Gaithersburg's WJOK-AM (1150), the nation's only all-comedy radio station, was sold by Barto Communications Monday night for $750,000 to Bel Air Broadcasting Co. The new owners said they plan to drop the humor format.
"This is a great deal," said James Swartz, the 35-year-old owner of Bel Air and WHRF-AM (1470) in Harford County. In July Swartz also started the Maryland News Network from WHRF's studios. "Montgomery County is one of the best four or five places to be in business in the country," he said. "It's affluent, sophisticated, well educated and close to the nation's capital."
Swartz, who is to take control of the station in 60 to 90 days, when the FCC approves the sale, said yesterday that he would change the station's format to "oldies and news" to attract "listeners over the age of 30 with good news, good information, good public service and good for advertisers -- a full-service radio station. My job is to provide good local radio for Montgomery County, Maryland."
Robert Cobbins, president of Barto Communications and the station's general manager, said he'll try to syndicate the comedy format nationally. When the station went on the market last May, Cobbins blamed the station's lack of power -- 1,000 watts daytime and 500 watts evenings -- for its lack of audience.
"I might as well stand on the street corner and yell jokes," said Cobbins.
Swartz plans to keep the station's staff, but will change the call letters to WMTG.