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106.1 FM will shift to all-Spanish

By Mark Washburn
TV/Radio Writer

Another Spanish station is heading to the powerful FM dial in Charlotte, the third to go on the air since 2006.

Starting Jan. 1, Norsan Media will take over the signal of WOLS-FM (106.1), an English-language oldies station. It will carry the Mexican regional format of Norsan's WRML-FM (“La Raza” 102.3), and WRML will adopt a new Spanish pop-tropical format.

It is another indicator of the growth – and rising economic power – of the region's Hispanic population, estimated at about 170,000.

“We still see the numbers growing,” Norberto Sanchez, president of Norsan Media, said Wednesday.

Sanchez, who runs an Atlanta-based restaurant and meatpacking business, got into Spanish-language radio in 2004 by buying a station in Jacksonville, Fla. In 2005, he acquired WXNC-AM (1060) and WGSP-AM (1310) in the Charlotte area and added WRML to his portfolio in 2006.

His fast-growing media subsidiary, which includes Charlotte's Mi Gente newspaper, now owns or operates 10 Spanish stations in four states. It is based at the Independence Tower, 4801 E. Independence Blvd., where programming for WOLS will originate.

Sanchez, who maintains a part-time home in Charlotte, said he also hopes to move his food services head quarters to Charlotte within the next three years.

With the deal, Norsan becomes the dominant Spanish broadcaster in the region. Davidson Media Group is the other operator and owns WNOW-AM (1030) and WNOW-FM (105.3).

The pop-tropical sound

WOLS is owned by Atlanta-based GHB Broadcasting. Under the terms of the agreement, which was reached last week, Norsan will lease and manage the station with an option to buy within five years. Financial terms were not revealed. Sanchez said negotiations had been under way for about six months.

When the switch is made in January, programming for “La Raza” – including the popular syndicated morning show of Eduardo Sotelo, known as Piolin – will move to WOLS and be simulcast for a time on WRML.

Then plans are for WRML to adopt a pop-tropical format within weeks.

It will be aimed at a younger demographic and a broader slice of the Hispanic market like Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean natives. Pop-tropical also tends to attract non-Hispanic listeners, and announcers will likely speak both English and Spanish on the air.

WOLS – the former “Mix 106,” which switched to an oldies format in February – had struggled to find a niche against CBS Radio and Clear Channel, the dominant corporate radio clusters in Charlotte. WOLS recently upgraded its tower and is audible in 11 counties, from Iredell to Lancaster. .

“We believe this represents a better economic opportunity for us,” said Tom Gentry, general manager of GHB Broadcasting's local stations.

Charlotte Bobcats and Duke basketball games currently air on WOLS. Sanchez said the broadcasts would continue until both teams' contracts expire at the end of their seasons.

In December, GHB will start simulcasting its adult standards format of WAVO-AM (1150) on WEGO-AM (1410). WEGO, based in Concord since its founding in 1944, is moving to the GHB studios on North Tryon Street.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007;

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