ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio — The local radio scene is going through major changes, with one local station going off the air and two others changing ownership.
WEAK off the air
For 19 years listeners in Athens County enjoyed the obscure, eccentric and curated oldies tunes on 106.7 WEAK FM, a low-power (100 watt) station based in the unincorporated community of Union.
Operated out of a private citizen’s garage, the station aired its last FM broadcast on March 31.
Richard Whitmore, president of Hobby Radio Inc., told the Independent that WEAK decided to go off air after nearly two decades for “personal reasons.” WEAK is now broadcasting exclusively online at weakradio.net.
“Everything is the same, except it’s available only on the internet, rather than live broadcast,” Whitmore said. “Everything’s the same, except for not being available on 106.7.”
The station is also continuing its normal programming and underwriting program.
Whitmore’s radio tower is to come down within the next couple of weeks, he said. He invites nonprofits interested in taking over his radio license to contact him at (740) 593-3683.
There is no chance of WEAK going back on air, Whitmore said.
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Power 105 DJ Michael Bart, aka DJ Barticus, said WEAK’s presence in the radio waves will be missed. (Bart’s spouse, Emily Beveridge, serves on the board of Southeast Ohio Independent News, which publishes the Athens County Independent.)
“WEAK radio was a really special radio station, they still will carry on as [an] online station, but I really am missing them on a radio dial,” Bart said in a statement. “[Through] the station I discovered the song that became the first dance at my wedding (Chris Montez — ‘The More I See You’) and I discovered my favorite radio show, Chucko’s ‘Rarest of the Rare’ show.”
WATH and WXTQ under new ownership
On March 6, the Federal Communication Commission officially assigned classic hits station WATH-AM 970 and contemporary station WXTQ-FM 105.5, known as Power 105, to Jackson County Broadcasting, Inc., doing business as Total Media.
The FCC decision approved a purchase agreement entered into on Nov. 10, 2022. Total Media began operating the stations in the fall through a time brokerage agreement.
With Total Media’s ownership of the stations now official, the company will begin making some changes to programming, said Rodney Tomblin, who oversees Total Media’s Athens broadcasting. However, “there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel,” he said.
“It’s such a community-connected station; there’s already so many programs that are of local interest,” Tomblin said. “Basically, what we want to do is take the model that we’ve got and just enhance it, make it better, become more involved in the community.”
Tomblin said listeners will see some formatting changes on WATH. Currently, the station is “kind of all over the place” in the music genres played at any given time, he said.
“So basically what we’re going to do is just kind of redirect the format,” Tomblin said. “It’s gonna be more consistent when you tune in: You know you’re going to hear this type of music.”
Although Tomblin acknowledged that some changes may be “significantly different” and that change is “a hard pill to swallow sometimes,” he said he thinks offering more consistent programming on WATH will ultimately benefit the community.
Additionally, Tomblin distinguished Total Media from the “out of town conglomerates” which he said tend to leave the small market radio stations they purchase “without real identity,” as the stations are seen as “basically are just another mode of making money for that particular business.”
“Everybody’s in business to make money but, at the same time, we want to give a quality product to the community,” Tombli said. “We feel like everybody that’s involved that works with us — not only do we enjoy making radio, but we also want to be a part of the community; we want the community to feel a part of it.”
Total Media operates The Telegram newspaper in Jackson County, along with multiple radio stations there. The company also operates a Jackson County-based printing business and offers multiple additional advertising channels for clients. The company already had some reach into Athens County through stations including WKOV 96.7 and WYRO 98.7, but the expansion is a significant step for the company.
Total Media purchased WATH and WXTQ from WATH, Inc., along with a translator previously owned by the company, for $1.06 million, according to the purchase agreement on file with the FCC.
Tomblin said the company was already looking to expand, and the option to purchase longtime family-operated stations was a unique opportunity for the company “to buy places that have such a legacy.”
The purchase agreement included a provision to allow former owner David Palmer to continue working his on-air shift until as long as he wishes. For decades, Palmer has hosted Party Line, a radio show which focuses on “area leaders, entrepreneurs and other influential people” in and around Athens County.
DISCLOSURE: The Athens County Independent is in the process of establishing a content-sharing agreement with Total Media, which would see the company share the Independent’s coverage on air. The agreement in no way impacts editorial decision-making at the Independent, and the decision to pursue this story was unrelated to the agreement.
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