The 1000-watt daytimer on 790 (later adding 21 watts at night) spent most of its quiet life as WRUM, changing calls a few years ago to WLLB when it was purchased by J.J. Jeffrey. Late last year, Jeffrey sold WLLB to Richard Gleason's Mountain Valley Broadcasting, which moved some calls around, giving Rumford the WTME calls from 1240 in Lewiston, which became WCNM.
But Jeffrey did something else while he owned 790: he filed an application to move the station down the dial to 780 and boost power to 10 kilowatts daytime, still non-directional. And that's just what WTME did on Christmas Eve, surprising DXers, and half of Portland, with a signal that's now tied for the most powerful in the Pine Tree State, at least by day. (Only Skowhegan's WSKW and Gorham's WMTW were already using 10 kW daytime, and WMTW is directional.)
WTME still drops down to flea-power (18 watts) at night, which is problematic this time of year, when the sun's down before 5 PM, but during the day, it's now being heard as far away as Boston (and by DXers as far as Ontario!) with religion and talk programming, simulcast with WCNM (1240 Lewiston) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris).
Speaking of the "old" channel 7, WNAC-TV, one of its most colorful characters died this week. Anchor Jack Cole, who'd been at WBZ-TV as well, was himself fired from channel 7 back in the late seventies after going to a commercial break with the tease, "More alleged news in a minute."
Cole moved to Florida shortly after his rare experiment with honesty in broadcasting, and he died of brain cancer there last Tuesday (Jan. 8) at age 63.
One bit of radio news this week: David Duran moves from assistant music director to music director at WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven) down in New Bedford; he's still doing afternoons at Fun 107 as well.
First things first: Keating Willcox, the former owner of WOON and crosstown WNRI (1380), is alive and well. We're told he's completely recovered from the illness that left him near death last year, and he's still running WNSH (1570 Beverly) up on the North Shore. (We also hear he'll be sending the Woonsocket Call a nice photo of himself laid out in a bed of flowers to, er, thank them for pronouncing him dead in print!)
As for that tower dispute: WOON owner Dave Richards tells NERW the problem began when he sold WOON to Willcox back in 1998. A misunderstanding between the two, Richards says, led to the city of Woonsocket not being paid the money it was owed from leases on the tower, which sits on city land.
By the time Richards bought WOON back from Willcox a year later and found out the royalties had never been paid, he tells NERW, "the partnership (that had owned WOON) was dissolved and the money to pay it was gone."
A month later, the city told WOON it would have to move from the city-owned site where its tower sat. A proposed new site fell through for political reasons, so WOON entered into an agreement with WNRI to diplex on its tower on Diamond Hill Road.
Richards tells NERW he then offered the city the old tower and $400,000 in future lease payments from its tenants to make up for the unpaid royalties from 1998-99. In exchange, the plan was for Richards to pay to move the tower's guy wires (to allow a new water tower to be built on Washington Street).
Then Willcox became ill and sold WNRI, throwing a wrench into the plan. Richards tells NERW the station's new owners didn't want WOON diplexing there, and the result was a court battle that sapped most of his cash resources, including the money set aside to move the guy wires on the old tower.
WOON finally did make its move last November (though we're still unable to find any record of it in the FCC database), and Richards says he's working to borrow money to move the guy wires and satisfy the city.
Meanwhile, on the TV side, there's a new look and an old name to the newscasts on WPRI-TV (Channel 12) in Providence. The "Eyewitness News" moniker returned to the CBS affiliate's newscasts this week after an absence of several years; the name is also used on the 10 PM newscast the station produces for Fox LMA partner WNAC (Channel 64).
WGHQ's John Street studios are being closed, with station operations moving down to Clear Channel's facilities on Tucker Drive in Poughkeepsie. WGHQ will now run the satellite "Music of Your Life" format 24 hours a day, with just a minor sales presence in its city of license. (Unsurprisingly, message boards in Kingston are already buzzing with complaints; this is bound to be a good move for WKNY, the last remaining local station in Kingston.)
Down in New York City, there are plenty of changes to report this week at dance-CHR WKTU (103.5), starting with the new morning show that adds former Boston jock Baltazar to 'KTU fixture Goumba Johnny. On nights, Geronimo is out, with former Long Island jock Vic the Latino returning to New York (from WPYO in Orlando) to take the airshift. Assistant program director Jeff Z. takes Geronimo's old music director duties.
Just up the dial at 104.3, a familiar Big Apple voice returns to the airwaves at WAXQ this weekend. Jim Kerr, whose resume includes stops at WPLJ, WQCD and WMXV among others, was most recently heard in mornings at the "Y107" quadcast in the suburbs. On Saturday, he'll join Q104 for a new Saturday morning gig. (The station also launched its new morning show this week, with "Radio Chick" Leslie Gold joining PD Bob Buchmann.)
On the sports side, both New York baseball teams will have new announcing teams this year. Charlie Steiner moves from ESPN radio to the Yankees' YES Network, to join John Sterling for the broadcasts on WCBS (880), while Ted Robinson comes east from the San Francisco Giants to do Mets broadcasts on WFAN and WPIX-TV.
Speaking of YES, it will carry a video feed of WFAN's Mike and Mad Dog show weekdays from 1-6:30 PM when the Yankees aren't playing.
And NASCAR fans in the Big Apple won't be left out this year; Sporting News Radio's WSNR (620 Newark NJ) has signed up with Motor Racing Network to carry NASCAR action this season.
On the TV side of things, WKOB-LP has been denied class A status, which may leave the low-power TV station without a spot on the dial sometime soon. Here's what happened: forced to vacate its channel 53 spot, the station entered the auction for channel 48, spending just over a million dollars to win the right to move its signal there.
But there's a problem with channel 48: it's also the spot where WRNN-TV (Channel 62) up in Kingston wants to move its DTV allocation, and the only way for a secondary service like WKOB-LP to prevent itself from being bumped is to be granted "class A" status. To do that, a station has to show that it broadcasts 18 hours a day and that its broadcasts include three hours a week of local programming.
WKOB-LP couldn't do that, though; it had been leased out by Paxson in 1999, running no local programming, and then went dark for a while after the lease ended. The station asked the FCC for a waiver of the requirement, arguing that the Korean-language programming it now runs qualifies as local.
WRNN thought otherwise, hiring a translation service to monitor and log WKOB's programming to show that the Korean shows airing on WKOB were actually produced at churches in Korea, a long way from Brooklyn.
And the FCC, when it weighed in this week, said it wasn't even going to consider WRNN's intervention. Rules are rules, said the Commission, and WKOB wasn't meeting them with local programming during the late 2000 time frame being considered. So without class A status, WKOB remains subject to displacement from channel 48, and might not find any spot for its broadcasts.
Not much news upstate, it turns out: just a well-founded rumor that there's a new graphics and music package on the way to WHEC (Channel 10) in Rochester February 1, a much-welcome freshening for the station that's had the same look now since 1995.
An hour or so north in Reading, WEEU (830) moves from full-service AC to news-talk, with Charlie Adams' "Charlie and Company" morning show dropping music in favor of more talk, and a new roster of syndicated talkers in the evening hours that includes Michael Savage and Lionel. Music shows will continue on the weekends for now.
We don't often mention Troy and Canton, but the small towns between Elmira and Williamsport are hearing some different voices on their local stations. At "Wiggle Country," WHGL (100.3 Canton), Kenny Lane moves off the air, giving up his PD and afternoon-drive slots to do sales. David Rockwell, who's half of the "Mike and Rocky" morning show on WHGL, adds PD duties there; he's also PD and sales manager at sports WTZN (1310 Troy).
And in Pittsburgh, the Renda Broadcasting trio of WSHH, WPTT and WJAS have a new general manager, as Larry Weiss comes up from the Renda cluster in Jacksonville.
And the "Travel World" folks, formerly heard on Montreal's late CIQC (600), and still heard on the Liberty Works network, have added a new stateside service: "Travel World Updates," a five-minute feature, began running last week on WKTJ (99.3 Farmington ME) and is being offered elsewhere as well. (Check out the Website at http://www.twc.ca for more information.)
That's it for another week; we're off for a quick spin to New York City this weekend, and we'll be back with next week's NERW on Tuesday, January 22. See you then!