The nod goes to Michael Caine's CHWO (1250 Oakville), which will move its adult-standards format down the dial to 740 by next June under the moniker "PrimeTime Radio." Caine persuaded the CRTC that listeners over the age of 55 are underserved on the Toronto dial, and says his station will serve as an "oasis" in the midst of the rock that dominates Toronto FM. NERW expects the new 740 to use the existing CBC transmitter plant in Hornby, but we're keeping an eye out for construction at the CHWO site as well.
It turns out 1250 won't go silent as a result of the move; the CRTC says Caine can lease that facility out to the Christian broadcasters who now lease 50 hours a week on CHWO sister station CJMR (1320 Mississauga). When they take over as "Joy 1250," CJMR will become all-ethnic (largely Asian languages).
Over on the FM side, the CRTC handed out two more licences, expected to be the last available in Canada's largest city. B. Denham Jolly, who had applied unsuccessfully for the 92.5 channel (now CISS) and the 99.1 facility (now CBC's CBLA), finally gets his FM under the name "Milestone Radio." The urban-formatted station will be on 93.5 with 298 watts -- a perfect spot, really, to usurp the Toronto listeners who now hear the format on Buffalo's WBLK (93.7 Depew NY). (A minority interest in Jolly's station will be held by Standard, which already owns CFRB and CKFM in Toronto, but the CRTC says this will not constitute an illegal LMA).
The last licence goes to Gary Farmer's Aboriginal Voices Radio, whose station will be the first in Toronto aimed at a native audience. AVR asked for both 740 AM and 106.5 FM; they were granted only the FM, with 250 watts. NERW wonders what *that* channel will sound like in the summer when reception heats up over the water path across the lake to co-channel 50-kilowatt WYRK Buffalo, which can usually be heard in Toronto on a warm day.
All three stations are expected on the air by June 2001.
One more Canadian note: the new calls for 101.1 Smiths Falls are CIOX, to reflect the station's identity as Ottawa's "XFM."
We'll start in RHODE ISLAND, where the most popular frequency was 96.5 in the Providence area. Applicants there included Casa de Oracion Getsemani, Brown Student Radio, Providence Community Radio, Mision Cristiana Eliam, St. Francis Chapel, Ephese French SDA Church, Gregory S. Ferland, Christopher Young, Better Living Radio in Johnston (for Johnston), and House of Gold Foundation (for Cranston). Also applying for 96.5: Zion Bible Institute in Barrington.
Runner-up in the popularity contest: 94.9, with apps for Experience Evangelistic Ministry (Providence), Calvary Chapel Christian Fellowship (Warwick), Little Flower House (Warwick), Katherine Russo (Warwick), Better Living Radio in Wickford (Wickford), State of the State Communications (West Warwick), and Olney Street Baptist Church (Cranston).
A few more: Newport Musical Arts Association (105.9 Newport), Spirit Life Ministries (92.9 Westerly), Washington County Chamber of Commerce (107.1 Westerly; and isn't this the group that's involved in WBLQ Westerly and those pseudo-TISes down that way?), and Northern Rhode Island Public Radio Inc. (95.3 Providence).
Many of these frequencies are unlikely to be available in actual fact because of failure to meet the FCC's spacing rules; that 96.5 Providence, in particular, didn't pass muster in a check of the FCC's own LPFM allocations program.
Two more Ocean State notes: We see that WLKW (550 Pawtucket) has applied to change calls to WBZU, apparently to match its talk-radio "The Buzz" nickname. And the message boards are buzzing with word that WWRX (103.7 Westerly) afternoon team "Jaxon and the Pharmacist" will take over mornings on the WFNX network (along with FNX's Henry Santoro) when WRX goes FNX later this summer.
NERW's initial reaction: My, there are a lot of religious applications. Didn't we predict just that in our year-end Rant? Get braced for the satellite translator frenzy all over again, folks...it's just beginning. (Don't blame the FCC on this one, necessarily; Congress made its attitude towards religious broadcasting all too clear this week with the 264-159 vote passing a bill that would allow "religion" as a fourth acceptable purpose for noncomm licensees.)
The next window opens in July and includes Connecticut and New Hampshire, by the way.
NEW YORK is where we started, examining the WBRV and WBRV-FM sites in Boonville (the latter next to what looks like an old fire tower in the hills), and listening to the stations' new satellite-delivered country format as "The Moose." On we drove, past WADR in Remsen and through the scenic Adirondacks, to the tower of WIPS (1250) next to the railroad tracks and down the street from the ferry landing in Ticonderoga. WIPS is indeed simulcasting "Radio Lake Placid" (WIRD/WLPW, WRGR), but someone up there needs a good lesson in legal IDs (or an NAL from the Portals!) -- aside from one quasi-legal "From historic Ticonderoga, WIPS 1250," all we heard was "Radio Lake Placid, WLPW-WRGR," with nary a city of license, and bumping into the news a few sentences late to boot. Loved the AAA music, though...
Also in the area, we heard the classic rock sounds of WCLX (102.5 Westport, in mono) and WEXP (101.5 Brandon VT, "The Fox"), the soft AC of "Lake" WLKC (103.3 Waterbury VT), oldies on WLCQ (92.1 Port Henry), and smooth jazz on 96.7 WXPS, now licensed to Willsboro NY.
A few more quick notes before continuing on the travelogue: Down in Binghamton, longtime WNBF (1290) personality John Leslie is looking to start a new career; he's running for town supervisor in the town of Vestal. In eastern Long Island, legendary WLNG-FM (92.1 Sag Harbor) is changing calls...but don't be alarmed; it's just to WLNG(FM), accounting for the disappearance of the old WLNG(AM) a few years back. While we're down that way, we note that M Street is reporting WFOG (1570 Riverhead) back on the air with a simulcast of WRCN-FM (103.9). M Street also says WWLE (1170 Cornwall-on-Hudson) has switched to CNN Headline News from its simulcast of country WRWD (107.3 Highland). Syracuse's W13BU becomes WBLZ-LP (we believe they're running The Box). In Rochester, jazz lovers may soon have a cleaner signal from WGMC (90.1 Greece), which is applying for a power increase to 15000 watts (directional, alas, away from NERW Central in Brighton) and a height increase to 134 feet. And circling back north again, we hear WAIH (90.3 Potsdam) at SUNY Potsdam and WTSC (91.1 Potsdam) at Clarkson College are simulcasting, at least for the summer, as "90.3 The Way and 91.1 The Source."
Back to our trip, then: Checking out the AM dial as we sped past Plattsburgh on I-87, we heard a carrier on 1070 transmitting nothing but static, so we don't know what calls or format that poor station is using this week. Up the dial at the always interesting WIRY (1340), we heard one of the segues that remind us why we like little local stations so much: a liner for "your favorite oldies coming up, including some Dusty Springfield" -- right into "now the latest from Destiny's Child," and out of said current hit into a typical 60s-style WIRY jingle. Ah, WIRY....
Crossing the border into Quebec, we tuned in the new all-news CINW 940 and country CJMS 1040, saw the now-vacant CBM/CBF towers in Brossard from the side of Autoroute 30, then east towards Sherbrooke.
Before the sun set, we were able to check out the radio scene around Sherbrooke, such as it was:
On AM, French-language CHLT (630) is largely a relay of the Radiomedia network and Montreal's CKAC (730), with four towers south of town in good Canadian fashion. English-speaking listeners (and we didn't find many, even in this formerly Anglophone-heavy region) can tune to CKTS (900), a 24-hour relay of Montreal's CJAD (800) from five towers (gasp!) north of the city.
Most FM emanates from the Mont Orford ski area near Magog, west of Sherbrooke: CITE-1 (102.7) is a "Rock-Détente" affiliate, while CIMO (106.1 Magog) is part of the "Energie" format from Radiomédia. CJMQ (88.9 Lennoxville) caters to Anglophones, it seems, while CFLX (95.5) is the community station. The CBC has its own tower east of the city, relaying CBF Montréal (première chaîne) on 101.1, CBFX Montréal (la chaîne culturelle) on 90.7, and CBVE Québec (CBC Radio One's "Quebec Community Network") on CBMB 91.7.
TV? The Radio-Canada affiliate, CKSH (Channel 9), and the TQS affiliate, CFKS (Channel 30) are co-owned. CHLT-TV (Channel 7, TVA) and the CKMI/Global relay on channel 11 share a facility as well. The fifth TV on Mont Orford is Tele-Quebec's CIVS on channel 24. The CBC tower carries a relay of English-language CBMT Montreal on channel 50.
We rode the Mt. Washington Cog Railway high into the fog, and never actually saw the transmitters up there for all the wind and pelting rain. Coming back down, we listened to the country format on WKXH (105.5 St. Johnsbury), among other things.
Despite e-mail from the station assuring us they were on the air, we heard nothing to suggest that WBNC (1050 Conway) was in fact operating -- in fact, NERW research director Garrett Wollman sat right next to the transmitter on route 113 and heard only silence on 1050. We did hear WBNC-FM with oldies on 104.5, and of course the fun AAA of WMWV (93.5 Conway) too.
Heading south after an abortive attempt to find the WLTN (1400 Littleton) transmitter, we saw what's now Christian talk and music WTWN (1100 Wells River VT), though the building still says "WYKR AM-FM" on the outside.
And then...well, then we learned that you can't get an alternator for a Saturn on a Saturday afternoon in White River Junction. Sunday? No way. So instead of heading out US 4 for home, we hitched a ride for Boston and left the NERW-mobile for repair on Monday.
The good news is that the delay gave us an opportunity to see the Lakes Region (in the rain) on Sunday, including WASR Wolfeboro (one tower just outside downtown), the FM tower of WLNH Laconia and WBHG Meredith, and the AM stereo beautiful-music WEZS (1350 Laconia) on the water south of town. (We never did find the WEMJ 1490 transmitter, nor did we hear a local ID covering the WEEI promos during the Red Sox game...) More non-IDers: WPHX-FM (92.1 Sanford ME), WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro), and WZEN (106.5 Farmington) all failed to offer anything resembling legal IDs while our tapes rolled across the tops of the hours Sunday afternoon. (The jingles were nice on WZEN, at least!)
We also heard the new joint ID of all the Christian Ministries stations in Vermont, which now include WGLY (91.5 Bolton), WCMD (89.9 Barre), WCKJ (90.5 St. Johnsbury), WGLV (104.3 Hartford), and a bunch of translators.
And crossing out of Vermont in the repaired NERW-mobile, we heard three different Telemedia "Point" stations around Lake George: WKBE (100.3 Warrensburg), WZEC (97.5 Hoosick Falls), and WCPT (100.9 Albany) were all spinning similar modern-AC playlists but with separate programming, liners, and spots. WKBE is promoting itself to Glens Falls and the Lake George region, while WZEC is selling itself as a Bennington station.
That's it for another early issue as we head off to Cleveland and vicinity; see you on schedule next Friday!