WIBC To Move To FM; 'Radio Now' Gets Boot

ESPN Radio To Take Over 1070 AM

Emmis Communications announced a major upheaval of two of its radio properties in the company's home market Monday, with the pending move of top-rated AM station WIBC to FM.

Starting Jan. 7, 2008, WIBC will switch from 1070 AM to 93.1 FM with its news-talk format.

The AM station will go to an all-sports format as an ESPN affiliate. Top 40-formatted WNOU 93.1 is being jettisoned for an all-Christmas format until WIBC takes over in January.

The move will put WIBC in direct competition with another FM talker, Cumulus-owned 93.9 WWFT.

Emmis officials are portraying the change as an expansion for WIBC, which has been plagued in recent years by declining rating and an aging audience.

"Our research shows that we can best grow and serve our audiences by splitting and extending our programming," said Tom Severino, vice president and market manager of Emmis' Indianapolis properties. "WIBC is still going to have the biggest radio news team in the state and the best talk lineup."

The 1070 signal, which covers much of Indiana and spills into several other states during the day, is less reliable at night, particularly north of the city. The station's move to 93.1 will give WIBC a signal that covers less ground overall, but is more consistent.

WIBC is the flagship station of the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The station also carries Indiana University football. All of the sports-related content will stay on 1070 AM after the switch. Colts games, the Indianapolis 500, Allstate 400 at the Brickyard and Indiana University basketball will also be simulcast on 97.1 Hank FM.

The "Radio Now" format will move to a secondary channel, available for listeners with an HD radio receiver and also over the Internet, Emmis officials said.

So far, few people have bought HD radio receivers, but the move mirrors what Cumulus did with a prior Contemporary Christian format on 93.9, moving it to a secondary digital channel when the talk format debuted on the primary station.

Former WIBC morning host Jeff Pigeon said he suspected something was up before his sudden departure last Monday.

"IBC isn't going away. It's still there, and you've just moved … the news and talk over to the FM, and … probably put something into the market that needs to be here," Pigeon said.

Retired traffic reporter Big John Gillis said WIBC had a phenomenal impact on central Indiana in its heyday and could do it again.

"Content … character, relationship to the community -- it's all about the viewer. It's all about the listener. It shouldn't be about Wall Street," Gillis said.

WIBC first went on the air in 1938, and was recently honored with a National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award for Legendary Station of the Year.

Emmis also owns 97.1 Hank FM and B105.7 in the Indianapolis market.

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