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WYPR To Acquire WTMD

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WYPR & WTMD
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WYPR station leaders have announced plans to acquire WTMD.

WYPR is planning to acquire WTMD 89.7 FM from Towson University for $3 million, station leaders confirmed Friday afternoon.

While both stations are in the public radio network, they produce markedly different content: WYPR airs nationally syndicated NPR programs, has a small, award-winning newsroom of reporters and produces shows focusing on regional news such as Midday, while WTMD is an adult album alternative station known for music discovery programs.

Ben Lowenthal, CFO and Vice President for Administration and Finance at Towson University, said in a statement the university sought a buyer that would maintain WTMD’s format.

“We’re grateful to have found a partner in WYPR to continue the community-first, public radio station in its existing format that listeners have come to appreciate from WTMD,” said Ben Lowenthal, CFO and Vice President for Administration and Finance at Towson University.

LaFontaine E. Oliver, WYPR’s President and General Manager who is also the Chair of the NPR Board of Directors, said he plans to maintain WTMD’s current programming and staffing.

“It is our intention really to honor that format and honor the success that the station has had,” he said. “We certainly would like to see a great deal of continuity in the programming and with the folks that are making it happen behind the scenes.”

WTMD’s license transfer to WYPR is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, a process that typically takes between three to four months.

Oliver said WYPR will seek major donor contributions and support from lending institutions to close the $3 million deal and noted that both stations' budgets are not likely to significantly change, short of shared cost structures. He said news-music public radio partnerships are generally very successful “one-two punches,” pointing to New York Public Radio’s ownership of both news hub WNYC and classical station WQXR.

“If news and journalism and information is sort of the oxygen for democracy, then music is like food for the soul,” he said. “There is a great deal of synergy between our desire to be a leader as it relates to local news and journalism, and rounding ourselves out in such a way that we're not just thinking about the head, but the heart and the spirit.”

Listeners will likely not notice any differences on the stations’ airwaves, he said, noting that donations from WYPR members will continue to WYPR and donations from WTMD members will continue to go to WTMD.

The partnership will allow both of the stations to build on their existing community presence and “put a little gasoline on that fire by being able to bring them together to leverage the collective resources and talent and skills,” he said. “And that makes me really excited.”

He noted that any potential collaborations between the stations will be determined down the road.

WTMD first broadcast at then-Towson State University in 1972; it adopted the 89.7 FM signal in 1974 and its current call letters in 1991. The Towson University Foundation operated the station until 2014, when the non-profit organization Towson University Public Media, Inc. took over.

The station was known for smooth jazz and light adult contemporary programs through the 1990s; it abandoned what NPR’s media reporter David Folkenflik called “low-calorie jazz” and flipped to adult album alternative programming – a mix of deejayed music discovery shows that emphasize the indie rock, folk and alternative genres – in 2002. It hosts several prominent local artists and deejays, including experimental electronic composer Dan Deacon.

WYPR is an NPR member station that broadcasts in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. It is home to a roster of award-winning local programming, including Midday, On the Record and Out of the Blocks. The station has an award-winning news team and airs nationally syndicated NPR programs such as Morning Edition, Fresh Air and All Things Considered. WYPR airs signals in Baltimore, Frederick and Ocean City.

WYPR was established in 2002, after Johns Hopkins University sold the station and its 88.1 FM frequency to a group of community members who established Your Public Radio Corp., which operates the station. Oliver said WYPR is proud to preserve another university radio station to serve the Baltimore community.

“We plan to build on the investments made by Towson University and the success of WTMD, which provides a rich and unmatched music discovery platform with opportunities for Baltimore’s musicians and artists at its core,” he said.

The venture, which will expand Your Public Radio’s portfolio to include renowned musical and cultural programming alongside WYPR’s news and talk shows, is Oliver’s latest effort in expanding the station’s profile. Last year, he commissioned two prominent polls on Baltimore City’s Democratic primaries in collaboration with the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, oversaw the launch of the daily news podcast The Daily Dose and funded a Report for America Fellow position.

This story was reported under the guidance of WYPR’s executive director of news Danyell Irby and news director Joel McCord. WYPR CEO LaFontaine Oliver did not review this story prior to publication.