After 45 Years, A Knoxville FM Heads To New Owner

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BOCA RATON, FLA. — In late March 2018, a Eastern Tennessee radio veteran who acquired a Class A FM in 1974 acquired an AM in what’s colloquially known to some as “Scruffy City” from Kirkland Wireless Broadcasters.


Six months later, this broadcaster sold the AM. Now, it is selling the FM after 45 years of ownership.

According to a broker note from Boca Raton-based broker Michael J. Bergner of Bergner & Co., Oak Ridge FM Inc. has sold WNFZ-FM 94.3 in Powell, Tenn., and serving the Knoxville market.

Oak Ridge is led by John Pirkle.

Who’s the buyer? Duke Wright-led Midwest Communications is grabbing the Alternative station branded as “94Z.”

The price Midwest is paying is expected to be revealed in a Form 314 filing with the FCC on Friday or next week.

WNFZ is a Class A with 2,950 watts, and has a signal that covers the entire Knoxville metropolitan area.

Oak Ridge is not a subscriber to Nielsen Audio ratings. Thus, ratings information is not publicly known for 94Z.

WNFZ dropped its “94Z” branding with its sale to Midwest Communications.

That won’t matter to Midwest, which has already changed the station’s format under an immediate LMA. It is now Adult Hits as “Jack FM,” with “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang followed by the familiar voice of Howie Cogan and Bryan Adams’ “Cuts Like A Knife” and Sublime’s “Santeria” at 3:30pm Eastern today.

It is a return of “Jack FM” to Knoxville, as the format previously was found on what is now Midwest’s Classic Country WDKW-FM 95.7 “The Duke.” From October 28, 2005-August 13, 2012, it was WQJK-FM and “Jack” under former owner South Central Communications.

WNFZ will become Midwest’s fourth station in Knoxville, joining Classic Rock WIMZ-FM 103.5 and AC WJXB-FM 97.5.

Midwest largely competes against Summit Media and Cumulus Media in Knoxville.

For WNFZ, the end of Alternative is the station’s second closure of the format in Knoxville, as it returned in October 2015 after its discontinuation in 2008. From that period, WNFZ was rebranded and took on an Active Rock format. That ended Nov. 1, 2013, when Talk programming arrived.

Earlier incarnations of the station include WKNF-FM “K94”, a Classic Country station, and as “Magic 94,” airing Oldies programming. From early 1982 to March 1985, it was Country WETQ “Q94.” Before that, the signal was home to B/EZ WUUU-FM — all under Pirkle’s ownership, although an LMA with South Central had been in play during the station’s time as a Talker.

Now, only the 94Z website lives on, as Guns ‘N Roses “Live and Let Die” bellowed out of WNFZ’s airwaves.

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