WTCM-FM

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WTCM
WTCM-FM, WBCM
WTCM-FM.jpg
City of license WTCM-FM: Traverse City, Michigan
WBCM: Boyne City, Michigan
Broadcast area WTCM-FM: Traverse City, Michigan
WBCM: Petoskey, Michigan
Branding TCM, Today's Country Music
Frequency WTCM-FM: 103.5 MHz
WBCM: 93.5 MHz
First air date WTCM-FM: 1965
WBCM: 1978 (as WCLX)
Format Country
ERP WTCM-FM: 100,000 watts
WBCM: 14,000 watts
HAAT WTCM-FM: 302 meters
WBCM: 283 meters
Class WTCM-FM: C0
WBCM: C2
Facility ID WTCM-FM: 70525
WBCM: 71210
Callsign meaning WTCM-FM: Traverse City, Michigan
WBCM: Boyne City, Michigan
Former callsigns WTCM-FM: none
WBCM: WCLX (1978-8/12/91)
Owner Midwestern Broadcasting Company
Sister stations WATZ, WATZ-FM, WCCW, WCCW-FM, WCZW, WJZQ, WRGZ, WTCM
Webcast Listen Live
Website wtcmi.com

WTCM-FM consists of two radio stations: WTCM-FM 103.5 in Traverse City, Michigan and simulcast WBCM 93.5 FM in Boyne City, Michigan. The two stations carry a country music format and are owned by Midwestern Broadcasting. Today, WTCM-FM/WBCM is on or near the top of the Arbitron ratings [1]. WTCM-FM's 100,000 watt signal can be heard south toward Grand Rapids at times. During the summer its signal wafts southeast into southern lower Michigan,(heard in the Tri-Cities mixing with WMUZ-FM in Detroit). This is a good 150 miles from its originating city, Traverse City.

Founding[edit]

In 1939, WTCM founder Les Biederman of Pennsylvania and several of his friends - engineer Bill Kiker and Drew McClay among others - wanted to start a radio station, but in an undeveloped radio market. They decided that Traverse City, Michigan was a city destined for growth and had no local radio station, so they moved to the city and built the 250-watt transmitter that would be Traverse City's first radio station. WTCM initially broadcast from a small studio at the base of the tower. The WTCM control console was hand built by Biederman and Kiker, and served the station until its replacement around 1980.

When WTCM signed on in 1940, it was a local channel station at 1370 kc. briefly before moving to 1400 kc. The station was licensed to broadcast 24 hours at 250 watts, but only broadcast from 6 AM to 11 PM. WTCM was an NBC affiliate and like most radio stations at the time, aired block programming - some local shows, network shows, music programs, etc.

They soon outgrew the tiny studio and moved to the Anderson Building in the 100 block of downtown Traverse City in the mid =-1940s. Long-time Midwestern employees Kenn Haven and Merlin Dumbrille began working there in the 1940s.

Because WTCM had a limited reach, Biederman wanted to start other small stations aimed exclusively towards the towns they broadcast in. After fighting in World War II, Biederman started WATT 1240 Cadillac, Michigan in 1945, WATZ 1450 Alpena, Michigan in 1946, WMBN 1340 Petoskey, Michigan in 1947 and WATC 900 Gaylord, Michigan in 1950, all collectively known as the Paul Bunyan Network. All but WATC are still on the air today, but Midwestern still owns only WTCM and WATZ.

1950s and 1960s[edit]

In 1954, Biederman signed on NBC WPBN-TV 7 in Traverse City, just months after the Traverse City market got its first TV station, Sparton's CBS/ABC/DuMont WWTV 13 in Cadillac, now known as 9 & 10. In 1959, WPBN increased its reach to WTOM 4 in Cheboygan, bringing NBC shows to the eastern upper peninsula.

Big changes came to WTCM and the rest of the Paul Bunyan Network in the 1960s as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed local channel stations to increase their daytime power to 1,000 watts. All of the local channel stations complied, and boosted their power.

In 1964, long time WTCM air staffer Merlin Dumbrille started hosting the popular "Farm and Orchard Time" program, a WTCM staple since 1941. He retired as host of the show on October 30, 2009.

1970s[edit]

WTCM became contemporary (as "14-T") in 1975 under the supervision of long-time Traverse City broadcaster Jerry Meyer, and saw major changes in the airstaff, including morning show host Kenn Haven moving to news. In 1977 former WCCW afternoon host Lin McNett ("Michael O'Shea") became WTCM's program director and morning personality.

The Top 40 format was initially successful, but the 1977 format change of WJML, and the 1980 entry of WKHQ, both from north of Traverse City but with strong regional signals into the market, caused the predictable result, and listeners gravitated over a period of a couple years to the stereo FM contemporary format signals. WTCM became simulcast to the FM signal not long after that.

WTCM-FM became a country station in the early 1970s, at the urging of WTCM salesman Leon Purchase, a local country musician, who was convinced that a country format would work in rural northern Michigan.

Les traditionally came to the WTCM studio (almost nightly) after the conclusion of the TV 7&4 newscast and recorded an editorial on topics of the day, and these editorials and his strong sense of local stewardship culminated (among other things) into a local college (Northwestern Michigan College) and other more abstract realities including the city power plant converting from coal to wood as a source of fuel.[citation needed]

In the late 1970s, Les also began plans to increase the power of both WTCM AM and FM. In 1978, Les started turning over more of his duties to his son, Ross Biederman. Because of FCC restrictions and WTCM's growth plans, several properties were sold, including the Petoskey and Cadillac stations (to MacDonald Broadcasting, founded by long-time Biederman broadcast pal Kenneth MacDonald) and the Gaylord station was sold to William Barr, but fell silent several owners later in the early 2000s due to financial troubles.

1980s[edit]

In 1980, Les Biederman traded WPBN-TV to US Tobacco for stock, and became its largest individual shareholder.

In 1982, after years of planning, engineering and FCC permitting, a major change was made to WTCM, which had since started simulcasting with WTCM-FM. The station was moved to its current position at 580 and boosted power to 2,500 watts daytime. The 1400 frequency was donated to a local church, who made the station Traverse City's first religious station, WLJN (We Lift Jesus' Name). WLJN broadcast from the original WTCM studio on Morgan Hill ("Radio Hill" to the locals), at the base of the 1400 kHz tower.

In the late 1980s, WTCM (and other AMs) were struggling. Although he has Democratic leanings, Ross Biederman decided to start airing Rush Limbaugh's program because he thought it would help ratings, and made the station full-time news/talk.[citation needed]

1990s - present[edit]

With FCC restrictions lessening, it created opportunities for the younger Biederman to rebuild the Paul Bunyan Network. In the 1990s, he purchased or erected several stations in other northern markets, and designed them to rebroadcast his Traverse City signals.

First, WTCM-FM added a rebroadcaster in WBCM 93.5 FM Boyne City. The 93.5 frequency began broadcasting in 1978 and originally programmed a standalone country format as WCLX (with the calls standing for nearby Charlevoix). (The WBCM calls were used for years at an AM station in Bay City, Michigan, now WMAX.) Later, WKJF 1370 Cadillac eventually simulcasted WCCW. WKJF has since been donated to the same ministry that received the original 1400 signal, Good News Media (which changed the calls to WLJW in March 2004 and has since used it to simulcast WLJN). Also, in the 1990s, Biederman purchased WCCW (AM) 1310 (then standards from ABC's "Stardust" network, now sports from ESPN Radio) and FM 107.5 (oldies), which had been WTCM's primary local competitor in the "early days" after being founded by a former Midwestern employee, John Anderson, in 1960.

Recently, WTCM boosted its power once again, this time to a full 50 kW daytime, allowing its directional signal to penetrate Canada. They, however, only broadcast with 1,100 watts overnight. Because AM transmits mostly through groundwave signals, and Northern Michigan's terrain is mostly sand, transmission is difficult.

The station started broadcasting from its new home, Biederman's Radio Centre building in downtown Traverse City in 2002. The building also houses his other properties, WCCW-AM-FM (along with recent sign-on WCZW-FM 107.9 Charlevoix, which simulcasts WCCW-FM "Oldies 107-5") and Top 40 WJZQ 92.9 FM (Z93).

Sources[edit]

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Coordinates: 44°27′33″N 85°42′05″W / 44.4592°N 85.7014°W / 44.4592; -85.7014