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Houston Radio History
by Alex Cosper

see also American Radio History

One of the most distinguishing factors about the Houston-Galveston radio market has been the number of high-powered FMs. Most of the FM signals operate above 90,000 watts. These stations were exempt from the early sixties FCC power restrictions on FM since the stations were in place broadcasting above 50kw prior to the ruling.

The earliest AM radio licensees in Houston in the early twenties included The Houston Chronicle's WFAL, Alfred Daniel's WCAK, Will Horwitz Jr.'s WEAY, Hurlburt Still Electrical Company's WEV and QRV Radio's WGAB. The dial had completely changed by the early forties in which some of the key stations were KTRH (740), KPRC (950) and KXYZ (1470).

One of the most legendary stations in Houston radio history has been KPFT, a public station of the Pacifica Radio Network. It went on the air in 1970. It became the first public station to include over ten foreign language specialty shows in its programming.

Houston radio listeners have moved significantly away from what the market sounded like in the eighties. Toward the end of the decade the leading stations in the market were Keymarket's urban contemporary KMJQ (102.1), Legacy's country KILT (100.3), Viacom's country competitor KIKK (95.7), Rusk's rocker KLOL (101.1), Gannett's hit radio combo KKBQ (790 AM and 92.2 FM) and Group W's beautiful KODA (99.1). Susquehanna's KRBE (104.1) was a significant contemporary hits competitor, whereas Emmis' KNRJ (96.5) trailed the big players.

In the nineties Houston ratings were dominated by stations playing contemporary hits. Clear Channel's KBXX (97.9) and Susquehanna's KRBE were frequently top stations. KODA remained successful after it changed hands to SFX and became an adult contemporary station, rising to the top of the market in 1997. KMJQ, which adopted a more adult urban sound under Clear Channel, also appeared regularly near the top of the ratings. Two country outlets also did well during the period. They were CBS Radio's KILT (100.3) and Chancellor Media's combo KKBQ (790 AM and 92.9 FM).

Although rocker KLOL (101.1) had been a huge top three station in the eighties, Houston's love for the album rock format began to fizzle in the nineties, although KTBZ (The Buzz, 107.5) proved to be a more accepted brand of rock with its alternative format. The Buzz was owned by Nationwide and later Clear Channel. The only other station in the market playing rock music in the late nineties was KLOL (101.1), owned by Chancellor Media, which also ended up in the hands of Clear Channel, changing to Spanish.

In 2005 Houston's top station was adult urban KMJQ, belonging by Radio One, who also owns rhythmic top 40 leader KBXX. Susquehanna's KRBE is a strong competitor playing mainstream top 40. Clear Channel owns seven stations in the market which include adult contemporary KODA, Spanish KLOL, news KTRH-AM, news/talk KPRC-AM, alternative KBTZ, hot ac KHMX and classic rock KKRW. Other big radio groups in the market include Univision, Infinity and Cox.

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