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Radio Reeling--the Update and Analysis

Updating my earlier post on the radio whirlygig that hit Washington today:

Three big headlines:

1) Z-104 is dead and gone. The rock/pop hybrid station searched unsuccessfully for a niche somewhere between DC-101's rock sounds and the more pop sensibilities of Hot 99.5, classic rocker The Arrow and the lighter, more adult Mix 107.3. Now, Z is history and 35 or so employees are looking for work. Z's demise follows the loss of rock stations in many major markets; New York now stands as the nation's largest market without any rock on the radio.

2) FM is king. This is in some ways a 25-year-old story, but the move of all-news WTOP from 1500 AM to 103.5 FM means that Bonneville, a big and smart radio company, has decided that especially in this market, where AM signals have always been weak, the generations that have grown up knowing almost exclusively the FM radio band are now dominant and therefore it's time to close the books on AM. WTOP is the best AM radio signal in the Washington region--I actually picked up the station in Florida late last night. But for most folks under the age of 40, there's simply never a reason to flip over to the AM dial. WTOP was the exception to that rule for some; now they'll be able to live comfortably on FM, if they're tuning into old-fashioned broadcast radio at all, rather than plugging in their iPod or using one of the new web radio gadgets that will be available for cars very soon.

3) The for-profit radio world is finally waking up to the fact that public radio's approach to news and talk is popular and reaches a highly valued demographic of educated and affluent listeners. Thus, it makes sense for Bonneville to serve this, one of public radio's most successful markets, with a more high-end news product than WTOP's headline service can offer. That's why Bonneville will turn 1500 AM in Washington and 107.7 FM in Warrenton into Washington Post Radio. There were conflicting reports today about how Washington Post Radio will run; on-air reports on WTOP say that WTOP anchors and reporters will be interviewing Washington Post reporters, while the Post's annoucements make it sound more like the Post will be providing the content itself. However it shakes out when the venture starts in March, the radio station will be owned and run by Bonneville/WTOP. There is a lovely bit of historical circuity here: WTOP was owned by the Washington Post for many years until a 1960s divestment at the same time that the Post donated WTOP-FM to Howard University, which then created WHUR (96.3 FM).

And there are some lesser headlines as well...

The move is being made to allow all-news WTOP to move more of its operation to FM, where the great majority of the listeners are. AM radio has long been weak in Washington; this move will likely mean that even fewer local listeners ever tune to the AM band--that's bad news for the other AM stations, especially talk WMAL and sports talk WTEM. WTOP-FM will move to 103.5 FM, until now the home of classical WGMS, which will shift over to the 104.1 frequency that Z is vacating. That's an unfortunate move for the highly successful WGMS, which will now have trouble reaching big chunks of its affluent, educated audience in upper Northwest and lower Montgomery County, where the z-104 signal is very weak.

WTOP's current FM outlet, at 107.7 FM in Warrenton, served Virginia well, but was not really audible in Maryland or the District. That frequency will be home to the new Washington Post Radio.

Not clear yet what this means for Nationals and Redskins fans--Z-104 was the Nats' main station last season. Unclear if Bonneville will retain those rights or which station would carry the games. The Redskins' deal with WJFK is ending and owner Dan Snyder is moving to buy the three Spanish language stations owned by Mega in order to create his own all-sports local network, but those stations' signals are so weak that that cannot be the entire solution for the Skins' casts. More later.

---The Washington Nationals get a stronger and more appropriate home, moving to 1500 AM from the awful signals of last season's broadcasts on Z-104 and WFED, a very low powered, daytime AM station that Bonneville uses for its Federal News Radio service. Will that Washington Post/Washington Nationals station also be the new home of Washington Redskins gamecasts? Bonneville hopes so. Dan Snyder's deal with WJFK and CBS Radio expires at the end of this season and Snyder is moving to buy three small Spanish-language stations in town, ostensibly to begin creating a little local network of Redskins Radio stations. But none of those stations reaches the heart of the DC metro area well, so Snyder may also need to make a deal with Bonneville.
---These moves mark a sad and significant diminution of WGMS, the very popular and successful classical music commercial station that Bonneville owns. WGMS moved today from the powerful signal at 103.5 FM to a weak one at 104.1 FM. That means much less coverage for exactly those parts of town where the classical audience is most concentrated--upper Northwest DC and lower Montgomery County. To soften the blow, Bonneville announced it will add two subcarriers of more serious classical tunes and of vocal music, but that will be available only to owners of the newfangled digital radio receivers that are just now coming on the market. They still cost more than $500, so this is a longterm concept.
---The Nationals broadcast team says goodbye to Dave Shea, the jovial but clumsy sidekick to the Nats' dynamic and winning play-by-play man, Charlie Slowes. Excellent move, as is the departure from the TV side of the Nats' broadcast operation of color commentator Ron Darling, who was possibly the worst sportscaster in town last season. He'll take his reticent, dull act to New York, to join the Mets broadcasts. No word on a replacement, and no sign of progress toward getting the Nats games on TV this year.

By Marc Fisher |  January 4, 2006; 12:00 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

How's this for a potential lineup of great talk hosts? All news and traffic during morning drive and evening drive, Tony K during his current mid-day slot (maybe three or four hours live), the Marc Fisher show before evening drive. How about a great general interest talk show evenings and overnights. Bring back Bob Levey anyone? This is going to be great!

Posted by: Ray S. | January 4, 2006 12:17 PM

Yet another kick in the head for classical music lovers, although listening to WGMS is more like classical muzak. When WETA went over to the dark side, there was talk of having a repeater (I may be using the term incorrectly), to boost the signal strength of WBJC so that people in VA and western MoCo/DC could receive it. Is that still a possibility?

Posted by: JSL | January 4, 2006 12:46 PM

Also noted is the Nationals are breaking up their fine radio team from last year by dumping the very-listenable Dave Shea.

Hmmmm... our team has no owner, no ballpark, a centerfielder who refuses to play that position and an MLB president who thinks the proposed ballpark is located in Anacostia. Solution: Let's fire one of the radio guys.

Posted by: Nats Man | January 4, 2006 2:20 PM

Ridiculous! I really liked z104 in the AM - relatively good fun without the pompous Jack Diamond, 101's raunchiness and 99.5 teeny-boppering. Blades and Whitney were quite fun. As much as I love The Post I think I'll be sticking to CDs.

Posted by: Danielle | January 4, 2006 2:37 PM

Color me shocked...Z104's morning show was a lot of fun (I echo Danielle's comments), and the only MUSIC station in DC that I listened to. *le sigh*

Posted by: Jeb | January 4, 2006 2:46 PM

When WETA switched to all-news/all-snooze, one of its claims was that DC already had a full-service classical station, it didn't need two. With WTOP on FM and whatever the heck WAPO is creating on AM, certainly an argument can be made that the radio dial has enough news/yak. Will WETA consider a switch to the contemporary/progressive music format being abandoned by broadcasters?

Posted by: WETA etc. | January 4, 2006 3:35 PM

Are you sure about the Snyder/Mega rumor? That sounds like a DCRTV rumor. DCRTV can be useful but can also be wrong. I'd get confirmation from Snyder before reporting this as fact.

As for music on FM, can it really be that B101 in Fredericksburg is the best pop/rock station in the DC are?!

Posted by: See Sigh Si | January 4, 2006 3:37 PM

What exactly was wrong with Z104? No other station broadcasts the kind of modern/contemporary music that was Z104's forte. I'm thoroughly disappointed.

Posted by: A.B. | January 4, 2006 3:38 PM

I’m so disappointed in Bonneville’s decision to take Z104 off the radio. It was the only station in this area I listened to, for 4 years now. I agree with Danielle’s comments about the teen-bop or harder rock sounds of the other stations. They just aren't the same. Z104 had great DJs, great music, and a great morning show. And I thought it had a good following. Was no one but me listening to it??! I can’t think of another station to really take it’s place, and I wish there was a way to petition and resurrect it like what happened to WHFS.

Posted by: Lucie | January 4, 2006 3:39 PM

I couldn't care less. I got XM radio for Christmas and will never listen to soggy local radio again (with the exception of WRNR on occasion)

Posted by: Sat D. Lite. | January 4, 2006 3:41 PM

Guess this is my cue to go ahead and get satellite radio. After the demise of WHFS to "El Sol" (gimme a break), and now TALK radio for the Z? My Lord, what is this town coming to???

Posted by: DC Radio Listener | January 4, 2006 3:55 PM

I've streamed 104 at work for many many years now, and HFS was my at home station before it disappeared. Guess it's good I got an iPod for Christmas.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2006 4:12 PM

I agree that this reorganization could be a boost for XM Radio, but for different reasons. The 103.5 signal that WTOP is now using suffers significant interference from WMRY-103.5 in Charlottesville, once you get much beyond Manassas or Woodbridge. The thousands of commuters who live in places like Fredericksburg and Warrenton that now rely on WTOP for their morning traffic reports will no longer be able to count on receiving WTOP's new signal. They may be forced to switch to XM just to get XM's 24/7 full-time DC traffic reports.

Personally, I gave up on the local stations three years ago when I bought my first XM adapter, but I still think Bonneville is making a big mistake. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Posted by: Scott | January 4, 2006 4:26 PM

Guess it's time to join others and find an alternative to radio. I listened to Z104 in the morning and at work. The team of Mathew and Whitney was good and much better than any other morning show. I can't stand the mix of everything on 107.3, not a huge fan of DC101, and can tolerate 99.5 for about 10 minutes at a time. I can't believe that the Z104 website has the audacity to refer listeners to the stations mentioned above. They don't play the same kind of music and I find their on air talents annoying. They didn't get great numbers but they didn't cover a large part of the metro area. I always had a great signal in Alexandria and PG county. I have the capability of programming 18 FM stations in my car and I'm down to 0 that are listenable in this area.

Posted by: Jen | January 4, 2006 4:29 PM

You're all right--this is another boost for XM and Sirius. As commercial FM radio bails out on music, which it is doing more and more, satellite becomes the only place where you can get music you haven't already chosen yourself. That is, if people start to tire of the whole concept of MP3/iPod, which is based on you already knowing what music you like, then you need some service that introduces you to new music. We call that radio. And now, with FM going much more heavily into talk and news, you're going to have to pay for that radio, via satellite.

Posted by: Marc Fisher | January 4, 2006 4:50 PM

I think this is very clever, starting a totally SECRET blog, a stealth blog, clearly designed to siphon away the 15 readers of my blog. You won't get away with this.

Posted by: Achenbach | January 4, 2006 5:03 PM

R.I.P. Z104. I found them to be a great compromise: plenty of contemporary rock without getting on my nerves. I can live with 107.3's mix but there are good reasons why I switched to Z104 in the mornings. Then again, I'm over 45. Nobody wants my business.

Oh well, I need to get a new clock radio anyway. I can't afford satelite radio, but perhaps something that plays MP3's.

Posted by: Nita | January 4, 2006 5:15 PM

Don't worry, Achenbach. Yours is The Original Blog. Besides, these Fisher fans actually seem to stay on topic! You'll probably only lose a couple of readers -- 11 or 12 max.

Posted by: Achenfan | January 4, 2006 5:24 PM

And I fondly remember WAMU's drive time bluegrass. One of the things that made this area neat. Apparently pretty well listener supported, at least until WAMU decided that news would serve better. (Hmm, WETA decides to drop most classical coverage because there is already a classical station, so they repeat the material of an another most-all-news NPR station in the exact same market? I still don't get it.)

And I still miss WDCU, Jazz 90, even 6-7 years after it went away.... Still get to hear a few of the DJ's I loved on WPFW, but that just makes me miss them the more all the rest of the week. Don't know what you have until it's gone, I guess.

Posted by: Les | January 4, 2006 5:39 PM

Good God! The Kaboodle is invading! Actually, you're all quite welcome here--you'll find life here a bit on the raw side, not the velvet coffin of Achenblog, but a quicker, zestier, more dangerous way of life.

Posted by: Marc Fisher | January 4, 2006 5:56 PM

Staying on topic, what kind of blog is this?

Posted by: newkidontheblog | January 4, 2006 6:04 PM

Marc is a madman. A true blogging machine!

Posted by: Mom | January 4, 2006 6:12 PM

I've been listening to XM for a year now, but I think broadcast radio has been responding well with less predictable formats. Also, I miss DJs, believe it or not. Z104's loss hurts.

Does anyone listen to decent radio any more, or is it all hip-hop and yak-yak?

Posted by: Viennan | January 4, 2006 7:07 PM

Z104 was the only station I listened to. I totally agree that referring listeners to the other stations was lame...those stations are no where near the same as the Z. 107's music isn't bad but I can't stand Jack Diamond (he promotes his own band on the air after all) and the voices always sound tinny with a bit of I the only one who hears this?

I also agree that this is the event that will push me to actually buy and use an IPOD...or if I can convince my husband I will have to try satellite radio. I WILL NOT be listening to "those other stations."

Posted by: Cindy | January 4, 2006 7:31 PM

A blog that stays on topic... Marc, please don't give JA any tips on how to do this. We're happy with our anarchy, and we just let Joel THINK he sets the tone.

Separately, I gave up on music radio a long time ago, having discovered MP3 players back in the late 90s. The only time I tune in a "music" station is while I'm switching CDs in the car or if I'm waiting for a traffic report.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 4, 2006 7:41 PM

WTOP's move to FM is the death knell for viable AM radio in Washington. The AM side is too homogenous - too many right-wing pontificators - andless and less serves a local audience. WMAL has gone down the tubes and unless you're a Redskins addict, there's no need tolisten to WTEM (uh, Sportstalk 980....sorry, Andy). What this town needs is a full-service sports station that doesn't just pander to The Danny, but has intelligent conversation about the Nats, Wizards, Capitals and college sports. I remember the 60s and 70s when the stations here at least sounded diferent. Long live XM Radio!

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 4, 2006 8:07 PM

I have to count myself as being rather disenchanted with local public airwave music radio since WHFS went corporate (1990?).

The minute I saw that the announcement for Washington Post Radio, I realized that my prediction of the "Rapa Scrapple Weingarten & Tostitos Achenbach News, Olds, and Whatnot Morning Show (brought to You By Depends)" was closer to reality than I thought.

Stay tuned for the "Sansabelt Tony Kornheiser: Older, Louder, Meaner, and Whiter Than Ever Sports Show" at 10:00. Or whenever he can manage to wake up, walk his dog and make it to the station.
XM will have to get Sirius to battle that lineup.

Marc, good luck with this blog!


Posted by: bc | January 4, 2006 8:16 PM

Not being a DC local and never having been much of a radio listener, I can't comment on the controversy du jour. But omigosh! Now I have TWO blogs I must keep up with! It's a good thing I retire in 11 months, three weeks, and 2 days...otherwise, I'd be completely sunk...

Posted by: Slyness | January 4, 2006 8:49 PM

It's not really fair to say that New York has no rock station. WAXQ ("Q104") is a classic rocker, and New York's "Jack FM" (WCBS-FM 101.1) is a very rock-heavy version of the "adult hits" format. What's missing in New York, as it is in DC, is any sort of modern rock.

Posted by: NERW | January 4, 2006 9:58 PM

Bad move for WGMS. I work in Rockville and the station barely comes in at work and I am on the 10th floor of an office building, in a window office! It sounds so bad I cannot listen to it. In my car it has static. At home in Gaithersburg it is not all that great. Why would the abandon affluent listeners in Montgomery County? We already had WTOP on 107.7 and 1500.

Posted by: PaulS | January 4, 2006 10:28 PM

Driving around tonight, I tried to catch WGMS on its new frequency and it dropped out completely in at least six places on Connecticut Avenue between Van Ness and Chevy Chase and was all static along upper Wisconsin. Shades of trying to listen to Nats games on Z-104 last summer. Bonneville cannot possibly expect classical music to survive on a frequency with such awful audio quality. This sounds like a death sentence for classical radio in Washington.

Posted by: Fisher | January 4, 2006 11:40 PM

Your effusive praise of Bonneville feels icky. Now that the Post is in bed with Bonneville, I fear every ounce of ink you devote to covering radio will be biased in favor of your new station and new partners. It already sounds like you are campaigning for a gig on Post radio. Bonneville's management will always make "brilliant" decisions and the Mormon Church, which owns the company, will never be questioned harshly.

Posted by: Fair and Balanced | January 5, 2006 8:08 AM

Huzzah huzzah for the Post! The fact that the circulation of the print edition has been dropping steadily over the past few years has been widely reported. I imagine that there's been much hand wringing by upper management over what to do to create new revenue streams. Using radio as another communication channel for their content is a solid move. Can the Post morph into something else while the presses wind down? Could we look back on this venture in a few years and say that it was visionary? You never know until you try. I for one am looking forward to hearing the debut.

Posted by: Bluemont | January 5, 2006 9:01 AM

I was so relieved to find this blog..I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one upset about the loss of Z104. It was the only station that I actually liked here....the morning show with Matthew & Whitney was something I started to look forward to. I have no idea what they were thinking!

Posted by: Sarah | January 5, 2006 9:15 AM

My major concern is that moving 107.7 to WPost format means that listeners south of Prince William county will no longer be getting traffic reports. Listening to 107.7 while getting ready is part of my morning routine, checking for traffic issues on the drive north up I95.

This morning, I heard the announcements and tuned in to 103.5 as I was pulling out of my garage (in Spotsylvania) but found that the coverage was spotty. I certainly understand WTOP's desire to increase major market coverage, but isn't there a way to do it without abandoning their significant southern audience that relies on their 10-minute traffic reports for our daily slog north?

Posted by: Fredericksburg, VA | January 5, 2006 9:18 AM

Radio is dead, probably so is satellite radio--podcasts are wave of the future, soon traffic and news will be accessible to a function button on your cell phone/pocket computer and it will be as common to see people wearing 3d visors as the currently ubiquitous earpieces. The car radio will soon seem as quaint as the flower vases found on antique cars.

Posted by: Chris | January 5, 2006 9:31 AM

WGMS was one of the stations I'd listen to in the afternoon, when I was still listened to music in radio land. The morning commute was all ads, all the time.

Posted by: Matt | January 5, 2006 10:42 AM

The demise of Z104 is a shame. It was the one station that my teen, her friends and her parents all listened to. I can't believe they didn't have an audience. Oh well, goodbye broadcast, hello satellite . . . .

Posted by: Tom | January 5, 2006 11:13 AM

My effusive praise of Bonneville? Um, all I see here is criticism of them for abandoning classical WGMS to a pathetically weak signal, and puzzlement over the wisdom of competing against themselves in the news/talk category. If that's effusive praise, that's news to both Bonneville and me.
Interesting that there's this much support for Z-104 here. The ratings were consistently low, and the station never quite found a distinctive niche.
I'm not ready to join Chris in declaring podcasts to be the radio of the future--they're innovative and sometimes fun, but they're so micro that they don't fulfill one of radio's most important functions: giving people a sense of community.

Posted by: Fisher | January 5, 2006 11:40 AM

What I hate is all the lies from Bonneville and the Post. They're crippling WTOP. I tried listening to WTOP on 103.5 in my home area (Glenmont-Aspen Hill) and at work downtown. In my home area, it fades in and out, and at work you can't get much more than a little static. WTOP will lose a large share of its audience simply because 103.5 is such an inferior signal to 1500.

The technical end, I understand, is that FM is only really strong at the low end of the frequency scale, so WAMU is the most powerful station in our area. It weakens rather dramatically at higher frequencies, and 103.5 is just too high to have metro wide coverage, although rumor has it that they're going to upgrade the antenna to help some.

We fought for years to get WTOP to be a real news station instead of carrying sports events, and finally won although they still devote grossly excessive time to sports coverage. But now that's being overturned as 1500 is apparently going to be the radio home of the major local teams. In other words, the Post station will be news and information only when there isn't sports available, which is the first priority.

You'd think DC would be a news town giving that it's the national capital. But news always plays second fiddle to sports here.

Posted by: Bill | January 5, 2006 11:42 AM

Z104's morning show was terribly boring, as it was when Haber was on. I will miss their music however, I felt they had a nice niche of not playing the hard-rock that DC101 has become while also avoiding the R&B/Hip-hop that 99.5 mixes in. To see WGMS move to the poor 104 frequency is also disappointing.

Posted by: WL | January 5, 2006 12:03 PM

Z104 had a nice show on Sunday nights dedicated to local bands. That will be missed by both the bands and the folks who love to hear what's coming out of their own backyard.

Posted by: Doogdaroo | January 5, 2006 12:37 PM

I agree with the comments on the unfortunate demise of Z104 and the disaster of moving WGMS off the 103.5 signal....those 2 plus TOP are the only stations I ever use, so I feel let down all the way around.

But the one piece this whole switch which REALLY REALLY irked me yesterday was the WTOP story by Neal Augenstein (sp?) that played repeatedly throughout the evening, where he ended his report (in his usual sneering tone) with "the people at Z104? --- they all got fired"

I found that rude and offensive to his on-air and back-office colleagues at the supposed "sister station". If Z-104 was eliminated, the people got LAID OFF. Radio people regularly get "FIRED" for individual poor performance, like ethnic slurs, storming off the set, etc. Have some respect and sympathy for your colleagues, please. (and no, I'm not one of them nor do I know any of them)

Posted by: Annoyed | January 5, 2006 12:51 PM

WGMS, like Z-104 before it, is broadcasting on 103.9 out of Frederick as well as 104.1 out of Warrenton. Perhaps 103.9 would give better reception to listeners in NW?

Posted by: Tom T. | January 5, 2006 1:14 PM

I've been saying for four years that America has gone bad. Now its complete with the effective demise of wgms.

Posted by: yttap | January 5, 2006 2:59 PM

The Junkies started on weekends on JFK 10 years ago. then moved to nights where they actually killed in the ratings. Were only at HFS 2 years when HFS switched last year. BTW I think their topics of convo were perfect for your typical HFS listenr (young, male). Moved back to JFK 10 am - 1 pm last year. Thanks.

Posted by: Janice | January 5, 2006 4:13 PM

I recall the '60s when we had lots of classical music as well as easy listening, REAL jazz, and other niche formats. FM then was my media of choice -- never anything else for music. We all know what happended to FM starting in the '70s!

In the past decade, we lost classical WGTS (perhaps the best one of the three) when it went full-time religion, then more recently WETA [the most powerful signal in the area grandfathered in with 72,000 watts ERP at more than 500 ft AMSL] decided [in effect] to simulcast WAMU's blather (which had earlier 86'd bluegrass to simulcast part of WETA -- how's that for being circular.) and dumped its classical. Now WGMS has moved from a blowtorch signal in DC to a full-power, but with a COL in Charles County, and a "Class A" teapot up near Frederick to bring an effective death knell to classical on FM (next year they'll say nobody listens to classical [because of the rotten signal]and move from "top 40" classical to top 40 pop]

Thank God for satellite. That's provided most my music for the past decade since I first subscribed to Ku-band DMX Radio with its 5 classical offerings, easy listening, new age, bluegrass among its 100+ music channels. Add to that Dish's 50 Muzak music channels and their 60 or so Sirius streams, and subscribe to XM Radio. And even often maligned cable has MusicChoice. There is absolutely no reason to listen to Washington FM entirely -- it's either constant blather or noise that's called music. Those 20 MHz of FM spectrum would be better used for just about anything else, even if its just for walkie-talkies so people can trade reports of how many pieces of lint are in their pants pockets.

Posted by: Spruceman currently in Arlington | January 5, 2006 7:43 PM

First of all, apparently both 103.5 and 104.1 will soon have more powerful transmitters (I believe 103.5 is currently only running at 60% power), so you WTOP and WGMS listeners should hang in there.

Second, as a Nationals fan I am delighted to hear the news the team will end up on 1500, with its 50,000-watt signal that can be heard throughout much of the Northeast. (It's sort of a full circle, as the Senators were on WTOP for much of the sixties.) Even better for me here in the Shenandoah Valley, the games will also be on 107.7 FM out of Warrenton. (Now to find a partner who can bring out the best in Charlie Slowes, just as Rich Ashburn did for Harry Kalas for so many years in Philadelphia.) I'm also a U. of Maryland grad, and would love to see Debbie Yow move the Terp sports D.C. affiliate from WMAL to 1500.

I would hope that with the growth of second and third audio channels, some local broadcaster would come up with formats that are underserved on local radio, especially jazz (yeah, I know WPFW plays some, but it takes second place there to Pacifica programming) and standards (not a schmaltzy, formulaic "music of your life" station, but something along the lines of "Frank's Place" on XM). An oldies station with a more diverse and interesting playlist than WBIG's ("here's 'Summer In The City' for the fourth time today!") would be welcome too.

Posted by: Vincent | January 6, 2006 9:59 AM

So WETA's big thing is that they're supposed to be international now, because they run a lot of BBC content. I imagine that means they thought they were using their strengths when, on the morning of the London subway bombings last summer, they switched to the BBC feed instead of Morning Edition.

But here's what they weren't thinking of: when something really bad happens in the world, I don't want random strangers telling me about it. I want my good familiar NPR. I switched to WAMU.

Posted by: h3f | January 6, 2006 11:49 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | January 6, 2006 11:57 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | January 6, 2006 11:57 AM

Summarizing a few tech details:

FM signals of the same power carry the same distance no matter the frequency between 88 and 108 MHz. I think the person was confused with AM, where 5,000 watts at the low end equals 50,000 watts at the high end (all other things being equal.)

WGMS-FM is running at 60% power until a replacement for a damaged antenna is installed. Also, the audio processing on 103.5 will be tweaked to resemble what 107.7 sounds like now. Both will dramatically improve distant reception. I have little problem getting 103.5 as it is now in King George, VA.

The weak signals of 104.1 and 103.9 in lower Montgomery County are due to: 104.1's transmitter location near Waldorf (it's running at the height/power maximum for "full-market" signals - Class B in FCC-speak) and 103.9's transmitter located west of Frederick with maximum facilities for "local" signals - Class A in FCC-speak. The two signals are sized and located such that they don't interfere with each other (and other neighbor stations), so there is bound to be a region where neither is all that strong.

1500's high postition on the dial and its antenna system (near Wheaton) that severely limits power towards Minneapolis at night and limits power in the same general direction, but not nearly to the same degree, during the day is the reason Bonneville had to start simulcasting on other frequencies. Despite 107.7's rather remote location, I've used it instead of 1500 even in DC and most of Prince George's county because it sounds better.

Posted by: DL | January 6, 2006 12:47 PM

It truly sucks that z104 is gone. The website says that the music doesn't have to end--not sure who wrote that cause they sure were not listening to the station I was. I attempted to listen to these other stations and they are NOT anything like what Z104 was. Once again we have been screwed--they did it before when they killed WHFS and they are doing it to us again. I can do without the pompass morning at 107.3.

The whole point of radio is to hear music you like, be exposed to the 'new' stuff, and to be kept informed of local/national things that you need to know. and ipod isn't going to do this for me and frankly neither is a satellite station that plays only music. I am not into listening to news 24/7, but when something important happens (say, like 9/11) most people that are at work rely on the radio to inform.

Further--reception sucks all over--I could tune into Z104 no problem being up in Frederick. But now, at work if I want to listen to the radio I am forced to tune into 'soft' rock or country--BLAH!!

I never thought I would actually consider paying for radio--but with absolutely nothing to listen to now, I am considering it. Its not the answer I was looking for. This market is prime for a good station that plays the kind of music Z104 did--and if the owner would actually give it a decent frequency on the dial it might actually have a chance--I know wishful thinking--nobody wants to cater to an adult contemporary/alternative audience. They keep proving that to us...

Posted by: dew | January 7, 2006 11:41 AM

i am thoroughly appalled and saddened by the death of z104... i was actually just recently thinking of calling/emailing in and saying how awesome that station really was. great mix of modern music without so much teeny-bopper pop or hard-rock or hip-hop.. great songs i listened to a fwe years ago in high school, in college, and all the new modern songs. i really don't think there is any substitute. all the other radio stations in dc have completely different styles of playlists, and xm really doesn't cut it when it comes to local info as well as great music (as a previous poster said). don't get me wrong, i love my ipod, but isn't it always nice to hear old songs you don't already own or new ones that you may not have even known about had it not been for the FREE radio? i think this is officially the end of radio, and it makes me pretty damn sad...

Posted by: abby | January 9, 2006 5:49 PM

It's unbelievable that Z104 is gone. There is no radio station in this area that covers my demographic. What am I to do in this hellish traffic now? Half the songs on 107.3 I've never even heard (a little too much variety), and the morning show is completely dorky. 99.5 plays a few good songs, but the majority are too ghetto hip-hop for me. And listening to the morning show gives me a migraine -- waaay too much energy at 7am, and the people that call in typically seem to have about 1 brain cell. And then there’s 101.1. Some of the music is decent, but most of it is too heavy. And listening to that pompous, arrogant jerk in the morning for more than minute makes me want to shoot myself. That laugh. Ugh. And his disgusting attitude towards women. Blech. I suppose if I were a 20 year old guy, I’d think his shtick was funny. I feel like Goldilocks…. Too much variety, too dorky, too ghetto, too jerkoffish… Well, Matthew and Whitney will definitely be missed.

Posted by: Goldilocks | January 10, 2006 4:11 PM

I totally agree with "goldilocks"...the other stations just don't offer anything like what z104 did. aside from the much superior music selection from the recently deceased station (dc101 does have a few good songs occasionally, but mostly too hard as mentioned, 99 is way too hip-hop-teeny-bop, and 107 is a little too "adult" mix for me), matthew and whitney were BY FAR the best morning show personalities. I COMPLETELy agree that the pompous ass on dc101 is a jerkoff, and the guy on 107 is a self-aggrandizing dork.
too bad I can't wake up from this one.
I truly feel like I've lost a good friend.

Posted by: dorothy | January 10, 2006 7:05 PM

Washington is supposedly the second most profitable classical music station market in the country. How ironic it is that classical music afficionados are so poorly regarded by radio station management in Washington.

Bonneville just gave WGMS a big kick in the teeth. I have listened to this station literally since infancy and it makes me sick that they got switched to a worse frequency after listening for 40 years. Reception where I live, work and drive now is just pathetic.

But it seems that FM radio in the Washington area has gone dramatically downhill in the last year or two. There's less and less I care to listen to in any case. Since I'm stuck in my car so much, I broke down and got satellite radio and it's well worth it.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 12, 2006 10:46 AM

Washington is supposedly the second most profitable classical music station market in the country. How ironic it is that classical music afficionados are so poorly regarded by radio station management in Washington.

Bonneville just gave WGMS a big kick in the teeth. I have listened to this station literally since infancy and it makes me sick that they got switched to a worse frequency after listening for 40 years. Reception where I live, work and drive now is just pathetic.

But it seems that FM radio in the Washington area has gone dramatically downhill in the last year or two. There's less and less I care to listen to in any case. Since I'm stuck in my car so much, I broke down and got satellite radio and it's well worth it. It seems narrowcasting is the wave of the future and I plan to try to get more classical coverage there.

Posted by: Liz | January 12, 2006 10:48 AM

I am also really disappointed that Z104 is no more. I could listen to it with my children and we all liked the songs. I really enjoyed the morning show and wonder what Matthew and Whitney are doing now. Do they get any notice when something like this happens? The morning show on the last day didn't seem like they had any idea. I'm at a loss and usually end up turning off the radio entirely and putting in a CD because I get so disgusted.

Posted by: JEN | January 12, 2006 4:54 PM

Where are they now?, Z104, descent music and enough morning energy.
Both guys will be missed.. hope you get together back again in another radio station and show it on your own web please!

Posted by: sava78 | January 16, 2006 4:00 PM

Very interesting blog

Posted by: Dublin Hotel | March 20, 2006 9:08 AM

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