North East RadioWatch: December 18, 2000

Toronto's 740 Returns

by Scott Fybush

It's a short column this time around...which means we have space to recap our trip to beautiful Indianapolis Thanksgiving week. Ride along with us, won't you?

After fighting our way through the snowstorm that paralyzed Buffalo, we arrived in Fort Wayne Tuesday night to pick up Indiana Radio Watch colleague Blaine Thompson for the 90-minute ride south to Indy.

First order of business: checking out the city's TV newscasts. Six stations have news, but only four newsrooms originate the programming. In addition to the full slate of newscasts on WRTV (6, ABC), WISH (8, CBS), and WTHR (13, NBC), and the 10 PM and morning shows on Fox affiliate WXIN (59), there are 10 PM shows on UPN affiliate WNDY-TV (23) and WB affiliate WTTV (4), produced respectively by WTHR and WRTV. The rest of the dial: PBS affiliates WFYI (20) and WTBU (69), religious WHMB (40), and low-power outlets W53AV and WALV-LP (27), the latter operated by WTHR.

Our tour of the city began with Wednesday morning visits to several of the big clusters in town. Clear Channel owns sports WNDE (1260), classic rock WFBQ (94.7), and modern rock WRZX (103.3), and originates the syndicated Bob & Tom show from the WFBQ studio. The whole cluster is at the WNDE transmitter site on the city's northeast side, and it's seen a lot of additions since the days when it was solely home to the 1260 transmitter (originally WFBM, one of Indy's oldest stations).

The next stop, just a mile or so away along the I-465 beltway, was the Susquehanna group. Top-rated country station WFMS (95.5) simulcasts a morning show with "hot country" WGRL (93.9 Noblesville, "The Bear"), and oldies WGLD (104.5) rounds out this trio. (You can see more pictures of this cluster in the January 6 issue of Radio World!)

The third cluster on the agenda: MyStar Broadcasting's trio, which includes CHR WZPL (99.5 Greenfield), AC WTPI (107.9), and adult standards WMYS (1430).

From there, we drove down Meridian Street, the main north-south thoroughfare in Indianapolis, past what must be one of the most concentrated clusters of TV studios in America. A block east of Meridian on Illinois Street sits the building that was once home to Indy's WIBC (1070) and now houses Butler University's WTBU-TV 69. Then, clustered within ten blocks on Meridian, sit the studios of WISH-TV (with a huge addition being built on the south side), WXIN (in the original home of WISH-TV), WFYI (in the original home of WLWI-TV, the predecessor of WTHR), WRTV (in the building constructed in the 1950s to house what was then WFBM AM-FM-TV), and WTHR.

Another few blocks brought us to the heart of downtown Indianapolis, Monument Circle. It's there that Emmis Broadcasting has built a massive headquarters facility, which we spent some time exploring. Corporate headquarters sit on the top floor, with the next few floors devoted to individual stations: urban WTLC-FM (105.7) and gospel WTLC (1310), news-talk WIBC (1070), AC WENS (97.1 Shelbyville), and CHR WNOU (93.1 "Radio Now.") On the ground floor, two showcase studios allow any of the stations to put their jocks and talk hosts in full view of the pedestrians passing by.

Crossing to the south side of town, we saw the studios of WTTV (which is actually licensed to Bloomington, 50 miles south) and the WTLC(AM) towers nearby, as well as the single tower of Spanish WSYW (810) a mile or so away.

From there, we headed north and west, passing outside the 465 loop on I-65 until we reached the six towers of WIBC. There's a New England connection here: WIBC was owned for many years by Fairbanks Broadcasting of WKOX-WVBF fame.

Heading back inside 465, the city's northwest corner is dominated by a cluster of tall TV towers. WTHR (and WALV-LP) sit just north of 465, about three miles from the rest of the group. WRTV and WFYI-TV (and public radio stations WICR 88.7 and WFYI 90.1) occupy the two northernmost towers in the cluster. Just to the south is an FM stick that's home to WFBQ, WRZX, and WTPI. WHMB is just to the west of the FM tower and just north of WISH-TV. The southernmost stick in this group belongs to WXIN.

Moving south again, we passed the industrial park that's home to the Radio One cluster of stations: rhythmic CHR WHHH (96.3), smooth jazz WJYZ (100.9 Lebanon), and urban AC WBKS (106.7 Greenwood). Radio One bought the group from veteran Indy broadcaster Bill Shirk, who still does middays on WBKS, and whose original station sits just a mile or so to the south. WXLW (950) was Indy's top-40 outlet in the sixties, and now programs religion from its three towers behind a shopping mall on W. 56th Street.

WMYS transmits from two towers near the Butler University campus, and we were amused to see that its transmitter building is now leased out by a church. This 1430 outlet has a long history in Indianapolis; it was best known as WIRE, another top-40 legend, and later as WCKN and WFXF, among other calls. (The studio building at the transmitter site was home to 1430 and 103.3, ex-WMJC and WFXF, until just a few years ago when the stations were split off to separate owners.)

Two more stops awaited us in Indianapolis: across the river on the Butler campus, the tower of WTBU and WGLD, which was a Butler-owned noncommercial outlet (as WAJC) for decades before being sold to Susquehanna; and on the city's northeast side, the three towers of WBRI (1500). The religious station is co-owned with Christian contemporary WXIR (98.3 Plainfield), "Love 98."

With all that, we still didn't see quite everything the city had to offer, radio-wise. On the FM side, several high schools program noncommercial outlets: in Indianapolis itself, there's WJEL (89.3) on the north side at the J. Everett Light Career Center; WBDG (90.9) programming rap from Ben Davis High School; WEDM (91.1) on the east side at Warren Township High School ("Ed 91," playing country when we heard it); and WRFT (91.5), "The Flash" from Franklin Township High School. North of town, WHJE (91.3 Carmel) runs 24/7 with automation and student programming, while out in Greenfield, WRGF (89.7) is the newest high school station in the area.

We didn't get out to Greenfield, alas, which means we also didn't get to see the east side towers of WTLC-FM (along I-70), WENS (way out to the southeast), or the group tower that's home to WNOU, WFMS, and WZPL. Also outlying, and thus beyond the reach of the NERW-mobile, were Bloomington's WTTS (92.3, playing AAA) and Danville's modern rock WEDJ (107.1, formerly classical WSYW-FM).

On the AM side, we missed out on gospel WNTS (1590 Beech Grove) and on WKWH (1520 Shelbyville) south of town...maybe next time!

Leaving Indy behind us, we headed north to Anderson and Muncie, where Michael Schwartz (remember Wilks-Schwartz Broadcasting? That's him!) has combined five small stations into a regional presence as part of Indiana Radio Partners. Anderson's WHBU (1240) is the news-talk AM, while Muncie's WERK (104.9) and Elwood's WURK (101.7) simulcast oldies and Alexandria's WHTY (96.7) and Hartford City's WHTI (93.5) do hot AC as "Max." Any of the five can - and do - break off for local sports or Sunday-morning religion. (Thanks to chief engineer Sean Mattingly for showing us how it's all set up!)

From the Indiana Radio Partners studios in Daleville (near I-69 between Anderson and Muncie), we chased the remaining daylight into Muncie, with just enough time to see the mini-tower farm that's home to hit radio WLBC (104.1), sports WXFN (1340), Ball State's public TV WIPB (Channel 49, once commercial WLBC-TV), and noncomm WWHI (91.3). We also heard the former WERK(AM), now WLHN on 990, and now operating with just 60 watts from a longwire in the back yard of its religious programmers.

And after a few days in Fort Wayne (about whose radio scene, the less said, the better!), it was back home to Rochester and NERW-land...

[You can see our pictures from Indianapolis on the Web site version of NERW all week!]

Finally this week, our condolences to family, friends, and colleagues of ABC Radio's Tim O'Donnell. He began his career at Watertown's WOTT (1410, now WUZZ), but made it to the network by his mid-twenties, reporting on events that ranged from the assassination of Robert Kennedy to Y2K. O'Donnell suffered a heart attack December 5, and died Wednesday morning (Dec. 13) at a hospital in Ridgewood, N.J. O'Donnell was just 57; he's survived by wife Eileen and sons Tim and Kevin.

A few programming notes as we approach the end of the year: The final regular issue of NERW will be published sometime next Monday (Dec. 25) on <>, and will go out Dec. 27 to those on the mailing list. Our annual Year in Review special, complete with this year's Rant, will be posted to first thing January 1, with distribution to the mailing list January 3. (It's not too late to reserve advertising space in this special issue at our low charter-advertiser rates; just e-mail for details.)

As we near the holidays, our sincere thanks to all of you who have sent in your checks and electronic payments to help ensure the financial future of NERW and If you haven't done so yet, please take a moment to visit our Support page and find out why your contribution can make a difference!

Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, the end of the millennium, or Howard Stern's contract renewal, our very best holiday wishes to all of you. We'll see you next week!

As of market close, December 15, 2000
NERW's Northeast Television Index 88.31

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