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|Broadcast area||Minneapolis-St. Paul|
|Branding||AM 1280 The Patriot|
|Frequency||1280 AM (kHz)|
|First air date||August 10, 1925 (as WRHM)|
|Callsign meaning||W W Twin Cities (Newspapers) modification of former WTCN calls by new ownership|
|Former callsigns||WRHM (1925-1934)
|Owner||Salem Media Group
(Salem Media Group, LLC)
|Sister stations||KDIZ, KKMS, KYCR|
WWTC (1280 AM, "The Patriot") is a long-standing radio station serving the Twin Cities region. Despite its up-and-down history, the station spawned two of the area's major television stations and had some very innovative and unusual periods in its history. Today, it is owned by Salem Communications and broadcasts a conservative talk radio format.
The station now known as WWTC is one of the oldest in the Twin Cities area. Since its inception, the station has gone through many formats, call letter and ownership changes.
The station began as WRHM (for "Rosedale Hospital" at 4429 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis) on August 10, 1925. In 1927, it shared time for a few months with WDGY at both 1140 AM and 1150 AM; also that year, the transmitter was moved from the hospital to Fridley and in 1929 WRHM became an affiliate of the CBS network. It switched to NBC's Blue Network on January 1, 1937. The Rosedale Hospital Company sold the station to the Minnesota Broadcasting Company in 1930 and the studio relocated from the hospital to the new Wesley Temple Building at 115 East Grant Street in Minneapolis. By this time it had operated on at least three frequencies, 1140 AM, 1150 AM and 1250 AM, which it stayed on until 1941. WRHM was purchased in September 1934 by Twin Cities Newspapers, a partnership between the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Tribune, and the call letters were changed to WTCN at that time. The station remained an NBC Blue station through the network's selloff, becoming an ABC affiliate in 1945 when NBC Blue formally became ABC. The station kept the ABC affiliation until December 31, 1962. WTCN began broadcasting from a new transmitter and tower in Roseville at the intersection of North Snelling Avenue and Minnesota Highway 36 during 1935, a site that was used until 1962 when the station's transmission facilities were moved to the other side of the expanding Twin Cities metro in St. Louis Park, at a point south of what is now Interstate 394 and west of Minnesota Highway 100, using four towers. This site is the station's current transmitter site. WTCN moved from 1250 AM to 1280 AM in March, 1941 as required by the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA) under which most American, Canadian and Mexican AM radio stations changed frequencies.
The station had an experimental FM transmitter by 1939. W9XTC at 26.05 MHz operated for several years, but by 1944 was only being activated intermittently. Area station KSTP also experimented with the medium around this time, as did WCCO. However, once the modern FM band was established, FM was attempted again with WTCN-FM 97.1 from 1947 to 1954.
Twin Cities Newspapers expanded to television broadcasting with the launch of WTCN-TV on channel 4 on July 1, 1949 from the Radio City Theater at 9th Street and LaSalle Avenue, becoming the second modern television station in the state after KSTP-TV took to the air a year earlier. WTCN moved from the Wesley Tower to Radio City in September 1949 and sometime during this period, possibly at the same time, its FM sister was housed there, too. However, WTCN-TV 4 was short-lived. Twin Cities Newspapers decided to sell both of the WTCN radio stations and purchase a majority share of WCCO Radio from CBS three years later; the TV station's call letters were changed to match the newly acquired radio station on August 17, 1952. A new company, Midwest Radio and Television, was formed as a holding company for the WCCO stations; it was later spun off to the Murphy and McNally families. Both WCCO stations are currently owned by CBS directly. This TV station has always had a primary CBS affiliation, an affiliation that has remained consistent to this day (although it aired ABC programming as a secondary affiliation in its early years). WCCO-TV 4 remained at the 9th Street location until 1983, when it moved to Nicollet Mall at 11th Street.
WTCN was at the same time sold to the Minnesota Television Service Corporation headed by St. Paul businessman Robert Butler, a former ambassador to Cuba and Australia. The company quickly applied for a new license for channel 11, but had to negotiate for the frequency with the owner of WMIN 1400, who also applied for the channel. The two stations, WTCN and WMIN, arranged to share the TV broadcast day, alternating every two hours. This became the area's third TV station on September 1, 1953 and the WTCN call sign remained with it until 1985 when it became known as WUSA. Channel 11 was merged and sold to the H.M. Bitner Group in 1955 and eventually was owned by Metromedia for many years. Gannett is the current licensee. This second incarnation of WTCN-TV was ABC's first full-time television network affiliate in the Twin Cities; however, it lost that affiliation to then-independent KMSP 9 (now a Fox owned and operated station) in April 1961. For the next 18 years channel 11 operated without a network affiliation as the market's independent TV outlet until it picked up the NBC affiliation in March 1979 during a marketwide affiliate switch. The station is now known as KARE. Prior to the TV station's current studio location in Golden Valley, its original studios were in the Calhoun Beach Hotel on Lake Street at Dean Boulevard, where the radio station had moved in 1952 following a three-year occupancy downtown with its former TV sister, WTCN-TV 4. WTCN Radio and TV-11 were sold to Time-Life Broadcast in 1957, and in 1964 the siblings were separated with the TV going to Chris-Craft Industries (who would later own KMSP 9) and the radio station purchased by Buckley-Jaeger who changed the call letters to WWTC on October 1. In early 1965, the radio station relocated to downtown Minneapolis in the Builders Exchange Building at 609 2nd Avenue South, to studios formerly occupied by WDGY. In 1970, WWTC began broadcasting 24 hours a day.
Over the years, WWTC had a number of formats, including the distinction of being the Twin Cities' first all-news radio station (using NBC's ill-fated News and Information Service), beginning in June 1975. In 1979, WWTC switched to an oldies format known as the "Golden Rock" and achieved its highest ratings in years. With a number of quirky DJs such as "Ugly Del" Roberts, Mick "King Kracker" Wagner, and Steve "Boogie" Bowman, the station managed to win an audience in spite of notable mismanagement. During its "Golden Rock" days, WWTC might have been the only Twin Cities station with an attorney on staff moonlighting as a disk jockey. Paul Bergstrom, who practiced law by day in St. Paul, worked a late-night shift for a time in the late '80s under the name Max Adams (the name was derived from those of his two young children). Because of his extensive knowledge of the format's music, Bergstrom was originally brought in by a friend on staff to help build the station's music library. In 1981 WWTC headed seven blocks south, back to the Wesley Temple Building on East Grant Street, where it occupied the entire top floor until 1988.
Ironically, during its oldies years, WWTC claimed to be the first commercial station in the Twin Cities area to play music from local favorite Prince.
Various format changes, then a return to oldies
The "Golden Rock" format fizzled after a few years, and the station went through a long string of format changes. In November 1984, WWTC adopted a unique locally oriented urban contemporary/alternative rock hybrid format that was called "Metro Music." "Metro Music" ended in September 1985 and, following a month of top-40/Adult Contemporary music, an ill-fated "all-weather" format made its debut. The automated format was not successful - it was sometimes heard playing the day's forecast for sunny weather while a storm was overtaking the area - and "Weather Radio 1280" was blown out after 10 months. The ghost of Weather Radio, however, in name at least, lived on in the following two formats.
"Sunny 1280" was next for 1280, a 16-month run with Nostalgia and with new call letters, KSNE (effective June 20, 1986). In November 1987, the station became known as "The Breeze," taking a satellite feed of an early and more diverse form of what is now known as "Smooth Jazz" from a service run by the former owner of KTWN 108. On May 27, 1988, the station switched back to the familiar WWTC call letters and a second run with the 'golden rock' format. During this period it operated from 215 South 11th Street, where WCCO-FM, later WLTE (now KMNB) was located for many years.
Children's Broadcasting and Radio AAHS
WWTC was sold by the Short family to Christopher Dahl in 1990, and re-launched in May as the flagship of Radio AAHS, a new radio network which would primarily air children's music. The station also moved its studios to a former bank at Excelsior Boulevard and Minnesota Highway 100 in St. Louis Park. In 1994, WWTC's new parent company under Dahl's ownership, the Children's Broadcasting Corporation, would also acquire religious station KYCR in 1994. While the station would move into WWTC's studios, it maintained its religious format. While Radio AAHS would bring some success to WWTC, it would soon face competition from Disney—despite being a marketing partner for Radio AAHS, they would launch their own competing network, Radio Disney, on November 18, 1996. ABC-owned station KQRS-AM would be Radio Disney's Minnesota affiliate.
Finding it difficult to compete with Radio Disney, Dahl sued Disney for breaching their agreement with the network, and the Radio AAHS network would be shut down in January 1998. In 2002, the former Children's Broadcasting owners (who now operate Intelefilm) won their court case against Disney and were awarded $9.5 million. Payments totaling $12.4 million, including $2.6 million in interest, were finally made in 2004.
Following the demise of Radio AAHS, Children's Broadcasting enlisted longtime area programmer, DJ and unlicensed broadcaster Alan Freed to provide interim programming for their 10 stations until they could be sold. Freed, in addition to having worked at WWTC twice before during its "Golden Rock" era and "Metro Music" periods, had set up a pirate radio station in downtown Minneapolis in 1996, broadcasting electronic dance music from his apartment on 97.7 FM. Beat Radio gained a positive response from the public but was shut down by the FCC after operating at 20 watts for a few months. "Beat Radio" aired across Children's Broadcasting's stations beginning in February 1998 between the shutdown of Radio AAHS and the final approval of a sale in late October 1998 to a company planning to run a syndicated service called "Catholic Family Radio." When CFR went bankrupt in 2000, that company sold its stations, including WWTC and sister KYCR 1570, to Salem Communications.
Following the purchase by Salem, WWTC began simulcasting the programming of new sister station KKMS, until a new studio in Eagan could be constructed. On March 19, 2001, the station was branded as "The Patriot."
The "Patriot" branding was a product of Salem. The station became a syndicated talk outlet, broadcasting Salem's stable of conservative hosts via satellite. The weekday lineup is based around nationally syndicated hosts Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin and Michael Savage. The station currently broadcasts local talk shows on the weekend; Understanding The Times hosted by Jan Markell, and the Northern Alliance Radio Network, a group of local bloggers.
Salem also ran "The Patriot II" on sister station KYCR in Golden Valley. KYCR's program schedule was initially almost the same as WWTC, with the addition of Bill O'Reilly's midday show, and mostly aired repeats of shows already on WWTC. However, in 2005 the KYCR was forced by FCC simulcasting rules to expand its programming to other syndicated shows. In 2007, KYCR changed to a separate talk format called "AM 1570: The New Talk of the Twin Cities". It now broadcast mostly business news and talk shows as Business1570, Twin Cities Business Radio. Featuring Bloomberg Radio, Lou Dobbs and a live local show "The Peter McClellan Show" weekdays at 5pm. KYCR began stunting in December 2015, indicating a pending format change.
Area author Jeff Lonto wrote a book about the station in 1998, "Fiasco At 1280" (ISBN 0-9660213-4-7), which covered many of the station's missteps during the 1980s. The book was published just before the demise of "Radio Aahs," so it doesn't include that part of the station's story.
- Mike Mosedale. Red, White, and Green. City Pages. Retrieved January 18, 2004.
- History of KARE-11, the former WTCN-TV.[dead link] KARE-TV. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
- Jeff Miller (editor). AM Broadcasting History - Various Articles. Retrieved January 18, 2004.
- Barry Mishkind (2004). Dept Of Commerce station listings from June 30, 1927 Oldradio.com. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
- Barry Mishkind (2004). Federal Radio Commission station listings from June 30, 1930 Oldradio.com. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
- Barry Mishkind (2004). Early FM Radio in the US. Oldradio.com. Retrieved January 18, 2004.
- St. Louis Park Historical Society Twin Cities radio history
- 1927 share time history with WDGY from Aaron White
- 1935 WTCN correspondence showing station address from Radiotapes.com
- WTCN's 1937 switch to NBC from Radiotapes.com
- 1964 WTCN correspondence showing station address/call letter change date/recent ownership change data from Radiotapes.com
- "Radio Aahs receives $12 million payment from ABC, Disney.". The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. 2004-04-26.
- Call letter changes at the FCC
- AM 1280: The Patriot
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WWTC
- Radio-Locator Information on WWTC
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WWTC
- Radiotapes.com Airchecks of WWTC radio formats dating back to 1972 including All News Radio, The Golden Rock, Metro Radio, Weather Radio, Radio Aahs and more. In addition, the site has photos of the Wesley Temple Building and studio, an article about the mid 1970s news format, and other documents and history
- TwinCitiesRadioAirchecks.com includes some 1970s airchecks of WWTC
- Minnesota Historical Society photos of WTCN
- 1938 QSL card from Radiotapes.com
- 1946 newspaper ad from Radiotapes.com
- King Koil Mattress billboard with WTCN Radio plug, 1946-49 [Source 1] from the Hennepin County Library
- WTCN Radio transmitter site & tower, 1947 from the Minnesota Historical Society
- WTCN billboard, 1948 from the Minnesota Digital Library
- WTCN TV & Radio billboard, 1949 from the Minnesota Historical Society
- WTCN TV & Radio billboard, 1950 from the Minnesota Historical Society
- Beat Radio
- Studio Z-7 Publishing: Fiasco At 1280
- Direct streaming link[dead link]