Pittsburgh has been without a full-time urban radio format for two years, but that’s about to change.
In the next few days, the sale will close on WPYT-AM (660), and the new owner will launch an urban contemporary format there early next month.
In December, San Francisco-based Radio Power Inc. announced that it would buy WPYT from Langer Broadcasting Group of Framingham, Mass., for $290,000.
“When you go into a market with a station, you look at who’s doing what,” Tim Martz said. “WAMO had a big audience. Nobody has filled the void. It’s an attractive format.”
Urban stations WAMO-FM and WAMO-AM were sold in May 2009. The new owners — St. Joseph Missions — changed the format to Catholic programming.
The new WPYT’s reach will be extended by broadcasting on an FM translator, or booster signal, located at 100.1 on the FM dial. WPYT-AM is a daytime-only signal and signs off at sundown. The FM frequency will broadcast 24 hours a day.
WPYT is licensed to Wilkinsburg, and the studios are located in Forest Hills. The FM frequency is a 99-watt low power signal licensed to Pittsburgh.
The AM daytime signal is fairly strong, stretching into parts of Ohio and West Virginia. The FM should cover the entire metropolitan Pittsburgh area, except for areas farther south of the city, Mr. Martz said.
The stations are currently being tested. People who tune in the 100.1 FM frequency will hear WDUQ-FM programming until the new station launches.
Mr. Martz said construction was still ongoing at the new studio, and that technical issues and programming were still being tweaked. He said there would be more details on programming and staffing when the station officially launches. The target is early June.
The call letters will stay the same for now, Mr. Martz said.
Although Pittsburgh hasn’t had a 24-hour-a-day urban station for a while, several outlets have helped to fill the gap.
Adult contemporary WLTJ-FM airs urban programming, hosted by former WAMO air personality Tracey Lee, six nights a week. 101TheBlaze.com, a local site run by former WAMO program director Ron Atkins, streams an R&B and hip-hop format. Gospel station WGBN-AM (1150) has added some talk programming devoted to minority issues, including the syndicated “Bev Smith Show,” which used to air on WAMO.
“I think it’s great” that urban music is returning to the local airwaves, said Donna Baxter, founder of The Soul Pitt, a website devoted to news and issues of interest to local African-Americans. She also hosts “The Soul Pitt Xtra Radio Show” on WGBN.
“Being able to sit in your car and listen to radio. You have artists who come to town who need airplay. It’s going to help everybody.
“It’s going to be like that big gulp of water after being thirsty for so long.”
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