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Kansas City Radio History
by Alex Cosper
see also American Radio History
Kansas City's earliest radio stations in the early twenties included
the Kansas City Star's WDAF, Sweeny School's WHB, Western Radio's
WOQ and Central Radio's WPE. By 1942 after many changes, the AM dial
emerged as follows: WDAF (610), WHB (880), KMBC (980), WOQ (1300),
KCKN (1340), KCMO (1480) and KITE (1590).
Between the 1940s and the 1980s AM remained king of the airwaves
across the nation, with FM dominating the ratings starting in the
early eighties. But the Kansas City radio story was different.
A few more than average AM stations stayed strong in the ratings even into the early
nineties. But by the middle of the decade news/talk KMBZ (980) was the AM leader
with only challenger KCMO (810) contending for high ratings, compared to FM stations.
In the 2000s KMBZ rose to top three while WHB rebounded as a high-rated AM, delivering sports.
Country station WDAF (610), owned by Great American, was number one by a wide margin over
number two in the late eighties. Other Arbitron ratings winners
of the period included country competitor KFKF (1340 AM and 94.1 FM), owned by Sconnix,
Noble Broadcasting's contemporary hits leader KBEQ (1030 AM and 104.3 FM),
Olympia's premiere "rock 40" station KXXR (106.5), Bonneville's adult contemporary
KMBZ (980), its sister beautiful music station KMBR (99.7), Gannett's news/talk KCMO (810)
and its sister contemporary hits station KCPW (94.9). Great American's rocker KYYS (102.1) was
a top three station as late as the Spring of 1988 before descending toward the middle
of the pack.
In the 90s ownership of WDAF changed to Jacor but the results were the same: still number
one in the market. Rival KFKF at times traded the market crown with WDAF and was picked up
by American Radio Systems, who kept the ratings high, making Kansas City a rare radio market
in which two of the top three stations were country. KPRS (103.3), which was a top ten station in the eighties,
grew stronger as an independent urban station in the nineties.
Meanwhile, the top 40 format went through a series of mutations as the once-powerful
format became overshadowed by rock stations, with KYYS and KQRC being the rock mainstays
in the early nineties. In the late eighties there were three top 40 stations in the market: KBEQ, KXXR and KCPW.
By the mid-nineties there was only KMXV (93.3), with KBEQ flipping to country and KXXR changing ownership
to American Radio Systems and becoming smooth jazz KCIY. By the late nineties, KMXV made
hit radio popular again under CBS Radio.
KCFX (101.1) emerged as the market's rock leader, playing classic rock, while Journal
Broadcasting's KQRC (98.9) did well playing more current rock. In addition, KYYS continued
to rock after an ownership change to Jacor, although it had enjoyed stronger ratings
in the early nineties. There have been a series of alternative stations in the market
such as Syndicated's KISF (107.3), which became KCCX in 1997. Entercom's KRBZ took over the
alternative niche in the 2000s as KZPL moved to adult alternative.
Following the Telecom Act of 1996 large companies were able to buy out smaller companies,
and they were allowed to own up to seven stations in a market instead of the previous
limit of two AMs and two FMs. CBS Radio and Entercom suddenly became the two big players
in the market, although KPRS rose to number one as an independent station owned by Carter
Broadcasting. CBS claimed KFKF, KMXV, KBEQ, adult contemporary KUDL (98.1) and the more
current ac KOZN (102.1), which dropped rock and the KYYS calls in September 1997.
The familiar KYYS calls resurfaced in January 1998 after Entercom flipped adult contemporary
KLTH (99.7) to rock the previous October. Later the station shifted to classic rock.
Other Entercom stations were WDAF, KMBZ, oldies KCMO (94.9). Sinclair's four stations were KCFX, KQRC, KCIY and classical KXTR (96.5).
In the mid-2000s KPRS has remained the solid number one station in the market, still
owned by Carter. KMBZ has been a resilient talk station while WDAF has also remained near
the top of the ratings as a country station. Entercom continues to own the most stations
in the market and the once CBS Radio properties now belong to its descendant Infinity
Broadcasting. Other players have entered the market including Susquehanna (KCMO-AM & FM, KCJK, KCFX),
Cumulus (KMJK, KCHZ) and Union Broadcasting (WHB, KZPL). Urban, rock and country remain the
market's top music formats.
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