is a commercial AM radio station
licensed to Butler, Pennsylvania
. The station was the first to go on the air in Butler County, doing so on September 26
. The station was the very last to be granted a broadcast license before the FCC halted the licensing of any more stations until after World War II
. It has always broadcast on AM 680 with a maximum power output of 250 Watts, non-directional. The station had operated as a daytime-only station until it was granted limited nighttime power in the late 1980s.
First in Butler County: A Family Affair
WISR was the brainchild of local businessman David Rosenblum, who felt that the community could use a local radio station to promote its community and events. Naming the station after his father, Isaac Samuel Rosenblum, David Rosenblum managed the station and sold airtime, with his wife Georgia keeping the books. The couple continued to operate the radio station until their deaths in the early 1950s. It was at that time that the Rosenblums' son Joel, assumed the operations of WISR. Joel Rosenblum's brother Raymond later owned and managed a station of his own some 25 miles to the east, known as AM 1380 WACB (now WTYM
WISR, like most other small-town stations of its ilk, was a mixture of both programs and music. A popular program was a buy-sell-trade program called 'The Phone Party', hosted by advertising sales rep Guy Travaglio, who would leave the station in the 90's to pursue a career in politics. Midday on-air personality Pat Parker took over the show, which continues today.
Another popular program was 'The Larry Berg Show', hosted by another advertising sales rep, Larry Berg, who joined WISR after completing a 14-year tenure as owner of then-competitor present-affiliate stations WBUT and WLER-FM. Berg's show continued until his retirement on February 1, 2001. The show was renamed "It's Your Turn" and today is hosted by morning show host Dave Malarkey.
Most low-powered daytime-only radio stations were granted permission by the FCC to begin limited nighttime power operations in 1988. WISR was one of these stations, and prior to the nighttime authorization, had never used satellite technology on the air, relying on world and national news via UPI wire service. After nighttime power was granted, WISR signed an affiliation agreement with CBS news, introducing satellite technology to its listeners.
1997: Duopoly Sale
Joel Rosenblum continued to operate WISR out of its original studio on North Main Street in downtown Butler until 1997, when he agreed to sell the station to Brandon Communications Systems, Incorporated. That company, headed by Robert C. Brandon and his brother Ronald, was the licensee of WISR's crosstown competitor, WBUT
, which first signed on the air in 1949.
Prior to the sale, WISR had programmed a format of both talk and adult contemporary music. In an effort to make the three stations compete less with each other, Brandon Communications switched the format from adult contemporary to its present one of MOR and easy listening music.
The station, which had progressed very little in terms of technology up to this point, invested in computerized hard-disk audio, provided by DCS.
Coincidentally, WLER-FM evolved out of the former FM license that had been issued to WISR. The station had been originally known as WISR-FM until the Rosenblum ownership returned the license to the FCC, failing to make a go with it in these early years of FM. The license was recovered by WBUT's ownership years later.
Another co-incidence: Larry Berg, who had been the owner of competitor WBUT AM/FM from 1964 until 1978, would not disappear from the broadcast industry entirely. He resurfaced at WISR a few years later, where he hosted his own afternoon talk show and sold airtime.
Brandon Ownership Era Ends
Brandon Communications Systems then changed its name to the Butler County Radio Network soon after the acquisition of WISR. A few years later, the Brandon brothers, one by one, sold their interests in the station to the present ownership made up of four local entrepreneurs, but the Butler County Radio Network has remained the name of the licensee. In 2003, WISR moved from its longtime location at 357 North Main Street to its present location on Hollywood Drive in Pullman Commerce Center, located on the south edge of Butler just off Route 8 south. It shares space with WBUT and WLER.
WISR, along with WBUT and WLER, has been locally-owned from the very beginning. Its current format is a mixture of news, talk, sports, and nostalgia music, and continues its affiliation with the CBS radio network, which it has maintained since being granted nighttime power. It is also Butler County's exclusive radio home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers, and is the exclusive radio voice of Slippery Rock University
football and basketball. Longtime personalities Dave Malarkey and Pat Parker have each been with WISR for many years, with Malarkey first joining the station in 1973, and Parker in 1988.