Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The man behind ‘The Blaze’ gets in ‘The Groove’ with new jazz station

Twenty-three years after he put “The Blaze” on the air, Chris Devine is back in business on Chicago radio.

With the flip of a switch at 9 p.m. Friday, Devine launched a contemporary jazz outlet on 103.9 FM, a broadcast translator licensed to Windy City Broadcasting. The signal also is carried on Hubbard Radio’s WTMX 101.9 HD2, the secondary digital audio channel linked to the modern adult-contemporary station.

“It’s been fun having an association with a Chicago station again,” Devine said in an interview Sunday. “It’s the first new frequency that’s emerged in the market in a long time.”

Describing his role with Windy City Broadcasting as advisory, Devine has assembled a team that includes veteran Chicago radio programmers Dave Logan and Rick O’Dell and sales executive Robert McAuliff. To accommodate the move, the company has leased the HD2 channel from Hubbard Radio that previously carried O’Dell’s O’Dell serves as operations manager for the new station.

For the first three weeks on the air, Devine said, the station will be airing “jazzy Christmas” music 20 hours a day. In addition, it will feature spoken-word programming promoting the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital from 6 to 8 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. daily.

That’s all leading up to the station’s official debut December 26. “We’re going to launch more of an urbanized-type contemporary jazz,” said Devine, who identified the target audience as adults between 25 and 64. “It won’t be quite as sleepy or soft as [O’Dell’s smooth jazz] format has been. We’re going to call it ‘The Groove.’ ”

Initially broadcasting from atop the John Hancock Center at 15 watts, the station is expected to increase its power to 99 watts, according to a petition Devine plans to file next week with the Federal Communications Commission. The boost should expand the station’s coverage throughout the metropolitan area within 90 days.

Led by John Bridge, a real estate investor from west suburban Sugar Grove, Windy City Broadcasting acquired the construction permit for the translator at 103.9 W280EM for $1 million last July.

Devine, a New Jersey native who grew up in Chicago, first came to prominence here in 1991 when his Major Broadcasting Corp. acquired the former WFYR FM 103.5 for $19 million and transformed it into WWBZ, a hard rock outlet known as “The Blaze.” Two years later he sold the station for $32 million to Evergreen Media Corp., which rechristened it WRCX.

He later ran Marathon Media for aging multimillionaire C. Robert Allen, investing in a variety of broadcast entities, special events and other interests. But the company dissolved after Allen’s heirs sued Devine for racketeering, fraud and embezzlement. “It’s all been settled and put to bed,” Devine said, dismissing reports of criminal charges against him as “uninformed.”

Devine most recently has headed GeoBroadcast Solutions, a company he founded in 2009 to market technologies that help radio broadcasters target commercials to specific segments within their signal areas.


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