The Boston Radio Dial: WKOX(AM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Newton
Frequency: 1200 kHz
Class: B
Ownership: Capstar TX Limited Partnership
(Clear Channel Communications)
Studio: 10 Cabot Rd., suite 302
Medford, MA 02155-5173
Transmitter: 750 Saw Mill Brook Parkway
Newton, MA 02459-3647
Phones: +1 781 393 7710
Format: Spanish tropical
Web site: wkoxam.com

Technical Parameters

WKOX transmits from a five-tower array in the Oak Hill section of Newton, triplexed with WUNR (1600 Brookline), the site's owner and original user, and WRCA (1330 Watertown). WKOX uses 50 kW full-time, DA-2, using the same three towers for both day and night service. Construction on this facility began in late 2006, and it was licensed in May, 2009, replacing WKOX's previous facility in Framingham, which can no longer be used by WKOX with its new Newton community of license.

Station History

WKOX was one of many suburban radio stations born in the years immediately following World War II. It made its debut on April 21, 1947, as a 1,000-Watt daytimer on 1190 kHz, signing off at sunset to protect Fort Wayne's WOWO.

In 1960, FM service was added on 105.7 MHz, operating from the WKOX tower on Mount Wayte Avenue.

In October 1970, original licensee “WKOX, Inc.” sold the station to Richard M. Fairbanks, an industry veteran who had also owned Indianapolis' WIBC and several other stations.

While Fairbanks split WKOX-FM off from its AM simulcast to become a rocker aimed at Boston (as WVBF; now WROR-FM), the AM station remained focused on the “MetroWest” suburbs, programming a full-service format with music, local news, and local sports.

The breakdown of the clear channels in the 1980s gave WKOX an opportunity to go 24 hours. By building two new towers and moving to 1200 kHz, WKOX was able to be heard far beyond Framingham.

The full-service format ended in the early nineties, with WKOX switching to a satellite country format for several years. In 1995, the station experimented with a talk format aimed at Boston listeners, including talk host Gene Burns (doing his show via ISDN from San Francisco.)

The local talk slowly gave way to satellite during 1996, ending in October when WKOX switched to leased-time ethnic broadcasting, taking over most of the programming forced off WMEX (1150) when that station switched to the ill-fated KidStar network.

All the while, Fairbanks was searching for ways to improve WKOX's signal over metro Boston. Applications during the 90s included a CP for 50-kilowatt daytime operation off WKOX's existing site in Framingham; a proposal to improve night service by changing to an array of three shorter towers (fought fiercely by neighbors who seemed to think the short, unlit towers would be more of an eyesore—this at a site across the street from the Framingham waste transfer station!); a series of proposals for the old Unisys facility on Rt. 117 in Sudbury; and a plan to move daytime operations to the WNTN tower in Newton with 50 kilowatts.

Against this backdrop, WKOX got some company on Mount Wayte Avenue, leasing studio and tower space to Alex Langer for his new WRPT 650 (now WSRO) and WJLT 1060 (now WBIX). WJLT even leased WKOX's overnight hours for its “J-Light” religious format.

Meanwhile, the rumors continued to fly about possible sales of WKOX, especially after Fairbanks sold its FM sister (by then WKLB-FM) in 1996. A rumored CBS purchase never came to pass, but in early 1999, Fairbanks agreed to sell the station to Edward Karlik's “B-Mass Holding Company” for $14.5 million. The sale never closed, and WKOX remained in Fairbanks' hands when he died on August 11, 2000 at age 88.

A few months later, on January 10, 2001, Fairbanks Communications finally exited by broadcasting business by selling WKOX to Clear Channel (under the guise of subsidiary Capstar TX Limited Partnership). Before the ink was even dry on the transfer, Fairbanks filed on Clear Channel's behalf to move WKOX fully into the Boston market: a change of community of license to Newton and a change of transmitter location, to the WUNR site on Saw Mill Brook Parkway.

In 2004, along with many other of Clear Channel's underperforming AM stations around the country, WKOX picked up the fledgling Air America network, in a simulcast with Everett's WXKS (1430). In addition to Air America's programming, the two stations also broadcast shows from Jones Satellite Networks and from Clear Channel's own Premiere Radio Networks division, all with a political orientation somewhat left-of-center.

With no local hosts, limited promotion and a weak night signal, the progressive talk format never achieved ratings traction in the Boston market. On December 21, 2006, Clear Channel relaunched WKOX and WXKS as “Rumba 1200, Orgulla Latino”, with PD Raffy Contigo at the helm of the Spanish tropical format.

Construction of the new WKOX transmitter facility in Newton finally got underway in late 2006, and was substantially completed in 2008. The new facility was granted Program Test Authority in August, 2009, and was fully licensed in May, 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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