A seemingly uneventful rainy April day turned out to be anything but that when I logged two new signals on 98.1 FM within one hour of each other. At 2:45 PM on April 22, while in my car in Oxon Hill, MD, I picked up a fairly strong signal on 98.1, airing classic hits and identifying themselves as “Classic Hits 98-1 The Fox.” A quick internet search netted zero results, and I confirmed via webcasts from the closest 98.1s (98.1 WOGL Philadelphia, PA, 98.1 WTVR Richmond, VA, and 98.1 WOCM Selbyville, DE) that they haven’t changed their format and/or name to “The Fox.” The station sounded like a regular FM signal, but it didn’t have any commercials, legal IDs, and barely any liners–most songs dry segued into the next. The strong signal also steeply faded away once I drove out of the shopping center I was parked in, succumbing quickly to regional 98.1 WTVR and IBOC interference from nearby 97.9 WIYY Baltimore, MD. Until I get other confirmation, I am logging this mystery signal as a pirate. I’ll update my logs and this post accordingly if I become aware that this is a licensed FM station or translator.
98.1 PIRATE “98-1 The Fox” – classic rock, car radio in Oxon Hill, MD
Less than an hour later, while driving near my home in Woodbridge, VA, I heard a second new station on 98.1 FM, mixing in with 98.1 WTVR: W264BJ Manassas, VA. This translator, rebroadcasting Spanish-formatted 920 WURA Quantico, VA, has been expected to debut for months now, and now apparently has. Thankfully, its very weak in the car and cannot be received at home, leaving 98.1 as an open frequency. I’ve found a trend of new translators’ signals increasing in strength after debut, so I’m not out of the woods yet.
I am confident that the “98-1 The Fox” signal and the Manassas translator aren’t the same station. The translator is 9 miles away from my home; 17 miles away from Oxon Hill. Given its signal was weak at 9 miles, I’d conclude it is weaker located further away in Oxon Hill, not almost local grade stereo as “The Fox” was. Plus, since I am familiar with WURA-AM, I am certain that it wouldn’t air classic hits in English, and then switch to Spanish music within the same hour. WURA/W264BJ also had DJs on-air, while “The Fox” didn’t.