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Local church-run radio station might go off the air

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

Conservative talk radio station WAVL 910 AM could go off the air as soon as next month.

“It's not our intention or our desire to see the radio station go black,” said Jeff Bogaczyk, WAVL general manager and associate pastor at Evangel Heights Church in Buffalo Township, which runs the 5,000-watt station.

“However there are financial considerations in any endeavor, and if it gets to the point where we feel financially that it's better for us to go off the air, then that's what we'll do.”

The church is looking into selling or leasing the station, he said.

It has the option of shutting it down for 364 days, the maximum permitted by the Federal Communications Commission without forfeiting the license.

“We might do that: shut it down for a while and reorganize, get a new format and a sales force,” said the Rev. John Kuert, lead pastor at Evangel Heights.

The church bought the station in May 2001 in hopes of turning it into a Christian ministry that would generate revenue to be used for missions and community endeavors.

“But that never materialized,” Kuert said.

The station, previously dubbed Praise 910, broadcast contemporary Christian music.

But competition from Christian FM radio led the church to switch to syndicated conservative talk programming.

“We've been doing that because it's less expensive, but it still costs,” especially without a staff to sell advertising, Kuert said.

Back when the church first took over the station it cost about $100,000 to run, including the salaries of several staff members and the general manager.

It costs less than that now, church officials said, but it's still been a struggle.

“These are tough economic times for churches because it's tough economic times for people,” Kuert said. “We think it was a great ministry, but we can't keep it up.”

WAVL went on the air in the 1940s as a news station covering Apollo, Vandergrift and Leechburg (thus the AVL call letters).

Its two broadcast towers are in Kiski Township. The station can be heard in Greensburg and, on a clear day, as far away as Brookville. As with many AM stations, FCC regulations require that the signal be drastically reduced after dark.

Bogaczyk said there are a couple of individuals interested in leasing the radio station. Talks are in the preliminary stages, he said.

Ray Rosenblum, a Pittsburgh-based media broker who negotiates sales of radio stations, said he wouldn't expect there to be “a lot” of people interested in the station, but there would be some.

“The price offered for a station like that would be modest,” he said. “I'm in process of selling an AM daytime station in the Pittsburgh area for $65,000.”

He said there is potential for a small AM station to make money, but it's not easy. Local AM stations are doing “fair to poor” in today's market, he said.

“Now if they have a vigorous sales department and they do intensive local programming, and not just playing music or talking about world news, some stations can do very successfully,” Rosenblum said.

WAVL airs mainly syndicated conservative talk programming.

Local programs include Evangel Heights' Sunday morning church program and a pre-recorded sports nostalgia show on Saturday hosted by Bob Tatrn, of Lower Burrell.

“I'll be sorry to see them go off the air for sure, if that be the case,” Tatrn said. “I like the idea of local media serving their areas.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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