VDT radio stations

Paul Leavy/The Valdosta Daily Times WAAC 92.9 Morning Show host Ken Collins, left, talks with production and operations manager Robert Whitt at the station on Highway 84 West outside of Valdosta.

VALDOSTA — After a seven-year battle with the IRS, grandchildren of the late Gov. E.D. Rivers of Lakeland have regained full control over the operations of a local group of radio stations.

Rivers Radio Group owns FM station WAAC, AM station WGOV and (since June 2005) FM station WYZK, now known as WGOV FM. The former governor started with only AM WGOV in 1939 and established a method of operations that focused on catering to listeners and promoting seasoned employees from within.

His son, E.D. Rivers Jr., purchased the station in 1945 when all radio was still on the AM frequency. As soon as FM became available, he applied for a station and was granted it, named WAAC, in 1965. Rivers Jr. went on to build a chain of 11 stations in the Southeast. His children were an integral part of operations, and so he left the company to them in a trust with his wife as an income beneficiary.

He passed first. When she passed away in 1999, there were discrepancies about who actually would inherit his assets and clear title ownership of the company. The court took control over Rivers Radio Group, affecting the hiring/firing of employees. Several people with impressive resumes were brought in from other areas to manage WAAC and WGOV.

This past April, the battle was won by the children who have regained full control. Georgia Salva, Kells Rivers Faulkner, Rex B. Rivers, Lucy Rivers McCartney, Ed Rivers III and Robert Salva own Rivers Radio Group. Supervisory ownership will occur from Woodbury, Conn., through the Rivers in-house management Agency, GRAM Corporation (Global Radio and Asset Management) with the key operators being Georgia Salva, Rex Rivers and Kells Rivers Faulkner.

Following their family practice of promoting from within, three long-time employees who had been previously overlooked for integral management positions, as well as a fourth and relatively new employee, now have new titles and responsibilities.

Lamar Freeman, employee since 1977, is now operations director at WGOV; Shay Pierce, employee since February 1994, is sales and administrative manager for WAAC; Robert Whitt, employee since August of 1984, is now productions and operations manager for all three radio stations and Loretta Grecco, employee since May of 2005, is the joint station sales manager.

“It is important that listeners know that the people in charge are the people that have given them the great sound all these years and really were in control,” Georgia Salva said. “They are the ones that provided quality and sound; they deserved the credit and have now received the credit due with their new positions.”

Salva believes this will greatly benefit listeners because the people in control now are Valdosta natives who know about the area and what the people want. They will be able to make management decisions to better programming for listeners because they have a close understanding of the market.

Besides these new promotions, one other action has improved locally. In June 2005, WYZK, an FM classic radio station, was purchased and programming was changed to be a simulcast with the urban contemporary heard on AM station WGOV. It was previously broadcasting at only 6,000 watts.

With official control, The Rivers Group has changed the station to WGOV FM and it finally received approval to broadcast at full capacity, 50,000 watts. All of urban listeners can now hear their favorite programming with the full range the FM country station WAAC.

“These changes will help to re-establish the hallmark station in the market that should lead the pack,” Salva said.

She said that they will now manage the multi-generational company according to family precedence — serving the market and promoting from within those that deserve the credit. They plan to increase participation in the community.

“If you want the most out of a community, you must give the most to it,” she said. “We are in operation mode now and we are determining the best way to serve the community.”

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