A few months ago, we showed you some pictures of Jacksonville, Florida's oldest radio station, now known as WFXJ (930). Those pictures were tied into the brand-new Tower Site Calendar 2013, and now that it is 2013 and we're done previewing everything that's now on your wall (right?), it's time to break out more of those sunny, warm Florida pictures from February 2011 to counter the chill of Rochester in January.
Jacksonville was the first stop in a ten-day Florida excursion that took us all the way down the east coast as far as Melbourne, down the west coast from St. Petersburg to Fort Myers and through a broad swath of central Florida from Gainesville to Orlando. (There was also a space shuttle launch and Red Sox spring training, but we digress.)
Back to Jacksonville: with fellow ex-New Englander Ron Gitschier playing tour guide, our first day in North Florida was chock-full of facility visits, and the very first one was along Hogan Road, the short stretch of road southeast of downtown Jacksonville that's home to nearly all the city's TV stations and most of its FMs as well.
We begin our tour at 8675 Hogan Road, today a tower site owned by SBA Towers but at one time the studio and transmitter location of Jacksonville's original UHF independent station, WAWS (Channel 30). There's a strong Rochester connection buried under the foliage that's overtaken the old studio building at the front of the property: when WAWS made its debut in 1981, it was a Malrite-owned sister station to Rochester independent WUHF (Channel 31), with a nearly-identical logo and all.
Like WUHF, WAWS joined Fox as a charter affiliate in 1986; unlike WUHF, WAWS was sold to Clear Channel in 1989, becoming one of the company's first TV outlets.
Clear Channel eventually added a second station in the market, WTEV (Channel 47), which went from UPN to CBS during an affiliation shakeup in 2002. By 2003, Clear Channel had rebuilt the tower out back here at 8675 Hogan, erecting the current 1043-foot candelabra with new transmitter structures serving WAWS, WTEV, several Clear Channel FM signals and the local public broadcaster, WJCT-TV/FM (Channel 7/89.9).
When we visited in January 2011, Clear Channel's lineup here included three FM signals feeding that big 10-bay Dielectric on one tine of the candelabra: top-40 WFKS (97.9 Neptune Beach, now WNWW); country WQIK-FM (99.1) and oldies WJGH (107.3 Green Cove Springs, now "Jack" WWJK); a year later, a fourth FM was moved in here, WJBT (93.3 Callahan). The other tines of the tower carried the DTV antennas for WAWS (Channel 30/RF 32)/WTEV (Channel 47/RF 19) and WJCT (Channel 7/RF 7).
Clear Channel's 2007 sale of its TV stations to Newport Television separated the radio and TV arms of the Jacksonville cluster, with consequences we'll see in a little bit; at this site, TV and radio were in separate transmitter rooms anyway, and we didn't get to see the TV room, nor WJCT's building. (WJCT-FM's 12-bay antenna sits, side-mounted, just below the candelabra; WJCT-TV went back to RF 7 after the DTV transition and is top-mounted on one of the tines.)
We did get to see the FM room, where each Clear Channel FM has a similar layout, with a Harris Z-series transmitter for HD and a Continental 816 for analog, backed up by a second older Continental. If memory serves, the photo above shows WQIK on the right and the lower-powered 97.9 transmitter on the left; below, we see WJGH and, I think, a WQIK backup. That three-station combiner shown below at right added an extra set of filters in 2012 and was, I believe, moved to a new room in the building.
There's one more FM on this tower, lower down: religious WTRJ (91.7); I'm not sure where its transmitter is located.
The "Channel 30" tower is the westernmost in the Hogan Road farm, and from here we can look east about half a mile to see three more towers that occupy the central section of the farm.
On the north side of the road (at left in the eastward-looking view on the left, at right in the view looking west from the east end of Hogan below) is the very first tower that was erected out here.
When WJKS (Channel 17) signed on from a studio and tower at 9117 Hogan Road in 1966, it was the first UHF station on the air here in almost a decade. Jacksonville's first UHF station, WJHP-TV (Channel 36), had operated from Phillips Highway, about three miles to the west, from 1953 until 1957, dying (as did so many early UHF stations) when a second VHF station came on the air that year, taking WJHP's prized NBC affiliation. In 1966, WJKS signed on with ABC; in 1980, it swapped affiliations with NBC outlet WTLV (Channel 12, descendant of WFGA-TV, the 1957 sign-on that killed off WJHP-TV); in 1988, WTLV and WJKS swapped back - and then in 1997, ABC moved to a new station in town, WJXX (Channel 25), turning WJKS into WJWB, a WB affiliate. Since 2006, Channel 17 has been CW affiliate WCWJ, and it still operates from its original studio here on Hogan Road.
There's an FM on this tower, too, and it has a long history: WKTZ is a noncommercial station now, on 90.9, but it's the descendant of the original FM in the Hogan Road farm. The original WKTZ-FM was an AC/easy listening hybrid on 96.1, a frequency that had been donated to Jones College after starting out as WMBR-FM, sister to WMBR (1460) and WMBR-TV (Channel 4). In 1967, Jones moved 96.1 from the WMBR-TV tower just south of downtown over here to the WJKS tower, and Jones has been here ever since. (96.1 was eventually sold back into commercial operation and is once again downtown; we'll catch up with it later, too.)
Across the street from channel 17 sit two towers and a studio. When we drove by in 2011, the studio at 9090 Hogan Road belonged to a station that wasn't even transmitting from here: WJXL (1010 Jacksonville Beach), whose six-tower array far to the west of Jacksonville we wouldn't see until the very end of the trip more than a week later. Today, WJXL's sports format is simulcast on WJXL-FM (92.5 Jacksonville Beach), which moved its transmitter site to one of the towers behind the 9090 Hogan building not long after our visit.
The taller tower behind 9090 Hogan (at left in the view above) is another recent arrival: it's a 1061-footer that now belongs to American Tower, capped with an 8-bay Alan Dick panel antenna that carries Cox's WJGL (96.9), WXXJ (102.9) and WFYV (104.5). It's WFYV, by the way, that was the original occupant of the 9090 Hogan studio buildng, dating back to the 1980s. The tower also carries TBN station WJEB (Channel 59/RF 44) and a religious FM, WCRJ (88.1).
A much shorter tower right next to the Cox tower (the stub, I think, of the original WFYV tower) holds aux antennas for the Cox FMs and now the main antenna for WJXL-FM on 92.5.
There's another tall tower just west of here (at center in the east-side view above) that's largely vacant these days. The only primary station on that tower is Cox's WOKV-FM (106.5), the class A simulcast of its big news-talk AM, WOKV (690), another station we'll see in greater detail in a later Site of the Week installment - but there's history here: this 1027-foot tower was the analog site of WTEV (Channel 47) going back to its days as religious WXAO-TV in the 1970s and independent WNFT in the 1980s.
Continuing southwest on Hogan, across busy Southside Boulevard and into a residential neighborhood, we arrive at the end of the road and the end of the tower farm, where we find another relatively new community tower. Reached from a driveway to the north off Anders Boulevard, this 996-foot tower was built in 1985 by WJXT (Channel 4) and WTLV (Channel 12), replacing their original tower sites near downtown, which we'll see in a future installment.
The arrival of the market's two heritage VHF stations out here pretty much cemented Hogan Road as the spot where every TV antenna in the market was pointed, which proved to be a bit of a challenge when the ABC affiliation shifted in 1997 to Allbritton's new WJXX (Channel 25), which was licensed to and transmitted from Orange Park, far to the south. WJXX simulcast for a time on WBSG (Channel 21) in Brunswick, Georgia to better reach the north end of the market, but that simulcast ended when WJXX went into a duopoly with WTLV in 2000. With the arrival of DTV, WJXX moved its transmitter (on RF 10) up here to the WTLV/WJXT tower, and today this site carries all three stations' DTV signals: ABC affiliate WJXX (Channel 25/RF 10), NBC affiliate WTLV (Channel 12/RF 13) and independent WJXT (Channel 4/RF 42).
That's it for Hogan Road, but not for this installment. Remember we'd noted earlier that Clear Channel had a combined radio-TV cluster in Jacksonville for several years? Those stations were combined not only at the Hogan Road transmitter but also, eventually, at a common studio facility just a couple of miles to the west, in an industrial park at 11700 Central Boulevard. The TV stations were up front, the radio stations in the middle and Clear Channel Outdoor out back, and it all worked well...until Clear Channel sold off its TV operations to Newport in 2007. The corridors that connected TV to radio were walled up, and each side went its own way. (It got a bit weirder, presumably, when in 2012 Newport sold the Jacksonville TV cluster to Cox - which just happens to be Clear Channel's big radio competitor in town.)
We had a quick late-night tour of the Clear Channel Radio studios in 2011, and here's a bit of what we saw. Country WQIK is the 800-pound gorilla of this cluster, and it gets all the toys: a new Harris digital console and a double-size studio (created by breaking down a wall to what had been a production room) that accommodates a separate table for the morning show. Along the corridor, smaller studios are home to the other FMs in the cluster (at the time, urban "Beat" WJBT 93.3, top-40 "Kiss" WFKS 97.9, R&B "V101" WSOL 101.5 and oldies WJGH 107.3) and sports WFXJ (930).
There's a showcase studio in the front of the building that faces out to the lobby and can be used by any of the stations, and a sizable rack room neatly organized by station, with some of the connectivity (ISDNs and such) that need to be used by the air talent accessible from a set of racks facing out into the hallways.
Think you've seen a lot of Jacksonville now? This was just part of the first day of our visit - in next week's installment, we'll show you more of Jacksonville's AMs and take a quick spin past some downtown TV studios, too!
Thanks to Ron Gitschier and Clear Channel's Rich Clemons for the tours!
It's 2013! Do you have your Tower Site Calendar 2013 yet? We've still got some left, and they're shipping right away from the all new Fybush.com store! Order now and your wall can be festooned with Jacksonville and much more all through 2013. (We've also got the very last FM Atlas copies available for sale, and the new edition of the National Radio Club's AM Log.)
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Next week: Jacksonville 2011, part 2