RIP Bob Bittner. Thanks for the memories (station). - 27 May 2023 .
|Ownership:||Bob Bittner Broadcasting
(Robert Miles Bittner, proprietor)
|Studio:||443 Concord Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
|Transmitter:||443 Concord Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
|Format:||Light adult-contemporary oldies and instrumentals; brokered weekends|
WJIB operates 24 hours on 740 kHz. During daylight hours, WJIB broadcasts in C-QUAM stereo at 250 watts; at night, the station switches to a mono 5-Watt transmitter to protect Canadian clear-channel CHWO 740 Toronto. WJIB's antenna is a 285-foot self-supporting steel tower rising out of the studio building.
The long and colorful history of the 740 frequency in Cambridge started in 1948, when radio station WTAO made its debut, with 250 Watts daytime only, from studio and transmitter at 443 Concord Avenue, a factory building near the Fresh Pond rotary.
The original WTAO calls derived from the station's frequency, 740. Tip the “T” on its side, remove the lower left hand corner of the “A”, and change the “O” into a “0” and you'll see. WTAO was a general-interest radio station providing music and entertainment for Cambridge and vicinity.
By the 1950s, WTAO had passed into the hands of Harvey Radio Labs, which was also experimenting with television. WTAO-TV 56 made a brief debut in 1953, then returned to oblivion. Harvey also had an FM station, WXHR-FM, which could trace its roots back to 1945. WXHR broadcast classical music from studios on Zion Hill, on the Woburn-Winchester town line. (The channel 56 transmitter was there also, albeit dormant.) By the early 1960s, WTAO had become WXHR(AM) and was simulcasting the FM. The studios would not return to Concord Ave. until 1991, although the transmitter never left.
In the early 1960s, WXHR-TV also returned to the airwaves from Zion Hill; the rest of its history is given under WLVI. WXHR-FM became easy-listening WJIB in 1967 with the stations' purchase by Kaiser-Globe Broadcasting (a partnership of Kaiser Broadcasting and the Boston Globe). Rumors that the AM station also had the WJIB calls for a brief period appear to be false, based on Archives research. Kaiser-Globe moved the station away from its FM and TV sisters, to 620 Massachusetts Ave, in Central Square, Cambridge. 740 received new calls: WCAS, for the communities of Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington, and Somerville, which almost touch near the transmitter site. The station experimented with a music-and-local-news format, and then with an oldies format. In 1976, 740 was sold to the Wickus Island Broadcasting Corp., and the station took on the famous “Wickus Island” format, an eclectic blend of folk music broadcast from studios at 380 Green Street, Cambridge. The folk format lasted into the early 1980s, but management problems brought it crashing down.
WCAS was sold again, and went through a succession of short-lived formats, including an urban format circa 1982-83. By late 1983, the station was in bankruptcy, where it would remain for 8 years. The bankruptcy trustees allowed the station to be run by the Rev. Earl Jackson, who changed the calls to WLVG, the format to black gospel, and moved the studios to 1972 Massachusetts Ave., in Porter Square, Cambridge.
On July 1, 1991, WLVG was put up for auction in federal bankruptcy court. Broadcaster Bob Bittner, whose career in Boston included stints at WNTN, WXKS(AM), and WBET/WCAV, bid $277,115, and by a $115 margin, he won the station.
After three days of darkness in the summer of 1991, 740 reappeared in the fall as WWEA, “Earth Radio 740”, having moved back to the original studio location, and transmitter location all along, at 443 Concord Ave. WWEA played an eclectic blend of AC, oldies, R&B, and environmental messages.
In the summer of 1992, Bittner won the right to use the WJIB call letters, which had been abandoned by 96.9 FM a few years earlier. At 7:05 AM on August 4, 1992, Bittner declared, “Easy as the breeze, this is 740 AM, WJIB Cambridge-Boston”, and beautiful music was back on the air in Boston.
The subsequent months brought AM stereo during the daytime, and a new 5-watt nighttime authorization, sufficient to cover much of the immediate area around Boston. By the end of 1993, WJIB was operating 24 hours a day. In the summer of 1994, Bittner expanded his chain by returning WKBR 1250 in Manchester, N.H. to the air. Bittner sold WKBR in 1996, but added WNEB in Worcester to his roster of stations, returning it to the air on October 24, 1996, mostly simulcasting WJIB. On March 12, 1997, WJTO in Bath, Maine, was added to the group; soon after, WNEB was sold.
During the nineties, Bittner made some subtle shifts to WJIB's format, moving from the instrumental beautiful music that characterized the old WJIB-FM to a mix of instrumentals and light pop vocals, programmed largely from six-hour VHS hi-fi tapes played from a stack of VCRs in the WJIB studio.
While WJIB runs no spot advertising during the week, its evening and weekend programming is made up in part by paid leased-time shows. In addition to the usual religious broadcasts on weekends, WJIB has carried college sports, Chinese-language programming, student-produced shows from the Massachusetts College of Communications, Radio France International's morning show, and (as a community service) rebroadcasts of the low-power Radio Free Allston.
Perhaps WJIB's most interesting show, the unique “Let's Talk About Radio”, is broadcast every Sunday morning at 11:00. On the show, which began in 1995, Bittner and his guests chat about radio, television, license plates, phone books, and other common interests for half an hour.