The past week in NEW BRUNSWICK seems to throw the old order completely out the window, with no fewer than six new stations and an AM-to-FM move being authorized by the CRTC.
Here's how it plays out: In Moncton, both existing commercial broadcasters are getting new frequencies. Maritime Broadcasting System, owner of country CKCW (1220) and oldies CFQM (103.9), gets to move CKCW to FM with 19kw on 94.5. Atlantic Stereo, owner of rock CJMO (103.1), gets to add a new station on 96.9 with 100kw, also approved with a country format (though the CRTC notes that one of the two is likely to change away from country before both stations take the air). NERW notes here that CKCW's move to FM restores the country format to the band where it was found before last year's format swap took 1220 to country and 103.9 to oldies. [We're also wondering what will become of CJCW, the 590 kHz outlet in Sussex that relayed CKCW's programming to the areas west of Moncton in the 1220 null...]
But wait; there's still more new radio coming to Moncton! On 99.9, Denis Losier was granted a license for a 9500 watt French-language commercial outlet, the first in Moncton since the 1985 demise of CHLR (1380). Losier will operate the station in conjunction with CKCW and CFQM, with Maritime Broadcasting owning 49% and using its studios on St. George Boulevard for the new 99.9.
Want religion? You'll have that, too, when two low-power Moncton stations sign on. At 100.9, James Houssen was granted a 50 watt station, while the International Harvesters for Christ Evangelical Association (why do we have this image of ministers on big farm tractors?) was granted 50 watts on 105.9.
Over in Saint John, New Brunswick Broadcasting will soon have a second station to help its CHSJ (94.1) compete against Maritime's three-station group. The CRTC granted 97.3 with 55 kw for a new AC station. An hour away in St. Stephen, just across the water from Calais, Maine, New Brunswick Broadcasting gets another new station: 40 kilowatts on 98.1, with a mix of AC and country.
When all the dust settles, New Brunswick will be left with just four commercial AM stations: CJVA 810 Caraquet, CKNB 950 Campbellton, and CKBC 1360 Bathurst in the northern part of the province, and CFBC 930 in Saint John. (CJCW might be a fifth, if it doesn't go away when CKCW moves to FM.) We wonder if the CBC will now feel pressure to move Moncton's CBA (1070) to FM, now that it stands alone as the last AM in town. (If so, the 90.7B frequency remains open for it...)
And this we know: Once all this new radio is on the air, we'll be headed back up to the Maritimes for a listen...
Our best wishes go out to Tracy Austin, PD of WKSS (95.7 Hartford), as she undergoes a double hip replacement. MD Mike McGowan handles acting PD duties during the month or so she's away from the station.
The New England Patriots are changing stations in two Connecticut markets, moving from Hartford's WZMX (93.7) to WTIC (1080) and from Groton's WSUB (980) to WAXK (102.3 Stonington). We're told the Pats will go back to WZMX for the games that conflict with the Red Sox.
Marc "Sparky" Bramhall checked in to report the death of Ralph Kanna August 19 at age 90. Kanna worked at the old WONS (now WPOP 1410), then served as the founding PD at WKNB-TV (Channel 30), today's WVIT-TV. He later taught at St. Joseph's College and the University of Hartford.
The side effects of the AMFM/Clear Channel deal are finally being felt for real in southern Connecticut, as Cox closes on its big trade with Clear Channel. Put WNLK/WSTC, WEFX, WKHL, WPLR, and the LMA of WYBC-FM in the Cox column, while Clear Channel walks away with Los Angeles' KFI/KOST in trade (giving up stations in Florida and Atlanta to Cox as well...what, you think the only I-A clear channel in the #2 market comes cheap?)
Meanwhile over at WTKK (96.9 Boston), "Rona at Night" and the David Gold show are replaced in late nights by Lionel and "RonAndFez.Com."
Up in Lowell, WCAP (980) is fighting a $1,500 fine from OSHA. The Lowell Sun reports the station was cited for blocked emergency exits and the use of flexible electrical wiring in spaces under floors and behind walls where more permanent wiring is supposed to go. WCAP owner Maurice Cohen tells the paper the OSHA investigation was spurred by a disgruntled ex-employee, to which NERW can only say, "Wasn't this one!" (Anyway, we never had any trouble finding the way to the emergency exit -- it was just out back behind the 1936-vintage refrigerator and the transcription lathe!)
There's a new PD at Worcester's WXLO (104.5 Fitchburg), as Chase Murphy comes up from Charleston's WSSX to take the chair. Back to morning drive at the station is Frank Foley, who just left a month or so ago.
Could it include a World Series? Too soon to tell, but WEEI (850 Boston) has signed up to continue as flagship of the Red Sox network through the 2005 season.
Clear Channel also announced (but has not closed on) one more spin from the Hudson Valley cluster it's assembling. WBPM (94.3 Kingston) won't enter the Clear Channel family from Roberts Radio; instead, it'll go to Concord Media with the other stations Clear Channel had to spin in Hudson and Catskill. $4.6 million is the price we're hearing...
One more bit of Clear Channel/Albany news: The new calls on 102.3 Ballston Spa, lately WXCR, are WKKF. Hey, it sounds vaguely like "Kiss," doesn't it?
Downstate, we hear the "WHPW" being heard on 1690 around Staten Island is a part-15 compliant operation running from four very low-power transmitters along the island's shores. WHPW will soon start running EWTN Catholic programming during the week, with community programs on the weekends.
In Syracuse, we hear WNSS (1260) has finally rebuilt the two towers in its four-tower array that went down in that Labor Day 1998 storm. Guess we need to head east soon...
From the Buffalo area and correspondent Carl Gorney comes word of a new morning team at WTSS ("Star" 102.5). Joe Thomas and Pam Bunch come to Buffalo from WBHV (103.1 State College PA). Down the hall, WBEN newsman Kevin Keenan is saying his goodbyes; he leaves the business after Labor Day to become spokesman for the Catholic diocese in Buffalo.
Buffalo's NBC affiliate is finally entering the late 90s with its own Web presence. WGRZ (Channel 2) is now available, streaming video and all, at www.wgrz.com.
And we hear Jamestown's WWSE (93.3) is shedding its longtime "SE93" nickname in favor of the inoffensively generic "Mix 93-3."
One correction: We're told Buffalo's Fox affiliate is not the largest in the country without local news. For that, you'd have to visit the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where WFTC (29 Minneapolis) appears to hold that distinction.
And following up on this past week's travelogue, we're told Philadelphia Pax affiliate WPPX (Channel 61 Wilmington DE) is now rebroadcasting the 6 and 11 PM newscasts of NBC O&O WCAU (Channel 10), at 6:30 and 11:30 weeknights.
That's it for another week, and it'll have to hold you for two weeks, since we're off for another round of radio travels. We're heading to the National Radio Club convention in Lima, Ohio, which means no NERW September 4. We'll be back the 11th with all the fun details...see you then!