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WSYR to Begin FM Simulcast?

SYRACUSE — There’s no confirmation yet from Clear Channel, but signs point toward a possible FM simulcast for news/talker WSYR in the near future.  One national radio industry website says it found registrations for five — count ‘em, five — new internet domain names that suggest that WSYR could be moving to the FM dial, displacing one of the cluster’s music stations.

That national website is radioinsight.com — famous for its “Net Gnomes” who somehow manage to spot new radio staton domain registrations well before the domains are officially advertised to the public. Among the domain registrations they’ve caught:

CNYRadio.com ran WHOIS searches on all five domains.  They were all registered through GoDaddy on December 16.  The registrant is listed as “Domains By Proxy,” a company that specializes in allowing people to register domains without revealing their true identity.  By contrast, the WHOIS record for the station’s current primary web address — 570wsyr.com — is registered by “Clear Channel Identity, Inc.,” of San Antonio, Texas.

That leads us to wonder — were these domains really registered by Clear Channel?  Or is this a hoax being orchestrated by someone who has a little too much extra time and money on their hands?

On the one hand, domain registration is relatively inexpensive — several companies make it possible to register domains for less than $10 a year.  On the other hand, it’s possible an “authorized” employee was tasked to grab the domains before “word got out” and someone else could register the addresses.  Transferring ownership of the domains back to Clear Channel wouldn’t be a complicated process.

CNYRadio.com contacted Syracuse operations manager Rich Lauber late Monday afternoon for comment — but his voicemail greeting said he’s  out of the office until Wednesday.

While we’re waiting for a response, we point out four factors that could support the move:

  1. WSYR is already on the FM dial, as WPHR-HD2. A great first step, but you need an HD Radio receiver (which listeners seem to be slow to adopt) and in your editor’s attempts to tune in, the HD-2 signal doesn’t reach as far as the original AM signal or WPHR’s analog signal.
  2. It could be an order from corporate: Clear Channel’s Albany cluster did something similar a few months ago — alternative rocker Channel 103.1 (WHRL) was tossed to provide a simulcast of dominant news/talker WGY.
  3. WPHR’s transmitter moved from Auburn to Solvay last year, in an effort to improve the signal’s coverage within the City of Syracuse.
  4. WSYR has relatively new competition in terms of other stations putting talk-on-FM in the market.  Citadel launched 105.9 The Big Talker (WXTL) around the same time Galaxy took over the Syracuse market’s ESPN Radio affiliation, putting 24/7 sports on FM translators in Syracuse and Oswego.

In today’s edition of NorthEast Radio Watch, Scott Fybush recalls the fact that Clear Channel faced plenty of criticism from listeners in 2009, when the cluster temporarily replaced urban-formatted Power 106.9 (WPHR) with “Young Country 106.9.” In one case, a law professor from Syracuse University wrote a scathing commentary which was published by the Syracuse Post-Standard. It’s not clear if the country format was intended to be permanent or just a weekend stunt to steal thunder away from the launch of another country station — but Power 106.9 returned a few days later, sounding just the same, as if nothing ever happened.

As far as the return of the WSYR-FM call letters to Syracuse: it’s possible.  The call letters that once graced the 94.5 frequency are now in use at “Star 94.7” in Gifford, Florida.  The station is owned by the Aloha Stations Trust, which was created by Clear Channel as a “holding tank” for stations which Clear Channel was ordered to divest in order to gain regulatory approval for the radio giant’s 2008 privatization.  That means it should be relatively easy to bring WSYR-FM back to Syracuse, once new call letters are found (perhaps WPHR?) for the Florida station.

3 Comments to WSYR to Begin FM Simulcast?

  1. pontiac59 says:

    Let’s throw out the simplest possibility: Since WSYR also runs as WPHR-HD2 and they advertise it, the domain registration is so they can set up something that redirects anyone going to any of those addresses, to the main WSYR website.

    I’m not sure I’d be that surprised though if they flipped 106.9 again and lived with the racism accusations that will fly as a result of them eliminating urban music in the market. (As in, “Clearchannel is racist for not playing that format – even if it loses money”).

    WSYR just totally revamped their weekend schedule, too, I’m still catching up – sounds like they added a simulcast or delay of Fox News Sunday’s TV audio from noon-1PM Sundays. Sort of a copy of how CNY Talk Radio runs the NBC Washington news show audio later in the afternoon. In that sense, WSYR has some history of copying or outright taking things from competitors (WFBL’s first talk incarnation is what introduced the Sean Hannity Show to this market, and when people apparently were listening to it, WSYR nabbed it at the first opportunity), so them moving to FM as a jab at WXTL, again, wouldn’t be surprising. (Clearchannel could probably improve the cluster a bunch just by laying off all the management and bringing in new people).

  2. JMyrleFuller says:

    It would seem to me that 107.9 would be a more likely candidate for a format change (does Syracuse need two rival CHR/top-40s?). Back in the day, 105.1 in DeRuyter would’ve been the one to use– but they sold that one off.

    Then again… 107.9 does lean rhythmic, so what they could do is a “format merge–” 106.9 and 107.9 merge playlists and free up a frequency for the AM-to-FM simulcast. WWHT keeps the “Hot” branding but gets a substantially more urban playlist.

    • CNYRadio.com says:

      JMyrle, I have to agree with your observation that Hot seems to be more rhythmic/urban than 93Q. It’s always seemed that way to me, ever since they started. Rather than having Hot and Power compete, a format merge would probably please the Power audience without alienating the existing Hot audience.

      One trusted tipster who read this story emailed to say we can expect another format change on Wednesday. Tipster didn’t provide any further details. I’ll be scanning the dial on Wednesday morning, but if anyone else out there can offer another piece to the puzzle sooner, let me know!

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