The Boston Radio Dial: WKLB-FM

Who, What, Where

Community: Waltham
Frequency: 102.5 MHz
Class: B
Ownership: Charles River Broadcasting Company
(Greater Media)
Studio: 55 Wm. T. Morrissey Blvd.
Dorchester, MA 02125-3315
Main transmitter: CBS Tower
350 Cedar St.
Needham, MA 02192-1818
Backup transmitter: ATC Newton (FM-128)
1165 Chestnut St.
Newton, MA 02464-1308
Phones:
Office +1 617 822 9600
Studio +1 888 819 1025
Format:
Main Country
HD2 Classic country
Web site: wklb.com

Technical Parameters

WKLB-FM transmits at 102.5 MHz with an effective radiated power of 12 kW (analogue) from a non-directional, circularly-polarized antenna 276 meters (906 feet) above average terrain (320 m above mean sea level). The antenna is a four-bay, full-wave-spaced ERI 1183-4CP Iris Cavity panel antenna, and is mounted 273 meters (896 feet) aboce ground level. The tower is owned by CBS Corporation, and is located at 350 Cedar Street in Needham. Unlike its Greater Media sister stations, WKLB-FM is precluded by spacing constraints from moving to the Prudential Tower in Boston.

In addition, WKLB-FM has an auxiliary facility at the American Tower “FM-128” tower in Newton, where it operates with an effective radiated power of 7.2 kW (analogue) from a non-directional, circularly-polarized antenna 351 meters (1152 feet) above average terrain (395 m above sea level). The backup antenna is a two-bay ERI COGWHEEL 1084-2CP, and is mounted 365 m (1198 ft) above ground level; it is part of a master antenna system shared with WJMN (94.5 Boston), WBZ-FM (98.5 Boston), and backup transmitters for WBOS (92.9 Brookline), WTKK (96.9 Boston), WROR-FM (105.7 Framingham), WMJX (106.7 Boston), and WXKS-FM (107.9 Medford).

WKLB-FM transmits a digital signal using iBiquity Digital Corp.'s “HD Radio” system.

Station History

WKLB-FM's earliest origins go back to WCRB (1330 Waltham), now WRCA, which was owned by Ted Jones's Charles River Broadcasting. An FM service on 102.5 was added in 1954, originally transmitting from the top of one of the AM towers (located on South Street in Waltham, overlooking the Charles River), which simulcasted the classical-music programming of the AM. Some time after 1957, WCRB-FM moved to the Westinghouse tower in Needham, a facility it shared with future sister station WBZ-FM (now WMJX). In the 1970s, the AM station was sold off separately to become WHET, and in 1979, Ted Jones created a trust and transferred ownership of Charles River Broadcasting to it.

The terms of the trust are not known to your editors, but it is widely believed that it required WCRB to continue to broadcast classical music for as long as the format was economically viable. This did not prevent Charles River from acquiring a number of other stations over the years following Jones's death, including two stations on Cape Cod (classical WFCC-FM and rocker WKPE-FM) and stations in southern Rhode Island. Charles River also branched out into network programming, offering the World Classical Network via satellite (with voice tracks recorded by WCRB staff announcers) to other classical stations around the country. At some point, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and several other local charities took minority ownership stakes in Charles River Broadcasting, as did several WCRB insiders, including Ted Jones's son Christopher, announcer Dave MacNeill, and long-time programmer Richard L. Kaye.

In the late 1990s, CBS (which by then had merged with Westinghouse) began construction on WBZ-TV tower, where WCRB was then transmitting, to prepare for the transition to digital television. As a part of the construction, WCRB's lease was terminated, to make room for the new television antennas. WCRB moved across Route 128 to the American Tower “FM-128” tower on Chestnut Street in Newton in March, 2000.

In November, 2005, Charles River announced that they were looking for a buyer for WCRB and the rest of their radio properties. Attention quickly focused on Greater Media, which was long rumored to desire an upgrade for its country rimshot WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell). Charles River agreed to negotiate exclusively with Greater Media for the purchase of WCRB. Finally, in July, 2006, Greater and Charles River reached a deal, which would see Greater pay $100,000,000 for WCRB. At the same time, since this acquisition would put Greater over the ownership cap in Boston, Greater would transfer WCRB's studios and intellectual property, and the license for WKLB-FM, to Nassau Broadcasting in exchange for a Trenton station, WTHK (97.5 Burlington), which Nassau was in the process of moving to Philadelphia. As expected, WKLB-FM's format would move from up the dial to 102.5, and Nassau announced it would continue the classical format on 99.5.

(The Rhode Island stations were sold the following month to Christopher Jones, and the Cape Cod stations went in early 2007 to Sandab Communications.)

The two FCC transfer applications were granted in late October, concurrently with WCRB's license renewal, and closed in November. The stations swapped call signs and programming on December 1, 2006. WCRB added an HD2 subchannel in early 2006, providing a second automated selection of classical music. Around the same time, WKLB-FM (then on 99.5) added an HD2 subchannel of classic country, which was moved to 102.5's HD2 channel when the swap was made.

In late 2008, Greater Media built a new backup transmitter facility for WKLB-FM at CBS's 350 Cedar Street, Needham, tower—the same location, although not the same aperture, which WCRB had used previously. WKLB moved its main facility to 350 Cedar, with FM-128 becoming the backup, in the spring of 2009.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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