The Boston Radio Dial: WKAF(FM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Brockton
Frequency: 97.7 MHz
Class: A
Ownership: Entercom Boston License, LLC
(Entercom Communications [NYSE: ETM]/Joseph M. Field)
Studio: 20 Guest Street
Brighton, MA 02135-2040
Main transmitter: Great Blue Hill
Milton, MA 02186
Backup transmitter:
(CP) 
485 North Quincy Street
Abington, MA 02351-1076
Phones:
Office +1 617 779 5400
Studio 931 1223
Format:
Main Active rock
HD2 To be Live rock
Web site: waaf.com

Technical Parameters

WKAF transmits at 97.7 MHz with an effective radiated power of 1.7 kW (analogue) from a non-directional, circularly-polarized antenna 173 meters (568 feet) above average terrain (218 m above sea level). The antenna is a two-bay, half-wave-spaced Shively 6810, and is mounted 30 m (98 ft) above ground. The tower, located on Great Blue Hill in Milton, is owned by WGBH Educational Foundation and was originally constructed for WGBH (89.7 Boston), which still uses it. WKAF holds a construction permit to slightly increase ERP to 2.05 kW, at the same location. WKAF also holds a construction permit for a backup facility on the Industrial Communications tower on Ricciuti Drive, off the Southeast Expressway in Quincy. WKAF's licensed backup facility is its previous transmitter site in Abington, with 2.7 kW at 148 m (486 ft) above average terrain, using a single-bay Shively 6810 directional antenna.

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

Station History

1948 was a busy year in Brockton radio, as the city south of Boston went from one station to four in the course of just a few months. The Enterprise Publishing Company, owner of the Brockton Enterprise, the Brockton Times, and WBET (990), added an 800-watt FM signal, WBET-FM (97.7), to their 1-kW AM daytimer. Up the dial, Joseph Curran's Cur-Nan Co. put WBKA (1450) and WBKA-FM (107.1) on the air, with 250 watts full-time on AM and 800 watts on FM. The WBKA stations would be short-lived: by late 1950, they were bought out by WBET, which shut down the WBKA signals and soon moved WBET to 1460, where it ran 1 kW fulltime.

WBET-FM survived the next quarter-century as so many small-town FM stations did, simulcasting its AM sister's middle-of-the-road format. It gradually increased power to 3 kW, still operating in mono from the AM transmitter site on Brockton's west side. On November 1, 1976, WBET-FM went stereo, and on January 1, 1977, it changed calls to WCAV, splitting from its AM sister to run its own rock format. The rock format gave way to country in 1983, and for the next 16 years WCAV found an audience far beyond Brockton by sticking with country even as the format came and went from larger Boston stations like WBOS and WBCS.

In late 1997, the Enterprise Publishing Co. sold WBET and WCAV to KJI Broadcasting LLC, controlled by Joseph Gallagher, who also owned WBEC in Pittsfield and who would later buy WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. Gallagher's $1.5 million investment paid off in 1999, when he sold WCAV to Radio One, a fast-growing national broadcaster specializing in urban formats.

Radio One flipped WCAV to a satellite-delivered country format while it made technical improvements to the station. On May 30, 1999, WCAV moved from its longtime home on one of the WBET towers to a new 2.7-kW/492-ft facility in Abington, offering a somewhat stronger signal to the north over Boston and its suburbs. In October, WCAV changed calls to WBOT, and after several months of dead air and a weeklong loop of Tone Loc's “Wild Thing”, WBOT relaunched on December 6 as urban “Wild 9-7-7”, becoming the first commercial FM station to dedicate itself to serving Boston's black community.

With Radio One's purchase of WILD (1090 Boston), WBOT relocated its studios to WILD's Roxbury facility, then to a new studio for both stations at Quincy's Marina Bay complex. WBOT's transmitter moved again as well, relocating in early 2005 to the WGBH(FM) tower on Great Blue Hill in Milton, with line-of-sight coverage to much of Boston. While WBOT began with a directional signal from Great Blue Hill, Radio One soon struck a deal with co-channel WOQL (97.7 Winchendon) under which WOQL owner Saga would relocate that station, allowing WBOT to fill out its signal to the northwest. (The deal, for which Radio One paid Saga $500,000 plus expenses, was a win for both stations; the Winchendon station was by then targeting Keene, New Hampshire, and its transmitter move improved its signal there.)

In October 2005, Radio One changed WBOT's calls to WILD-FM, trading WBOT's hip-hop-heavy format for a more adult-oriented urban contemporary sound relocated from WILD(AM). The new WILD-FM was not to become a fixture on Boston's airwaves, though. On August 21, 2006, Radio One sold WILD-FM to Entercom for $30 million. That afternoon, WILD-FM dropped its R&B format to simulcast Entercom's rock WAAF (107.3 Worcester), giving that station a full Boston signal for the first time in its long history. On August 29, WILD-FM's calls changed to WKAF.

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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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