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Familiar voices silenced in changes at Penticton radio station
Giant FM has a new name and a new sound, which doesn’t include many familiar voices that have been a part of the Penticton airwaves for years.
Earlier this year, Newcap Radio completed the purchase of two of the Okanagan’s radio stations: classic rock station K96.3 in Kelowna and Giant FM in Penticton. While there were no staff changes in Kelowna, Giant’s four on-air personalities — Dennis Walker, Kevin Berar, Stu Robinson and Scott Robinson — were dismissed last Friday morning as the new owners rebranded the station “100.7 Country.”
Program director David Larsen, a former DJ from K96.3, said Newcap didn’t come to the decision to clean house easily, but their research showed that Penticton listeners wanted a change.
“We went into Penticton and did a pretty extensive research project, and the results were not real positive about what people had thought of Giant and where Giant had been,” he said. The research was done in January, he said, and asked both general and specific questions.
“The questions were not specific to the timeline. It was more about ‘What do you think about that station? What do you think of these personalities?’ That kind of thing.”
But some members of the Penticton community aren’t too sure about the conclusions Newcap drew from this research.
“I have to wonder what market research the new station owners did in order to come to this conclusion,” said Andrina Iliffe in a letter to the Western News. “The on-air guys were all about community and relationship building within that community, not just in Penticton but throughout their listening area. Dennis, Kevin, Scott and Stu didn’t just talk the talk on air, they walked among us.”
Others are more specific about what they are going to miss.
“The wonderful deep and melodic voice of Dennis Walker. He never failed to give the weather and road report and the local news that most listeners want to hear as they wake up to face a new day,” said Doreen Johnson, who felt the short notice the Giant staff were given was unfair. “I am also saddened to learn that not only Dennis was dismissed unkindly but also Kevin Berar, Scott Robinson and Stu Robinson. I will miss all of you.”
Larsen said their research showed that people wanted to hear a more contemporary sounding country music station, and didn’t want to hear a lot of the talk.
“Newcap likes to be involved in the community, but there wasn’t a huge appetite for the news and information, that kind of stuff. They wanted the country music and they wanted a more contemporary sound,” said Larsen, adding that he expects the station will retain local content.
“You have to dig in and be a part of the community to succeed. And they have had a lot of success doing that,” he said. “They take their responsibility seriously and they try to put on the best products and the best radio stations they can.”
While Larsen doesn’t rule out using syndicated radio programs, he said that “radio works best when it is local” and that they intend to keep broadcasting live.
“We are looking at hiring staff, local staff who are familiar with country music, have a country music background and understand the music and the lifestyle and such,” he said. “We hope to announce some staffing in the next week or so, maybe even sooner.”
As part of introducing the “all-new” 100.7 Country, the station also started an uninterrupted run of 5,000 country songs to show where they intend to take the station format.
“It will be a very familiar sounding mainstream country music station, very bright, very up tempo. It will be contemporary stuff, some back through the millennium and into the ‘90s as well,” said Larsen, who added he couldn’t comment on whether there will be any shared broadcasting between K96.3 and 100.7 Country, now that the two former independently owned stations are part of the same chain.
“I think you have to look at some synergies to make it more cost-efficient,” he said. “Certainly between Kelowna and Penticton, we will look at trying to get some synergies, but I think both communities will be well-represented, for sure.”