The Four Horsemen of Frederick Radio
If you listen primarily to DC/Baltimore radio stations, it might be time to give our local broadcasters a try. You’ll be supporting local businesses that advertise on their airwaves, get better local traffic reports and more precise weather forecasts. Whether you’re new to the region and don’t know these stations, or if you’ve lived here for a lifetime, this overview may help. Keep in mind, stations change formats regularly and you may not be up to speed on what old favorites are doing now.
In Frederick, we can easily hear dozens of radio stations from the Baltimore-Washington corridor, Northern Virginia, York, Winchester, Annapolis and all points in between. We’re in the perfect location to pick up 50,000-watt powerhouses from Boston, New York, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville and other cities at night. We’re within range of almost all of those stations east of the Mississippi River. We don’t need a computer, a smartphone or an app to hear voices coming at us from hundreds of miles away.
But, today, I’d like to focus on Frederick’s Big Four: the four local stations that operate from here, broadcast from here, and in two cases are owned by a local company. These big fish in our medium-sized pond are 930 WFMD, 99.9 WFRE, KEY 103.1 and 106.9 The Eagle – one AM station and three FM stations. Other smaller broadcast stations exist and we will focus on them and give them the attention they deserve in later blogs. But these four stations dominate the local market, in terms of local ad revenue and local ratings. Of the Top Six most-listened-to stations in Frederick, these stations rank 1, 2, 5, and 6. The other top stations are newser WTOP from Washington, and Urban Contemporary WHUR, also from DC.
WFMD, 930 on the AM band, began in 1936 and is Frederick’s major source for local news and information on the radio today. It’s owned by radio behemoth Clear Channel and offers a mix of local programming and syndicated talk shows. Bob Miller hosts a local morning drive show from 5 am-9 am and Mid-Maryland Live is a local daily talk-show from 3 pm-6 pm. Around those shows are Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Dave Ramsey and others. Additional local shows appear on the weekend schedule. Neilson Audio puts WFMD as fourth overall and first among AM stations in popularity among Frederick listeners.
WFRE, 99.9 FM, Free Country, is also owned by Clear Channel and hosts a modern country music format. At 7,600 watts this station is easily heard beyond Frederick and throughout the DC/Baltimore region. As of last fall, Nielson Audio ranked WFRE as the most-listened-to station in Frederick.
WWEG, 106.9, The Eagle, offers classic rock and 15,500 watts which allows it to easily cover the “four-state area” of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and south-central Pennsylvania. Based in Myersville, MD and owned by the Hagerstown-based Manning Broadcasting Company, WWEG originated in 1954. Neilson Audio ranks The Eagle sixth most-listened-to station in Frederick overall and fourth among Frederick’s top four local stations.
WAFY, KEY 103.1 FM, is also owned by Manning Broadcasting Company and has provided Frederick with a contemporary hits, Top 40 format since 2012 when it switched from soft rock to playing the hits. If you have teens or tweens in the house, changes are good you already know this station. The Neilson Audio Fall 2013 numbers put Key 103 at number 2 in the Frederick listening market, trailing only the country station WFRE. But the Key is coming on strong. It’s almost doubled its ratings since Spring 2012.
In addition to these major stations, a number of smaller broadcasting outlets operate within and around Frederick County, including WTHU 1450 AM, out of Thurmont, or WTRI 1520 AM, a daytime-only station from Brunswick. If you have any information or tips you’d like to share about these smaller stations, or other larger stations–maybe you work at one, or are a big fan of one, or are a local radio historian, please contact me and we’ll work on doing a post about the operation down the road. This blog will work at its optimum if I can learn from you as I provide you with information, and we begin a great dialogue about our shared passion for radio.