Cincinnati Radio History
by Alex Cosper

see also American Radio History

Perhaps the most famous Cincinnati radio station actually only existed on television, which was the CBS sitcom series WKRP in Cincinnati from 1978 to 1982. Otherwise, the most successful station in reality has been WLW (700), which is among the oldest call letters in the market. It began in the early twenties and was first owned by Crosley Manufacturing Company. It has been the highest Arbitron rated Cincinnati station in the nineties and 2000s.

Other call letters from the early twenties included Ohio Mechanics Institute's WAAD, Cino Radio Manufacturing Company's WIZ and Precision Equipment Company's WMH. After many changes the first few decades of radio, the AM dial reached stability for awhile in the early forties: WKRC (550), WLW (700), WCPO (1230), WSAI (1360) and WCKY (1530). FM stations started to gain listenership in the late sixties and became a major factor in the ratings by the late seventies.

WSAI-AM (1320) was a popular hit music station at the dawn of Beatlemania in the sixties. Morning host Dusty Rhodes of the "Good Guys" was influential in arranging the Beatles concert at Cincinnati Gardens in 1964. Rhodes went on to shows for oldies stations WKRC-AM, WLW-AM and WGRR-FM. In 2006 Rhodes and radio executive Brian Kauffmann began leasing time on WBOB-AM (1160) to play rock oldies.

By the end of the eighties the top music station in the market was still on AM, which was WLW (700), playing adult contemporary music under Jacor. The station held on to the market crown when it added talk, becoming full service in 1993 and then eventually news/talk. The top FM stations of the late eighties were contemporary hits leader WKRQ (101.9), owned by Great American Broadcasting and rocker WEBN (102.7), owned by Jacor. Other FMs that did well in the ratings included beautiful music station WWEZ (92.5), owned by Federated Media, adult contemporary WWNK (94.1), owned by Booth American and classic rocker WOFX (94.9), owned by Hoker.

The Telecom Act of 1996 changed the face of radio, as many independent and small stations were bought out by a handful of big companies, as ownership rules were loosened. Jacor was the first big company to have five stations in the market. Those stations were WLW (700), WEBN (102.7), WOFX (92.5), WKRC (550) and WWNK (94.1). In 1997 Chancellor only had a few stations in the market, which were country stations WUBE (105.1) and WYGY (96.5). Susquehanna owned WRRM (98.5) and smooth jazz WVAE (94.4) while American Radio Systems owned top 40 station WKRQ (101.9) and oldies WGRR (103.5).

By the late nineties only a handful of stations were left in the market owned by small companies including urban station WIZF (100.9), owned by Blue Chip, nostalgia/big band WSAI (1530), which was formerly WCKY, independent alternative station WAQZ (107.1) and religious station WAKW (93.3), owned by Pillar of Fire. By the turn of the century WAQZ had been acquired by Infinity, who also went on to own WUBE, WGRR and WKRQ. Infinity changed its name back to CBS Radio in 2006. In the mid 2000s Clear Channel owns nearly a dozen signals that are heard in Cincinnati. Those stations are WLW, WEBN, WKFS, WKRC, WOFX, WVMX, WSAI, WCKY, WMMX, WTUE and WLQT.

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