WWRL

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WWRL
City New York City
Broadcast area New York metropolitan area
Branding Radio Zindagi
Slogan "Jiye...Ja!"
Frequency 1600 kHz (Also on HD Radio via WKXW-FM-HD2)
First air date August 26, 1926
Format Indian talk/music
Power 25,000 watts (daytime)
5,000 watts (nighttime)
Class B
Facility ID 68906
Transmitter coordinates 40°47′44″N 74°03′18″W / 40.79556°N 74.05500°W / 40.79556; -74.05500Coordinates: 40°47′44″N 74°03′18″W / 40.79556°N 74.05500°W / 40.79556; -74.05500
Callsign meaning W Woodside Radio Laboratory
Owner Nimisha Shukla and Jeetendra Shukla
(NJ Broadcasting, LLC)
Webcast Listen Live
Website radiozindagi.com/newyork

WWRL (1600 kHz, "Radio Zindagi") is a commercial AM radio station licensed to New York City. Broadcasting from a transmitter site in Secaucus, New Jersey, WWRL airs an Indian and South Asian radio format and is owned by Nimisha and Jeetendra Shukla through licensee NJ Broadcasting, LLC.

Founded in 1926, WWRL originally had a multi-lingual format serving the various ethnic communities of New York City. The station took on a mostly Spanish identity in the 1950s, then became primarily oriented towards the African American community of New York City in the mid-1960s, under the direction of News Director, Dick London, who invited community leaders to voice their concerns publicly on air, as the station became advocates for legislative change. The music and news advocacy was an integral part of the Black American community. WWRL played R&B music from 1964 to 1982 before changing to gospel music and religious programming from 1982 to 1997.

After a brief return to R&B in the late 1990s, WWRL gradually de-emphasized music in favor of more talk radio programming. In 2006, WWRL replaced WLIB as the flagship station for the Air America Radio network and retained a progressive talk radio format for seven years.

From 2014 to 2016, WWRL had a regional Mexican music format before changing to the current Indian programming.

Transmitter building in Secaucus, New Jersey

History[edit]

Early history (1926–1963)[edit]

Founded by radio enthusiast William Reuman, doing business as Woodside Radio Laboratory, WWRL began broadcasting at midnight on August 26, 1926 from a studio and transmitter located in his home at 41-30 58th Street in Woodside, Queens, New York on a frequency of 1160 kHz.[1]:188[2] The station later shared the 1120 kHz frequency with four other AM stations. In its first year of operation, WWRL broadcast live musical performances, usually from Reuman's friends and neighbors. Among them were Astoria singer Ethel Zimmerman, who would later achieve stardom as Ethel Merman.[1]:188

In 1927, the nascent Federal Radio Commission ordered the station to move to 1500 Hz, then the highest AM frequency. Reuman had also begun selling airtime to local merchants. Reuman incorporated as the Long Island Broadcasting Corporation in 1929.[1]:188 With the slogan "The Voice of Queens County," WWRL began to broadcast programs in Italian, German, French, Polish, Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech, as well as English.[1]:188

Following implementation of the 1941 North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement the station again changed its frequency, first to 1490 kHz on April 29 that year, then within the year to the 1600 kHz, where the station remains to this day. In 1951 the station's city of license changed from Woodside to New York City. Most programs on the station were oriented towards Hispanic and black listeners, and Greek, Syrian, Irish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Scandinavian shows also joined the schedule. By decade's end, WWRL had a 24-hour broadcast day primarily in Spanish. Leading black disc jockeys joined the station, including Tommy Smalls (known as "Dr. Jive") and Hal Jackson.[1]:188–190

R&B format (1964–1982)[edit]

Egmont Sonderling bought WWRL from the retiring Reuman in January 1964 and changed its format to R&B.[3][4][1]:190 WWRL was "the premier radio station serving New York's Black community" at the time, wrote Dan Charnas.[5]:9–10 Billboard magazine wrote in May 1964 that WWRL and black radio stations offered "specific information, personal identification[,] and entertainment not provided by other type stations."[6]

DJ's for WWRL in the 1960s included Frankie Crocker and Jocko Henderson, whose "on-air shtick...was as important as the music they played."[5]:10 The station was known as "The Big RL" in the 1960s and "Super 16" in the 1970s.[3][7][8]

WWRL's first year in its R&B format included a three-hour gospel music show in the evenings.[6] Billboard wrote in May 1964 that WWRL and other black radio stations "are monitored as a guide to which r.&b. records could be popular with white audiences...[and] are exerting a great influence on the music played on contemporary and pop-contemporary formatted stations."[6]

Beginning in May 1966, WWRL instituted an "integrated music programming policy" that added rock and pop hits in addition to R&B to the playlist.[9] By late 1967, however, WWRL began playing more blues tracks and those from lesser-known performers like Johnnie Taylor and Wilson Pickett, to distinguish itself from mainstream pop stations that had begun playing R&B.[10] A 1971 profile of WWRL by Billboard found that WWRL played "three oldies an hour from one of the largest vaults of soul music in the nation."[11]

The Federal Communications Commission reprimanded Sonderling Broadcasting in May 1971 for allowing the Reverend James Lofton Jr. to use WWRL facilities to solicit money in exchange for tips for a numbers game.[12]

On June 5, 1972, WWRL simulcast with top-40 station WMCA from 8 to 10 p.m. for a special call-in program, Black and White, owing to WMCA focusing on a general audience in contrast to WWRL's primarily black audience.[13]

Briefly in the late 1970s, WWRL was an affiliate of the Mutual Black Network.[1]:190

In 1979, Sonderling Broadcasting merged with Viacom.[14] WWRL carried sports talk programming from Enterprise Radio Network briefly in 1981, beginning on January 1.[1]:190[15] In an era when sports programming on radio was limited to live play-by-play, news briefs, and a select few call-in shows,[16] Enterprise was described as an "abortive attempt to launch the all-sports format" and shut down before year's end.[17] By the spring of 1981, WWRL went back to playing music.[18]

Religious station (1982–1997)[edit]

In 1982, Viacom donated WWRL to the United Negro College Fund, which immediately sold the station to National Black Network subsidiary Unity Broadcasting. On August 14, 1982, Unity changed WWRL to a Christian format.[1]:190[19] Replacing the contemporary R&B were gospel and reggae music, and worship services from local churches were broadcast live on evenings and weekends.[1]:190 By that time, increasing competition from FM stations like WBLS decreased the appeal of AM music stations, to the point that even the once-dominant WABC also ended its popular music format in 1982.[19]

Beginning in 1985 with around 70 members,[20] the station also sponsored a choir called the WWRL Community Chorale, which grew to nearly 100 members by 1996.[21][22] The Community Chorale toured 26 cities in Germany in December 1996.[22]

WWRL also broadcast rallies and meetings held by the Reverend Al Sharpton.[23][24] Among these rallies included a controversial one on September 9, 1995, in which Sharpton claimed that Jewish building owner Fred Harari wanted to evict a record store so that a "white interloper" could "expand his business on 125th Street."[24][25] Following that comment, Harari's business, a clothing store named Freddy's Fashion Mart, was destroyed in an arson, leading to eight deaths. The New York Times later said this comment "was later widely blamed for fomenting racial tension."[26] The Freddy's Fashion Mart controversy was just one of several instances of anti-Semitism said to be broadcast on WWRL.[27][28][29]

The FCC approved WWRL's request to increase its power from 5 kW to 25 kW in the fall of 1996.[30] Subsequently, to resolve issues of co-channel interference, WWRL bought and later shut down three nearby stations on the 1600 or 1590 frequencies: WERA 1590 in Plainfield, New Jersey, WLNG 1600 in Sag Harbor, New York, and WQQW 1590 in Waterbury, Connecticut.[31] WWRL used the slogan "The Spirit of New York" by this time.[31]

From R&B oldies to urban talk (1997–2006)[edit]

WWRL logo from the urban talk format era.

In April 1997, WWRL reduced gospel programming to Sundays, a move that drew criticism from former program director, the Reverend Paul Stephens. On April 16, WWRL switched to an R&B oldies format nicknamed "100% Pure Soul" and playing music from the 1960s and 1970s, in a nod to what its vice president of programming called the station's "golden age."[32][33]

To distinguish itself from FM R&B stations WBIX and WRKS, starting in the summer of 1999, WWRL devoted Saturdays to playing Caribbean music, and added R&B from the 1950s and earlier to its playlist.[34] Additionally, WWRL added brokered talk shows to the weekday lineup that year.[35]

In 2001, WWRL was sold to Access.1 Communications Corporation, an African-American owned and operated radio broadcasting company.[36][37] By then, WWRL began playing more Caribbean music during the week beyond Saturdays.[38] In 2002, WWRL added a morning drive time show co-hosted by Peter Noel and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.[39] The station also broadcast New York Liberty basketball games.[40] By the beginning of 2003, WWRL had talk shows for most of the week, with music only broadcast on weekends, specifically Caribbean on Saturdays and gospel on Sundays.[41]

Rabbi Boteach resigned in June 2003 shortly after his co-host Noel did the same; Boteach alleged that station management changed his morning show's format from "harmonious to adversarial."[42] WWRL subsequently added local shows hosted by Karen Hunter, Steve Malzberg, and Armstrong Williams among others, in addition to nationally syndicated shows from Larry Elder and Alan Colmes.[43][44][45]

Progressive talk station (2006–2014)[edit]

The final logo of the WWRL talk radio format. Variations of this logo had been used since 2006.

In August 2006, WWRL became the flagship station for Air America Radio, a politically liberal talk radio network that had previously broadcast on WLIB.[46] Beginning on October 29, 2007, Mark Riley and New York television personality Richard Bey co-hosted the WWRL morning show.[47] Bey resigned in March 2008.[48] New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis became the morning host beginning in mid-July 2008.[49]

In January 2010, after Air America shut down, WWRL brought back Mark Riley as morning host and added syndicated liberal hosts such as Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, and Al Sharpton.[50]

On December 13, 2013, WWRL announced it would change format to Spanish programming and cited low advertising revenue as a reason.[51]

Ethnic formats (2014–present)[edit]

Following a few days of stunting, WWRL launched a regional Mexican music format and brand "La Invasora" on January 5, 2014.[52]

On February 1, 2016, WWRL changed its format to Indian and South Asian talk and music as part of the Radio Zindagi network. Ten days later, Access.1 Communications sold WWRL to NJ Broadcasting, LLC for $7 million.[53] WWRL also added an HD Radio simulcast on WKXW-FM-HD2 for listeners in central and southern New Jersey.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jaker, Bill; Sulek, Frank; and Kanze, Peter (1998), The Airwaves of New York: Illustrated Histories of 156 AM Stations in the Metropolitan Area, 1921-1996, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 078643872X 
  2. ^ Radio Index: The Tuning Book (PDF), 3 (1), October 1926, p. 13 
  3. ^ a b Hinckley, David (December 31, 2013). "WWRL switching to Spanish-language station, ending an era in black radio". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Egmont Sonderling, 91, Founded Company". The New York Times. August 4, 1997. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Charnas, Dan (2010). The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. New York: New American Library. ISBN 9780451229298. 
  6. ^ a b c "WWRL Example of Negro Radio's Vital Resurgence", Billboard, 76 (18), pp. 12, 38, May 2, 1964 
  7. ^ Hinckley, David (February 27, 2001). "ABCs of Black DJs: Key voices of '60s and '70s saluted". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Music Survey: WWRL New York, NY "Super 16" Week of September 15, 1975". BackspinRadio.net. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  9. ^ Hall, Claude (May 14, 1966), "R&B'er WWRL Gives Pop a Whirl", Billboard, 78 (20), p. 3 
  10. ^ Hall, Claude (December 16, 1967), "Pop Stations Play 'Our Music', So WWRL Drifts to Gutsy", Billboard, 79 (50), p. 30 
  11. ^ "WWRL's Survey More Than Poll", Billboard, 83 (8), pp. 30, 36, February 20, 1971 
  12. ^ "F.C.C. Chides WWRL Over Cleric's 'Blessings'". May 22, 1971. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  13. ^ O'Connor, John J. (June 7, 1972). "Radio: 'Black and White' at 2 ends of the AM dial". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  14. ^ "FCC Approves Viacom-Sonderling Merger" (PDF). Radio & Records. November 9, 1979. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  15. ^ Benagh, Jim (January 12, 1981). "Sports World Specials; Scores on Scores". New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  16. ^ Hinckley, David (July 17, 2003). "All Sports WFAN Chapter 117". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  17. ^ Hoffman, Frank; Dempsey, Jack M.; and Manning, Martin J. (2012), Sports-Talk Radio in America: Its Context and Culture, New York: Routledge, p. 8, ISBN 1136428917 
  18. ^ "WWRL 1600 New York Survey 05/01/81". Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Goodman, Peter (April 9, 2001). "The soul of an old radio station: At 75, WWRL, once New York's R&B powerhouse, soldiers on". Newsday. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  20. ^ "The Glory Gospel Singers aus New York in der Gerstunger Kirche" (in German). Gerstungen.de. October 23, 2003. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  21. ^ Collins, Lisa (August 8, 1992), "In the Spirit", Billboard, 104 (32), p. 32 
  22. ^ a b Coleman, Chrisena (December 20, 1996). "She's the heart and soul of Community Chorale". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  23. ^ Gottlieb, Martin, and Baquet, Dean (December 19, 1991). "Street-Wise Impresario; Sharpton Calls the Tunes, and Players Take Their Cues". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  24. ^ a b Van Natta Jr., Don (December 13, 1995). "Death on 125th Street: The Protests; Blaze Inquiry Is Focusing on Protests". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  25. ^ Drusin, Hy (January–February 1996). "Massacre at Freddy's in Harlem". Jewish Post of New York. Archived from the original on January 25, 1998. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  26. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (January 28, 1996). "The Buzz on Black Radio". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Talking back on black talk radio". New York Times. January 21, 2000. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  28. ^ Hays, Constance L. (May 19, 1996). "Making it work: FAIR or not?". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Reverend Sharpton's racist and anti-Semitic broadcasts". Jewish Post of New York. January–February 1996. Archived from the original on December 1, 1998. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  30. ^ Hinckley, David (September 30, 1996). "WWRL clears way for stronger signal". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  31. ^ a b Hinckley, David (March 6, 1997). "'Inspirational' WWRL advances in its quest for higher power". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  32. ^ Hinckley, David (April 24, 1997). "Anger of 'WRL's soul-ful switch from gospel". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  33. ^ R&R 4/18/97
  34. ^ Hinckley, David (May 29, 1999). "Now it's Caribbean Saturdays on WWRL". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  35. ^ Hinckley, David (July 20, 1999). "Tony Brown taking a WWRL afternoon slot". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  36. ^ fccdata.org
  37. ^ Hinckley, David (August 9, 2010). "Sydney L. 'Syd' Small, owner of radio station WWRL, dies at age 72". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  38. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20020608223016/http://www.wwrl1600.com/caribe.html
  39. ^ Freedman, Samuel G. (December 22, 2002). "An unlikely friendship, an unusual morning show". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  40. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20030811174749/http://www.wwrl1600.com/wnba.html
  41. ^ Hinckley, David (March 25, 2003). "Format's more than just talk, WWRL says". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  42. ^ Hinckley, David (June 25, 2003). "Rabbi: WWRL made show 'adversarial". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  43. ^ Kornblut, Anne E., and Sisario, Ben (March 3, 2005). "Columnist under fire gets show on radio". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  44. ^ Hinckley, David (November 1, 2004). "Malzberg joins Karen Hunter on WWRL". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  45. ^ Hinckley, David (August 3, 2006). "A picture-perfect way to honor Hal Jackson". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  46. ^ "Air America jumps to WWRL-A/NYC". AllAccess.com. August 2, 2006. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  47. ^ "WWRL lanches new "'RL Morning Show" with Riley and Bey". Radio Facts. October 29, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  48. ^ Hinckley, David (March 9, 2008). "Richard Bey leaves, WWRL mornings to change again". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  49. ^ Ross, Kevin (July 16, 2008). "Errol Louis joins AM1600 WWRL in the mornings". Radio Facts. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  50. ^ Hinckley, David (February 22, 2010). "Famed New York radio voices join WWRL". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  51. ^ Barker, Cyril Josh (December 13, 2013). "WWRL to replace progressive and Black shows with Spanish programing". Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  52. ^ Venta, Lance (January 5, 2014). "La Invasora Invades WWRL". Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  53. ^ "WWRL New York Sold/Flips to Indian Programming". Radio Insight. February 1, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 

External links[edit]