We're back on our usual Monday schedule (with only two gaps coming up for the remainder of the summer - but more on that shortly), only to find that it was a pretty quiet week out there in Northeast broadcast-land. Here's how it looked from NERW Central:
CFCF-TV (Channel 12) was part of the WIC group that merged with Global earlier this year, causing all that shuffling out west as well. In Montreal, though, Global already owned CKMI (Channel 46), which meant CFCF needed to be put in trust until a buyer could be found.
CTV and parent BCE were the obvious choice, since CTV has been on an acquisition spree that's snapped up almost all of the stations that were once privately-owned affiliates. (You'd have to look all the way to St. John's, Newfoundland, we believe, to find the biggest private CTV affiliate remaining!)
What will become of CFCF's distinctive on-air look and its "Pulse" newscasts when the Great Homogenizers of CTV take over? We suspect the generic blue set and CTV logo will end up gracing CFCF once the deal closes...we'll keep you posted.
Elsewhere in Quebec, the CRTC has issued a call for applications for new radio licenses in Quebec City. It's standard procedure when the agency receives a single application for a license; expect multiple proposals for open FM channels, and just possibly for one of the AM facilities left open in the rush to FM in recent years. Hmm...is the Radio-Canada facility on 980 that was once CBV still standing?
One more Quebec note while we're there: little community station CHOC-FM (104.9) in St.-Rémi has applied to boost power from 0.8 watts to 200 watts. The station says it needs to overcome interference from stations in Granby and Lachute; it also claims that the huge jump in power "will not expand its service area."
In Ontario, CFBG (100.9 Bracebridge) is trying again to change channels and increase its power. An earlier proposal for 50 kilowatts on 99.5 was rejected after nearby stations complained that CFBG was trying to expand into their markets. Now CFBG wants to jump from its current 2900 watts to 12 kilowatts on 99.5, this time saying only that it wants to "improve its signal" in its local area. (By the way, that "Moose" nickname CFBG uses is also in use on its new sister station on 97.7 in Bancroft, ex-CJNH 1240.)
Up in Sudbury, CHNO-FM (103.9) is finally admitting, more or less, that it will never build out its licensed 100 kilowatt FM signal. The station has been using reduced power ever since its 1998 move from AM 550, and now it's appying to be licensed at 11 kilowatts from a new tower northeast of its old site. CHNO tells the CRTC that it was having problems with interference to aviation frequencies as well as tower-loading issues; NERW hears there was also little desire to pay the cost of building out a full 100kW FM operation when most of the population of Sudbury is close in to the transmitter site.
Speaking of power downgrades, CHCQ is the call for the new 100.1 in Belleville, and it wants to move its transmitter northeast of its originally proposed site so as to better serve nearby Trenton. In the process, the station would drop from 40 kW down to 21 kW. It's all hypothetical thus far; CHCQ has yet to sign on.
And don't write it in your FM Atlas with ink, but if you're in the London, Ontario area between August 11 and 25, you might want to listen to 107.7 MHz. That's where the Canada Summer Games will be running an information station, with 780 watts from the CFPL-TV tower on London's south side. No word on calls; we'd expect one of the "VF-" series that the CRTC issues for low-power and temporary stations.
In fact, about the biggest news we can offer this week is Eolin's conversion of its LMA in Elmira to an outright purchase. You might recall that Eolin, which operates four stations in Corning, has been running WENY (1230) and WENY-FM (92.7) for White Broadcasting under an LMA for a few months now; this week, Eolin announced it would pay $2.2 million for the pair, which simulcast news-talk WCLI (1450 Corning) and satellite AC WCBA-FM (98.7 Corning), respectively. The purchase finally separates the radio stations from sister TV outlet WENY-TV (Channel 36) after more than three decades of common ownership.
Over in Binghamton, Paul Szmal (formerly of Utica's WRCK) and Maggie Page (formerly of crosstown WYOS) kicked off their new morning show on Clear Channel's "Mix" WMXW (103.3 Vestal) this morning. Meanwhile, AC competitor WLTB (101.7 Johnson City) has filed to move translator W273AB (102.5) down from Ingraham Hill, where WLTB itself now operates, to the old 101.7 site a few miles west in Endicott.
Remember the days of "superstations," when the cable dial just about anywhere in the Northeast could be counted on to yield two or three New York signals, Boston's WSBK, and so on? A change in copyright law ended most of that heyday in the nineties, and the launch of "weblets" UPN and WB did in most of the rest - but the pressure to carry those new networks is actually restoring the WSBK signal to parts of central New York. Time Warner added WSBK to its lineup in the Utica area this week, with rumors afloat that the Boston UPN signal will show up in Syracuse soon as well. Syracuse had UPN service on WNYS (Channel 43) until that station switched to WB this year, and as for Utica? We'd hate to draw a direct connection or anything, but we can't help but note that low-power WPNY-LP (Channel 11) has (like its counterparts in Watertown and Rochester) been making a noisy effort for cable carriage, including a story we noted in USA Today while traveling earlier this month. Needless to say, the LPTVs aren't happy about competing against UPN on a distant signal on cable - although they might want to consider the alternative; in Albany, Time Warner and Clear Channel are partners in a cable-only UPN outlet that grabbed the affiliation from low-power WVBG-LP (Channel 25). (Disclaimer: Your editor is a former Time Warner employee and still an occasional contractor, though always far distant from the cable operation side. Further disclaimer: Your editor is still waiting for Time Warner to come and fix his weak signal on upper channels of his cable service...Hello, DirecTV?)
Where were we? Oh yeah...Albany, where the Times-Union's Mark McGuire reports officials at Siena College aren't happy with the urban format that's been running on student station WVCR (88.3 Loudonville). McGuire says Siena is considering dropping the hip-hop in favor of a more traditional block-formatted program schedule; he also slipped in a welcome correction to WVCR's phony claims of a power increase to "50,000 watts" earlier this year. (Would that the region's other dailies did such a good job covering the broadcast medium!)
Down in New York City, it looks like the Board of Education is getting ready to hand over operation of WNYE-FM (91.5) to the public radio folks at WNYC (820/93.9). The move continues to draw fire from the ethnic programmers who lease time on the station, but is nonetheless far less controversial than the plan to hand WNYE-TV (Channel 25) over to the Big Apple's public TV behemoth, WNET (Channel 13), which is also close to a deal to operate Long Island's WLIW (Channel 21).
And a very happy 90th birthday to WTIC (1080 Hartford) institution Bob Steele, who's still going strong with a monthly Saturday-morning show, 62 years after joining the staff at WTIC. A check of the NERW archives reminds us that Steele did promise to retire a few years ago - but not until his 100th birthday a decade from now!
Up in Orange, WCAT (700) appears on the FCC's latest list of silent stations, with a November 1 deadline to sign back on or lose its license. Our network of listeners is checking on this one; full details next week.
That's it for this week's news; we'll be back next Monday with more, and we hope to get the first installment of The Big Travelogue up and running on Tower Site of the Week in a couple of days as well. Our thanks to those of you who've been so generous of late in your support of NERW -- and to the rest of you, this reminder:
We received quite a bit of e-mail during our absence wondering where NERW was, and oddly enough, almost none of those correspondents were among the many of you who have responded to our appeals for financial support. I hate begging almost as much as you probably hate reading these appeals - but remember: this column doesn't happen by magic, and it doesn't happen for free. If you began reading NERW before our big move to fybush.com, you already know that your editor left a full-time occupation to focus on NERW and other freelance pursuits, and if you've picked up a business page in the last 10 months or so, you know that the timing couldn't have been much worse.
The bottom line here? I don't want to convert NERW to a subscription-only system, and I certainly don't want to have to stop bringing all of you (more than 4,000 of you every week, generating more than 50,000 hits a week at fybush.com) the latest news from across the region - but your support is urgently needed.
If you value the news you get here at NERW, please take a moment to visit the Support page at fybush.com (http://www.fybush.com/support.html) and see how you can help out. Even if you can't afford our suggested annual contributions, any amount helps. (If every reader of NERW paid $10 a year, I could do this full-time...imagine that!)
If you have a product or a service you'd like to share with the region's broadcast community, please contact me about underwriting. No other medium reaches so targeted an audience of Northeast radio and TV general managers, PDs, CEs and group owners, at rates that just might surprise you.
And if you've already shown your support for NERW over the last nine months or so: thank you.
We'll be back next week with much more news, and we'll be back again July 30 with more. As noted at the beginning of this week's edition, there will be no August 6 issue (we'll be in sunny Southern California!), but we'll be back after that, straight through to the NAB Radio Show in New Orleans September 5-7, complete with daily updates on fybush.com.