Photo via Towson University

WYPR’s plan to purchase WTMD from Towson University for $3 million needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission, and the two radio stations are working out operational details. But WTMD general manager Scott Mullins said the deal will benefit both stations.

“We are excited to partner with WYPR,” Mullins said. “They’re Baltimore’s flagship NPR news station. We’re a nationally recognized leader in the AAA [Album Adult Alternative] music format in public radio. I think we’re going to strengthen each other.”

WYPR president and general manager LaFontaine E. Oliver praised WTMD’s work and said WYPR will build upon that success.

“WYPR is proud to preserve another university radio station, to serve the Baltimore community, on the heels of our 20th anniversary year,” Oliver said in a statement. “We plan to build on the investments made by Towson University and the success of WTMD, which provides a rich and unmatched music discovery platform with opportunities for Baltimore’s musicians and artists at its core. What Scott and his team have been able to accomplish over the years has been tremendous.”

Still, questions remain about jobs, shared workspaces and other operational details that could affect employees of both outlets.

In an interview with Oliver, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik wrote that WYPR will gain access to WTMD’s audience, which skews younger.

Mullins said the benefit will go both ways.

“I think anytime you combine two stations, the brand awareness on either side benefits with each station’s respective audience,” Mullins said.

Under WYPR’s ownership of WTMD, listeners can expect to hear the same programming that they currently enjoy, Mullins said.

“[WYPR leaders] like what we do,” he said. “We’re a unique format, totally different from what they do. They’re not looking to change us.”

As of right now, there are “no plans” to feature WTMD-curated music on WYPR, or WYPR-produced news on WTMD, Mullins said. But he added such crossovers could be a possibility “down the road.”

Although WTMD currently runs National Public Radio news headlines at the top of the hour and select times during the day, Mullins said the station plans to remain focused on the music.

“We’re not going to become a news station, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re going to continue to be the indie, alternative, AAA music outlet in Baltimore.”

There are other decisions that are still up in the air, like whether WTMD’s call letters are changed.

Oliver told the Sun that WYPR does not know yet whether it will change WTMD’s call letters to align better with a “Your Public Radio” branding or keep the “brand equity” of WTMD.

As for where WTMD will be based — either remaining at their current home in Towson or joining WYPR in central Baltimore — Mullins said that’s another ongoing topic of discussion. The same goes for any potential consolidation of staff, equipment and other resources.

On an FAQ page about WYPR’s planned acquisition of WTMD, the news station said “WYPR hopes to retain as many WTMD employees as possible.”

WYPR officials also said they expect the acquisition will be completed by the end of August.

Towson University officials said they received “a great deal of interest” from people looking to purchase WTMD, but the university ultimately chose to work with WYPR because it is “a local community licensee with a proven track record and commitment to growing the beloved format of the station.”

“We’re grateful to have found a partner in WYPR to continue the community-first, public radio station in its existing format that listeners have come to appreciate from WTMD,” Ben Lowenthal, CFO and Vice President for Administration and Finance at Towson University, said in a statement. “Maintaining WTMD’s format was of the utmost importance for TU as we sought a new home for this award-winning station.”

The radio station started at then-Towson State University in 1972 as WCVT, and adopted its current call letters, WTMD, in 1991.

In 2002, WTMD changed to its current Album Adult Alternative (AAA) format for the music station.

Towson University Public Media, Inc., a nonprofit organization affiliated with Towson University, has operated WTMD since 2014.

WYPR’s plan to acquire WTMD presents a lot of opportunities, Mullins said.

“We are excited about moving forward with WYPR,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of possibilities here…. I think each station will benefit from the expertise of the other.”

In addition to their on-air offerings, WTMD has also become nationally recognized for their First Thursday Festivals.

“We certainly look forward to continuing to bring live music events to the Baltimore area with WYPR as our new partner,” Mullins said in a statement.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

One reply on “WTMD general manager: planned acquisition of Towson music station by WYPR will be mutually beneficial”

  1. WTMD must be bringing in a good amount of donor money, otherwise WYPR wouldn’t be interested. NPR and it’s many affiliates have a long history of eliminating donor competition by taking over the competition. People will lose their jobs and NPR will have a more significant presence on WTMD. I’d also expect to hear more NPR syndicated music shows on there. Changing the call letters to something like “WYMD” or something like that would be the final nail in this stations coffin…

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