New owners of KQV radio station hope to keep the all-news format
The husband-and-wife team who just bought Pittsburgh’s oldest news radio station aims to get KQV back on the airwaves this fall.
Longtime KQV listeners likely will be pleased with their vision: Hempfield residents Robert and Ashley Stevens of Broadcast Communications Inc. say their top priority is to reboot an all-news station modeled after KQV’s previous format.
“We would like to be able to do the news,” Robert Stevens told the Tribune-Review on Monday. “I would like to be able to do it as a news station very similar to the way it was.
“We just need to make sure we can do it in a way that would be financially feasible.”
The pending purchase of KQV-AM 1410 and its assets for $55,000 — which hinges on approval by federal regulators — would expand the duo’s ownership portfolio to a dozen AM and FM commercial and non-commercial radio stations in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.
KQV would be the first all-news format among the Westmoreland County couple’s holdings, which span the likes of classic rock, weather and weekday news updates via 103.1 KVE Mt. Pleasant; relaxing instrumental music via 88.1 KGO Murrysville; and a mix of classic hits, religious broadcasts, talk shows and weekend ethnic shows such as polka music via WKHB Irwin (620, 102.1, 94.1, 92.3).
“It gives us a new opportunity,” Stevens said. “It’s a really good thing to serve the community.”
The Stevens “quite possibly” would be interested in rehiring one or more of the 20 employees who lost their jobs when KQV went dark Jan. 1, Robert Stevens said.
He noted that the new KQV, however, will have to be leaner and rely on less staffing in hopes of getting on a fiscally solvent path so it can survive another 100 years.
KQV — whose roots date to 1919 — was independently owned since 1982, when Dickey’s father, Robert W. Dickey Sr., and the late Dick Scaife, former Tribune-Review publisher, formed Calvary Inc. to buy it from Taft Broadcasting. Scaife sold the station back to Dickey and his sister, Cheryl A. Scott, after their father died in 2011.
Scott died in November.
Bob Dickey Jr., KQV’s departing vice president and general manager, told the Tribune-Review in mid-December that KQV had been grappling with years of declining advertising revenue amid increased labor costs.
“The Dickey family, along with Dick Scaife, had done an excellent job for so many years of running it as a news outlet, and making it a very important station for the Pittsburgh area,” Stevens said.
“But it did run into a little bit of problems as Dickey Jr. expressed, with dwindling advertising and costs rising. … I’ll keep it (the format) similar as long as it’s feasible.”
The transaction would generate a few areas of immediate cost savings.
KQV no longer will require separate tower rent since the Stevens plan to use existing towers at their hub in North Versailles, and its studio will be built in an existing building there. KQV had been operating out of office space on Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The limited purchase asset agreement up for approval by the Federal Communications Commission sells the station and its assets — including its website, equipment, documents, production libraries — to BCI for $55,000, free and clear of debt.
Stevens said he plans to maintain but perhaps overhaul the KQV website.
Even if all goes as planned, 1410 on the AM dial will continue to transmit static fuzz for at least the next several months.
The FCC must approve the sale as well as BCI’s proposal to relocate KQV’s transmitter site to North Versailles.
The Dickeys plan to sell the land in Ross on which the former tower was located.
“The goal is to have something (KQV) back on the air by mid-to-late September or early October at the latest,” Stevens said.
With the acquisition of KQV, Robert Stevens will own four AM and three FM stations within a market of 45 stations, which complies with federal broadcasting ownership rules, the purchase agreement states.
Entities can own up to eight commercial stations in a market this size, Stevens said.
Stevens said he remains optimistic about the future of local radio in the digital age.
Revenue from radio stations was expected to reach nearly $15 billion last year and more than $16 billion by 2021, a BIA/Kelsey’s 2017 Investing in Radio report found. That accounts for 10 percent of all local ad revenue, with digital revenue fueling the bulk of the increase.
“Things have changed over the years, but radio is still very strong,” Stevens said.
More than 90 percent of Americans age 12 or older listen to the radio each week, roughly the same figure reported nearly a decade ago, Nielsen Media Research, the Radio Advertising Bureau and Pew Research Center .
The news-talk radio category showed the most improvement in 2016.
Of regular radio listeners, the highest percentage — 9.6 percent — chose news/talk/information as the category of radio they tune into on a typical day.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.