WATZ is a group of three radio stations based in Alpena, Michigan. WATZ (1450) is a 1,000 watt news/talk station. WATZ-FM (99.3) is a 50,000 watt country station and is the flagship of the group. Its signal is repeated by 42,000 watt WRGZ (96.7) in nearby Rogers City. All three stations are owned by Midwestern Broadcasting Company.
WATZ-AM signed on the air in November, 1946 as a full-service local radio station and was, for many years, the only broadcaster in Alpena. In the late 1960s, WATZ-FM signed on as an adult contemporary station at 93.5 FM. By this time, the format of WATZ-AM was primarily country. In 1988, the format of WATZ-FM was changed to country and the signal moved to 99.3 so the station could boost its power from 3,000 to 50,000 watts. For the next several years, WATZ-FM and WATZ-AM simulcasted the same programming. In the mid-90s, WATZ-AM was broken off from WATZ-FM and given its current news/talk format. WATZ-FM became a 24-hour broadcaster in 1999, using a satellite feed from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Prior to this, the station went off the air at 1 a.m.
WRGZ began as the 26,000 watt WMLQ, "Mello-Q", an adult contemporary station at 97.7 FM, in 1984. The station went through numerous changes during the 1990s, including a move to the current 96.7 frequency and a long-running adult standards format as "Silver 97." In 1998, the station was purchased by Xavier University in Cincinnati and converted into a public radio station. It became a repeater of WVXU, the public radio station operated by the university, and its call letters were changed to WVXA. WVXA also featured a small amount of local programming in additiont o the WVXU simulcast.
In August 2005, WVXA was sold to Cincinnati Public Radio, although it continued to serve as a repeater of WVXU. At the same time, the station's power was increased to 42,000 watts. Cincinnati Public Radio was not interested in retaining ownership of WVXU's repeater stations outside Ohio and sold the station to Midwestern in March 2006. After the sale was closed the following May, its call letters were changed to WRGZ and it began repeating WATZ. WRGZ allows WATZ's programming to be heard in areas where the 99.3 FM signal is not heard clearly, as far north as Cheboygan and into the eastern Upper Peninsula.
WATZ-FM remains locally owned and operated by the same company that founded it in 1946. All of its programming from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and during the day on weekends (except for syndicated shows such as Country Top 40, Rowdy Yates' Country Gold show, and The Road) is broadcast from the station’s studios in downtown Alpena.
Steve Wright is the station’s operations and programming director, with Susie Martin serving as music director. The station sponsors a listener appreciation concert at Alpena’s "Brown Trout Festival" each summer and also sponsors a country concert at the Alpena County Fair every year.
Legendary WATZ air personality (and Michigan Country Music Hall of Famer) Don Parteka]was a member of the air staff at WATZ from 1968 until his death in 2005, most recently serving as host of the station's popular Sunday polka show Sunday In Poland, as well as weekend features Country Gold and Gospel Music Time. Sunday in Poland has continued on since Parteka's death, although its time slot has shifted several times.
Weekend programming includes "Sunday in Poland" with Mike Markowski and Clem and Elain Misiak and nationally syndicated shows such as "Bill Cody's Classic Country Weekend" (Sunday nights), Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 (Sunday afternoons), Westwood One's "Country Gold Show" (Saturday nights), "Country Hitmakers" hosted by Devon O'Day, "The Road" showcasing live performances, and "Z-Max Racing Country" hosted by Paul Schadt and Cathy Martindale.
From 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. each night, WATZ-FM airs Jones Radio Networks' "U.S. Country" format.