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Phoenix Radio History
by Alex Cosper

see also American Radio History

Phoenix radio has evolved with the rest of the nation since the beginning. The first commercial AM radio licenses in the market included KDYW and KFAD. By the early forties the AM dial included KOY (550), KTAR (620) and KPHO (1230). Over the years news, top 40, country and rock have been strong formats in the market. Guy Zapoleon, who programmed KZZP in the eighties, went on to become a successful national radio consultant.

At the end of the eighties the number one station in Denver was country station KNIX (1580 AM and 102.5 FM), owned by Buck Owens. Other top stations in the market at that time included Nationwide's contemporary hits leader KZZP (1310 AM and 104.7 FM), Phoenix's news/talk station KTAR and adult contemporary sister KKLT (98.7), Tri-city's album rocker KUPD (97.9), Group W's beautiful music station KMEO (740 AM and 96.9 FM) and Cook Inlet's classic rock combo KOPA (1440)/KLSX (100.7). Formidable format challengers included Edens' contemporary hits KOY (95.5), Sandusky's rocker KDKB and Shamrock's country station KMLE (107.9).

In the nineties, Owens continued to lead the market with KNIX. Shamrock sold KMLE to Chancellor, who kept the call letters and the country format and tightened the competition with KNIX. Other nineties market winners included KOOL (oldies, 94.5), KFYI (news, 910), KTAR (news/talk, 620), KOY (nostalgia. 550), KKFR (contemporary hits, 92.3), KUPD (album rock, 97.9) and KZZP (adult contemporary). There was also the alternative rivalry between Chancellor's KZON (The Zone, 101.5) versus New Century Arizona's KEDJ (106.3)/KHOT (100.3).

Following the Telecom Act of 1996, which reduced restrictions on ownership limits, several stations changed hands. In the 2000s Clear Channel owned eight stations in the market including KFYI, KYOT (Smooth Jazz), KNIX, KZZP (which returned to contemporary hits), KESZ, KMXP, KOY-AM and KGME-AM. Meanwhile, the other big radio group, Infinity became the owner of KOOL, KMLE and KZON.

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