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NERW 11/25: It's Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas

------------------------------E-MAIL EDITION-----------------------------
--------------------------NorthEast Radio Watch--------------------------
                            November 25, 2002


*EVERYWHERE: Stations Rush to Christmas Format
*NEW JERSEY: WKXW Loses Imaging Director Van Ness

-----------------------------by Scott Fybush-----------------------------

*Perhaps it seemed like a strange, post 9/11 aberration around this
time last year, when dozens of stations (mostly AC and oldies) around
the country ditched their usual playlists for an entire month to play
nothing but Christmas music.

Well...not so. In your editor's other life as Webmaster of the
100000watts.com radio directory site, the flips have been coming fast
and furious this year as well. In NERW-land, they start in
PENNSYLVANIA, where Entercom's 80s "Buzz" (WBZJ 102.3 Pittston/WBZH
103.1 Freeland) in the Scranton market, Clear Channel's oldies WWSW
(94.5) in Pittsburgh and Clear Channel's AC "Sunny" (WSNI 104.5) in
Philadelphia are all ho-ho-ho'ing already...and now there's word that
WSHH (99.7 Pittsburgh) is also joining the party.

(For the very latest list of flips, look no further than
100000watts.com, where we're making a list and checking it twice...)

Speaking of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the changes keep on coming at the
Citadel cluster there: the hot talk that had been on WEOZ (95.7
Olyphant) went away last week, as "Z-Talk" gave way to a simulcast of
the top 40 from WBHT (97.1 Mountain Top). The only remnant of the
"Z-Talk" format is Bob & Tom, who land in mornings on WARM (590).

In the Philly market, public radio WHYY (90.9) needs a new antenna,
something that's not uncommon for FM stations whose antennas have been
out in the elements for nearly two decades.

What is unusual is the very public way in which WHYY is trying to
raise the $132,000 needed to replace the antenna: in addition to a
$50,000 federal grant, the station is holding a special pledge drive
to raise the extra $82,000 from listeners - and there's a whole
section of the station's Web site (www.whyy.org/91FM/antenna1.htm)
that documents the sorry state of the current WHYY antenna, high atop
one of the tallest sticks in the Roxborough antenna farm.

Congratulations to Brian Check, PD at the aforementioned WSNI, who's
been promoted to Clear Channel regional VP/programming, overseeing the
clusters in Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, Williamsport
and Harrisburg!

Heading over to Pittsburgh, the deal to sell public broadcaster WQEX
(Channel 16) to a private group led by former WWSW general manager
Diane Sutter has hit another snag: Sutter's Shooting Star Broadcasting
notified WQEX's parent, WQED (Channel 13), that it's unable to
complete its purchase of the newly-commercial station. WQED brass say
they're still confident they can sell channel 16, and that a deal with
Sutter is still a possibility.

*Some very sad news from NEW JERSEY to pass on, as the folks at "New
Jersey 101.5" (WKXW-FM Trenton) mourn the death of imaging director
Erik Van Ness, the brains behind promotions such as the current "Not
New York, Not Philadelphia" campaign and many more.

Van Ness started at WKXW in 1997, and had been married just over a
year when he died last Tuesday (Nov. 19) after a long battle with
cystic fibrosis. Van Ness was only 28 years old.

New Jersey 101.5 has put up a nice tribute page to Van Ness on its Web
site; donations in his memory can be made to the Cystic Fibrosis
Foundation, 117 Kinderkamack Road, Suite 104, River Edge, New Jersey

*The Christmas music list in NEW YORK at press time includes WMXW
(103.3 Vestal) in the Binghamton market and WTRY (98.3 Rotterdam) in
Albany, both of which will make the flip right after Thanksgiving
(just as WTRY did last year); by the time you read this, New York's
WLTW (106.7) may have joined them (it's running a "listener's poll" on
its Web site right now asking if it should make the flip...), and out
on Long Island WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue) will make the flip the day
after Thanksgiving.

Up north, WCLX (102.5 Westport) has filed to make a nice little move,
heading up the dial to 102.9 and jumping from 650 watts to 6 kW, which
should improve its signal across Lake Champlain into Burlington,
VERMONT considerably.

Down the road in Lake Placid, WLPW (105.5) and WIRD (920) were hit
with an $8,000 Notice of Apparent Liability this week from the FCC,
which says the stations didn't have their EAS equipment working
properly, a big "no-no" at inspection time.

The FCC granted three New York LPFM applications this week: Planet
Utica, for 105.9 in Utica; Colonie Educational Resource Services, for
98.7 in the Albany suburb of Colonie; and Kingston Outreach Services,
for 103.9 in Kingston.

The still-unbuilt channel 52 in Ithaca was granted its last-ditch
application last week, allowing it to build a low-power (26 kW)
facility near Ithaca College to get on the air before its construction
permit expires. Will it make it? Stay tuned...

Meanwhile in Syracuse, the Calvary Church translator for WZXV (99.7
Palmyra), W278AH (103.5), is applying to increase its power from the
current 2 watts to 10 watts. And Reggie Jordan is heading for bigger
pastures within Citadel, moving from VP/GM of the Syracuse cluster to
the same post in Charleston, S.C.

First Chris Keyser gets to hang out with country star Carolyn Dawn
Johnson (see the picture at www.fybush.com); now the WYRK (106.5
Buffalo) assistant PD is about to take on a big new job. We hear
Keyser is about to become the new PD of perennial Rochester ratings
leader WBEE-FM (92.5), some two months after the departure of longtime
PD Coyote Collins from the Entercom station.

Speaking of Buffalo, Family Radio's WFBF (89.9) is moving north; the
station's been granted a CP that will move it from its current site
south of Buffalo to a new site a few miles east, near West
Seneca. WFBF will run 16 kW with a directional antenna 90 meters above
average terrain at the new site, an improvement over its current 20 kW
at a much lower site. (In the meantime, Family's CP for translator
W211BH in Lockport has been cancelled.)

And we're sorry to report the death on Nov. 16 of Rob Stoddard, the
longtime afternoon host on Crawford's religious WDCX (99.5 Buffalo).

Stoddard's Buffalo radio career began in the early eighties, when he
was the newsman for Danny Neaverth's top-rated morning show on WKBW
(1520); he later moved to the FM dial to do morning news on WJYE
(96.1), and then took over the afternoon shift before switching to

*From CONNECTICUT comes word of the ice storm that wreaked havoc with
the Nutmeg State last weekend; at WTIC, chief engineer Jeff Hugabone
reports the station was on generator power until Wednesday evening,
when power crews finally restored service to the site.

And WHTX-LP (Channel 10) in Hartford has changed hands from Harvard
Broadcasting to Entravision.

*MASSACHUSETTS is in the holiday mood, too; out on Cape Cod, WTWV
(101.1 Mashpee) and WDVT (93.5 Harwich) have already made the flip to
Christmas tunes, as has WSNE-FM (93.3 Taunton), which of course really
serves Providence, RHODE ISLAND. Joining them after Thanksgiving will
be WXKS (1430 Everett) in the Boston market, with more no doubt on the

WB affiliate WLVI (Channel 56) is losing one of its "Ten O'Clock News"
anchors; Jeff Barnd joined Karen Marinella on the anchor desk in 1995
- and what with the shakeups on the VHF side of the dial, that made
the pair the longest-running anchor team on the Boston airwaves at the
moment. No word on what Barnd, whose contract runs until 2005, will do

Steve Solomon has been named the new VP/programming of Superadio
Networks (the "Open House Party" folks); you probably know him as
Steve McVie, director of operations for Cape Cod's Makkay Broadcasting
cluster. He starts his new job on December 2. Speaking of Cape Cod,
"Cape Cod Christian Broadcasting" has been granted an LPFM on 97.7 in
East Harwich.

It looks like the sale of WSRO (1470 Marlborough) to Multicultural
will include a call change; the WSRO calls stay with owner Alex
Langer, who plans to move them to what's now WJLT (650 Ashland) when
the deal closes.

And while we're in MetroWest, we note a change in the talk lineup at
"Boston Talk Party" WBPS (890 Dedham), which adds Sean Hannity to the
schedule from 3-6 PM, followed by Rusty Humphries at 6 and Neal Boortz
on tape delay at 8.

NEW HAMPSHIRE's WOTW (900 Nashua) has been granted night power - a
whopping six watts of it. Up on the Seacoast, WQSO (96.7 Rochester)
drops oldies for Christmas music...

...while in MAINE, Bangor is hearing holiday tunes on WEZQ (92.9) and
WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth), with WKCG (101.3 Augusta) playing carols for
the mid-coast area.

In the Portland market, "Rick and Jamie" are out of mornings at WMEK
(99.9 Auburn), with "Kaos and Stacie" replacing them. The new morning
team comes from country WYYL (96.1 Tunica MS) in the Memphis market,
we're told.

And the FNX Radio Network's outpost in the Pine Tree State is in some
trouble with the FCC, which handed down a pair of $17,000 Notices of
Apparent Liability to WPHX (1220 Sanford) and WPHX-FM (92.1
Sanford). Seems the stations were in violation of the main studio
rules and the public inspection file rules, another big "no-no" at
inspection time. NERW expects an appeal any day now...

And with nothing happening up in CANADA this week, it's time to dip
into the NERW mailbag and see what our readers had to say about last
week's "IBOC Rant":


The best way to improve radio:

Mandate AMAX technology in every AM radio. Every radio that has FM
stereo must have AM stereo. The AM would operate in wideband in the
stereo mode, and with a gentle rolloff in mono.

If Symphony works (and I think it will), mandate that every receiver
costing $25 or more to have it by 2008.

Mandate RDS for all FM car radios and home tuners costing $50 or more
by 2008.

The problem with IBOC is that it isn't "cool". There is no public
outcry for it (and XM and Sirius are in serious trouble).

DVD's replaced VCR's because DVD's are EASIER to handle, it's EASIER
to navigate and you get IMPORTANT extras. With IBOC, the audio quality
slightly improves for FM (and degrades for AM) while you add BS bells
and whistles. It's all fluff and no substance and nothing you COULDN'T
do with RDS if you MANDATE IT!

As for AM stereo, that works VERY well (and any engineer who tells you
AM stereo CANNOT work is an engineer who shouldn't be working because
he is clueless). AM stereo did not have an Ibiquity behind it... owned
by major broadcasters with everything to lose if it doesn't work out.

IBOC will never sound as good as wideband AM on a properly tuner
receiver. Period.


I read with interest that which you wrote about IBOC in the November
issue of NERW and I figured that I'd give you my opinion on the
subject. I
think that, with respect to audio programming itself, IBOC digital has
to recommend it over analog broadcast, particularly for AM. As I'm
sure you
are aware, in a general theoretical sense, you can't go from an
signal to a "digital" one that fits in the same bandwidth allocation
actually realize more bandwidth than you had in the first place. Of
there may be an increase in perceived quality due to the ability to
perceptual coding with digital programming, but let's take a look at 
ibiquity's actual standard. In case you haven't seen this yet, there
some decent (not content-free) white papers here:


The ones that are most interesting to us here are entitled "The
Structure and Generation of Robust Waveforms for AM In-band On-Channel
Broadcasting" and "The Structure and Generation of Robust Waveforms
for FM
In-Band On-Channel Digital Broadcasting." Anyways, here are the key
as far as I am concerned:

1. The bandwidth of a digital audio channel on the AM system is
20.2kbps +
16.2kbps on a second less reliable channel which is intended for
stereo information and perhaps enhanced resolution. That's a total of
36.4kbps under optimal circumstances.

2. The bandwidth of a digital audio channel on the FM system is

3. Both the AM and FM systems have a potential to interact poorly with
receivers. Overall bandwidth for the "analog" signal is necessarily
ibiquity may be correct that the passband of a typical AM receiver in
a car
radio is only 4kHz as measured in some reasonable manner, but they
neglect to
mention that passband sharpness is of critical importance and that
it's quite
likely that with at least some receivers the introduction of hybrid
mode IBOC
will result in objectionable noise. Similar effects will surely be
with some existing FM receivers for hybrid IBOC FM. As an aside, the
use of
PSK to encode part of the digital signal in-band with the analog
signal for
AM will probably give AM stereo receivers fits. Okay, probably nobody
has one any more, but anyways...

If you've ever tried listening to an mp3 encoded at 36kbps, you'll
know that the results aren't too satisfactory. Now, there are coding
that work much better than mp3 at low bandwidth and, presumably, for
AM, they
will be using something more akin to what is used for mobile
phones. In any
case, I can believe it can be made to sound quite good at least for
but I don't think it even has the potential to bring mostly music
formats back
to large major market AM stations. Similarly, I don't think that IBOC
FM will
represent a large increase in audio quality over the very fine audio
that is already possible with analog FM. Most of the quality
limitations in
FM today are in studio equipment, STL, transmitter, and receiver and
inherent in FM broadcast itself, and I don't think that much is likely
change with IBOC.

To us technophiles, the prospect of all-digital from studio
to receiver is very nifty, but the market is not really driven by
Even if the improvement in audio quality is greater than I think it
will be,
most listeners will still be listening in their cars and won't really
be able
to perceive the benefits. I think that, even if IBOC receivers were
by law as you suggest, adoption would be comparatively slow and radio
would insist on using hybrid mode certainly for two decades at
least. The
installed base of receivers is just too huge, and IBOC, unlike DVD
versus VHS,
doesn't offer much immediate and clear benefit to the consumer. To do
IBOC would need to have some really good value-add that has nothing to
do with
audio quality, and I don't see it. At least as long as stations would
to operate in hybrid mode, there isn't really even enough bandwidth
interesting value-added services and as long as there aren't
value-added services there won't be enough of an installed base for
to justify switching to digital only mode.

In summary, I think that IBOC faces an even rougher time than HDTV.
There is no major benefit and some users of the existing analog signal
definitely suffer. Maybe somebody will invent a really great must-have
application for the arbitrary data capabilities, though I think we'll
looking back on IBOC 15 years from now as we now look back on CQAM AM

I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually see Ibiquity and would-be
adopters lobbying the FCC to permit subscription services on the extra
data channels available for digital only stations. I would hope that
the FCC would never permit such a use, but who knows.

Instead of IBOC, we should look towards improving receiver design and
cleaning up our act. What we have in place (AM and FM) is capable of
transmitting VERY high quality audio, audio which is preferred over
digital compression by many. We need to enhance and not destroy. The
technology is there, program the stations correctly, improve the
receivers and you'll have your radio nirvana.


Well I'm hoping it never comes to the smaller stations...but it seems
destined for the Big Apple, so I worry about listening to 880 WCBS
with 890 adjacent, someting I can do almost every day. And Bloomberg
1130 with the local 1120 in Concord.


Scott... Loved the thoughts on the digital conversions... Just wanted
to clarify something for you...

(And let's not forget that up here, sunset won't come later than 5 PM
again until February, so that knocks out IBOC on PM drive, too!)

The FCC approved pre-sunrise/post-sunset authority for IBOC. So, if
the station is authorized to be on the air during those times, they
can transmit IBOC.

That's great news for AM broadcasters up this way... Because that
guarantees the ability to broadcast digital from 6A-6P.

Granted they'll be directional, but hey, it's still better than
nothing. 12 hours minimum amount of digital time is much better than
9, especially in key dayparts.

The biggest problem? Getting all of these companies to fork over the
cash to convert to IBOC. You're worried about getting receivers, I'm
worried that these huge companies haven't even begun to think on what
they're going to do... Sure, the big dogs are going to upgrade their
most lucrative sticks, but how serious are they about converting the
rest of them? That could stop IBOC in its tracks, long before
receivers become an issue.

Food for thought.


Your comments on the rant and IBOC in general are still welcome here;
we'll print more in an upcoming issue!

-----------------------NorthEast Radio Watch------------------------
                       (c)2002 Scott Fybush

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