Tampa talk-radio powerhouse WFLA-AM (970) has begun transmitting on the FM dial, simulcasting on the 105.9 frequency immediately.
But the simulcast, passed along on a 250-watt "translator" transmitter, will only reach a limited audience, centered on Tampa and Hillsborough County.
WFLA's website Thursday featured a map of the area the transmitter would reach, including Tampa, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Riverview, Apollo Beach and parts of Town 'N Country.
Owner Clear Channel Radio also has applied for FCC approval to switch on a similar translator in Pinellas County, but officials said that may not debut for 90 days or more.
"AM is not being discovered by the younger generation," said Doug Hamand, operations manager for Clear Channel in Tampa. "This puts a great station on the FM dial."
About 75 percent of radio listeners nationwide never tune to the AM dial, according to data service Arbitron. Still, WFLA's programming lineup on FM will feature the same shows as its AM counterpart; older-skewing conservative talk stars such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and locally based Todd "MJ" Schnitt.
Clear Channel's moves further a shakeup in local radio in which every major station group seems ready to dabble in FM talk.
Rumors persist that CBS Radio will soon turn its Contemporary Hits Radio station Play 98.7 (WSJT-FM) into a sports radio outlet, fueled by a story on the radioinsight.com trade journal noting web addresses 987TheFan.com, Fan987.com, Fan1010.com and 1010TheFan.com were all transferred in mid-May to CBS Radio servers (CBS owns WQYK-AM, known as 1010 Sports).
CBS Radio officials would not confirm or deny the rumors. But the move would follow a trend started by Cox Radio in mid-April when it converted WHPT-FM (The Bone 102.5) into a male-centered, all-talk station.
Hamand denied the translators were an effort to match rivals Cox and CBS, saying the transmitters had been in the works for two years or so. The broadcast won't affect Sarasota-based, Clear Channel-owned rock station WTZB-FM (105.9).
And why doesn't Clear Channel just flip one of its five existing FM stations to talk?
"All my FMs are making money," Hamand said of a stable that includes WFLZ-FM (93.3), WXTB-FM (98 Rock) and WBTP-FM (95.7 the Beat), WMTX-FM (Mix 100.7) and WFUS-FM (US 103). "I don't have one I can flip."