By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Oct 01, 2014 at 3:06 PM

As reported by early this morning, sports talk station WSSP-AM 1250 had the hard launch of its FM and HD home today. If you have been bouncing through the dial for the past few months, you may have heard the latest opinions of the Brewers, Packers and Bucks at 105.7 FM already.

If you drive or reside outside of Milwaukee County, you may want to stay with listening on the AM dial. The simulcast on AM and FM here, WSSP will have a stronger signal on the AM dial. This part has to do with engineering and science …

"This was meant for people who, for whatever reason, never listen to AM," said WSSP programming director Tom Parker. "With the signal in Shorewood, it covers around 1.2 million people in the area.

Comments on Facebook this morning mentioned the trouble people had hearing the morning show, "Chuck and Wickett," on the FM signal and instead heard pop music. The reason that happened is because 105.7 has stronger signals in other markets, and what is heard here is a mix of a pop station in Michigan and rock station WAPL-FM in Appleton.

Entercom, the parent company that owns WSSP-AM 1250, WXSS-FM Kiss 103.7 and WMYX-FM 99.1 The Mix, purchased a low-powered signal in Milwaukee. Right now, there are no high powered signals on AM or FM that are available -- they are all owned. A few decades ago, the FCC opened up a number of signals, all low-powered, to be owned by community groups that could serve a group of people, a neighborhood, or just a small part of the area.

Think of it this way, if a local church wanted to broadcast a Sunday sermon for shut-in members of the congregation that lived 15-20 blocks from the church, this would be a lower-cost way of making that happen.

As the rules were relaxed and the spectrum opened up for these second-tier signals, people and businesses bought them. Entercom negotiated a price with the holder of 105.7 and bought the spot on the dial. The station then had to make the investment of equipment to carry what is sent over on WSSP-AM 1250 and broadcast it out at the strongest possible signal allowed by law.

"We really just wanted to be there, wherever people are listening," Parker said. We chatted about the different options for listeners and advertisers, and that there is a perception with being on FM that is important, because people believe that is where everyone is listening to radio.

"I think it really was an affirmation for the staff that they are doing so well that the company decided to make this investment," Parker said. "We really have a great crew here that is dedicated to what they do. The name ‘The Fan’ is really a hat-tip to the listeners who have gotten us to where we are."

This practice of AM and FM simulcast broadcasting isn’t new, especially in sports talk. Milwaukee is a funny market when compared to others across the nation. Some legacy stations like WTMJ-AM 620, WISN-AM 1130 and a few others have been able to stay alive on AM.

In my opinion, the sports format saved the AM dial. When it started becoming financially viable to hold an audience with mostly sports programming, there was a need to have an outlet for talk on local sports. At that time, mostly all that was available was a station on the AM dial. WSSP-AM 1250 was a religious station before going to Entercom and sports.

Now, as technology changes and people listen to mobile devices, radio formats had to change to stay competitive. In many markets with one or two sports stations, changes were made to have the sports format on the FM dial. Sometimes it was independent, or at other times it was a simulcast situation.

Here, we have the rare three stations of sports, and a fourth known for sports coverage as well. WSSP was simply the first to go to the FM dial with multiple-hour programming. When WTMJ passed on bidding for the rights to Badgers broadcasts, it was the ability of WOKY-AM 920 to take games to the FM dial that helped it with its bid. That’s why on Saturdays the University of Wisconsin football games are on WRIT-FM 95.7.

When there were broadcast schedule conflicts, sometimes games would be bumped over to FM, but it never was a full-day broadcast like this.

As of today, welcome to The Fan, whether you listen to it on AM, FM, HD, digital or mobile.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.