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WPLP - A History

WPLP-AM 570 Pinellas Park – Tampa Bay’s first 24-hour news/talk station was WPLP. The talker, which was branded “News/Talk 57 WPLP: The Talk of Tampa Bay,” began broadcasting in November 1978 from the former WFSO studios in Seminole.

WPLP (PineLlas Park or, as some say, People Listening to People) was initially acquired from WFSO owners Elwynn and Dan Johnson by three investors, Paul Bilzerian, Bill Bungeroth, and Dallas radio personality Michael Spears. The station eventually went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the Johnsons had to take it back. By 1984, the stand-alone AM had been acquired by Gannett Broadcasting which was based in Portland, Maine.

During its ten-year presence in the market, WPLP, a CBS affiliate, was up against some stiff competition from 1380 WNSI and 970 WFLA. In the mid 1980’s the station became genuinely competitive with the arrival of talk show hosts David Fowler and Bob Lassiter. Fowler won his morning time slot in many books against rival Dick Norman at WFLA, but Lassiter took his night slot in each and every rating period before leaving for WFLA in September 1987.

Although WPLP had some topnotch talkers (including the Mutual network’s syndicated late-night “Larry King Show”), some insiders say the station had a difficult time selling ad time due in part to the controversial and caustic Lassiter. They say the station’s list of clients was short because listeners opposed to the controversial and caustic nighttime host often threatened to boycott advertisers.

On March 4, 1988, Susquehanna Radio took over WPLP and immediately applied for new call letters, WTKN (We’re TalKiN’). Most staffers, including Fowler, were canned. However, John Eastman managed to hold on to his job. Today (2008) AM-570 is Salem Broadcasting’s WTBN which programs a Christian talk format.

Other names from WPLP’s ten-year history include Bob Dearborn, Nanci Donnellan, Valerie Geller, Rick Samples, Tedd Webb, Chuck Harder, Michael Serio, Tracy Fox, Tony Venuto (production director), Art Dineen (PD), Richard Shanks, Steve Triggs (board op 1979-80),Terry McElhatton (anchor/reporter-1979), John McConnell (anchor/reporter-1979), Roger Christy (news director-1979), Dave Scott (talk show host-1979), Drew Hayes (afternoons-early 80's), Don Richards (news director 1980-1988), Gordon Byrd, Ken Charles, Harry D. CupScot Paul (production director), Paul Porter (sports director), Mark Brewer (GM), Rick Marron, Mike Hennessey (reporter), Tim Coles, Sam McClelland, Gordon Obarski (station manager), David Gold, Mark McKibben and George Joachim (GM).

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Station History

1978 - 1988 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (History)

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