WPHM

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WPHM
WPHM-AM Logo.png
City Port Huron, Michigan
Broadcast area St. Clair, Sanilac County
[1] (Daytime)
[2] (Nighttime)
Branding Information 1380 WPHM
Slogan Where the Blue Water Area Comes to Talk
Frequency 1380 (kHz)
First air date December 6, 1947
Format News/Talk/Sports
Power 5,000 watts
Class B
Callsign meaning Wonderful Port Huron, Michigan
Former callsigns WTTH
Affiliations ABC Radio
NBC Sports Radio
Michigan Radio Network
Spartan Sports Network
Owner Radio First
Webcast http://player.listenlive.co/44151
Website http://www.wphm.net/

WPHM is a news, talk and sports radio station in Port Huron, Michigan that broadcasts on AM 1380 with 5,000 watts. WPHM is owned by Radio First. The station includes local programming including a live morning show hosted by Paul Miller, a live sports show hosted by Dennis Stuckey, and a local news department headed up by Bill Gilmer. The station is an affiliate of the Michigan Radio Network, ABC News Radio, and NBC Sports Radio. It is also the local station for all four Detroit professional sports teams as well as the Michigan State Spartans.

History[edit]

Early history: WTTH[edit]

For much of its early years, WPHM was known as WTTH, the original call letters standing for The Times Herald, the name of Port Huron's only daily newspaper. The newspaper operated the station from its debut in 1947 until 1970, when it was sold to Enterform, Inc (a name derived from the words ENTERtainment and inFORMation). The station continued to operate from the original WTTH studio location in the newspaper building after the sale to Enterform, which boasted a large front area originally used for performing live radio programs, and also which once hosted Paul Harvey doing his national news program at this remote location.

1380 becomes WPHM[edit]

Following its acquisition by Enterform in 1970, WTTH's call letters were changed to WPHM, to more accurately reflect the station's commitment to community service. In 1978, Enterform moved the studio to the newly remodeled and outfitted location at 2379 Military Street, and updated the studio-transmitter audio link from the old telephone line to a microwave system. In 1986, Enterform sold WPHM to Hanson Communications.

Though much of WPHM's history did not involve a co-owned FM station to enhance its profitability, it didn't need one. Somewhat unusual for a market this size was that two AM stations dominated the radio landscape, both with programming that included highly competitive news departments. Its advantage over longtime crosstown rival WHLS (a single tower 1000 watt "Local" station) was its powerful "Regional" signal of 5,000 watts, boasting seven towers (six-tower parallelogram daytime, 4 towers inline at night), able to reach listeners north of Port Huron, known as the Thumb area. For this reason, the station was billed for years as "The Big Station in Michigan's Thumb".

WPHM had maintained a longtime agreement with the ABC radio network and the Associated Press, which gave the station the tools it needed to be a strong local news competitor against WHLS and sister station WSAQ. It was that, a highly talented sales force, and longtime morning personality John Hill (who retired in 2002 before his death in 2012) that established WPHM as a force to be reckoned with in St. Clair County. WPHM was also the first in the market (even among its Detroit counterparts) to invest in hard-disk computer-based on-air technology in the early 90's.

WPHM gains an FM sister: B96.9[edit]

Despite WPHM's success on its own, Hanson Communications still aspired to buy or build a local FM property. That opportunity finally presented itself in June 1992, when Hanson acquired CHR-formatted WBTI 96.9 FM, licensed to the city of Lexington, north of Port Huron. The station had been on the air for less than a year. The FCC approved the $350,000 sale to Hanson from Martz Communications a month later. WBTI was then moved to WPHM's offices at 2379 Military Street in Port Huron.

As further proof of how dominant WPHM was over its new FM sister, WPHM outbilled WBTI 10 to 1 in 1993.

Into the 1990s and the new millennium[edit]

In 1997, Hanson Communications began negotiations with David Barr, owner and president of Barr/Schremp Communications in Marine City, about 12 miles south of Port Huron. Barr, who was operating syndicated talk-formatted WIFN (now WHLX), wanted to leave the Detroit radio business and pursue other radio opportunities north of Detroit in Traverse City.

Hanson Communications purchased WIFN the following year and, after a brief period of simulcasting WIFN with WBTI, replaced its talk format with one of classic country, provided by ABC/SMN's "Real Country" satellite-based format in Dallas, increasing its portfolio to three stations. Hanson then vacated WIFN's (then WHYT-AM) studio from its co-located transmitter facility at 5300 Marine City Highway and moved programming operations to 2379 Military Street as well.

Lee Hanson died Thursday, November 12, 2015.[1]

Liggett and the creation of Radio First[edit]

Radio First Logo

In early 2000, Robert Liggett, owner of Big Boy Restaurants and former owner of several Central Michigan radio stations entered into an agreement to purchase Hanson Communications of Port Huron. Liggett also approached WPHM's crosstown competitor Wismer Broadcasting, whose owner and founder died in 1999. By the end of 2000, Liggett received all necessary FCC approvals to buy both Hanson Communications and Wismer Broadcasting. All five stations, including WPHM, became a part of Liggett Communications. For about a year WPHM continued to use the old Hanson studio at 2379 Military Street, which is now is home to a Coldwell Banker office and Hanson's Pro Music. Wismer's facilities at 808 Huron Avenue were expanded and now house the studios and offices for all five stations. 1380 WPHM, 96.9 WBTI, 107.1 WSAQ, 1590 WHLX, and 1450 WHLS are collectively known as Radio First.

WPHM goes all talk[edit]

Not long before WPHM changed hands, it gradually moved from its longtime format of adult contemporary and talk to all news and talk. WPHM was one of the first radio stations to pick up syndicated personality Sean Hannity in 2001. The patriotic fervor of post 9/11 America and the rise in ratings of conservative personalities nationwide caused WPHM to ditch the music altogether add other talk shows to their daily lineup. Mike Gallagher, Glenn Beck, Dave Ramsey, Bruce Williams and many other personalities have come and gone on WPHM's airwaves. For a short period WPHM also carried ESPN Radio nights and weekends. In addition to some of the conservative talk shows the station aired, longtime radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne was a fixture of WPHM for nearly twenty years, as was overnight personality Joey Reynolds. Both were distributed by the WOR Radio Network until it folded in 2012, causing WPHM to replace Dr. Joy Browne with Dennis Miller in the afternoons and Joey Reynolds with Coast to Coast AM overnights.

Morning personality John Hill retired from the station in August 2002 upon completing 35 years of service. Hill later died in 2012.[2] Taking his place would be Paul Miller who started his radio career in Port Huron and served as WPHM's news director before leaving for other markets. Paul Miller was hired as morning show host in late 2002 and continues to serve the station as both morning personality and program director. He is joined by another Port Huron radio veteran and news director Bill Gilmer and sports director Dennis Stuckey for the live morning show weekdays 6:00am to 10:00am.

WPHM Today[edit]

Starting in January 2015, WPHM started airing NBC Sports Radio on the weekends, becoming an affiliate of Westwood One's newest sports talk brand. According to station management, the move to a sports-centered format reflected the needs of the community for more sports content and the popularity of sports talk radio nationwide, especially the success it has had in the Detroit market. Over the first six months of 2015, WPHM transitioned away from its news talk format and the conservative personalities it carried. As a part of the format change, the Noon and 6pm "Information Hours", a longtime fixture on WPHM featuring local news and talk segments, were removed from the station's lineup. Other personalities such as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Dave Ramsey were shuffled around however ultimately dropped in favor of NBC Sports.

Sports Director Dennis Stuckey was given his own talk show in January 2015 immediately following the WPHM Morning Show from 10am to noon weekdays. Paul Miller continues to host the Morning Show with little to no changes to his program's format. Saturday and Sunday morning talk programs were also kept on the station, as well as overnight program Coast to Coast AM.

On June 15, 2015, WPHM officially became a daily affiliate of NBC Sports Radio, airing the network's syndicated sports talk programs beginning at Noon and ending at 1am the following day.[3]

Along with talk radio shows, WPHM broadcasts the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, and Michigan State Spartan athletics.

Engineering[edit]

Originally WTTH was a 1000 watt station broadcasting at 1360 kHz daytime only from a site near 32nd Street and Dove Road in Port Huron Township.[4] The original construction permit was issued by the FCC on March 27, 1947. In December of that year, the station was granted extended hours of operation until 2am.

The frequency of WTTH changed September 7, 1949 to the present day 1380 kHz using a directional three tower antenna array at the Dove Road site. It would remain there until December 1961 when a construction permit was filed to move the station south to St. Clair Township with a seven tower array and a power boost to 5,000 watts. The Times Hearld sold the station to Enterform in 1967 which was then followed by a call sign change to WPHM.[5]

WPHM-AM's current array is located south of the city of Marysville in Saint Clair Twp. off Range Road, located behind a Mobil gas station. The building housing the transmitter equipment is painted with the old WPHM logo. Through much of its early history, the transmitter building was staffed during hours of operation (at that time 6am to 11pm) by FCC licensed engineering personnel, which was a Federal Communications Commission requirement at that time for AM stations with complicated directional antenna systems. While there, the engineering staff would also perform other duties, such as set-up the long tape loops between two reel recorders to provide a "profanity delay" during call-in shows (before the advent of digital delay equipment), log exact times of commercial play to the program log, and take transmitter readings. The transmitter building was no longer staffed after the studio moved to Military Street in 1978, due to the installation of a new remote control system, and by that time, relaxed FCC rules regarding directional antenna system operator presence.

The seven-tower antenna system was more complicated than most AM stations, which required 24 miles (39 km) of #10 copper wire and over a mile of 4-inch-wide (100 mm) copper strap to be buried under the field as a "ground" system. The original transmitter was a Collins 21E, which was 3 connected cabinets approximately 10 feet wide, with the heavy power transformer located separately in the back room. This transmitter was 100% vacuum tube design. Then in 1980, a new, smaller, and more efficient Collins "Power Rock" transmitter was installed as the main, and the original 21E remained as the backup. The new transmitter was mostly solid-state design, with vacuum tubes in the power output section. Also by 1980, the microwave STL system had been upgraded to a stereo pair, partially for redundancy but also in preparation for AM Stereo broadcasting, which never fully materialized in the industry, and was not adopted by WPHM.

Chief engineering staff included George Carroll, from the WTTH days until his retirement in 1982 (d.1991), and David Huston from 1975 until 1987, who after the station's sale to Hanson, moved to northern Michigan to build a house and work with WAIR and WMJZ in Petoskey and Gaylord. Other part-time engineers worked at the transmitter building until the remote control was installed. Eric Hanson, son of Hanson Communications President Lee C. Hanson, served as chief engineer in the latter half of Hanson's ownership.

In 2007, the Collins "Power Rock" failed, causing WPHM to be off the air for nearly a week as a new solid state transmitter was ordered. A Harris Corporation 5 kW DAX was installed as the main transmitter for WPHM. The Collins 21E was scrapped to make room to the new transmitter. The Power Rock was later repaired and is on stand-by as the station's backup. Current engineering staff includes Craig Bowman and Sean Richardson.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°51′50″N 82°29′40″W / 42.86389°N 82.49444°W / 42.86389; -82.49444