WNYPBA has owned 970 since 1976, when it bought the former WEBR (and its sister FM station on 94.5, now WNED-FM) and turned WEBR into an all-news operation. For a while, WEBR was one of the finest public radio newsrooms in the country. A few years ago, though, WEBR dropped the all-news format, changed calls to WNED(AM), and switched to a more traditional public radio news/information format.
WNED had fallen on tough times in the last few years, a victim of WNYPBA budget problems brought on in part by the decision, under previous management, to invest much of the association's resources into the construction of a huge new studio/office building in downtown Buffalo. (NERW notes that the debt from that building was also cited as a reason when WNYPBA put WNEQ-TV, Channel 23, up for sale last year).
WNED(AM) employed five full-time staffers and six part-timers. WNYPBA officials say they'll try to find other jobs within the company for them. Meantime, Buffalo listeners will lose the daily "Live @ Noon" talk show, weekend All Things Considered, overnight BBC broadcasts, "The Connection," and "Marketplace," among other 970-only programming. As for 970's long-term future, WNYPBA president Don Boswell tells the Buffalo News he'll consider an LMA for the station, but doesn't plan to sell the station, in hopes that it will be valuable if IBOC digital radio becomes a reality (NERW notes that the DA-1 signal on 970 has a very tight pattern that does well in downtown Buffalo and up towards Niagara Falls but is unlistenable in even Buffalo's nearby eastern and southeastern suburbs).
NERW's sorry to see WNYPBA give up any pretense of offering a public-affairs radio service to Buffalo (WNED-FM on 94.5 is 24-hour classical music), and we're hopeful WBFO will be able to work out a deal to provide some separate programming to 970 and, perhaps, even expand its jazz service on 88.7.
Meanwhile, on the suburban fringes of Rochester, several stations are changing hands. Just a few months after signing on for the first time, Brockport's WASB-FM (105.5) is being sold by Dr. David Wolfe to George Kimble's Canandaigua Broadcasting. In exchange, Wolfe will get a 10-year consulting agreement, $360,000, and Kimble's WRSB (1310 Canandaigua), which Wolfe has been leasing since last fall anyway as a simulcast of religious WASB (1590 Brockport). There's no word yet on what Kimble will do with 105.5; NERW hopes he's not planning to use it to reach Rochester, since its signal is barely listenable in most of the city and almost all of its suburbs, doing well only to the west of Brockport in thinly-populated Orleans County. Kimble also owns WCGR (1550 Canandaigua). Meanwhile, Jacor filed to transfer yet-unbuilt 102.1 Albion to the Calvary Satellite Network folks. New calls on that one are WBJA, last seen upstate on Channel 34 in Binghamton in the 1960s and 70s.
Up in the Glens Falls area, WNYQ (105.7 Queensbury) has reached agreement with the town of Moreau to take down its controversial 500-foot tower. After the tower was built, the town claimed it had erred in granting zoning approval, leading to a lengthy fight with WNYQ's owner, Bradmark Communications. What's not yet clear is whether the town will give "Wink 105.7" time to locate a new site and build another tower before being forced to dismantle its current one. We'll keep you posted.
The FCC's been busy deleting silent translators this week, including these in the Empire State: W288AL Brocton (WHUG Jamestown), W285AD Watertown (WMHR Syracuse), W288AR East Rochester (the old relay of 95.1 South Bristol in its WYLF days), Harvest Translator's W257AT Schroon Lake, W261CF Lake George, and W265AN French Mountain, St. Lawrence University's W219AC Blue Mountain Lake and W203AB Felts Mills, Family Radio's W202AJ West Hurley and W219AQ Hurley, W288BA Middletown (WSUL), and the never-built W215AD Lima (WMHN Webster). St. Lawrence University is applying for a new translator this week, too, on 88.7 in Old Forge. W272AV (102.3 Newburgh) is now relaying WDST (100.1 Woodstock), which makes those folks in Newburgh awfully lucky (hey, can we get a WDST translator up here, please?), and W292CM Poughkeepsie is now on the air at 106.3 relaying WCTW (98.5 Catskill).
Dennis Jackson's new 97.9 CP in Jewett has changed calls, from WAXK to WRIP.
And late word from Albany bureau chief Gavin Burt is that WPYX (106.5) has dropped new rock from its playlist to become a straight-ahead classic rocker...more on this next week.
WNTY (990 Southington) is changing hands with the passing of owner Donato Sarapo. His estate is now the licensee of the station; no word on what its ultimate fate will be.
Kevin Skiest's afternoon talk show on WELI (960 New Haven) has ended, thanks to a dispute over WELI's rates for the show, which Skiest programmed on time brokered from WELI. The syndicated John and Ken show is now running from 4-8 PM weekdays, extended from its former 6 PM end time.
"Jamz 910," WNEZ New Britain, has flip-flopped its DJs. JJ Foxx returns to his old late-night slot, with night jock Jackie Torres taking over mornings.
Pirates, pirates, pirates...we've been hearing about a whole bunch of foreign-language operations in Eastern Massachusetts in the last few weeks. The latest batch includes Boston stations on 102.1 and 102.9, as well as "WRNM - Radio Noveaute Mattapan" on 1640 kHz and a Lawrence-area Spanish religious pirate on 99.9. There's Spanish religion in mono on 105.5 down in the Providence area, and most blatantly, we're told Portuguese "WKNM" (1570 Lowell) has built a 50-foot tower in back of its studios at 599 Central St.
Jim Radler is moving to the big time -- the former PD at WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT-Springfield) has relocated 90 miles down the Pike to take over the night shift at WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell).
Our condolences to the family and friends of Bill Heckbert, the veteran Boston jock most recently employed as a fill-in at WKLB-FM. Heckbert succumbed to cancer last Sunday (January 24). Donations in his memory can be made to Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Center.
And our best wishes go out to Judy Jarvis, the syndicated talk host who returned to the airwaves this month after spending much of 1998 out sick.
Up the Spalding Turnpike a bit, we hear UNH's WUNH (91.3 Durham) has finished building a new tower some 15 feet from the old one, and will soon sign on a potent 6000-watt signal for the Seacoast.
More translator deletions: Harvest's W276AT Goffstown, W257AS Franklin, W244AQ Center Harbor, W228AV Northfield, and W244AP East Andover have all been cancelled.
Still more translator deletions, again all Harvest's: W280CD Barre, W280CG West Brookfield, W272AQ Morgan, W261CG Rutland, W272AP East Haven, and W285DC Gilman.
Leslie Doppler has departed WGAN (560 Portland) after six years, the last few as News Director. No replacement has been named.
Mid-Maine Community Broadcasting is selling WFYW-LP (Channel 41) in Waterville to Three Angels Broadcasting, which operates a nationwide network of LPTV religious stations.
Maine Public Broadcasting is applying for 90.5 in Camden, which seems a mite odd to NERW -- since it seems to us that we were right around there on our Maine trip last summer when we were able to hear, simultaneously, the MPBN radio outlets in Portland, Waterville, Bangor, and Calais (and even a weak WMEM Presque Isle, if memory serves).
So long, W237AP Madawaska. The 95.3 translator of WBPW Presque Isle wasn't on the air when we were there last summer, and has now been deleted. Speaking of Presque Isle, we note a license to cover for WOZI's move to 101.9 from 101.7 -- anyone up there know if this change has really taken place?
In ALBANY, WFLY soared past perennial #1 WGNA to take first place. WGNA dropped 3 points 12+ to land in second, just ahead of WGY. In fourth, and rising, was WPYX (which makes the format change to classic rock seem a bit odd), followed by WYJB, WQBK/WQBJ, WABY AM-FM, WRVE, and WTRY. We'll know in the next book how new urban-targeted WXLE and WAJZ (still legally WPTR) do.
Same old story in SYRACUSE: WBBS leading the pack, followed by WSYR and WAQX (now in a near-tie for third place with a surging WYYY). Also nearly tied are CHR rivals WNTQ and WWHT, followed by WKRL/WKRH, WSEN, WLTI, and WTKW/WTKV.
ITHACA's WYXL again led the book, but without breaking a 20 share like it did last time out. In second and up slightly was country WQNY, trailed by WHCU, WIII, and WVBR. And pulling in at sixth, but tripling its ratings, was WTKO in its first book after switching from satellite sports to satellite oldies.
Finally, our home market of ROCHESTER found news-talk WHAM overtaking country WBEE for the top spot 12+. WRMM was flat at third, WDKX was down but still good for fourth place, WCMF was up and in fifth. "Mix" WVOR gained a bit for sixth place, followed by oldies WBBF, another down book for CHR WPXY, a flat book to end WNVE's stint as a pure modern rocker (we'll know next time how the addition of classic rock helped or hurt the Nerve), a down book for modern AC WZNE, and a slight rise for WMAX-FM in its last book as dance-CHR "Jam'n 107." It will be interesting to see how the switch to more mainstream CHR "Kiss" and the addition of the WYSY (106.7) simulcast helps Kiss in the Spring book.
And finally this week, you didn't really think NERW would fail to comment on the FCC's historic decision to issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making for LPFM, did you?
We're pleased to see Bill Kennard and company taking action on this issue instead of emulating their predecessors and hoping it would go away. We like some of the aspects they're proposing, in particular the suggestion that LPFMs not be allowed to be owned or programmed by existing commercial broadcasters. But we're worried by a few other aspects, especially the "1000-watt" category that sounds more like a full-power station, the hesitation to move immediately on licensing stations under 100 watts, and the idea that as many as 10 LPFMs might be owned by the same individual.
And we're most concerned about a few things that were never mentioned at all -- specifically, the status of the existing translator service. In an ideal world, we'd like to see the FCC take seriously the "secondary" status of translators and allow them, especially the satellite-fed ones, to be bumped by LPFM. In the real world in which we're resigned to living, we'd at least settle for an immediate freeze on translator applications, followed by a ruling that new translator apps should be subject to the same ownership and control rules as LPFM, which would effectively kill any further growth of the "national translator networks" we've so often criticized in this space. Without such a move, we're afraid there simply won't be any spectrum available for an LPFM service to flourish.
Comments on this proposal will be due in April; rest assured that we'll be firing some off, and you'll read them here.
That's it for this week; next time, ratings for Watertown, Binghamton, Portland, and Lewiston-Auburn, plus all the week's news. See you Friday!