If you’re a regular listener of Hip Hop 103.9-FM, please do not turn on your radio on Nov. 23 until you read this article.
As of 12:01 a.m. that day, Meek Mill, Lil Baby, and other rappers will be ceding the airways to news, weather, and sports around-the-clock.
Three months after ditching the background noise of an obsolete wire machine — a regional soundtrack for half a century — KYW Newsradio is taking another leap from tradition and will inhabit the 103.9 spot on the FM dial.
“What’s next!?" asked David Allan, chair of the St. Joseph University marketing department, who had a 20-year career in radio.
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The short answer, says KYW brand manager Alex Silverman, is more of the same. “I don’t think we are doing anything differently,” he said Friday. With the stronger FM signal, he added, “It’s just a way of making the station more available."
But some things will be quite different. It will have a new morning coanchor joining Carol MacKenzie, station veteran Ian Bush. He succeeds Brandon Brooks, who announced Thursday that he was retiring. Other lineup changes include moving former NBC10 reporter Denise Nakano to midday anchor.
It also will have to tweak its jingle to somehow ingest “103.9 FM.” Silverman said that’s a work in progress, but promised that the melody would be uncontaminated.
The station will be simulcasting on 1060 AM and 103.9 FM, which parent company Entercom recently purchased from Urban One. Entercom declined to discuss terms of the agreement.
The AM signal historically has been weak in some areas, particularly Bucks County, said Silverman. “There’s increased interference from all over the place,” he said. In addition to reaching a wider audience, he added, he’s hoping that KYW will add serendipitous listeners who might stumble across the station while dial browsing at home or in the car.
The 103.9 signal is not an especially strong one, said Allan, beaming 3,000 watts, compared with 50,000 watts for B101 FM. The hills rising to the west of the Delaware River are challenges for radio signals.
Silverman said that the station had been shopping for an FM opportunity for years. “It was the right deal to do at the right time,” he said.
“They’re a little late in the game,” said Allan. WTOP, the Washington, D.C., all-news station, has been simulcasting since the 1990s and now occupies the former FM home of a classical music station.
Simulcasting has become common since the Federal Communications Commission lifted restrictions in 1986. Two decades earlier it had limited simulcasting to 12 hours.
That forced station owners to add FM programming, setting off a boom on the FM band and launching the careers of “progressive rock” stations such as WMMR.
Today, the radio landscape is immensely complicated with listeners now able to tune into stations all over the world, but through it all KYW has held its own. “They’re doing fine,” Allan said, “better than most.”
According to the latest Nielsen ratings, it was No. 6 for audience share, in the top fifth of the Philadelphia market; 103.9 was in the bottom third.
But KYW once enjoyed a long reign at the top of the ratings with its rhythmic news, weather, and sports reports, and on snow days it was the source for school closings.
Given the damage that the coronavirus has done to school calendars these days, said Allan, maybe KYW “should do school-opening numbers.”