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View from the East
Friday, August 6, 2004

By Al Myatt

Pirate Radio Network gets jolt of power

©2004 Bonesville.net

There's good news for frustrated East Carolina fans who have twisted their radio dials from one end to the other without picking up the Pirates.

Henry Hinton and Beasley Broadcasting are coming to the rescue like super heroes.

After lengthy negotiations involving ECU electronic media director Jeff Charles, interim ECU athletic director Nick Floyd, Beasley's North Carolina market manager Bruce Simel, Hinton and the attorneys who must carefully state what the high level parties have agreed to, the radio signal carrying Pirate sports network events emanating from Greenville is set to take a quantum leap.

Not only will 10,000-watt WNCT-1070 AM be joining the Pirate network, the station expects to boost its signal to 50,000 watts before the end of the 2004-05 scholastic year. When WNCT-1070 makes the transition to higher power, it's new transmitter will be High Definition. Technical factors aside, for Joe Pirate fan that means clearer reception — of the digital variety. Much clearer.

Simel, for one, is excited and listeners should be as well. This may open the door for ECU to incorporate some of Beasley's blowtorch eastern North Carolina FMs into the Pirate network. That's just speculation at this point but a 50,000-watt high definition signal is huge in its own right.

"We have a tremendous amount happening with Talk 1070 WNCT-AM right now," Simel said. "We are partners on this station with long time Greenville radio operator Henry Hinton. Henry has put on a fabulous lineup of some of the best in talk radio."

Hinton himself is enthusiastically enjoying the return of Arnie Spanier to Sporting News radio on 1070. Spanier, a veteran personality in national sports talk radio, became a cult figure to ECU fans when he predicted the Pirates' 31-6 upset at Miami (Fla.) in 1996.

"We brought Arnie to Greenville after that and the mayor gave him the key to the city," Hinton said. "We closed down O'Cool's with about 400 people who came out to see him there. Arnie came in and did spots promoting season ticket sales with Coach (Steve) Logan the following season."

Hinton, incidentally, hopes to have Logan involved in his Midweek Tailgate program again this year.

In addition to joining the Pirate Sports Network for the live play-by-play of ECU's games, the station will carry Pirate coach John Thompson's weekly call-in show and will broadcast his weekly press conference.

Leading up to Coach Thompson's call-in show, which will air at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays during the season, will be the Bonesville Power Hour, a new program that will feature staffers from Bonesville.net and a range of guests with ties to ECU's present and past.

Talk 1070's fall lineup also includes the long-running Brian Bailey Show, hosted by WNCT-TV sports director and Bonesville.net columnist Brian Bailey, a provocative new program called Sports Verdict and high school football coverage.

"When you combine this programming with our new affiliation with ECU athletics, you can see why we're excited." Simel said. "So excited, in fact, that we are investing more than half a million dollars in Talk 1070, WNCT-AM's technical facility.

"We currently broadcast with 10,000 watts of daytime power (5,000 watts at night). That makes Talk 1070 WNCT the most powerful AM station in Eastern NC. By next spring we'll be broadcasting with 50,000 watts of power in crystal clear high definition radio. Talk 1070 WNCT's signal will rival even the strongest FM stations."

Maryland-based iBiquity Digital, the company which developed digital radio technology for both AM's and FM's, has established alliances with a broad array of national broadcasting giants and touts the high definition AM signal as being equivalent to what listeners are accustomed to hearing from FM stations.

"We think HD Radio is going to mean the revitalization of the AM band," Bob Struble, President and Chief Executive Officer of iBiquity, told Popular Mechanics last spring.

iBiquity's roster of collaborators indicates the technology is not just a passing fancy. The company's partners include ABC, Beasley, Clear Channel, Cox Radio, Cumulus, Ford Motor Company, Radio One, Texas Instruments and Viacom, to name just a few.

WNCT-AM is owned by the Beasley Broadcast Group. The Beasley Broadcast Group owns and operates 42 radio stations across America, including Oldies 107.9 WNCT, Soft Rock V103.3 WMGV, 106.5 WSFL, New Rock 99X WXNR and 101.9 Kiss FM WIKS here in Eastern N.C.

Callaway ERC Drivers

Founded in 1961 by chairman and CEO George Beasley, the Beasley Group is a public company that trades under the name BBGI. Its president and chief operating officer is ECU alum Bruce Beasley.

Talk 1070 WNCT was started as a co-venture between Beasley Broadcasting and the Hinton Media Group.

For Hinton, it feels like old times to be back on the ECU network.

"Having ECU on our station is just a natural," Hinton said. "Our company kind of started local coverage of East Carolina sports in 1989 and did it for 14 years on 98.3 and 94.3."

Hinton sold his FMs and after a non-competitive agreement with those stations expired, Hinton rejuvenated 1070 with a new format for the station, but a familiar one to Pirate listeners in the Pitt County area.

"We're kind of bringing back all the things we were doing with the weeknight shows, extended pregame and extended postgame," Hinton said. "I'll be back on taking calls after the games."

Hinton, the chairman of the Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce, also writes a weekly column for Bonesville.net.

New look for Pirates

ECU football coach John Thompson confirmed that the Pirates, with cooperation from Russell Athletics, will slightly alter their purple home jerseys and white road jerseys for the 2004 season.

"It will be just a little pop with the jerseys," Thompson said at the Conference USA football media kickoff in Memphis this week. "There will be nothing to do with the helmets or the pants. We'll unveil it on media day (Aug. 14)."

The change will involve some striping on the shoulders, Thompson said.

"I'm a traditionalist and I respect the tradition of our uniforms and respect the tradition of our university," Thompson said. "I think traditionalists will be happy with the new uniforms and the new age folks will appreciate them, too."

No hotel

Thompson acknowledged that he will loosen the reins just a little in the upcoming preseason camp. Last year players turned in their car keys and were housed at the City Hotel in Greenville at the outset of preseason workouts. The team took its meals at the hotel and rode buses to practice on campus.

"The team bonding had an effect during the season," Thompson said. "We never did disintegrate into pointing fingers or going in different directions during a difficult season. We're not going to do the hotel this year and the biggest reason is that we're going to give the players a little more freedom.

"We maybe got a little stale at the hotel and some of the players have told me they needed a little more breathing room, that they needed to get away from the team for a little while and have some time to themselves. If I had my druthers I would have continued the hotel. You know where everybody is and you have more control.

"But when they leave camp at 10 o'clock (p.m.) we're going to let them have some breathing room. I like to go home and see my kids, even if I seem the sleeping. Mentally this game is taxing. If we're going to have them 16 hours, maybe we have to give them up for eight hours. We're going to wear them out enough, so they'll probably be sleeping."

The hotel approach could return.

"Next year we'll have something to compare it to," Thompson said. "Some guys have said they liked it. All they had to do was get up, walk down the hall and eat and get their training. I think it's going to be more inconvenient for them."

Players report on Monday and practices start Tuesday. Thompson and staff will get a head start on preseason mentality when they host a fantasy camp today.

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02/23/2007 12:46:13 AM
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