- WTCM (AM)
Infobox Radio station
name = WTCM
Traverse City, Michigan
area = [http://www.radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/pat?call=WTCM&service=AM&status=L&hours=D] (Daytime)
branding = NewsTalk 580
frequency = 580
power = 50,000
class = B
callsign_meaning = Traverse City, Michigan
Midwestern Broadcasting Company
WATZ, WATZ-FM, WBCM, WCCW, WCCW-FM, WCZW, WJZQ, WRGZ, WTCM, WTCM-FM
website = [http://www.wtcmradio.com www.wtcmradio.com]
WTCM is an
AM radiostation broadcasting in Traverse City, Michigan, operating on 580 kHz. The two stations are owned by Midwestern Broadcasting, which started WTCM-AM in 1940. Today, WTCM, along with FM sister WTCM-FMis at or near the top of the Arbitron ratings, and are part of a dying breed of family-owned-and-operated radio stations.
WTCM has a news/talk format, carrying syndicated talk shows hosted by
Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Levin, Jim Bohannonand Coast to Coast AM, plus local talk hosts Ron Jolly, Norm Jonesand Merlin Dumbrille. It is an affiliate of ABC Radio.
1939, WTCM founder Les Biedermanof Pennsylvaniaand several of his friends - engineer Bill Kikerand Drew McClayamong others - wanted to start a radio station, but in an undeveloped radio market. They decided that Traverse City, Michigan was a city destined for growth and had no local radio station, so they moved to the city and built the 250-watt transmitter that would be Traverse City's first radio station. WTCM initially broadcast from a small studio at the base of the tower. The WTCM-AM control console was hand built by Biederman and Kiker, and served the station until its replacement around 1980.
When WTCM signed on in 1940, it was a
local channelstation at 1370 kHz briefly before moving to 1400 kHz. The station was licensed to broadcast 24 hours at 250 watts, but only broadcast from 6 AM to 11 PM. WTCM was an NBC affiliate and like most radio stations at the time, aired block programming - some local shows, network shows, music programs, etc.
They soon outgrew the tiny studio and moved to the Anderson Building in the 100 block of downtown Traverse City in the mid 1940s. Long-time Midwestern employees
Kenn Havenand Merlin Dumbrille(who still works for the station) began working there in the 40's.
Because WTCM had a limited reach, Biederman wanted to start other small stations aimed exclusively towards the towns they broadcast in. After fighting in
World War II, Biederman started WATT1240 Cadillac, Michiganin 1945, WATZ 1450 Alpena, Michiganin 1946, WMBN1340 Petoskey, Michiganin 1947and WATC900 Gaylord, Michiganin 1950, all collectively known as the Paul Bunyan Network. All but WATC are still on the air today, but Midwestern still owns only WTCM and WATZ.
1950s and 1960s
1954, Biederman signed on NBC WPBN-TV7 in Traverse City, just months after the Traverse City market got its first TV station, Sparton's CBS/ABC/DuMont WWTV13 in Cadillac, now known as 9 & 10. In 1959, WPBN increased its reach to WTOM 4 in Cheboygan, bringing NBC shows to the eastern upper peninsula.
Big changes came to WTCM and the rest of the Paul Bunyan Network in the 1960s as the
FCCallowed local channel stations to increase their daytime power to 1,000 watts. All of the local channel stations complied, and boosted their power.
1964, long time WTCM air staffer Merlin Dumbrille started hosting the popular "Farm and Orchard Time" program, a WTCM staple since 1941. He still hosts the show today at age 74.
WTCM-AM became contemporary (as "
14-T") in 1975under the supervision of long-time Traverse City broadcaster Jerry Meyer, and saw major changes in the airstaff, including morning show host Kenn Haven moving to news. In 1977former WCCW afternoon host Lin McNett(" Michael O'Shea") became WTCM-AM's program director and morning personality.
The contemporary format was initially successful, but the 1977 format change of
WJML-FM, and the 1980entry of WKHQ-FM, both from north of Traverse City but with strong regional signals into the market caused the predictable result, and listeners gravitated over a period of a couple years to the stereo FM contemporary format signals. WTCM-AM became simulcast to the FM signal not long after that.
WTCM-FM became country in the early 1970s, at the urging of WTCM sales person
Leon Purchase, a local country musician, who was convinced that a country format would work in rural northern Michigan. Purchase convinced Biederman of this the old fashioned way, by making WTCM-FM - even though automated other than the morning simulcast period - a highly salable and accepted product in the market. Today that opinion is a well proven fact, as WTCM-FM maintains market dominance as the #1 rated station.
Les Biederman was not a fan of contemporary music or even less so country music, preferring to listen to classical music in his "pad", a private office in the rear of the adjacent co-owned
Midwestern Cablevisionbuilding (where their "Radio Center" complex now stands). The "pad" was a regular stop for notable politicians like Governor William Millikenand Senator Robert Griffin, among others. It was a short stroll for Les from "the pad" to the trunk of his car where he typically stored a case of his favored Velvobrand cigars. "They stay fresh out there in the trunk" he was known to say.
Biederman traditionally came to the WTCM studio (almost nightly) after the conclusion of the TV 7&4 newscast and recorded an editorial on topics of the day, and these editorials and his strong sense of local stewardship culminated (among other things) into a local college (
Northwestern Michigan College) and other more abstract realities including the city power plant converting from coal to wood as a source of fuel.
In the late 1970s, Biederman also began ambitious plans to increase the power of both WTCM AM and FM. In 1978, Biederman started turning over more of his duties to his son,
Ross Biederman. Because of FCC restrictions and WTCM's growth plans, several properties were sold, including the Petoskey and Cadillac stations (to MacDonald Broadcasting, founded by long-time Biederman broadcast pal Kenneth MacDonald) and the Gaylord station was sold to William Barr, but fell silent several owners later in the early 2000s due to financial troubles.
1980, Les Biederman traded WPBN-TV to US Tobaccofor stock, and became its largest individual shareholder.
1982, after years of planning, engineering and FCC permitting, a major change was made to WTCM-AM, which had since started simulcasting with WTCM-FM. The station was moved to its current position at 580 and boosted power to 2,500 watts daytime. The 1400 frequency was donated to a local church, who made the station Traverse City's first religious station, WLJN(We Lift Jesus' Name). WLJN broadcast from the original WTCM studio on Morgan Hill ("Radio Hill" to the locals), at the base of the 1400 kHz tower.
Les Biederman died in
1986after enjoying much of his leisure time on his boat "Happy Days".
In the late 1980s, WTCM-AM (and other AMs) were struggling. Although he has Democratic leanings, Ross Biederman decided to start airing
Rush Limbaugh's program because he thought it would help ratings, and made the station full-time news/talk.
1990s - present
With FCC restrictions lessening, it created opportunities for the younger Biederman to rebuild the Paul Bunyan Network. In the 1990s, he purchased or erected several stations in other northern markets, and designed them to rebroadcast his Traverse City signals.
WBCM93.5 Boyne City (formerly WCLX) simulcasted WTCM-FM and WKJF1370 Cadillac eventually simulcasted WCCW-AM. WKJF has since been donated to the same ministry that received the original 1400 signal, Good News Media(which changed the calls to WLJWin March 2004 and has since used it to simulcast WLJN-AM). Also, in the 1990s, Biederman purchased WCCW (AM)1310 (then standards from ABC's "Stardust" network, now sports from ESPN Radio) and FM 107.5 (oldies), which had been WTCM's primary local competitor in the "early days" after being founded by a former Midwestern employee, John Anderson, in 1960.
Recently, WTCM-AM boosted its power once again, this time to a full 50KW daytime, allowing its directional signal to penetrate Canada. They, however, only broadcast with 1,100 watts overnight. Because AM transmits mostly through groundwave signals, and Northern Michigan's terrain is mostly sand, transmission is difficult
Because of two generations of Biederman management and attention, and a faithful northern Michigan audience, WTCM-AM/FM are the clearly dominant stations in their given formats in the market.
* [http://www.michiguide.com/dials/rad-s/wtcmam.html Michiguide.com - WTCM History]
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