SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - A radio station that signed on in the old Yadkin Hotel on New Year's Day in 1939 is signing off this Sunday, silencing a popular duo who have had their own show for more than 20 years.
"For us it is a bittersweet day," said outgoing majority owner Tim Coates. "While the staff has been aware of the negotiations that have been ongoing since mid-summer I don't think any of us has accepted that this chapter has closed, and a new one is beginning. Very little has changed since I bought the station back in 2000. "
"The on air staff has remained the same and the programming is similar to the 2000 format," Coates added. "Over time several popular personalities have retired and we replaced them with programming that was less political and more of general interest. The public has responded positive to these changes over the years. I would like to thank the advertisers and listeners for their loyalty to the station. "
There have been two WBTV stories about the changes at WSTP in the last week, but on Friday, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham, who represents the new owners, 2B Productions and the Catawba College Foundation, allowed WBTV to be part of a conference call where he laid out the plans for the future of WSTP.
Graham did confirm that WSTP will "go dark," or leave the airwaves after the Sunday morning broadcast of the church service from St. John's Lutheran Church.
He said it WSTP would be back on the air within a few weeks.
"We're not going to keep the news/talk format," Graham said. "I don't want the college associated with a certain political stripe or ideology, and that just simply wouldn't fit."
On Friday morning Kent Bernhardt and Howard Platt made what may be their final show together.
Several people called in to offer support, including former WSTP announcer Doug Rice who now works with Bernhardt in his main job at the Performance Racing Network, and Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson, who offered his appreciation for the show.
"We don't know if it's over or not," Bernhardt said.
"We're not really sure at this point, unsure futures and we'll see what happens," added Platt.
But in the conference call they learned that they may be coming back.
"There have been a fair number of people who have called and said 'Hey, we need you to keep Kent & Howard.'" Graham said.
Graham told the duo to come back with a proposal of sorts of what a "new" Kent & Howard Show would be and what it would look like.
"Let's see if we can weave it into the new tapestry," Graham said.
Both Bernhardt and Platt told WBTV they would be willing to work together on a concept for revamping their popular show, and would like to continue, if possible.
The changes are coming about after WSTP and Salisbury's other local radio station, Memories 1280 WSAT, were both bought by a foundation supporting Catawba College.
Graham said that the radio stations will be self supporting, and that any profit generated would go to the foundation, and then in turn to Catawba College.
Graham wants the programming to be "hyper local" with representatives of local groups, churches, businesses, and other parties to provide guests and shows.
WSTP and WSAT will remain separate identities on the air, but Graham has not ruled out the possibility of simulcasting some programming.
WBTV News will continue to be involved with WSTP, according to Graham.
"I'm thrilled that you guys are doing this, taking over," Bernhardt told Graham during the conference call. "It needed a change in management. Whether I fit into it or not is not the issue."
Catawba College will take over the WSTP facility on Statesville Boulevard, and WSTP will move into the WSAT building on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
The plan is to use the stations to allow students to learn the craft of radio, not at a campus station, but at a commercial radio station, and one of the longstanding lessons of radio is that things change.
"Radio is such a fluid business, you don't know from one day to the next whether you're going to have a job that continues for a long time or not," Bernhardt added.
"Kent's got a fulltime job that's outside of this radio station, at this point I don't," said Platt.
Platt did meet with WSAT manager and longtime announcer Buddy Poole on Friday and told WBTV that he may be able to stay with the radio stations in his role as Sports Director.
"I had a good talk with Buddy today," Platt said. "I think we've come to an understanding of what I can do, and we, as far as I know, he's going to be working out where it's mutually satisfactory, both him and me, and it seems like we're going in that direction."
Kent & Howard may be part of the new station, and may be a part of training the future of radio.