|First air date May 1922|
Transmitter coordinates (NAD27)
City of license Philadelphia
Owner CBS Radio
|Power 50,000 watts|
Facility ID 9634
Frequency 1210 kHz
Format Talk radio
Branding Talk Radio 1210 WPHT
|Broadcast area Philadelphia metropolitan area|
Area Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sister stations KYW-TV, KYW, WTDY-FM, WIP-FM, WOGL, WXTU, WPSG
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WPHT (1210 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station licensed to serve Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The station is owned by CBS Radio and broadcasts a talk radio format. Its transmitter and broadcast tower are located in Moorestown, New Jersey and its studios are at 2 Bala Plaza in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
WPHT uses HD Radio on its AM signal 24 hours a day. The station's programming is also available to listeners with an HD Radio receiver via a simulcast on the HD3 subchannel of sister station WOGL.
WPHT programming is mostly conservative talk-radio with a focus on issues local to the Delaware Valley, in addition to nationally syndicated shows. Local news briefs are heard on weekdays.
WPHT was the flagship station for Philadelphia Phillies baseball for 32 years, until the 2016 season, when co-owned 94.1 WIP-FM became the exclusive Philadelphia radio home for the games.
WPHT airs Temple University football and men's basketball.
The station first began broadcasting in May 1922 as WCAU, a 250-watt station operating out of electrician William Durham's home at 19th and Market Streets. It is Philadelphia's third-oldest radio station, having signed on two months after WIP (now WTEL) and WFIL. In 1924, WCAU was sold to law partners Ike Levy and Daniel Murphy. Murphy later bowed out in favor of Ike's brother, Leon, a local dentist.
The station began its long association with CBS in 1927, when it was one of 16 charter affiliates of the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System, a network airing the CBS' first program on September 18, 1927. The network struggled to find advertisers, however, and William S. Paley, who had previously purchased time on the station for an entertainment program promoting his family's La Palina cigars, bought the network with $500,000 of his family's money and renamed it the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Actor Paul Douglas began his career at WCAU, where he worked as an announcer and sportscaster from 1928 to 1934.
In 1930, WCAU initiated a shortwave radio service, operating under the call sign W3XAU. It is believed that this was the first license issued by the FCC for a commercial international shortwave broadcast station. Initially W3XAU simulcast WCAU programming, but eventually original programming was created specifically for international listeners. W3XAU, later WCAI, then WCAB, was closed down in 1941 as CBS consolidated various shortwave operations. The 10 kW shortwave transmitter was disassembled, and WCAU staff were told that it was sent to England to aid the BBC war propaganda efforts. However, the transmitter was actually sent to Camp X, a secret World War II paramilitary and commando training facility located near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, becoming part of the Hydra signals intelligence and communications program.
A series of power increases brought the station to 50,000 watts, with a new 50,000-watt transmitter dedicated October 2, 1932. The Levy brothers eventually became major stockholders in CBS, and were members of the network's board for many years.
On December 26, 1932, WCAU moved to a new facility at 1622 Chestnut Street. Broadcasting (magazine) called it "a thoroughly modern 9-story building ... erected especially for the WCAU Broadcasting Co." The building included eight studios and "a special office for Leopold Stokowski, director of the Philadelphia Orchestra."
The Levys agreed to sell WCAU-AM-FM to The Philadelphia Record in 1946. However, the Record folded shortly thereafter, and its "goodwill"—including the rights to buy WCAU-AM-FM—passed to the Philadelphia Bulletin, which already owned WPEN-AM-FM, and had secured a construction permit for WPEN-TV (channel 10). In a complex deal, the Bulletin sold off WPEN and WCAU-FM, while changing WPEN-FM's calls to WCAU-FM and WPEN-TV's calls to WCAU-TV. The Levys continued to run the stations while serving as consultants to the Bulletin, and it was largely due to their influence that WCAU-TV took to the air on May 23, 1948 as a CBS affiliate. The stations moved to a new studio in Bala Cynwyd in 1952.
In 1957, the Bulletin sold WCAU-AM-FM-TV to CBS. This came because the Bulletin had recently bought WGBI-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania and changed its call letters to WDAU-TV to complement WCAU. However, the two television stations' signals overlapped so much that it constituted a duopoly under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules of the time. CBS had to get a waiver to keep its new Philadelphia cluster. In addition to significant overlap of the television stations' grade B signals, the FCC normally did not allow common ownership of clear channel stations with overlapping nighttime signals.
In the 1960s, WCAU gradually began moving away from music programming; by 1967 it had become a talk station with considerable strengths in news and sports (all of Philadelphia's major professional sports teams had WCAU as their flagship radio station at one time or another). Although the station's ratings were good, in the mid-1970s, CBS made a corporate decision to move WCAU to an all-news format. The station never caught up to established all-news outlet KYW, and by 1980, WCAU was making moves to reclaim its heritage as a talk and sports leader. However, FM talk station WWDB had established itself as a strong competitor, and WCAU struggled for years to attract listeners and establish a consistent image.
On August 15, 1990, CBS abruptly changed the WCAU call letters to WOGL after 68 years and dropped the talk format in favor of oldies, partially simulcast with its FM sister station, by then WOGL-FM. In 1993, the AM station began running sports talk after 7 PM. The station went all-sports as WGMP (The Game) on March 18, 1994. However, once again, the station was taking on an entrenched competitor—this time WIP—and WGMP's largely syndicated program lineup won few listeners away from WIP's heavily local schedule.
A year later, CBS merged with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, thus making 1210 AM a sister station to its ancient rival, KYW. With this move, the higher-rated KYW became the flagship station of CBS Radio's Philadelphia cluster. Realizing that WGMP would never be able to compete against WIP, CBS began phasing out the sports talk shows in the summer of 1996. Finally, on August 23, 1210 AM went all-talk once again as WPTS (We're Philadelphia's Talk Station). The call letters changed again less than a month later to the current WPHT to avoid confusion with nearby Trenton, New Jersey's WPST. Ironically, only a year later, WIP became a sister station to WPHT when CBS merged with its owner, Infinity Broadcasting Corporation (at the time part of Viacom).
On April 9, 2012, CBS announced it would move "The Michael Smerconish Show" into the noon time slot held by Rush Limbaugh since the late 1990s. WPHT's contract to carry Limbaugh's program was nearing its end, and the show's distributor, Premiere Networks, opted for a new deal with Merlin Media's attempt to at an FM talk station, WWIQ (106.9). Merlin made little headway in the market, failing to mount even a small challenge to WPHT, and with its sale in late 2013 to K-LOVE, Limbaugh's program returned to WPHT on October 28, 2013. Smerconish has since relocated to New York City to host a weekday talk show on Sirius XM radio.