WWMX plans purchase of rival WVRT

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

The competition between two Baltimore radio stations boasting "variety" music formats could turn into cooperation, under a deal in which the owner of WWMX-FM (106.5) is to purchase longtime rival WVRT-FM (104.3).

"A contract is still being drawn up, but Scripps has accepted our offer. We have a verbal commitment," WWMX General Manager Ardie Gregory said yesterday. Jim Fox, general manager of WVRT, confirmed that there is a verbal agreement, but noted that "as of this moment, nothing is final on paper."

Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., which owns WVRT, announced in March that it wished to sell the radio station as well as others in Portland, Ore., and Memphis, Tenn. The company said it intended to concentrate on its television holdings.

"This is an opportunity that we have hoped would happen for a long time," said Ms. Gregory, adding that the pending sale "is a tremendous opportunity to own a pair of very strong stations in Baltimore."

WWMX is owned by Capitol Broadcasting of Raleigh, N.C. Ownership of two stations in a single market became permissible last year under a rules change by the Federal Communications Commission.

Both stations said it was premature to predict whether WVRT's format might change or what effect a sale would have on station personnel.

Ms. Gregory said any contract of sale must ultimately be approved by the FCC, a process that takes from 90 to 120 days.

The two stations currently broadcast competing "adult contemporary" music formats.

"I've heard a lot of rumors, which I get a kick out of because nobody's said anything," Mr. Fox said. "It doesn't mean that MIX is going to simulcast over here."

WWMX promotes itself as "MIX 106," with "the best variety of the '70s, '80s and '90s." In the most recent Arbitron ratings, the station ranked fifth among Baltimore listeners 12 and older, with a 5.3 percentage share.

WVRT changed its call letters in January from WBSB (long known as B-104) and began promoting itself as "Variety 104," broadcasting a "continuous soft rock" sound. In the winter ratings, it ranked 13th, with a 2.7 share.

When Scripps announced its radio stations were for sale, Mr. Fox and the general managers of the Scripps outlets in Memphis and Portland collaborated on an offer to buy the stations. But the company rejected it.

"We went as far as we could but the bidding was too steep," Mr. Fox said yesterday.

No purchase price has been revealed for the pending WVRT purchase by Capitol Broadcasting.

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