‘Free’ Combo Says Aloha To iHeart


On June 22, 2007, a large group of radio stations were placed in the Aloha Station Trust by iHeartMedia predecessor Clear Channel Communications, ahead of its highly leveraged $24 billion leveraged buyout by a private equity group co-led by Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, completed in July 2008.

Now, two stations in the trust are going to Connoisseur.

In an announcement made precisely at 5pm Eastern on Wednesday (3/27), a strategic station exchange was made.

Exiting the Aloha Trust are WFMD-AM 930 and WFRE-FM 99.9, licensed to Frederick, Md., a city of roughly 75,000 people that has become a bedroom community to the vast Washington, D.C., area; Frederick is within the Washington DMA.

The AM/FM combo are branded as “Frederick’s Free Talk,” featuring local programming and syndicated hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh; and “Free Country,” a locally focused Country format that regularly outranks all other stations in Frederick’s Nielsen Audio ratings.

WFMD is a Class B facility with 5kw from 3 towers during daylight hours and 2.5kw from 4 towers at night; WFRE is a Class B FM with 7.6kw that brings a strong signal to much of the Hagerstown, Md., area, in addition to a wide swath of Montgomery County, Md., effectively making WFRE a strong Country compliment to iHeart-owned WMZQ-FM 98.7; WFRE has a 0.9 share in the most recent Washington-market Nielsen Audio ratings.

While some many question iHeart’s relationship to WFMD and WFRE over the last 12 years, it is the Trust, run by the late Jeanette Tully and as of October 2018 by Barry Drake, that operates the pair of D.C.-area outlets. For example, audio streaming is independent of iHeartRadio, with each station working with Triton directly.

Connoisseur is not sending any cash to the trust, or iHeart. Rather, it inked on Tuesday (3/26) an asset exchange agreement that gives iHeart — and not the trust — a seven-station group of stations serving the Erie, Pa., market.

This sees iHeart entering Market No. 178, where Cumulus Media is the other major national player.

The stations iHeart will receive are:

  • AC WLTM-FM 95.9 “Lite FM” in Mina, N.Y.
  • CHR/Pop WRTS-FM 103.7 “Star 104” in Erie, Pa.
  • Rock WRKT-FM 104.9 “Rocket 105” in Erie, Pa.
  • Adult Hits WXBB-FM 94.7 “Bob FM” in Erie, Pa.
  • Class A Country WTWF-FM 93.9 “The Wolf” in Fairview, Pa.
  • 1kw Class C News/Talk WJET-AM 1400 in Erie, Pa.
  • 5kw Class B FOX Sports Radio affiliate WFNN-AM 1330 in Erie, Pa.

Commenting on the swap, Connoisseur CEO Jeffrey Warshaw said, “iHeart is getting a remarkable team and an amazing array of brands. We have owned the stations for 13 years and have tremendous gratitude for the people of Erie. We are excited to enter the Frederick market with these legendary properties.”

With respect to the Erie entry, iHeartMedia Region President of Allentown/Harrisburg, Pa., Dan Lankford commented, “We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to expand our reach and establish a presence in the Erie and Mina markets. We can’t wait to add these seven amazing brands to our family of platforms, and we know that Connoisseur Media is looking forward to adding WFRE-FM and WFMD-AM to their company.”

Minus WFMD and WFRE, what is now the “Aloha Station Trust II” includes 7 properties. On March 4Educational Media Foundation agreed to pick up WEKL-FM 102.3 in Augusta, GA; WLRX-FM 107.1, serving the Huntington-Ashland, W. Va., market; and WSFF-FM & WSNZ-FM in the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va., market in exchange of FM translators in Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Memphis and Monterey-Salinas.

Here’s how the Aloha Station Trust II, led by former Backyard Broadcasting head Barry Drake, presently looks, pending the transfer of two Frederick, Md., stations to iHeartMedia and four stations to Educational Media Foundation, announced March 4: