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NorthEast Radio Watch 5/6: Clear Channel Buys More
*This week's column might better be called "Clear Channel Watch" for
all the news Lowry Mays and company have generated in the region over
the past few days -- not least of which is word of an impending purchase
making waves in the Hudson Valley radio scene.
It hasn't been officially announced by either company yet, but
we're hearing that $24 million is the price Clear Channel will pay to
add Straus Media Group's ten stations in the region. Included in the
-Standards WCKL (560) Catskill and news-talk WHUC (1230) Hudson
-News-talk WKIP (1450) Poughkeepsie
-News-talk WELV (1370) Ellenville
-"Thunder Country" WTHK (93.5) Hudson and WTHN (99.3) Ellenville
-Hot AC "Cat" WCTW (98.5) Catskill and WCTJ (96.1) Poughkeepsie
-Soft AC "Q92" WRNQ (92.1) Poughkeepsie
-Adult rock WRKW (92.9) Saugerties
The Straus stations fill in a gap between CC's existing clusters in
Albany (including WPYX 106.5, which has a translator in the northern
Hudson Valley), Utica, Binghamton, New York City, and Connecticut.
*If* this deal comes to fruition, it will be the first time one of the
big national groups has set foot in the Hudson Valley, and certainly
the possibility of moving many of the stations' operations to the
existing CC clusters nearby can't be ruled out. We'll keep watching
this one for developments...
One that Clear Channel has confirmed: The company will pay $5 million
to Cram Communications for that company's Syracuse-market WVOA (105.1
DeRuyter). WVOA currently programs religion, simulcast on WVOQ (103.9
Mexico) in Oswego County to the north, as well as on translators
W243AB (96.5 Westvale) and W237AY (95.3 DeWitt) in the Syracuse area.
Those stations, along with WVOA's sister AM station, WSIV (1540 East
Syracuse) don't go to Clear Channel, which leads us to think that the
WVOA format will continue on WVOQ and the translators.
So why would Clear Channel want a signal that's never done especially
well in the populated parts of the market? NERW's guess: The reason
WVOA doesn't do well in Syracuse itself is because of top-rated
second-adjacent station WBBS (104.7 Fulton), which is itself part of
the CC/Syracuse cluster (along with news-talk WSYR 570, sports WHEN
620, AC WYYY 94.5, and CHR WWHT 107.9). With a simulcast on 105.1,
WBBS would be able to reach the areas south and east of the city that
it currently has trouble serving. Another possibility being floated
in the newsgroups: Could CC plan an east-side simulcast of its most
recent addition to the cluster, WHCD (106.9 Auburn), which rimshots
Syracuse from the west? We'll see...
(One more note on WVOA: Like WNUC near Buffalo, whose history we
recounted last week, 105.1 was a longtime part of the
QXR/Rural/Ivy/CBN chain, under the calls WVCN, WRRA, and WOIV.)
And while we're thinking about Clear Channel, the St. Petersburg
(Florida) Times reports the company will have to pay an $80,000 fine
to settle complaints about its nationwide contests. The deal with
Florida's attorney general also requires Clear Channel to air
announcements during prime listening hours (instead of overnight)
explaining the real chances of winning the contests, and bars the
company's local stations from recutting interviews with contest
winners to make them sound local when they're not.
*Some of the week's other big news also happened in NEW YORK,
including a confusing decision by the FCC on the addition of a new
allocation on the FM dial way up north in Saranac Lake. The town's
existing FM station, WSLK (106.3), had opposed Dana Puopolo's petition
to add 107.1A to the table of allocations for Saranac Lake (which,
oddly, has an allocation at 101.7A that has itself never been used
since WSLK changed frequency some years back). Arguing that many
frequencies were being added to the table on a speculative basis,
without ever being applied for, WSLK tried to get the FCC to refuse
to add the frequency...but to no avail. Another part of the decision
substitutes 102.9A for 102.5A in Westport, thus meaning a frequency
change for WCLX down the road.
We probably can't get away without mentioning the fight between
ABC/Disney and Time Warner that removed WABC-TV (Channel 7) from Time
Warner systems in the area for a little more than a day Monday and
Tuesday, but to avoid digging ourselves a big conflict-of-interest
hole (your editor's day job is with a subsidiary of Time Warner),
we'll limit ourselves to these observations: first, that this is
neither the first nor the last retransmission-consent battle, and if
it had happened anywhere other than New York City, it would have
passed with nowhere near this much attention; and second, that given
all the anti-Time Warner noises being made in Washington and on the
editorial pages, it's important to remember that Disney had the option
some months ago to choose must-carry status for WABC-TV, which would
have compelled TWC to keep carrying Channel 7 no matter what. Our
sympathies for the Mouse, therefore, are limited indeed. (This
reminder, too, that opinions expressed in NERW are solely those of the
Back to radio, then: Newark, New Jersey's WBGO (88.3) is apparently
getting tired of all the applications for stations nearby on 88.1, so
it's joining the fray: WBGO has applied for a translator on 88.1 in
New York City.
The Baltimore Orioles have a new radio affiliate far to the north of
Camden Yards. WYSL (1040 Avon) in the Rochester market is carrying
O's games this year. It's no big mystery: the Orioles are the parent
team of Rochester's AAA Red Wings, and since the Wings are on the
competition (Clear Channel's WHTK and WHAM), the big-league club is
better than nothing come baseball season. (NERW notes that Orioles
fans in Rochester -- and there aren't as many as there used to be,
given how shabbily the parent club has treated its longtime farm team
lately -- have always been able to tune in night games on WBAL and
A correction of sorts from last week: It was a Saturday-night jock,
not a weekday one, that WBBF (98.9 Rochester) was seeking -- but put
away those tapes and resumes: the job's been filled by Utica and
Rochester veteran Jeff Moulton (who spent some time at 98.9 in days
gone by when it was WKLX).
Speaking of Entercom/Rochester, it looks as though that company's WEZO
(950) is yielding the standards battle to Crawford's WLGZ (Legends
990). WEZO was already breaking away from the satellite "AM Only"
format to lease two hours nightly to Spanish-language broadcasters;
now they've also leased out morning drive. Broadcaster Bob Scott is
buying the time for a business-talk show that's done live from the
Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown. We're sure WLGZ doesn't mind the
disappearance of format competition from 6-9 each morning...
One opening that is for real: morning co-host at Albany's "Fly 92"
(WFLY 92.3 Troy), where Whitney left the Reno and Whitney morning show
More on the sale of WNUC (107.7 Wethersfield) to Adelphia: the
station's new emphasis on sports will include the Buffalo Sabres. The
hockey team moves from WHTT (104.1 Buffalo) next season to WNUC, which
will by then be co-owned with the team's TV rights-holder, Empire
A few more TV notes before leaving the Empire State: Syracuse Fox
affiliate WSYT (Channel 68) is changing providers for its news
programming next month. Beginning June 12, the station's 10 PM news
will come from Granite's CBS affiliate, WTVH (Channel 5), instead of
from Raycom's NBC station, WSTM (Channel 3). Those familiar with
Syracuse TV geography will note that WSYT's own studios sit right
between those of WTVH and WSTM along James Street.
And a visit to Binghamton (which explains the one-day delay in this
NERW) helped us clear up some confusion about the effects of
Ackerley's purchase of Elmira NBC affiliate WETM (Channel 18) and its
Binghamton LPTV counterpart, WBGH-LP (Channel 8). Where WBGH used to
be an almost-total relay of WETM (to fill the gap left a few years
back by the affiliation change at Binghamton's WICZ Channel 40 from
NBC to Fox), the station now simulcasts the 5:30, 6, and 11 PM news
from Ackerley's Binghamton ABC affiliate, WIVT (Channel 34). One more
bit of weirdness: the billboard we spotted in downtown Johnson City
promoting the stations as "ABC 4" and "NBC 5" (their spots on cable in
the area). Most of the other WIVT billboards around town, as well as
the station's on-air promotions, call it "News Channel 34." Go
*From CONNECTICUT comes word that WFSB (Channel 3) in Hartford has
inaugurated digital TV service. WFSB-DT operates from WFSB's
transmitter site on Talcott Mountain in Avon, using channel 33.
While we're in the vicinity of Talcott Mountain, we're able to clear
up some of the confusion that followed last week's report of the
Entravision/WHCT deal. First off, it now looks as though Entravision
*is* about to follow through on its purchase of Channel 18, in a
complicated deal that will cost the company $26 million. Only $1
million will go to WHCT's current owner, the bankrupt Astroline firm
that's been fighting to hang on to the license since 1984. The rest
will go to two other companies that had been hoping to buy WHCT but
were caught up in bankruptcy problems and in a lawsuit over
That, amazingly, is the easy part. The rest of the proposed
Entravision purchases in the region (including WNDS in Derry NH) don't
look like they'll become reality. It seems the stations were
recommended to Entravision as possible acquisitions by Barbara
Laurence (who was the principal some years back in Cuchifritos
Communications, the almost-buyer of Channel 43 in Bridgeport), but
amidst a lawsuit between Laurence and Entravision, the chances of any
of those stations actually being sold seems slim. Clear as mud?
What is clear, at least, is how Hartford's WTIC (1080, also on Talcott
Mountain!) will fill the overnight slot being vacated by Art Bell.
Joey Reynolds' WOR Network show gets the nod for WTIC's overnight,
*In MAINE, J.J. Jeffrey's Atlantic Coast Broadcasting is adding to its
station group with the purchase of Carter Broadcasting's three Maine
stations. Jeffrey gets to add Portland's WLOB (1310) and Rumford's
WLOB-FM (96.3) and WLLB (790) to his existing group, which includes
sports "WJAB" WJAE (1440 Westbrook) and WJJB (900 Brunswick), CHR WRED
(95.9 Saco), and adult AC WCLZ (95.5 Topsham). NERW knows Jeffrey
must appreciate the irony of longtime competitors "WJAB" and WLOB
finally uniting under one roof; those with shorter memories will at
least recall that the Carter stations were to have been part of the
failed sale to Catholic Family Radio last year. Expect a format
change from religion when the deal closes...
"Light of Life Ministries" is applying for a new station on 88.5 in
Bowdoin, which would be about halfway between Portland and Augusta,
and seems awfully close to WYAR on 88.3 in Yarmouth.
We'll know in a few weeks how many would-be LPFMers are in the Pine
Tree State. Maine and Rhode Island are the only two states in the
NERW coverage area included in the first LPFM application window,
which opens May 30 and closes June 5. We still don't know how the FCC
plans to report the applications ("not well" would be our guess, based
on how bad the database updates have been going), but we'll put
whatever we know in NERW as soon as we know it.
*Moving over to NEW HAMPSHIRE, there's a new voice coming to mornings
at WJYY (105.5 Concord). Ray Matthews moves north from WXLO (104.5
Fitchburg) in the Worcester market, where he was doing overnights.
The folks at WPNH-FM (100.1 Plymouth) checked in to report they're on
the air with their new facilities, moving up from 111 meters AAT with
2350 watts to 388 meters with 390 watts. Despite the drop in power,
the extra height gives the station the equivalent of a 6 kilowatt
signal, and we hear the station now puts a very listenable signal over
Concord to the south, and north to Franconia Notch.
The Nashua Pride have ended up on WSMN (1590) after all; the team
struck a deal to broadcast its home games on the station, with the
possiblity of adding road games if they can find a way to do so
cheaply. WSMN's John Collins will handle play-by-play.
*Not much to report in MASSACHUSETTS, with the exception of word from
Washington that CSN International's application for 91.7 in Lexington
has been returned.
The FCC's approval of the CBS/Viacom merger this week creates the
first TV duopoly in Boston, as CBS's WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and Viacom's
WSBK (Channel 38) join forces. Boston isn't one of the markets where
the FCC is ordering divestitures; the cross-ownership cap now allows 2
TVs and up to 6 radios in the largest markets, and CBS's 1 AM and 4
FMs stay under the cap. Viacom is adding one more Massachusetts
station, too: WLWC (Channel 28) in New Bedford is being transferred
from LMA partner "C-28 FCC License Subsidiary Inc." to Viacom. (WLWC
doesn't count against duopoly, of course, because it's a
*One more note from just outside the region this week: WKQV (1550
Pittston) in the Scranton market is reportedly returning to the air
after being dark for a few months. The new programming on the station
will be oldies, simulcast with WICK (1400 Scranton) and WYCK (1340
Plains); expect new calls as well.
*Finally this week, a very quick scan through the Winter 2000 12+
Arbitrons (you can see them in full at several other industry sites,
such as All Access, if you're curious)...
Working our way across the region, we'll start in BUFFALO, where
news-talk WBEN successfully consolidated the audience, shooting to
number one in the first book since Entercom flipped sister WGR to
all-sports. Perennial leaders WYRK and WKSE followed. WMJQ was flat
in its last book before becoming "Star 102," while WNUC continued to
slide in its last book before being sold.
Here in ROCHESTER, the top slots looked much as they always do: WHAM
in first, WBEE-FM in second, and a nice strong third place for
locally-owned urban WDKX. WPXY is still winning the CHR war, with
WKGS closing in slowly. WEZO's numbers dropped substantially, with
most of the lost listenership ending up at new competitor WLGZ, which
cracked a 1.0 for the first time with its new format.
SYRACUSE's WBBS stayed in first place, followed by news-talk WSYR and
a strong WNTQ (holding its lead in the Salt City CHR wars). It was
also a very good book for rocker WKRL/WKRH.
Country also dominated in ALBANY, with WGNA staying in first place
despite a slight ratings drop. WFLY was strong in second. Further
down the book, the reshuffling of Albany's rock lineup found WQBK/WQBJ
edging closer to soon to be ex-sister station WPYX. Switching to
smooth jazz boosted ratings at WZMR, while the temporary switch to
holiday music seemed to hurt WKLI. Our interest, though, was in
Albany's AM standards battle, which found the revived WPTR
shooting from nowhere to a 1.5 in one book, followed very closely by
competitor WUAM/WVKZ (and this with a signal that doesn't even cover
Albany itself very well!)
Downstate in NASSAU/SUFFOLK, it was more of the same for AC WALK-FM,
which was followed by New York's WXRK and WHTZ, then by CHR WBLI, and
in fifth place, the standards simulcast of WHLI and WGSM.
HARTFORD's WTIC(AM) led the pack, followed by perennial leaders WRCH,
WKSS, and WWYZ.
PROVIDENCE's book found WPRO-FM and WWLI tied for first, followed by
WSNE, WHJY, and WCTK. In its last book before being sold to Boston's
WFNX, WWRX finished far out of the top 10. Also sliding precipitously
were talker WLKW, which lost two-thirds of its audience in the year
since dropping standards (although we suspect the demographics are
better now), and rocker WHKK/WHCK in its last book before that format
change to "Z100".
SPRINGFIELD was led again by WPKX's country format, followed by
WHYN-FM, WMAS-FM, WAQY, and Hartford-market WKSS (ironically doing far
better than Clear Channel sister WHMP-FM in WHMP's own market!)
More next week...see you then!
---------------------NorthEast Radio Watch------------------------
(c)2000 Scott Fybush
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