WFIL-FM History, WFIL-FX
On November 10, 1941, the WFIL Broadcasting company began operating a new 3 kW FM station on 45.3 Mhz. This was the city's (and possibly the country's) first commercial FM station, and was located in the Widener Building at Broad and Chestnut streets. The station, known initially as W53PH, changed its call letters to WFIL-FM in 1943. During portions of World War Two, the station was silent. Regular programming resumed in January, 1946.
On March 1, 1946, WFIL AM and FM were acquired by Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications for $1,900,000. Triangle published the "Philadelphia Inquirer." In early 1947, the station's frequency was changed to 99.9 MHz, and then by mid year it was changed again to the familiar 102.1 MHz. In late July of 1947, a new TV-FM tower was erected on top of the Widener Building, and TV broadcasts commenced on channel 6 on September 13, 1947. During 1948, some experimental facimile broadcasts known as WFIL-FX were undertaken using a subcarrier of WFIL-FM. A facimilie edition of the co-owned Philadelphia Inquirer consisting of an 8 page advertiser-supported weekly review was broadcast. The service did not prove popular with the public and the fax equipment was donated to Temple University two years later. In the summer of 1949, WFIL-FM and WFIL-TV relocated their transmitter to the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.
Early programming was varied and included concerts, studio bands, news and sports. WFIL-FM was one of the few FM stations that maintained separate programming throughout its schedule and did not rely on simulcasting of the co-owned AM station.
On October 13, 1952, WFIL moved all of its operations into a new radio-TV building at 46th and Market streets. In the late 1950s, WFIL provided Philadelphia's first regularly scheduled binaural broadcasts every sunday with "Dimensions in Sound." This was an early form of stereo by broadcasting one channel on WFIL-AM and the other on WFIL-FM.
In February of 1964, WFIL-FM moved to new 4th floor studios in the "WFIL Broadcast Center," located at 4100 City Line Avenue. At this time, the station operated from 7AM to 1AM daily with a "mood orchestra/Broadway show tunes" format with four hours of classical music per day and the weekly program "Wonderful Weekend of Music." Stereo broadcasting was inaugurated on September 1, 1965. In 1968, the station ran an automated easy listening format programmed by Dave Klahr. This format consisted of two instrumentals, six oldies and two LP cuts per hour, with the rest of the time filled by current easy listening songs. Announcers on the automated system included WFIL-AM announcers Jay Cook, J.J. Jeffries and Tom Tyler.
In 1971, Triangle sold WFIL-FM to Richer Communications for $1 million. The station changed its call letters to WIOQ on 5/28/71 and moved its studios to #2 Decker Square in Bala Cynwyd. (now known as Two Bala Plaza) The format was now automated "middle of the road" music and softer pop hits, known as "Popular 102", "W-102", and "Stereo Island." Some of the jocks during this period were Jeff Dean, Lee Meredith, Art Andrews, Alan Drew (Later known as Alan Frio on WCAU-TV news), Jere Sullivan, and Jay Mathieu. In 1974, the automation was turned off, and the format was changed to progressive rock. One of the first DJs at the new station was John Harvey, known for his popular "Harvey in the Morning" show, which debuted in 1977.
The Richer Broadcasting company was sold at auction on September 8, 1977 for an undisclosed purchase price. The corporate name was changed to the Que Broadcasting Company, and the station was then known as "Q102." The Outlet Company, a Providence-based group owner, acquired WIOQ from the Que Broadcasting company on August 21, 1979.
By 1980, the station had moved away from a broad, progressive playlist and added a softer edge to the music. For example, instead of hearing the Sex Pistols alongside Styx, or Miles Davis segue into Mike Oldfield, you were now likely to hear Streisand or Diana Ross in the mix. In any case, the music remained somewhat eclectic, and would now be considered something akin to "adult rock." Some other personalities on Q102 during this period included Helen Leicht, David Dye, and Ed Sciaky.
The station limped along with low to moderate ratings until November 19, 1987, when the station switched to an oldies format. On the same day, CHR WCAU-FM also switched to an oldies format as WOGL. WIOQ's version of the oldies format included fewer pre-1964 songs and a smaller playlist than WOGL.
Top 40 Format
On January 18, 1989, twenty-one employees of WIOQ-FM - including the entire on-air staff - were fired, as the radio station changed ownership and formats. Virginia-based EZ communications purchased the station from Outlet Communications for $19,200,000, and immediately swiched from oldies to a white-oriented urban-contemporary format "loaded with current, up-tempo music." Over the next few years, that format evolved into a lively rhythm-and-blues/rap mix that appealed
strongly to a young, predominantly black audience. This placed the station in stiff competition with similarly formatted WUSL-FM. When WIOQ owner EZ Communications acquired WUSL as a duoploy arrangement in 1994, WIOQ gradually moved back to a more dance-oriented contemporary-hits/urban mix aimed for a white audience.
In 1997, WIOQ's license was transferred from EZ Communications to American Radio Systems through a $655 million exchange in stock. ARS was required to spin off WIOQ and WUSL to new owners in the spring of 1997. Evergreen Media Corporation became their new licensee in an exchange of other stations. In September, 1997, Evergreen Media merged with Chancellor Broadcasting and became co-owned with five other Philadelphia stations. As the result of yet another merger in 2001, WIOQ became property of Clear Channel Communications. WIOQ remains a successful mainstream Top 40 station.
Billboard, various issues, 1948, 1958, 1965, 1968
Detweiler, Margit. "Glory Days." Philadelphia Citypaper 26 Nov. 1998.
Interview with George Nice