Adult contemporary format takes over former modern rock station

jholleman@thestate.comMarch 24, 2014 

Modern rock radio in the Columbia marketplace has given way to Hot Adult Contemporary.

Last week, L&L Broadcasting announced WMFX-FM Fox 102.3 and WARQ-FM Rock 93.5 had been merged into a mainstream rock station at the 102.3 FM frequency. The new Fox 102.3 promised “four decades of the best rock music” by artists such as AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Before the changes, WMFX had a classic rock format, while WARQ since 1992 had featured alternative and modern rock and was a major player in the concert and festival scene in Columbia.

Based in Portland, Ore., L&L bought WMFX, WARQ and three other Columbia-area stations from YMF Media in September.

The merger of WMFX and WARQ ended up being nothing more than a stunt, after many ads for the new Fox 102.3 played on the old Rock 93.5 for several days. L&L did a similar stunt with two stations in Savannah recently.

On Monday, L&L Broadcasting announced WARQ is now Q93.5 and will play “Columbia’s Hit Music,” focusing on the past 15 years and acts such as Maroon 5, Pink, Imagine Dragons, Adele, Train and Katy Perry.

“With the recent changes in the Columbia radio landscape, there was a clear opportunity for a Hot Adult Contemporary radio station,” said Scott Mahalick, L&L’s director of programming. “We’re thrilled to be able to fill the void and deliver the hits in a focused presentation with live and local talent.”

Mike Hartel, market manager for L&L, said the new FOX 102.3 is a throwback. “Rock was so big as a format before, and then it segmented down,” Hartel said. “We’re going back to a rock station with a ton of variety.”

The new Q93.5 will be more focused on what Hartel said is an extremely hot format. Both stations are concentrating on music for now but eventually will have local talent talking between songs.

Steve Varholy, a fixture in the Columbia radio marketplace, was working at WARQ in 1992 when it switched to alternative rock. He left the station 17 years ago and now is president and general manager of WXRY-FM 99.3.

“Sorry to see the old girl go,” Varholy said of alternative WARQ. “One thing remains constant in radio and life: change. It happens, life goes on. The station will make new fond memories for other folks."

Varholy sees the changes as the latest in a series kicked off last month when WOMG-FM 98.5 went from oldies to country, giving the market three country stations.

“It’s going to be an interesting couple of months to see how the dominoes fall,” Varholy said.

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