|Broadcast area||Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Kingston, New York|
|Format||Top 40 (CHR)|
First air date
Former call signs
|WALQ (1996, CP)|
Call sign meaning
|W Poughkeepsie Kiss FM|
|HAAT||81 meters (266 ft)|
WPKF (96.1 FM, "Kiss FM") is a Top 40 (CHR) radio station licensed to Poughkeepsie, New York and serving the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York state. The station is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. and broadcasts from a tower mounted on the roof of the Ross Pavilion at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie.
The 96.1 frequency was granted as a construction permit in 1995 to WRNQ/WKIP owner Richard Novik. In early 1996, the frequency planned to use the WALQ calls, however that August those calls were replaced by WNSX (Ninety SiX) as the station prepared to sign on the air. Two months later, the 96.1 frequency came to life as "Modern Rock, The X 96.1", with The Greaseman in mornings and ABC's "MR-35" format the rest of the day.
Two months after WNSX signed on, Richard Novik sold his station cluster to Straus Media and the future of the format began to unravel. The X did not fit in with the country-oriented Straus strategy and the station flipped to country as ("Thunder Country") WTND'. WNSX did quite well for a new signal in its only book on the air, but it was too late to turn back.
Being mostly satellite-fed (Westwood One "Hot Country") and in a quasi-network with WTHK Hudson and WTHN Ellenville, WTND seemed to make economic sense for Straus at the outset. In reality, the format failed badly against the heritage, better programmed and better-promoted WRWD and sunk to the bottom of the ratings. After nearly being de-listed from the Poughkeepsie Arbitron ratings, WTND was flipped to Hot Adult Contemporary "The Cat" WCTJ on August 9, 1999 after a weekend of stunting with clips from the WCTW/Hudson Bob & Sheri morning show.
Initially, WCTJ was to be a simulcast of sister station WCTW in Catskill, however by September it was ironed out into a mutual simulcast. Instead of simulcasting WCTW to points south (as had been done a year prior via translator in Poughkeepsie), the two stations existed on their own albeit with the same music and DJs on a slight delay with different promotions and a nighttime split where WCTW aired Delilah (heard in Poughkeepsie on WRNQ). Balancing the two different markets and keeping everything running was problematic and WCTJ's ratings and revenue remained weak in relation to the work needed for the simulcast.
Straus Media sold its stations to Clear Channel Communications in 2000 and, after buying rival Roberts Radio, WCTJ was put under the same roof as rival WBWZ. After WCTW split off on its own after Clear Channel took control of the stations at the start of November, WCTJ was left on its own amid format-flip rumors. On December 22, rumors became fact when WCTJ and WTHN entered joint stunting as Variety 96 & 99 and eventually launched as Rhythmic Top 40 that afternoon using Clear Channel's KissFM brand.
In March 2005, WFKP/Ellenville dropped the Kiss-FM format amid dismal ratings and flipped to a virtual simulcast of WRNQ Poughkeepsie's LiteFM format. The change had no effect on WPKF's Dutchess County ratings.
Instability and many changes were still to come. In September 2005, Kiss added Matt Bosso as afternoon host, but he moved on shortly afterwards to join the then-syndicated Wake Up with Whoopi in August 2006. 2007 brought more changes to Kiss as programmer Jimi Jamm left radio to embark on a career in music promotion. Aaron McCord became Kiss-FM's 3rd PD, but left music programming responsibilities to CJ McIntyre. Then in 2008, yet more changes came to the station, with morning/APD CJ McIntyre becoming Program Director while continuing to host "CJ's Playhouse. Still more changes in late 2009 saw CJ's Playhouse come to end and Clear Channel's syndicated "Elvis Duran & The KISS-FM Morning Show" replaced local programming, as did the satellite-delivered Ryan Seacrest national program middays, Chris Marino afternoons (as well as being named Program Director and Music Director), Fuzzy & Choco at night. CJ was moved to WRWD's morning show.
Then in January 2011, Chris Marino left WPKF to do the morning show on WBWZ, and Fuzzy moved to Afternoons for a short time and Choco became the night DJ, with a 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. overlap with both Fuzzy & Choco.
In September 2011, WPKF fired local air talent except Chris Marino and succumbed to Clear Channel Radio's Premium Choice programming format with pre-recorded DJs from other markets, and eliminated locally programmed music in favor of programming from corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.