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WFED (1500 AM) is a full-power radio station in the Washington, D.C.marker region, broadcasting from just outside the District line in Wheaton, Maryland. The signal is relayed on WWFD on 820 kHz in Frederick, Marylandmarker. The stations broadcast a news, talk and information format targeted towards U.S. government employees under the moniker Federal News Radio.

WFED transmits with a power of 50,000 watts continuously. While it is the most powerful AM radio station in the city, WFED has a nighttime signal oriented north-south to avoid interference with KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. This signal can be heard reliably on the East Coast of North America and is often heard by radio enthusiasts in Europe. In 2006, the station began broadcasting in digital "HD Radio", utilizing iBiquity Digital Corp.'s IBOC (in-band on-channel) technology.

WFED is the flagship radio station for Washington Nationals baseball, Washington Capitals hockey and The George Washington Universitymarker men's basketball. WFED also serves as an affiliate station for Navymarker football.

Both stations are owned by Bonneville International Corp. and its programming originates from Bonneville's broadcast complex in northwest Washington, DCmarker.

History

The format itself was launched by Bonneville, owners of terrestrial-based all-news station WTOP, as FederalNewsRadio.com - the first Internet-only all news station, and the first Internet station to make the jump to terrestrial radio - on February 22, 2000. The programming concept has changed little to this day, except that the Associated Press' All News Radio service originally filled in during the overnight hours, as a complement to WTOP.

Federal News Radio is one of a few radio stations that originated on the Internet prior to moving onto a traditional broadcasting signal. It first found a home on the radio dial in 2004, on the 1050 kHz frequency licensed to Silver Spring, Marylandmarker. That station's original call letters were WGAY, which played a beautiful music format. It was believed that WGAY was named for its owner, Connie B. Gay, though it was merely coincidental; at the time, "beautiful music" connoted a "bright and gay" happy sound. However, Gay bought the station in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

The original owners and operators, Ed Winton and Bob Chandler, are credited with creating the beautiful music format, which was mostly instrumental music, with orchestral covers of showtunes, soundtrack excerpts, and standard popular songs. Chandler was known to arrange for recording of music that he did not have in the station's library. In addition, on Sunday afternoons at 1:00 p.m., Matinee at One played a complete Broadwaymarker show soundtrack with an explanation of the plot.

Despite its sobriquet of "elevator music", WGAY was popular, and was soon sold to Connie B. Gay. On February 1, 1960, the WGAY calls were moved to the FM band at 99.5 MHz, while the AM station became WQMR, for "Washington's Quality Music Radio." WGAY initially operated as an experimental country music station (Gay was a country and western music promoter) but started simulcasting WQMR fulltime around 1961.

These simulcasts would usually end nightly at sunset when WQMR had to sign off as required by the FCC, and WGAY was rarely mentioned on the air or in advertisements. WQMR soon increased in power from 1000 watts on the AM band, while WGAY would upgrade from 20 kilowatts monophonic on the low power FM band to a 50 kilowatt stereo signal. Both WQMR and WGAY moved to the World Building, located on Georgia Avenuemarker, just north of the intersection of Maryland Route 410 (East-West-Highway) in Silver Spring, in 1966.

This simulcast arrangement continued well into the 1980s, as WQMR reverted back to WGAY. Winton and Chandler sold the station on September 1, 1984 to Greater Media, which in turn ended the simulcast and changed the call letters to WNTR. (The WGAY calls and format afterward were maintained on the FM band on 99.5 MHz, which is now WIHT.) Greater Media subsequently bought WRC (now WTEM) from NBC Radio and sold WNTR to TM Productions.

Later, WNTR was sold to Pat Robertson, the televangelist and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who used WNTR as the anchor of a conservative talk radio network dubbed "The News Talk Radio Network". WNTR was also the first station to carry Rush Limbaugh in Washington, before he moved to WMAL. This ended when the World Building studios caught on fire. However, Robertson's company continued to run the station from another building in Silver Spring for a time, initially as part of his network and later in a brokered-program format. In the early 1990s, it was sold to The Walt Disney Company. (The WNTR call letters are now in use by an FM station in Indianapolis.)

Under Disney's ownership, the station was called WKDL (in a simulcast with WKDVmarker in Manassas, Virginiamarker), playing a forerunner of the future Radio Disney network, which targeted children. The concept was not successful at the time, and Metro Radio then bought the station, and switched WKDL to a Spanish language format. When that did not succeed, it briefly carried the Genesis Radio Network of conservative talk and then operated it as WPLC "Business Radio" for a short period. Bonneville then bought the station in 2004, at which point the station was converted to Federal News Radio and the WFED call letters.

When AP All News Radio was terminated, the station began an affiliation with CNN Headline News, which itself was phased out in 2007 by provider Westwood One. In November 2007, the 1050 frequency increased its daytime power from 1kW to 3.5kW in order to better reach the government office workers in Washington, D.C. who comprise its core audience.

The 1050 frequency is now used by Bonneville as an AM relay of WTOP for the Washington area.

"Washington Post Radio"

The current WFED, along with WWFD and WWWT-FM (107.7) and W282BA (104.3), were former frequencies and simulcasts of WTOP. WFED and WWWT-FM were spun off of the WTOP simulcast on March 30, 2006 with the sign-on of "Washington Post Radio" as WTWP AM/FM. The primary AM station had been WTOP since 1940 (and dates its history back to Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker station WTRC in 1926), while WWWT-FM had operated as a simulcast of WTOP since 1998. WWFD had simulcast WTOP since 2001 (and carried the WTOP calls on the AM band following the sign-on of WTWP) before switching to a simulcast of WTWP as WTWT on June 28, 2007. Since the late 1990s, W282BA has been run as a low-power FM relay of 107.7 for the Leesburg, Virginiamarker area.

As WTWP, these stations provided news and commentary during the weekday hours in a long-form style similar to that of National Public Radio, but on a commercial station staffed and programmed jointly by the Washington Post and WTOP. From 8 PM to 5 AM ET, the station was programmed as a general interest talk radio station, featuring hosts such as Clark Howard, Larry King and Jim Bohannon. On weekends, WTWP rebroadcast programs produced by Radio Netherlands and George Washington Universitymarker.

WWWT: "Talk Radio 3WT"

The Washington Post reported that they would discontinue the Washington Post Radio service after Bonneville decided to pull the plug, citing financial losses and low ratings. [231098]

Bonneville International officially launched personality driven talk format Talk Radio 3WT, with the WWWT call letters on September 20, 2007 (with 820 using the call letters WWWB). The morning show with David Burd & Jessica Doyle was retained along with all live sporting events, The Tony Kornheiser Show and automotive commentator Pat Goss. Syndicated talkers Neal Boortz, Bill O'Reilly, Randi Rhodes & Phil Hendrie were initially added to the lineup, as was a simulcast of sister station KSLmarker's Nightside with Michael Castner overnight program. Stephanie Miller was added in November after the Washington Nationals' season ended, and Glenn Beck was added, replacing Randi Rhodes on the 1500 and 107.7 frequencies, in January 2008. [231099]

WWWT was one of the few talk stations in America, at least in major markets, in which the lineup is nearly equally divided among liberal and conservative hosts.

WWWT remained a member of the CBS Radio Network (WTOP was a charter affiliate and formerly owned by in the 1930s and 1940s, and WTWP was also an affiliate in its short life), and retransmitted the audio portion of the CBS television shows Face the Nation and 60 Minutes. Also surviving the change in format were Larry King and Jim Bohannon, who were carried in the late-night time slots, although King's show was phased out (as part of a nationwide phaseout of all CNN television simulcasts) by Westwood One in 2008.

On August 11, 2008, Bonneville announced the canning of 3WT. WWWT-FM began simulcasting WTOP-FM (which kept its two other frequencies), while WFED took over WWWT and WWWB's signals. August 11 was the last day for the morning show, The Inner Loop, with David Burd and his team. Sports that had been broadcast on 3WT will continue on 1500 kHz and 820 kHz until Bonneville's contract with the Nationals expires in 2009. W282BA on 104.3 MHz, as a translator of WWWT-FM, also converted to the WTOP-FM simulcast.

WFED continues to carry original news and talk content for Federal government employees, the Senior Executive Service, and contractors. Because WFED had originally broadcast only in the daytime while on 1050, WWWT's overnight programs (syndicated hosts Jim Bohannon and Phil Hendrie) were retained when it took over the new frequencies.

Cully Stimson controversy

On January 11, 2007, while being interviewed on WFED's morning program The Federal Drive, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson criticized some major U.S. law firms for representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay free of charge. Stimson further suggested that U.S. corporations who retained these same U.S. law firms should reconsider their associations with those firms. His comments drew immediate criticism from legal scholars, professional legal associations and the ACLU, and even the Pentagonmarker itself sought to distance itself and the Bush administration from Stimson's comments. Although he apologized a few days later, on February 2, 2007 Stimson resigned his position with the Pentagon, saying he believed the flap would prevent him from effectively doing his job. The controversy broadened the reputation of Federal News Radio, however, as the station's morning hosts and reporters were interviewed by news organizations around the world about the controversy.

Program schedule

This information is current as of September 2008:

Monday-Friday

  • 5 a.m.-6 a.m.: America in the Morning with Jim Bohannon
  • 6 a.m.-10 a.m.: The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Jane Norris
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Assorted WFED programming, including a replay of The Federal Drive
  • 1 p.m.-3 p.m.: In-Depth with Francis Rose
  • 3 p.m.-7 p.m.: The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris
  • 7 p.m.-10 p.m.: Replays of WFED programming or sports play-by-play
  • 10 p.m.-1 a.m.: Jim Bohannon
  • 1 a.m.-5 a.m.: Phil Hendrie


WFED also carried in the 10 a.m-1 p.m. "assorted" time slot, two Voice of America programs, Issues in the News and Press Conference USA. Technically speaking, this is in direct violation of federal law, since that law prohibits VOA programs from being targeted at American audiences.

Saturdays and Sundays WFED features brokered programming and replays of weekday programming, plus selected Navy football, basketball and lacrosse games in season.

References



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