Beloit Daily News - Monday, August 31, 1998

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New WBEL makes debut Beloit's long-time radio station to become WTJK

By Chris TerryDaily News staff writer

SOUTH BELOIT _ Beloit's radio station for 50 years is expanding its boundaries and becoming a jock.

WBEL AM 1380 today becomes WTJK, The Jock Sports Radio 1380, a regional sports and news format.

“It's a big departure from what we've done in the past, no doubt about it,” said Michael Keck, vice president and general manager for Salter Communications.

The new station will keep the morning news and talk format with hosts Amy Pikalek and Chris Clark, but after 9 a.m., ESPN-affiliated programming will take over.

“There are no stations in the Stateline Area that are all sports,” Keck said.

WTJK will also have weather updates every 10 minutes and news on the top and bottom of every hour, Keck said.

The station's coverage will expand to Janesville, Rockford and everything in-between.

“It's going to be a Stateline station,” he said.

Clark, who has lived in Janesville for 18 years and had worked 20 years in Rockford radio, helps the station expand its regional coverage, Keck said.

“Part of (the reason) is Chris' experience, but also our desire to expand our advertising base and our listener base,” Keck said. “No one is in business to get smaller.”

With a 5,000-watt signal, Keck said WTJK will be one of the strongest AM signals in the market during the daytime.

Keck also said the change will help Salter Communications better complement its FM station in the area, Lite 103.

“Before we really had two separate entities _ we had a Beloit radio station and a Rockford radio station,” he said.

Lite 103 is number one in the 24-to 50-year-old female listener category in the Rockford-area market, Keck said. To offer advertisers a package that would also capture a large share of the male listening audience, Keck said they needed a hook.

And sports was an obvious choice, he said. Keck said the radio stations now compete with male-female advertising combinations in Rockford and the Stateline Area.

WBEL's former lineup included music, news and nationally syndicated radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne.

Keck said in the past, WBEL tried to do a little bit of everything.

“We believe the best way to grow is to focus the radio in one area, and that is sports,” he said. “Instead of being good at a lot of things, we're going to be great a few things.”

The new lineup will include The Fabulous Sports Babe from 9 to 11 a.m., the Premier Radio Network's Jim Rome show from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and ESPN game night from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Keck said WTJK will continue to cover local sports, doing play-by-play coverage with WIFR-TV's Andy Gannon and Clark. The sports coverage will expand to include Big Eight, Hononegah High School games and more.

And there will be NCAA college football game of the week and more.

“We'll have a mix of everything,” he said.

Keck said the station recognizes and appreciates its Beloit heritage as WBEL for the last 50 years and intends to continue offering information for the greater Beloit community.

“We look forward to continuing to serve them for another 50 years,” he said.

And Keck said the expansion really makes sense, because many people live in Beloit, but work in Rockford, or live in Rockton and work in Beloit.

“You may work in Beloit, but you still want to know what's happening in your community if you live in Rockton,” he said.

Keck said there may be feedback, good or bad, about the change from a Beloit focus, but it is expected.

“No matter what change you make, there will always be reactions from the listeners, but you know what? That's beautiful,” he said.

“It's going to be a lot of fun,” he said.

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