After posting about various changes in the Youngstown and Ashtabula areas, hearing about them from tipsters because OMW was camped out far to the south, we decided we had to hear them for ourselves.
* We did hear former oldies WEXC/107.1 Greenville PA as Christian rocker "Freq 107". And unlike its previous incarnation as oldies "Wexy 107", the station is very clearly targetting Youngstown. Live and local when we heard it in early afternoon, with cut-ins from the "Morning Freq" hosts at the Trumbull County Fair. They also mentioned that a "Michael Angel" was helping to feed them out there...we'll go out on a limb and say this was Beacon Broadcasting's soon-to-be former owner, Michael Arch, who remains as sales manager in the new Beacon hierarchy.
Aside from an occasional liner mentioning "positive" music, the station is not at all trying to image as a religious/Christian station, and unlike Beacon sister station WANR/1570 Warren, they're not running religious PSAs. It's similar to how the Salem "Fish" stations, like Cleveland's WFHM/95.5, try to bring in secular listeners.
OMW wonders if the 107.1 rimshot signal into the Youngstown market will gain them listeners. Is it "decent enough"? We note that though it gave WHOT "Hot 101" a run for its money as WMGZ "Z96", the 95.9 Sharpsville PA signal didn't really pick up steam until after being upgraded to 6 KW and being run as Clear Channel CHR WAKZ "95.9 Kiss FM". And 107.1's a few miles farther from the heart of the Youngstown market. Our guess - 107.1 will basically try to live north of downtown Youngstown wherever possible, with more focus on Warren and Niles and places like that. South of Sharon/Hermitage PA, the signal fights it out with an on-channel FM serving the Pittsburgh market, urban AC WJJJ/Greensburg PA.
* Also with a presence at the Trumbull County Fair was that Beacon sister station, WANR/1570, which featured local host John Rogers back in the studio spinning various oldies tunes in afternoon drive. (We're still not sure if this is the same John Rogers who was once news director at WRRO/1440, back in the late 80's/early 90's.) He was followed by Beacon vet Ron Leader, doing a live evening show. Though we didn't hear the cut-ins, Rogers and Leader frequently mentioned "Mike out at the Trumbull County Fair"...again, we're assuming this is soon-to-be-ex-Beacon owner Michael Arch at it again. (At least it keeps him away from the studio and the Apologetix cuts.)
* And to complete the Beacon Trifecta, we indeed heard the former WEXC/107.1 oldies format as "Wexy 107" on WLOA/1470 Farrell PA, though with no live air personalities....and a legal ID including two stations that actually were not carrying the format, WEXC (see above) and currently silent WGRP/940 Greenville PA, which indeed was not heard in the OMWmobile while driving into Greenvile. We're still scratching our heads why the format's being aired with the FM frequency identifier of a station no longer carrying it, but hey, that's Beacon for you. Our best guess - they haven't recut the old Wexy liners yet.
All three stations sounded better, in terms of signal quality and on-air processing, than we've ever heard them in the Beacon era. New owner Harold Glunt, as noted earlier here in OMW, apparently dumped some money into the places for equipment, and it sounds like it.
* And to get our minds off of the doings of Mr. Glunt and company, we headed up Rt. 11 to Ashtabula, where oldies were heard on new CP WYBL/98.3 in that city. It was a continuous presumably locally-automated oldies feed, with no liners, announcements or teases, just the legal ID once per hour as a simple "98.3 WYBL Ashtabula". (And yes, in case our friends Mr. Fybush and Brian at tophour.net are wondering, we got the ID. By the way, if you're a legal ID geek like we are here at OMW, "Toppy" is well worth the visit. Pack a lunch.)
98.3 is the new sister in the Clear Channel Ashtabula cluster, and there's much speculation as to what the permanent format will be. Not a lot of people are betting on oldies, and we'd have to agree. For one, if they were sticking with oldies, they'd at least do some perfunctory imaging or naming (i.e. running liners calling it "Cool 98.3" or something). The fact they're not bothering to do a rather simple thing like this tells us that they're not long for the format.
Market scuttlebutt seems to point to a country format to take on WKKY/104.7 Geneva, though some of that may be misguided due to the use of the WYBL calls, which once lived in Louisville KY on a Clear Channel country station known as "The Bull". Still, if CC Ashtabula decided it wanted to go country, it'd be a relatively small task for them to be competitive with WKKY, which can still mine listeners in the area west of Geneva that WYBL won't really reach.