AM Technical Profile: WCOA

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Talk, News

Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] Hollywood Street, just south of Massachusetts Avenue in the Scenic Terrace neighborhood of Pensacola.

Power (ERP):
Day and night: 5 kW
Night: 4.4 kW
Day: 1 tower
Night: 3 towers, directional ESE towards Pensacola.  [pattern - PDF]

Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files




[Article] An article on the station's history and 98th anniversary on air. From Inweekly, a local Pensacola paper. From February 2024.
[Image] An image of the station's broadcast tower when it was at the foot of the Pensacola Bay Bridge in the late 30's, from the news blog of show host Rick Outzen.
[Studio] Street View imagery of the Cumulus Pensacola stations' studios off Marcus Pointe Boulevard in the Brent community.

Owned by Cumulus Broadcasting LLC

// W285FY Pensacola, FL
// WXBM-HD2 Milton, FL

The first recorded construction permit for this station dates back to April 1927, when the City of Pensacola was granted a permit for a new station on 1190 kW with 500 watts full time.  The city purchased surplus equipment from WOAI in San Antonio. When they put WCOA (Wonderful City Of Advantages) on the air, they were assigned 1200 kHz instead.  Note that some sources peg the start as February 1926; it's possible the station was on at that date and that FCC records are a behind the curve as this was at the earliest days of radio broadcasting.  The station broadcast live and locally from studios on the second floor of the Pensacola City Hall (today, this location is the Pensacola History Museum.)  According to the Inweekly article, linked above, the station had no advertising in the early days and and was funded as a way of promoting the city to potential visitors. 

In these early days of radio, the station appears to have jumped up and down the dial quite a bit: They requested 1190 kHz, but were granted 1200 kHz. Later they would be moved to 1120 kHz in 1929, then 1340 kHz in 1930.  One year later the station was granted a boost to 1 kW but it never got put on the air. While a permit was granted to change the transmitter type, it appears that it never materialized.  Instead, the station was sold to Pensacola Broadcasting Company (John C. Pace et al).  They moved the studios to the seventh floor of the San Carlos Hotel on Palafox Street, with the transmitter A Western Electric 303A on the roof.  Under their ownership, the station eventually acquired CBS affiliation after a "listener's club" formed and pooled money to help fund the affiliation.  In 1935 the family sold the station to the Pensacola News-Journal.  Under their ownership, the listener's club was disbanded and the affiliation swapped to NBC.  In 1936 they were granted a permit to relocate the transmitter to a "site to be determined" with 1 kW days and 500 watts at night.  In 1937 a modification was filed to clarify that it was "Pensacola, Florida (no street given)" but from other records it is clear it was at the foot of the Pensacola Bay Bridge on the mainland side. 

From the late 30's to the early 40's the station tried multiple times to increase power beyond the 1 kW daytime authorization, but the applications were dismissed for various reasons. In 1941 the station moved to their present dial location of 1370 kHz as part of the NARBA (North American Regional Broadcasting) Agreement that saw stations all over the hemisphere change frequencies to better organize the fast-growing radio dial.  The station did try to move to 1020 kHz with 10 kW day and night but that was also rejected.

Finally, in 1946, the station was granted the power boost they'd been trying to get for years when the FCC allowed them to operate with 5 kHz day and night while employing a directional antenna system at night.  A license to cover for this change was granted in September 1947 and with it the transmitter changed to a site off Lakewood Road in Warrington.

WCOA, Inc. acquired the license in 1951.  The station's studios moved to 118 East Intendencia Street in 1954.  The license was transferred to Dixie Radio (Denver Brannen) in 1957 but the license was soon sold to WCOA Radio, Inc. (apparently no relation to the previous "WCOA, Inc.") for $350,000.  Under their ownership, the station began fortifying their newsgathering operation and began airing longer and more thorough newscasts.  The music format through these years was a Middle-of-the-Road (MOR) format, heavy on local personalities and network programming along with play by play sports.  The station would keep this same basic format and presentation all the way into the early 90's!

In 1967, the station put WCOA-FM on the air on 100.7 MHz.  It had a beautiful music format, typical of the time before FM became a profitable service.

The station license was transferred to Triangle Broadcasting Corporation in November 1974, right at the same time that company was absorbed into Summit Communications of Florida, Inc.  In 1979, the station's transmitter site would be relocated one more time, this time to the site they are using today off Massachusetts Avenue.

In 1991, the station finally made a programming change when it flipped to a News/Talk format.

The station filed a Special Temporary authority in May 2018 to operate with just 2 kW with the nighttime directional antenna during the day due to an equipment failure.  In June 2018 the station was granted a construction permit for a new FM translator on 104.9 MHz, located west of Cantonment.

In March 2021, the station filed both a new Special Temporary Authority and a concurrent modification request. While the repairs to the antenna system were completed in 2021, the antenna site owners had removed some height from the towers, upsetting the nighttime pattern.  In June 2021, the station was granted a permit to permanently operate with the shorter towers; it also eliminated some extra pattern requirements at night, which necessitated a drop to 4.4 kW after sunset.  The STA was renewed as recently as April 2022, with a license to cover filed for permanent operations filed in June 2022.  That was granted by the FCC in early September 2022.

A license to cover for the translator was filed in December 2021.  It was filed concurrently with a minor modification to move the translator from Cantonment to the Cumulus studios west of North W Street and Marcus Pointe Boulevard.

The station celebrated its 98th anniversary at the start of February 2024.  The station has been nothing if not consistent in its operation: Same call letters since the beginning, a decades-long run with the same MOR-and-news format, then a long run of talk radio that continues to this day.  In March 2024 it was noted the station was being simulcast on WXBM-HD2.