New York Radio Guide- by Thomas Clarke
This is a radio station guide for those who are new to New York or those who haven't followed up on some recent format changes. (Note: Arbitron ratings are not as frequently available as they were in 2009, so the major changes since then make the ratings quoted here out of date.)
WNYZ 87.7 FM: On February 11, 2008, Pulse 87 debuted as the city's first current dance station since WKTU segued to classic dance/rhythmic AC in the mid 2000s. But due to the financial troubles of their parent company, Pulse 87 went off the air in October 2009, and shortly afterwards became a simulcast of WDRE-FM Party 105.3 in Long Island. Now it is mainly Russian Dance Music.
WSIA 88.9 FM: Staten Island's non-commercial radio station. It airs various music formats as Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop, and Techno as well as Staten Island Yankees minor-league games. Their studios are at the Willowbrook campus of the College of Staten Island.
WKRB 90.9 FM: Kingsborough Community College's radio station. Its musical playlist is similar to Z100. They also have sports (including the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league baseball team) and a pro wrestling talk show. WKRB only picks up in the southern part of Brooklyn.
WNYE 91.5 FM: A public radio station owned by the NYC Board of Education.
WXRK 92.3 FM (Now-FM): This station was for 14 months "Free FM", a talk station with Stern nemeses Opie and Anthony as the morning hosts. For 20 years, this station was the home of Howard Stern, but he moved to Sirius Satellite Radio in January 2006. Opie and Anthony still hosted mornings, but in late May 2007, the talk format was dumped in favor of the rock format this station had when Howard Stern was still an employee. In March 2009, 92.3 took on its current Top 40 format with a lot of digs at Z100. January 2009 ratings (as K-Rock): #21
WQBU FM 92.7: Until January 9, 2004, this was WLIR, a very good station that played regular alternative, 1980s music, and techno/house music. WLIR moved to 107.1's Suffolk County transmitter, before briefly going out of broadcast business in the Summer of 2005. For 3 years, it was WZAA-FM, and it simulcasted "La Kalle" WCAA 105.9FM (now WXNY 96.3), but now, WQBU is a Mexican (as opposed to Spanish AC or Caribbean/Tropical or Reggaeton) station. WQBU transmits out of Nassau County, but they pick up in most of NYC. January 2009 ratings: #32
WPAT 93.1 (Amor 93.1) and WSKQ 97.9 (Mega): The 2 oldest FM Spanish stations in town. Mega leans toward merengue and reggaeton, Amor plays more ballads than Mega. Mega hit #1 in the NYC market for the Summer 1998 ratings period. By Spring 2000, Mega was out of the top 5, although by Spring 2005, it was back up to #2. January 2009 ratings: WPAT #15; Mega #5
WVIP 93.5FM: A low power FM station out of southern Westchester County that now carries full-time independent artists, reggae, and Caribbean programming. It picks up in the Bronx, upper Manhattan, lower Westchester, and Northern Queens (especially Bayside and Whitestone).
WNYC 93.9, WNYC 820AM,
WBAI 99.5: Public stations that are on wavelengths that are supposed to be assigned to commercial stations. (If anyone complains that WNYZ 87.7 is violating the noncommercial rule on its bandwidth, one can retaliate by pointing out that WNYC and WBAI are wasting the commercial bandwidths with their noncommercial formats.) WBAI is very liberal and is run by the notoriously anti-corporate left-wing Pacifica Foundation. WBAI also has the distinction of being the least listened-to radio station of any bandwidth (over 1000 watts) in NYC, with a 0.1 rating. (All the FM stations and LI stations that pick up in NYC, as well as the other noncommercial stations beat WBAI in the ratings.) WNYC AM and FM are run by the WNYC foundation (formerly by the city) and are NPR affiliates. WNYC-FM's most recent Arbitron rating was #22t. WNYC-AM's rating was #28t.
WNSH 94.7FM: Used to be WFME (a religious station, despite the obscene-sounding call letters) but they barely showed up in the Arbitron ratings (#45t/0.3, or 3 times the rating of WBAI). Cumulus Radio recently bought this station, and the format changed to country on January 21, 2013.
95.1FM: A pirate radio station out of Brighton Beach. Over the last 8 years, 95.1 has played dance, disco, and reggae. As of 2004, it mainly simulcasts Sirius Satellite Radio's "36 The Beat" channel. This station has managed to survive despite several police shutdowns and numerous mentions in the NY Daily News radio column. 95.1 only picks up in the Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn (generally south of Avenue X).
WPLJ 95.5: A station that likes to hop the fence between top 40, adult alternacrap, "lite rock", and classic rock. They are best known for their morning show hosts Scott and Todd. Their ratings aren't great- they were tied for 16th place in the January 2009 Arbitrons. I would suggest to current owner Cumulus to return the station to its pre-1992 top 40 format or its old rock format since there are way too many AC/mostly-oldies stations here in NYC.
WXNY 96.3 (La Mezcla): Formerly WNWK, an eclectic station that alternated between Spanish, reggae, and other music and cultures not heard on commercial radio (that format went to WPAT 930AM). They now plays Spanish Hip Hop and reggaeton. WXNY is owned by Univision Radio and until January 2007, it simulcasted on WZAA (now WQBU) 92.7FM. In the Fall of 2009, this station switched frequencies with WQXR. January 2009 ratings for then WCAA: #20
WQHT 97.1 (Hot 97): Formerly a good dance music station. In 1994 they decided to switch to all rap. Hot 97 occasionally plays R&B and slow jams. They were in the top 5 for at least 10 years. January 2009 ratings: #16t
WEPN 98.7: Formerly the top rated R&B/hip hop station, now the ESPN radio affiliate with WEPN 1050AM switching to Spanish ESPN Deportes. January 2009 ratings (as Kiss-FM): #9t
WHTZ 100.3 (Z100): New York's top 40 station that redefined the whole format in the 1980's. Z100 switched to alternative in 1994 and switched back to top 40 in late 1996. Even though it isn't #1 in NYC (it was number 1 in Summer 2007 and Spring-Fall 2008 and #2 in the most recent Arbitrons), it has enough listeners between the NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey markets to be the most listened to NYC FM radio station.
WCBS FM 101.1 : Perhaps the biggest change in New York radio since the launch of WKTU in 1996 occurred June 3, 2005, when longtime high-rated oldies station WCBS-FM dumped its oldies format for a variety but still mainly oldies format called "Jack" that included songs from this millennium. WCBS-FM lost over half their audience in the Spring 2005 Arbitrons when they switched from oldies. In July 2007, they switched back to oldies, and their ratings doubled. January 2009 ratings: #4.
WFAN 101.9: Formerly, New York's jazz station as WQCD (1988-2007), an adult alternative/rock station called WRXP (2007-2011 and July-November 2012), and ABC-affiliated FM News. As of November 2012, they simulcast WFAN-AM due to CBS Radio's recent purchase of this station. January 2009 ratings (as WRXP): #25t
WWFS 102.7 (Fresh 102.7): For a long time, this was a rock station with call letters WNEW. About 6 years ago, it switched to talk. In late January 2003, it switched to an automated top 40 format. They relaunched as Blink 102.7 in April 2003, with a top 40/AC format while adding oldies, entertainment news, and a unique online request service using the AOL IM name "blinkline". They went all-Holiday music in November 2003, and from January 2004-January 2, 2007, they were a "classic dance" station which unfortunately turned its competition (WKTU) away from current dance. They stole some of WKTU's old jingles and personalities (like Joe Causi, Geronimo, Michelle Visage, and for a time, RuPaul). As of January 2, 2007, they are "Fresh 102.7" and challenging WLTW-FM with a similar format. 102.7FM was out of the top 20 for at least 11 years until their format switch in January 2007. January 2009 ratings: #13t
103.1FM: Several low power reggae/Caribbean/Hip Hop stations operate at this frequency. One picks up in the Concord and Park Hill neighborhoods in Staten Island; another picks up in Brooklyn and the Woodhaven/Ozone Park sections of Queens.
WKTU 103.5: WKTU's debut in February, 1996, redefined local radio and spawned numerous imitators in markets such as LA, Nashville, and other towns that had never heard of dance music before. RuPaul was one of WKTU's original morning show hosts. They are now more of a classic dance music oldies station (like NYC doesn't have enough oldies formats as it is). Shortly after WKTU debuted in 1996, they were #1, but by January 2009, they were tied for 11th place. For about 16 months, their morning show host was Whoopi Goldberg. They play more current dance music than in the mid 2000s, but are closer to a Hot AC/Dance hybrid than a pure Dance station like Party 105/101.5 Long Island.
WAXQ 104.3 (Q104.3): A hard rock station that switched to classic rock in 1996. Owned by the fine folks who own Z100, WKTU, 105.1FM and Lite-FM. (That company used to go by such names as Hicks, Tate, & Muse, Chancellor Media, and AMFM. It was bought out by Clear Channel.) Too bad their Classic Rock format isn't dying anytime soon. January 2009 ratings: #8
WWPR 105.1 (Power 105.1): In 1996, this was Mix 105. In 1997, it was a slightly more rock station called the Buzz. In 1998, it was "Modern Hits Big 105" with former Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce as morning host. Up until March 2002, it was "jamming oldies" with disco\R&B from the 1960s to the 1990s. Now it is "Power 105"- a knockoff of Hot 97. Power 105 was a regular top 10 performer from its debut until recently (they were tied for 11th in the January 2009 Arbitrons). They have a habit of stealing hosts away from Hot 97 (such as former Hot 97 morning hosts Ed Lover, Star, and Buc Wild).
WQXR 105.9: An FM classical station. It was owned by the New York Times (and is now owned by WNYC), and is probably the oldest FM classical station in the country (with its call letters and format dating back to the 1940s). In the Fall of 2009, it switched frequencies with WCAA, which switched its call letters to WXNY. January 2009 ratings: #19
WFME 106.3: The new home for WFME, a religious station that for over 45 years was located on 94.7FM. In 2012, Cumulus bought 94.7 and sold their Westchester station at 106.3, where WFME moved on January 15, 2013. WFME may move to AM in the near future.
WLTW 106.7 (106.7 Lite FM): For the last several years, Lite FM was #1 in the NYC market. For a good part of 2007, they stopped calling themselves "Lite FM" in favor of "106.7 FM New York" due to a serious ratings challenge from WWFS 102.7- whose Spring 2007 commercials called 106.7 out for the de-facto oldies station it was. January 2009 ratings: #1
WXPK 107.1 FM: When the old WYNY 103.5FM switched to WKTU, WYNY-107 filled the country void by broadcasting on 107.1FM signals in Long Island, Westchester, and northwestern New Jersey. But in May 2002, the stations switched to a Spanish format. The Spanish format was gradually dumped after the 107.1FM stations were sold in December 2002. In 2003, the Westchester/Putnam (WXPK) 107.1 transmitter started simulcasting K104.7 Poughkeepsie, a dominant Hudson Valley top 40 station (which gets about the same NYC market ratings as WBAI). Now, they are a rock/AC station. And in January 2004, WLIR moved to the Long Island 107.1FM transmitter (before switching to Christian music in 2011). Ironically, the Spanish format from that station moved to WLIR's old 92.7FM transmitter. The 107.1 transmitter in Jersey calls itself "The Breeze" and plays a basic AC format.
WBLS 107.5: A legendary R&B station that added new urban music, rap, and controversial former Hot 97 host Wendy Williams and saw its ratings rise- from 15th (in the late 1990s) to 3rd in the Winter 2002 ratings. WBLS has fallen back a bit to 9th in the most recent ratings. WBLS's format switched back to Urban AC in January 2005. In April 2012, WBLS's parent company bought the intellectual assets (and some programming and staff) of WRKS Kiss-FM when 98.7FM switched to ESPN radio. There is a reference to this station in U2's 1989 hit "Angel of Harlem".
WCBS 880AM and
NYC's all news stations. Owned by the fine folks who also bring you
CBS, Channel 2,
Letterman, Dr. Phil, and CSI. Generally, WINS does better (#3) in the ratings than WCBS-AM (#6). In 2002, WCBS-AM snatched the broadcast rights to the New York Yankees away from their longtime home at WABC-AM.
WFAN 660AM: An all sports station, thanks to the departure of their longtime morning host Don Imus. WFAN is owned by CBS Radio, but was ironically the flagship station for NBC radio until NBC got out of the radio business in 1986. They carry New York Mets games. As of late 2012, they will also be on 101.9FM. January 2009 ratings: #13t
WABC 770AM: The talk station that is the local base for the New York Jets and Rush Limbaugh, and used to be the NY home for the now-deceased Paul Harvey. Disney corporate geeks caused the station to lose its dominant place in the ratings (they are now at #7) by firing controversial but highly rated conservative host Bob Grant. WABC lost their Yankees rights to WCBS-AM over 10 years ago. WABC is the current home for Don Imus.
WOR 710AM: A minor talk station that increased their ratings when they hired Bob Grant in 1996. (I'm sure station execs are mourning his retirement in 2006 and his recent reunion with WABC.) They had a radio show with conservative Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly in 2002. January 2009 ratings: #18.
WEPN 1050AM: A sports/talk station that was purchased by Disney's ESPN Radio in 2002, and was not one of the ABC owned radio stations that were sold to Citadel Broadcasting (now Cumulus) in 2007. In April 2012, they bought out 98.7FM, and for 5 months, both were simulcasting ESPN radio. Now 1050AM carries ESPN Deportes. January 2009 ratings: #25t
WQEW 1560AM: Formerly the Sinatra and Adult Standards station, WQEW is now the NYC home of Radio Disney, and like WEPN-AM, is still owned by Disney/ABC instead of Cumulus Radio. Insert Mr. Yuck sticker here. January 2009 ratings: #50t.
WLIB 1190AM: The former flagship station for the ultra-liberal Air America radio network (until August 31, 2006). It is currently a gospel station. WLIB was in 22nd place in the most recent Arbitrons.
WWRL 1600: WWRL is now a liberal talk station. It used to carry Air (anti)America. Before 2006, WWRL was a gospel station. Ironically, conservative Armstrong Williams hosted mornings on this station. WWRL is also NYC's original Fox News Radio affiliate. WWRL was tied for 50th place in the January 2009 Arbitrons, with slightly more than one half the listeners of WNYM 970, one thirteenth the listeners of former Air America affiliate WLIB, one twenty-fifth the listeners of WOR-AM, and one forty-second the listeners of WABC-AM, but twice as many listeners as WBAI-FM.
WNYM 970AM: Salem's conservative talk station, which premiered in July 2008. Its lineup is similar to such stations as WIND AM in Chicago and KZNT in Colorado Springs. WNYM is the new Fox News Radio affiliate for NYC. January 2009 ratings: #45t.
WSNR 620AM: Another Sports News and Sports Talk station, affiliated with Sporting News Radio. If they ever manage to steal sports coverage from WFAN and WEPN and improve their signal, then they might register in the ratings.
WBCR 1090AM: Brooklyn College's campus station. Its listening range is limited to a few buildings on the Brooklyn College campus if you don't have an internet connection.
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Last updated June 7, 2013.