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Photo by Dave Flessner / Brewer Media operates its studios on Chestnut Street in downtown Chattanooga where ESPN 105.1 The Zone originates. Brewer is selling the frequency to the American Family Association which will air its conservative religious programming on its American Family Network.

The conservative religious American Family Radio network plans to enter the Chattanooga radio market by buying the radio frequency of 105.1 FM for $610,000, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Brewer Media, which has owned WALV-FM licensed to Lakesite, Tennessee, since 1998, is selling the station and plans to shift its ESPN sports format to another one of its four radio station frequencies.

Kira Brewer Headlee, vice president and general manager for Brewer Media, said the sale "will allow us to better concentrate our efforts and resources" on Brewer's remaining stations, which include Power 94 (WJTT-FM), "Groove 93" 93.5 (WMPZ), Classic Hits "Big 95.3" (WPLZ) and "Easy 106.9"(WPLZ-HD2). The Brewer family also owns stations in Richmond, Indiana.

Although its frequency will change, Headlee said Brewer Media will keep ESPN radio which she said serves a unique and valuable market in Chattanooga although its overall audience is not as big as either Power 94 or Groove 93.

WALV-FM is known as "ESPN 105.1 The Zone."

"We want to continue to be the source in Chattanooga for all sports on all expertise levels," Headlee said of Brewer's decision to keep ESPN radio.

"Obviously with the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been a challenging time for all of so when we were approached by the American Family Association about selling this station we were intrigued and became interested as a way to focus our resources and attention on four, rather than five stations," Headlee said. "We have about 34 full- and part-time employees and if you have to divide that among five radio stations, it spreads everyone a little thin. We want to improve the quality of our programs and enhance our products."

For its part, the American Family Radio is interested in expanding its footprint into Southeast Tennessee. The Tupelo Mississippi-based American Family Association operates the non-commercial "American Family Radio" network with more than 180 radio stations across the country, including 11 other stations in Tennessee.

"We are excited to bring American Family Radio to the greater Chattanooga area," Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, said in a statement about the pending purchase of WALV-FM. "We have a unique brand of Christian talk radio covering politics, government, popular culture and other areas of life from a biblical worldview perspective. We know there are other fine Christian stations in the area and look forward to adding our voice to the mix."

Among the 70 FM radio stations and 53 AM radio stations in the Chattanooga area, 22 currently offer some type of religious, gospel or Christian music formats, according to RadioFormat.com.

Dr. Don Wildmon founded the American Family Association in 1977 "to promote the biblical ethic of decency in American society." In its 2019 IRS tax filing, the nonprofit ministry reported annual revenues of nearly $21.5 million.

The radio station sale must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

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

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