The spirit of radio

Manistee has long history on the airwaves

MANISTEE — For a period of time since December 2013, WMTE Coast FM 101.5 was not occupying Manistee’s airwaves, something it had done when it signed on in 1994.

“Due to a previous ownership change and (Federal Communication Commission) ownership limits, this station ended up going off the air for a period of time,” said Todd Mohr, owner of Mitten Media, which broadcasts the FM station in Manistee.

Mitten Media purchased the station’s license in January and brought the station back on air on Feb. 1, anchored by an adult contemporary format with an oldies mix; a new morning show starts Monday.

“I wanted to bring back Manistee’s local radio station that has been missing for many years,” Mohr said. “Our goal is to be a local community … full service radio station.”

WMTE 1340 AM — which has been off the air since 2010 — was a focal point of Manistee’s radio legacy when it began broadcasting on June 7, 1951 from what was known as “Radio Hill” near the city limits by 10th Street, according to information from Radio.Barkis.net.

Bernie Schroeder began his 51-year radio career at the AM station in 1959.

“We were on the hill right up there,” Schroeder said. “It was there for years then it was sold a couple of times and moved to the old Coral Gables hotel that burnt down eventually but we weren’t there any longer. We were on top of the old Ramsdell building. I was in all of those.”

Schroeder covered a variety of assignments at the station as an announcer and news director.

Although he’s retired, he misses some of the work he did.

“I did everything from go up to Camp Grayling and see helicopters. I put on the hard hat and went to the Tondu Co. generation plant,” Schroeder said. “I think the one thing I really miss is the fact I was there when they were breaking ground for the casino. I was there when there were fires.”

Mohr said a 97.7 FM signal was added in 1970, broadcasting from transmitter facilities on “Radio Hill”. A Gates transmitter is used with an FM antenna mounted on the AM tower.

According to Radio.Barkis.net, the WMTE studios relocated in 1970 from “Radio Hill” to the third floor of the now-defunct Savings Bank building in downtown Manistee.

Throughout the years, both the AM and FM stations had gone through multiple ownership changes, Mohr said.

In 1976, WMTE-FM changed its call letters to WRRK; the letters were changed back to WMTE in 1991, according to Radio.Barkis.net.

In September 1985, an attempted sale of the WMTE 1340 AM and 97.7 WRRK FM licenses to Manistee Broadcasting Company fell through.

However, in 1986, Manistee Radio Corporation successfully sold WMTE 1340 and WRRK 97.7 to Manistee Broadcasting Company, Inc., which was owned by a group of local investors.

In October 1994, Manistee Radio Corporation sold WMTE 1340 AM to Chickering Associates, Inc., again becoming a sister station of WKLA 1450 in Ludington. Two months later, the Manistee Broadcasting Company sold WMTE-FM 97.7 to Xavier University, later becoming and the FM transmitter is moved from “Radio Hill” to a tower south of the city on Stronach Road.

“After ownership changes and format changes, here we are, finally, back right here in Manistee,” Mohr said.

The station’s programming format has come somewhat full circle.

“This particular signal had a history of having an oldie’s music format on it before, and in fact, that’s what it was when it first went on the air,” he said. “Now we’re doing an adult contemporary with oldies mix format because we’re trying to reach as much of a broad demographic of our audience as we can here.”

With Internet radio and streaming providing no local information, the station is trying to fill this void, Mohr said.

“Radio’s always been a local medium, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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