WQXR goes to WNYC, WBCN leaves FM dial

Heard this morning on WNYC that the New York Times has unloaded its remaining broadcasting asset, which consists of the channel and facilities of WQXR, which has been a classical music landmark for as long as it’s been around. (One way or another, since 1929. Wikipedia tells the long story well.) The story on WNYC’s website says WQXR will become “part of” WNYC. I assume that means it will become non-commercial.

According to Bloomberg, the deal goes like this:

  • “Univision will pay Times Co. $33.5 million to swap broadcasting licenses and shift its WCAA broadcast to 96.3 FM from 105.9 FM, which will become WQXR… WCAA will get 96.3 FM’s stronger signal.”
  • WNYC will pay Times Co. $11.5 million for 105.9 FM’s license and equipment and the WQXR call letters.”

WQXR was for a long time an AM/FM operation. The AM was on 1560, with a 50,000 watt signal out of a four-tower facility in Maspeth, Queens. The FM was for many years atop the Chanin Building, where it still maintains an auxilliary antenna. I have shots of the old and new antennas here and here. In 2007 the Times Co. unloaded its AM station, then (and still) called WQEW, to Walt Disney Co. for $40 million. It’s now Radio Disney, a kids’ station.

Since the 60s WQXR has shared a master antenna atop the Empire State Building with most of New York’s other FMs. This was their status in 1967. Wikipedia has a good rundown of what’s up there today. Scott Fybush also has a comprehensive report from 2003.

An open question is whether WQXR will remain a beacon on the dial. While other signals on the Empire State Building master antennas run 5000 to 6000 watts, the one on 105.9 is just 610 watts. According to WQXR’s  Web site, the station and has an audience of nearly 800,000 weekly listeners. How many of those will lose the signal? Coverage maps from radio-locator.com for 96.3 and 105.9 are here and here.

For the fully obsessed, here is a current rundown of everything on FM hanging off the Empire State Building, or within 1km of it.

Meanwhile, says here WBCN in Boston, a progressive rock radio landmark, is also getting yanked. You’ll still hear it on the Web, or if you are among the appoximately five owners of an “HD” radio receiver and close enough to WBCN’s transmiter on Boston’s Prudential Building in the Back Bay. Meanwhile Boston will get more of the usual: talk sports and “Hot AC” music. (To me “Hot AC” always sounded like an climate control oxymoron, while “adult contemporary” sounded like a euphemism for pornographic furniture.)

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  1. Ron Schott’s avatar

    The NY Times article has more on the deal including some info that may address your concerns regarding the signal for the new WQXR.

  2. Classical Radio Guy’s avatar

    The NYTimes article downplays the severity of the signal downgrade. WQXR’s new signal footprint will be much smaller, and much more prone to interference in the urban canyons of Manhattan. The Times and WNYC are downplaying this in their announcements but think about it… Why do you think WCAA was willing to spend 35 million bucks.. for a slightly better signal, or a much much better one. In this day and age of downgraded radio station values, 35 million is real money. And the signal difference between the two frequencies is equally ‘real’.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Ron. And Classical Radio Guy.

    Some engineering jive. (I’m not as good with this as Ron is with rocks, but it’s something I do know a few things about.)

    Yes, the engineer cited in that piece is right. 6000 watts is not 6x 600 watts. Signal strength in free space increases as the square root of the power. By that measure, the new signal is about 31% as powerful as the old one. Not 10%. But you’re right, CMG: Univision paid all that money because the signal on 96.3 is truly worth a great deal more.

    Mostly it’s equivalency. Now they’ll have the same power and antenna height, from very the same antenna, as all the other major New York FMs. They buy into that club.

    As for WQXR, it’s a save against losing the station, not an engineering win, by a long shot.

    For many years 105.9 in Newark was WHBI, and basically a junk channel. What you heard there for many years was a schedule leased out to lo-fi ethnic programming. I forget where their old transmitter was, but it wasn’t on the Empire State Building. And it sounded awful. I’m sure it’s better where it is now, and the Univision folks are getting the most they can out of it. But some listeners to WQXR will be disappointed. How much? Let’s go down the engineering path…

    There are many variables. Signals don’t just fade away beyond a certain distance. Mostly they lose their advantage over noise and competing signals on the same channels and adjacent ones. Their advantage comes from a combination of effective radiated power (that is, power directed toward the horizon) and antenna height. If you can see the Empire State Building, you’re getting both signals fine. By “see” I mean with no shadowing by terrain or large buildings. If you’re shadowed, neither the old nor the new signal will do very well. The fact is, none of the stations in New York (or Boston, or Philly, or DC, or Baltimore, or Hartford — all in the same region, with the same height/wattage restrictions) is very big. They do well in the boroughs and across the river in New Jersey. Beyond that, they all struggle.

    I paid close attention to all this when I grew up looking at the top lights of Empire State Building out the window of my bedroom in Maywood, New Jersey, and for all the years after that when I got more deeply into radio engineering and lived in other places, from Westchester to Greenwood Lake and beyond. In those days nearly all the New York FMs were on the old Alford master antenna you see above and below you on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. They look like rows of the letter T, all angled at 45°. (Here’s one.) All the stations then were 5400 watts in the horizontal plane and 3800 in the vertical, at 1220 feet above average terrain (AAT). That was equivalent to 50000 watts at 500 feet, the maximum allowed for stations in their class. (Newer equivalency charts allow stations radiating above 500 feet to reduce power by height at a lower rate than in those old days. That’s why stations on the master antenna today are 6000 watts at 1361 feet. Still, the difference between old and new isn’t that large.) All the stations from Manhattan sound like crap as soon as you go west or North over the hills of New Jersey and New York. For that matter, most of them sound like crap inside New York’s high rise buildings as well.

    The main problem from an adjacent channel for the new WQXR will come out on Long Island. I notice that WBLI in Patchogue, Long Island, is a 49,000 watt station (at 500 feet) on 106.1, one notch up the dial from WQXR’s new spot at 105.9. While WBLI’s signal is directional (see here), dented down to about 12,000 watts in the direction of Manhattan, it’ll still make WQXR borderline unlistenable by the time you get to Suffolk County.

    Making things worse for all stations is the new HD radio gimmick, which sounds nice if you have a radio that gets it (which almost nobody does), but otherwise gives fits to stations one notch up or down the FM band. WBLI uses HD. Not sure what WNYC will do with WQXR. Either way, it’s a compromise.

  4. currency’s avatar

    WNYC bought WQXR from NYTimes. NYTimes critics & reporters will lose their voice there. Still, it’s good news for classical affician …

  5. Richard Mitnick’s avatar

    Fully explored at my weblog, “Whither Public radio and serious music”, the URL is entered on your form.

    For the sake of transparancy, I am a Public radio zealot and a WNYC Music fanatic.

    What we have to hope will disappear is the WQXR culture of mediocrity. WNYC Music has been through a revolution in the past two years, with the erection of wnyc2, a 24/7 stream emphasizing “non-generic classical music” and “500 years of new music”. The revolution has included Evening Music , especially since the advent of Terrance McKnight.

    Hopefully, we can look forward to a great 24 hour FM broadcast, and, for the more modern, a 128kbit stereo mp3 web stream, the only possible competition possible for wnyc2.


  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    FWIW, I get all the WNYCs perfectly on my mobile phone, my Sonos, my laptop and other devices, here in Santa Barbara.

    For the short-medium run, it makes sense to keep WQXR alive. The brand matters, as does the fact that radio is still easier to get than webio. If you’re in range. But, in the long run, radio stations have to drop their Transmitter Mentality.

    IMHO, on a Thursday afternoon.

  7. J. Dubbelman’s avatar

    I am really very sad. WQxR was the only station I listened to. A big city as New York should have at least one good classical station and preferably more. Classical music will now be moved to a junk channel with bad reception in my NJ area.

  8. Edward Rosten’s avatar

    Fascinating stuff…. I am, however, somewhat aghast at D.S.’ seeming abuse of HD. I won’t tell you that every Tom, Dick & Harry even here in (or near) tony Dumbo owns one, but I could not be happier with my purchase. Just as HD gave all the operators (and if that word has negative overtones, it most certainly SHOULD) 3 or 4 ways to make money, WNYC (to its credit) chose to serve 2 or 3 niches with the new “bandwidth.”

    Yes, I CAN see the Empire St. Building from where I sit, so the eclectic c.m. feed from WNYC is as clear as it is interesting.

    But I’m definitely one of those who think that there’s no going back to driving (or even crossing the street) for DVD’s, let alone waiting a couple of days for them to arrive in the mail…. Not that *I* am that impatient…. But everyone under 30 *IS* – and that’s probably not only a majority (counting certain ways) but an overwhelming majority counted the way media companies do – i.e., how much STUFF do those people eat, drink, buy, etc.

    And while classical music and public radio obviously are anti-ageist – i.e., they’d have almost no audience if they lost the 50+ crowd, they’re not head-in-the-sand types. They’re even more focused on technology, because that’s how they go from a huge NY niche to a monstrous global footprint.

    Obviously, as long as the car has anything like the importance it now has to life in America, radio (of the increasingly buggywhip variety) will hang in there, but I think the 1-2 punch the internet and ipods (and their rivals) have dealt it are even more likely to knock it out “for the count” than is the case with printed newspapers.

    Hence, I think that the Univision people made a dubious “big bet” – I haven’t a clue how fragmented the “Hispanic” market is and/or how good they are at selling ads and programming…. WNYC, I believe, is just plain throwing away the better part of the $15 MM they’ve earmarked to this folly.

    WNYC used to (may even STILL have) a once-OK “voice” named Steve Post. Now THERE’s someone with 5 remaining listeners – probably none of whom has ever donated a dime to WNYC. The classical music audience is a tad bigger, but there *IS* a reason they’ve basically replaced music with talk on 93.9 – inexorably. (Of course, they’re not alone.) I have mixed feelings about both the trend and the specifics, but I fall back on “unalloyed empire building” as the only plausible “rationale” for the WNYC/WQXR transaction…. Or maybe, there’s one HUGE classical music-loving Board Member at WNYC who held a gun to the station management’s head.

    Last good-natured I-take-issue-with-DS – you speak of WQXR’s “brand.” I know you’re a kind of radio history buff, but branding usually has something to do with revenue generation. I’m not sure when WQXR ceased to be profitable, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t 20 years or more ago. Some say that it opted for a basically “pops” and warhorses playlist – presumably because it chose to follow, not lead, its audience. Of course, as even the abused step-child of the NY Times, they had some natural advantages and talent and good things, but just as I heard someone say that a “fair price” for the Boston Globe would be $1 (with the NY Times agreeing to do the right thing by some of the working people who made them big money in years gone by), WQXR has a near-zero value to WNYC any way I can analyze it.

    And when you think what they’ve done to the station in an effort to replace “city money” with listener money, I shudder to think what the future holds in terms of pitching, pledge drives, etc.

    Oh well, even if my pessimism proves justified, the impact of this awful decision is microscopic when compared to things going on in the bigger economy.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    J. Dubbelman, where do you live in New Jersey?

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call 105.9 a “junk channel,” although it’s clearly worth less than 96.3.

    For an alternative fate, check out what happened to WCRB in Boston, exiled from its historic full-power Boston signal on 102.5 to a lower-powered Lowell signal on 99.5. The Wikipedia entry on WCRB tells the story rather well.

    I believe WQXR will have a better fate.

  10. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Edward, I’m not abusing HD Radio by calling it a “gimmick” with few listeners. It might have had a chance in the market if it had been open-sourced, or if the intellectual property had been unencumbered (as, say, Ethernet’s was, encouraging what became its huge success in the marketplace). But instead it’s a financial and engineering burden for stations that is not met by market uptake by the audience — quite aside from the harm it does to the analog signals it rides on and/or interferes with. HD radios remain relatively costly and worse than unpopular: they are nearly unknown to the general public. Again, Wikipedia summarizes criticisms well.

    Meanwhile, Internet radio is growing fast, in spite of its trashing by a market-hostile, complex, unfair and outright bizarre music royalty regime (I hesitate to call it a “system”). The reasons to bother with HD radio when the same program streams are available over the Net (and the cell system) are few and barely persuasive.

    Hey, I’ve got WNYC’s HD streams going here in Santa Barbara. I’ll add WQXR’s when they come along too. It hardly matters to me — or countless millions of other potential listeners — whether the station’s FM signal is 6, 600, 6000 or 6 million watts. It won’t get here at all over the air, while it gets here over the Net just fine.

    Of course, there are costs of distribution over the Net too. But I’m guessing they’re a lot lower than what it’ll cost to pay down the $11.5 million WNYC is paying for what’s left of WQXR and the 105.9 license.

  11. Edward Rosten’s avatar

    I’ve had relatively little to do with blogs, so I hope our “dialog” is not bad form. Just a couple of points on “redirect.” $75 (one time only) or so does NOT strike me as much of a factor in HD’s acceptance. I’m not sure that internet bandwidth is infinite, so alternatives should be given a chance (in a rational world). There’s a very interesting article in today’s NYTimes (bus. section) by an economist named Schiller – what’s relevant is in the first couple of paragraphs.

    The best argument for HD radio in connection with classical music is that that genre appeals most to people LEAST in a position to deal with the much higher tech (not to mention cost) Int. radio alternative.

    Last, I think you and others are mistaken as to the future of WQXR as a soon-to-be-former Times subsidiary. I seriously doubt that the NYT will be involved in a website streaming music – even if the costs are low, they’ve been burned and I think will exit the music/radio/sound “space” in toto.

    That’s why, I think, interested people wonder what WNYC’s game plan (it’s ALL gonna be in their hands) turns out to be.

    One last thing – almost off topic…. I think I read somewhere else that cars are like giant antennas as they roll around. The writer was essentially saying that – all other things being equal – you really do deal with reception problems by being in a vehicle.

    True or false?

    Oh yes – it’s clear to me (clearer than ever as a result of classical music being written about by its lovers a little more than usual) that just as Harry Potter has mostly ardent defenders and people who “don’t get it” at all, classical music has 30-50% “buffs” who could listen to Mozart et al to the exclusion of anything less than 50 or 100 years old, maybe longer. AND there’s 10-30%, I’m sure, who’ve had it up to here with the “old stuff.”

    SO, … what internet “streams” (stations) (classical only or mostly) appeal to y’all and why?

    I nominate WMNR.org, in good measure because I’ll bet it has less than 1% of the listeners that WNYC2 does.

  12. Doc Searls’s avatar


    First, blog comment dialog is fine form. Thanks for joining in.

    To give some perspective on HD acceptance, consider this fact: Nissan and Infiniti (same company) was said to have dropped AM stereo back in the mid-90s from its cars because it wanted to save money on a chip that cost the company just five cents.

    How many car radios carry HD? BMW and some Ford makes offered it in 2008 car radios, according to Consumer Reports. But was it only as an option, and how long will they offer it for, now that all car companies are pushing hard to cheap out?

    I dunno. Anybody have numbers for HD use?

    As for Internet radio, the bandwidth of any one stream is not infinite, but the potential number of stations certainly has no limit, except on innovation here in the U.S., where the royalty costs of webcasting are quite high for streamers and through the roof for podcasters. Notice how many music podcasts there are? For all but “podsafe” (i.e. severly independent, non-mainstream) music, there are approximately none. That’s because podcasters are required to “clear rights” with every single rightsholder, individually, which is a near-impossibility.

    Which brings us to the Robert Shiller essay in the Times, which you mentioned. In those opening paragraphs he tells how trial and error were required for discovering the full power of steam engines. Shiller is concerned that “consumer protection” by the Obama administration may make a collateral casualty of many innovations, for the sake of “simplicity” and “safety.” (I agree, by the way.) What we see in radio right now are many chilling effects, but unevenly distributed. The ownership structure, intellectual property burdens and licensing costs of HD radio — quite aside from its technical limitations (smaller coverage areas, graceless drop-outs under weak signal conditions, compromised analog signals, and so on) — make it unlikely ever to succeed as a mass market development. The main reason it has succeeded to a limited extent is that CPB has poured (and is still pouring) a pile of money into encouraging it on the transmission side among noncommercial stations. If it were up to commercial stations alone, it wouldn’t be nearly the limited success it is, so far.

    I agree that a strong argument for HD radio is its appeal to older, wealthier, non-technical, non-Net-savvy listeners. I also think that the ease of use for Internet radio on hand-helds such as iPhones will also appeal to the same population.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think I ever suggested that the New York Times would itself maintain more than a minimal interest in WQXR. Or in streaming music either. They’re getting out of that game. I suspect that WNYC will put out a number of classical streams, including whatever they put on WQXR. The latter’s programming will be optimized to bring in listener support. I leave up to others guessing what that will be.

    As for cars being giant antennas, no. They are, in radio terms, rolling ground systems. The best design for an FM antenna is a vertical whip antenna about 30″ long in the middle of the roof. Alas, car makers have been compromising for years, shortening antennas to stubs and turning them into thin wires in windows.

    That said, your best AM and FM reception is usually in a car, because you’re outside the metal and (sheet) rock boxes that comprise most houses these days. Most houses are filled with reception obstructions and noise sources. Take WMNR/88.1 for example. I guarantee you’ll get it in many more cars than houses.

    As for what Internet classical stations I listen to, here’s a small, partial list:

    WGBH Classical
    WNYC Classical
    CBC Classical
    Classical Guitar on SKY.fm
    Minnesota Classical

    And that’s just off the top of my head. There are plenty of others.

    As for WMNR, the station’s main problem over the air is a weak and somewhat compromised signal. The station is listed at 5000 watts at 404 feet above average terrain. But, as you see from the graphic here, that power level is only in one direction: northwest toward Danbury, from the transmitter near William Wolfe Park between Upper Stepney and Monroe, the city of license. There is a smaller lobe, peaking at about 2200 watts, pointed southeast toward Bridgeport. To the sides of those there are dents in the signal that bring it down as low as 900 watts. The result is coverage that looks like this on “paper,” but I suspect is worse. Directional FMs are like that. In my experience, anyway. Their online .mp3 stream is only 56kb, which is good for car listening over 3G connections, but sometimes sounds distorted (and/or monophonic) to me. But, with your spurring, I’ll give it more of a listen. I have it on now.

  13. edward rosten’s avatar

    Thanks so much for that long list. Perhaps others will be able to add some (many ?), so that I’ll go from having weeks worth of fun listening to YEARS.

    I mentioned the Shiller article, of course, in connection with HD radio. I won’t dispute your guess that it has had very limited success in terms of “penetration,” but (a) the move, nationwide, to HD TV just a month or 2 ago COULD be a game changer; and (b) the reason I referenced Shiller is that SOME of the flaws you mention in connection with HD radio as it *IS* COULD be remedied, I hope. (And then, maybe, it would go “mass.”)

    I appreciate your mention of CPB, since I was wondering why HD radio seemed to have so many SMALL players. I think you should consider that since people in the (commercial) radio biz are more aware and more frightened about how the music biz self-destructed, they KNOW that “business as usual” for them is only a whisker away from “going out of business.” HD radio (in some form) gives them a shot at a time that they NEED a shot.

    Next, my mention of bandwidth not being infinite has to do with the internet as a “utility.” I’m sure you are mindful of the fuss that Comcast or TW made about “piggies,” who download HD movies all day and all night. I know that innovation “always” seems to stay ahead of demand, but common sense says that THAT cannot be a certainty going forward. That’s another reason why the “archaic” little dedicated box (i.e., standalone radio) may (still) be worth a long, hard look.

    Crucial point re older listeners and classical music – HD radio represents an INEXPENSIVE (on an ongoing basis) SOLUTION! for them, so I don’t know why you used the word “wealthier.” I’ll bet that the 70-80 generation – and even, speculatively, the 60-70 one – does not have broadband in their homes and apts. to the extent you might guess at. PLUS, they probably prefer speakers to headphones, and not just a little bit.

    Without meaning to be abrasive, your mention of iPhones in this context makes me chuckle – I was at Tanglewood recently, and while I could be wrong, I’d guess that the number of iPhones in the “house” was more or less than what you’d find in an average single Starbucks. (I think that’s what the brouhaha about WQXR is all about – telling its “average listener” to “get with it” … is not likely to change his/her listening habits in a big way.)

    Couple of questions – what are “repeaters” (or whatever makes it possible for tiny WMNR to be heard far, far from its home base, Monroe, courtesy of something in Madison, CT – as far away in that small state as you could be?)

    I don’t know if there are maps showing the TRUE reach of a station, but you do well to bear in mind things like “effective” reach. (I don’t mean that as a dig – I have no doubt that WMNR’s listener numbers all told do not come to a big number.)

    This, of course, is relevant re WQXR, because one hears that they DID reach portions of NY’s suburbs (and exurbs, if that’s a word) by this type of technology…. Does the FCC routinely grant stations an OK to expand in this fashion?

    Last, do you know whether the 105.9 frequency DOES broadcast from the Empire State Building. On WNYC’s blog, everybody and his brother are saying that WNYC should ready its “we need some extra wattage very badly and very quickly” appeal to the FCC. I’m guessing that NY is pretty saturated and that that “augmentation” might not be in the cards. What do you see as viable (technically) if this whole business (dedicated classical broadcasting on 105.9) comes to pass? … That is, if WNYC hears from thousands of listeners that the new broadcasts are sub-acceptable, what COULD be done about that? … Oh yes, what’s your guess as to “will it come in”/”how well” for

    a) someone 1-3 miles away from the Emp. St. Bldg with plenty of big buildings in between;
    b) someone 5-10 miles away in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx; and
    c) someone 10-20 miles away in NJ (Maplewood, say) or Westchester?

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar


    First, the move with television was mandated by the FCC, complete with sunset provisions. (For example, requiring that analog signals go off the air.) It took many years to complete, and the jury is still out on the results. It is different in many other respects as well. For example, on TV there was wholesale replacement of analog signals with digital ones, usually on other channels (none of channels 2-6 remained there, and few of the 7-13s did either) — even though they retained their old channel identifications. Meanwhile, nearly all TV viewing had moved to cable and satellite in any case. There is nothing of the sort for radio.

    Without requiring that manufacturers make radios that pick up HD as well as analog signals, the best HD can do is fill niches. That’s just the way it’s gonna go.

    As for commercial radio, I doubt any of them see much future in HD, but I could be wrong. If noncommercial radio pioneers it successfully, maybe the commercial players will follow. For the last 30 years or so, noncommercial stations and networks have done most of the pioneering.

    While Comcast and others made a stink about “bandwidth hogs,” internet radio is not what they’re talking about. Even internet TV isn’t that big a deal. Right now we’re listening at our house to a 128kb stream from Classical South Florida, and our connection still tests out at 17Mb down and 3.7 Mb up. And it’s not for nothing that AT&T wireless allows unlimited data use with their data plan. They want users to listen to radio and otherwise indulge the system. It’s a competitive advantage.

    As for older, more well-off listeners that comprise much (most?) of the classical audience, sure: they may be less net-savvy. But I’m not sure, given a choice, that they’d rather buy a $100 radio or spend a bit more to get better bandwidth. Still, at best it’s a niche for HD radio. Not a mass market. And that’s what they wanted in the first place.

    For WMNR and its network of stations, click on the “Stations” link on the WMNR website. (I’d direct you to the page itself, but WMNR’s truly awful site design doesn’t allow that.) What you see there are two kinds of stations that “repeat” (live) WMNR’s audio. The ones with call letters are licensed stations. The ones with names like “W220CH” are “translators.” These are low-power transmitters meant to extend coverage in a confined area. W220CH for West Hartford is 8 watts, while W218AV in Warren, CT is 250 watts (though less in some directions). I’m guessing that the WMNR you’re hearing in Madison is WGRS in Guilford on 91.5. It’s 3100 watts at about 100 feet above the “average terrain.” I’m impressed with how many stations and translators WMNR has. That map of theirs shows a pretty ambitious effort on their part.

    The rules regarding translators for noncommercial stations are much more open than those for commercial stations, which are limited to translators that fill in holes within the immediate coverage area. WNYC/QXR can put translators anywhere they please, basically. Provided there is room. Most of that room is already taken, but some horse-trading can be done, especially with religious broadcasters, which have been far more expert and aggressive about translators than have public radio stations.

    And yes, all the channels affected in this deal — 93.9. 96.3 and 105.9 — are all radiating from transmitters atop the Empire State Building. WNYC had kicked around after the World Trade Center fell, because it was one of a handful of stations transmitting from there. All also have auxiliary backup transmitters elsewhere in town.

    I can’t find the blog post you’re talking about, in respect to an appeal for more WNYC wattage. It’s already at the maximum, which is the same as that enjoyed by other full-power New York FM stations.

    WNYC-AM might be able to squeeze out some more power, however. Rules for AM stations have opened up considerably in recent years. Right now WNYC-AM transmits from WMCA’s three-tower facility by the Turnpike in New Jersey, with a directional signal pointed at the city. The power is 10000 watts by day and 1000 watts by night. I have a feeling that can be improved considerably, but I’d have to spend more time looking into it.

    Range for the new WQXR (and the current WCAA) is limted mostly by obstructions. If you’re on the backside of hills (say, on the far side of New Jersey’s low mountains — Watchung, for example), the 105.9 signal won’t do as well as the 96.3 signal. But again, if you within line-of-sight, you’ll be okay. In other words, Maplewood (which I believe has line-of-signt) would be fine with 105.9, while Madison or Morristown would not. Then, the latter won’t do all that well with 96.3 either. As I said, there are no truly high-power stations in the Northeast metro regions.

  15. Edward Rosten’s avatar

    THANKS again…. And this, VERY briefly from my end:

    1) You or other readers might find this interesting:

    Post #58, I can assure you, is representative of “input” from people who’ve given ANY thought to how the proposed changes will play out. (“Power to the people” has yielded to “power to the 24/7 classical music station, whatever its name!”)

    2) AM radio? – interesting! … Only WNYC, he said snidely, would give that serious consideration, … but maybe it *IS* worth some thought.

    3) You didn’t answer my question about your typical Manhattan apt. dweller. He or she most certainly can NOT (as a rule) see the E.S.B. from any window in his/her home.

    I’m obviously no engineer, but since I get HD TV via OTA courtesy of a Terk or something on my terrace that DOES draw a bead on that tower, I’m wondering just how “forgiving” bricks, concrete, etc. are when it comes to radio signals.

    In a previous “reply,” you said that cars have it all over most residences. I have to think that goes “double” for NYC apartments. My point is that if folks living near Lincoln Center are not covered or “marginally” covered by 105.9, WNYC will be in much hotter water than if they “merely” lose a comparable number of listeners in the wilds of NJ. (Remember what their call letters are!)

  16. Doc Searls’s avatar


    First, I decided to move the continuing thread foward with a fresh post here. To address some of your other questions above, here goes…

    First, don’t dismiss AM radio. It still has plenty of listeners, and works well in cars for non-musical content, which is most of public radio. KCLU did a wonderful thing here in Santa Barbara by supplementing their tiny (four watt) but popular FM signal (a translator) by buying a full-power AM station in town. This was especially helpful when a fire burned down the FM transmitter on a mountain peak overlooking the city.

    Second, Manhattan (and other urban) apartment dwellers have it tough in any case. My wife’s business had two apartments in Manhattan in the 1980s and ’90s — one on W. 56th and another on W. 90th — neither with a view of the Empire State Building. All the New York FMs sounded like crap there. Only signals to the north (e.g. WFUV from the Bronx) sounded good. These days when we visit New York we stay with friends or in hotels. In every case the FM sounds awful. Either the signal is damaged by multipath or we’re so close to the ESB that some signals “blanket” others — a feature of modern FM tuners, which aren’t good at rejecting spurious effects of strong local signals. Another argument for using the Internet.

    Bricks, concrete, rebar and other common structural elements are rough on radio and TV, period. You’re lucky to be within sight of your OTA HDTV transmitters. If you’re not, you’re out of luck. I’ve tested a lot of OTA HDTV signals, and you’re not getting them without unobstructed views. Simple as that.

    Cellular telephony and breeds of wi-fi are meant to get around these problems by using many low-powered signals, some of which take advantage of reflections. This is another reason why, in the next ten years or so, most listening to radio will migrate from high-powered VHF and UHF transmitters to low-power wireless means, including cellular and wi-fi (or wi-fi-like) systems.

    Look at it this way. AM is 1920s technology. FM is 1940s technology. HDTV is 1990s technology. Cellular data (3g and up) and wi-fi (802.11n) are 2000s technology.

    I wouldn’t worry about the new WQXR in Manhattan. The big differences will be in the outer suburbs.

  17. Larry Quigley’s avatar

    The reception for 105.9 in the Red Bank area is marginal with a Bose AM/FM radio. What length single wire in the antenna ‘plug in’ would be most appropriate to improve the FM reception?

  18. jac’s avatar

    Relief that I can get WQXR, I am in manhattan. My clock radio which would otherwise wake me up with wqxr will not, so I’ll go to jazz.

  19. Alan’s avatar

    All you have to do is drive East on the Long Island Expressway. By the time you reach Exit 40 (a little bit East of Westbury) the WQXR FM signal is being buffetted by adjacent channels. By Plainview, Huntingon, Melville, and beyond, WQXR is buried by noise. Result: I’ve tuned back to 96.3 and have been enjoying the Latin music.

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