Journal Broadcasting’s purchase of the locally-owned 100,000 watt WNOX FM radio station is expected to shake up the local market, and the big question in local media is whether it is preparation for an assault on The Frog.
WIVK (wiv-ick, frog logo, get it?) has been the dominant radio station in East Tennessee for decades playing country music. It is currently owned by Cumulus Broadcasting.
Cumulus (or its predecessor Citadel) let the 100,000 watt WNOX get away when they did not renew a lease with owner Johnny Pirkle, who installed a talk radio format. The question now is whether Journal Broadcasting may move the talk format to one of its other local stations and program country music on the more powerful station to go head to head with WIVK, which broadcasts at 91,000 watts. Journal currently plays the country format on WCYQ, better known as Q93.
Irony? WIVK programming included Mike Hammond for 39 years until Cumulus let him go. The Country Music Hall of Fame broadcaster is currently the program director for Q93 and would be the logical choice to head counter-programming if Journal goes after WIVK. (Hammond is also the former chair of the Knox County Commission.)
But will the format change be made? A local radio executive observes that you don’t pay (a reported) $6 million for a station unless you plan to go after the top spot in the market.