Urban radio station celebrates first year in Youngstown-Warren area

I appreciate the fact the Mahoning Valley still has an urban radio station.

And if Star 94.7 is to continue on for years, Valley listeners are going to have to patronize the station’s sponsors, tune in early and often, and make sure they fill out a ratings information form, if they receive it.

Star 94.7 celebrated its first birthday in May, and celebrated with a musical affair at McMenamy’s in Niles in mid-May. The station came on the air May 12, 2014.

I spent a lot of time listening to WRBP-FM JAMZ 101.9, enjoying “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” and listening to the late Frankie Halfacre encouraging us all to “do a little good in the neighborhood.”

DJ Lucky Penny and Jammin’ Janay also did solid work for the station.

But 101.9 was eventually sold and changed its format to a nonprofit Christian station in December 2012.

That left the Mahoning Valley without an urban radio station for 18 months.

That is when Skip Bednarczyk, former general manager and program director of JAMZ, stepped in.

Skip, 64, and I talked about the station’s rebirth and some of his plans and programs for Star 94.7 over coffee and pastries at Panera Bread on Market Street.

He has used his 38 years in radio management and programming – 14 in urban radio – to focus on making 94.7 more adult-oriented with broader appeal, especially in the 30- to 54-year-old demographic.

He said he wants the station to promote more positives about the Youngstown-Warren area.

“I want the station to be informative, entertaining and a sounding board where people can voice their concerns,” said Skip, who was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Akron.

You will hear on the station daily a segment called “Three Things You Need to Know” to find out what topics are of the most interest in the community.

Skip said he knows some of the things the station has tried to do “has changed some people’s lives.”

Urban radio stations do well nationwide, Skip said. In fact, before JAMZ went off the air it was the highest-rated urban-formatted radio station in Ohio, and that includes stations in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The lifeblood of any radio station is its ratings, however. Better ratings have the potential to bring in more sponsors and more advertising dollars.

Skip said he was devastated when he saw the fall ratings report in 2014. The report showed the ratings had fallen after the station’s great start.

The Nielsen Audio ratings are taken twice a year, Skip explained, in the spring and the fall. At Skip’s request, Nielsen investigated and found listeners were not filling out and returning what are called diaries, or little booklets, in which listeners write down their listening preferences and the times they listen.

More than 1,300 were sent out, but only 76 were filled out and returned.

Skip was blunt: If the fall ratings are not improved, it will be difficult for Star 94.7 to continue.

Currently, there are no other investors in the radio station. Skip is the man, and his wife serves as his board of directors.

He wants to keep the station going because “the radio station gives me purpose in life.” As a businessman, he would like to make a profit – “Enough to make ends meet and provide enough for me to retire” – and be in a position to hire more local talent, especially women. Women listeners age 25 to 54 are the station’s target demographic.

The new Nielsen Audio ratings come out in three weeks, so listeners, if you receive a diary, it is not junk mail. Fill it out.

Skip said he wants to bring more cultural diversity to the marketplace through his station. 94.7 plays gospel music from 6 a.m. to noon on Sundays and again from 5 to 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

He would like to add smooth-jazz programming in the future. (That would suit me just fine, Skip).

He also has instituted “Star Cares About the Community,” which he said is “committed to enriching the lives of listeners in our communities who need to be informed and benefit from programs targeting education, health and financial literacy.”

That is why you hear short spots on subjects such as diabetes, heart disease, breast-cancer awareness and stopping domestic violence.

The station is partnering with community organizations throughout the Valley to conduct events and workshops to reinforce those key initiatives, and Skip thanked his sponsors for their contributions.

He also has plans to create in the future the Star 94.7 unsung heroes. People would call the station and salute those who are doing positive things to help make the Youngstown-Warren area better.

Skip now lives in Florida, and he gets back to Ohio when he can. He admits he misses the Buckeye State. He’s a Kent State grad, and many of his friends and relatives still live in Ohio.

So keep listening to the “Steve Harvey Morning Show,” it’s co-host Devyn Bellamy, Stan the Man Jones of Youngstown in the afternoons, and “The Sweat Hotel” in the evenings hosted by national recording artist Keith Sweat.

Support the sponsors and, most importantly, fill out and return those diaries to keep the music you love – a mix of current hits and old-school favorites – on the radio and the Internet at 947-Star.com.

For information, contact Skip at 817-456-9181 or skip@ytownradio.com.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com.

More like this from vindy.com

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.