In about a month, the Mahoning Valley will get something that it hasn’t seen in quite a while: a new radio station.
Not a flipped format. Not a new owner. And not another Internet radio station.
It will get 93.7-FM. The tentative on-air date is March 24.
The owner and operator is Skip Bednarczyk, a longtime radio pro and former manager of JAMZ-101.9, the late, great urban station. JAMZ (WRBP) was sold and reborn as a Christian station a year ago.
The new station will be located on the mezzanine level of 20 Federal Place, downtown (JAMZ was on the street level of the same building).
As for its format, Bednarczyk is being coy and won’t say just yet what it will be. But he stressed it will not be another JAMZ, which had an urban contemporary format (lots of hip-hop) and a young-skewing listenership.
There are definitely holes in the local radio landscape that a new FM station could fill, including news/talk, hot adult contemporary, urban adult contemporary, sports and a country offshoot.
Bednarczyk did say that his 93.7-FM will be locally programmed with live DJs — bucking the trend toward automation.
The station will be relatively low-watt but easily powerful enough to be heard throughout Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Bednarczyk was sitting in his soon-to-be new offices this week, surrounded by boxes and unwrapped furniture, talking about the station.
He has spent the past 35 years managing radio stations, but this will be the first time he has ever owned one. He and his wife are the sole owners of 93.7-FM, and they are doing it with their own money and no investors or partners.
In a radio market dominated by national chains Clear Channel and Cumulus, Bednarczyk will be a small fish.
Still, he is bursting with anticipation and excitement, as evidenced by the grin that he couldn’t seem to suppress.
Bednarczyk spent all of his career in radio and has done just about every job there is.
These days he is a turnaround specialist with a company that buys distressed radio stations across the country. He comes to town and turns them around, rebuilds their audience and makes them profitable. Bednarczyk said he plans to keep this job even after his own station goes live.
Although he’s quite good at reclamation projects, Bednarczyk wasn’t planning on going into business for himself, which means starting from scratch.
But circumstances put the opportunity in his lap.
It’s the chance of a lifetime for him, and how it happened is a circuitous story.
When the company that owned JAMZ sold it last year, Bednarczyk pushed to restore urban contemporary music in the Valley by landing what’s called a “translator,” and using one of the company’s AM stations (WASN-1530 and WGFT-1330) as the broadcast source.
A translator is a device that broadcasts a station’s signal to a different area, frequency or band. Lately, translators are being used to revive AM stations by broadcasting their signal at an FM frequency.
After Bednarczyk finally located a translator and was ready to finalize the purchase, his company abandoned the idea. So he decided to take the leap and buy it himself, as well as WASN and WGFT. Both low-power stations have been dark since last February, when JAMZ was sold.
Bednarcyk will use WGFT as the source to broadcast at 93.7-FM. WASN likely will remain dark.
His translator will be mounted 940 feet high on an antenna in Boardman, and it will have ample power to reach radios in Warren and beyond.
Bednarczyk has a romance with radio, and he says he will run his station the way things used to be.
He won’t have a corporate master looking over his shoulder, ordering him to cut staff or automate.
It will be just him.
And as long as 93.7-FM is making a reasonable profit, Bednarczyk said he will be pleased.