Hubbard’s broadcasting’s top-billing WTOP-FM regional news network will soon have some competition: Rumors have been rampant that CBS Radio would be bringing an all-news station to the nation’s capital via an LMA with Family Stations’ (Harold Camping) WFSI-FM 107.9 in Annapolis, MD. But instead it is moving its Spanish Hits WLZL-FM 99.1 “El Zol” to that frequency and launching all-news on 99.1.
Both stations are in the 45-kW range, but 99.1 covers the market a bit better, without adjacent-channel interference from WTOP’s WWWT-FM on 107.7.
“El Zol” will debut on 107.9 on Thursday, 12/1 through the LMA and subsequent purchase deal with Family Stations. “All News 99.1” will debut in January on 99.1 FM with more local programming and information specific to its audience. In the meantime, El Zol will air on both 99.1 and 107.9, according to CBS Radio spokesperson Karen Mateo.
Steve Swenson, SVP/Market Manager, CBS Radio/DC tells RBR-TVBR about the upcoming competition with WTOP: “Having had the privilege of working and living in both Washington, DC and New York City, I know from experience the strong appetite for news in both markets. I’ve been lucky enough to run both 1010 WINS and WCBS and see the financial and ratings success of both stations. Now that I am back in DC, I know there is a great opportunity to provide residents of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC with another news outlet. This won’t be an “us versus them” but instead an expansion of the news market. In the tradition of our other CBS news stations in the top markets across our country, All News 99.1 will be a fast paced, locally-focused radio station.”
Added Joel Oxley, WTOP SVP/GM: “WTOP welcomes competition in the marketplace and we believe that it makes everyone better as we all compete for listeners, viewers and readers across the region. WTOP already competes for our news audience with numerous other news gathering organizations across the region, including newspapers, print publications, TV and radio stations and online competition in the marketplace from local bloggers to WashingtonPost.com. So we welcome CBS as it starts an all-news radio station in Washington DC.”
Robert Sanchez has been named as PD of the station. He is currently serving as Assistant Director of News and Programming for WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York, and also has worked at CBS Radio’s other legendary all-news station, 1010 WINS.
Michelle Komes-Dolge will also join the station as News Director. Her decades of local news experience in the Washington, D.C. area include significant time at WTOP-FM as news director, managing editor and producer.
The station’s roster of local anchors and reporters will be focused exclusively on breaking news, traffic, weather, and the latest financial, lifestyle, entertainment and sports headlines conveyed as it happens with live coverage broadcast 24/7.
Media Venture Partners represented Family Stations in the deal. The sale application has not yet been filed with the FCC.
RBR-TVBR observation: It will be indeed a battle of the news stations. CBS Radio is a real pro at news radio — nationwide. But WTOP has the home field advantage, being a household name in the market for decades. It’s also the top biller and often has the top ratings. WTOP’s 103.5 frequency also has a better full-market signal and is more centrally located, while WLZL is to the east of the market. WTOP also has the 107.7 frequency out of Manassas, VA and the 103.9 frequency out of Frederick, MD. But in the end, like, NYC, there is likely room for more than one all-news station. Also, note the recent addition of Cumulus’ AM News-Talk WMAL onto 105.9 FM in the market.