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Heartbeat goes country 

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One of our favorite radio stations died last week, and we didn't even notice. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, Heartbeat 106.7 FM, The Beat of the City, switched over to a New Country format, and was rebranded as 106.7 FM, The Ride. Anyone expecting The Isley Brothers or Bill Withers or Michael Jackson or The SOS Band will have to settle for Luke Bryan. And the format shift occurred so suddenly — with only a brief, vague message at the Heartbeat's website as explanation: "WE HAVE DECIDED TO SWITCH OUR FORMAT TO NEW COUNTRY. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING." A Facebook group, "Bring Back Heartbeat 106.7," has already been created so that old fans can vent their outrage. To find out what happened, the Arkansas Times called 106.7's owners, Signal Media, and spoke to Mike Kennedy, program director for the new station. (Signal Media president Steve Jonsson has since responded as well — you can find his letter on our blog Rock Candy at arktimes.com.)

How long has this been in the works?

Three months.

What was the idea?

The idea is that you've got country stations on the market, one's focusing on older country, one's playing older and new country, so we saw an opportunity to be strictly new country. And I think there's room in Little Rock for all three of those stations, because each one's taking a unique angle.

Was there any pushback?

So far the comments have been pretty good. Obviously there's going to be some fans of Heartbeat that really liked it that are disappointed it's gone, but I've gotten a lot of positive comments, too, and you know what surprised me was that the first comment I got on our comment line after I flipped it — at 5 on Wednesday, we got a message and I thought, "OK, here we go..." And I listened to it, and it was a lady going, "Oh my god, I love your radio station — thank you so much, I love the country." And I was like, "I was not expecting that."

You were expecting people to be more upset?

Yes.

Is there a staffing change, too?

When it was Heartbeat, it was staffed but it wasn't. It was recorded. HB, the guy who was on middays on Heartbeat, he works full-time for our sister station, The Buzz. So he's not on the air anymore, but he's still here and doing his main job. He's off the air, but still here with a full time job. And AJ, who was on the afternoon on Heartbeat, is going to more than likely continue on The Ride.

Do you think we have a gap now, for the old format?

Well, one of the issues with Heartbeat was that there are a lot of stations that are all trying to cover that territory. [94.9] TOM FM was trying to go there a little bit, and [102.1] KOKY was trying to go there a little bit. So I think those stations will step in and kind of fill the gap. I don't think they'll fully step into where Heartbeat was, but they'll try to cover it a little bit between the two of them.

Did you know there was a Facebook group campaigning to Bring Back Heartbeat?

Yeah, 58 likes. (Editor's note: By Tuesday, 526 people liked the page.)

So you're not worried about it?

No.

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