New programmer confirms switch to Spanish language format for WTMP-AM, now called La Bahia
At about 3 p.m. today WTMP-AM (1150) ended a 57-year-history of airing broadcasts aimed at Tampa's black community.
Instead, new programmers Davidson Media Group debuted a Spanish-language tropical music format aimed at the Tampa Bay area's Hispanic community, leasing the station indirectly from a New York hedge fund which now controls the frequency.
The station's call letters won't change but its tagline, "Boss of the Bay," will become La Bahia -- translated as "the Bay" -- calling the station's AM and FM signals "the perfect combination" (WTMP also airs on 96.1 FM)
But even as the Charlotte, N.C.-based group makes plans for a Sept. 12 relaunch of the station with local personalities, sales and production staff, a group of supporters from Tampa's black community are developing an effort to either buy WTMP outright or lease another station which can play the same format.
That group, led by James Ransom from the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs, is trying again after an attempt by local investors to buy WTMP failed in 2008. One hope: to return The Tom Joyner Morning Show, a popular black-oriented syndicated morning show which has aired on WTMP for years, back to the market.
Davidson Media president Felix Perez said the company was planning to change WTMP's format quickly as possible, playing music which fits the station's new focus without any personalities until the Sept. 12 relaunch.
"We are extremely respectful of the heritage of the station...we know it creates a void in (Tampa) in that market," said Perez, acknowledging that his company might buy WTMP if the station is successful. "But there's a good number of Hispanic people moving to the area north of Tampa who will appreciate the FM signal. We've analyzed the market and we think there's a good business opportunity there."
Current WTMP staff aired an announcement about the changes at the station Thursday morning, sending ripples of concern through the city's black community. Rumors flew that the station was sold or that it might debut any range of formats.
But with its change to a Spanish-language format confirmed, WTMP may instead show how the area's fast-growing Hispanic community is taking greater prominence in local media, leaving institutions focused on serving black communities scrambling to keep up.
Ransom said he has five backers lined up pledging at least $25,000 toward buying WTMP or crafting a lease agreement with another station and he's recruiting more. "This is fluid...it's embryonic," said Ransom a TOBA board member. "In this group, there's three people who could (afford to) do the deal by themselves."