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Beasley to sell WJBR to Christian radio network

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WILMINGTON – WJBR, the adult contemporary radio station that has been one of the longest mainstay presences on the Delaware airwaves, will soon have a new ownership.

WJBR Mix 99.5 FM Wilmington Delaware Beasley Media GroupBeasley Media Group, the Florida-based publicly traded radio company that has owned WJBR since 2007, announced a deal Tuesday to sell the station also known as Mix 99.5 FM to VCY America for $5 million.

The Milwaukee-based VCY America is a nonprofit evangelical Christian ministry radio network that hosts faith-based talk programs and traditional Christian music through its broadcast outlets. It has 35 stations across the country and has purchased and converted other radio stations in recent years to expand its broadcasts, including a New York City-area station that it acquired last year for $7.25 million.

In acquiring the Wilmington license, VCY America picks up a 50,000-watt Class B signal that covers the Wilmington area and portions of Philadelphia, southwest New Jersey, and northwest Maryland.

The deal, which would mark a significant depreciation from the $42 million that Beasley spent to acquire WJBR less than two decades ago, still needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Beasley said it expects to close the sale before the end of the year.

“We are very pleased with the transaction as it is both accretive and deleveraging for the company in as much as we are able to retain the cash flow from the station within the company and will have an opportunity to reduce debt from the proceeds of the transaction,” Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley said in a statement.

If approved, VCY America is essentially buying the station’s license to transmit its programs and does not plan to continue hosting WJBR’s local staff. The station’s top personalities include Deanna Marie and Justin Franiak of the “Deanna & Justin In The Morning” drive-time show, who were named this year’s Best Radio Personality by Delaware Today readers. Other personalities include midday host Mike Rossi, who came to WJBR in 2021 after being laid off at rival WSTW, and program director and afternoon host Eric Johnson, while the syndicated radio host Delilah has long been a presence on WJBR at night.

“VCY America is thrilled to enter the Wilmington-Philadelphia area with non-commercial ‘Christian Information Radio.’ Our broadcasting format is dedicated to evangelism and edification by providing in-depth Bible teaching, traditional sacred music, Christian drama and news and information critical to our listeners,” Jim Schneider, executive director of VCY America, told Delaware Business Times.

Beasley owns six other radio stations in the Philadelphia market, including some of its strongest performers like WMMR, WMGK, BEN FM, WXTU, and The Fanatic, but the Wilmington radio station was its only presence in Delaware.

The sale price of about 12% of what it paid for the station only emphasizes the difficult advertising market that radio now exists in along with other traditional media against the growing web advance. Notably, WJBR does not have as robust a web presence as other competing radio stations, like WSTW, WDEL and Delaware Public Media.

Under the terms of the deal, Beasley will retain all cash flow from its digital accounts that are sold locally, and all cash flow generated at the station by leveraging the company’s Philadelphia sales operations. 

The potential demise of WJBR would come as a shock to many Delawareans though, as it was the second most listened to station based in the state behind only Forever Media-owned WSTW, according to Spring 2023 Nielsen scores for the Wilmington market. WJBR was also a frequent sponsor of community and charitable events, including the annual New Castle County Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park and the Turkeython.

Founded in 1956 by father-and-son John B. Reynolds Sr. and Jr., the station’s WJBR call sign is a nod to their initials. First located off Ebright Road in Wilmington’s Brandywine Hundred suburbs, it was an early adopter of the FM signal at a time when many cars still couldn’t pick it up.

It was the first station in the country to broadcast 24 hours in stereo under an experimental license assignment from the FCC in 1957 and was first to broadcast an all CD format in the late 1980s.

What began as a classical and light music format moved to adult contemporary in the mid-1980s and changed its moniker from “Just Beautiful Music” to the now familiar “Mix 99.5.” It still has an office off Philadelphia Pike in Wilmington’s Bellefonte community.

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