|Broadcast area||Saginaw-Bay City-Midland|
|Branding||Ave Maria Radio|
|First air date||November 26, 1956|
|Format||Religious; Catholic based talk/sermons; simulcast of WMAX Bay City|
|Power||5,000 watts (Daytime)
1,100 watts (Nighttime)
|Former callsigns||WWBC (11/26/56-1962)
|Owner||Ave Maria Communications|
WHHQ (1250 AM) is a radio station broadcasting a Catholic religious format, serving the Saginaw–Bay City area as a simulcast of WMAX (AM) in Bay City. Broadcasting from its transmitter in Bridgeport, Michigan, its city of license, it is currently owned by Ave Maria Communications. WHHQ broadcasts at a power of 5000 watts daytime, 1100 watts at night, directed towards the north.
As WKNX AM 1210
WHHQ's history can be traced back as early as April 17, 1947, when the station first signed on the air as AM 1210 WKNX, owned by Lake Huron Broadcasting. The station was like many of its day, programming a full-service format of music, news, and talk. For many years, it was also a leading Top 40 hit music station in Saginaw, competing with WSAM (1400 AM) and Flint's WTAC (600 AM, now WSNL).
Among the station's history was the acquisition of a sister television station in the 1950s, and was also the radio home of 50's country music artist "Little" Jimmy Dickens. WKNX's resident "legend" would take form of University of Cincinnati graduate Robert Dyer, who joined the station in 1950 and remained a part of its staff for more than half a century.
Move to Frankenmuth
The following year, in 1978, WKNX underwent a major change when it was purchased by Radiocom Limited, a company headed by Robert Dana McVay. WKNX's city of license was immediately changed to Frankenmuth, and the station's studios and offices were moved to 306 West Genesee Avenue in Frankenmuth, where it was joined by a Tuscola-licensed sister FM station, WGMZ-FM (now WWBN), which programmed beautiful music. (The WGMZ calls and format moved from 107.9 FM, which became WCRZ "Cars 108" in 1984.) By the early 1990s, WKNX-AM was programming big band music and adult standards.
Radiocom owned WKNX and leased out WGMZ (which would later become country-formatted WKMF and move its operations to Flint) until 1994, when WKNX was purchased by Detroit-based Bell Broadcasting Company in a frequency swap involving another AM station in Bay City (1250 WXOX) which had been silent since the early 90's.
Sale to Bell Broadcasting and Frequency Swap
Bell Broadcasting owned WCHB, an AM station licensed to Taylor, which operated at a daytime signal of 25,000 watts and a nighttime signal of 1,000 watts. WCHB was a talk station targeted to an African-American audience. The company's intent was to acquire WKNX's dial position at 1210 and silence it in order to provide WCHB with a 50,000 watt daytime signal.
WKNX would then acquire the license of WXOX, which had first signed on in 1956 as a station first licensed to Essexville. Over time, the 1,000 watt station, operating at 1250 kHz, began broadcasting from Bay City with its co-owned Pinconning-licensed FM sister at 100.9. By the end of the 1980s, both stations had separated ownership, ran into financial trouble and fell silent. 100.9 was spun off to a new owner in 1991, but WXOX remained silent.
Bell would then have WKNX assume WXOX's 1250 AM dial position and its abandoned three-tower directional transmitter site in Bridgeport. In January 1997, WKNX signed on at AM 1250, and AM 1210 was placed at WXOX and assigned the new call letters WJZZ, though it did not sign back on from Frankenmuth or the surrounding area. (The former WXOX calls have since been recycled for a Cleveland low-powered TV station, now WLFM-LP.)
The FCC then granted WJZZ a request to change its city of license to Kingsley, a village near Traverse City, located on the other side of Michigan. The move allowed WJZZ to increase its power from 10,000 to 50,000 watts, as it was no longer in the path of WCHB. WJZZ was later sold and later became WLDR (now WJNL).
Sale to Frankenmuth Broadcasting
WKNX continued its format of middle-of-the-road music under the moniker "Memories 1250". Six months after the frequency change, WKNX was sold by Bell Broadcasting to Frankenmuth Broadcasting, a company owned by WKNX announcer John Blehm and his wife Kathy, who were committed to keeping the radio station in Frankenmuth. Four years later, the music became more rock-and-roll oldies-based and also added religious-based talk programming during the daytime hours.
WKNX was granted permission to broadcast at night two years later with a power output of 129 watts, directional. Concurrent with the application, WKNX moved its studio and office operations from Frankenmuth to its transmitter facility at 2850 Gabel Road in Bridgeport Township. In January 2004, Frankenmuth Broadcasting applied for a power increase from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. Two months later, Frankenmuth Broadcasting entered into an agreement to sell WKNX to the Meredith Corporation for $1.1 million.
Ownership with WNEM-TV
In the Summer of 2004, the parent company of WNEM-TV, Meredith Corporation, purchased WKNX. Soon after the purchase, the call sign was changed to "WNEM" and shifted its studios to the television studio building in downtown Saginaw at 107 N. Franklin Street. Unlike its TV counterpart, however, the AM station does not serve Flint or areas south of Saginaw County, due to the directional antenna array beamed towards the north. The station is also simulcasted via the Internet on WNEM's website, except for sports coverage. In a coincidental situation, WNEM-TV rival WEYI-TV was founded as WKNX-TV, a sister station to WKNX radio; it was sold off in 1972.
The FCC granted WNEM permission in January 2006 to operate at the new power levels with the addition of a fourth tower in its directional antenna pattern. At one point programmed as an all-news station, WNEM's primary programming later consisted of simulcasts of channel 5's newscasts, syndicated talk shows (including Michael Patrick Shiels in the Morning, The Neal Boortz Show, and The Dave Ramsey Show), and syndicated regional sports and additional programming. WNEM picked up Detroit Red Wings ice hockey coverage in late 2005, making it mid-Michigan's only source of NHL hockey. Following the station's sale and format change, coverage of Red Wings games moved to WSGW 790 AM.
Donation and Change to WHHQ
On January 29, 2013, it was announced that Meredith had donated WNEM radio to Ave Maria Radio, which currently brokers all its Catholic-related programming on WMAX AM 1440 in Bay City. It was expected for the station to switch to a Catholic-based format when the deal received FCC approval, which occurred on April 24, 2013. The station changed to its current WHHQ call sign on June 18, 2013. The station has since begun simulcasting WMAX's programming, despite its considerable overlap of the parent station's coverage area.
- From All Access, January 29, 2013.