Baltimore's largest National Public Radio affiliate, WYPR, 88.1 FM, has struck a deal to buy Ocean City's WRXS, 106.9 FM, which currently has a top-40 hits format.
The purchase will give WYPR a presence along most of the Eastern Shore, including Rehoboth and Bethany Beach, Del., and Salisbury, Andrew Bienstock, WYPR's program director, said yesterday.
The deal follows WYPR's acquisition in 2004 of Frederick-based religious broadcaster WJTM, which became a WYPR relay station under new call letters, WYPF.
"The idea is for WYPR to be heard across the state of Maryland," Bienstock said. The expansion to Ocean City "brings us darn close," he said.
The new purchase, made by WYPR's corporate arm, Your Public Radio Corp., is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission.
Bienstock said he expected the process to be completed by next month. The Ocean City station, which likely will be given new call letters, would begin transmitting WYPR's signal later in September if approval is granted. It will retain its 106.9 frequency and its 4,900-watt output.
Also next month, WYPR plans to boost its Baltimore signal from 10,000 watts to 15,500 watts, which will mean it can be heard in more places, and to begin broadcasting a separate programming stream via a high-definition digital signal, resulting in higher-quality broadcasts.
In Ocean City, WYPR will assume ownership of the station's transmitter but not its headquarters, for which it has no need. Bienstock said the station will be run from WYPR's central office on North Charles Street in Baltimore and will retain at least one member of the small WRXS staff, Crystal Layton, who at the moment sells advertising time but who under the new regime will adopt the more NPR-like role of handling underwriting, Bienstock said.
"We are delighted to bring a strong lineup of Maryland-oriented programs, not just to a new audience, but to our listeners who spend time on the Eastern Shore," Anthony S. Brandon, president and chief executive of Your Public Radio and general manager of WYPR, said in a statement.
While WYPR and WYPF rely on listeners' contributions and underwriting to help pay for their programming, Brandon noted that no money from the public was used to buy WRXS. Instead, bond financing was arranged through a bank. Repayment of the loan, however, will come from membership and underwriting from the Ocean City and Salisbury areas, he said.
The new WYPR signal in the Eastern Shore will compete with an NPR affiliate run by Salisbury University. It has two signals, WSCL, 89.5 FM, and WSDL, 90.7 FM.