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The Arts

‘The Beast’ brings rock back to Brattleboro’s airwaves

WTSA-AM drops sports talk for rock, adds FM translator frequency

BRATTLEBORO—Rock has returned to the local airwaves.

Four Seasons Media, owners of WTSA AM-1450 and WTSA-FM-96.7, have launched a third radio station, W258DQ, after the Federal Communications Commission issued Four Seasons a low-power FM translator frequency on Feb. 25.

That set in motion two programming changes.

First, on March 1, WTSA-AM dropped ESPN Radio for a rock format: “The Beast, Brattleboro’s Rock Station.” The second change is that the new content is now simulcasting on the new 99.5 FM translator frequency.

The low-power translator frequency, which simulcasts WTSA-AM, was issued by the FCC as part of its plan to save AM stations by offering FM frequencies to overcome the coverage gaps and poor signal strength of existing small AM stations such as WTSA.

WTSA-FM, which broadcasts a current contemporary hits format, will not be affected.

Four Seasons owner Kelli Corbeil said very few people were upset at WTSA-AM dumping ESPN Radio and its round-the-clock sports-talk programming, compared with “so many people asking for a rock station. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback so far.”

The launch of rock on WTSA helps fill the opening created by Saga Communications, when WKVT in Brattleboro dropped its classic rock format last fall on 92.7-FM in favor of a variety hit format the station calls “Bratt-FM.”

Last June, Saga also changed the longstanding talk-radio format of 1490 AM to “WINK Country,” simulcasting the programming from its Keene-based FM station.

Corbeil said that she and her team chose a soft opening for The Beast, because they are still in the process of fine-tuning the on-air product as well as working through the behind-the-scenes engineering issues of launching a new radio station.

In the morning, The Beast is running “The Bob & Tom Show,” a comedy-driven program that originates from WFBQ-FM in Indianapolis and is nationally syndicated by Westwood One.

In the afternoon, Ian Kelley, host of “The Morning Brew” on WTSA-FM, does double-duty as The Beast’s drive-time host.

Kelley, who also serves as WTSA’s program director, said the format change allows “the album nerd” side of his musical brain to come out.

He says the range of rock on the station stretches from the classics of the 1960s and 1970s, to the post-alternative rock of the 1990s and 2000s.

“Basically, from the Beatles and the Stones, to Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses, to Nirvana and Linkin Park,” said Kelley. “It’s definitely in my comfort zone. This is the music I grew up listening to, the music that got me into wanting to be on the radio.”

WTSA-AM also broadcasts Brattleboro Union High School varsity sports, and Corbeil said those broadcasts will continue on The Beast.

She also said that plans are in the works to add local music to The Beast, including concerts from The Stone Church in Brattleboro, and that the station should be available for online streaming by this fall.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #505 (Wednesday, April 10, 2019).

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