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New York Radio History
by Alex Cosper

see also American Radio History


The New York City area is the number one most populated radio market in the country. Its evolution has had a profound effect on the entire American radio industry. Some of the biggest names in radio history have gone through New York, especially syndicated hosts such as Howard Stern. In the fifties and sixties WABC, programmed by Rick Sklar, could be heard by half of the United States at night. It was this top 40 giant that set national standards for many years as to what defined the concept of "hit radio." Sklar's tight programming was successful and pre-dated the similar "Drake-Chenault" West Coast top 40 format that eventually became the model for top 40 radio across the country.

Radio's early development from the 1900s through the 1910s happened with the U.S. military, experimental engineers and hobbyists. In the early 1920s, radio became a commercial medium for the first time. Perhaps the first commercial station in New York was WJZ, which RCA purchased from Westinghouse in 1921. Four days after the station was launched, it aired the World Series of the New York Yankees versus the New York Giants. Other existing stations that year included WDT, WDY and WJX.

More station licenses were granted in 1922 to Western Electric (WEAF), AT&T (WBAY), John Wanamaker (WWZ) and DeForest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company (WJX). Brooklyn had an early station, WGAC, owned by Orpheum Radio Stores Company. Early Newark stations, also granted licenses in 1922 (the first year the government did so), included L. Bamberger and Company's WOR, D.W. May Inc.'s WBS and the Westinghouse station WJZ. WEAF became part of the first radio network in 1923. Other call letters to enter the AM dial in the twenties were WLAW, SAP, WJY, WAAM, WFAF, WRW, WBAN, WHAZ, WQAO, WBS, WHN, WNJ, WDBX, WNYC, WEBJ, WGBS (which became WINS), WHAP, WMCA, WLWL and WFRL.

The radio dial went through a lot of changes over the next two decades. Much of this had to do with the formation of the Federal Communications Commission in 1934. By the early 1940s, after many mandatory frequency reallocations, the dial began to take a shape that would be more consistent over the years until the rise of FM. Here's what the New York AM radio dial looked like in 1942:

New York Radio Dial 1942
570  WMCA
660  WEAF
710  WOR
770  WJZ
830  WNYC
880  WABC
1000 WINS
1050 WHN
1130 WNEW
1280 WOV
1330 WBBR
1560 WQXR
1600 WCNW
In the 1960s FM radio began to attract listeners who were bored with mainstream programming following new FCC rules that forced owners of AM/FM combos to limit their simulcasts of AM programming on FM. As a result, FM became experimental for awhile. One of the earliest (if not the earliest) progressive rock stations in the country was WNEW, programmed by Murray the K, sometimes referred to as the "fifth Beatle" for being the jock who created a lot of the initial excitement over the Beatles on their first American tour. Murray was the first commercial programmer in the country to craft a progressive rock station with WNEW in 1966, pre-dating the West Coast freeform explosion of 1967, led by Tom Donahue.

Freeform radio eventually transformed into rock radio in the seventies as FM began to become more structured. AM was still the band for top 40 music, but by the early eighties FM began to overtake AM stations at least in terms of music stations. Former top 40 empires WABC and WINS inevitably became talk stations. Top 40 was still king in the market in the eighties as Z100 (WHTZ), programmed by Scott Shannon, consistently earned the market ratings crown. By the end of the end of the 1980s here's what the New York radio looked like:

New York Radio Dial 1989
660 AM - WFAN: sports talk, owned by Emmis
710 AM - WOR: talk, owned by Buckley
770 AM - WABC: talk, owned by Cap Cities/ABC
880 AM - WCBS: news, owned by CBS
930 AM - WPAT: simulcast of WPAT 93.1 FM of beautiful/easy listening programming, owned by Park
1010 AM - WINS: news, owned by Group W
1130 AM - WNEW: nostalgia/big bands, owned by Westwood One
1190 AM - WLIB: news, owned by Inner City
1280 AM - WADO: Spanish, owned by Command
1370 AM - WALK: simulcast of WALK 97.5 FM of adult contemporary, owned by American Media
1600 AM - WWRL: religious, owned by NBN

92.3 FM - WXRK: classic rock, owned by Infinity
93.1 FM - WPAT: beautiful/easy listening programming, owned by Park
95.5 FM - WPLJ: CHR/top 40, owned by Cap Cities/ABC
96.3 FM - WQXR: classcial, owned by Interstate
97.1 FM - WQHT: CHR/top 40, owned by Emmis
97.5 FM - WALK: adult contemporary, owned by American Media
97.9 FM - WSKQ: Spanish, owned by SBS
98.3 FM - WKJY: adult contemporary, owned by Barnstable
98.7 FM - WRKS: urban contemporary, owned by Summitt
99.5 FM - WBAI: public radio, owned by Pacifica
101.1 FM - WCBS: oldies, owned by CBS
100.3 FM - WHTZ ("Z100"): CHR/top 40, owned by Malrite
101.9 FM - WQCD: new age/new adult contemporary, owned by Tribune
102.7 FM - WNEW: album rock, owned by Legacy
103.5 FM - WYNY: country, owned by Westwood One
104.3 FM - WNCN: classical, owned by GAF
105.1 FM - WNSR: adult contemporary, owned by Bonneville International
106.7 FM - WLTW: adult contemporary, owned by Viacom
107.5 FM - WBLS: urban contemporary, owned by Inner City
Both the eighties and nineties were marked by radio industry deregulation, which allowed big companies to gain a stronger foothold on the radio industry. The Telecom Act of 1996 loosened ownership limits that resulted in big companies buying a lot of smaller companies, changing the entire radio landscape. Here's what the New York radio dial looked like in 1997:

New York Radio Dial 1997
660 AM - WFAN: sports talk, owned by CBS Radio
710 AM - WOR: talk, owned by Buckley
770 AM - WABC: talk, owned by Cap Cities/ABC
880 AM - WCBS: news, owned by CBS Radio
930 AM - WPAT: simulcast of WPAT 93.1 FM of beautiful/easy listening programming, owned by Park
1010 AM - WINS: news, owned by CBS Radio
1190 AM - WLIB: news, owned by Inner City
1280 AM - WADO: Spanish, owned by Heftel
1560 AM - WQEW: nostalgia/bib bands, owned by the New York Times
1600 AM - WWRL: religious, owned by NBN

92.3 FM - WXRK: classic rock, owned by CBS Radio
93.1 FM - WPAT: Spanish adult contemporary, owned by Heftel
95.5 FM - WPLJ: hot adult contemporary, owned by ABC
96.3 FM - WQXR: classcial, owned by the New York Times
97.1 FM - WQHT: CHR/rhythmic top 40, owned by Emmis
97.5 FM - WALK: adult contemporary, owned by Chancellor Media
97.9 FM - WSKQ: tropical, owned by SBS
98.7 FM - WRKS: urban adult contemporary, owned by Emmis
99.5 FM - WBAI: public radio, owned by Pacifica
101.1 FM - WCBS: oldies, owned by CBS Radio
100.3 FM - WHTZ ("Z100"): CHR/top 40, owned by Chancellor Media
101.9 FM - WQCD: smooth jazz, owned by Tribune (LMA with Emmis)
102.7 FM - WNEW: album rock, owned by CBS Radio
103.5 FM - WKTU: CHR/rhythmic top 40, owned by Chancellor Media
104.3 FM - WAXQ: classic rock, owned by Chancellor Media
105.1 FM - WDBZ: hot adult contemporary, owned by Bonneville International
106.7 FM - WLTW: adult contemporary, owned by Chancellor Media
107.1 FM - WWXY/WWZY: country, owned by Odyssey
107.5 FM - WBLS: urban contemporary, owned by Inner City
In the 2000s radio faces huge challenges from competing media for the delivery of music and information. The arrival of technology that allows listeners to craft their own listening programs has forced radio to rethink its position. If the past is any indicator of the road that lies ahead for radio, the winners will be the ones that figure out how to merge with new technology. Even Howard Stern is leaving terrestrial radio for Sirius Satellite Radio in January 2006. Here's what the New York radio dial looks like in 2005:

New York Radio Dial 2005
660 AM - WFAN: sports talk, owned by Infinity
710 AM - WOR: talk owned by Buckley Broadcasting
770 AM - WABC: talk, owned by ABC Radio
820 AM - WNYC: simulcast of public radio programming of 93.9 WNYC-FM
880 AM - WCBS: news, owned by Infinity
930 AM - WPAT: simulcast of WPAT 93.1 FM of beautiful/easy listening programming, owned by Park
1010 AM - WINS: news owned by Infinity
1050 AM - WEPN: (ESPN) sports, owned by ABC Radio
1100 AM - WHLI (Hempstead, NY): nostalgia, owned by Barnstable Broadcasting
1130 AM - WBBR: business news, owned by Bloomberg
1190 AM - WLIB: talk, owned by Inner City
1280 AM - WADO: Spanish, owned by Univision
1560 AM - WQEW: Radio Disney, owend by New York Times Radio Co.
1600 AM - WWRL: talk, owned by Access1 Communications

92.3 FM - WXRK: rock, owned by Infinity
92.7 FM - WZAA: Spanish, owned by Univision
93.1 FM - WPAT: (Patterson, NJ) Spanish adult contemporary, owned by SBS
93.9 FM - WNYC: public radio, WNYC
95.5 FM - WPLJ: hot adult contemporary, owned by ABC
96.3 FM - WQXR: classcial, owned by the New York Times
97.1 FM - WQHT: ("Hot 97") hip hop, owned by Emmis
97.5 FM - WALK: adult contemporary, owned by Clear Channel
97.9 FM - WSKQ: tropical, owned by SBS
98.7 FM - WRKS: urban adult contemporary, owned by Emmis
99.1 FM - WAWZ: Christian adult contemporary, owned by Pillar of Fire
99.5 FM - WBAI: public radio, owned by Pacifica
101.1 FM - WCBS: oldies, owned by Infinity
100.3 FM - WHTZ ("Z100"): CHR/top 40, owned by Clear Channel
101.9 FM - WQCD: smooth jazz, owned by Emmis
102.7 FM - WNEW: adult contemporary, owned by Infinity
103.5 FM - WKTU: CHR/rhythmic top 40, owned by Clear Channel
104.3 FM - WAXQ: classic rock, owned by Clear Channel
105.1 FM - WWPR: urban contemporary, owned by Clear Channel
106.7 FM - WLTW: adult contemporary, owned by Clear Channel
107.1 FM - WWZY: ("The Breeze") adult contemporary, owned by Press Communications
107.5 FM - WBLS: urban contemporary, owned by Inner City
Whether you are a radio professional or listener, feel free to suggest information for this page, which will expand through time. For more information on New York radio visit Playlist Research.com.


© 2005 Tangent Sunset. All Rights Reserved.