Sunday, July 2, 2017

Boston's once-iconic AM station goes dark

WMEX 1510, a local mainstay on the AM radio dial in Boston for more than eight decades, went off the air at 6pm on Friday(6/30) when current owners,,Daly XXL Communications, LLC, decided to pull the plug after indicating the the station has been sold and the new owner has not decided on the new format.  (As of this writing. the identity of new station owner has not been announced and no transfer of station license application has been filed with the FCC)

From its start in the mid-1930's and for decades to come WMEX had evolved into one of Boston's famed pop music stations. However, by mid 1970's a growing music competition on AM and FM dials forced its sale and a format change. In 1976, WMEX became the first all-talk format station as well as the new flagship for Boston Red Sox broadcasts for the next seven years. In 1978,  the station changed call letters to WITS("Information, Talk and Sports") by the new ownership.   The Red Sox contract called for the station to improve its signal coverage but despite a $1 million investment into a new antenna, a crucial signal problem remained. Coupled with disadvantageous spot on the end of the dial (1510) and AM radio in general is being challenged more and more by FM, the downward turning point for 1510 was well underway.

In the past four decades, the 1510 frequency has been far from a smashing success of its first 40 years.  Regardless of the ownership, call letters or the programming, a continuing problem had been the station's 50,000 watt signal, adequate during daytime hours, but shaky nighttime directional signal left much to be desired  - WMRE(Golden Oldies/"Memory"Big Band/Nostalgia), WSSH(simulcast of soft pop WSSH FM "Wish 99.5"),  WKKU(Country), WNRB(Spanish language religious programming), WWZN(sports talk and Celtics broadcasts under Sporting Radio/Zone 1510), WUFC(Yahoo Sports/Talk format) and last two years as all-talker WMEX. The station was also in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1986 but never actually signed off the air.
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As for current situation, after leasing out 1510 for about a year(2014-2015), a family-owned Daly XXL finally acquired WMEX from Blackstrap in June 2015 for $175,000. Over the past two years, the all-talk format featured local morning show "Renegade Radio" show with John Pica and station's general manager Bryan Berner, Boston Herald Radio, Joe Shortsleeve, Sandy Shack, Michele McPhee, Tim Constantine, syndicated Michael Savage. Very briefly, WMEX served as the temp home for Howie Carr who was in the midst of negotiating a hard-bargained affiliation deal with WRKO 680 and desperately needed a Boston signal to support his new self-syndication venture. (The WRKO syndication deal was finally struck in March 2015 and Carr immediately returned to AM 680)

It's not clear whether 1510's discontinued signal transmission will be temporary or permanent. The Federal Communications Commission won’t let a station remain silent for longer than one year, or its license gets automatically cancelled.

Stay tuned.

BRW Notebook :

Fireworks : The annual July 4 concert and fireworks event at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade produced by The Boston Pops has a brand new media partner starting this year. That means the change in radio signals. Exit CBS/WBZ-TV and WBZ 1030 and enter NewYork-based Bloomberg TV and Radio. Bloomberg will broadcast The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on Bloomberg Television on cable/satellite nationally and internationally. Locally, on radio over WXKS 1200/WJMN 94.5 HD2 will run TV simulcast from 8pm to 11pm. The concert will be also heard on WBBR 1130 in New York/New Jersey/Connecticut areas; WNEW FM 99.1 in the Washington, D.C/ Baltimore areas; 960 AM in San Francisco; SiriusXM Channel 119, on the Bloomberg Radio+ app for iPhone and Android, and on TuneIn. Bloomberg's anchors/personalities Alix Steel, Carol Massar and Matt Miller are the hosts. 

Happy Returns : Couple noteable returns on local dial - after a three year absence, former WEEI nighttime host John Ryder has returned to Red Sox Radio broadcasts on WEEI as weekend and fill-in pre and postgame host earlier June. Ryder is still working with ESPN Radio in CT......Jim Clerkin, who was with WXKS/Kiss 108 from 1999-2015 in various roles including music director, assistant program director and Matt Siegal's morning show executive producer has landed as executive producer at WRKO 680's Boston Dot Com morning show in early June. Clerkin officially replaced Dave Cullinane who exited in late February(BRW 3/1/15).

4 comments:

Larry Weil said...

I think you may be mistaken on the 1510 signal never having been dark. I remember for a few month period some many years ago they were off the air, I remember listening to the then 1510 station from CT during that time.

Fenway said...

1510 was off the air for a few months after WMRE ran out of cash and the sale to Noble (WSSH-FM)

Doc Searls said...

I believe the 1510 signal may not have been properly maintained lately, since I have reliably received it at night in my Manhattan apartment. While the station of 50,000 watts full time, its night signal toward New York, and generally toward Nashvile (protecting the dominant signal in that direction), is close to nil. See here: http://fccinfo.com/CMDProEngine.php?sCurrentService=AM&tabSearchType=Appl&sAppIDNumber=606726&sHours=N .

The antenna system is an interesting one: four towers in a parking lot off Waverly Oaks Road between Waltham and Belmont.

This is not the site used during the station's Top 40 heyday, by the way. Not sure when it moved here, or went up to 50kw at night, but it was at least in recent decades.

Anonymous said...

I haven't tuned in 1510 since they stopped carrying BU's hockey games.