Sitting President gets his own country station in southwest Florida
Over two weeks ago, Chicago lost a country radio station with the end of Big 95.5 (the former WEBG-FM, now rock outlet WCHI-FM) but a market in Florida gained one with a controversial concept whose future may depend on the election November 3.
Last Wednesday, Sanibel, Fla.’s WXNX-FM – which serves the Fort Myers-Naples media market, abruptly dropped Active Rock at noon and flipped to Contemporary Country with the branding as “Trump Country 93.7” with the slogan “Make Country Great Again”.
That’s right, you heard me.
While unusual branding isn’t new (a few years ago, a Champaign radio station located near the University of Illinois was branded “92.5 The Chief” in reference to the Fighting Illini’s former controversial mascot; a Birmingham station had Y’all FM; and Denver station had Smokin’ 94.1, centered around the marijuana lifestyle), what makes this different is for the first time, a local music station has branded itself after a sitting President.
The liners and station sweepers feature an impersonation of President Donald Trump, but comes nowhere close to how he actually sounds. Ironically, one of the liners stated “Look, my whole life is about winning. Now I’m winning in radio” (back in 2011, the call letters of the short-lived News FM 101 were WWWN-FM which this blog proclaimed “winning radio“, at a time Charlie Sheen often used the phrase “winning”.)
The move raises numerous questions, including if a radio station can basically endorse a candidate for re-election and many say it’s totally unprecedented. The station went commercial-free until Monday, and there’s been no further comment from station owner Sun Broadcasting or its management.
Some experts are wondering if the controversial branding runs afoul of the FCC’s equal-time rule or campaign laws. According to the Florida political blog FloPol, the use of an impersonator can be labeled as a parody, protected under the First Amendment. But the parody could run afoul of the Trump campaign, who could issue a cease-and-desist. Another problem is President Trump is such a polarizing figure, it’ll chase away listeners who don’t like him and has the potential to turnoff advertisers. Moreover, if he loses in November, the branding would be absolutely useless. Either way, many radio observers believe this is just a short-term stunt as the Birmingham and Denver re-branding were clearly gimmicks and didn’t last long.
Trump Country 93.7 is in an area where Southwest Florida is indeed Trump Country, with Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties delivering a significant victory for Trump over Hilary Clinton in 2016. Moreover, Fort Myers-Naples is one of the oldest-skewing media markets in the country, with 42 percent of the population 55-plus with the market’s top-rated television being CBS affiliate WINK, whose older-skewing network programming fits well in the market (to be sure, other radio formats are served here, including young-skewing Hip-Hop and Mexican Regional.) The market is overwhelmingly white at 86 percent with 8 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic.
But the country format has struggled in numerous markets and Fort Myers is already served by two other stations: Renda’s WWGR-FM (101.9 Gator Country) and iHeartMedia’s WCKT-FM (Cat Country 107.1). WXNX recently ranked sixteenth with active rock, known as 93X since 2013. Beforehand, it was an Adult Contemporary station, similar to Chicago’s WLIT.
This branding is a very risky endeavor for Sun Broadcasting as other radio companies wouldn’t dare touch this idea. Whether this would improve numbers or advertising remains to be seen. Given the complaints I’ve seen about country music these days, Trump Country 93.7 would have a hard time “Making Country Great Again”.
Here’s what was played on Trump Country 93.7 between 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. ET Monday. Of course, there are a lot of songs about bars, dirt roads, and beer.
Sam Hunt – Kinfolks
Jon Pardi – Dirt On My Boots
Sam Hunt – Hard To Forget
Luke Combs – Beautiful Crazy
Kane Brown – Heaven (not Bryan Adams song)
Travis Denning – After a Few (beers…I suppose)
Keith Urban – Somebody Like You
Gabby Barrett – I Hope
Dustin Lynch – Ridin’ Roads
Chase Rice – Eyes On You
Kip Moore – Something Bout A Track
Old Dominion – One Man Band
Blake Shelton – Boys Round Here
Chris Janson – Good Vibes