Tuesday, August 12, 2008

3WTanked

As of this morning, the short-lived Washington, DC talk trimulcast known as 3WT (107.7FM, 1500AM and 820AM) has started its eventual fade into the radio dustbin.

Bonneville International, owner of the stations, is in the process of shifting a few of their local properties in a somewhat confusing chess game. As a result, all-news WTOP will has begun simulcasting via 107.7FM in morning drive (they already do via 103.5FM in the city and 103.9 FM in Frederick, MD), and WFED (Federal News Radio), an all-news format at low-powered 1050AM that is geared toward government employees, will eventually take over 820AM and 1500AM. The shifting of programming is expected to be gradual, as the station's syndication deals wind down. By September 15, the transformations should be completed.

With the shakeups, Dial Global's Stephanie Miller will soon lose her Washington, DC-area affiliates, and Nova M Radio's Randi Rhodes will no longer be on 820AM. Also soon to be gone from the DC airwaves are Bill O'Reilly, Neal Boortz, Glenn Beck and Phil Hendrie. Local hosts, including Tony Kornheiser, have already departed Bonneville (though Kornheiser had recently taken a leave of absence to co-host ESPN's Monday Night Football).

The 3WT trimulcast is also the radio home to several local sports franchises, including baseball's Washington Nationals, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, Naval Academy athletics, and George Washington University’s men’s basketball. They will remain on the former 3WT signals for the time being.

The talk radio shakeup in the market could generate a ripple effect, as Red Zebra had recently acquired three AM signals from Clear Channel - sports talker WTEM, conservative talker WTNT and liberal talker WWRC. Kornheiser and the sports franchises are probably most appealing to Red Zebra, which as of late has been aggressively building its local and regional sports talk properties. But the availability of some notable syndicated talk show programming could also be enticing for the company's two new talk properties.

As has been mentioned here before, talk radio is a tough nut to crack in the nation's capitol. There are far too many talk stations and not enough demand for them (particularly in a market where roughly half the population is African-American or non-white). 3WT was never a ratings powerhouse in it's one year on the air, though talk is a slow-grow format. Evidently, Bonneville didn't have the patience for the "left, right and whatever" format, and wanted to circle the wagons around its highly popular all-news format of WTOP and try to grow Federal News Radio.

3 comments:

FSL said...

Apparently, these historic facilities are now sliding into oblivion. But a little credit where credit is due:

1500 AM. The original WTOP Newsradio. Before that, WJSV, Washington flagship of the Columbia Broadcasting system. It's the place where Arthur Godfrey invented the all-night show and then morning drive radio built around a "bad boy" personality.

980 AM. It was WRC, the DC flagship of the National Broadcasting Company (Red). David Brinkley started there writing news copy for announcers to read. The station pioneered the morning zoo type show built around a comedy team, with The Joy Boys (Ed Walker and Willard Scott).

1260 AM. Once WOL, the Washington outlet for the Mutual Broadcasting System and home to its DC-based left-right-whatever news commentators (Fulton Lewis-Raymond Graham Swing-Quincy Howe-Drew Pearson among others).

All good things must come to an end.

News said...

>>>1260 AM. Once WOL, the Washington outlet for the Mutual Broadcasting System<<<

Are you sure about that? I worked at 1260 AM starting in 1956 and its call letters were WWDC, not WOL. There was a WOL, but it wasn't on 1260.

FSL said...

Various DC stations have used the WOL callsign. Now it's on Radio One's Urban Talk 1450.

1260 AM was WOL from 1942 to 1950. The station signed on in 1928 at 1310 and was moved to 1260 after the Havana Treaty frequency reassignments. It was owned by the original American Broadcasting Company (owned by George B. Storer).


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