Cleveland's WCLV-FM creates classical music safe harbor via complicated radio swaps with Salem Communications
By Tom Feran -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/5/2000 7:00:00 PM
Roll over, Beethoven: Cleveland's Radio Seaway celebrated the 38th birthday of classical WCLV-FM on Nov. 1 with an unusual deal to give its classical-music format safe harbor in perpetuity. The price of safety will be a move to less-tony ports through a carefully orchestrated quartet of station swaps in the city that is home to what some believe is the nation's premier symphony orchestra.
Seaway said it will sell wclv's full class B license at 95.5 MHz to Salem Communications in a $35 million cash transaction. Salem will also transfer to Seaway one of its six area stations, WHK-AM, a 5,000-watt full-timer now airing Christian programming, at 1420 kHz.
Also transferred to Seaway will be Clear Channel's west suburban WAKS-FM, a class A licensed to Lorain, Ohio, that now operates with a contemporary-hit radio format known as KISS on 104.9 MHz.
The final movement of the complicated score has Clear Channel getting Salem's WHK-FM, a class B licensed to Canton, Ohio, at 98.1 MHz.
When the swaps are finished-in about a year-wclv will simulcast on FM and AM over the WAKS-FM and WHK-AM frequencies. License of the FM will transfer to the new WCLV Foundation, a consortium of Radio Seaway, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Foundation and Media Inc., the company formed by last month's merger of public broadcasters WCLV-TV and wcpn-fm.
Profits will be shared with five local cultural institutions: the orchestra's parent, Musical Arts Association; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Cleveland Institute of Music; the Play House and the Cleveland Foundation.
Last week, Robert Conrad, wclv founder and president, said of the deal, "It's a case of having your cake and eating it, too. The station is something I've nurtured and loved; it's a community asset, and I didn't want it to go away."
The AM will stay under control of Conrad and shareholders, who will operate it under an LMA as Cleveland Classical Radio, with Seaway's syndication arm including broadcasts of the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Karl Haas' Adventures in Good Music .
Conrad's wclv was the only major Cleveland station not owned by a large group owner and, in recent years, ran on-air spots reminding listeners to frequent its advertisers-or else face the loss of a classical outlet as has happened in other cities.
In the most recent Arbitron survey, WCLV posted a 3.0 average-quarter-hour share and ranked 15th among local stations. There is no other commercial classical station in the city.
Conrad said wclv's new FM will upgrade to class B1 with a taller tower closer to Cleveland that could approach current metro coverage. The AM will get capital signal improvements and is upgradable to 50 kW daytime. "The bet that we're making is that digital audio broadcasting is going to come along and make the AM as good as any FM," Conrad said.
The deal was brokered by George Reed of Media Services Group for Radio Seaway and Gary Stevens for Salem.
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