WBNW was the product of American Radio Systems' purchase of the call letters and format of the old WEEI (590) in August 1994. At that time, ARS was not permitted to own three AMs in Boston, so it took the WEEI calls and sports format to the former WHDH (850), kept its talker WRKO (680), and sold the 590 facility to broadcaster Peter Ottmar, who also owned WARA (1320 Attleboro MA) and WWKX (106.3 Woonsocket-Providence RI). After a few weeks of rebroadcasting WEEI, WBNW debuted in September 1994 with a mix of Bloomberg Business News, local business talk, and satellite talk such as Bruce Williams.
In 1995, Ottmar sold WARA and bought WICE (550 Pawtucket RI), renaming it WPNW and duplicating much of WBNW's programming for the Providence market.
Although WBNW's ratings and revenue were never much to speak of, what really doomed the station was a move ARS made a few months ago. It turns out that ARS held an option to buy WBNW throughout the station's history, and when ARS bought KDBX-FM (now KBBT) Banks-Portland OR from Salem this summer, part of the deal included transferring that option to Salem.
WBNW's salespeople were dismissed on Monday, and it's not clear whether any of WBNW's other staffers (mostly board operators) will stay on under Salem. WBNW is likely to move from its current studios, the old WEEI facility in the Schrafft Center in Charlestown, to the studios of Salem's existing Boston operation, WEZE (1260), in Marina Bay, Quincy.
The last time Salem took over an AM station, KOOL (960, now KPXQ) in Phoenix, the first week of programming consisted of simulcasts of other Salem stations nationwide, such as KKLA Los Angeles and WMCA New York. Perhaps we'll get the same treatment here.
NERW's analysis: This move is hardly a surprise. It establishes Salem as by far the dominant religious operator in Boston, and can't possibly be good news for competitors such as Ken Carter's WROL (950) and Communicom's WNRB (1510). Salem likes having two stations in each market, and lately (just ask anyone in Dallas!), they like to have one of them on AM. The rumor mills are already buzzing about a possible Salem play for Infinity's WBOS (92.9 Brookline-Boston), perhaps in a trade that would give Infinity/CBS WEZE to serve as its long-desired second AM in Boston. Also uncertain is the future of WPNW down in Rhode Island. It's sure to lose the locally-produced business programming that came from WBNW, but it could easily survive with Bloomberg and syndicated programs, thanks to its profitable sister FM, WWKX. A long-shot rumor making the rounds has Ottmar trying to move 550 north towards Boston, something that might be possible now that the station in Fredericton, New Brunswick on 550 has moved to FM. As always, we'll keep you posted here at NERW.
One more irony to note here: The sale of WBNW was first reported on competitor WBZ (1030) by business editor Anthony Silva. With WBNW's demise, he becomes the only radio business reporter in New England.
NHPR's application for 99.5 in Jackson NH has now been joined by three more, from companies called Blue Dolphin Communications, Cache Valley Communications, and North Country Radio. Unlike the old, never-built CP for WZJN 99.5 Jackson, none of these applicants contemplates building atop Mount Washington, the highest point in New England. These applications range from 130 watts at 1584' AAT (NHPR) to 2400 watts at 341' AAT (North Country) -- so we're talking about just covering the Mount Washington Valley, and not the huge swaths of northern New England that can be reached from the mountaintop.
One more FCC bit: Northampton's WHMP-FM (99.3) is applying to increase power from 3000 watts to 5500 watts, while in nearby South Hadley, WPVQ (93.9 Turners Falls MA) has applied for a translator on 105.3.