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WFLA
Broadcast areaTampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
Frequency970 kHz
25.87 MHz (Shortwave)
BrandingNewsradio WFLA
Programming
Language(s)English
FormatNews/talk
Affiliations
Ownership
Owner
WBTP, WDAE, WFLZ-FM, WFUS, WHNZ, WMTX, WXTB
History
First air date
1925; 98 years ago (1925)
Former call signs
  • WGHB (1925–1927)
  • WFHH (1927)
  • WFLA (1927)
  • WFLA-WSUN (1927-1937)
Former frequencies
  • 1130 kHz (1925–1927)
  • 590 kHz (1927–1929)
  • 620 kHz (1929–1941)
  • 940 kHz (1941)
Call sign meaning
pre-ZIP code era abbreviation for Florida
Technical information
Facility ID29729
ClassB
Power25,000 watts day
11,000 watts night
100 watts (KPM360 - Shortwave)
Transmitter coordinates
28°01′14″N 82°36′34″W / 28.02056°N 82.60944°W / 28.02056; -82.60944
Translator(s)See § Translators
Repeater(s)97.9 WXTB-HD2 (Clearwater)
Links
WebcastListen Live
Websitewflanews.iheart.com

WFLA (970 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station in Tampa, Florida, and serving the Tampa Bay media market. The station airs a news/talk format and is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc. The station's studios and offices are located on Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa.[1]

WFLA broadcasts by day at 25,000 watts, reducing power to 11,000 watts at night. (For most of its history, from the 1940s to the early 2000s, it ran at 5,000 watts.) It uses a directional antenna at all times. The main transmitter site is off Montague Street in Town 'n' Country, Florida.[2] Programming is also heard on two FM translators, 94.5 MHz in Gulfport and 99.1 in Bayonet Point.

Programming

Weekdays on WFLA begin with a local morning show, AM Tampa Bay, hosted by Aaron Jacobson, Katie Butchino and Natalie Aquilia.[3] From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., The Ryan Gorman Show airs, hosted by Ryan Gorman, who used to host PM Tampa Bay.[4] The rest of the schedule features mostly nationally syndicated Premiere Networks talk shows including The Glenn Beck Radio Program, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, The Sean Hannity Show, The Jesse Kelly Show, Our American Stories with Lee Habeeb and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.

Weekends feature shows on money, health, law, boating and fishing. Some weekend shows are paid brokered programming. On weekends, WFLA carries Sunday Nights with Bill Cunningham, Armstrong & Getty, The Ben Ferguson Show and This Morning, America's First News with Gordon Deal.

WFLA provides local newscasts on both weekdays and weekends. Evening and overnight newscasts are pre-recorded. National and world news is provided by Fox News Radio and NBC News Radio. WFLA provides news coverage for other iHeartMedia stations in the Tampa Bay market, and is a hub for the Florida News Network.

WFLA occasionally serves as an overflow outlet for sports programming from co-owned sports radio station 620 WDAE.

Other stations carrying the WFLA brand

Another Clear Channel radio station in Tallahassee took the call sign WFLA-FM. Its sister station in the Orlando area, WFLF (AM), uses "WFLA" as its branding. Both WFLA-FM and WFLF carries many of the same nationally syndicated programming as WFLA, but all three stations have their own local shows and news.

WFLF-FM also previously carried the WFLA brand and programming in Panama City until September 2021; since then, the WFLA brand has been carried by two FM translators in the area.

History

In 1925, the station first signed on as WGHB in Clearwater.[5] In 1927, its call sign changed to WFHH, and later that year to WFLA at 1130 kHz.

WSUN jointly licensed with WFLA as WFLA-WSUN

WSUN was first authorized in October 1927, joining WFLA at 590 kHz, with this station now assigned a dual call sign of WFLA-WSUN, under shared ownership by the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce.[6] WSUN made its debut broadcast on November 1,[7] using the slogan "Why Stay Up North".

In 1927 WFLA-WSUN moved to 580 kHz,[8] then to 900 kHz the next year.[9] In 1929, radio frequencies for stations in Florida were reallocated, and WFLA-WSUN moved to 620 kHz.[10]

The station's transmitter site was originally on the north side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway near Clearwater.

First directional antenna in the United States

WFLA-WSUN's move to 620 kHz resulted in a nighttime interference complaint from another station on that frequency, WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. WFLA-WSUN was ordered to reduce powers from 1,000 watts night and 2,500 watts day to 250 watts night and 500 watts day.[11]

Station manager Walter Tison began an investigation into whether there was a way that WFLA-WSUN could increase its nighttime power to a more acceptable level. Working with T. A. M. Craven, a British engineer, Raymond M. Wilmotte, was engaged in 1932 to construct a then-theoretical antenna system that would reduce the signal sent toward Milwaukee. The idea that a directional antenna would resolve the issue was somewhat controversial, with some doubters stating that fluctuations in the ionosphere would cause issues, while others believed that instead of going directly to Milwaukee, the WFLA-WSUN signal was actually travelling west through the Gulf of Mexico, then turning north through the Mississippi valley.[12]

The directional antenna installation, the first in the United States, consisting of two 200 foot (61 m) towers, was successful.[13] As an example of its effectiveness, engineer Wilmotte noted that at one point a telegram was sent from regulators in Washington asking why WFLA-WSUN was off the air, because an inspector located in Atlanta was not receiving the station when it employed the directional antenna.[12]

WFLA and WSUN switch to separate licenses

WFLA and WSUN were affiliates of the NBC Red Network, carrying dramas, comedies, news, sports, soap operas, game shows and big band broadcasts during the "Golden Age of Radio."[14]

In 1937, the joint ownership of WFLA-WSUN was severed, with the two stations continuing to operate on 620 kHz using a common transmitter, but separately licensed on a time-sharing basis. WFLA was allocated full-time use of Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and shared hours on Sundays.

WFLA becomes full-time station after frequency change

In 1940, The Tribune Company was given permission to construct a full-time station on 940 kHz. Because this was technically a new station, this authorization was initially given the call sign of WKGA.[15] However, the authorization included shutting down WFLA on 620 kHz, so when operations began on 940 kHz, the historic WFLA call sign was transferred to the new frequency.[16] WFLA's owner also owned The Tampa Tribune.[17] The studios and offices were in the Seminole Building. WSUN stayed on 620 kHz, licensed to St. Petersburg (now WDAE).

From 1945 to 1949, WFLA carried a southern gospel show, which featured legendary bass singer J. D. Sumner and The Sunny South Quartet. WFLA and WSUN were owned by the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Chambers of Congress.[18]

An advertisement in the 1950 edition of Broadcasting Yearbook said that WFLA-AM-FM were the "most listened to" stations in "the heart of Florida's most heavily populated trade area."[19]

FM and TV

WFLA added an FM station in 1948, WFLA-FM (now WFLZ). In its early years, WFLA-FM largely simulcast its AM sister station. In the mid-to-late 1960s, it switched from Top 40 to beautiful music. A television station also went on the air in 1955, WFLA-TV, which is now owned by the Nexstar Media Group. Because WFLA-AM-FM carried NBC programming, WFLA-TV also joined the NBC Television Network.

News unit with a previous logo

Once network programming had shifted from radio to television, WFLA began a full service middle of the road format of popular adult music, news, and sports. It later tried Top 40 and Adult Contemporary music. In the 1980s, listeners shifted to FM to hear music, so WFLA increased the news and talk programming. In 1982, WFLA hired street reporter Sam Cardinale from WPLP to make the move toward news-oriented programming. Cardinale won multiple AP and UPI awards for the station for news coverage before joining WTVT. In 1986, WFLA made the full transition to all-talk. It has been the market leader in this format ever since, and usually is among the top five stations in the market, according to Arbitron ratings.

Changes in ownership

Media General acquired the Tribune Company in the 1970s. This meant one company controlled, in Tampa, a newspaper, TV station, AM station and FM station. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were discouraging one owner from controlling so much media in one market. In the 1980s, federal regulations forced Media General to divest the radio stations because of its other holdings. The radio stations were sold to Blair Broadcasting in late 1982. Sconnix Communications of Charleston, South Carolina, bought WFLA and what was then WPDS from Blair Broadcasting in 1987. Blair was divesting all of its English-language broadcasting properties to concentrate on its Spanish-language TV network, Telemundo. Jacor Communications purchased WFLA from Sconnix in 1988. In 1989, the station moved from Jackson Street in downtown Tampa to its present location at 4002 W. Gandy Blvd., in south Tampa. Clear Channel Communications, purchased Jacor in 1999, which included WFLA and WFLZ. Clear Channel was the forerunner of today's iHeartMedia.

Past personalities

WFLA gave national hosts Glenn Beck and Lionel their starts in talk radio. For many years, Todd Schnitt hosted the nationally syndicated Schnitt Show at WFLA. Other prominent alumni, from the days when the station concentrated on local programming, include Bob Lassiter, Jay Marvin, Dick Norman, Chuck Harder, Jack Ellery and Freddy Mertz. Other former hosts include Al Gardner, Mark Larsen, Daniel Ruth, Mark Beiro, Paul Gonzalez and Mel Berman.

Over the years, AM Tampa Bay has had three female co-hosts; Sharon Taylor, who was let go after ten years, Allyson Turner, who left less than a year after she was hired, and Corey Dylan, who was promoted to her own show at sister station WMTX after four years on WFLA. Longtime news anchors and reporters Steve Hall and Sharon Parker were released in a 2019 iHeart round of layoffs.[20] In March 2023, longtime AM Tampa Bay host Jack Harris was released from the station.[21] Harris had been with WFLA off and on since 1970.

Translators

Broadcast translators for WXTB-HD2
Call sign Frequency City of license FID ERP (W) HAAT Class FCC info
W256CT 99.1 FM Bayonet Point, Florida 151584 250 420 m (1,378 ft) D LMS
W233AV 94.5 FM Gulfport, Florida 146121 250 184 m (604 ft) D LMS

References

  1. ^ WFLAnews.iheart.com/contact
  2. ^ Radio-Locator.com/WFLA-AM
  3. ^ "About AM Tampa Bay". WFLA News.
  4. ^ "About Ryan Gorman". RyanGorman.com.
  5. ^ RadioYears.com
  6. ^ "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, October 31, 1927, page 9. "WFLA (CLEARWATER, Fla.) — Additional call signal WSUN assigned for St. Petersburg, Fla.; owner of station, Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce; wl., 508.2 , fy. kc., 590; power, 750."
  7. ^ "Directory of AM and FM Radio Stations in the U.S.: Florida: St. Petersburg", Broadcasting Yearbook (1972 edition), page B-46.
  8. ^ "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, November 30, 1927, page 9.
  9. ^ "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, November 30, 1928, page 12.
  10. ^ "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, November 30, 1929, page 10.
  11. ^ "WFLA-WSUN Experiment May Affect Technique of Regional Radio Stations, Broadcasting, April 1, 1932, page 10.
  12. ^ a b "History of the Directional Antenna in the Standard Broadcast Band for Purpose of Protecting Service Area of Distant Stations" by Raymond M. Wilmotte, IRE Transactions on Broadcast Transmission Systems, (Volume: PGBTS-7, Issue: 1), February 1957, pages: 51-55.
  13. ^ "A Directional Antenna of Importance" by T. A. M. Craven, Broadcasting, July 1, 1932, pages 13, 26.
  14. ^ Information from the Broadcasting Yearbook 1935 page 28
  15. ^ "Actions of the Commission: Applications Granted", FCC Public Notice, January 22, 1941, page 1.
  16. ^ "Miscellaneous", Actions of the Commission, January 22, 1941, page 3.
  17. ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1943 page 84
  18. ^ https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-BC-YB/1935/1935-BCarbook[dead link]
  19. ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1950 page 115
  20. ^ "Staff Cuts Hit iHeartMedia News Departments | AllAccess.com". Archived from the original on April 9, 2019.
  21. ^ InsideRadio.com "People Moves: Jack Harris" March 29, 2023