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Joel Wertman

Luken Communications, LLC has tapped a veteran recording executive and television producer to lead the Chattanooga-based provider of television programming to TV stations across the country.

Joel Wertman, a 40-year veteran of the television and music industries, is spearheading all of Luken's TV networks as company president, including Luken's Retro TV, Heartland, Rev'n, The Family Channel, The Action Channel and Frost Great Outdoors that are broadcast on hundreds of stations around the country.

"We singled out Joel Wertman as the ideal candidate to lead our television networks many months ago," Henry Luken, the founder and majority owner of Luken Communications, said in a statement Thursday announcing the appointment. "His successful background in both music label management and television production make him the obvious choice to lead us down a prosperous path as we grow our company's footprint in the digital television landscape."

Wertman, 62, said Thursday he has known and been friends with Luken for some time and he is eager to take on the challenge of moving content on to digital platforms and adapting to the ever-changing and increasingly "narrow-casting" and broadcasting. Wertman succeeds David Leach, who left the company last year, as president of Luken Communications.

"I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't think that Luken doesn't have huge growth potential," Wertman said. "Television is a really fragmented market now and I think you just have to focus and find your audience, develop it and build your loyalty. There's a lot of room for growth."

From its downtown Chattanooga headquarters on East Eighth Street, Luken's 30-employee staff is able to operate seven television networks to deliver targeted programs to low-power and digital stations that are capable of reaching more than 100 million households. Wertman said he thinks he can add to what Luken has built to help boost revenues and ensure the profitability of the business.

Digital Networks, a sister company to Luken Communications, purchased 78 analog stations and is the process of converting the stations to digital stations. Stations in Chattanooga, Asheville, N.C, Wichita, Kans., and Rapid City, S.D, already have been converted to digital stations, Luken Communications Vice President Emily Bronze said.

"This is an exciting time in the digital television industry and I believe Luken is on the cusp of substantial growth," Wertman said.

Wertman's career started in 1977 when he wrote and produced a song that became a top five record in Canada and Europe. Wertman moved to Los Angeles where he joined Mushroom Records as a staff producer and writer and recorded and remixed for artists including Heart, Doucette and Ian Matthews. Wertman later became a television writer for "Hart to Hart" and "Taxi" and a songwriter/producer for "Happy Days" and "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Later in his career, Wertman served as president of Eureka/EMI, Eureka/BMG, Eureka Records and Sire/Discovery Records. During his tenure, Wertman was instrumental in the careers of many artists including The Goo Goo Dolls, Heart, KISS, No Doubt, Bush, Young MC and Tiffany among others.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree or at 423-757-6340.