WHLP-AM to adopt big band format

April 15, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The big band sound of radio station WITH-AM (1230), which listeners had feared would fade away with a change in ownership, will keep on swinging in Baltimore, but at a different station.

Beginning at 6 a.m. Monday with "The Alan Field Show," the "Station of the Stars" format will move to WHLP-AM (1360), Jim Ward, general manager of WITH, announced yesterday.

All current personalities on WITH -- Mr. Field, Ken Jackson, Wayne Gruen, sports-talk announcer Nestor Aparicio and Fred Robinson -- will be heard at approximately their usual times on the new station.

The help-wanted advertising format on WHLP, established in December, will be discontinued. And as previously planned, a child-oriented format is expected to begin broadcasting on the 1230 frequency between May 1 and 15 under the call letters WKDH-AM.

"The listeners really pulled it off for us, no question," Mr. Ward said of the survival of the nostalgia music operation.

A complicated sequence of developments led to the planned changes, Mr. Ward said, such as strong listener support for the format, a resulting delay in the switch of WITH to the children's format under a new owner, and the failure of operators of the help-wanted format to consummate their deal to buy WHLP.

With the help of local investors, who have asked to remain anonymous, Mr. Ward and Paul Kopelke, operations/sales manager at WITH, have secured an agreement to purchase WHLP, which is owned by Allied Media Communications of Woodstock, Vt.

The nostalgia format will be on the 1360 frequency for 90 days under a lease agreement, pending filing of the sale agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, Mr. Ward said.

At WHLP, General Manager Winnie Brugman said the creator of the want-ad format, the Illinois-based Bankers Group, had failed to complete its purchase of the station.

"They couldn't agree to agree," Ms. Brugman said. She said 18 employees will lose their jobs at the station, which had been operating under a lease agreement.

Representatives of the Bankers Group could not be reached for comment.

It was not clear yesterday what will be heard on the 1260 frequency after midnight Sunday, when "The Station of the Stars" signs off to prepare to sign on at 1360. Mr. Ward said he and his partner had offered to simulcast their nostalgia programming until the arrival of the children's format next month, but thatcurrent station owner Jim McCotter had declined.

Mr. McCotter of Orlando, Fla., could not be reached for comment.

The sound of WITH, heavy with such former pop artists as Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and Jo Stafford, had been expected to disappear from the Baltimore airwaves when the sale of the station was announced in December.

The Capitol Kids Radio Co., a Bethesda-based operation that has also purchased stations in Silver Spring and in Northern Virginia, announced it would turn the 1260 frequency into Baltimore's first outlet for "Radio Zone, The Kid Stations."

Mr. Ward said the sale of WITH triggered 600 letters to the station from listeners opposing the apparent loss of the area's only station targeted at people 50 and older.

They wrote to the FCC, sent letters to newspaper editors, called other talk shows on other stations to complain and, in some cases, offered financial assistance to save the format, Mr. Ward said. The station's advertisers also continued to support the station, Mr. Kopelke said.

The new frequency, which may adopt the call letters WITH, is licensed for up to 5,000 watts of power, as compared with the 1,000-watt power limit at 1260. Mr. Ward said that will mean a clearer signal for many listeners, after some technical difficulties are addressed.

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