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NERW 12/25: WMEX Goes Business
--------------------------NorthEast Radio Watch--------------------------
December 25, 2000
IN THIS ISSUE:
*MASSACHUSETTS: WMEX to go business as WBIX
*NEW YORK: Turmoil at Pacifica's WBAI
*WASHINGTON: Congress Caves on LPFM
-----------------------------by Scott Fybush-----------------------------
------------------------ <http://www.fybush.com> ------------------------
*The rumors have been flying for a few weeks now, but it's now clear
that Boston's newest talk station is about to be history. WMEX (1060
Natick) will switch to an all-business format January 8, displacing
veteran local talker Upton Bell and ending the latest Boston talk
stint for San Francisco-based Gene Burns.
The new "Business 1060" will revolve around the "Money Couple," Brad
and Bonnie Bleidt, who will continue their Boston Business
Journal-branded morning show. Lawyer Steve Weisman, who has been part
of the morning show, will move to his own spot later in the day, and
Bob Glovsky (formerly part of the Money Experts on WRKO and, before
that, on WBNW 590) will also be part of the mix.
Programming will also include a new afternoon show hosted by Mark
Mills, formerly the executive producer of WCVB (Channel 5)'s
Chronicle. Mills will be busy off the air as well; he's been named
director of business programming for the station, to be renamed WBIX
"Business News 1060."
Also on the way to WBIX will be Bloomberg business reports, currently
heard in the market on the "new" WBNW (1120 Concord), and a show
hosted by Boston Globe business reporters Steve Bailey and Charlie Stein.
So what becomes of the talk? We hear it will show up in some form on
another of Alexander Langer's stations, WSRO (1470 Marlboro), which
is planning a power increase and a move to Watertown, placing it
squarely within the Boston market. Langer says Bell and Burns will
still be heard somewhere in the market after the format change.
As for the legendary WMEX calls, those too could end up on 1470 when
1060 becomes WBIX. (Those WBIX calls were last heard in the region
on New York's 105.1 in its "Big 105" days a few years back.)
There's more spinning going on in the world of Boston talk radio:
Laura Schlessinger is getting pushed to tape delay at WRKO (680),
yielding her 9-noon slot to the "Daytime Divas," Darlene McCarthy and
Doreen Vigue. Schlessinger takes the Divas' old 7-10 PM spot, though
WRKO management insists that's not a demotion.
*Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, Austin Davis will be going solo for now
in the mornings at WSRS (96.1 Worcester). Lynne MacNamee is leaving
her co-host job at the Clear Channel soft rocker to go into public
Also in Worcester, we're hearing that WCRN (830) is running holiday
music and liners announcing "Swinging in New England, Swing 830,"
which suggests a new (and powerful) nostalgia station for central New
Out on Cape Cod, WCDJ (102.3 Truro) has been granted a license to
cover for its 340 watt at 30 meter AAT signal. Anyone know if this
little station is really operating, and if so, with what format?
ADD Media has filed to change the call letters of its Spanish-language
WJYT (1320 Attleboro) to WARL. No word on whether there's a format
change associated with the move...
Two obituaries mark this holiday week in the Bay State: Marty Sender,
the veteran TV reporter and original co-host of "Evening Magazine" at
WBZ-TV in 1977, died Saturday (12/23), more than two months after
suffering brain injuries when he fell off a golf cart. Sender came to
WBZ-TV in 1975 and left in 1980 for CBS News. In 1985, he came back
to Boston and WNEV (Channel 7) as a political reporter, leaving the
business in 1992 to go into consulting. Sender was 53.
And we hear Joe Quill, former owner of Taunton's WRLM (93.3, now
WSNE), died last Tuesday (12/19). Quill's daughters have made names
of their own in the business: Barbara did news for the old WROR
(98.5, now WBMX) and Portland's WCSH-TV, while Nancy has been with
WMJX (106.7 Boston) doing middays since the station signed on in 1982.
*The internal strife that nearly killed Pacifica flagship KPFA (94.1)
in Berkeley, California a while back seems to have arrived at the
noncommercial network's NEW YORK operation.
Messengers from WBAI (99.5 New York) were sent to the homes of PD
Bernard White and morning show producer Sharan Harper on Friday,
bearing holiday pink slips and warnings that the pair would be
arrested for trespassing if they returned to WBAI's Wall Street
Pacifica's Washington-based managers installed afternoon host Utrice
Reid as station manager, but a visit to WBAI's Web site suggests that
her hold on the station is tentative at best.
Pacifica employees are known for their political activism; KPFA is
still recovering from a weeks-long standoff between Pacifica national
managers and the Berkeley staff that saw protests in the street
outside the station and several veteran hosts being fired inside.
WBAI has never seemed to have quite the same passion as KPFA, but it's
a safe bet that staffers loyal to White and Harper won't take the
Adding fuel to the fire is the sheer value of WBAI's signal. A full
class B in New York would easily sell for several hundred million
dollars, even without any programming to offer commercial owners.
Pacifica's board has raised the possibility of station sales before at
KPFA (its other big station on the commercial band), and we're sure
there are several owners who'd love to add 99.5 to their Big Apple
What next at WBAI? We'll see after the new year...
Meanwhile in the Big Apple, another AM station has filed to increase
its power. WWRV (1330 New York) wants to boost its daytime power to
10 kilowatts from the current 5, remaining at the New Jersey site it
shares with former sister station WWDJ (970 Hackensack).
Fordham University's WFUV (90.7 New York) has applied for an
on-channel booster, though we're not quite clear where or with what
power. More in our January 8 issue, we're sure.
Up in the Hudson Valley, Clear Channel made its first big move on
Friday (12/22), killing off the "Thunder Country" on WTHN (99.3
Ellenville) and the AC "Cat" on WCTJ (96.1 Poughkeepsie) in favor of
CHR and "Kiss." There's little to be said thus far for the new
format, which comes complete with the prefab national contesting and
liners from group headquarters -- but we're a little amused by the
stunting that was running earlier in the day, as "Variety 96 and 99,
the best of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today."
Moving upstate, there's a call letter change to report in Binghamton
-- well, there may be a call letter change to report, anyway.
Religious WJIK (90.1) filed to change to WIFF last week, and NERW kept
its dial stuck to the station for much of our visit there over the
weekend. (Actually, we had the dial stuck to translator W285DI on
104.9, since the 90.1 signal doesn't reach the suburbs west of the
city where we were staying.)
We heard "WIFF" mentioned once, but we heard "WJIK" mentioned more
often, and mostly we heard no IDs at all, just a lot of loud Christian
rock and a strange Saturday-night show that seemed to consist of an
entire family playing rock music, with someone who may have been Dad
in one room and the kids screaming into a mike in the other room.
Most unusual...especially if it was in fact live at 1 AM.
Speaking of Binghamton, WLTB (101.7) has indeed changed city of
license from Owego to Johnson City, and it's being heard quite well
from its new site on Ingraham Hill, where we also saw WNBF (1290)'s
rebuilt third tower. Oddly, WLTB still maintains its 102.5 translator
on Ingraham Hill, as well. WKGB (92.5 Susquehanna PA) and WCDW (100.5
Conklin) have not swapped communities of license yet, at least on the
We took a bit of a detour to get to Binghamton, stopping in Elmira to
hear the new simulcasts and discovering that one of them doesn't
exist, at least not yet! WENY-FM (92.7 Elmira) is indeed simulcasting
Corning's WCBA-FM (98.7) as the "Elmira-Corning Crystal Radio
Network," but WENY (1230) is still doing its own thing with satellite
oldies, rather than the promised relay of talker WCLI (1450 Corning).
We heard the new standards signal of WEHH Elmira Heights-Horseheads,
now operating on 1600 from the WELM (1410) towers instead of on 1590
from its old site. And we can confirm that WPHD (94.7 Tioga PA) is
now heard in Elmira on W238AI (95.5) instead of W236AA (95.1).
After another quick stop to see the tower of WTTC (1550/95.3) in
Towanda, Pennsylvania, we drove through the hills to Wilkes-Barre,
where we tuned in all the recent format changes in that market. Sure
enough, the 93.7 in Dallas is doing active rock as WBSX (93-7X), and
its former sister station in Carbondale is now simulcasting CHR WBHT
(97.1 Mountaintop). The legal ID, as heard on the 94.3 Carbondale
signal, was pretty confusing: the new 94.3 calls of WBHD sounded
almost identical to "WBHT." And we wonder whether Citadel has other
plans for the third part of this simulcast, since none of the on-air
mentions of "94 and 97 BHT" acknowledged 107.7 WEMR-FM in Tunkhannock,
and the WEMR-FM legal was buried as an afterthought, separate from the
Over on the Entercom side of things, we spent some time listening to
"The Buzz," the new 80s format on WSHG (102.3 Pittston) and WWFH
(103.1 Freeland) that's strikingly similar to Entercom's "Buzz" WBZA
(98.9) here in Rochester.
But as we drove up the hill to see some of the towers overlooking the
valley, we ended up listening to college radio: WCLH (90.7
Wilkes-Barre), with a very amusing pair of jocks who really, really,
really wanted someone -- anyone, in fact -- to call in. The unclaimed
prize for the first caller to name this week's Newsweek cover photo: a
date with either "Steph" or "The Phantom," depending on the winner's
preferences. (The cell phone was in the back seat, and Mrs. NERW was
in the front seat, so we didn't bother calling in, even though we knew
As long as we're hanging out on the Pennsylvania side of the line:
Keymarket is filing for a slew of call changes for its stations in
northwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to the ones we mentioned last
week in Meadville, there's WFRA-FM (99.3 Franklin) becoming WOXX and
WOYL-FM (98.5) in nearby Oil City becoming WGYI. We're pretty sure
that's a sign that Oil City will become a "Froggy" country, while
Franklin seems likely to be a simulcast of oldies WXXO (104.5
We do have an explanation for the call change at 97.5 in St. Mary's:
WDDH, the new calls, reflect the initials of Dennis D. Heindl, who's
now running the station. Heindl owned WLMI (103.9) in nearby Kane
from its start in 1988 until 1989, and we hear he's hired WLMI's first
GM, Joe Disque, to run WDDH. Heindl is also a part-owner of the
We'll have to plan a stop to tape all the changes next summer as we
head to the National Radio Club's convention down in Pittsburgh!
Back in New York, a call change in Watertown also involves the folks
who own Keymarket. Their Forever Broadcasting owns 1410 in Watertown,
which is changing from WUZZ to WGME(AM). Could a sports format be
In Utica, WRUN (1150) has a new format, but it's still a simulcast of
another local station. We hear Regent has flipped the station from
country and WFRG-FM (104.3) to a rebroadcast of news-talk WIBX (950
Utica), though it's not clear that the 1150 signal reaches any areas
that WIBX's existing signal misses.
Radio people on the move: Rick Jordan drops "acting" from his PD title
at Syracuse country station WBBS (104.7 Fulton) after six months...and
down in Elmira, Bob Quick moves up to operations manager for all of
Sabre Communications' Elmira-Corning-Hornell stations (WNKI, WNGZ,
WPGI/WGMF, WWLZ, and WKPQ/WHHO).
A loss for Albany viewers: WNYT (Channel 13) meteorologist Norm
Sebastian lost his fight with cancer Friday (12/22). Sebastian came
to WNYT on weekends in 1985, and began doing weather for the morning
and noon news in 1990. In April, he left the air to battle large cell
lymphoma, though he returned for a brief guest appearance in
November. Sebastian was 44.
*In CONNECTICUT, Dennis Jackson's WQQQ (103.3 Sharon) has been granted
a power boots, moving from 1000 watts to 1500 and from 195 meters
above average terrain to 186.
Just down the same tower, WKZE-FM (98.1 Salisbury) is looking for a
new PD and morning host. Andrew DiGiovanni, who's been with WKZE for
four years, is leaving in early January to be the regional sales
engineer for Prophet Systems.
Viewers in the Hartford area -- well, the two or three who watch
channel 18 -- were confused over the holiday weekend by two
conflicting IDs. We hear the old "WHCT-TV" IDs are now history,
though, and the station is now operating as WUVN, putting the last
1950s-era UHF calls in New England to rest after more than four
Just up the dial at channel 20, WTXX in Waterbury is already using
its new "WB20" logo, even though the network doesn't move there until
*Up in NEW HAMPSHIRE, Don Matsen has been named PD at WHDQ (106.1
Claremont) and sister AMs WTSV (1230 Claremont) and WNHV (910 White
River Junction), as rumors fly of a Clear Channel purchase just across
the river at WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) and WCFR-FM (93.5 Springfield) in
VERMONT. Speaking of the Green Mountain State, we hear PD Kyle
Guderian has left WEQX (102.7 Manchester) after less than a year.
*From CANADA this week comes word of a new slogan at Toronto
rimshotter CIDC (103.5 Orangeville). Gone is "Hits 103-5," and in its
place is "Z103.5," accompanied by a site move and power increase
that's expected to help the station penetrate Toronto a bit better.
Testing continues on CHWO (740 Toronto), as the station reactivates
the old CBL facility. We hear the tests will end at 6 AM on Monday,
January 8, with "PrimeTime Radio" programming beginning at,
appropriately enough, 7:40 AM. If you're hearing the station and want
a QSL, we're told the Ontario DX Association will be handling those
requests. Drop a line to them at PO Box 161, Willowdale Postal
Station "A", Toronto ON M2N 5S8, and we're sure a bit of return
postage or an IRC (International Reply Coupon) would help them get
that QSL to you faster.
The CHUM Group is adding Lindsay's CKLY (91.9) to its
Peterborough signals (CKPT 1420 and CKQM 105.1), for a reported
C$800,000 to former owner Centario Communications Ltd.
*Finally this week, a few words about LPFM. You've no doubt read
already that Congress has passed the spending bill that includes
provisions that will make LPFM almost non-existent in populated
areas. In a nutshell, the castrated LPFM approved on Capitol Hill
must function within the current third-adjacent channel protections
required for full-power FM, thus ensuring that just about any channel
where LPFM could have gone a few years ago has already been filled by
drop-in full power allocations.
How bad is it for LPFM proponents? The FCC rushed out a list of 255
LPFM applications around the country that are both uncontested and
meet the stricter spacing guidelines. In all of the four New England
states where applications have already been taken, precisely eight
applicants will be rewarded with construction permits next month.
They are: in Maine, the Maine Science and Technology Museum (105.3
Yarmouth) and the Penobscot School (93.3 Rockland); in New Hampshire,
the Jackson Ski Community Radio Association (97.3 Bartlett), the
Christian Fellowship of New England (106.5 Center Conway), and
Franklin Pierce College (105.3 Rindge); in Rhode Island, the Newport
Musical Arts Association (105.9 Newport); and in Connecticut, the
Broadcasters Club (103.5 Farmington) and Asnuntuck Community College
LPFM (107.7 Enfield).
We've already berated the regulators for ignoring the reality that
LPFM already exists on allocations far closer than fourth-adjacent; in
fact, we were up on Penobscot Mountain above Wilkes-Barre over the
weekend, where a translator on 91.7 and a full-power class A on 92.1
coexist from the same site. But rather than just feeling like we're
repeating ourselves, we'll close this week with an encore presentation
of our LPFM Rant from March 31. Remember..."we told you so." (Why
couldn't we have been wrong?)
Even as the FCC moved closer this week to opening the window for the
first set of LPFM applications, the powers that be at the House
Commerce Committee sent H.R. 3439 (the "Preservation of Broadcasting
Act") along to the full House for what's likely to be an easy victory.
The approval comes amidst nasty words back and forth between the FCC
and the National Association of Broadcasters, whose high-powered
lobbyists distributed a CD on Capitol Hill that they claimed simulated
the kind of interference full-power stations would receive from LPFMs
on third-adjacent channels. The FCC says the CD blatantly
misrepresents the actual interference that might result; the NAB,
unsurprisingly, has filled its Web site with expert testimony to
Meantime, the Senate version of the bill continues its path to a vote
NERW has little doubt about how this will all end. Money talks in
Washington, and the NAB and its members have plenty of it to
spend. They'll get their way in the end, and the idea of legal LPFM
will become not much more than an interesting footnote.
But we can't let it die without once more pointing out an amazing bit
of hypocrisy that, incredibly, has gone all but unmentioned by almost
everyone involved in the LPFM issue.
Sitting down? Good. Listen:
LPFM has existed legally in the United States for decades.
LPFM, as it now exists, is in some cases operating with precisely the
same technical specifications that the NAB and friends claim to be so
Many of the beneficiaries of LPFM as it now exists are precisely the
same broadcasters most vociferous in their support for the NAB's
campaign against LPFM as it might exist.
Longtime NERW readers will by now know exactly what I'm talking about;
the one word that's been all but verboten in the public LPFM debate:
It's been increasingly hard to sit quietly and watch the NAB, the FCC,
and everyone else claim that there's no way to tell what kind of
interference a station on a third-adjacent channel will give to a
full-power station, when the examples are all around us.
So the NAB claims full-power FMs will be permanently hurt by LPFMs
three channels away? Show me the public outcry from listeners to
Boston's WZLX, a full B at 100.7, then. After all, there's been a
legal LPFM operating on 101.3 less than a mile from WZLX's transmitter
for more than a year. (You could argue that the station in
question, WFNX's translator W267AI, is only 7 watts -- but it's up so
high on the Hancock Tower than once you adjust for height, it's not
much different from the FCC's proposed LP-100 service).
For that matter, where's the public outcry from WZLX listeners
affected by third-adjacent WBRS at 100.1 in Waltham, with its mighty
25 watts just 600 kHz away?
Why, for that matter, have big broadcasters like Disney/ABC rushed to
shoehorn second-adjacent allocations as close to their major market
stations as possible? (Case in point: KMEO in Flower Mound, Texas,
running a full 100 kilowatts just 0.4 MHz and sixty-odd miles on the
other side of the Dallas/Fort Worth market from ABC's
highly successful KSCS 96.3). How is it that listeners in the San
Francisco Bay Area have no problems with the San Jose stations on
second-adjacent channels from San Francisco? (While we're at it, what
about all the second-adjacent issues that you'd think would exist in
the 50 miles between Boston and Providence?)
Turn to the noncomm end of the dial and the engineering realities
become even more apparent: Just 3.1 miles of Beacon Street separates
WZBC's 1000 watts on 90.3 and WBUR-FM's 50 kilowatts on 90.9, yet the
public outcry from listeners "denied...clear reception of their
favorite stations" (the NAB's words) has been, well, less
than deafening. NERW suspects WBUR even has listeners in the very
Boston College dormitory where WZBC's antenna is located.
The point here is this: The engineering argument against
third-adjacent LPFMs is specious at best. It's clear from the real
world that third-adjacent spacing on FM works fine in cases involving
much more power than LPFMs would...and we haven't even had to turn to
Canada (where real live LPFM has existed without interference
concerns for years) to make our case.
It's no surprise to see the NAB and its allies on the Hill using this
engineering smokescreen; it certainly sounds persuasive to a lawmaker
with other things to worry about -- after all, who'd vote to deny an
elderly listener her favorite station? (Again, the NAB's argument, not mine!)
And it's no surprise to see the word "translator" so obviously missing
from the NAB's arguments. After all, the National Religious
Broadcasters (NRB) is a major supporter of the NAB's efforts, and if
lawmakers understood that the thousands of KAWZ, WPCS, WJFM, and WJSO
translators out there were also "LPFM" -- and thus a threat (by the
NAB's logic) to the continued stability of American broadcasting (not
to mention the flag, apple pie, and possibly motherhood itself), who
knows what kind of legislation might result?
But it is surprising that Bill Kennard's FCC, otherwise so sensible in
its attempts to restore at least a bit of the broadcast environment to
the public, has been so quiet about the translator issue. We'd have
thought someone in the FCC might have come up with similar real-world
examples to the ones just offered...yet the word "translator" has been
just as absent from the FCC's vocabulary, even as behind the scenes,
KAWZ, WJFM, WPCS, and company are quietly getting to gobble literally
hundreds of frequencies a month that could have been used by LPFM if
it had been allowed to happen. It's amazing to pick up M Street each
week, see column after column of translator applications from the same
half-dozen broadcasters, and realize that nobody wants to touch that
part of the issue, or even acknowledge that it is an important part of
the LPFM fight.
It's even more surprising that the LPFM supporters have been so
understated about the translator land-grab of the last few years. We
can understand why the equipment manufacturers haven't said anything;
the same products they'd love to sell to LPFM stations are already
selling just fine to religious translators, after all. Where's the
NFCB on this issue, though? And what of the trade magazines that all
but ignore translators? (NERW wonders how many staffers at
Broadcasting & Cable even know what a translator is...)
It's no great surprise to us to see the LPFM battle of 1999-2000
ending this way. We just wish all sides had been a little more honest
about what was really at stake, instead of hiding behind the fraud of
"interference concerns." Shame on you, Eddie Fritts. Shame on you,
Mike Oxley. Shame on you, Bill Kennard. And shame on all of you
would-be LPFMers who haven't spoken out loudly enough. It will be a
long, long time before low-power broadcasting has another chance to
become a legal local reality and not just a tool to be abused by big
national religious broadcasters.
[Guess we need to add the usual disclaimer: NERW has nothing against
religious broadcasting, per se. Our bias is against the way a handful
of broadcasters have taken blatant advantage of an unintentional
loophole in FCC rules to create nationwide networks of hundreds of
low-powered stations explicitly forbidden to provide any local
programming, and against the FCC's continued willful blindness to the
monster it created when it allowed satellite-fed translators.]
OK, we're back live, with just this one brief additional comment: We
don't expect anything to get better for LPFM under the Bush White
House and its Michael Powell-led FCC. But we can't wait to see what
Bill Kennard will do once he leaves the Portals in a few weeks. Our
New Year's wish? That Kennard will find the platform and the guts to
speak out in favor of local radio and against the big corporate
special interests once he leaves the Chairman's office.
Not only that, but what about all those religious applications that
got tossed out the door by Congress' actions? We're guessing that
most of the Calvary Churches that applied for LPFMs they'll never get
are populated by lots of Republican voters. Will they feel political
heat? (Maybe not; a quick survey of the 255 lucky CP recipients
suggests that at least half are religious broadcasters...)
But we get ahead of ourselves, don't we? As we close out the final
NERW of 2000, we're getting warmed up for next week's special: NERW's
Year in Review, and our annual Year-End Rant. This year: "Why Local
Will Save Radio As We Know It." It'll be right here at fybush.com on
January 1, and on the mailing list mid-week...don't miss it!
-----------------------NorthEast Radio Watch------------------------
(c)2000 Scott Fybush
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