North Brevard country radio station seeks niche against powerhouses

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“It’s virtually impossible for a low-wattage AM station to gain inroads against 50,000-watt stations.” said Callahan, who co-hosts, along with Michelle McCoy, WHKR’s “Callahan and Michelle in the Morning,” and has been in the radio industry since 1983.

Callahan said it’s particularly hard when the AM station has a music, rather than talk, format, because of potential sound quality issues on the AM dial.

“If AM could ever sound like a CD, then you would have something,” said Callahan, whose station is one of four in Melbourne owned by Cumulus Media.

Shiflett said he realizes there are bigger and more powerful country radio stations that operate 24 hours a day in the Orlando/Melbourne market. But what he is trying to offer is a local flavor.

“None of this comes from the outside,” Shiflett said. “We’re not bringing things in from New York, and we’re not owned by a company in New York.”

The station’s public-service pinnacle came during the 1998 wildfires in North Brevard, when the station provided around-the-clock live updates, as its transmission tower barely escaped being engulfed in flames.

While small, the station has some show hosts who have had nationwide following, Shiflett and his companion, Kimberly Matthews (“Talkstar Kim”), co-hosted a nationwide morning radio show called American Daybreak on the Talkstar Radio Network before her death in 2008.

Bisson, an Apopka resident who was a morning personality for 19 years at country station WWKA-FM (K-92) in Orlando, said WPGS wants to promote local country music bands.

He says he’ll play just about any country artist, from George Strait to Faith Hill. But he draws the line at a few contemporary performers on the country charts, like Taylor Swift, whom he regards as not country enough for the station’s format.

Bisson sees the station as a throwback to the days when radio stations were locally owned, and noted that the station sometimes even plays vinyl albums and 45s — just like the old days.

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