Baltimore radio station WVRT-FM, recognized by jingle listeners as Variety 104, is up for sale along with four other stations around the nation owned by the Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co.
"Radio has been a very small component of our broadcast business," said Lawrence A. Leser, president and chief executive of both the E. W. Scripps Co. and its broadcast subsidiary.
"Following a review of our broadcast properties, we decided to focus our attention on what we know best -- television."
E. W. Scripps said its radio operations generated $12.5 million last year, or about 1 percent of the company's revenue. It did not break down results for the individual stations.
Jim Fox, general manager of the adult contemporary station, which has undergone several identity transformations over the past several years, could not be reached last night for comment.
Todd Krickler, a producer working at the station last night, said Variety 104 was switched from a mix of music selections from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s in February 1992 to more adult contemporary listening. The call letters, he said, were changed from WBSB in January.
In the mid-1980s, the station enjoyed a top spot in local rankings because of the popularity of the morning drive-time disc jockey team of Brian and O'Brien.
The ratings fell when the duo disagreed over several internal issues and left.
In the most recent Arbitron ratings, WVRT -- located at 104.3 on the dial -- slipped out of the local top 10 station rankings and was replaced by urban contemporary and hard rock stations.
Mr. Krickler said he could not comment on reports last night that a local group was attempting to purchase the station from Scripps-Howard.
The investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette has been engaged to seek buyers for the stations, Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps said. The company owns 86 percent of Scripps-Howard Broadcasting.
In addition to Baltimore, the stations being offered for sale by Scripps-Howard are KUPL-AM and KUPL-FM in Portland Ore., and WMC-AM and WMC-FM in Memphis, Tenn.
Locally, WBAL-AM -- with the burst each year of Baltimore Orioles broadcasts -- remains the top-ranked station, according to the fall Arbitron ratings.
WPOC-FM, featuring the growing popularity of the country sound, showed a strong second in those ratings.
The broadcasting subsidiary operates four NBC television affiliates -- including WMAR-TV in Baltimore; three Fox affiliates; two ABC-TV affiliates, and one CBS-TV affiliates.
The E. W. Scripps company's cable systems have 675,000 basic subscribers in 10 states, and its publishing division includes 21 daily newspapers with total circulation of 1.5 million daily and 1.7 million on Sunday.