On Tuesday afternoon, FCC agents visited Radio Free Allston (106.1) at its studios in an Allston art gallery, as well as Worcester pirate WDOA (89.3), ordering the stations off the air and threatening fines and jail time if broadcasts continued. RFA founder Steven Provizer was manning the board at the station when the agents arrived. He says they photographed RFA's equipment and transmitter readings but did not confiscate anything, and he's promising a renewed fight in court to make RFA legitimate. Provizer says the FCC told him it had received complaints from a licensed broadcaster (he says it's WROR (105.7) that made the complaint).
Other area pirates aren't waiting for the FCC to come trick-or-treating; they've voluntarily suspended operations while waiting for things to quiet down. The web page for Rebel Music Radio in Boston (105.3) displays only color bars and the words "Sorry it had to happen...we're off the air." Also off the air is Radio Free Chelmsford, 88.3, according to its web site.
The battle between the pirates and the FCC is far from over; Provizer is already getting assistance from the ACLU in his case and he's promising to see things all the way through in court. We'll keep you posted...
In other news from MASSACHUSETTS this week: Keating Willcox's Willow Farm Broadcasting has closed on its purchase of WPEP (1570 Taunton); staying at the station are George and Donna Colajezzi and their local morning show. A follow-up to last week's mention of the sale of WBET (1460) and WCAV (97.7) in Brockton: new owner KJI Broadcasting has the same ownership as Pittsfield's WBEC (1420/105.5) out in the Berkshires.
Capstar is also selling its stations across the state line in New York City's northern suburbs. WFAS AM-FM (1230/103.9) is reportedly being offered for $20 million, including 8 acres of prime real estate. The group also includes WAXB (105.5 Patterson), an oldies station serving Danbury, Connecticut, rocker WZZN (106.3 Mount Kisco), and country WPUT (1510 Brewster).
Hartford's top-rated morning jock is in trouble with the law. WTIC-FM (96.5)'s Gary Craig was arrested on Tuesday and charged with second-degree reckless harassment. Craig, whose real name is Arthur Gopen, was responsible for a phone prank that sent the Meriden police bursting into an empty condominium with guns drawn -- after he called the condo's owner on the air and pretended to be a cable installer who was rustling through her clothes drawers. He's free on bail and will be back in court November 18.
The New England Patriots have found a new radio home in Connecticut. Dumped from ARS' WZMX (93.7 Hartford) this season, the Pats have added SFX's WPOP (1410) as their Hartford affiliate.
The FCC is still trying to get things right when it comes to the summertime swap that moved Canandaigua's WCGR from 1550 to 1310, while keeping the 1550 facility as a simulcast. For a few weeks, the FCC listed both 1310 and 1550 in its database as "WLKA," the calls that now belong to 1550. Things now seem to be straightened out in the database, with a "call sign change" being entered for 1310 to put the WCGR calls back where they belong.
On the translator front, Family Life Radio's WCII (88.5 Spencer) has been granted a 90.7 translator in Sidney, to use the W214AT calls. Down on Long Island, the Monroe (Connecticut) Board of Education wants to move W264AJ and change its primary. Also on Long Island, there's word that WGSM (740 Huntington) has dropped its country simulcast with WMJC (94.3 Smithtown) to pick up Radio Disney; it's the closest thing the Mouse network has to a New York City affiliate so far.
Rochester's WHAM will soon be the latest stop in Fred Goldman's national radio guest-host tour. O.J.'s nemesis will visit WHAM next month to pinch-hit in Bob Lonsberry's 12:25-2 pm slot for a week, while Lonsberry moves to nights for the duration.
And one of the Northeast's quirkiest little stations is now on line. WIRY (1340) in Plattsburgh has a new web presence complete with a RealAudio feed of the station. It's worth a listen just for the vintage jingles and late-night local newscasts.
Could little WGOT (Channel 60) in Merrimack become Boston's latest network O&O? WGOT owner Lowell Paxson is talking about using his own group of UHF stations to create a seventh network. Labelling WGOT as the "Boston" affiliate would be a bit of a stretch; while the station has cable carriage through the northern half of the market and a translator (W54CN) in Needham, its over-the-air signal is weak to nonexistent in Boston proper. Paxson also controls WHRC (Channel 46) in Norwell, Mass. through an LMA; it too might become part of the network. Elsewhere in the region, Paxson stations include WTWS (Channel 26) New London CT, WPXN-TV (Channel 31) New York, WHAI-TV (Channel 43) Bridgeport, and the not-yet-built WAQF (Channel 51) Batavia-Buffalo. Also making network noises is Barry Diller's Silver King group, which includes WHSH (Channel 66) Marlborough-Boston, WHSE (Channel 68) Newark-New York, and WHSI (Channel 67) Smithtown, L.I. With Diller's acquisition of the USA network this week, there's growing speculation that he'll use the Silver King stations as the core of a new broadcast network (in addition to his CityVision local programming plans).
Citadel's WPRO (630 Providence) rededicated its broadcast center in East Providence this week, with a new plaque again marking the building on Wampanoag Trail as the "Salty Brine Broadcast Center." The veteran WPRO morning man will be heard once again this winter with school closings, including his pet phrase "No school in Foster-Glocester!"
That's our report this week; we'll see you again next Thursday!