WKTI-FM (94.5 FM) is a Adult Top 40 and Hot AC-formatted radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, owned by Journal Communications, which also owns WTMJ-AM, WTMJ-TV and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, along with stations in other markets.
WTMJ-FM became WKTI, a stand-alone Top 40 station in 1974. The station was to be nicknamed I-94 (after the east-west interstate highway that runs through Milwaukee), so call letters had to be chosen to reflect the "I." Not surprisingly, an interstate shield was used for the station logo. Management decided that the station's call letters would start with a "W", obviously, and end with an "I", but couldn't agree on the middle two letters. Then-manager Jack Lee wanted the call letters WWWI, but DJ's did not like the idea of saying those call letters. Finally, one of the sales managers, who had a wife named Katie, suggested "KT" (as in "Ka'Tie) to fill the gap. Hence, WKTI was born.
I-94 called itself "nonstop stereo rock," and was automated until 1981, when live air personalities were brought aboard. In 1982, WKTI's morning show was originally anchored by Bob Reitman until being paired with Gene Mueller by Dallas Cole in mid 1982. Lips LaBelle joined a bit later as afternoon DJ and promotions director, Danny Clayton joined at the end of 1982 for nights and music director. This nucleus was together at the station for the next 15+ years. Program director Dallas Cole left in 1985 for WLS-FM but later returned as general manager at the age of 25. From WKTI Dallas Cole (now known by his real name, Jeff Rowe) went to VH1, NBC, and now AOL.
The station saw steady ratings and growth for many years until about 1999, when WXSS-FM (103.7) began to compete for WKTI's audience of mostly women with music from younger artists. Due to a morning show which had been on the air for fifteen years and longtime familiarity with the airstaff by listeners a full-blown reset of the station was impossible. Slow adjustments of the playlists towards "Hot AC" were made instead to attract new and younger listeners, including contests and a Friday playlist called Flashback Friday which featured mostly 80s music.
The Evolution to "The Hit Music Channel"
Starting in late 2005, WKTI slowly began evolving into a more current-based "Adult Top 40" format. It plays more artists similar to the artists that WXSS plays like Sean Kingston, Fergie, Justin Timberlake, and Avril Lavigne, though with much more of a balance between older artists and newer artists. In September 2006 the station no longer voiced out the "W" and the branding was changed to 94-5 'KTI, Milwaukee's Hit Music Channel.
The Morning Change
Bob Reitman of "Reitman, Mueller, and Amy Taylor too" retired at the end of 2006. Gene Mueller then briefly partnered with Amy Taylor and Gino Salamone as "Gene, Amy and Gino", until Taylor resigned in April 2007.
On May 15, 2007, WKTI and sister station WTMJ (AM) shifted their morning staff around, moving Gene Mueller to co-host WTMJ's Wisconsin Morning News. A brand new morning show was brought in to 'KTI, "Mathew Blades in the Morning", featuring Mathew Blades (from KWLI Denver), Erin Austin (from KSD-FM Saint Louis), and AJ (from WHYI in Miami).
More Changes: Nights
Nights at 'KTI also underwent a change at roughly the same time. Cindy Huber had hosted 7 p.m. to midnight for two years. She left 'KTI and soon was heard on afternoons at crosstown B93.3 (WLDB). The station chose to air syndicated programming after 7pm and picked up the John Tesh program, which has music chosen by WKTI played between Tesh giving out facts and tidbits between songs.
Other than the syndicated John Tesh show, WKTI has all local talent. Afternoon host Lips LaBelle has been at 'KTI for 25 years now.
For the first time in Milwaukee radio history, the station aired a Green Bay Packers game on FM on September 28, 2008 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, due to the higher priority of the Brewers wild card clinching game for the 2008 NLDS .