May 27, 2011

Some Philadelphia Sites, 2009

The last time your editor made it to the NAB Radio Show, it was September 2009 and the show was in Philadelphia - and with some time to spare between the end of the Radio Show and the Binghamton Radio Reunion a few days later, it was the perfect excuse for a little road trip to see some sights in eastern and central Pennsylvania that we needed to add to the Site of the Week collection.

The week of an NAB show is usually a bad time to try to get tours in the host city, since the local engineers are often busy, so we didn't get in to see very much in Philadelphia itself. (And that means we still need to get back down that way at some point soon...stay tuned!)

But we dd get in to one brand-new broadcast facility: ABC-owned WPVI-TV (Channel 6) had just moved into its new building, and while we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, we can at least tell you a little about it.

In the mid-1960s, channel 6 (then WFIL-TV) and WFIL-AM/FM relocated from their studios at 46th and Market Street in West Philadelphia to suburbia, setting up shop at the corner of City Line Avenue and Monument Road (right across the street from WCAU radio and TV) in what became lovingly known as the "concrete donut," a cylindrical structure that was the state of the art back then.

But even after the radio stations moved out, the "donut" eventually became too small, and in 2009 ABC built a much larger building on what had been the parking lot next door. The new building is itself state-of-the-art for the early 21st century, built around a huge, light-filled newsroom flanked by two studios, HD control rooms and offices. And the "donut"? Not long after our visit, the wrecking ball arrived, leveling this broadcast landmark.

Next up come a few sites in Philadelphia's western suburbs, starting with a fairly new one.

WFYL (1180 King of Prussia) came to the Philadelphia market in 2006, one of Alex Langer's move-ins - this time from McConnellsburg, a hundred miles or so to the west. Out there, the station was WVFC, a daytimer on 1530 - but in its new incarnation, it's a 1000-watt daytimer with a much more favorable dial position and a most unusual tower site: its Valcom whip antenna sits smack in the middle of the Jeffersonville Golf Club!

Nearby are several other sites we've seen before, but we're happy to get some nice shots of them on a lovely September afternoon: a mile or so north of WFYL on Germantown Pike sits the unusual site that started out as the home of daytimer WTEL (860) but now houses two stations.

Beasley's 860 (now WWDB) and Greater Media's WPEN (950) aren't exactly diplexed out here, though: this is only the night site for WPEN, signing on at sunset when WWDB signs off. From here, WPEN enjoys much more substantial coverage of metro Philadelphia, especially the western suburbs, than it did from the site on 77th Street in southwest Philadelphia that was once its fulltime site and is still used by day.

And then there's "Gospel Highway 11," WNAP (1110 Norristown), on a little hilltop a couple of miles east of WWDB/WPEN and WFYL. WNAP runs 4800 watts by day, 500 watts during critical hours from these three towers behind its studio building.

With this week's installment, we kick off a new set of Site of the Week/ crossovers - join us over on our sister site each Wednesday to hear some of the legal IDs we recorded while taking these pictures!

- Find out when the new Tower Site is posted, and much more! Follow us on Twitter @NERadioWatch - and don't miss your chance to order the all-new Tower Site Calendar 2011, now on CLEARANCE at the store!