THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, October 30, 1994 TAG: 9410280262 SECTION: VIRGINIA BEACH BEACON PAGE: 04 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY BILL REED, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 77 lines
Station WVAB has had more lives than Dracula.
It was revived in 1991, after a 4 1/2-year hiatus in bankruptcy proceedings, with fresh blood in the form of Ronn Cowan, a 30-year-old First Colonial High School graduate with a background in real estate marketing and a lot of energy.
The AM station, the only one now operating in Virginia Beach, has been back on the air for a little more than a year and Cowan and his two associates have restructured the format to appeal to listeners who want news instead of talk-show blather.
So, WVAB - 1550 on the AM dial - is now beaming 24-hour feeds from CNN, a worldwide all-news television network based in Atlanta, to Virginia Beach dial twiddlers.
Included are regular hourly feeds from the news desk at WTKR-TV, a Norfolk-based CBS affiliate.
Cowan, and Luis Rivera, station public relations director, and Eddie Latour, director of promotions, arrived at the new direction through local telephone polling.
``We found a lot of people were getting tired of these radio talk-show stations,'' said Cowan. ``They wanted to know what was going on in the world without the editorial comment.''
WVAB can still be found on the AM radio dial, but you won't find the studio or offices over the Jewish Mother Restaurant on Pacific Avenue, its headquarters for the first 34 years of its existence.
The station now is ensconced in polished, carpeted and airy new digs in Reflections III, an upscale office building just off Lynnhaven Parkway on South Lynnhaven Road. Cowan and his small staff share space with Prudential Securities, a firm that Cowan says is ``our biggest sponsor and biggest supporter.''
Cowan bought the station license for $150,000 from the Federal Communications Commission, where it had lain dormant for more than four years. Previous owner, Ellek Seymour of Richmond, had been forced during bankruptcy proceedings to divest himself of the station, one of the 24 he had owned throughout Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Seymour bought WVAB in 1986 from Ed Frech, president of Atlantic Broadcasting, after the station had been off the air for 17 months.
Its previous owner was Sea Broadcasting, headed by the late Sidney Kellam, a political power in the formative years of Virginia Beach. In its past lives, WVAB had been a pop and rock music station, relying on a series of itinerant disc jockeys to purvey their various musical tastes to a limited local audience until advertising revenues trickled to a halt.
The big difference in WVAB now, said Luis Rivera, 45, a former ABC television newsman, is that its operation is entirely computerized.
``It's a digital system and it runs itself,'' he said. ``It's revolutionized the business.''
Rivera said news feeds from CNN and WTKR-TV are piped directly into the computer which, after a few buttons are pressed, airs the programs at the desired times, round the clock. No cassettes. No 8-track tapes to shove into players.
A part-time staff of technicians is on call to make any electronic adjustments or to fix things if the system crashes, he said.
``We're over most of the obstacles,'' said Cowan. ``Now our goal is to become THE news radio station in this market.''
``We have a lot of faith and a lot of energy,'' said Latour, 31, an Old Dominion University graduate with a background in consulting in the insurance industry. ``Virginia Beach has one AM station, and we're it.'' ILLUSTRATION: Staff photo by DAVID B. HOLLINGSWORTH
``We found a lot of people were getting tired of these radio
talk-show stations,'' said Ronn Cowan, owner and general manager of
WVAB. ``They wanted to know what was going on in the world without
the editorial comment.''