The OMW “News/Talk On FM” Watch

We promised to bring word of companies converting FM stations to talk or news/talk (or sports) formats across the nation, and there’s now officially another one on the way. (Thanks to Perry Michael Simon at AllAccess for the tip!)

In New Orleans, Clear Channel is about to wipe out classic rock mainstay WRNO/99.5 for a new FM news/talk station. New Orleans Times-Picayune media columnist Dave Walker reports that the “working date” for the new station is June 1st. From the description, it sounds like it’ll be a lot like the company’s successful FM news/talker in Pittsburgh, WPGB/104.7. Clear Channel actually has had the rights to ABC Radio’s Sean Hannity for a few months – a competing AM talker stopped airing Hannity in February – and we wouldn’t be surprised to see them to land Rush Limbaugh as well.

But the flip has been all over the radio rumor mill in the Big Easy for at least a month or two. In fact, Entercom, which owns news/talk powerhouse WWL/870 in New Orleans, recently added a permanent FM simulcast to the AM broadcast. Many NOLA radio observers believe Entercom returned FM 105.3 to the WWL simulcast as a pre-emptive strike to Clear Channel’s then-rumored FM talk effort.

There are indeed some parts of this story that are unique to New Orleans. In the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina, Clear Channel and Entercom actually cooperated to form “United Radio Broadcasters”…delivering vital news and information over a number of both AM and FM frequencies owned by both companies (and others). Clear Channel has apparently come to the belief that they need a news/talker in New Orleans due to the continuing appetite for news and information in that market.

For now, this makes New Orleans one of the few markets with two major FM news/talk stations. Others include Salt Lake City, where Bonneville AM blowtorch KSL/1160’s FM simulcast on 102.7 gets competition from upstart Simmons FM talk KFMS/97.5.

The WRNO name may be familiar to radio hobbyists even far afield from New Orleans. “The Rock of New Orleans” once had a shortwave radio sister station, which simulcast large chunks of the FM rocker’s programming some time ago. The shortwave outlet known as WRNO still exists as far as we know, though it is no longer co-owned with the FM station now owned by Clear Channel. It now runs mostly paid religious programming, and hasn’t simulcast WRNO-FM in many years…

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