After a few weeks of broken promises, NERW is proud to present the first installment of our look at the huge changes on Maine's FM dial over the last 15 years or so...but first, a few bits of late-October news:
One more addition: NERW neglected to note one more Kidstar affiliate in our last issue. KMPQ (980) in Rosenberg/Houston, Texas has been on the air with Kidstar for several months now.
FM in 1971 consisted of just a handful of stations. Caribou's WFST was an AM daytimer on 600, with an FM simulcast on 97.7 broadcasting with a mere 220 watts from 185 feet. WFST(AM) is still there, but the FM is now a separate operation as WCXU, with a 20kw signal on 97.7. In Houlton, WHOU was an AM-only operation on 1340. WHOU-FM made its debut in 1976 on 100.1. Today, the AM is gone, but the FM lives on, simulcasting WALZ-FM 95.3 Machias. In Madawaska, 1971's listings found just a single AM station, WSJR 1230. It and sister station WLVC 1340 Fort Kent have been off the air since 1991, and could have their licenses pulled soon. Madawaska's on FM now, with the arrival in the 1980's of WCXX 102.3, simulcasting WCXU from Caribou. Fort Kent has FM as well, based at the University of Maine campus there. WUFK is the student station, which signed on in 1974 on 90.3 and later moved to its current 92.1 spot. And Maine Public Radio put WMEF (106.5) on the air up there in 1994. The largest community in Aroostook is Presque Isle, where AM has all but disappeared since 1971, when the city's only stations were 950 WAGM and 1390 WEGP. The 950 license is gone, and 1390 is dark. OOn FM, WDHP signed on in 1973 on 96.9, and is now WBPW. 96.1 was WTMS for years, but is now hot AC WQHR. Maine Public Radio put WMEM 106.1 on the air in 1978, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle's WUPI signed on in 1973 on 90.3, later to be moved to 92.1. New in the 80s were WOZI on 101.7, and sister AM WOZW 710 Monticello, now known as WREM under separate ownership.
Down East Maine, we find a lot has changed in WASHINGTON COUNTY. In 1971, Calais had only WQDY (1230), which was joined in 1976 by WQDY-FM on 92.7, and in the 1980s by Maine Public Radio's WMED (89.7). Machias had a single AM in 1971, WMCS (1400). In 1978, WMCS added WALZ-FM on 95.3, and by the mid-80s, WMCS(AM) had become WALZ(AM). The AM is now dark, but the FM lives on. Eastport got a non-commercial FM at its high school in the 1980s, WSHD (91.7).
In 1971, HANCOCK COUNTY had but two stations, WDEA (1370) in Ellsworth, and simulcast WDEA-FM on 95.7. WDEA lives on, but the FM is now oldies WWMJ, targeted at Bangor. WKSQ arrived in 1982 as a class A FM on 94.3, soon upgrading to a full B on 94. Mount Desert Island got its FMs in 1994, WLKE on 99.1 and WMDI on 107.7, both licensed to Bar Harbor. And community outlet WERU debuted on 89.9 from Blue Hill in 1988.
It's no exaggeration to say that the radio dial in PENOBSCOT COUNTY exploded in 25 years. In 1971, Bangor's three AMs and one FM were all co-owned with the city's three TVs. Maine Broadcasting owned WLBZ (620) and WLBZ-TV 2; Horace Hildreth's Community Broadcasting Service owned WABI (910), WABI-FM (97.1), and WABI-TV 5; and Melvin Stone owned WGUY (1250) and WEMT-TV 7. Maine Broadcasting never got into FM, and eventually sold off its radio interests in the early 1980s. WLBZ evolved into WZON, which was later purchased by Stephen King himself. WABI-FM became country WBGW, then country WYOU, and then in 1995 modern-rock WWBX, "97X." It and WABI(AM) were sold off separately from the TV in the early 80s. WGUY had the longest, strangest trip of all, moving from 1250 (where it was a daytimer) to 1200 in the late 1980s, after undergoing several call changes. In the early 1980s, it became WMLI, playing "Music of Your Life," and by the time the frequency change was made, it was WKIT(AM), simulcasting its sister FM. The FM was born in 1979, as WGUY-FM Brewer on 100.9, with a mere thousand watts. In 1987, it changed calls to WKIT-FM, and moved down the dial to 100.3 and up to a full class B signal. WKIT(AM) also changed city of license to Brewer so it could get 10kw day. In the early 1990s, WKIT(AM) became WNSW, running CNN Headline News, and by 1995 it was off the air entirely.
In the meantime, Bangor was blessed with many more FMs. Penobscot Broadcasting's WPBC debuted on 92.9 in 1976. It's now soft AC WEZQ, co-owned with WDEA/WWMJ in Ellsworth. On the non-comm front, Husson College's WHSN (89.3) came on in 1974, the Bangor Baptist Church's WHCF (88.5) made its debut with a full class C signal in 1981, Maine Public Broadcasting's WMEH (90.9) signed on in 1970, and up in Orono, the University of Maine's WMEB (91.9) bowed in 1988. Over in Brewer, country WQCB (106.5) took to the airwaves in 1986. The 1990s brought more new signals, including WSNV (103.9) in Howland with talk and news programming, WBZN (107.3) in Old Town with 70s rock, and WGUY (102.1) in Dexter, reviving the heritage calls with oldies.
In northern Penobscot County, Millinocket's WMKR on 1240 evolved into today's WSYY(AM). Its sister FM, now WSYY-FM on 94.9, began life in 1978 as WKTR as a class A on 97.7. The WSYY calls came along in the mid-80s, and the frequency shift to 94.9 and upgrade to 24kw came in the late 80s. Lincoln's WLKN (1450) sprouted WLKN-FM on 99.3 in 1975. The FM briefly took the WGUY calls in the late 80s, then became WHMX in 1989, moving to 50kw on 105.7 a year later. The AM changed calls to WTOX in 1989. Both have been dark for several years.
Our next stop south is in WALDO COUNTY, where there was just one station in 1971, little 250-watt WBME on 1230 in Belfast. WBME died a few years ago, but in its stead there are now two FMs, both of which target Bangor listeners. WWFX (104.7) signed on in Belfast in 1986. It just changed format from CHR "The Fox" to country "The Bear." WBYA in Searsport signed on just a few years ago on 101.7, and after flirting with AC for a while, is now simulcasting classical with WAVX in Thomaston, down the coast.