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Renda gets preliminary OK for frequency swap

February 17, 2005

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Renda gets preliminary OK for frequency swap

By Michael Yeomans
TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Renda Broadcasting Corp. received preliminary permission from the Federal Communications Comission to swap frequencies with a church in Sarver, Butler County, in a move that will make Renda's WPTT (now at 1360) the second most powerful AM radio signal in the Pittsburgh market, behind KDKA (1020).

The move down the AM dial to 910 will allow Green Tree-based Renda to build a larger transmitter, currently proposed for a landfill site in South Fayette, raising its power to nearly 10,000 watts during the daytime, up from about 5,000 watts now, allowing familiar voices like Doug Hoerth and Lynn Cullen to travel farther and clearer.

The process is expected to take about a year to complete and requires a final FCC approval before the switch can be made.

The swap is with WAVL (now on 910 AM), operated by the Evangel Heights Assembly of God church in Sarver, an adult contemporary Christian station that reaches much of Westmoreland County and southeastern Butler County.

"It's very rare that anyone swaps frequencies," said Robert Unmacht, president of In3 Partners Inc., a Nashville-based media consulting firm, who verified the claim that WPTT's signal will rate behind only KDKA's 50,000-watt signal.

"It should be a good move for (WPTT). Its coverage in Pittsburgh proper is going to get a lot better, especially to the north of the city," he said. "The lower frequency signal will be able to penetrate buildings better."

He added that the move will come at a significant cost for equipment and land, but he couldn't provide an estimate.

"The question is, will the increase in revenue (from advertising) offset the cost?" Unmacht said. "What it says to me is they're investing in the community. Not bad for an old-fashioned family chain taking on the big boys."

WPTT was the first station acquired by Renda Broadcasting founder and President Tony Renda Sr. in 1974 when it as known as WIXZ in McKeesport, where Rush Limbaugh got one of his first radio jobs. The company now operates 24 stations in Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma.

Tony Renda Jr., general manager of Renda's Pittsburgh stations, which besides WPTT include soft rock WSHH (99.7 FM) and WJAS (1320 AM), said he will keep his programming line-up intact once the switch is made.

"My talent is excellent," he said, declining to reveal how much money will be invested in the new broadcast facilities. "I know I have an under-signaled radio station. I'm excited about the ability this move will give us to expand our audience."

The talent includes Hoerth (7-10 a.m.) and Cullen (12-3 p.m.), as well as conservative talk show host Jerry Bowyer (3-6 p.m.).

WPTT program director John Poister said the move should help improve the station's overall 18th ranking among Pittsburgh radio stations, according to the latest industry survey, which would attract more advertising at higher rates.

Jeff Bogaczyk, associate pastor at Evangel Heights and the station manager at WAVL, said under the swap agreement, Renda will build a new transmitter for the station that will allow its signal to reach into Pittsburgh and expand its audience reach threefold.

Michael Yeomans can be reached at myeomans@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7908.

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