Rock 93.9/101.7 Flips Format – Update

The 93.9 side of the dial has, as expected, become “The Pulse” – an all-talk format station retransmitting from WTPL in Bow/Concord.

101.7 continues with rock music, announcing themselves as “WVRR 101.7,” although an old promo for 93.9/101.7 slips in occasionally. The music side is robojock-driven, I’ve yet to hear an on-the-air host speak. Morning Buzz and Quinn & Cantara remain.

According to Upper Valley Radio staff I spoke with today, the music will continue on WVRR. Interestingly, I was told that Liz Fox may be returning to do mid-day air work. “I believe that’s under negotiation,” a station representative told me. The afternoons, she said, would be “music-driven” – in other words, robojock.

I’m still undecided about this news. Former PD Steve Smith posted a comment to my original post indicating that his days in Upper Valley radio are far from over. “I have a new radio gig in the works,” he says. “It’s not officially announced to the media yet, but when it, I will let you know!” He ends with a parting shot:

Just one note to any former listener of my former station: I was the Program Director of that radio station for almost 5 years. My goal in radio, from the get-go, was to bring a Rock radio station to 101.7, and also the Upper Valley. Running Rock 93.9 & 101.7 was a dream job for me. We started small and grew into something amazing. We did alot together with Rock The Whale, our Stuff A Bus campaign, Battle Of The Bands, Who Wants To Be A DJ….. I always wanted the station to be a heritage rock station for the Valley. And it was well on it’s way. But now, sadly, it’ll be a station that you look back on and think “man I loved that radio station.” It’s dead in the Upper Valley. I think back to when I listened to Q106. I personally use to love that radio station. It was the most listened to station in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Then it got crappy. Sadly…that’s what will happen to my former station. So, to all the listeners, I am sorry that you and I both have to live thru this. I miss the station and I miss the listeners. I do NOT, however, miss the management. I am much more happy not working for them. The flipping of 93.9 is just one of many reason I am glad to be gone.

RIAA’s Internet Radio Double Standard

head-in-sand.jpgRadio Paradise, one of the many non-profit net radio stations due to die as a result of the Copyright Review Board’s recent misguided ruling on performance royalty payments, has started a blog to draw attention to the problems they and other netcasters face. RP proprietor Bill Goldsmith kicks Save Our Internet Radio off with a hard-hitting essay that highlights a fact which may be unfamiliar to many, that net radio stations are being forced to pay a fee that terrestrial broadcasters don’t:

Yes, both FM stations and Internet stations pay royalties to songwriters and/or music publishers. But the royalties in question are owed to the owners of performance copyrights, which means, in most cases, record companies – and to them, FM stations pay nothing at all.

How is it possible for such a massive disparity to exist? For the answer to that we need to go back to the 1990s, when music industry lobbyists persuaded Congress to include wording in two pieces of legislation (the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998) that drew a sharp division between analog and digital broadcasts. Their reasoning was that a digital radio transmission was not a radio broadcast at all, but a sequence of perfect digital copies of music performances provided to the user, who could then copy them rather than paying to own a CD.

Congress, bulldozed by the same crew that extended copyrights to 75 years, dutifully did the industry’s bidding, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT THE LAW HELPED NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PEOPLE LOBBYING FOR IT.

Goldsmith spells out the history (familiar, it seems, to everyone but the RIAA Luddites):

Crippling an exciting, groundbreaking industry like Internet radio is certainly not in the best interests of the public, nor that of musical artists, and not even – if history is any judge – of the music industry itself. Just as they were unable to see how the advent of home music taping actually spurred the sale of LPs and CDs, they are unable to tell exactly what impact Internet radio and other forms of digital media will have on the future of their industry – and to behave as if they do know, and for Congress to go along with them, is a grave error, and public disservice, that needs to be recognized and corrected.

So, if we are building a business – even a non-commercial business like Radio Paradise – by the use of copyrighted material, isn’t it fair that we pay for its use? Perhaps it is. But the fact remains that what we are doing does not differ in any substantive way from what a company like Clear Channel is doing, and to move forward under the fiction that such a distinction exists is neither fair nor rational.

Of course, Clear Channel lives in the pocket of politicians, nonprofits like Radio Paradise don’t.

FCC Ignored “Inconvenient Facts” On Franchise Ruling

clearchannel.jpg John Dunbar of the AP updates ongoing investigation into a 2003 study spiked by the FCC because it didn’t reach the pre-appoved conclusion:

When the government decided to take a hard look at how well broadcasters were serving the needs of the communities where they operated, two economists at the Federal Communications Commission got a research idea: They would look at whether locally owned TV stations produced more local news than stations that were owned by companies based outside the area.

They found that local ownership resulted in more local news coverage — hardly a shocking conclusion. They also realized they had turned up what one of the researchers, economist Keith Brown, called “inconvenient facts.” Their findings were at odds with what their agency, under heavy lobbying from the broadcast industry, had endorsed.

The months-long study was spiked by the agency with “no plausible explanation,” Brown says. He suspects it was because the conclusions were at odds with the shared position of the FCC and the broadcast industry: that media-ownership rules were too restrictive and should be loosened.

The recent transfer of the Clear Channel cluster of local radio stations should provide an instructive look at this theory. Jeff Shapiro of Great Eastern Radio told me his “local yokel” partner left the area’s NBC affiliate when it folded into a New York station. Anyone who’ s watched WNNE since they moved their news operations across the border knows that it’s a shadow of its former self.

Courtney Galluzzo spent 20 years as WNNE’s GM of Sales, so his contribution to the new group of stations should be interesting.

Local Radio Heads Back to the Future

rock939.jpgThree years after selling a group of stations, including Claremont’s WHDQ, to Nassau Broadcasting, Jeff Shapiro has returned to local radio. Last Friday, media giant Clear Channel Communications announced the sale of all six of their area stations to Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio LLC.

Shapiro characterized the purchase as “an aggressive, wise and well thought-out” move into the local market.

Great Eastern acquired the AM/FM talk radio tandem of WTSL and WTSM, along with FM stations featuring country (WXXK), adult contemporary (WGXL) and rock (WMXR & WVRR) formats. The sale, which awaits FCC approval, is expected to close in the spring.

Their deal with Clear Channel is part of a larger sell-off of 448 stations nationwide, carried out under a buyout by Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

Shapiro said in a phone interview Tuesday that he doesn’t expect disruptions at any of the stations. “They’re not in need of major fixes or changes,” Shapiro said, adding that he hopes “to put our imprint on the stations – a little more promotion, aggressiveness and excitement.”

Shapiro praised WTSL as “the heritage talk station in the area,” but also indicated that it may feel more immediate changes. It currently features a lineup of national hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. “If anything, we’d like to add a dose of local talk,” says Shapiro. “That makes a difference in radio, having that locality and local callers.”

As an undergraduate in the early 1980s, Shapiro was General Manager of Dartmouth College’s AM and FM stations. Yesterday, a local radio programmer welcomed him back to the Upper Valley.

“I think it’s a great move, and I wish Jeff much success with those properties,” said the industry veteran, who asked that his name not be used. “Anytime a local owner buys radio properties and takes away control from a giant media conglomerate – only good comes from that.”

“If it means more competition, only good can come from that because that means we all have to get better and serve the listeners better,” he said.

Shapiro said he looks forward to competing with his former stations. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

When it comes to programming that spotlights area bands, Shapiro says he’ll try to strike a balance. “I think radio should be involved with the local music scene and use its’ airwaves to promote and develop it,” says Shapiro, but cautions that, “on the other hand, stations are sensitized to playing music that people like. You can’t be all over the road – people want some consistency. “

Shapiro’s partner Courtney Galluzzo was, says Shapiro, a “local yokel” during his days as WNNE-TV general sales manager, known for “sticking the Jiffy Mart logo on the satellite truck.” Galluzzo and Shapiro have worked together for the past 10 years, and share a spirit of using the media to spur community activism.

“When you can drive people to action to do good things, nothing does a better job,” says Shapiro. “I mean this – by owning five FMs in one market, you cannot get away from it. Local radio proves itself over and over again.”

“As long as we’re strong locally, we’ll always do extremely well,” he says. “That’s why these stations had such incredible appeal to me. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for CHAD and David’s House. That tells you that people are listening to and liking their products.”

“This sounds very philosophical,” says Shapiro. “But we have an opportunity to do right and do well at the same time.”

Jeff Shapiro Back In Upper Valley Radio

clearchannel.jpgClear Channel has left the building, and in the words of Bob Dylan, “things should start to get interesting right about now.”

Three years after selling a group of stations led by classic rocker Q-106 (WHDQ) in Claremont, New Hampshire, Jeff Shapiro has returned to Twin State Valley radio with the purchase of the Clear Channel cluster featuring Rock 93.9/101.7 (WVRR) – the station that just happens to be Q-106’s main competitor. The sale is part of a large Clear Channel sell-off involving several markets:

Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio LLC is buying Clear Channel’s signals, including news-talk WTSL (1400 Hanover NH) and WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT), AC WGXL (92.3 Lebanon NH), rock WMXR (93.9 Woodstock VT)/WVRR (101.7 Newport NH) and country WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH), for an as-yet-undisclosed price.

“We are thrilled to be returning to the broadcasting community in the Upper Valley,” says Shapiro, who owned WHDQ in Claremont for almost 20 years before selling to Nassau in 2004.

No word yet on what, if anything, will happen to any of the station’s formats, though WVRR switched from Active Rock to a Classic/New hybrid about a year ago. Don’t be surprised if Greg & the Morning Buzz disappears from the local morning slot – their home station, WHEB, is still in the Clear Channel fold.

Ditto for Quinn & Cantara, the evening team that’s based in Providence, Rhode Island.  For the moment, however, it’s business as usual at all the stations.

I suppose Alanis Morrisette’s “Isn’t It Ironic?” would be an appropriate song to play at this juncture – if it were on either Q-106 or Rock 93.9/101.7’s playlists.