107.3 WRQX Washington, DC flips to “K-Love,” callsign now WSOM, to be WLVW soon (audio)

A popular nationwide Christian contemporary radio network has debuted in Washington, DC, leaving the nation’s sixth-largest radio market without a hot adult contemporary-formatted station.

107.3 WRQX Washington, DC, known for years as hot adult contemporary “Mix 107-3”, flipped to “K-Love” at 7:00 PM May 31, following a live farewell show hosted by longtime morning show host Jack Diamond.  WRQX, along with radio stations in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Savannah, and Syracuse, were recently purchased by Educational Media Foundation as part of a major multi-market station deal announced in March, making them the newest members of the 440+ station K-Love network.

At 7PM, listeners watching a live video simulcast of Diamond’s last show on the program’s Facebook page watched Diamond send off the station with their legal ID, followed by a fancy song about the morning show.  Those listening on 107.3 FM at the same time, however, only got to hear a second or so of the song before dead air cut in.  The audio feed was then abruptly switched over to the national K-Love broadcast, which was already in the middle of a song.  After a few songs, DJs acknowledged the addition of WRQX and other stations to the K-Love umbrella.

Click here to hear the format flip:

The intellectual property of WRQX, including its call letters, station name, and logo, still belong to Cumulus.  The former signal owners temporarily parked the WRQX calls on one of their co-owned AM radio stations in Ohio and put that station’s calls, WSOM, on DC’s 107.3, according to RadioInsight.com.

wsom_ID
FCC records indicate the callsign of DC’s 107.3 is now WSOM.  The callsign will change again to WLVW in the coming weeks.

EMF, however, is not referencing WSOM in their new K-Love legal ID. Instead, they are identifying DC’s 107.3 as WLVW, a call sign that will become official in the coming weeks.  Until that happens, however, EMF is technically airing an incorrect legal ID for their new signal.  WSOM is the first new callsign for DC’s 107.3 since 1979.  The WLVW calls used to be on 105.5 FM in Salisbury, MD.  That station is now WLSW.

Click here to hear the new WLVW legal ID:

Making things even more complicated, as of midnight June 1, the call letters seen on HD Radios tuning in the station’s digital signal still display the old WRQX calls, even though the signal is identifying as WLVW and its real callsign is WSOM.

wqrx_HD_callsign
Mistaken identity: 107.3 WSOM Washington, DC is identified on-air as WLVW, and its HD Radio callsign is WRQX.

News of impending sale was not actively mentioned on WRQX until May 28, when Diamond announced it on his morning show.  Afterward, farewells poured into the station, both on-air and on their social media accounts.  Although no specifics were given at the time, Diamond allued to his show being resurrected on another area radio station after the flip.

wrqx_facebook_farewell
WRQX morning host Jack Diamond can be seen here telling listeners about the format flip in a video recorded during his morning show broadcast on May 28.

The current incarnation of 107.3, WSOM, does not air RDS anymore, although it did hours earlier in the same day as WRQX.  I expect this to change soon, given that RDS is in heavy use with other K-Love signals that I have received in other locations.

The former Mix 107.3 website now redirects to the website of cross-town iHeart-owned 99.5 WIHT.  A message on the station’s website welcomes former Mix 107.3 listeners to their station.  WRQX’s former Facebook and Twitter pages were still operational an hour after the format flip, but were taken down as of 9:15 PM May 31.

The format change leaves a gaping format hole in the Nation’s Capitol.  As of June 1, there are no signals within 40 miles of Washington broadcasting an hot AC format.  None of the few hot AC signals located 40-60 miles away from DC provide a reliable signal into office buildings in the city.  The closest Washington has to the format is local adult contemporary 97.1 WASH, which airs more 80s music and softer tunes than what was heard on WRQX.

This farewell graphic was seen on WRQX’s website during its last week as a hot AC station. Credit: WRQX/Cumulus.

Since Cumulus still owns the WRQX callsign and intellectual property, they can debut it on any other signal they own.  In Washington, Cumulus owns 105.9 WMAL Woodbridge, VA and they lease 99.1 WDCH Bowie, MD to Bloomberg Radio.  It is unclear if the company plans to flip one of those stations to “Mix” as WRQX, or if they would do so on a completely unrelated station they own outside of Washington.

Today’s format flip presents a huge opportunity for another station group in the Washington market to flip one of their own signals to hot AC to undermine Cumulus and derail any chances of WRQX returning to the airwaves on a different frequency.  Ironically, this is the second time within a year that Washington has lost a hot AC-formatted signal.  94.7 WIAD Bethesda, MD, which was hot AC for nine years, flipped to 80s-leaning classic hits in October 2018.

The K-Love network has been absent from the Washington region up until now, save for a random translator here and there.  In 2017, EMF purchased rimshot 94.3 WWXX Buckland, VA and turned it into a K-Love signal as WLZV.  This, however, didn’t result in much exposure to the Washington market, since DC has a low power FM signal on the same frequency in the city that blocks WLZV’s signal.  It is unclear if WLZV will remain with K-Love or switch to sister network Air 1 now, given how strong WRQX’s signal is in the region and WLZV’s broadcast area.

WRQX has aired an hot AC format as “Mix 107.3” since 1990, save for when it was CHR between 2013 and 2015.  In the late 70s and throughout the 80s, it was CHR as “Q107.”

My Local FM Stations page has been updated with the new station information.

UPDATED: Washington, DC’s 107.3 WRQX to flip to Christian Contemporary in major multi-market station deal

Updated 5/31/19 – WRQX has flipped to “K-Love” and is now WSOM.  The callsign will change to WLVW soon.  Click here to read my full story and to hear the format flip.

Updated 3/2/19 – Some new developments in the WRQX/EMF sale, according to online reports:

  1. The actual format flip will apparently happen in summer 2019 when the transaction closes, not March 1 as previously thought.
  2. WRQX and the other stations below will very likely get the “K-Love” format instead of “Air 1” or “K-Love Classics.”
  3. 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.

HD Radio decoded from WRQX, 4/15/18

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.