The Boston Radio Dial: WBQT(FM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Frequency: 96.9 MHz
Class: B
Ownership: Greater Boston Radio, Inc.
(Greater Media)
Studio: 55 Wm. T. Morrissey Blvd.
Dorchester, MA 02125-3315
Main transmitter: Prudential Tower
800 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02199
Backup transmitter: ATC Newton (FM-128)
1165 Chestnut St.
Newton, MA 02464-1308
Phones:
Office +1 617 822 9600
Call-in +1 617 822 1969
Format:
Main Rhythmic top-40
HD2 Traditional Irish music
Networks: None
Web site: hot969boston.com

Technical Parameters

WBQT transmits at 96.9 MHz with an effective radiated power of 22.5 kW (analogue) from the Prudential Tower lower master antenna. The antenna, a four-bay ERI COGWHEEL 1084-4CP-SP, is a non-directional, circularly-polarized, four-around panel antenna located 224 meters (735 feet) above average terrain (247 m above sea level), on the roof of the Prudential Tower in Boston's Back Bay. It is shared with sister stations WBOS and WROR-FM, and an auxiliary facility for WMJX (which is in full-time use as a digital-only antenna).

WTKK is also licensed for a 1.9-kW backup at the American Tower Newton (“FM-128”) facility, where it shares a master antenna system with WJMN and WBZ-FM, plus backups for WBOS, WKLB-FM, WROR-FM, WMJX, and WXKS-FM.

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

Station History

WBQT can trace its history back to one of Boston's first FM stations, W1XHR, later WXHR Cambridge, operated by Harvey Radio Laboratories. While WXHR claimed a sign-on date of 1945, it is first listed in broadcast directories in early 1948, already operating on 96.9 MHz in the “new” FM broadcast band.

WXHR's studio and transmitter were located on Zion Hill in Woburn, where the station operated for nearly two decades with a classical music format. Because the studio shared a small room with the transmitter, the fans on the equipment could often be heard whenever the announcer opened his microphone.

WXHR briefly experimented with television service from Zion Hill in the early 1950s, under the calls WTAO-TV, derived from AM 740 in Cambridge, which had become WXHR's sister station. By the early 1960s, WTAO became WXHR(AM), and WXHR(FM) became WXHR-FM.

In November 1966, WXHR AM-FM-TV were sold to Kaiser-Globe Broadcasting, a joint venture of Kaiser Broadcasting and the Boston Globe. In early 1967, the FM calls were changed to WJIB and the studios were relocated to 68 Commercial Wharf, on the waterfront in Boston's North End. The station's new format was beautiful music.

The WJIB calls were chosen to convey a nautical theme, reinforced by hourly IDs that featured a ship's bells and seagulls, sounds that would become a trademark of “FM 97” in the decades that followed. WJIB was sold again in 1972, this time to General Electric Broadcasting. WJIB's city of license also changed in the early 1970s, from Cambridge to Boston.

In 1986, WJIB became part of NBC, which in turn sold the station, along with much of the rest of its radio group, to Emmis Broadcasting in 1988. In 1990, Emmis turned off the beautiful music and changed the format to “Smooth Jazz”, under the new calls WCDJ(FM). The new “CD96.9” was still an instrumental-oriented station, but now targeted a younger audience. (Ironically, the WJIB calls and beautiful music would reappear two years later at the former sister station on 740 in Cambridge, now owned by Bob Bittner.)

In early 1993, Emmis sold WCDJ to Greater Media, creating a duopoly with WMJX 106.7 and WMEX 1150. Rumors began circulating of a new country format for 96.9, but in February, Fairbanks' WVBF made its own country switch, becoming WCLB-FM (later WKLB-FM), quieting that speculation briefly. A few months later, though, 96.9 entered the country wars by becoming WBCS, “We're Boston's Country Station”. The station's new studios were at the WMJX facility in the Salada Tea Building on Stuart Street, in the studio formerly used by WMEX.

What followed was almost three years of bitter competition, as the two rivals fought for a niche audience large enough to support one, but not necessarily two, major FM stations. At one point, WBCS tried to quell speculation of a format change by offering a million dollars to the first listener to call in if the station changed format before the end of 1996. It was a bet Greater Media never had to pay up, thanks to a June 1996 deal that traded Greater's Washington, D.C. stations (WGAY and WWRC) to Evergreen in exchange for Evergreen's just-purchased WKLB-FM.

In late August, WKLB-FM and WBCS began a brief simulcast, which ended on September 5 when 105.7 became WROR-FM, moving the WKLB-FM calls down to 96.9, which remained country as “Country 96.9”.

In 1997, Greater Media received two additional Boston-market stations, WBOS (92.9 Brookline) and WOAZ (99.5 Lowell), which had been recently acquired by Infinity but put CBS over the ownership limit after merging with Infinity. At noon on August 22, smooth jazz returned to the 96.9 position on the dial as Greater swapped the WKLB-FM calls and country format to the 99.5 facility. The new calls for 96.9 were WSJZ, reflecting the station's slogan “Smooth Jazz 96.9”. The studios stayed with the formats, so 96.9 began originating from the former WOAZ studios at 1200 Soldiers Field Road. The station also changed transmitter sites, moving from the FM-128 tower in Newton to the newly-rebuilt Prudential Center master antenna.

In late 1998, WSJZ moved once more, to Greater Media's new consolidated studios and offices on the Morrissey Boulevard “Media Row” in Dorchester.

In 1999, after weeks of speculation, Greater Media announced that the sounds of smooth jazz would be replaced by talk. Greater out-bid WRKO for rights to “Imus in the Morning”, which moved to “FM Talk 96.9” on August 23. Additional talk programs were scheduled to debut two weeks later, with smooth jazz filling the remaining dayparts until the talk schedule is finalized. That September, the callsign was changed to WTKK, reflecting the new format and positioning.

“FM Talk 96.9” filled out its schedule with a mixture of local hosts (veteran columnists Mike Barnicle and Marjorie Clapprood, along with commentator Jim Braude) and syndicated offerings. Weekend programming included the former WBZ staple, “Calling All Sports”. Veteran sports talker Eddie Andelman joined WTKK as host of “The Sports Huddle” in 2005.

Former Republican political consultant Jay Severin became WTKK's afternoon host, doing a local show for the Boston market via ISDN from his home on Long Island's East End. Severin's show went national in 2005, moving to evenings on WTKK with former WMAL (630 Washington DC) host Michael Graham taking over afternoon drive. When Severin's syndicated show was cancelled by Westwood One a year later, he returned to WTKK's afternoon drive, displacing Graham to nights.

In 2006, WTKK added an HD2 subchannel, programming “Classical 2.0”. The format was changed to “96.9 Irish” late in 2006, when Greater Media bought classical WCRB-FM (102.5 Waltham, now WKLB-FM) and spun off its intellectual property to Nassau Broadcasting.

WTKK faced increased competition when Clear Channel launched “Rush Radio 1200” on WXKS in 2010, adding a third full-market talk signal into the mix against WTKK and WRKO. Against the conservative ideological focus of its two competitors, WTKK attempted to program a more middle-of-the-road lineup that included simulcasts of New England Cable News programming and a morning show featuring Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Graham remained as well, the last vestige of WTKK's more ideological talk era.

Clear Channel's flip to comedy at WXKS in August 2012 sent Rush Limbaugh's show back to WRKO, giving the heritage talk station a renewed competitive position against WTKK. In December 2012, Greater Media began dropping personalities such as Graham and mid-morning host Doug Meehan from WTKK, leaving only Braude and Eagan as local hosts by year's end.

On January 2, 2013, Braude and Eagan signed off the talk format, kicking off a week of daily stunt “microformats” that included urban “Power 96.9”, dance “Nova 96.9” and adult hits “Mike FM”. On January 8, 96.9 relaunched as “Hot 96.9”, mixing current rhythmic hits with music of the 1980s and 1990s. Under program director “Cadillac Jack” McCartney, a veteran of WJMN, the station hired an airstaff made up largely of WJMN veterans including morning hosts Baltazar and Pebbles. WTKK changed calls to WBQT on March 20, 2013.

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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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