Thursday, June 04, 2009

Air America lands again in D.C.

Gee, go away for a day and something happens...

Anyhoo, looks like Air America has landed a pretty noteworthy new affiliate, as liberal talk returns to the airwaves of our nation's capitol. It could happen as soon as next week, once the papers are signed.

The station is WTOP (1050AM), which is owned by Bonneville International and is currently simulcasting an all-news format with its FM sister WTOP-FM. Air America will lease the entire signal via a local marketing agreement, which is quite common in the industry.

Here's the presser:

Air America Media is coming to Washington, D.C., airing progressive talk programming on radio 1050 AM through a local marketing agreement (LMA) reached with Bonneville International Corporation. The LMA will enable Air America to broadcast its independent political voice, featuring such talent as Rachel Maddow, Montel Williams, Lionel, Ron Reagan and others throughout the national capital region. Air America will manage programming, marketing, and sales operations for the facility, beginning later this month.

“We are looking forward to bringing all-new, progressive news/talk programming to 1050 AM and actively engaging listeners across the most politically-influential radio market in the United States,” said Bennett Zier, chief executive officer of Air America Media. “This agreement and our full-time entry into the Washington, D.C. market are an integral part of Air America’s strategy to expand our listening audience.”

“Air America will provide the Washington area with new content that cannot be heard on any other D.C. radio station,” said Bill Hess Air America Media senior vice president of programming. “Air America’s talent, producers and executive team will actively apply their knowledge of the D.C. metro broadcast market and the top public issues of the day to present a compelling listening experience.”

The station’s new call letters, on-air launch date, programming line-up and other details will be announced shortly, Hess added.

Now, WTOP is not a signal powerhouse. The daytime reach, from Silver Spring, MD, isn't too bad (3,500 watts, with an application to boost to 10,000 watts), but the station drops to a mere 44 watts at night, which will give so-so coverage north of the city but a bit more static in Washington proper. Folks in Baltimore may even be able to hear 1050 during the day.

This station returns liberal talk to the D.C. airwaves several months after WWRC changed its format. And at this point it's all Air America, meaning no Ed, Stephanie, Thom, Randi, etc. This is an Air America deal.

And no word on whether there will be any local show, or if Air America will fill out its heavily-gapped schedule by the time 1050AM starts carrying them.

UPDATE: A few things to add on...

1. Air America initially approached Bonneville a few months ago regarding a lease deal on 1050AM. Bonneville has been looking for someone to pick up the signal, as it is currently redundant for what they want to do in the D.C. market. As part of the LMA, Air America will essentially lease the signal from Bonneville, and then handle operations, programming and advertising sales. Financial terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed. Air America has hired some local sales staff, and will occupy a small space in Bonneville’s Washington offices.

2. It won't be wall-to-wall Air America after all. According to the Washington Business Journal, some of the AM station's sports programming will carry over, airing occasional nights and weekends, according to Bonneville Senior Regional Vice President Joel Oxley. Don't worry, there shouldn't be too much of that, since most of the play-by-play stuff Bonneville controls local rights to (the local professional baseball, soccer and NHL teams, George Washington University and the Naval Academy) will air primarily on WTOP and WFED (1500AM). The soon-to-be renamed 1050AM will essentially collect spillover in case of scheduling conflicts.


tmode93 said...

When WWRC AM-1260 dropped liberal talk Red Zebra moved Ed Schultz to their AM-570 WTNT so he's still on in DC. Would be nice if the new AM-1050 could have Randi/Thom/Stephanie but o wells ...

Brady Bonk said...

The good: WTOP actually has a signal you can tune, unlike before, when you had to be sitting on the broadcasting tower in order to get the station.

The bad: Why on earth would AAR broadcast here and not broadcast the two liberal talkers who are actually broadcasting FROM here? Wouldn't taking the Bill Press and the Randi shows be a promotional advantage here in the District?

ltr said...

Brady -

Because Air America's footing the bill. They want at least one station to clear their whole slate.

Plus, I don't think they want to promote the competition. Relations between AAM and Dial Global have often been a bit chilly. As for Rhodes, well, we all know that story.

wwrl said...

anyone know the call letters or website yet?

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