The Boston Radio Dial: WWZN(AM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Frequency: 1510 kHz
Class: B
Ownership: Blackstrap Broadcasting, LLC
(Peter Davidson)
Studio: 308 Victory Rd
Quincy, MA 02171-3129
Transmitter: 411 Waverley Oaks Rd.
Waltham, MA 02452-8448
Phones: +1 617 237 1234
Format: Brokered talk

Technical Parameters

WWZN transmits at 50 kW, different patterns day, critical hours, and night, from a rhombic, four-tower array in the parking lot of an office complex in Waltham (shown). The night pattern is engineered to protect co-channel stations in Nashville and Sherbrooke, though the Sherbrooke station is long since defunct in all but international notification. Despite its status as a class-A (old class I-B) station, WLAC in Nashville provides significant nighttime protection to WWZN, which had equal priority on the channel before the current facilities were built. WWZN's critical-hours pattern protects WLAC.

Station History

WWZN's earliest ancestor is WMEX 1500, which went on the air in 1934 with 500 W day, 100 W night from a site off West Squantum Road in Quincy, near the then-WNAC/WAAB (now WMKI) site in the Neponset River valley. After several unsuccessful attempts to move to 1470 with a power upgrade to 5 kW, WMEX finally made the move in 1941, just in time for NARBA to move that channel to its current frequency, 1510 kHz. In the 1960s, WMEX received a power upgrade to 50 kW daytime, still with 5 kW at night. Station engineers had to constantly adjust the phasing network as tides in the Neponset River would play havoc with the pattern.

By the 1960s, WMEX had become the top-40 station in town, with jocks like Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg; “Wee-mex” owned Boston's youth audience for more than a decade. By 1975, WMEX had moved to news-talk, and in 1978 the calls changed to WITS (“Weather Information Talk Sports”). WITS had the Red Sox for a few years, but never had the news resources to compete with CBS's WEEI 590.

In 1981, new ownership decided to increase night power to 50 kW, by building a new transmitter plant in Waltham, west of Boston. Although the new signal had more power, it is very directional, and the owners had to spend millions to eliminate RFI in the office park over whose parking lot the new towers had been erected. In short, they would have done better staying with the 5-kW at the old site. In the early '80s the station became big-band WMRE “Memories”, then went dark.

It resurfaced in the late '80s under the ownership of Noble, which had also purchased WSSH-FM Lowell; 1510 became WSSH(AM), still big bands. In 1989, Noble made 1510 WKKU, live country and Bruins games; that was the last time 1510 pulled ratings of any sort. In 1990, WKKU's plug was pulled and 1510 went back to WSSH(AM), now simulcasting WSSH-FM. 1991 saw WSSH get leased out to Spanish-language “Radio Continentale.” 1992 saw Continentale fail to pay Noble for the time, and 1510 went dark. In 1993, WSSH came back on with bartered satellite talk from the Talk America Radio Network.

In October of 1994, Noble agreed on a new long-term lease with a Spanish-language broadcaster, and then one week later turned around and sold the station to Denver-based Communicom. The Spanish people sued Noble, claiming breach of contract; this was eventually settled two months later, allowing the sale to be finalized. When Communicom took control, the station flipped to a satellite-driven Contemporary Christian format, and in February 1995, the calls were changed to WNRB (“National Religious Broadcasters”, a trade group).

In 1997, WNRB was sold to One-on-One Sports, with most programming originating at One-on-One's Illinois studios. In late 2000, One-on-One announced that it was being sold to Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, owner of the Sporting News. In February, 2001, WNRB became “The Sports Zone”, WSZE. Just a few weeks later, the callsign was changed again, to WWZN.

With the 1998 deletion of co-channel WNLC in New London, WWZN was able to let out its daytime pattern to the southwest, improving the signal in Boston's fastest-growing suburban areas. The old day pattern remains in use during critical hours, protecting Nashville.

Despite acquiring the rights to Boston Celtics broadcasts and luring big-name talker Eddie Andelman away from format competitor WEEI, WWZN consistently failed to score any ratings success. WWZN was sold, together with Rose City Radio sister station WSNR (620 Jersey City), to Blackstrap Broadcasting, an affiliate of Davidson Media Group, for $20.5 million in September, 2007. After the sale to Blackstrap, WWZN began to broker out a significant fraction of its time, with both English-language sports and progressive-talk programs taking up much of the airtime. Sporting News Radio continued during the unsold dayparts until August, 2009, when that affiliation moved to WBZ-FM (98.5).

Some historical information provided by Jon Maguire, former WMEX engineer.

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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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