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side wall

WALL

[wawl]

WALL (1340 AM, "Radio Disney") is a radio station licensed to Middletown, New York that serves Orange County, New York. WALL is owned by Cumulus Media and broadcasts at 1340 kHz with 1 kilowatt daytime and nighttime, both nondirectional. It is one of the few Radio Disney stations not owned by the Walt Disney Company.

WALL simulcasts the Radio Disney programming of sister station 1390 WEOK in Poughkeepsie, a simulcast where WALL actually gets top billing based on numerical order. The simulcast with WEOK has been in place since 1999 and has lasted through three format changes.

History (to 1999)

WALL signed on in 1942, the first radio station in the western part of Orange County. Part of a parade of low-powered local stations that signed on in the period leading to and after the 1941 NARBA treaty and realignment, WALL originally sought the WMID calls (for MIDdletown). However, an FCC mixup led to another station at 1340 MHz in Atlantic City, New Jersey to get the WMID calls whereas the Middletown station got the WALL calls that were intended for Atlantic City (named after that city's sea WALL). Other stories insist that the call letters were indeed correct, and WALL was named for the Town of Walkill, which neighbors the city while WMID was named for nearby Middle Township, NJ where the station owner resided.

Identity crisis aside, WALL signed on with a full-service popular music format with a heavy amount of local news, and with only newspapers as competition were very successful. By the 1960s, WALL would evolve to a Middle of the Road format and in 1965 would add FM service at 92.7 MHz (today's WRRV). It was with the FM launch that WALL evolved into a Top 40 and during began to thrive. In the period between 1967 and 1977, under program directors, Larry Berger, Dave Charity and Jim Frey, WALL was virtually unbeatable in every ratings survey despite new local sign-ons and serious competition from New York signals including WABC and WNBC. In the late 1970's, WALL suffered a devastating fire which gutted its North Street studios, and forced the station to seek quarters in the abandoned block long Armory building in downtown Middletown.

In 1979, WALL and sister WKGL (the former WALL-FM) were purchased by a consortium headed by media mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman and legendary New York air personality Bruce Morrow ("Cousin Brucie"). Headquartering their group in Middletown at the Armory, by now re-christened Broadcast Plaza, major changes took place with WALL flipping to an Adult Standards format; WKGL, meanwhile, would go to an oldies/adult contemporary hybrid. The drastic change was not a long-term success and in 1985 WALL began to regroup by flipping to a higher energy oldies format. With this change came the acquisition of sports programming such as New York Mets baseball, New York Giants football, and various local sports and other community events. Additionally, WALL rehired some of the air talent from its Top 40 heyday, including Joe Ryan, and also became the first Hudson Valley radio station to include live, on-air traffic reports. By 1987, under program director Rob Dillman, WALL radio had achieved ratings higher than any point in the previous decade (according to the spring 1987 Arbitron ratings) and rivaling the peak years during the 1970's. WALL Radio proved that AM Radio is not dead by beating most of the New York City FM's that hit Orange County New York. Also, WPDH, WSPK, WHUD sat and wondered how WALL Radio got their high ratings. One of the best promotions in Hudson Valley radio is WALL Radio's "45th Anniversary Reunion Broadcast". This storied promotion occurred on the weekend of August 2-3, 1987 when the station celebrated its "45th" Anniversary...the station looked back to its past and reunited air personalities that weekend including Bruce Morrow, Howard Hoffman, Dave Charity, Dick Wells, Randy West, Gene Pelc, Art Livesey, Alex Miller, Jim Frey, Mark West, Jimmy Howes, Jim Pappas and Al Larson.

The community mindedness of WALL would be short lived as in 1988 Orange & Rockland Utilities purchased WALL and WKGL from Bell Broadcasting whom had purchased the station from Sillerman-Morrow. With the sale came a mass purge of staff with WALL flipping to a satellite News/Talk format in all but mornings. There would be no 50th Anniversary celebration.

In 1994, Orange & Rockland would sell WALL and WKOJ (ex-WKGL) to the Poughkeepsie-based Crystal Radio Group with the sale closing in early 1995. Though this meant initial changes on the FM side, WALL's ratings-depleted talk format would continue undisturbed. This would last for most of the rest of the 1990s. The memory of old Top-40 AM Radio died when WALL died.

WEOK simulcast history

(for a detailed history on these formats, see the article on WEOK)
While WALL was left alone and did moderately well given it's signal and status in the market, Crystal Radio had problems with WEOK given the aging demographics of that station's longtime adult standards format. Looking at an opportunity to fortify their holdings, in August 1999 Crystal decided to join WEOK with WALL and renovate WALL's talk format into a station that would target all of the Hudson Valley. On September 6, 1999, WEOK dumped pop standards and joined with WALL to simulcast talk, a format known as NewsTalk 13.

Up against the highly rated WABC from New York City, and sharing much of its programming, plus having programming that was considered to be too "Poughkeepsie-centric" by Middletown listeners, the NewsTalk 13 simulcast struggled to find an audience. In August 2000, the ESPN Radio programming that the station aired nights and weekends became the full-time format of the station. Soon, Aurora Communications would purchase the assets of the Crystal Radio Group. Both NewsTalk 13 and the ESPN Radio simulcast featured a large amount of sports rights including Yankees baseball, Giants and Jets football, and Marist College basketball.

Aurora's ownership of the station would prove to be short lived as in October 2001 they would be purchased by Cumulus Media, a deal that would close the next March. In September 2002, WALL and WEOK would flip to a Spanish language Hot AC format as El Ritmo ("The Rhythm"), the first Spanish-language station in the Hudson Valley.

Poor ratings and poor revenues led Cumulus to flip the stations in March 2005 to Radio Disney, ironically a format which the stations nearly had flipped to three years earlier.

External links

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