Is WSJS-AM dead?

So I decided to splurge on a portable radio, something that I haven’t had for probably 20 years. I wanted one that’s HD capable, which narrows the choices really fast.

I bought the HDR-14 from Sangean from Amazon for about $70. Walmart.com has it  for $137 (free shipping!).  Lowe’s claims to have it for $76 (pickup in the store in a day or two).  Note that it is AM and FM only, it’s not a shortwave receiver.  You really have to love radio to pay these prices.  A cheap non-HD portable can be bought for $10-15.

Note that HD does not stand for high definition, it stands for hybrid.  The radio has a very tinny weak speaker, which should not be a surprise. So if you’re buying a portable HD radio thinking you’re going to hear something in high fidelity, you’re seriously mistaken.

I am toying with the idea of allowing people to report radio stations they can hear over the air, and possibly more importantly – the radio stations that are not broadcasting, but have not told the FCC.

The “radio near me” link at the top of the blog will take you to the “near me” radio listing.  It does not currently have a reporting function, but the list is more accurate and intuitive than it used to be, especially if you happen to be listening for AM radio stations after dark (DXing).  By default, it shows you the stations that should be the strongest at the location you enter. You can enter a city name rather than GPS coordinates.

Of course, I wanted to see if my data was accurate, so I started looking over the radio stations that can be heard in Greensboro North Carolina. I’ve lived here almost a year, and have never turned on a radio.

Back in the 1970s, WSJS-AM (Winston Salem) was the only serious competitor to WBT in Charlotte in Piedmont NC.  It was affiliated with a TV station and it had an actual news staff.

So I pointed to the 600 kHz frequency, and there was nothing but static. It allegedly is a sports talk station, and their signal is directional pointing right at Greensboro. It should have been booming in.

Well that’s disappointing. But it turns out WSJS has an FM translator in Greensboro and simulcasts on two other AM stations. I switched to FM and went to the FM translator frequency, and there is a signal there because it’s silent – but there’s no actual programming.

Then I went to the website and tried to stream the station, and the stream started but is silent.

Then I went to their Facebook page, and the last update was in March of last year.  I called the phone number on the Facebook page (admittedly at 4 AM) and it just rang.  No voicemail.  I see now that I was calling the phone number to be on the air. The business office only answers their phones from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

If a radio station dies in a forest, does anyone care?

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4 Responses to Is WSJS-AM dead?

  1. Fred Stiening says:

    WSJS was the Rush Limbaugh affiliate until 2009

    https://journalnow.com/entertainment/limbaugh-is-leaving-wsjs-for-fm-station/article_21c1da69-b37c-5832-aa2f-ef2a10814820.html

    The FM station was renamed WPTI-FM, based in Eden. It is owned by iHeart, and one of the few FM signals that comes in strongly here.

  2. Fred Stiening says:

    The sun is up, the stream is clear, the AM signal is there but too weak to hear, and the FM translator is on, but no audio. FM translators are required to not pick up stray distant signals, so the AM signal may be too weak to turn on the translator.

    For me, the troubling part of this is wsjs is owned by Curtis media, which goes by a number of different corporate entities. They have 82 licenses, all in North Carolina. They seem over-extended

    • Fred Stiening says:

      I suppose I should have looked at the FCC records earlier. October 20th 2020, they requested permission to operate at 1,250 Watts non-directional because one of the four antenna towers had collapsed.

      They have still not fixed the problem, and asked for an extension because they are fighting with the insurance company. This suggests that ad revenue is not terribly important to allow the station to limp along for 7 months

  3. Fred Stiening says:

    I don’t pay much attention to ratings, but I looked at the arbitron / Nielsen ratings for this metro area that includes Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

    https://ratings.radio-online.com/content/arb166

    By far, the most listened to station is Urban Contemporary (aka rap, hip-hop) operated by Entercom. The two NPR stations combined are about the same as the iHeart conservative talk WPTI.

    WSJS-AM has a 0.5 share. My rule of thumb is commercial radio becomes unviable below a 1% share. Another factor is the death of the cigarette business. I went to Winston-Salem a few years ago, and it’s nothing like it was in its heyday. Radio revenue is more than just the number of people listening, it’s also the quality of the people listing and their disposable income

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