WWTC (1280 AM, "The Patriot") is a long-standing radio station serving the Twin Cities region. Despite its up-and-down history, the station spawned two of the area's major television stations and had some very innovative and unusual periods in its history. Today it is owned by Salem Communications and broadcasts a conservative talk radio format. In fact, the stations success led Salem to change the format of KYCR 1570 AM to "The Patriot II" from 2002 to early 2007 (after which the station switched to a western-suburban-focused lineup of syndicated shows)
The station now known as WWTC is one of the oldest in the Twin Cities area. Since its inception, the station has gone through many formats, call letter and ownership changes.
The station began as WRHM on August 10, 1925, and was part of NBC's Blue Network. It was purchased in 1934 by Twin Cities Newspapers, a company representing the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Tribune, and changed its call letters to WTCN at that time. The station remained an NBC Blue station through the network's selloff, becoming an American Broadcasting Company (ABC) affiliate in the 1940s. The station kept the ABC affiliation until December 31, 1962.
The station had an experimental frequency modulation transmitter by 1939. W9XTC at 26.05 MHz operated for several years, but by 1944 was only being activated intermittently. Area station KSTP-AM also experimented with the medium around this time, as did WCCO-AM.
WTCN-TV began broadcasting on channel 4 on July 1, 1949, becoming the second modern station in the state after KSTP-TV took to the air a year earlier. However, WTCN's owners decided to sell the stations, and the TV station was sold to WCCO radio on August 17, 1952 and soon changed its call letters. This TV station switched to the CBS affiliation of its parent company.
WTCN-AM's new owners quickly applied for a new license for channel 11, but had to negotiate with WMIN for the frequency. The two stations arranged to share the broadcast day, alternating every two hours. This became the area's third station, and kept the WTCN call sign until 1985 when it became known as WUSA. The TV station was merged and sold to the H.M. Bitner Group in 1955 and eventually was owned by Metromedia for many years. Gannett is the current owner. WTCN-TV had no network affiliation for many years, but picked up the NBC affiliation in 1979 during a marketwide affiliate switch. The station is now known as KARE. Prior to the station's current studio location in Golden Valley, its studios were in the Calhoun Beach Hotel on Lake Street.
WTCN Radio was sold in 1964, and the call letters became WWTC. In 1970, the station began broadcasting 24 hours a day. The AM station was twice located in the Wesley Temple office building in downtown Minneapolis on East Grant Street and on 2nd Avenue a few doors down from WCCO-AM.
Over the years, WWTC had a number of formats, including the distinction of being the Twin Cities' first all-news radio station in the mid-late 1970s. In 1979, WWTC switched to an oldies format known as the "Golden Rock" and achieved its highest ratings in years. With a number of quirky DJs such as "Ugly Del" Roberts and Steve "Boogie" Bowman, the station managed to win an audience in spite of notable mismanagement. During its "Golden Rock" days, WWTC might have been the only Twin Cities station with an attorney on staff moonlighting as a disk jockey. Paul Bergstrom, who practiced law by day in St. Paul, worked a late-night shift for a time in the late '80s under the name Max Adams (the name was derived from those of his two young children). Because of his extensive knowledge of the format's music, Bergstrom was originally brought in by a friend on staff to help build the station's music library.
Ironically, during its oldies years, WWTC claimed to be the first commercial station in the Twin Cities area to play music from local favorite Prince.
The "Golden Rock" format fizzled after a few years, and the station went through a long string of format changes. In November 1984, WWTC adopted a unique locally-oriented urban contemporary/alternative rock hybrid format that they called "Metro Music." In September 1985, "Metro Music" gave way to an ill-fated all-weather format, soon switching to Nostalgia with new call letters KSNE (as Sunny 1280). The weather format didn't last long and soon, the station became known as "The Breeze," an early and more diverse form of what is now known as "Smooth Jazz." By 1988, the station switched back to WWTC and returned to the 'golden rock' format.
The station was sold to Christopher Dahl in 1990 and became "Radio AAHS." The new format was rather unusual, in that it broadcast music and programming aimed at children under the age of twelve. This also provided a modicum of stability for a while, and the station became the flagship of Children's Broadcasting Corporation. Children's Broadcasting eventually came to own several radio outlets and had its content reach a network of 29 stations across the United States (Aahs World Radio) by about 1996. Disney was working with the station around this time as a marketing partner, and ABC co-opted the format, launching Radio Disney on November 18, 1996. KQRS's 1440 AM signal was an intitial flagship, being renamed to KDIZ. WWTC and "Radio Aahs" could no longer compete, and after being tied up in a lawsuit filed against Disney, "Radio Aahs" was discontinued in January 1998. In 2002, the former Children's Broadcasting owners (who now operate Intelefilm) won a court case against Disney, and were awarded $9.5 million. Payments totaling $12.4 million, including $2.6 million in interest, were finally made in 2004.
Following the demise of "Radio Aahs," Children's Broadcasting enlisted longtime area programmer, DJ and pirate broadcaster Alan Freed to keep the ten stations the company owned from going completely dark until they could be sold. Freed, in addition to having worked at WWTC during its "Golden Rock" era and "Metro Music" period in the mid '80s, had set up a pirate radio station in downtown Minneapolis in 1996, broadcasting electronic dance music from his apartment on 97.7 FM. Beat Radio garnered a positive response from the public but was shut down by the FCC after operating at 20 watts for a few months. "Beat Radio" aired across Children's Broadcasting's stations between the shutdown of Radio Aahs in February and the final approval of a sale in October to a company planning to run a syndicated service called "Catholic Family Radio." When CFR went bankrupt in 2000, the company sold their stations, including WWTC, to Salem Communications.
In 2004, Freed joined XM Satellite Radio to program three of its dance channels.
Following the purchase by Salem, WWTC began simulcasting the programming of new sister station KKMS, until a new studio in KKMS' Eagan facilities could be constructed. On March 19, 2001 the station was branded "The Patriot."
The "Patriot" branding was a product of Salem. The station became a syndicated talk outlet, broadcasting Salem's stable of conservative hosts via satellite. The weekday lineup is based around nationally-syndicated hosts Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, and Jerry Doyle. The station currently broadcasts four local political talk shows on the weekend; "Taxpayers League Live", hosted by Taxpayers League of Minnesota leader David Strom, and the three programs from the Northern Alliance Radio Network, a group of local bloggers.
Salem also ran "The Patriot II" on sister station KYCR in Golden Valley. KYCR's program schedule was initially almost the same as WWTC (with the addition of Bill O'Reilly's midday show and mostly aired repeats of shows already on WWTC. However, in 2005 the KYCR was forced by FCC simulcasting rules to expand its programming to other syndicated shows. In 2007, KYCR changed to a separate talk format called "AM 1570: The New Talk of the Twin Cities".