WKAY on the air

by Norm Winick

Wednesday morning, December 13, 2000, at 7am, Galesburg's newest radio station signed on the air officially. After several weeks of broadcasting Christmas music as a test, WKAY, 105.3 FM, started airing the ''Today's Light Rock'' music that is their format.

Roger Lundeen, manager of the four Galesburg Broadcasting stations (WGIL, WAAG, WLSR and WKAY) all based in the same studio facilities at 154 E. Simmons St., says that the music is targeted to adults from their mid-20s to mid-50s. ''It's a format that we felt had been drawing listeners to out-of-town stations, especially MIX-96 in the Quad Cities and WSWT in Peoria. We also tried to select a format that didn't compete with our other stations in the market.''

''K-FM'' will have more news and sports than the firm's rock station, WLSR, but less than WGIL AM. ''We will share news facilities among all our stations and promote it as 'WGIL News,''' said Lundeen. ''In the morning we'll have news every half hour with an extended newscast at the bottom of the hour. We'll also have all the weather and school closing announcements people expect. In the morning, our news department has to prepare for nine different newscast an hour on the four stations.''

Chris McIntyre will be the station's morning personality and only live announcer on a regular basis. The others will be voice-tracked -- their segments recorded in advance and played back between songs.

McIntyre also programs all the music for WKAY and the firm's stations in Burlington. In Galesburg, it is all stored on a series of hard drives totalling about 150 gigabytes. The studio has no turntables or stacks of CDs to play. Selections are chosen by McIntyre from about 800 songs that fit the format and are stored on the computer. The computer also fits in the announcements, recorded newscasts and commercials. A monitor in the studio shows the next items to be broadcast and counts down the time until the current selection ends.

WKAY is licensed to Knoxville and will be identified as ''Knoxville, Galesburg and Monmouth.'' The process of getting it in the air has been a long and complicated one. Galesburg Broadcasting applied to the FCC to get a frequency allocated to Knoxville. After that was accomplished, it was opened up to bidders and two other firms expressed an interest. After buying out the other bidders, who Lundeen says were both out-of-town and not particularly serious, the frequency was assigned to the local firm. Then, the process of getting a construction permit for the new one and authorization to move the other stations to the new tower all had to be in process simultaneously. ''Getting permission so it all could happen at the same time at the FCC was a major operation,'' said Lundeen. ''In all, I think I've been working on this about six years.''.

Getting on the air about a month later than anticipated was primarily a result of weather. ''Our tower crews, from Evansville, Ind., were hampered by wind and other weather problems. Then they went home for a Thanksgiving. When they were working on the tower we had to reduce our other station's power or even go off air to protect them from the radiation. It was terribly complicated installing a new tower so close to our existing one with an AM station and two FM antennas on it.'' The South Farnham Street tower also holds the antenna for Trinity Broadcasting's Channel 50, the station's Marti receiver, a pager service and some Global positioning equipment. Lundeen says it will also, eventually, hold the antenna for WLSR which is currently on a leased tower east of town.

The signal of the new station is ''one of the best around,'' said Lundeen. ''It's a brand new digital transmitter and a brand new antenna. It's really good stuff and I think people will be able to tell the difference.''

Lundeen says Galesburg Broadcasting is trying to create four different niches for their stations. ''WGIL attracts a wide age groups, featuring news, information and sports. WAAG is our country station and has a wider demographic than you might expect -- probably because we've been doing it so long. WLSR, our rock station, attract males primarily, in the 20-40 age group. WKAY will hopefully attract more females and a little wider age group. We'll also be promoting in-office listening. Our plan has always been to bring as much radio as we can to our communities. With all the consolidation in the industry, we're one of the few local operators left any more. ''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 18, 2000

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