Noncommercial WETA-FM (90.9) is planning to build a repeater station on a Hagerstown, Md., mountaintop in an effort to expand its audience. WETA officials said the station, which could reach an estimated 224,000 additional listeners, could be operational by spring 1992 if the federal government approves the proposal.
A repeater echoes a station's signal and is frequently used in sparsely populated areas in western states or in under-served radio markets. Management at the Arlington-based station -- already the Washington area's most powerful station with 75,000 watts -- said the repeater would serve the Hagerstown, Gettysburg, Pa., and Chambersburg, Pa., triangle, where no public radio service is now available.
WETA General Manager Tom Livingston said applications for a grant and a construction permit were filed last week with the Department of Commerce's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP), which would fund up to 75 percent of the estimated $200,000 construction cost if approved. The Federal Communications Commission and PTFP will decide by August whether to give WETA the go-ahead.
Livingston, who as general manager of Louisiana State University's KDAQ-FM in Shreveport was responsible for signing on two repeater stations, said he anticipates no problems with WETA's application.
The Hagerstown signal would be given another set of call letters and a separate frequency powered by 900 watts on a mountain tower 1,300 feet above ground level. The height would give the signal the equivalent power of 20,000 watts. Livingston said WETA, which broadcasts mostly classical music, will have the capability of programming the repeater to cut away for local shows, local news and weather.
The cost of operating the repeater is estimated at $50,000 a year. Public stations generally receive contributions from 1 percent of the market they serve with amounts averaging $50 per person, according to Livingston, who believes that the Hagerstown market would add revenues to WETA's operating base.
Last spring, WETA nearly closed a deal to take over Johns Hopkins University's WJHU-FM in Baltimore but backed away after WETA board members decided the operation would be too much of a financial risk.
WWRC Continues to Build
WWRC-AM (980) operations manager Tyler Cox has gone downstairs again to conservative chatterer WNTR-AM (1050) to steal programming, this time taking the Wall Street Journal newscasts. The one-minute reports will begin on WWRC next Monday and will be heard 16 times daily -- twice hourly during morning drive. Cox was forced to hunt for replacement programming when NBC Radio News dropped its nearly 65-year affiliation and moved its Talknet service from WWRC (effective Feb. 17) to WPGC-AM (1580). He also has wangled away ABC's Direction news network from WNTR, which is two floors below WWRC in the World Building in Silver Spring. "I'm as popular as Saddam Hussein down there," Cox said sheepishly.
WLTT Just Got Lighter
General sales manager Tom Walker left CBS-owned WLTT-FM (94.7) on Friday. Walker said General Manager Don Davis dismissed him without warning because he wanted to put his own person in the position. Walker had been with the station since September 1980 when it was WJMD. Davis said Walker resigned -- "That's what our papers show," he added.
The "Lite Rock, Less Talk" station has tumbled in the ratings in the last year, making it hard for salespeople to get previous rates. For example, the morning drive program hosted by Dave Adler, who replaced Dave Arlington in August, dropped to a 3.4 share in the fall from Arlington's summer 4.9 share in the Arbitron listener survey of adults 25-to-54 years old. The decline came despite management's attempt to bolster the drive-time show by hiring TV movie reviewer Arch Campbell for Friday chats, and TV weatherman Doug Hill for daily reports. Davis characterized Adler's report card as a fluke.
Unistar network has served a 90-day notice to WWDC-AM (1260) that it will no longer carry the "Music of Your Life" format. Unistar President Gary Fries said the network is not growing because listeners currently entering the format's targeted seniors bracket are listening to formats other than big band/swing/pop.
WWDC General Manager Goff Lebhar said he is looking at several formats similar to "MOYL" that feature the same music targeted to listeners 35 to 64 years old. Lebhar said WWDC will have a satellite feed in place by April 15, Unistar's end date. Asked if veteran morning host Eddie Gallaher, the station's only live voice, could be retired in the shuffle, Lebhar fired back, "No way. You'd have to shoot me first. Eddie will have a job here as long as I'm here."