WAMO's format to change with sale
Share with others:
Listeners to WAMO-FM 106.7 -- Pittsburgh's longtime radio home for hip-hop and R&B music -- will be disappointed to hear that the station is being sold in a deal that is likely to mean a format change.
WAMO spokesman Russell Bynum yesterday said the station and its two sister stations -- WAMO-AM 860 and WPGR-AM 1510 -- are being sold by the owners, Sheridan Broadcasting Corp., to St. Joseph Missions.
Mr. Bynum said the sale was for $8.9 million, but no further details were disclosed. The sale must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
Mr. Bynum, president of Bynum's Marketing and Communications Inc., said he was unable to release information about St. Joseph Missions beyond confirming that the group is "religious-oriented."
Sheridan Broadcasting owner Ron Davenport Sr. has owned WAMO-FM and AM since 1973, and his son, Ron Davenport Jr., is the general manager of WAMO-FM. The company acquired WPGR-AM in 2001.
"This was a difficult decision for the owners, but it was a necessary situation for them," said Mr. Bynum, who denied that the sale of the stations meant Sheridan Broadcasting was in trouble.
"When we look at Sheridan, we are looking at a strong organization that has had to make these changes to adapt to the movement and the changes in the marketplace," he said.
Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcasting still owns stations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Buffalo, N.Y. Sheridan also is the principal owner of the American Urban Radio Networks, the only African-American-owned radio network in the nation.
Mr. Bynum said AURN produces more than 200 weekly programs broadcast over 300 affiliates, reaching a nationwide audience of 20 million listeners per week. The various programs include news, entertainment, gospel and contemporary urban music.
WAMO-FM is a hip-hop and R&B music station that features jazz and old R&B programming on Sundays. WAMO-AM plays classic soul music, and WPGR-AM is a gospel station.
Mr. Bynum said the stations should remain the same until the sale is closed, which could happen later this summer.
"It really has to do with the FCC," he said. "Things that are not under the control of the [parties]."
The stations' 35 full- and part-time employees learned of the pending sale in a meeting with Sheridan management yesterday, Mr. Bynum said. Some workers will be let go, he said, though some employees of the larger Sheridan Broadcasting Corp. could still keep their jobs.
As far as listeners are concerned, Mr. Bynum said, it won't do much good to start a letter-writing campaign or otherwise try to keep the station as it is.
"This is a business decision," he said. "That's the reality of the marketplace. The marketplace determines how businesses go, and industries have to change with the times."
Part of the reason for the sale, Mr. Bynum said, is that radio listenership is measured "with a disproportionate impact on minority formats." Sheridan owners tried to find minority buyers for the stations, but none could arrange the necessary financing, he said.
As far as Sheridan is concerned, he said, the company will continue to operate out of Pittsburgh.
"They will still be involved in the community through donations, board memberships and sponsorships," he said. "They will stay visible."
Asked about the loss of the music in the Pittsburgh market, Mr. Bynum was optimistic.
"I believe someone will fill the void," he said.
First Published May 16, 2009 12:10 am