NEWS- Tuned up: New AM station beams in

Last October, Anderson Communications LLC filed for FCC approval to build and operate what would be Charlottesville's fourth AM station. Now, just over a year later, Kentucky-based Anderson is selling 1450AM to Saga Communications.

Best known locally for last year's purchase of Eure Communications, which held a trio a Charlottesville stations– 3WV, WQMZ, and WINA– Saga is a communications conglomerate based in a suburb of Detroit. According to a station official, Saga owns about 90 radio stations and three television stations from Vermont and Norfolk to Ohio and Washington.

The approval of the 1450AM permit is all but final as general manager Dennis Mockler awaits the paperwork on the $150,000 transaction. Once official, the sale means Saga Communications will own four stations, second only to Clear Channel, which owns or operates six Charlottesville stations.

While he awaits the arrival of his furniture in Charlottesville, Mockler is assured the station will add to local flavor even when Saga is snowed in halfway across the country.

"I want us to continually adapt to the needs of the community. We're in a world right now where things change incredibly rapidly– people's needs change, their interest changes," he says. "I want us to be plugged in as much as possible."

While Mockler and other local managers will start to hire the new staff soon (the number is still uncertain), Sam Bush, Saga's chief financial officer, knows that Charlottesville is a great radio market. Because plans remain up in the air, Bush says he's not able to desccribe the new station's format.

But he promises programming "that the community is lacking." Given the nature of the FCC-approved facilities– an existing tower at the intersection of Rio and Melbourne roads– Charlottesville residents shouldn't expect a huge station– it's more likely to be standard AM talk and news.

"We always like to be able to identify with the communities we operate in," says Bush. "Between the University and the city, there's a lot of economic growth going on."

After what Mockler calls "a problem with the tower brackets," the launch date for AM1450 has been pushed back from an intended November debut to late December or early 2006.

Dennis Mockler can soon add a fourth station to this list