If there are two guys you don’t want to mess with in the Knoxville radio market it’s Johnny Pirkle and Ed Brantley. Pirkle has made a fortune in the business. Brantley rose from being a successful drive-time host at WIVK to running a Citadel Broadcasting conglomerate on Old Kingston Pike that included WIVK, the Sports Animal, and the premiere talk station in town at WNOX FM, anchored by Hallerin Hill.
In order to take advantage of Hill, Rush Limbaugh, and Phil Williams, Citadel leased the 100,000 watt 100.3 from Pirkle a few years back and moved it from its AM berth. Pirkle made out like a bandit on the lease.
Then Citadel, one of the largest radio chains in the nation, went into bankruptcy. Two things happened as a result: They fired Brantley and they couldn’t keep paying Pirkle for the 100,000 watt frequency. So in August, Pirkle gets it back. And he has hired Brantley. Meanwhile, the talk station (and Hill) will be moving to an 8,000-watt frequency. Ouch.
The Knoxville radio market is unsettled, waiting with bated breath to see what Pirkle and Brantley are up to. Will Citadel be able to keep talent like Hill and Williams on the smaller station? Will Brantley start raiding the financially struggling Citadel for advertising and on-air talent? What sort of format will they pursue?
As they say in the radio biz, stay tuned.