In this week’s issue… Cumulus winds down big FMs – New brand for CT talker – New music, logo at KYW – Another college drops FM – Halls of Fame induct new members – More consolidation in Ontario
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*You could make the case, I suppose, that NEW YORK‘s WPLJ (95.5) ended its “legendary” days in 1983, when top-40 replaced rock, leaving WNEW (102.7) all alone as the rock FM station in the big city. You could make a case for December 1987, when the callsign changed to WWPR for an unsuccessful year as “Power 95.” You could point to the end of the ABC owned-and-operated stations group with the 2006 sale to Citadel.
But when the history books are written (and, yes, it’s been something like 18 years since I tried to start writing this particular one), we now know that “May 31, 2019” will mark the end of the end of WPLJ. That’s the date when Cumulus will hand over the keys to EMF Broadcasting, which is paying $103 million for a package of stations including WPLJ, WRQX in Washington, WYAY in Atlanta, WZAT in Savannah and – well, keep reading for the other NERW-land piece of this puzzle.
Because you read NERW and other industry trades, this news isn’t coming as much of a surprise to you – except for the actual date of the switch, which WPLJ’s morning team announced Wednesday morning, the rest of the sale was a big headline for us back in February. For the general public, though (and a surprisingly large chunk of the mainstream media), the announcement on Wednesday appeared to be the first they’d heard about WPLJ leaving the airwaves.
That, of course, triggered plenty of nostalgia, if not for the current hot AC version of WPLJ, then at least for its predecessors. If you grew up in New York City or its suburbs in the 1970s and you were a rock-loving teenager, WPLJ was probably where your radio dial was locked – and the teens of the 1970s are the nostalgia-loving 50-somethings of today. Over the next few weeks, we’re guessing they’ll get treated to some remembrances of WPLJ’s heyday as the station winds down to its final days.
And after that? As with so many of the other big-market stations it’s purchased in recent years, EMF will follow the last moments of WPLJ with a prompt switch to its national “K-Love” contemporary Christian format. About the only mysteries still remaining are whether the WPLJ calls will stay in place, whether they’ll be parked on a different Cumulus station elsewhere, and whether EMF will move the WKLV calls down with the format from suburban 96.7 up in Port Chester. (That signal, in turn, is almost guaranteed to go to EMF’s secondary “Air 1” format.)
What else can we learn from the WPLJ reaction? That there are still radio listeners out there paying attention to what’s on the dial – and noticing when there’s change. That’s a theme running through a few other stories this week…keep reading.
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