The new "Business 1060" will revolve around the "Money Couple," Brad and Bonnie Bleidt, who will continue their Boston Business Journal-branded morning show. Lawyer Steve Weisman, who has been part of the morning show, will move to his own spot later in the day, and Bob Glovsky (formerly part of the Money Experts on WRKO and, before that, on WBNW 590) will also be part of the mix.
Programming will also include a new afternoon show hosted by Mark Mills, formerly the executive producer of WCVB (Channel 5)'s Chronicle. Mills will be busy off the air as well; he's been named director of business programming for the station, to be renamed WBIX "Business News 1060."
Also on the way to WBIX will be Bloomberg business reports, currently heard in the market on the "new" WBNW (1120 Concord), and a show hosted by Boston Globe business reporters Steve Bailey and Charlie Stein.
So what becomes of the talk? We hear it will show up in some form on another of Alexander Langer's stations, WSRO (1470 Marlboro), which is planning a power increase and a move to Watertown, placing it squarely within the Boston market. Langer says Bell and Burns will still be heard somewhere in the market after the format change.
As for the legendary WMEX calls, those too could end up on 1470 when 1060 becomes WBIX. (Those WBIX calls were last heard in the region on New York's 105.1 in its "Big 105" days a few years back.)
There's more spinning going on in the world of Boston talk radio: Laura Schlessinger is getting pushed to tape delay at WRKO (680), yielding her 9-noon slot to the "Daytime Divas," Darlene McCarthy and Doreen Vigue. Schlessinger takes the Divas' old 7-10 PM spot, though WRKO management insists that's not a demotion.
Also in Worcester, we're hearing that WCRN (830) is running holiday music and liners announcing "Swinging in New England, Swing 830," which suggests a new (and powerful) nostalgia station for central New England.
Out on Cape Cod, WCDJ (102.3 Truro) has been granted a license to cover for its 340 watt at 30 meter AAT signal. Anyone know if this little station is really operating, and if so, with what format?
ADD Media has filed to change the call letters of its Spanish-language WJYT (1320 Attleboro) to WARL. No word on whether there's a format change associated with the move...
Two obituaries mark this holiday week in the Bay State: Marty Sender, the veteran TV reporter and original co-host of "Evening Magazine" at WBZ-TV in 1977, died Saturday (12/23), more than two months after suffering brain injuries when he fell off a golf cart. Sender came to WBZ-TV in 1975 and left in 1980 for CBS News. In 1985, he came back to Boston and WNEV (Channel 7) as a political reporter, leaving the business in 1992 to go into consulting. Sender was 53.
And we hear Joe Quill, former owner of Taunton's WRLM (93.3, now WSNE), died last Tuesday (12/19). Quill's daughters have made names of their own in the business: Barbara did news for the old WROR (98.5, now WBMX) and Portland's WCSH-TV, while Nancy has been with WMJX (106.7 Boston) doing middays since the station signed on in 1982.
Messengers from WBAI (99.5 New York) were sent to the homes of PD Bernard White and morning show producer Sharan Harper on Friday, bearing holiday pink slips and warnings that the pair would be arrested for trespassing if they returned to WBAI's Wall Street studios.
Pacifica's Washington-based managers installed afternoon host Utrice Reid as station manager, but a visit to WBAI's Web site suggests that her hold on the station is tentative at best.
Pacifica employees are known for their political activism; KPFA is still recovering from a weeks-long standoff between Pacifica national managers and the Berkeley staff that saw protests in the street outside the station and several veteran hosts being fired inside. WBAI has never seemed to have quite the same passion as KPFA, but it's a safe bet that staffers loyal to White and Harper won't take the moves quietly.
Adding fuel to the fire is the sheer value of WBAI's signal. A full class B in New York would easily sell for several hundred million dollars, even without any programming to offer commercial owners. Pacifica's board has raised the possibility of station sales before at KPFA (its other big station on the commercial band), and we're sure there are several owners who'd love to add 99.5 to their Big Apple rosters.
What next at WBAI? We'll see after the new year...
Meanwhile in the Big Apple, another AM station has filed to increase its power. WWRV (1330 New York) wants to boost its daytime power to 10 kilowatts from the current 5, remaining at the New Jersey site it shares with former sister station WWDJ (970 Hackensack).
Fordham University's WFUV (90.7 New York) has applied for an on-channel booster, though we're not quite clear where or with what power. More in our January 8 issue, we're sure.
Up in the Hudson Valley, Clear Channel made its first big move on Friday (12/22), killing off the "Thunder Country" on WTHN (99.3 Ellenville) and the AC "Cat" on WCTJ (96.1 Poughkeepsie) in favor of CHR and "Kiss." There's little to be said thus far for the new format, which comes complete with the prefab national contesting and liners from group headquarters -- but we're a little amused by the stunting that was running earlier in the day, as "Variety 96 and 99, the best of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today."
Moving upstate, there's a call letter change to report in Binghamton -- well, there may be a call letter change to report, anyway. Religious WJIK (90.1) filed to change to WIFF last week, and NERW kept its dial stuck to the station for much of our visit there over the weekend. (Actually, we had the dial stuck to translator W285DI on 104.9, since the 90.1 signal doesn't reach the suburbs west of the city where we were staying.)
We heard "WIFF" mentioned once, but we heard "WJIK" mentioned more often, and mostly we heard no IDs at all, just a lot of loud Christian rock and a strange Saturday-night show that seemed to consist of an entire family playing rock music, with someone who may have been Dad in one room and the kids screaming into a mike in the other room. Most unusual...especially if it was in fact live at 1 AM.
Speaking of Binghamton, WLTB (101.7) has indeed changed city of license from Owego to Johnson City, and it's being heard quite well from its new site on Ingraham Hill, where we also saw WNBF (1290)'s rebuilt third tower. Oddly, WLTB still maintains its 102.5 translator on Ingraham Hill, as well. WKGB (92.5 Susquehanna PA) and WCDW (100.5 Conklin) have not swapped communities of license yet, at least on the air.
We took a bit of a detour to get to Binghamton, stopping in Elmira to hear the new simulcasts and discovering that one of them doesn't exist, at least not yet! WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira) is indeed simulcasting Corning's WCBA-FM (98.7) as the "Elmira-Corning Crystal Radio Network," but WENY (1230) is still doing its own thing with satellite oldies, rather than the promised relay of talker WCLI (1450 Corning). We heard the new standards signal of WEHH Elmira Heights-Horseheads, now operating on 1600 from the WELM (1410) towers instead of on 1590 from its old site. And we can confirm that WPHD (94.7 Tioga PA) is now heard in Elmira on W238AI (95.5) instead of W236AA (95.1).
After another quick stop to see the tower of WTTC (1550/95.3) in Towanda, Pennsylvania, we drove through the hills to Wilkes-Barre, where we tuned in all the recent format changes in that market. Sure enough, the 93.7 in Dallas is doing active rock as WBSX (93-7X), and its former sister station in Carbondale is now simulcasting CHR WBHT (97.1 Mountaintop). The legal ID, as heard on the 94.3 Carbondale signal, was pretty confusing: the new 94.3 calls of WBHD sounded almost identical to "WBHT." And we wonder whether Citadel has other plans for the third part of this simulcast, since none of the on-air mentions of "94 and 97 BHT" acknowledged 107.7 WEMR-FM in Tunkhannock, and the WEMR-FM legal was buried as an afterthought, separate from the WBHT/WBHD legal.
Over on the Entercom side of things, we spent some time listening to "The Buzz," the new 80s format on WSHG (102.3 Pittston) and WWFH (103.1 Freeland) that's strikingly similar to Entercom's "Buzz" WBZA (98.9) here in Rochester.
But as we drove up the hill to see some of the towers overlooking the valley, we ended up listening to college radio: WCLH (90.7 Wilkes-Barre), with a very amusing pair of jocks who really, really, really wanted someone -- anyone, in fact -- to call in. The unclaimed prize for the first caller to name this week's Newsweek cover photo: a date with either "Steph" or "The Phantom," depending on the winner's preferences. (The cell phone was in the back seat, and Mrs. NERW was in the front seat, so we didn't bother calling in, even though we knew the answer!)
As long as we're hanging out on the Pennsylvania side of the line: Keymarket is filing for a slew of call changes for its stations in northwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to the ones we mentioned last week in Meadville, there's WFRA-FM (99.3 Franklin) becoming WOXX and WOYL-FM (98.5) in nearby Oil City becoming WGYI. We're pretty sure that's a sign that Oil City will become a "Froggy" country, while Franklin seems likely to be a simulcast of oldies WXXO (104.5 Cambridge Springs).
We do have an explanation for the call change at 97.5 in St. Mary's: WDDH, the new calls, reflect the initials of Dennis D. Heindl, who's now running the station. Heindl owned WLMI (103.9) in nearby Kane from its start in 1988 until 1989, and we hear he's hired WLMI's first GM, Joe Disque, to run WDDH. Heindl is also a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We'll have to plan a stop to tape all the changes next summer as we head to the National Radio Club's convention down in Pittsburgh!
Back in New York, a call change in Watertown also involves the folks who own Keymarket. Their Forever Broadcasting owns 1410 in Watertown, which is changing from WUZZ to WGME(AM). Could a sports format be next?
In Utica, WRUN (1150) has a new format, but it's still a simulcast of another local station. We hear Regent has flipped the station from country and WFRG-FM (104.3) to a rebroadcast of news-talk WIBX (950 Utica), though it's not clear that the 1150 signal reaches any areas that WIBX's existing signal misses.
Radio people on the move: Rick Jordan drops "acting" from his PD title at Syracuse country station WBBS (104.7 Fulton) after six months...and down in Elmira, Bob Quick moves up to operations manager for all of Sabre Communications' Elmira-Corning-Hornell stations (WNKI, WNGZ, WPGI/WGMF, WWLZ, and WKPQ/WHHO).
A loss for Albany viewers: WNYT (Channel 13) meteorologist Norm Sebastian lost his fight with cancer Friday (12/22). Sebastian came to WNYT on weekends in 1985, and began doing weather for the morning and noon news in 1990. In April, he left the air to battle large cell lymphoma, though he returned for a brief guest appearance in November. Sebastian was 44.
Just down the same tower, WKZE-FM (98.1 Salisbury) is looking for a new PD and morning host. Andrew DiGiovanni, who's been with WKZE for four years, is leaving in early January to be the regional sales engineer for Prophet Systems.
Viewers in the Hartford area -- well, the two or three who watch channel 18 -- were confused over the holiday weekend by two conflicting IDs. We hear the old "WHCT-TV" IDs are now history, though, and the station is now operating as WUVN, putting the last 1950s-era UHF calls in New England to rest after more than four decades.
Just up the dial at channel 20, WTXX in Waterbury is already using its new "WB20" logo, even though the network doesn't move there until January 1.
Testing continues on CHWO (740 Toronto), as the station reactivates the old CBL facility. We hear the tests will end at 6 AM on Monday, January 8, with "PrimeTime Radio" programming beginning at, appropriately enough, 7:40 AM. If you're hearing the station and want a QSL, we're told the Ontario DX Association will be handling those requests. Drop a line to them at PO Box 161, Willowdale Postal Station "A", Toronto ON M2N 5S8, and we're sure a bit of return postage or an IRC (International Reply Coupon) would help them get that QSL to you faster.
The CHUM Group is adding Lindsay's CKLY (91.9) to its Peterborough signals (CKPT 1420 and CKQM 105.1), for a reported C$800,000 to former owner Centario Communications Ltd.
Finally this week, a few words about LPFM. You've no doubt read already that Congress has passed the spending bill that includes provisions that will make LPFM almost non-existent in populated areas. In a nutshell, the castrated LPFM approved on Capitol Hill must function within the current third-adjacent channel protections required for full-power FM, thus ensuring that just about any channel where LPFM could have gone a few years ago has already been filled by drop-in full power allocations.
How bad is it for LPFM proponents? The FCC rushed out a list of 255 LPFM applications around the country that are both uncontested and meet the stricter spacing guidelines. In all of the four New England states where applications have already been taken, precisely eight applicants will be rewarded with construction permits next month.
They are: in Maine, the Maine Science and Technology Museum (105.3 Yarmouth) and the Penobscot School (93.3 Rockland); in New Hampshire, the Jackson Ski Community Radio Association (97.3 Bartlett), the Christian Fellowship of New England (106.5 Center Conway), and Franklin Pierce College (105.3 Rindge); in Rhode Island, the Newport Musical Arts Association (105.9 Newport); and in Connecticut, the Broadcasters Club (103.5 Farmington) and Asnuntuck Community College LPFM (107.7 Enfield).
We've already berated the regulators for ignoring the reality that LPFM already exists on allocations far closer than fourth-adjacent; in fact, we were up on Penobscot Mountain above Wilkes-Barre over the weekend, where a translator on 91.7 and a full-power class A on 92.1 coexist from the same site. But rather than just feeling like we're repeating ourselves, we'll close this week with an encore presentation of our LPFM Rant from March 31. Remember..."we told you so." (Why couldn't we have been wrong?)
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.]
OK, we're back live, with just this one brief additional comment: We don't expect anything to get better for LPFM under the Bush White House and its Michael Powell-led FCC. But we can't wait to see what Bill Kennard will do once he leaves the Portals in a few weeks. Our New Year's wish? That Kennard will find the platform and the guts to speak out in favor of local radio and against the big corporate special interests once he leaves the Chairman's office.
Not only that, but what about all those religious applications that got tossed out the door by Congress' actions? We're guessing that most of the Calvary Churches that applied for LPFMs they'll never get are populated by lots of Republican voters. Will they feel political heat? (Maybe not; a quick survey of the 255 lucky CP recipients suggests that at least half are religious broadcasters...)
But we get ahead of ourselves, don't we? As we close out the final NERW of 2000, we're getting warmed up for next week's special: NERW's Year in Review, and our annual Year-End Rant. This year: "Why Local Will Save Radio As We Know It." It'll be right here at fybush.com on January 1, and on the mailing list mid-week...don't miss it!
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