|City||Rock Island, Illinois|
|Broadcast area||Quad Cities|
|Slogan||Positive and Encouraging|
|First air date||October 1947 (as WHBF-FM)|
|Former callsigns||WHTS (7/28/95-2/08/06)
|Owner||Educational Media Foundation|
WLKU is a radio station licensed to Rock Island, Illinois, with a Christian contemporary format. The station's frequency is 98.9 MHz, and broadcasts at an effective radiated power of 39,000 watts. WLKU is owned by the Educational Media Foundation and is affiliated with the K-Love network.
History of 98.9 MHz
|Name (call signs)||Format|
|98.9 WHBF-FM||Easy Listening (1947 – early 1970s)|
|WHBF AM & FM||Middle-of-the-Road (early 1970s – 1974)|
|98.9 WHBF-FM||Middle-of-the-Road (1974–1987)|
|Power 98.9 (WPXR)||Contemporary Hit Radio, later Urban Adult Contemporary and Alternative (1987–1995)|
|All Hit 98.9 (WHTS)||Contemporary Hit Radio (1995–2006)|
|K-LOVE (WLKU)||Christian Contemporary (2006–present)|
The Rock Island allocation of 98.9 MHz represents many milestones in Quad-Cities' radio broadcasting. First, it represents the first FM station to originate in the area, having signed on as WHBF-FM October 28, 1947. It was owned by the Rock Island Argus.
WHBF-FM's first home was the Harms Hotel, where it broadcast alongside sister station WHBF. As with most FM stations of the era, WHBF either duplicated the AM station's programming or used a classical music/easy listening format. WHBF-TV joined the fold in July 1950, with all three facilities housed in the Telco Building in downtown Rock Island. All three stations were owned by the Potter family of Rock Island, the same family that published the Rock Island Argus.
In the early 1970s, WHBF moved away from its classical/easy listening format, and for a short while, shared WHBF-AM's middle-of-the-road (MOR) format. When WHBF-AM began its country music format in 1974, WHBF-FM continued its MOR format for another decade.
Top 40-era (1987–2006)
By 1987, with tastes in radio listenership changing, the station management at WHBF-FM adopted a new "Top 40" format, in an attempt to draw a younger audience. The new station – now dubbed WPXR and known as "Power 98.9" - premiered in April 1987 and was an immediate success. The station quickly drew listeners away from the Quad Cities' market's established Top 40 station, KIIK 104, and soon became the area's No. 1 Top 40 station. Often, "Power 98.9" duked it out with country station WLLR-FM for supremacy in the market.
In 1987 David Roth (uncle to David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame) bought the FM/AM and in the mid-1990s, WPXR station programmers tried "The New Sound", one featuring urban contemporary and alternative rock music. Listeners didn't like "The New Sound", and it wasn't long before the station reverted to the tried-and-true Top 40/CHR format, this time with the slogan "All-Hit 98.9" (pronounced as "All-Hit Ninety-Eight Nine," unlike "Power 98.9," in which was pronounced Ninety-Eight point Nine). The callsign WHTS became effective in 1995. For several years, WHTS carried "The Bob & Tom Show" during its morning programming block until the show moved to KUUL in 2001 to make way for a local morning show.
Sale of station to EMF (2006-present)
Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) operated All-Hit 98.9 under a joint sales agreement (JSA) with the station's owner, Mercury Broadcasting Company, for several years. Clear Channel already owned six stations in the Quad Cities market: WLLR-FM, KUUL-FM, KMXG-FM, KCQQ-FM, WOC, and WFXN. Because purchasing additional stations would have placed Clear Channel over Federal Communications Commission ownership limits for the market, a JSA was used instead. (Clear Channel used to operate Mercury Broadcasting's other station in the market, WKBF, in this manner.)
The FCC instituted new ownership rules in 2004. Under the new rules, a joint sales agreement is considered equivalent to station ownership, placing Clear Channel over the market limit. The JSA between Clear Channel and Mercury was due to be renewed in 2006, but both companies knew a renewal was not possible. In December 2005, it was announced that Mercury would be selling the station to the Educational Media Foundation for $3.5 million. EMF also announced its intentions to convert the 98.9 frequency to non-commercial status.
The FCC approved the sale on January 24, 2006, and the final day for the Top 40 format was February 3. The last song ever to be played on All Hit 98.9 was "American Pie" by Don McLean, which was followed by a tribute medley produced by "Red Hot" Brian Scott. The final section of a song to ever be played on All Hit 98.9 was "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men. The 98.9 frequency went silent at midnight on February 3, returning to the air with the satellite K-LOVE format the following evening. Five days later the station adopted its current call letters WLKU.
- "WHBF-FM Commences" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 10, 1947. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
- Anderson, Frederick I, editor. "Joined By a River: Quad Cities." Lee Enterprises, 1982. ISBN 0-910847-00-2
- Upper Midwest Broadcasting news archive
- FCC Daily Digest listing approval of sale to EMF