FORT PIERCE, FLA. — The future of a noncommercial voice of the African American community across a three-county region of Florida that enjoys a simulcast partner in the important agricultural communities of Belle Glade and Clewiston is now in question, thanks to an agreement reached last week that sees the FMs heading to a new owner.
Upon closing, ownership will be handed to the local institution of higher learning that owns and operates the NPR Member station serving Florida’s Treasure Coast.
Black Media Works Inc., a non-profit affiliated with National Christian Network, founded in 1979 by Ray Kassis.
Today, Kim Kassis, who is African American, oversees Black Media Works.
And, she agreed to a transaction that will hand WJFP-FM 91.1 in Fort Pierce, a Class C1 analog-only FM founded as a 6kw Class A in January 1995, to Indian River State College.
That’s the licensee of WQCS-FM 88.9 — a Class C1 blowtorch that presently offers a mix of Classical and spoken word programming from NPR. It can be heard from southern Brevard County to West Palm Beach, and has historically seen its signal travel far into Miami-Dade County, due to WDNA-FM 88.9’s southwestern Miami-based signal pattern.
WJFP’s signal reaches Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties.
The agreement also sees the WQCS owner acquire WJCB-FM 88.5 in Clewiston, a 3kw Class A.
The transaction is valued at $950,000. A $47,500 escrow deposit has been made by Indian River State College, signed off by its board of trustees. The remaining balance will be paid in full at closing.
The agreement also includes a tower lease agreement for WJCB with Glades Media, the primary commercial broadcaster serving Hendry County. The WJFP tower is owned and managed by American Towers LLC.
What Indian River State College will do with WJCB and WJFP is already a touchy subject. A NCN employee whose final day was June 28 could not comment when asked if the R&B programming was in jeopardy of being discontinued.
Responding to RBR+TVBR‘s inquiry via e-mail, IRSC Director of Marketing, Media and Brand Strategy Suzanne Seldes would only note that “more details on the transaction will be available pending FCC approval.”
What will likely happen is something that other NPR Member stations have done over the years — Classical programming will shift to the newly acquired WJFP, while WQCS becomes a spoken word-focused NPR station. At present, WQCS’s HD2 signal is the home of such signature shows as “The Takeaway,” “1A,” “Fresh Air,” “Here and Now,” “The World,” and “On Point.” On the HD1 signal is classical music from 10am-2pm and from 7pm-3am, with signature shows “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” on the schedule.
With affluent, older listeners in Vero Beach, on Hutchinson Island and in a reinvigorated Fort Pierce, WJFP could become all-Classical — bringing Florida only its second 24/7 classical station, joining the University of South Florida’s WSMR-FM 89.1 in Sarasota. In Miami, Classical stations have failed three times since Woody Tanger’s late 1990s sale of WTMI-FM 93.1 to Cox Media Group for $100 million.
What will the like future of WJCB be? This could become a simulcast partner of WQCS, bringing NPR programming to the agricultural and sugar-producing communities of Clewiston and Belle Glade. As of today, the lone NPR Member stations reaching these towns is WGCU-FM in Fort Myers, with a fringe signal.
The region won’t be devoid of a local station targeting the Black community. WFLM-FM 104.5 in Port St. Lucie, owned by Midway Broadcasting, airs an Adult R&B format with programming including syndicated shows from D.L. Hughley.
Also available: Hubbard Broadcasting’s WMBX-FM “X102.3,” licensed to Jensen Beach but focused on West Palm Beach.