Radio Saxonburg, PA still Chugging along
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October 7, 2018-by William C. Walker
The LPAM Network


With the 3rd anniversary since its inception approaching, I decided to touch base with the owner of WIYQ AM 1620 in Saxonburg, PA to find out how the first three years of broadcasting have gone. Very recently, owner Ken Hawk (Ken Hoculock is his real name) and I had a chance to chat about the growth and success of this Part 15 AM and internet station in his hometown near Pittsburgh.

(Photo to the right is a picture of Ken and his morning show host, Tracy Ambrose from an article that ran in the Valley News Dispatch/Trib Live newspaper in his area)
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(Photo to the left is a picture of WIYQ Station Engineer and Announcer Ted St. James)

This interview will be written in a different format than previous interviews that I've conducted. Most of the content will be presented in a "question followed by the answer" format. I believe this is the most concise way to present the interview in a manner that will not only provide the most information to the readers but also make it enjoyable to read.

“Ken, could you tell our readers a little bit about your background in broadcasting both as an adult and as a kid, if you started to broadcast with a simple Part 15 device as a child?”  What first got you interested in broadcasting?”

I was raised in Detroit and western Pennsylvania during the 70's and 80's. My parents were Top 40 radio people and we listened to all the Top 40 stations popular in Detroit and Pittsburgh at the time. I listened to the jocks and remembered how much fun they seemed to have playing the music. We had this big console stereo in the family room, and I'd use a wooden spoon or a paper towel tube for a microphone, get a stack of 45's, and pretend I was a DJ like the guys on the air. I was probably about seven then. I hadn't really explored radio as a career nor would I until my teenage years. A lot of that was formulated when I was about 14. My younger brother had received a Radio Shack Science Fair 300 kit for Christmas, and one of the 'projects' was an AM transmitter. The speaker on the front would act as a microphone, and we'd hear ourselves talking on the AM radio if it was tuned to the right frequency. I guess you could say that planted the seed, more or less. I ended up getting my first job in radio while a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania...I was driving a 1977 Chrysler Cordoba with an AM radio that received that station, known then as WACB in Kittanning, Pennsylvania; and WHJB in Greensburg. Both were music AM stations that I felt were worth listening to. I asked for a tour of the station and after it was done, they offered me a part-time job. I went on the air for the very first time May 5, 1988 at 18 years of age. That was a pretty big deal.
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(Photo to the right is a picture of the WIYQ Urban Assault Vehicle used at local Live Remotes)

“Ken. How were you able to generate listeners and interest in your station in Saxonburg so quickly after getting on the air? Your station has achieved quite a bit of success just three years after hitting the air.” The initial broadcast date was October 25, 2015.

Well, that was actually the easiest part. Having spent much of my career doing radio news, I knew how to write news releases and make them interesting enough for other media to want to cover. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whose ownership includes several smaller hometown papers, came out and did a fairly impressive story on our debut and my background in broadcasting. I also released it to the trades and received coverage from Radio Ink and Radio World. But the biggest one, I think, was social media. I created a Facebook page for the station and promoted it to those I'm friends with on Facebook the day before we went on the air. Then I sent the news release the day of the launch. Boom. I was very very careful to not leak any information beforehand because I wanted this to be a 'surprise attack' so to speak. It worked. A lot of people were surprised that I kept quiet about it for the two and a half years I spent building the station. Then we joined our local chamber. Then we struck the deal with the library for locating the transmitters...which led to us doing remote broadcasts from downtown during the chamber's summer Main Street events. We're out there...and we've proven to the community that we're not going away.

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(Photo to the left is a picture of WIYQ Midday Announcer Laura Ashlee who's live from 10 AM to 2 PM weekdays)

“Ken. What are your short term and long term goals for the station in Saxonburg? Any plans to develop a second station with a second format that would bring in additional listeners or are you content to work with just the existing station for now?”

The short-term goal for the moment is to make the station profitable, and we're well on our way towards making that happen. 2018 is shaping up to be our best year since sign-on. We've done more remotes this year than 2017, we've added Google AdSense for per-click ads on our website, and we've written additional business with paid PSAs from Advertisers Broadcast Services. I've tried to attract people to help me with sales on a strictly-commissioned part-time basis, but that hasn't been successful. It's hard to find good salespeople on a full-time basis, let alone part-time. Moreover, clients just don't want to buy spot ads on an ROS (Run of Site) basis these days. Many stations these days include ROS spots in the pricing of a multi-package where they may buy a couple remotes or sponsor special events like ball games, parades, what have you. Long-term, I'd like to maybe turn the station over to a non-profit entity that's able to purchase the station assets and keep local radio going in Saxonburg so I can retire. I'm going to be 50 next year and I'm looking towards scaling back on a few things that have been demanding of my time, and I've tried to make the radio station as unobtrusive as possible when it comes to time with my family. I had explored the possibility of starting up another station in another community, but I'm spread thin enough as it is. That's for someone younger and with more energy than I'm willing to spare at this point *lol*, and when you're pushing 50, you have less than what you had 30 years ago. I love radio, but I have to be realistic about the fact that I'm not a young man anymore.
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(Photo to the right is a picture of the new WIYQ Studio)

“Ken. Can you tell us about the equipment that you use in the studio and for transmitting your signal?”

Transmitter - (AM) Radio Systems Talking House III, (FM) NIO RF

Audio Processor - Fostex 3070 compressor/limiter

Automation computer - Dell Precision T3400, Windows 7 Pro, 3Ghz Processor, 8 GB RAM, 64 bit, 300GB SSA HD.

Mixing Board - Arrakis ARC-8

CD player if any - Technics SL-PD847

Mic’s - Alto AM6 (2)

Automation software - ZaraStudio 3

Internet software and equipment for streaming - Edcast

Production equipment: Pyramid PM-4700 Studio Pro mixing board, Dell Optiplex 760 with Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 3GHz, 4GB RAM, 64 bit, 200 GB HD. Windows 10 OS. Technics SLQ200 Direct Drive turntable, Realistic SA-150 studio monitor amp, Compaq computer speakers by JBL Pro, GLI model 55 microphone.

We also use a Realistic SA-150 amp to power the on-air monitors, with Dual Electronics LU47PW serving as the monitors. They're bookshelf sized...small but mighty.

We use a Barix Exstreamer 100 to get the audio from the studio in my basement to the AM/FM transmitter site at the South Butler Community Library. We air a 60 second ad for them every hour, plus mention them in our jock liners as the "South Butler Community Library Broadcast Center" in exchange for hosting our equipment.

In short, we're the best damn radio station eBay and Radio Shack ever built.

Summation

WIYQ AM is a real success story for many Part 15 station owners to use as a blueprint for the future. The format which is Adult Contemporary during weekdays, Classic Hits on weekends, and Smooth Jazz late at night attracts a wide range of listeners with disposable income. And this in turn appeals to the local business community and acts as a incentive for many to air the station during the course of normal business hours. We wish Ken and his staff many more years of success with WIYQ AM!