Not quite as action-packed as last week's NERW, but here's what's making headlines in and around the NorthEast radio dial:
Technically, the station needs some work -- a lot of what they were saying was inaudible, and a locally-produced drama called "The Real World Allston" suffered from some of the worst audio I've ever heard. The RFA folks are clearly trying hard, though, and in an age of increasingly monopolistic bottom-line radio, it is nice to see someone actually trying to serve the community.
I'll step on the NERW editorial soapbox for a minute here to respond to some of the questions I've been getting about NERW's stand on unlicensed radio: On a technical level, I'm deeply concerned about an explosion in unlicensed operations drowning out licensed broadcasters. RFA deserves some credit for switching from 88.5 to 106.1 after some outcry from listeners to WFCR Amherst MA in the Boston area; not all pirates are as considerate. NERW won't hesitate to continue to note potential interference problems.
But on a programming level, my concerns about commercial radio continue to deepen. The NERW radio spent much of last weekend tuned in to WRPT (650), the Boston area's newest AM station. After all the effort Alexander Langer went through to get the frequency, what's it being used for? "Talk America #2 Network," which features mostly per-inquiry spots and infomercials hawking all kinds of Scandinavian snake oil and the like. If this is what licensed radio has fallen to, NERW's willing to take an open mind towards unlicensed radio -- as long as it's doing something distinctive. RFA's at least partially on the right track -- although at least part of the broadcast day consisted of the "loud rock music and dirty words" programming that seems to characterize too much pirate radio these days. Okay, off the soapbox and on with the news:
Meantime, eight applicants (among them former New York and New England broadcaster Peter Hunn) have queued up in hopes of getting one of the area's last FM frequencies, 100.3 Sylvan Beach (about halfway between Syracuse and Utica).
WSCP (1070 Sandy Creek NY) remains dark, but they have until April 24 to resume operation. Meanwhile, does anyone know how much longer Oswego's dark WZOS (96.7) has to get back on the air? And in Rome, AM 1450 has applied to return to the WODZ(AM) calls. NERW believes they never actually used the WFRY(AM) calls for which they had applied, merely using the application to warehouse the calls for co-owned 97.5 Watertown, which officially changed calls to WFRY this week from WCIZ. The WCIZ calls and rock format go to 93.5, the former WTNY-FM.
The news from the Granite State is slim this week -- applicants have until April 7 to go for 106.5 in Farmington NH. That's where WRHF held a construction permit that expired last year.
In Maine, WKZS (99.9 Auburn) is shifting its image a bit, dropping "Kiss" to become "Mix 96.9 and 99.9," putting more emphasis on its Portland translator. The music hasn't changed much, remaining a blend of current and 70s/80s AC. And Westbrook's WJAE (1440) is indeed playing on the calls' similarity to the heritage WJAB calls it used to have. WJAE is calling itself "Portland's Jab."
Out on Cape Cod, WUOK (1240 West Yarmouth) has been transferred to Boston University, and is now a full-time simulcast of WBUR (90.9 Boston). The folks at Worcester's WCRN (830) have unveiled a new website at www.wcrn.com. A correction on a bit of Boston news from last time: WKLB-FM's Carolyn Kruse is in fact the proud new mother of a baby boy, named Jacob Robert. And WBMX (98.5) has been granted a transmitter move, presumably to the Prudential Tower.
Connecticut news: WWCO (1240 Waterbury) has begun a partial simulcast with new owner Buckley's WDRC (1360 Hartford), with morning host Brad Davis's WDRC show debuting on WWCO this week. The WWCO offices in Waterbury will stay open, with some programming and sales remaining there. Former Giants star Beasley Reese is leaving WVIT-TV (Channel 30) to become sports anchor at newly co-owned WTOG (Channel 44) in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market. He follows news director Steve Schwaid south. And we're told the full-fledged nostalgia-and-news format at Quinnipiac College's WQUN (1220 Hamden) will debut April 28.