Seven Mountains Media, the Kentucky-based owner since 2022 of Lebanon’s original radio station, WLBR 1270 AM, and its sister FM station, has announced major changes at the stations and the addition of a third broadcast frequency, which it says reflect its dedication to community-oriented local radio.
WLBR AM 1270 will now be simulcast with a new FM station at 99.7 on the dial. Both will feature a classic hits music format and be known as “Lebanon Valley’s Greatest Hits of All Time – 99.7 WiLBuR Radio.”
Program and news director Laura LeBeau told LebTown that listeners will be hearing both stations identify as “99.7 WiLBuR” more than “WLBR 1270.”
“Obviously, being a music station, our emphasis is on having stereophonic sound,” she said. “An AM signal just isn’t something that folks want to listen to music on.”
The music will be selected from Seven Mountains’ extensive library and come to the stations’ studios in Ebenezer via the internet.
Unlike the bygone era of pre-programmed music beamed to stations from far away via satellites, LeBeau says internet access allows for flexibility in what gets played on local stations. “I can change things and move things around, take some things out and also add some things in.”
LeBeau added that Seven Mountains is serious about more than music. “We are providing the local news and keeping that emphasis. That’s in deference to WLBR’s history of being a local news provider in the Lebanon Valley.”
The stations will continue to carry local news and features, election coverage, and high school and Penn State sports. However, the future of Philadelphia Phillies broadcasts is murky, at least for now. LeBeau would only say that “the affiliation with the Phillies is still up in the air.”
Maybe the most surprising recent change is that three, not two, radio signals will now be transmitted from the studios and towers off Route 72 in Ebenezer.
Since the 1960s, WLBR-AM has had a sister FM station at 100.1, first known as WLBR-FM, then WUFM, followed by WQIC, and now WFVY. When Seven Mountains acquired the stations, it switched the FM station to a country music format and renamed it “Froggy Valley 100.1.” Froggy Valley 100.1 will continue to broadcast country music alongside the classic hits simulcast on 1270 and the new 99.7.
General manager Tim Ritchie announced on Jan. 9 that the popular team known as “Nancy & Newman” will be coming to Froggy Valley 100.1 starting Jan. 15 to kick off their 20th year together. They will hold down the 5 to 10 a.m. weekday slot.
According to PennLive, Nancy Ryan and Bob Newman hosted a show for 20 years on Harrisburg country music station Bob 94.9, until layoffs by parent company iHeart Media killed the show in 2020.
The future of local radio in the Lebanon Valley
“Experts” have been predicting the end of broadcast radio for almost as long as radio has existed. TV, portable music players, the internet, and, lately, podcasts, have all at one time or another been seen as radio killers.
Much like newspapers, local ownership of radio stations has gone from the norm to rare as media conglomerates gobbled up local stations that were once locally, and often family, owned.
The result in many radio markets has been disastrous: Staffs have been cut and coverage of local news, sports, government, and civic organizations has declined, often replaced by remote satellite music and nationally syndicated talk shows with no connection to the communities they serve.
It’s a familiar story, one that could easily have been repeated in Lebanon County when local owner Robert Etter sold WLBR and WQIC to Blair County-based Forever Media in 2019. Two years later, Forever sold the two stations to its current owner, Seven Mountains, which owns dozens of stations throughout Pennsylvania and four other states. Since then, the local stations have undergone several format changes and seen some staff cuts.
LeBeau, who has been in radio for 35 years, locally since 2001, and has worked at WLBR and its sister stations for every owner, is confident that local radio with a genuine connection to the community has a future under Seven Mountains.
“They are dedicated to being local,” she said. “Our CEO, Kristin Cantrell, was born and bred in local radio, so she understands and appreciates local stations.”
“Some of your large radio station owners just want to have a cookie cutter station. That’s not the case with Seven Mountains. We respect and value the local markets we’re in.”
- WLBR and WQIC will be sold to Holidaysburg-based Forever Media
- WLBR 1270 suddenly changes to “Classic Hits” format, drops talk shows
- The state of local radio, post-WLBR pivot
- WLBR to return to talk-heavy format after two years of satellite music
- WLBR/WQIC radio sold for second time since 2019; impact on formats unclear
- Bill Haley, the WLBR DJ who helped Buddy Holly get his break
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