Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Back in 2015 when we first visited south Florida, we spent the better part of a day checking out the forest of tall towers that sits along the Broward/Miami-Dade county line, carrying the lion’s share of the TV and FM signals that serve the vibrant south Florida market.
We got close to the bases of nearly all of them, and inside transmitter buildings at three major sites.
But there was one that eluded our close scrutiny, because we didn’t have an engineer with us at that point who had the gate codes to get through all the gates that stand between public roadways and what was then informally called the “CBS Tower,” the westernmost of the seven tall sticks in the tower farm, almost all the way out to Florida’s Turnpike.
This 1049-foot candelabra was built in the early 1990s for what was then WTVJ (Channel 4) when it was owned by NBC; it became CBS’ tower after the 1995 swap that gave CBS channel 4 (now WFOR) – and the radio arm of CBS moved in here as well when it owned WKIS (99.9) and WPOW-FM (96.5).
It’s now an American Tower site, with multiple TV tenants that include WFOR and sister station WBFS (Channel 33), NBC’s WTVJ (Channel 6), what was then Tribune’s WSFL (Channel 39) and Univision’s WLTV (Channel 23).
We didn’t get in to any of the TV rooms, but we did see the two FMs here: even though American Tower installed a massive FM panel antenna on one arm of the candelabra and left lots of space for combiners and transmitters, it’s just two former CBS-owned FMs here, the main transmitter for WKIS (99.9) and the aux for WPOW-FM (96.5), which remained here even after changing hands from CBS to Beasley to Entercom.
It’s a big, clean room here with just the two FMs in one corner and a big loft area with just a relatively small combiner for this pair of signals.
As long as we’re out and about with the engineer who has the keys, we use this chance to see something else that eluded us on our 2015 visit: WPOW’s main transmitter room over at the Guy Gannett master FM tower less than a mile away.
We saw almost every other room in this fascinating facility back then, so it was nice to get inside this first-floor room to see the main Nautel and backup BE for “Power 96.5.”
(Where’s the aux for WKIS? A few miles to the north in Pembroke Pines in southern Broward County, just west of I-95, at the tower that’s also home to WHFT-TV, iHeart’s WBGG-FM 105.9 and SBS’ WXDJ 106.7.)
From here, it’s a long slog north in I-95 traffic to get to West Palm Beach for the night, then another long drive west the next morning across interior Florida en route to a few days in Fort Myers and then Sarasota. We saw a lot of the Palm Beach stations back in 2015, so there was only one new tower site on that leg of the trip: WBGF (93.5 Belle Glade) has its tower next to the water treatment plant in South Bay, near the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. This class C3 signal rimshots West Palm Beach from the west, and simulcasts a dance format (“Revolution Radio”) with another full-power FM, WZFL 93.5, in the Keys, as well as with 93.5 translators in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Thanks to Eddie Huerta for the tours!
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of south Florida IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Fort Myers