WFNX 101.7, Boston's radio station that for nearly three decades has served as a purveyor of everything that's alternative rock music, dumped its long-running genre for the variety hits format which runs off a broader list of mainstream hits from the 1970's through the 90's. WFNX's original owner, Phoenix Media/Communications Group agreed to sell the station to the Texas-based Clear Channel Entertainment and Media for $14.5 million back in mid-May. The deal officially closed yesterday and the new owners took over the frequency shortly after 4pm.
WFNX had already bid farewell to its listeners last weekend as former DJ Neal Robert ushered out the format to the sounds of Cure's "Let's Go To Bed", the first song ever played on the station in March 1983. Since shortly after 7pm last Friday(7/20) after Neal Robert signed off, WFNX has been running automated simulcasting the stream from www.WFNX.com portal which is now the new digital home of the legendary station.
At 4:03pm yesterday, WFNX's signal went silent. At 4:16pm, the new WHBA/101.7 The Harbor sailed onto Boston airwaves with three plays of 1966's "Dirty Water" classic by the Standells which was followed up by a quick pre-recorded one minute greeting/introduction from the new station's imaging voice - veteran voice-over talent/actor/comedian Ken Hudson Campbell letting listeners know that The Harbor will be commercial-free for the next 6 weeks thru Labor Day Weekend. The new website is up and running at 1017theharborradio.com
101.7's new variety hits format is definitely no stranger to Boston radio. Entercom Boston programmed it with relative success on its 93.7 frequency from Spring 2005 until last September and branded it as Mike 93-7. Entercom silenced MikeFM to make room for sports talker WEEI's FM simulcast on September 12, 2011.
Over the past 8 years, radio programmers around US have been adopting the Canadian-born variety hits format which is more commonly referred to as "Jack-FM". The format is built from a bigger-than-usual music library of about 1,200-1,300 titles and results in odd mixes of songs from various eras and genres, partly as a response to the popularity of iPods and satellite radio, which offer deep playlists with no commercials. Of course, just like with Mike before, there will be no live DJ's on the Harbor but plenty of prerecorded snippets by Ken Hudson Campbell all day and night between blocks of music. And, just like actor John O'Hurley(played Peterman character on Seinfled) did on the old MikeFM, Campbell's voice imaging will be nearly constant presence on the Harbor but will never have any connection to the music which will all be picked by Clear Channel's programming department.(Ed. Note : To be fair, the influence of live disc jockeys on what songs get played on the radio was already weak/nonexistent even before the advent of Jack format and his clones).
Here's Clear Channel's official press release on the launch of 101-7 The Harbor :
July 24, 2012
CLEAR CHANNEL MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT WELCOMES 101.7 “THE HARBOR” TO ITS BOSTON MARKET LINEUP
WHBA Will Debut With A Commercial-Free Music Summer And Will “Play Anything” Today at ____
Boston, Mass. – July 24, 2012 – Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston today announced the debut of its newest station 101.7 WHBA-FM “The Harbor.” WHBA will mark Clear Channel’s fifth radio station in the Greater Boston area and will represent the area’s first Variety Hit music station that will “play anything.”
Unlike any other Boston radio station, 101.7 The Harbor will play a variety of music and styles spanning four decades. WHBA-FM will feature listeners’ favorite songs from a variety of artists across the board such as Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Prince, No Doubt, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Maroon 5, Van Halen, U2, Journey, Nirvana, Matchbox 20 and many more. Listeners will also enjoy a commercial-free summer of music in celebration of Boston’s newest station 101.7 The Harbor.
“We are extremely excited to bring a different sound to Boston,” said Mary Menna, President/Market Manager for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston. “The Harbor offers the community quality programming and is a station that is not afraid to play all of the greatest songs all on one station. It will be fun and upbeat and Boston listeners are going to love it.”
“We are going to play everything - and that means a surprising variety of songs from lots of decades, genres and artists,” said Dylan Sprague, Operations Manager for The Harbor. “You can expect to hear 80s rock and pop hits, some 70s disco, 90s alternative and of course some great hair bands.”
WHBA 101.7 The Harbor will join WXKS-FM, WJMN-FM, WXKS-AM and WKOX-AM as part of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston. Listeners can visit1017theharborradio.com for more information and to listen online.
About Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston
Clear Channel Boston owns and operates 101.7 The Harbor, KISS 108, JAMN 94.5, TALK 1200, MIA 1430 and is part of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. With 237 million monthly listeners in the U.S., Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America. Clear Channel Media and Entertainment serves 150 cities through 850 owned radio stations. The company’s radio stations and content can be heard on AM/FM stations, HD digital radio channels, Sirius/XM satellite, on the Internet at iHeartRadio.com and on the company’s radio station websites, on the iHeartRadio mobile application on iPads and smartphones, and used via navigation systems from TomTom, Garmin and others. The company’s operations include radio broadcasting, online and mobile services and products, live concerts and events, syndication, music research services and independent media representation. Clear Channel Media and Entertainment is a division of CC Media Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB: CCMO), a leading global media and entertainment company. More information on the company can be found at clearchannel.com, clearchanneloutdoor.com and ccmediaholdings.com.