The owner of one Niagara County radio station is about to become the owner of a second station here.
Bill Yuhnke, the owner of Kenmore Broadcasting Communications, which currently operates WEBR AM 1440 (formerly WJJL AM), has announced that he has purchased Culver Communications Corp., the owner of Lockport-based WLVL 1340 AM and 105.3 FM. Details of the sale were not released and the sale is pending final approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Yuhnke said FCC approval is expected sometime in the next few weeks.
“I’ve learned a lot about Niagara County through (WEBR),” Yuhnke said. “And now we’re going to be able to serve both Niagara Falls and Lockport.”
Culver is owned by long-time Western New York broadcaster Dick Greene who has owned WLVL since 1981. He’s been a part of the local radio landscape since 1968.
Yuhnke is the long-time owner of Buffalo-based Liberty/Yellow Taxi, which he continues to operate, in addition to his radio ventures. After purchasing Niagara Falls licensed WJJL, he rechristened the station with the call letters of WEBR.
WEBR had been a legendary Buffalo radio station from the 1920s through 2012, when it was sold to Crawford Broadcasting, a Christian broadcaster, who changed its call letters.
After renaming WJJL to WEBR, Yuhnke changed its format from an “oldies music” station to an “adult standards (music) and talk format.” Yuhnke also began streaming the WEBR signal on multiple internet platforms.
“Right now WLVL streams only on their own website,” Yuhnke said, “but we will be putting them on other platforms. Innovation is the key to success.”
Greene, who is 78, is exiting the radio business after beginning his career at WYSL AM/WPHD FM, before moving on to WGR AM and WEBN AM. He also put WGMM FM Elmira/Corning on the air and owned and operated WECK AM.
“I’ve been talking to Bill (Yuhnke) for some time about selling and the talks got serious last January,” Greene said. “We finally signed a purchase agreement on Sept. 9 and are now awaiting FCC approval.”
Greene sold WECK AM to Radio One Buffalo in 2017.
WLVL is estimated to serve 20,000 and 25,000 listeners a week, with a mix of news, talk and community radio programming.
“It has served the people well over all these years,” Greene said. “I think that kind of radio is still valued by many people in our market.”
Yuhnke said he does not anticipate a format change after the ownership transfer.
“We’re a Niagara County station and we need to serve the people here,” Yuhnke said. “We tried to keep the sales talks low key we didn’t want the staff to be worried. Before the sale was announced, Dick and I met with the staff and I told them they were all safe and we were gonna keep the (current) format.”
In addition to expanding WLVL’s streaming platforms, Yuhnke said he expects to invest in new equipment and a new transmitter for the station. He said he also expects to increase his promotion of the station’s lineup of FOX Sports on the weekend and the broadcast of New York Yankees baseball games.
“I think Dick needs to be commended for what he’s done in Lockport.” Yuhnke said.
Greene said he hopes to use his retirement to travel and spend time with his adult children.