WFAN is the Homewrecker of New York Radio

WFAN logo

If you haven’t heard, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are divorcing.  And of course, there’s a lot of speculation going on.  Nothing can be proven as of yet, but there are allegations of womanizing on Brad Pitt’s part.  Homewrecking dissolves inseparable bonds, and the pain of the initial incident hurts for years.

YouTube has an uncanny ability to identify videos that I may be interested in.  One of those videos that popped up today was an old aircheck from WNBC-AM New York.  It was the station’s final broadcast before it flipped to a sports talk station, WFAN.  Alan Colmes of the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes, before it became solely known as Hannity, was the host of the final broadcast.  WNBC had been located at 660 on the AM dial for 66 years before it went off the air.  In 1988, General Electric/NBC decided to get out of the radio business.  Stations WNBC in New York and KYUU in San Francisco (among others) were sold to other organizations.  Emmis Communications, owner of WFAN 1050 AM, decided to move the call letters and format to 660, moving WNBC to the history books.

It is a tad bit ironic that “66 WNNNNNNBC” was on the air for 66 years before folding.  Many listeners in New York were saddened by the loss of a once-dominant superstation.  WNBC had long broadcast a top-40 format in direct competition to cross-town WABC-AM.  WABC transitioned to a talk radio format in 1982, leaving WNBC as one of the last music stations on the AM band.  In the 1980s, FM became the primary choice for music listeners because of its superiority in signal.  Most of the dominant stations on the AM side either switched to FM or disbanded altogether.  WNBC had been on the decline for several years; the station was no longer profitable.

Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, a former WNBC DJ and current SiriusXM personality, commented that it was the end of an era.  Indeed, many loyal listeners were dismayed when they tuned into their favorite station and found it broadcasting not music, but sports.  But folks in the New York City radio market shouldn’t have been that surprised.  Just a year earlier, WFAN “homewrecked” another longtime favorite in the metropolitan area:  WHN.

WHN broadcast at 1050 on the AM dial.  It had long been a top-40 station in New York City.  The AM band was diluted with options for this format:  1010 WINS, 570 WMCA, 770 WABC, and 660 WNBC.  After years of stiff competition, the station flipped to a country music format.  New York City had not had a strong country music powerhouse until WHN flipped.  By the late 70s, it was the most popular country music station in the country.  Emmis Communications decided it was time for a change in 1987, and after 65 years, WHN became WFAN – a sports talk station.

Just in the span of two years, two longtime radio legends went off the air.  The consequences were great:  660 AM is a clear-channel station.  At its peak in the overnight hours, the station can be heard throughout continental North America.  Listeners would no longer hear that top-40 station at 660 AM, but rather a sports talk station.

WFAN has been a homewrecker of sorts since its inception.  WHN and WNBC are nothing more than mere callsigns in the annals of history.  These longtime powerhouses made way for a fledgling format that has succeeded more since its been introduced on the FM band than during its entire history on the 660 frequency.  This proves that its never okay to interfere with longtime relationships, because the after-effects will be dismal.


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