WBCN to sports at 98.5; WBMX to 104.1

Scott Fybush scott@fybush.com
Wed Jul 15 10:28:37 EDT 2009

Dan.Strassberg wrote:
> I think you mean WNYC-FM 93.9, which is going all talk. WNYC (AM) 820
> is already all talk. I suspect that WNYC A/F will simulcast because I
> doubt whether NPR/APM produce enough talk content to allow separate
> programming in more than a few dayparts. Note that WBUR repeats
> OnPoint and Fresh Air every weeknight (except for Friday, when Radio
> Boston pre-empts the 1:00PM umm, airing of Fresh Air). Of course,
> there may be other Public Radio content sources, such as various
> affiliated stations. I've heard, for example, that WHYY produces a
> daily two-hour talk show that WBUR, at least, does not carry.

As Garrett has already noted, 820/93.9 already split their simulcast 
during much of the talk portion of their day.

There's plenty of content out there to be had - WNYC itself produces 4 
hours of local talk each weekday with Leonard Lopate and Brian Lehrer, 
as well as the 2-hour "Takeaway" morning show in collaboration with WGBH 
and the Beeb. And even at that, WNYC doesn't currently carry some of the 
more prominent offerings, such as NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and "Diane 
Rehm." Rehm now airs on WNYE-FM, and TotN isn't heard anywhere in NYC.

The WHYY show, "Radio Times," is a local show that's not offered for 
syndication, as far as I'm aware.

> The economics of WNYC's spending $11.5 million for WQXR's intellectual
> property elude me, though. Like most public stations, WNYC is always
> pleading poverty. Given that 93.9 was already mostly classical, why
> does NYPR think that, by acquiring WQXR's intellectual property,
> moving it to a signal that has one tenth the power of that of its
> former home, and converting the full B 93.9 to the news/talk format
> that was already airing full-time on AM 820, it can get gifts of even
> the same amount as it used to get? Even though 93.9 is a full-market
> signal and 820 is not (at night, anyway), it would seem that the only
> way NYPR might break even on this move would be to operate 105.9 as a
> commercial station, as Chicago Pulic Radio does with classical WFMT.
> But WFMT has a big signal and 105.9 has a puny signal. Moreover, as
> Scott has pointed out, under FCC rules, for 105.9 to be permitted to
> use translators to fill in the significant gaps in its coverage, 105.9
> must be noncommercial. Maybe NYPR believes that it can recoup the cost
> of the WQXR IP by operating 105.9 as a commercial station and that
> streaming on the Web will allow it to fill 105.9's coverage gaps
> without translators. Stay tuned; this is a fascinating and evolving
> story!

I think it's more fair to say that WNYC is paying $11.5 million for the 
105.9 facility; the intellectual property is coming along for the ride 
(and if NYTCo is smart, they'll find a way to make the IP a donation to 
WNYC and end up with a nice tax writeoff as a result.)

As for the signal, "puny" is relative. 105.9 is still a B1 from Empire. 
Care to take a guess at how much population is in the 105.9 protected 
contour, versus how much in the protected contour of the full Empire 
class B signals such as 96.3?


16.8 million people in the full B contours, 13.2 million in 105.9's 
contour. (That's predicted contour; the real-world short-spacing issue 
with 106.1 on Long Island might take another 800,000 off that number.)

Even so, I don't think the math is as bleak as Dan would make it out to 
be. $11.5 million for the 105.9 signal is a tremendous bargain compared 
to the sale prices of big-city FMs over the last decade or two. Don't 
forget that Heftel (ancestor of today's Univision Radio) paid a whopping 
$115 million for 105.9 back in 1998. It would be irresponsible for WNYC 
not to take advantage of a bargain like that.

To put it in context, WNYC successfully raised $20 million over six 
years to acquire the 820/93.9 licenses from the city of New York a 
decade ago, and it raised $63 million between 2006-2009 to move out of 
the Municipal Building and into new digs on Varick Street. Raising $15 
million (WNYC's goal to cover both acquisition and operational costs) to 
provide fulltime FM service for both the news/talk and classical 
audiences shouldn't be all that hard to do.

To bring this back to Boston, incidentally, one wonders if either WGBH 
or WBUR are looking at doing a similar deal for what's left of WCRB, 
which would probably sell today for far, far less than Nassau paid for it.


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