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Station drops news/talk format

May 02, 2003|BY LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN, MD. - WHAG-AM radio has dropped the news/talk format it's offered for more than 20 years due to low ratings and higher expenses.

Dame Broadcasting decided to change the format of both of its local news/talk AM stations to adult pop standards, Operations Manager Rick Alexander said.

The Harrisburg, Pa.-based company also owns WCHA, 800-AM.

Beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, both stations began running the satellite feed called "Music of Your Life," Alexander said.

WHAG, on the AM dial at 1410, will still have live personalities on the air between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., he said.

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It will still air local news, Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball coverage and the ESPN Game of the Week, he said.

Some listeners were upset by the change, Alexander said.

"Talk radio tends to have a very loyal constituency," he said.

But the company decided that the ratings were not high enough to justify the more expensive news/talk format.

"It was tough to make money, to execute it as efficiently as we really needed to," he said.

During the fall of 2002, WHAG and WCHA each had ratings of 1.9 percent, according to Arbitron.

Dame Broadcasting also owns three FM stations in the area, WQCM, WIKZ and WDLD.

The new format offers music geared for people who are 55 and older, playing Frank Sinatra and other favorites from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Travers Ruppert of Hagerstown, who hosted a local talk show for more than 20 years before retiring more than a year ago, said he was disappointed because he believes there is a need for such programs.

"People don't have an outlet to express their views about things," he said. "Talk radio was the way to do that."

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