The Air America radio network launched in March 2004, and after a slow start, began to pick up many new affiliates by the late summer. Yet Boston, despite being one of the most liberal markets in the country, did not yet have an affiliate. From the launch of the network, much of Air America’s growth was attributed to Clear Channel, which brought the format to failed AM stations in many markets. As it happened, Clear Channel just happened to have two stations in Boston that together would make a perfect home for the new format.
WXKS 1430 was a longtime adult standards station, the forgotten sister station of CHR station WXKS-FM. In 2001, WXKS was expected to change format to CNET Radio-provided technology talk, but the format ended up on Mega Communications’ WBPS 890, and the standards lived on.
Meanwhile, WKOX 1200 had a long history as a full service station for the western MetroWest suburbs, although recent years had led the station to brokered ethnic programming for the area’s Brazilian and Hispanic population. Longtime owner Richard Fairbanks had attempted to sell the station twice during the 1990’s, but neither sale was finalized. In 2001, Clear Channel acquired the station from the late Fairbanks’ estate, and followed through with his plans to move-in the station to Boston, with a city of license change to Newton and a power upgrade to 50,000 watts. Once the station was completed, Clear Channel initially planned to program either Fox Sports Radio or conservative talk from Premiere; but as RFI concerns and appeals were negotiated, the brokered programming on WKOX continued.
On October 1st, 2004, following the local “Bill Wightman Show” on WXKS, at 9:02AM, both stations ended their independent programming and began simulcasting a loop of Al Franken sound bites along with rock music, while including real commercial breaks. Finally, on October 4, 2004, at 6:00AM, following a rendition of Kate Smith’s “God Bless America”, WKOX and WXKS became “Boston’s New Progressive Talk, AM 1200 and 1430.”
Airchecks & Summary contributed by Justin Tardiff.