Member Spotlight: WLBR/WQIC
07/09/2015 09:25 AM
November 13, 1946. That’s the day that the Lebanon Valley’s beloved radio station, WLBR/WQIC first went on air. At the time that the station was founded, it was owned by Lester Etter, Raymond Stadium, and Eugene Silverstein. It has remained family-owned since its inception, currently held by Lester Etter’s son Robert Etter who takes a very active role in the business.
The station didn’t originally include its FM counterpart, but was solely the WLBR AM station. Then, in February of 1948, the FM side was added. Originally known as WUFM, the station is today recognized as WQIC.
WLBR is a full-service, AM station which offers news, adult contemporary music, weather, sports, traffic and talk radio. This gives their listeners, which is a target market of individuals 35 and older, a comprehensive “menu,” a little bit of everything that is sure to appeal to everyone.
According to Mickey Santora, the station’s senior sales advisor, WLBR carries all news through their ABC affiliate.
“If any major stories break, we have access to them,” Santora explained. “They’re one of the most well-known news affiliates. We also carry all of their commercials.”
While the AM format features a mix of locally produced talk shows and nationally syndicated programs, the FM station is more of a music station following the soft rock format. WQIC targets a younger audience, reaching a market of individuals ages 25-54. Santora explained that one station complements the other, balancing each other out to reach the perfect equilibrium. Having the two stations allows them to cater to two different audiences.
Santora also explained that while WLBR/WQIC may be a smaller station, this is a positive thing for them, for it allows them to be more involved in the local community.
“We’ve been a member of the Chamber for as long as I can remember,” he said.
Santora’s career in radio can be traced back to 1957 when he graduated from Berwick High School. He played the accordion, and decided to go to the new local radio station, WBRX, when they opened to audition to get on the air. However, when he went to play for the radio executives, Santora was offered a part-time job broadcasting on the weekend. In addition to playing in his band and broadcasting, Santora also worked at Wise Potato Chips as a “potato spotter.”
“I worked the midnight shift, and sat at a conveyor belt with my potato peeler,” Santora explained as he chuckled. “I had to find the potatoes with spots on them, and dig out the eyes. But I would fall asleep and my peeler would fall on the conveyor belt. Then, when I woke up, I couldn’t find it!”
After spending 1.5 years at the station in Berwick, Santora was called to work at WHLM in Bloomsburg. He stayed in Bloomsburg for 13 months before taking a job as a disc jockey at WLBR in 1960. Santora moved up and was promoted to various roles at WLBR/WQIC, becoming assistant sales manager in 1964 and sales manager in 1986. He remained in this role for 28 years until he semi-retired in 2004 as the senior sales advisor.
Throughout his years in radio, Santora has seen a number of changes sweep through the industry. When Santora was a disc jockey, the stations had fragmented programming. He explained how different announcers would go on air in varying shifts, and each announcer would play whatever they wanted. Then, WLBR and WQIC simultaneously changed programming in the 70s. Today, everything is pre-programmed for the stations by an outside company so that music selections, etc. are already set up and ready to go.
When asked if syndicated radio programs like Sirius and iHeartRadio have had any negative impact on WLBR/WQIC, Santora stated that they have not. According to him, WLBR/WQIC has such a strong local base that they don’t have to compete with the larger syndicated stations.
“We have strong local news, and everyone has so much respect for Gordon Weise,” Santora said. “We provide a service of local radio for news and events. Our involvement in the community is key to our success.”
WLBR/WQIC gives back to the community by offering commercials and public service announcements that cater to the local population (85-90% of their commercials are produced in-house). The station also tries to help and support as many non-profits in the area as they can.
Recently, the station created its own Facebook page (Wlbr-Wqic Radio) and is getting increasingly active in social media. They also recently updated their websites which give additional information and details on shows and radio hosts (wlbrradio.com/wqicradio.com).
Anyone interested in learning more about radio sales or opportunities is welcome to contact Tim Ritchie, sales manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-272-7651.
(Photo Caption: Santora points out memorabilia in the station’s front office.)