True to his word, formerly retired media mogul Eddie Edwards Sr. has bought a radio station and hopes to begin broadcasting in January.
Edwards announced the purchase during an Oct. 5 press conference at the law offices of Burns, White & Hickton, which assisted with the purchase and where his son practices. He was also joined by his friend Harvey Adams III, whose father inspired Edwards to make this move.
“He said to me, ‘Eddie, you’ve got to do something,’” said Edwards. “This is from a man on his dying bed. He knew we had to have a voice. And I promised him his people would not be ignored.”
Edwards recounted how WAMO, Pittsburgh’s oldest—and last—Black-formatted commercial radio station had ceased operations a month earlier, leaving African-Americans with “nothing to turn to.” The only other Black owned station is WGBN 1150 AM, which serves as the radio ministry for Pastor Loran Mann’s Pentecostal Temple COGIC.
“When the Davenports announced the sale in May, I knew someone would step in—but I was wrong,” he said. “I was happily retired, enjoying riding my Harley-Davidson by the Chesapeake Bay. But the Black community has knocked on the door, and all I could do was answer the call because they were there for me.”
Edwards paid $500,000 for the license of what is now WPYT 660 AM, which currently relays business programming originating in Boston. So far, the license is all he has, but he has narrowed down a list of possible locations to a site in Monroeville and another in Forrest Hills.
“He’s building this from scratch,” said Adams. “We’re asking the majority business to step up with advertising. There are meetings taking place right now with various community and business leaders and in the very near future you’ll be hearing from some of them.”
The AM station will broadcast a 1,400 watt signal that Edwards called “strong” and compared to a 50,000 watt signal. In area, the signal can reach as far west as Canton, Ohio, east almost to Altoona. It is, however, what the industry calls a “daytimer,” meaning it can only broadcast from sunrise to sunset.
“This is just a first step, but an important one, to return our voice to the airwaves. The only source for Black news now is the (New Pittsburgh) Courier—that’s it,” said Edwards. “In the months ahead, you can count on a 24-hour FM station.”
To that end, Edwards plans to build a $1 million studio at the selected site. He will meet with Federal Communications Commission attorneys this week to request an expedited three-month approval, which would allow the AM station to begin broadcasting in January, the format—news/talk.
“With ‘hate radio’ all over the dial, we can’t afford this so called ‘black out,’” he said. “We’re going to miss the (Pittsburgh) mayoral race, and that’s tragic and shameful.”
He said he wants to hire about 15 employees at first for news and sales and grow the staff as the FM music format comes on line. He plans on hiring local talent and focusing on local issues. He said this could include people who worked at WAMO and might also include a radio version of his old “Eddie’s Digest” television show. On the FM side, he is leaning toward a music format that includes classic Rhythm and Blues and oldies aimed at an older audience.
He said he has already received inquiries from Steve Harvey and others about possible slots. He said he hasn’t discussed possible affiliation with either Sheridan Broadcasting or American Urban Radio. He also railed against the “people meter” metric currently used to price advertising fees in the radio industry, saying it is biased, and forced Ron Davenport to sell WAMO.
“He had to sell because he couldn’t get advertising revenue. African-Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars and we make up 27 percent of the city and about 12 percent of the county—how could they ignore a market that also includes the Mon Valley, West Virginia and Ohio? That’s a sizeable audience. So I am very excited to get this up and running.”