‘Community Idea’ Leads Alpha To Exit Richmond


The nonprofit organization that broadcasts national and local public radio and television programs in the region surrounding Richmond has boosted its presence in Central Virginia by agreeing to acquire a pair of Class A FMs from Alpha Media.

The buyer is Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp. (CPBC), which operates as Community Ideas Stations — and is the parent of Class B 10kw WCVE-FM 88.9, the NPR member station serving the Richmond-Petersburg DMA.

The transaction is valued at $1.95 million, an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC mid-morning Wednesday reveals. A 10% escrow deposit has been made by CPBC to Alpha.

CPBC is acquiring the following stations from Alpha:

  • WWLB-FM 93.1, licensed to Ettrick, Va. It presently airs a Classic Country format as “Hank FM” and primarily covers the southern portion of the metro area. The station has a 2.6 share in the Phase II Fall 2017 Nielsen Audio trends. By comparison, Summit Media-owned Country WKHK-FM 95.3 “K95” has a 7.7 share, 6+, and ranks No. 2 among all stations in Richmond.
  • WBBT-FM 107.3, licensed to Powhatan, Va. It mainly serves the western portion of the Richmond metropolitan area and airs a Classic Hits format.

Both stations feature hosts Bill Drake and Deni Lee. It is unclear if they will remain in new capacities with Alpha Media or transition to new roles in the radio industry.

Community Ideas already knows what its plans are for WWLB and WBBT: The two stations will join WCVE as NPR member stations, allowing for expansion of public radio programming in greater Richmond.

WCVE will shift to an all-news and talk format, while continuing to broadcast such NPR programs as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Fresh Air, in addition to American Public Media’s Marketplace and Marketplace Weekend. Coming to WCVE are the programs On Point, Here and Now, Only a Game, The Big Listen, and The Splendid Table. Also being added are BBC World Service’s Newshour and signature CBC Radio One evening program As It Happens.

WWLB and WBBT will enter into a simulcast, and adopt a fine arts programming schedule featuring classical and jazz music.

On the classical side, WWLB and WBBT will air APM’s Performance Today while local classical music hosts George Maida, Shawn Evans and Mike Goldberg will see expanded hosting shifts. Hosting jazz programming in the evening hours is Peter Solomon.

Weekend programming including Ian Stewart’s The World Music Show and Steve Clark’s Sound of Swing will be joined by additional local and national music shows, Community Idea Stations notes.

“This transaction fulfills a long-held objective, enabling us to meet the dual listening demands of our radio audience,” said CPBC President/CEO Curtis Monk.  “For the first time ever, we are excited to be able to dramatically expand our programming to our listeners, providing wall-to-wall news and public affairs programming on one station, while delivering the best in classical music, jazz and other music offerings on the other.  We are thrilled to be able to give every public broadcasting listener in the region the best of both worlds.”

Serving as the exclusive broker in this transaction, representing Alpha Media, is Andrew Guest of Charleston, S.C.-based Guest Technology. Alpha’s legal counsel in the transaction is Kathleen Kirby of Wiley Rein LLP.

The legal counsel representing CPBC is Scott Woodworth of Edinger Associates LLC.

The purchase is subject to Commission approval, which is expected in early 2018. The new formats could begin airing on all three stations as early as spring 2018.

CPBC is also the owner of WCVE-23 and WCVW-57 in Richmond and WHTJ-41 in nearby Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. All three stations are moving to new channels as part of the post-Spectrum Auction repack process.

It also happens to be the entity that owned WNVC-TV and WNVT-TV — a pair of Northern Virginia UHF stations serving the Washington, D.C. DMA. These stations were included in the FCC’s Auction 1000, and their valued spectrum brought CPBC $124,801,961 for WNVC-24 in Fairfax and $57,154,459 for WNVT-30 in Goldvein. Channel-sharing arrangements are being made with WCVE and/or WCVW, effectively moving the stations to the Richmond DMA.

CPBC’s acquisition of WBBT and WWLB comes after a Form 314 filing with the FCC made Nov. 20 confirmed the merger of Commonwealth with Shenandoah Valley Educational Television Corp. 

Shenandoah Valley Educational Television is the owner and operator of WVPT-TV in Staunton, Va., and WVPY-TV in Front Royal, Va.

For Alpha, the sale of WBBT and WWLB brings an end to its presence in Richmond, which began in July 2014 with the $57 million acquisition of a group of 19 stations by Alpha predecessor L&L Broadcasting from the former Main Line Broadcasting. 

That deal, brokered by MVP Capital Partners, included stations in Louisville, Dayton, and the Hagerstown, Md.-Chambersburg, Pa. market.

In Richmond, Alpha gained WBBT and WWLB along with Class B1 WLFV-FM 98.9 in Midlothian, Va., and Class A WARV-FM 100.3 in Petersburg, Va.

WARV and WLFV were acquired for $2 million by Educational Media Foundation in December 2016. George Reed of Media Services Group represented Alpha in that transaction.

CPBC is also the owner of WCNV-FM 89.1 in Heathsville, along the Chesapeake Bay; and WMVE-FM 90.1 in Chase City, Va., located near the border with North Carolina in a largely agricultural area. These stations simulcast WCVE and will continue to do so.