WITH to adopt new children's format


December 11, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Children in Baltimore will have their own radio station earl next year.

Local station WITH-AM (1230) has been sold to an enterprise which will establish "Radio Aahs, Baltimore," broadcasting a mix of local and syndicated programming for elementary and middle school children.

WITH currently airs a nostalgia music format with some veteran local voices, including Ken Jackson, Alan Field and Wayne Gruen. But the sale appears to signal the end of that sound on local airwaves.

Capitol Kids Radio Company, headed by Lawrence Kessner of Bethesda and Virginia Carson of Washington, has contracted to buy WITH from its Florida-based owner, Jim McCotter, at a purchase price of $762,500. The sale agreement has been filed with the Federal Communications Commission, which will undertake a two-month review process before approving the transaction.

"I see late winter, perhaps mid-March, as when we can begin broadcasting in Baltimore," said Mr. Kessner. His firm also recently has purchased WNTR-AM (1050) in Silver Spring and WPRW-AM (1460) in Northern Virginia.

Together, the three stations will carry programming from the Children's Satellite Network, a Minneapolis-based syndicator which originated the kids' radio format there on WWTC-AM. The programming includes adult disc jockeys teamed with children to play songs and other standard fare, including traffic reports and news.

Mr. Kessner said Radio Aahs -- "as in oohs and aahs" -- will also feature classic Disney stories in a noontime story hour, and appearances by the crab character Sebastian, from the Disney film "The Little Mermaid," under a recently signed agreement with the Disney Studios.

The three kids' network stations will simulcast much of the day, but each will have its own live, morning drive-time show, he said.

The company is seeking a local DJ, he added, "someone we hope will have had some experience talking to and with kids."

Jim Ward, general manager of WITH, and Paul Kopelke, operations/sales manager, said the station's 16 employees were told of the sale in a meeting Wednesday. The current format will continue until the sale is approved.

"We realize it's sad and emotional for a lot of our listeners" to lose the sound of Big Band and other pop music from earlier years, said Mr. Ward. He said WITH has become a profitable enterprise since he and Mr. Kopelke came to the station in the fall of 1991.

But the current managers said the station plans an upbeat farewell "that will involve our listeners." WITH has been on the air in Baltimore since 1941.

Baltimore fans of hard rock music have an improved listeninoption, with this week's "re-positioning" of WHVY-FM 103.1. The Annapolis-based station, previously billed as "Underground 103," changed its call letters to become "Rock 103 WXZL" and boosted its signal from 3,000 to 6,000 watts.

Promotions manager James Huth says the signal strength should allow most Baltimore area viewers to better hear the station.

Aircheck is a column of radio news and highlights appearing every other Friday.

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