his health problems? Another Boston veteran, Bruce Bradley, is returning to the air in St. Louis after a few years away from the mike. Bradley will be doing weekends on KTRS (550), the station that seems to end up with everyone who once worked across town at KMOX. And we're told WMVY on Martha's Vineyard is looking for a morning host and a news director -- more info at the station's Web site.
Finally, we note the passing of veteran sportscaster Leo Egan, who started at WBZ in 1946 and ended his career almost 30 years later across town at WHDH. Egan died Monday (7/10) in Plymouth; he was 86.
As long as we're venturing out of NERW territory, let's recap the most recent trip we've been on, our late June excursion to northeast OHIO:
We began on the far east side of Cleveland, where we had a chance to check out the broadcast scene (such as it was) in rural Lake County. Our hotel was conveniently near the four towers of Willoughby's "Star 1330," WELW, which spent the weekend doing a very local-sounding AC format (and signed off nightly at midnight to boot!). Just down the road in Painesville was another local AC, WBKC (1460), with a little building at the end of a painfully rutted road. Having thus seen the entire Lake County radio dial, the NERWmobile (complete with rebuilt alternator) moved south to Geauga County and little WATJ (1560 Chardon), cranking out adult standards from its directional array south of town. The other broadcast facility in Geauga County is actually a Cleveland-licensed station, WENZ (107.9), now aiming at the urban market under Radio One ownership as "Z-107.9" (and, judging by the ratings, doing a good job of it despite the remote transmitter location!)
Cleveland itself was a familiar market to NERW, but we picked up a few changes since our last visit a year or so ago. In addition to Z-107.9 replacing the modern rock of "The End," Clear Channel's ubiquitous "Kiss" format arrived in town last year on the extreme rimshot of WAKS (104.9 Lorain). Kiss may be listenable on the west side, but we were having trouble getting it downtown (even on a west-facing upper deck of Jacobs Field), never mind out on the east side where it gets clobbered by 104.7 from the Ashtabula market (WKKY Geneva). Not that we minded; we can hear the same format in Rochester on WKGS...
We took advantage of a free Friday afternoon to visit the transmitter cluster south of Cleveland in the Seven Hills/Parma/Independence area, roughly straddling the rise of land between I-71 and I-77. Our trip started at the multi-tower site shared by WKYC (Channel 3/NBC), WOIO (Channel 19/CBS), WQHS (Channel 61/HSN), and on FM, oldies WMJI (105.7) and soft AC WDOK (102.1). From there, we headed west to a group of towers lining route 94, starting with the short stick of public radio WCPN (90.3) next to a school on the east side of the road. Across the street are the towers of country WGAR (99.5), ABC affiliate WEWS (Channel 5 -- with a nifty roadside sign!), and UPN affiliate WUAB (Channel 43), shared with hot AC WQAL (104.1) and Clear Channel's "Mix" WMVX (106.5).
Just a bit farther south, at the corner of Pleasant Valley Road, is the stick that's now WJW (Channel 8/Fox), but was once both the transmitter and studio site of DuMont affiliate WXEL-TV on channel 9.
A short trip west on Pleasant Valley and then south on Ohio 3 brought us to the picturesque site shared by Radio One leased-time talker WERE (1300), with three big self-supporting towers; classic rocker WNCX (98.5); and public TV WVIZ (Channel 25). Another few miles to the southwest put us alongside the Ohio Turnpike, near the four sticks of Salem's Christian contemporary WCCD (1000 Parma). From there we turned east again on Ohio 82 to the center of North Royalton, where we found the new six-tower, 50 kilowatt WRMR (850) pumping out the adult standards next door to a cemetery (shades of WWSW?)
Continuing east on 82 to Broadview Road and turning south brought the NERW-mobile to rest alongside the four towers and studio of WKNR (1220), which is still sports for now but is being sold again. This was the historic site of WGAR(AM), but the building looked to have been heavily renovated.
Passing the studio and tower of Moody's religious WCRF (103.3) on Barr Road and crossing I-77 next to the four towers of Radio Disney WWMK (1260), we arrived on Snowville Road to gaze at Cleveland's only I-A clear channel, the mighty single stick of WTAM (1100). The original WTAM transmitter building appeared to have been renovated sometime in the seventies and is now home to an engineering firm; a newer building near the base of the tower appeared to hold the transmitters for WTAM, urban WZAK (93.1), and UPN affiliate WBNX (Channel 55 -- though its stick may have moved to the WKYC site, if the FCC database is to be believed).
Returning to Cleveland via I-77, we hopped off at the Pleasant Valley Road exit to see the towers for rocker WMMS (100.7) and religious WHK (1420), amidst a suburban development a few hundred feet off the road.
A few more Cleveland sites completed our tour: gospel WJMO (1490 Cleveland Heights) off Euclid Avenue at East 118th Street (behind a bus stop), and the single tower of daytimer WABQ (1540) next to a church at 8000 Euclid. Finally, heading down to our next destination of Youngstown, we saw the self-supporting tower of jammin' oldies WZJM (92.3 Cleveland Heights) and classical WCLV (95.5), above the new WCLV studios alongside I-271.
As for Youngstown, we'd seen the big sticks during a previous rainy excursion a couple of years ago, so this was a catch-up trip to see some of the smaller towers and view firsthand the effects of consolidation.
We started downtown, at the apparently once-majestic studios of WFMJ-TV (Channel 21), now mired amidst the shuttered storefronts of depressed central Youngstown. Just like the city's business community has apparently done, we soon fled south to Boardman, passing the WFMJ tower, the stick of WBBG (93.3)/WBBW (1240), and the WKBN-TV (Channel 27) towers, not to mention the studio/tower of WYTV (Channel 33) on Shady Run Road, before arriving at WHOT-FM (101.1) on Simon Road. Where WHOT once sat in solitude, the Simon Road complex is now home to most of the Connoisseur group (being swallowed by Cumulus Media). CHR WHOT-FM (101.1), classic rock WYFM (102.9 Sharon PA), sports WBBW (1240), and country WQKX (105.1 Salem) all share the two-building complex.
Heading south down South Road, we arrived at the former restaurant that's now home to Clear Channel's Youngstown group: news-talk WKBN (570), standards WNIO (1390), oldies WBBG (93.3, with a diverse mix of oldies that pleased Mrs. NERW as we drove around town), country WICT (95.1 Grove City PA), modern AC WTNX (95.9 Sharpsville PA), "Mix" WMXY (98.9), rhythmic CHR WBTJ (101.9 Hubbard), and classic rock simulcast WNCD (106.1 Niles)/WRTK (1540 Niles). (And for all that, we left with a grudgingly-given collection of four bumper stickers -- one each for WKBN, WMXY, WBTJ, and WNCD!)
Still more driving to the south brought us to WKBN's majestic six-tower array, and just beyond that, the night site of talker WASN (1330 Campbell). We'd seen the WASN day site at the Campbell studios on the 1998 trip; the four-in-a-row night facility sits close enough to the WKBN towers to look like a big Canadian directional from the proper angle.
(We also made a detour to the south and east, to see the two towers of Cumulus adult-standards WSOM 600 Salem, the very tall stick of public TV WNEO 45 Alliance [on the Salem-Alliance Road, US 62, about halfway between Canton and Youngstown], and to hear the rather bizarre CHR mix of WZKL 92.5 Alliance while meeting some radio friends for Mexican food.)
Back to the north, then: We drove through Niles (birthplace of William McKinley), then south of Warren to see urban WRBP 1440 (four towers at a site that had seen better days) and religious WANR 1570 (a station that's definitely known more interesting incarnations). North of Warren, we found the tower of WNCD 106.1 before heading far to the north to see the single stick of WKTX 830 Cortland, an unusual blend of oldies and ethnic programming.
Turning south again and heading for the border with Pennsylvania, we drove past the short stick of WTNX before arriving at the four towers of religious WPAO (1470 Farrell PA), hidden among the trees overlooking State Line Road.
From there, we pointed the NERW-mobile towards home, stopping to see the very old-looking self-supporting tower of WYFM (and fellow Cumulus station WPIC 790 Sharon, doing local adult standards) on PA 518. The vintage brick building at the base of the tower appeared to be the studio of WPIC, as well as Cumulus' smooth jazz WLLF (96.7 Mercer) and country WWIZ (103.9 Mercer).
Last stops were at the hilltop studio/transmitter of WEXC (107.1) and simulcast WGRP (940), churning out a diverse blend of hits overlooking Greenville PA, and a gas stop in Erie that gave us an opportunity to hear the sports programming on WFNN (1330), ex-WFLP.
And THAT is it for the past three weeks of radio happenings in and out of the region; we'll see you (on schedule) in a week's time!