Hillsdale residents may be surprised when they turn their radio dial to 1340 AM or 99.5 FM and now find a local country station instead of the usual Radio Hillsdale full-service content. If they turn to 92.1 FM, however, they will still find the WCSR content they are used to.
At the end of February, WCSR’s new owner, Jamie McKibbin, split formats for the three signals, continuing the full-service format on Radio Hillsdale 92.1 FM and starting a country station, called The Dale, on 1340 AM and 99.5 FM.
McKibbin, a Hillsdale native, purchased WCSR 1340 AM, 92.1 FM, and 99.5 FM in December 2019. In February 2020, he began managing the station. It “made sense,” he said, to add variety to the three stations and appeal to a larger audience.
“Radio Hillsdale is such a staple to the community with local news, but that same programming was happening on three signals,” McKibbin said. “Radio listeners are only going to pick one.”
McKibbin said he chose to put a country music format on two of the signals because there was a need for a local country station.
“There are a lot of country music fans in the area, and it’s a really fun format,” McKibbin said.
Hillsdale College senior Martin Petersen, who works part-time for WCSR, said the country station is already popular. Petersen added that he was impressed with how quickly McKibbin was able to split the signals and create the new station.
“It was a quick turnaround,” Petersen said. “He came in, and a few days later, it was all up and running.”
McKibbin said several local businesses have told him they are enjoying listening to The Dale. Many residents, he added, have also told him it’s refreshing to have another choice.
Scot Bertram, general manager of Hillsdale College radio station Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, said the addition of The Dale reaches a wider audience.
“The full-service format wasn’t servicing country listeners,” Bertram said. “Splitting the station allows them to potentially service a new group of local listeners.”
According to McKibbin, The Dale still incorporates the local feel of WCSR with local news and an active Facebook page. In the future, McKibbin said, he hopes the station can also interact with the community through live appearances at fairs, festivals, and other events.
In addition to serving a new audience, the signal split allows for more opportunities to broadcast sports games. Before WCSR split formats for its three signals, it would have conflicts with carrying multiple sporting events. Now, the station can increase its coverage of local sporting events while still carrying Detroit Tigers games on 92.1 FM.
The split provides more options for local listeners and also provides for more opportunities to interact with the community and Hillsdale College, McKibben said.
“Having another signal also helps us train young people,” McKibbin said. “Hopefully, we can be a springboard for those who want to be in broadcasting at another level. I’ve only been here since February, but I really look forward to more collaboration with the college in the future.”