I have been DXing a lot of the AM radio band in recent weeks, given the FM band has been devoid of any signal enhancement or DX conditions. In the past week, I have received eight new AM stations. I was unable to find the callsign for the low power 1610 AM signal listed below, unfortunately. These new logs have been added to my AM DX Log.
New signals received:
570 WMCA New York, NY, 4/3/19 8:29 PM, skywave, 222 miles, “570 The Mission” – religious
During minor tropospheric enhancement on March 28, I received RDS for the first time from 106.3 WCEM, a country station on Maryland’s Eastern Shore at 64 miles away that often comes in over local LPFM 106.3 WJPN-LP Prince William, VA @ 6 miles. WCEM is one of my veteran FM logs, being first heard in my Virginia home on August 2, 1999. It was a very common signal on 106.3 FM until WJPN-LP signed on in 2016. WCEM must have turned on RDS in the past year, since I have received them multiple times over the years without RDS. My RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page has been updated with this new screenshot.
While tuning the AM radio dial on March 25, I received one new station: 1630 WRDW Augusta, GA. WRDW, an ESPN Radio station broadcasting a sports format, is 442 miles away from my home in Virginia. I have updated my AM DX Log with this new station.
Chicago’s 780 WBBM is a fairly common signal at my home in Northern Virginia during the nighttime hours every night. The station runs HD Radio, but the signal is usually not strong enough to receive its HD Radio broadcast. On March 7, the station was unusually strong, allowing HD Radio to fully decode for the first time.
On an unsuspecting early morning in my teenage years, I tuned up and down on my radio, trying to find something to listen to. A song on a very clear radio station caught my ear, so I left my radio there and went back to what I was doing. The station identified as “Z104,” but something wasn’t right. The frequency was wrong: 104.5 FM. My local “Z104” with a similar format broadcasted on 104.1 FM. Was my radio broken?
I kept on listening to the station, not understanding why the DJ was giving a weather forecast for the “oceanfront.” I didn’t live near an ocean. A short time later, I heard the following legal ID blast out of my speakers:
I sat in my desk chair, eyeing the bright “104.5 MHz” on my radio’s screen as local commercials for the Virginia Beach area played one after another. Were my ears playing tricks on me? How could I be listening to something over 120 miles away, when it sounded just as clear as any typical local station? Intrigued, I tuned up and down the dial, finding more unfamiliar stations from Richmond, VA (75 miles away) and even more from the Norfolk area. I had an old portable TV in my closet, so on a hunch I pulled that out, and was even more surprised to find a chorus of strange TV stations coming in on all channels from central and southeastern Virginia. All of them aired the same things that I saw on my local TV stations, until the morning news came on.
20 years ago today, my unexpected exposure to the hobby of DXing started all with my reception of WNVZ near Washington, DC. I found each night that reception was different–some nights Norfolk FM & TV would blare in, while at other nights, Ocean City, MD or Philadelphia, PA came in instead. It became second nature to write down all I was receiving so I’d remember what city everything was from, in the process creating a thoroughly-detailed DX log, which I keep updated to this day.
I wanted to look back at how DXing has changed since 1999. The basic principles of DXing have never changed (i.e. the need to identify unfamiliar signals), but the tools available now in 2019 to do so are much more advanced than what I had that morning when I first logged WNVZ.
Although the internet was operational in 1999, the resources needed to adequately identify signals for DXing purposes weren’t always there. Some great websites like Radio Locator and (now defunct) DXFM.com were invaluable resources for station data in the late 90s. Even so, many radio stations at the time had little to no web presence online. Those that did often had outdated or incomplete information, such as no mention of the station’s slogan on their website.
The 2000s brought great change to the hobby. RDS became commonplace by mid-decade, allowing many stations to be IDed by on-screen text. HD Radio debuted locally in 2006, shuttering most open and usable frequencies immediately next to local FM stations, replacing the once empty frequencies with digital “sidebands” that blocked out all but the most strongest DX. Sites like Yes.com provided lists of current songs playing, which was extremely helpful during Sporadic E openings, and DXers came in droves to online propagation loggers like the TV/FM Skip Log, which helped spread the word for signal propagation events. The technological innovations stagnated in the 2010s, with the only major change in FM DXing being an almost annual downturn in occurrence of Sporadic E openings, new stations turning on HD Radio broadcasts (and many more discontinuing the service), and the few open frequencies being taken up by new translators seemingly popping up every day.
Even with all of these changes that were both a benefit and a detriment the hobby over the years, I still somehow managed to garner 1910 unique FM logs and 222 TV station logs.
Hopefully we’ll be all around for me to announce my 40th FM DXing anniversary in 2039. Stay tuned! The dial is always changing.
Updated 3/2/19 – Some new developments in the WRQX/EMF sale, according to online reports:
The actual format flip will apparently happen in summer 2019 when the transaction closes, not March 1 as previously thought.
WRQX and the other stations below will very likely get the “K-Love” format instead of “Air 1” or “K-Love Classics.”
The “Mix” branding and WRQX calls will stay with Cumulus, meaning they could reuse the combination in another market, or they could resurrect WRQX as “Mix” on co-owned 105.9 WMAL in DC after the deal closes. This also guarantees that 107.3 will get a new callsign this summer, the first new callsign for the station in over 40 years.
A radio deal between Educational Media Foundation (“EMF”) and Cumulus Media will result in six major United States cities getting a new Christian radio station. Among the stations announced February 14 include 107.3 WRQX Washington, DC, a local radio station of mine.
The move also marks the second time within a year that a radio station in the Washington market has ditched the hot adult contemporary format, after cross-town 94.7 WIAD flipped to classic hits in October.
WRQX, along with five other stations in New York, NY (95.5 WPLJ), Atlanta, GA (106.7 WYAY), San Francisco (97.7 KFFG), Savannah, GA (102.1 WZAT), and Syracuse, NY (105.9 WXTL), will become EMF stations this summer, according to press releases from both Cumulus and EMF, linked here from RadioInsight.com. Although seemingly not related to the EMF deal, Cumulus also said in their release that they will swap ownership of stations in Indiana, Massachusetts, and New York with Entercom.
EMF runs three Christian Contemporary networks: AC-leaning “K-Love”, CHR “Air 1,” and “K-Love Classics,” which airs recurrent songs from previous decades. It is unclear exactly which network WRQX and the other signals will pick up.
RadioInsight.com did a great job of reporting on how the shockwaves from this deal will reverberate throughout the radio industry. I decided to take a look at the deal’s immediate effect on the Washington, DC radio market, as well as how it will affect DXers in the Mid-Atlantic area in range of WRQX.
For years, the main Christian Contemporary (“CCM”) radio outlet in the Washington, DC area has been 91.9 WGTS Takoma Park, MD. Listeners in Northern Virginia also had access to the “Your PER” network of simulcasted CCM signals (89.9 WPIR Culpeper, VA, 90.5 WPER Fredericksburg, VA, and a chorus of translators throughout Virginia), while those in the Maryland suburbs of DC can hear nearby Baltimore, MD’s “95.1 Shine FM” WRBS. DC’s 105.1 WAVA Arlington, VA, which airs spoken religious programming, occasionally airs CCM music.
Even with suburban and distant signals offering the same format, WGTS was the go-to place for Christian music in Washington. I always see WGTS bumper stickers on cars and advertisements on buses, a nod to the station’s popularity. Introducing K-Love to this “one-horse town” will likely drive listeners away from WGTS, WRBS, and the “PER” network, especially if listeners are familiar with K-Love from being in other cities where it can be heard.
Once WRQX flips, there will be no hot AC radio station in Washington. The closest the city will have to the format will be adult contemporary 97.1 WASH, which airs more 80s music and less upbeat songs compared to what Mix plays. It will be interesting to see if another station in Washington picks up the hot AC format to fill the void. The closest stations with an hot AC format are 101.9 WLIF in Baltimore, MD (42 miles from DC), Fredericksburg, VA’s 101.5 WBQB at 45 miles, and Winchester, VA’s 92.5 WINC, at 54 miles away from the city. Neither WLIF, WBQB, or WINC make it into office buildings and businesses in downtown Washington, where many doctors offices and businesses play the format in waiting rooms. I predict WASH will win this battle, unless offices migrate to more upbeat signals, like CHR 99.5 WIHT.
WRQX has had a long span of consistent formats over the years. From 1979-1990, the station was CHR “Q107.” It was hot AC “Mix 107.3” from 1990-2013, and again 2015-today. The signal was CHR with a slew of names (“All The Hits 107-3” and “DC’s 107-3,” to name a few) between 2013-2015. Ironically, after the flip, WRQX will be in competition once again with WAVA, something that hasn’t happened in the market since WAVA was also CHR in the 1980s.
EMF purchasing WRQX makes sense. Save for a translator here and there, K-Love was largely absent from the Washington, DC region until 2017, when EMF bought nearby 94.3 WWXX and flipped it to K-Love. The station, now WLZV, broadcasts 2 KW in a rural area 45 miles southwest of Washington and cannot be heard in the city due to a local LPFM on 94.3. If EMF wanted to penetrate the DC market, they needed to do it on another signal, and WRQX was a logical choice, given how its 19.5 KW signal reaches the entire DC area, including the mountainous areas to the west, with ease. I’ve seen WRQX’s ratings slip over the years, so if a sale was to happen, it likely would’ve been a station like WRQX, instead of high-rated 103.5 WTOP or 96.3 WHUR.
From a DXing perspective, WRQX’s flip is actually good news. I often get K-Love signals via tropo or Sporadic E propagation, and it is good to have a local signal to quickly compare songs heard on distant signals to during DX events. It saves me from having to tune in the K-Love audio stream each time a suspected K-Love signal is heard.
The downside is that since K-Love is a nationally-broadcasted network of stations, the only local content heard is the top-of-the-hour legal ID. This is in stark contrast to the current WRQX, which has local DJs and other local content after every song. And, of course, the fact that employees both on-air and behind-the-scenes at WRQX will likely all lose their jobs after EMF takes control is unsettling.
It is unclear if WRQX will get new call letters with the format flip, but several online sources have hinted that the calls will change next month. My prediction is that WRQX will air K-Love, and the call letters will be something like WLVD or WLVW (the latter being currently on a K-Love station in Maryland, but the calls can always be moved). We’ll see how right I am in the coming weeks.
I visited the Norfolk, VA area during the President’s Day weekend and updated my existing logs. While on my way to Norfolk, I stopped for lunch in Richmond, VA and updated my logs from that city. I added a handful of new logs, plus dozens of new HD Radio and RDS screenshots from each city, too. Click on the links below, or view all of my travel DX logs from dozens of U.S. cities.
After realizing that my dial scan video on my Local FM Stations page was almost nine years old, I decided it was time to update the video, using my recently-acquired Sangean HDR-14. This video shows an accurate representation of signals received at my home without tropospheric enhancement.
The new video above from 2019 has been added to my Local FM Stations page. You can still find the old 2010 dial scan video and other radio and TV DXing-related videos on my YouTube channel.
Earlier this month, translator 104.7 W284CQ Washington, DC, known as “104-7 The Rock Nation” with a rock format, flipped to news/talk as “Wonk FM.” The new format, which is a relay of 101.1 WWDC HD2, has live on-air talent and seems to focus on “inside-the-beltway” news, according to online reports. W284CQ is a weak, but listenable signal at my Northern Virginia home. My Local FM Stations page has been updated with this information.