North East RadioWatch: August 15, 1999

by Scott Fybush

A final look at the Spring 12+ Arbitrons:

So why is NERW coming out on Sunday this week? We were out of state on Friday, checking out the radio scene in Williamsport and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania...and it goes like this:

The three-hour drive south to Williamsport goes through Dansville, Bath, and Corning, markets in which nothing much ever seems to change. South of the state line, we found ourselves riding up and down the hills into Mansfield, where the new 92.3 is finally on the air. It's called WNBQ, and is allegedly a simulcast of hot AC WNBT-FM ("the Buzz") in nearby Wellsboro. In fact, it's all but a dead carrier, with just the tiniest hint of modulation when the radio was cranked all the way up. One-day problem? Ongoing issue? We'll know next time we drive through, perhaps on the way down to the upcoming National Radio Club convention.

A few dozen hills later, after miles of gazing at the future US 15 expressway being built alongside the old road south of Blossburg, we pulled into Williamsport just in time to catch some top-hour IDs. WLYC (1050) is back on the air from its single stick north of town -- but there was no legal, just a top-hour ID from the patriot-talk network it's hooked up with. News-talk WRAK, on the other hand, ID'ed both itself (coming from a stick right next to the home of the Little League World Series, with 1kw on 1400) and simulcast WRKK (1200 Hughesville). And that's it for AM...WWPA (1340) was silent (though its stick still stands next to another Little League field in South Williamsport), while WFXX on 1450 is deleted in every sense.

On the FM side, the noncomms at the local colleges were both off for the summer, so the dial started with WSNU (92.1) over in Lock Haven, now doing modern rock as "the Mountain." WHTO (93.3 Muncy) does CHR as "Hot", WMYL (95.5 Salladasburg) is satellite standards (and the city of license is pronounced "Salla-DAYS-burg," which we didn't expect), and from nearby Jersey Shore, WJSA simulcasts religion on 96.3 and 1600, while WVRT does hot AC as "Variety 97-7." Also nearby is Avis, home of the country "Bear" on 99.9, WQBR (not that we heard a legal from it or WVRT!). Back in Williamsport itself, the top two stations in the market (both with 20+ shares) are hot AC WKSB (Kiss 102.7) and country WILQ ("Q105" at 105.1). And rounding things out is soft AC WSFT, "Sunny" 107.9 in Bald Eagle. The towers for WHTO, WQBR, WKSB, WILQ, and WSFT are all on the ridge that overlooks South Williamsport, along a pothole-filled road that offers some amazing views of the Susquehanna Valley far below.

Heading out of town, we heard the always-reliable college rock of WQSU Selinsgrove (88.9 from Susquehanna University), the hot AC of WQKX (94.1 Sunbury), the country multi-cast that includes WYGL (1240 Selinsgrove) and WLGL (92.3 Riverside) to name a few, and the classical music of WPGM (1570/96.7 Danville, with an unusual ID that started with "Du--bul--yoo" and took forever to get to "Emmmmmmmm", before passing through the hills to find the satellite hard rock of WRPA (103.9) up in Laporte.

Emerging from the mountains in Clarks Summit, the NERW-mobile radio was tuned to WVIA (89.9 Scranton) and its "Mixed Bag" AAA-ish nightly show. What else did we find of note in Scranton? Not much...the country combo of WCTD/WCTP (93.7/94.3) teaming up with sister country stations in Easton (WCTO), Hershey (WRKZ), and Carlisle (WHYL-FM) for an overnight simulcast...a very unusual late-night show on the University of Scranton's WUSR (99.5), with a host who also sells insurance launching into an on-air lecture on torts before signing off at 12:23 AM....the 5-tower array of WARM (590) way the heck out of town near the hamlet of Falls, PA....but the big news was on TV. See if you can follow this: The Fox affiliate in Scranton used to be WOLF-TV (Channel 38), with satellites in Hazleton (WWLF 56) and Williamsport (WILF 53). A few months ago, we noted a call change in which WWLF became WOLF-TV while the former WOLF-TV became WSWB. Now we know what actually happened: Channel 38, now WSWB, became the WB affiliate for Scranton. Channel 56 made its own bid for cable carriage across the region and became the Fox affiliate, now operating Channel 38 under an LMA. And somewhere along the line, someone forgot the legal ID rules, as the Hazleton-licensed 56 signs on as "WOLF-TV SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE/HAZLETON" and frequently IDs without even the "HAZLETON". Williamsport's WILF now simulcasts only 56. And the 10PM news produced by ABC affiliate WNEP (Channel 16) also migrated to channel 56. NERW wonders how this LMA will survive the five-year sunset period implemented last week, since the 7-station market is supposedly too small to allow a TV duopoly without a waiver.

One more new station in the market: WQPX (Channel 64), which is Pax, at least for now. Need we say more?

Thought we'll end it for this week, and we'll meet again in our usual spot Friday night. See you then!

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