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FCC authorizes WZUM's return

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 2:06 a.m.

WZUM returns, possibly as early as today, at AM 1550.

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission approved that callsign for AM 1550, a Braddock station now owned by AM Guys LLC.

“It will be easier to promote the new format using call letters that are familiar,” said AM Guys partner Ed DeHart, a fan of the first WZUM. He did not disclose AM 1550's format before its sign on.

“I think it's the best possible use of the frequency,” said Clarke Ingram, a veteran programmer who worked with Clear Channel and Broadcast Communications Inc. in North Versailles Township.

“Since we are not going to be a top-40 station, we feel our audience will have warm fuzzy feelings for the new call,” DeHart said.

AM 1550 was Matta Broadcasting's WLOA from 1947-79. From 1959-79 Matta ran WLOA-FM and WFFM-96.9, now Steel City Media's WRRK.

Since 2003 “WLOA” has been used by a Mercer County AM. WZUM replaces WLFP calls used by Business TalkRadio, which sold AM 1550 to AM Guys for $14,515.

“If it gets any ratings at all, that will be a victory,” Ingram said. “(It) has been an absolute zero since the WLOA days.”

It won't be easy.

“When you chase away AM listeners either with subpar programming or being off-air, getting them back is impossible,” said media consultant and ex-KDKA-1020 news director Marshall Adams. “Building an audience let alone a steady revenue stream for AM 1550 will be an uphill climb.”

AM Guys LLC tested AM 1550 with an eclectic music mix as it installed automation.

“I received a number of calls asking if we could do more of that,” DeHart said. “Maybe that will be our next format if this does not work.”

Testing ended a week ago after a storm blacked out AM Guys' studio in Bloomfield.

In Carnegie in 1962 the late “Steeler Polka” composer James “Jimmy Pol” Psihoulis started WZUM at AM 1590.

Psihoulis ran a day-timer with polka and progressive rock, which rivaled then-Top 40 KQV-1410 and KDKA-1020.

“I first met him in 1970 when I was a very young wide-eyed disc jockey wannabe at his ‘International Academy of Broadcasting,'” said later AM 1590 owner Michael Horvath.

The Hickling family bought it and as WPLW aired K-Love Christian music now run on Duquesne's WPKV-98.3.

Horvath bought WPLW in 1998, restored the WZUM calls and rented space in West Mifflin. He tried to provide an outlet for local talent, including the late deejay “Mad Mike” Metrovich, but in 2005 he sold AM 1590 to the Catholic Starboard Media Foundation.

Starboard spun WZUM off to a creditor who sold it to Virginia broadcaster Katrina Chase. In 2010 Chase was locked out of the West Mifflin studios for unpaid rent and AM 1590 went silent for good.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or