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CALL IT A COMEBACK: Kevin Howard and Liz Delany returned to the airwaves this month on 98.7 The Dove through Zimmer Midwest Communication's pending purchase of Meyer Communications.
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
CALL IT A COMEBACK: Kevin Howard and Liz Delany returned to the airwaves this month on 98.7 The Dove through Zimmer Midwest Communication's pending purchase of Meyer Communications.

Zimmer deal ends Meyer era, returns familiar DJs

Posted online

Columbia-based Zimmer Midwest Communications Inc. is making some changes to Springfield’s airwaves.

The family-owned company has nearly finalized the acquisition of Springfield-based Meyer Communications Inc. Co-owner John Zimmer said the parties are just awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval.

Since entering into a management agreement in early July, Zimmer Midwest Communications has brought “Kevin and Liz in the Morning” back to the airwaves in an Aug. 17 launch of 98.7 The Dove, a new soft rock station. The Dove takes the spot of sports talk radio channel The Jock, which is moving to 96.9 FM and 1060 AM, according to a news release. Zimmer also is taking over 101.4 The Outlaw and news-talk radio station KWTO-AM.

Zimmer Midwest Communications is joining iHeart Media, Mid-West Family Broadcasting and Summit Media LLC in the local radio scene.

“We’re so excited to be in the Springfield market. It’s a dream we’ve been working on for 15 years with the Meyer family,” said Zimmer. “To be a part of that history and legacy in Springfield – it’s exciting for us.”

Ken Meyer, who’s now in his 90s, has been a Springfield broadcasting icon since founding Meyer Communications in 1964. Meyer, who was elected into the Missouri Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015, declined an interview for this story.

Kevin and Liz
Zimmer said bringing Kevin Howard and Liz Delany back to Springfield radio was an easy decision.

The disc jockeys had worked on air for over two decades but were laid off Jan. 15 from 105.9 KGBX-FM, along with DJ George Spankmeister of KXUS-FM, in a national restructuring post-bankruptcy by station owner iHeartMedia Inc. (Nasdaq: IHRT).

“With their longevity in the market and their brand, it was too good of an opportunity. They were wanting to get back on air, and we were looking for a well-established brand to launch our new product,” Zimmer said.

Howard said he and co-host Delany wanted to stay in the Ozarks but knew radio jobs were hard to find when they were approached by Zimmer.

“We’re so happy they came here and found us,” said Howard. “They’re all about local, and these days, so many companies are going syndicated. We’re all about the Ozarks, and I think that’s something people want right now.

“They’re going to kick some butt here in town.”

The duo launched 98.7 The Dove earlier this month.

“The phones were ringing off the hook, and we ended up having an issue with the phone lines, so we couldn’t take all of the calls,” Howard said, with a laugh. “It feels good. I think we’re back in the swing of things. It feels like we’re home.”

Local focus
Zimmer said he’s still identifying his strategic plan for the Springfield stations, but he said his goal is to use the local airwaves to positively impact local businesses.

“Preserving localism is going to be one of our key strategies, not only for media, but also to promote local business,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully, we can help local businesses do a better job in investing their advertising dollars and allow them to be more competitive and bring their brands to consumers.”

Zimmer and his brother, Don, co-own Zimmer Midwest Communications. Their father, Jerome Zimmer, started his first radio station in Cape Girardeau in 1956, and 10 years later, started one of the first country music stations, KZYM, in southeastern Missouri, according to a news release.

By the 1990s, the Zimmers’ Cape Girardeau-based company operated 40 radio stations in Missouri and Illinois. The brothers reorganized the company in 2004, shedding its Illinois stations and several Missouri stations, and Zimmer Midwest Communications now owns 14 radio stations in Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton and Lake of the Ozarks.

The deal with Meyer Communications is its first acquisition of a broadcast company since the 2004 reorganization, and no additional deals were in the works by press time.

“We’re always looking for other opportunities,” John Zimmer said.

Zimmer Midwest Communications inherited 10 longtime employees with the acquisition who fulfill administrative, sales and content programming roles. One longtime employee of Meyer Communications is Bonnie Bell, who currently serves as vice president of sales and development, according to her LinkedIn profile. Bell joined the radio company in 1996 and has worked both behind the microphone and in sales, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. Bell is still working for the company today, though she declined to provide further comment.

Zimmer said he’s already doubled the staff in the last month, adding to the content programming and marketing teams.

“We’re a small market through and through. We think big and want a challenge, but we understand in any good media organization, it takes good people,” said Zimmer. “We hope to continue to grow that.”

Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.

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