B-104 drops Top-40 format for adult contemporary tunes


IT'S goodbye B-104, hello Variety 104.3.

WBSB, which as B-104 was a Top 40 institution in the Baltimore radio market for the past dozen years, today changed its format to modern adult contemporary, and began promoting itself as Variety 104.3.

It promised to play "Today's Hits, Yesterday's Favorites."

In a message to listeners broadcast at 9 a.m., general manager Jim Fox said the station would play a "blend of top hits and favorites from the past few years."

"We want to make sure Variety 104.3 is your favorite radio station."

Moments earlier, at a breakfast meeting with the station's advertisers, Mr. Fox explained that the changing nature of Top 40 music had been alienating the station's adult listeners. He said parents who had listened to the songs of such artists as Billy Joel in the early and mid-1980s were being turned off by the increased dance- and urban influence of today's Top 40 songs.

"This not a station that is dying," he said. "We just have to change our perception in the marketplace."

As B-104, WBSB became the top-rated station in the mid-1980s but in recent years has suffered a sharp decline in the ratings. The most recent Arbitron ratings had the station in ninth place in the market, with a 4.2 share of listeners ages 12 and older.

WBSB's dramatic decline in the ratings had spawned talk for months that the station would change its format and Mr. Fox admitted yesterday that last August it had begun planning a change.

Richard Harker, a Raleigh, N.C.-based radio consultant hired by the station to research the change, said the new Variety 104.3 would compete with adult contemporary WMIX-FM (106.5) for listeners ages 25-44. But he said 104.3 would attempt to capture the younger end of that lucrative demographic by having a more contemporary sound than WMIX, which promotes itself as playing songs from the 1960s through the 1990s.

The younger teen listeners who tuned into B-104 will probably no longer listen to the station, Mr. Harker predicted.

Mr. Fox said WBSB would downplay its on-air personalities in favor of playing "wall-to-wall" music for the next several weeks in an effort to establish its new format. The exception would be the morning drive host Chris Emry, a veteran rock personality who was hired by WBSB last year after being fired by WIYY-FM (98 Rock).

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