Sweeping changes are coming to the Montgomery market as three stations are set to merge into one operation.
On Thursday, Bahakel Communications, the owner of CBS-affiliate WAKA, announced that it had signed an agreement to purchase CW-affiliate WBMM (which is licensed to Tuskegee) from SagamoreHill Broadcasting, which also owns Montgomery ABC-affiliate WNCF.
In addition to purchasing WNCF’s sister station from SagamoreHill, Bahakel has entered into a time sales and share services agreement with the company, meaning that Bahakel will now oversee sales and production for all three stations.
Bahakel also announced that Jesse Grear, who has led WNCF and WBMM since 2005, would become vice president and general manager of all three stations.
“We are delighted to have someone of Jesse’s successful broadcast experience who has such a broad knowledge of the Montgomery market as well as the greater region to assume the operational responsibility for us,” Bahakel president and CEO Beverly Bahakel Poston said in a statement.
At WAKA, Grear succeeds Jim Caruthers, who announced last week that he is retiring.
Bahakel says that the services agreement will begin immediately, although the production of local newscasts will likely take several months to transition into a consolidated arrangement. The company plans to move all three stations into an expanded, fully HD facility next year at the current home of WBMM and WNCF.
Louis Wall, president and CEO of SagamoreHill, said that both the sale of WBMM and the shared services agreement “are in the best interests of Montgomery viewers and the other communities in the region. Bahakel is a quality broadcaster and has served the market extremely well for nearly 30 years. We look forward to working with Bahakel and developing outstanding local news and information programming in the coming months and years.”
Not surprisingly, TVSpy has received a handful of emails from WNCF and WAKA staffers concerned about what the merger will mean for the production of local news, as well as their jobs. Bahakel has yet to offer any additional details about the consolidated operation.