Charlotte to get first FM sports talk radio station

08/12/2014 9:00 AM

08/12/2014 9:07 AM

Clear Channel Radio said Tuesday it will launch a sports-talk radio station, Charlotte’s first on the FM dial.

It will be affiliated with the Fox Sports radio network, with Andy Furman and Mike North in morning drive followed by Dan Patrick at 9 a.m. to noon. Steve Gorman will be carried on afternoon drive time.

Charlotte, with three sports stations already, is one of only five regions among the nation’s top 25 radio markets without an FM sports station. Though it will broadcast on a low-power transmitter, the signal is expected to reach most of Mecklenburg County and should be audible as far south as Rock Hill, giving it reach in the most populous region of the metro area.

It also will be available to the region’s 410,800 iHeartRadio digital radio listeners and will be carried on a sub-frequency of Clear Channel’s WRFX-FM (“Fox” 99.7), available to those with HD receivers.

FM signals are far superior to AM signals in strength and clarity. Charlotte’s existing AM sports stations – WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610), WZGV-AM (ESPN 730) and WBCN-AM (1660) all have signal handicaps, though they have improved markedly during recent years with transmitter upgrades. FM stations do not have to dial down their signal strength at sundown, as many AM stations must do to avoid interference with other stations.

Jeff Kent, afternoon host and longtime program director for WRFX, will be program director for the new FM voice, whose call letters are W254AZ and will be heard at 98.7 FM.

Charlie Wilkinson, market manager for Clear Channel’s Charlotte radio stations, said FM 98.7 should launch no later than Aug. 28.

“We saw a huge opportunity for sports on the FM dial done the right way,” Wilkinson said. “It was the opening in the marketplace.”

Wilkinson said developing local shows will come later.

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