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Miami Radio History
by Alex Cosper

see also American Radio History

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood radio market has been one of the top fifteen markets in the country for decades. With the heavy Hispanic population, the market was one of the earliest in the nation to embrace successful Latin formats. Even the top 40 stations over the years have leaned toward Latin artists over the years.

One of the earliest AM radio licensees in Miami was WFAW, owned by the Miami Daily Metropolis. Other heritage call letters in the market that go back decades include WQAM and WIOD, which has kept the same call letters on 610 AM since the forties.

Spanish stations did well even back in the eighties, prior to the national trend that sparked a decade later. SBS owned the Spanish combo WCMQ AM and FM (1210 and 92.3) while Susquehanna also owned a Spanish combo, WQBA AM and FM (1140 and 107.5). Mambi Sa owned Spanish WAQI (710). WQBA-AM, WCMQ-FM and WAQI-AM appeared in the top ten frequently by the end of the decade.

The top music station of the late eighties was WHQT (105.1), owned by EZ Communications, playing urban contemporary music. WPOW (96.5), owned by Beasley, was usually the top music choice for young people with tight competition from WHYI (100.7), owned by Metroplex, prior to WHQT's surge to the top in 1989. The top music station overall for most of the late eighties, however, was the beautiful elevator musicbox, WLYF (101.5), owned by Jefferson-Pilot. In the nineties it still did well as an adult contemporary station.

While news/talk began to escalate nationally, the format did not do as well in Miami, although Cox's, WIOD (610) was a top five station at times in the late eighties. Guy Gannett's WINZ (940) and Jefferson-Pilot's WNWS (790) consistently were the runner-up news stations. Country music has also not been particularly successful in Miami over the years, making it a much different market than most "Southern" areas.

In the nineties the leader for hit music was the rhythmic WPOW. It was also the market's number one (12+) station in Arbitron at times. Although WHYI trailed in the ratings with their more pop-oriented approach to contemporary hits, WPOW faced stronger competition from the urban stations. After Cox Radio picked up WHQT (105.1), it moved in a more adult urban direction while Chancellor's WEDR (99.1) catered to the younger urban audience. Both stations consistently made the top five.

The nineties marked the rise of Spanish stations gaining market share. The leading Spanish news/talk station was Heftel's WAQI (710), which also became the market's most successful AM station. Sister FM station WAMR (107.5) played Spanish adult contemporary hits. The other Spanish AC at the time was SBS' WRMA (106.7). Several other Spanish stations appeared in the market further down the ratings list. Tropical music also gained ground throughout the decade via SBS' WXDJ (95.7).

Another anomaly about Miami was that in the nineties it was one of the first markets to show a deterioration of the rock format. Although the once legendary WZTA (94.9) made somewhat of a comeback under Clear Channel playing current rock, the other legendary rock stations had disappeared. In the eighties there had been rockers WGTR (97.3), owned by Cox and WSHE (103.5), owned by TK, in addition to WZTA, which played classic rock under the ownership of Guy Gannett.

By 1997 Clear Channel also owned seven stations in the market: Smooth Jazz WLVE (93.9), WHYI, WZTA, classic rock WBGG (105.9), news/talk WIOD (610), news WINS (940) and Hot AC WPLL (103.5).

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