If everything goes as planned, Columbus, OH's new progressive talk station, WVKO (1580AM) should be up and running come Monday morning (12/3) at 6AM with The Bill Press Show. That is, barring any complications, such as satellite uplink issues.
Progress Ohio made the official announcement yesterday, and I posted an advance rumor about it earlier in the day. The grassroots effort to return the format to local airwaves comes after a dedicated year-long effort and a petition drive that yielded over a thousand signatures.
So far, the only issues standing in the way of the launch are logistical ones, mostly dealing with engineering and the satellite uplink, since most of the programming will consist of nationally-syndicated shows. The station already has a web domain reserved, and will also stream its programming. The fully-functional website will also have a message board.
At this time, the on-air lineup has been partially set. Press will air mornings 6-9, followed by two other shows from Jones Radio Networks - Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz. Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow will follow, creating a schedule consisting solely of live programming from 6A-8P. What follows after Maddow has yet to be determined, but it is expected that Lionel will be carried on delay. Overnights and weekends have yet to be determined.
"We're also doing a lot of local sports, although I'm not at liberty as yet to say what we'll have," WVKO General Manager and veteran radio executive Gary Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "We're going to do a lot of news and local talk, too. Our studios are a block from the Statehouse. I'm always surprised there isn't more political talk on the radio locally."
Richards hopes listeners will tune in the new WVKO. "Especially with AM stations, you're kind of limited in what you can do," he said. "Music is a losing proposition on AM, and we had to find a niche, and we think there is one in political talk -- especially with 'something big' (the 2008 election) going on next year."
The station is currently owned by Dallas-based Bernard Ohio, LLC, which also purchased a few stations in Youngstown, OH earlier this year. Bernard purchased the broadcast license and resurrected the station earlier this year after the previous owner, who programmed various African-American-oriented formats over the years, took it off the air in May 2006 due to financial difficulties. Since it returned to the airwaves this past summer, WVKO has been testing its transmitter and most recently programmed a Spanish-language format. There were rumors that Bernard would air brokered programming on the signal.
The signal, at 3200 watts day/290 watts night, is not a very powerful one, but its centrally-located tower will cover the city of Columbus and most of Franklin County adequately (see graphic on right).
WVKO brings back a format previously carried by WTPG, a Clear Channel-owned station that sruprisingly dropped the format last December in the company's 'Ohio liberal talk purge' that also claimed company-owned stations in Cincinnati and Akron. WTPG became WYTS, carrying mostly conservative talk, and has since been struggling to match its predecessor's ratings. In the latest Arbitron unofficial trend report, they have completely dropped off the list and lost roughly 40% of its listening audience over the past few months (for those who put much faith in Arbitron's ratings methodology).
In short, wouldn't it be funny if the small, independently-owned WVKO punked WYTS in the ratings books? Past history would indicate that this is a strong possibility.