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WTOP is an all-news formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Washington, D.C.marker, serving Metropolitan Washington, DC area. WTOP is owned by Bonneville Holding Company and operated by Bonneville International Corporation, a broadcasting company wholly owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

WTOP is one of two all-news stations in the Washington, D.C.marker area, the other being sister station WFEDmarker, which is aimed at federal government employees.

The station's primary signal is at 103.5, with simulcasts on WTLP 103.9 FM from Braddock Heights, Marylandmarker and on WWWT 107.7 FM from Manassas, Virginiamarker. WTOP is also carried on Leesburg, Virginiamarker translator W282AD broadcasting at 104.3 FM. All stations in the WTOP "network" broadcast in monaural to increase their coverage areas.


1920s: Born in Brooklyn

WTOP's origins trace back to Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker, as station WTRC (operated by the Twentieth [District] Republican Club), going to air September 25, 1926, on 1250 kilocycles with a power of 50 watts. The Twentieth Republican Club, and the station, were run by the Ku Klux Klan; pressure by the federal government on the Klan forced WTRC to move out of the New York area. Ironically, the station moved to the federal government's backyard; on August 2, 1927, WTRC migrated to Mount Vernon Hills, Virginiamarker as WTFF (which stood for the Klan's newspaper "The Fellowship Forum") at 1470 kHz. In November 1927, the power of WTFF was increased to 10,000 watts and the frequency changed to 1480 kilocycles.

On January 10, 1929, the call sign was changed to WJSV, reflecting the initials of James S. Vance, who was publisher of "The Fellowship Forum" and a Grand Wizard in Virginiamarker. Realizing the expense of running a 10,000-watt radio station, Vance quickly worked out a deal with the nascent Columbia Broadcasting System to become the new network's primary station in Washington, DCmarker. CBS took over all of WJSV's programming and engineering costs, with an option to renew or purchase the station after five years. Soon realizing they were affiliated with the Klan, negotiations began for CBS to purchase the station outright.

1930s: CBS O&O

In June 1932, CBS finally purchased WJSV and moved it from Mount Vernon Hills to Alexandria, Virginiamarker. After three months off the air, WJSV resumed broadcasting on October 20, 1932. Arthur Godfrey, who later hosted a variety program on CBS Radio and CBS Television, hosted a program on WJSV called The Sundial on which he honed a laid-back, conversational style that was unusual on radio at the time but came to be common practice for disc jockeys.

On September 21, 1939, WJSV recorded its entire broadcast day for posterity. The famous "One Day In Radio" tapes still exist and copies can be found at various Old Time Radio websites.

WJSV was also a key training ground for pioneering newsman Bob Trout in the 1930s before he became a network correspondent. (One of his broadcasting mentors was Wells (Ted) Church, who later became a CBS News executive.) Longtime Los Angelesmarker-area TV newscaster George Putnam began his career at WJSV in 1938, and continued to work in radio for seven decades until his death in 2008. Frank Blair, who later became an NBC News correspondent and later was a long time news anchor on the Today show during the 1960s and early 1970s, along with Entertainer Arthur Godfrey, also worked at WJSV.


In 1940, WJSV's operating power was increased to 50,000 watts, with a new transmitter site built in Wheaton, Maryland. (That site is still in use today.) On March 29, 1941, with the implementation of NARBA, WJSV moved its broadcast frequency from 1460 to 1500 kHz.

On March 16, 1943, after paying the Tiffin, Ohiomarker police department $60,000, the calls were changed to the current WTOP because its new frequency was now at the "top" of the mediumwave AM band. The Washington Post bought a 55% share in WTOP from CBS in February 1949 and took over the remainder of the station in December 1954.

1960s and 70s: All-news

In the 1960s, after a series of failed music formats, WTOP phased out its music programming for a combination of newscasts and phone-in talk shows; eventually the call-in shows were dropped in favour of an all-news format. Among those working for WTOP during this time were Sam Donaldson, later on ABC-TV; Jim Bohannon, who took Larry King's place on his all-night radio network talk show after King went to CNN; and including Ralph Begleiter and Jamie MacIntyre, both of whom went to CNN.

The Post sold WTOP to The Outlet Company company in June, 1978, in reaction to the FCC desire to break up the Post/WTOP cross-ownership arrangement. One month later, WTOP-TV was swapped with the Detroit News's WWJ-TVmarker, and became WDVM-TV. The station is today WUSA-TVmarker, owned by Gannett. The original FM frequency for WTOP-FM was 96.3 MHz, but that frequency was donated to Howard Universitymarker. That station became WHUR in 1971, a commercially run radio station.

1990s and 2000s: Move to FM

Outlet re-organized and sold WTOP to Chase Broadcasting in 1989, who in turn sold it to Evergreen Media (which eventually became Chancellor Broadcasting) in November 1992. During this period, Evergreen started WTOP's move to the FM dial on April 1997, when Evergreen's newly acquired 94.3 MHz facility in Warrenton, Virginiamarker began simulcasting the WTOP signal for better coverage in the sprawling Northern Virginiamarker suburbs. Shortly afterward, on October 10, 1997, Bonneville International Corporation purchased WTOP.

On April 1, 1998, that frequency was swapped for a stronger signal at 107.7, also licensed to Warrentonmarker. (The 94.3 facility now relays the air feed for sports station WTEM.) Then in December 2000, WTOP gained another simulcast in Frederick, Marylandmarker with WXTR at 820 kHz, establishing the "WTOP Radio Network."

In 2005, the station began providing podcasts of selected broadcast programs, and in 2006, WTOP began broadcasting in digital "HD Radio", utilizing iBiquity Digital Corp.'s IBOC (in-band on-channel) technology.

On January 4, 2006, WTOP station owner Bonneville International announced that the station would move to a new primary frequency of 103.5 FM, then held by classical station WGMS (which would move to 103.9 and 104.1 FM). The frequencies long-used by WTOP, 1500 kHz and 107.7 MHz (and the low-powered 104.3 FM translator in Leesburgmarker), would be reassigned to the new "Washington Post Radiomarker" for a March 30, 2006 launch date. Fittingly, this new partnership also signaled the Post's re-emergence into the radio scene on the very same dial spot WTOP once held.

The stations' respective call signs were changed as of January 11, 2006: the former WTOP pair became WTWP (The Washington Post) and WTOP's new primary stations (formerly WGMS-FM and WXTR) assumed the WTOP calls. HD Radio digital subchannels of the 103.5 carrier originally had broadcast Bonneville International's "iChannel" music format, which features unsigned, independent rock bands on the HD2 channel, and the HD3 channel aired continuous traffic and weather updates. Later iChannel was dropped for an LMA of the HD2 to a group that currently airs programming aimed at the South Asian community in the Washington area. About June 1, 2009, the HD3 dropped the traffic and weather programming for Bonneville's 'The Mormon Channel'.

In 2006, WTOP dropped its long-standing association with The Weather Channel and began airing weather reports exclusively from WJLA-TV marker all day long. Previously, WTOP had used weather reports from WJLA chief meteorologist Doug Hill during morning and evening rush hours and The Weather Channel all other times. The station now uses all WJLAmarker meteorologists, not just Doug Hill. WJLAmarker's "Live Super Doppler 7" has and continues to be featured in weather reports as necessary.

In 2007, the WTOP radio configuration was realigned once again. WTLP-FM (formerly WGYS) at 103.9 picked up the WTOP simulcast on April 6, 2007 after the adult hits "George 104" simulcast with WXGG (now WPRS-FM, since sold to Radio One) was broken up, and adopted the WTLP calls on July 5, 2007.

Also in 2007, WTOP began broadcasting on WJLA-TVmarker's "Weather Now" digital sub-channel, which is carried on cable systems well beyond WTOP's broadcast area, though this was ended in late July 2009.

In May 2007, WTOP sold the naming rights to its "Glass Enclosed Nerve Center" (its nickname for its studio) to area business Ledo Pizza. That sponsorship concluded at the end of 2007. Other sponsorship continues, with sportscasts being "fed" by Ledo Pizza.

WTOP-AM (which was now on 820 in Frederick) changed its calls to WTWT and switched to the Washington Post Radio simulcast on June 28, 2007. On September 20, 2007, the 1500/107.7/820 multicast changed format over to a general talk format as "Talk Radio 3WT" under the WWWT/WWWT-FM/WWWB call letters, which was cancelled on August 11, 2008. WWWT and WWWB took over the "Federal News Radio" format (and for the 1500 kHz facility, the WFEDmarker calls) , while WWWT-FM went back to simulcasting WTOP-FM. The former WFED took over the WTOP callsign on the AM dial and became a simulcast of WTOP, with preemptions for sporting events. On June 13, 2009, the 1050 AM frequency changed to a separate news/talk format, operated by Air America Radio as WZAA.

In March 2008 WTOP completed a year-long, $2.5-million state-of-the-art renovation of its newsroom and studios, the first since 1989 when the station moved into the building it presently occupies in northwest Washington.

In 2008, WTOP generated $51.75-million in revenue, the sixth-highest total for any radio station in the United States and the only station not based in New York City or Los Angeles to crack the top ten.

Station Profiles

Callsign Frequency City of license ERP Class HAAT Facility ID Former Callsigns
WTOP-FM 103.5 MHz Washington, D.C.marker 44,000 watts B 158 meters 11845 WGMS (1951-2006)
WQQW (1948-1951)
WTLP 103.9 MHz Braddock Heights, Marylandmarker 350 watts A 292 meters 47105 WGYS (2006-2007)
WWVZ (1996-2006)
WXVR (1995-1996)
WZYQ (1980-1995)

WWWT-FM 107.7 MHz Manassas, Virginiamarker 29,000 watts B 197 meters 21626 WTWP-FM (2006-2007)
WTOP-FM (1998-2006)
WUPP (1997-1998)
WRCY (1992-1997)
WMJR (1984-1992)
WWWK (1982-1984)

W282BA 104.3 MHz Leesburg, Virginiamarker 100 watts D 0 meters 138906 none

NOTE: WTOP (1050 AM) switched to a separate news/talk format on June 13, 2009 as WZAA.


WTOP carries "Traffic and Weather Together" every ten minutes "on the 8s", Business News at :25 and :55 and Sports reports at :15 and :45 minutes of each hour. Weather information on WTOP comes from WJLAmarker-TV in Washington, D.C.

WTOP is affiliated with the CBS Radio Network, and many of its reporters (including Neal Augenstein, Hank Silverberg and Tom Foty) also appear on the network. WTOP's basic format and hourly broadcast schedule, as noted above, is similar to that used by the CBS-owned-and-operated all-news stations, such as WCBSmarker.

WTOP is also affiliated with CNN and the Bloomberg Radiomarker Network.

As of July 2009, WTOP is ranked #1 in the Arbitron ratings among radio stations in the Washington, DC area and is ranked #1 in most of the age demographics as well. WTOP has been the number one station in the DC area for several years, partly due to its Traffic and Weather Together reports around the clock. It leads in both drive times, as well as the day as a whole.


See also


  1. FCC form 323, Ownership Report for Commercial Broadcast Stations filed 9/24/2008 by Bonneville Holding Company, licensee of WTOP
  2. Attachment 3 to 2008 FCC form 323 filed by Bonneville Holding Company
  3., Retrieved on 2009-03-12.
  5. Federal News Radio Expands to Full Market Signal (

External links

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