FM Technical Profile: WZEW

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Station Name:
92 the Zew
Frequency:
92.1
Format:
Adult Alternative
Transmitter Location:
[map] [street view] Near the intersection Dauphin Island Parkway and Claudia Lane, 12 miles south of downtown Mobile.
Power (ERP):
20.5 kW
Antenna:
Omnidirectional
Antenna HAAT:
363 feet.
Other Information:
60 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC.
:
PS-(song/artist) 92 Zew
Time-
Present with date
Text-
THE SOUND OF MOBILE (song/artist)
PTY-
Rock
PI-
WZEW-FM
HD Increased power: 10%
HD-2: Classic Rock, Blues
"96.5 The Crab"
// W243CY Tillmans Corner
HD-3Classic R&B/Soul
"The Soul of Mobile"
// W223BX Saraland
More Information:
[FCC]
[FCCdata]
[Radio-Locator]
[Wikipedia]
[Facebook] For 92 ZEW
[Twitter] For 92 ZEW
[Facebook] For 96.5 The Crab
[Twitter] For 96.5 The Crab
[Picture] Image of the RDS text display of an Insignia HD portable, showing the PI (call sign) and Radio Text fields.
[Picture] Image of the RDS text display from a Mazda's radio, showing the PS (station name), PTY (format) and Radio Text fields for WZEW.
[Picture] Image of the HD test display from a Mazda radio, showing the song, artist and album information of the HD1 channel, from December 2017.
[Picture] Image of the HD test display from a Mazda radio, showing the song, artist and album information of the HD2 channel, from December 2017.
[Picture] Image of the RDS text display from a Mazda's radio, showing the PS (station name), PTY (format) and Radio Text fields for W243CY Tillmans Corner.
[Picture] Image
of the RDS text display from a Mazda's radio, showing the PS (station name), PTY (format) and Radio Text fields for W223BX Saraland.
[Audio] Audio of the skit that aired at 7 am on 9 May 2018, right before "92.5 The Crab" launched its music format. (5'43", 6.15 MB, M4A format.)
[Video] Audio from a weekday commercial break during an afternoon broadcast.  Recorded with a SDRplay radio and SDR-Console software.
[Audio] "'The Community Round Table & 251 Now with Kelley Finley' Behind the Scenes with Tim Camp" Podcast version of the show features an interview with the owner of +COM+ and The Sound of Mobile. 54:18 (Google Podcasts)
Owner:
.COM+ LLC
History:
Eastern Shore Broadcasters, licensee of WABF AM in Fairhope, was granted a new construction permit for an FM companion in January 1965.  When the station signed on in the summer of 1966, it was on 92.1 MHz, transmitting from the WABF AM tower at Section Street and Pecan Avenue in Fairhope.  The RCA BTF-1C transmitter fed a Collins 37-M4 four bay FM antenna for an Effective Radiated Power of 3 kW.  The calls were WABF-FM and it appears to have simulcast the AM's programming.

In 1973, the station was sold to WGOK, Inc., owners of Urban Adult Contemporary daytimer 900 WGOK in Mobile, to give the station a presence after dark.  Under their ownership, the call sign changed to WGOK-FM.  Under their ownership, the station sought to move closer to Mobile to better serve listeners on that side of the bay.  In 1974, the station was granted a construction permit to move to a site off Well Road near Pollard Road in Daphne, with the same power.  In 1976, the station changed over to a AEL FM-2 transmitter, feeding a Phelps-Dodge CFM-LP-3 three sector antenna.  Despite the move north, the coverage of Mobile was still subpar for a station targeting the city's Black community.  In 1977, the call sign changed to WMGP.  It's unclear if there was a brief format change during this time. In 1978, the station was sold to the Christ For The World Foundation, who flipped it to a Christian Religious format with the WHSP (With Holy Spirit Power) calls in July 1978.  Interestingly, the Broadcasting Yearbook editions of this era say the format under the religious owners was Middle of the Road (MOR). 

In 1984, the station was acquired by All-American Media, Inc.  They flipped the format to Album Rock as WZEW, "92 Zoo".  Critically acclaimed, it was never a ratings success due to the limited Class A signal transmitting from the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.

The station went into bankruptcy in 1989. 
As it was being sold off in bankruptcy court, bids were entertained from interested parties. .COM+ LLC (Kenneth S Johnson and Tim Camp) were bidding against Bernie Dittman, who owned the highly successful WABB AM and FM.  .COM+ won the bid and was able to acquire WZEW.  In the public affairs show linked above, Camp noted that .COM+ had reached its maximum bid but Dittman didn't know that, and backed down at the last second.  Had Dittman bid even $10 more, he'd have won the station instead.

When WZEW returned to the air, it was still known as 92 ZEW (instead of 92 Zoo) and still had an electric rock format, but it was still not a ratings success due to limited coverage.  The new owners were granted a permit to move the transmitter site to the top of the First National Bank Building in downtown Mobile, which improved citywide coverage while still adequately serving Fairhope, the city of license.  The studios also moved into the building along with WNSP, and Johnson's other stations under the Capitol Broadcasting banner, on the 32nd floor.  In the fall of 1994, the station flipped to Classic Rock as WGCX, taking the format and calls that had been on 104.1 MHz previously.  That change didn't sit well with the small but vocal fan base of the station, but it would three years before the WZEW calls and format took hold again in Mobile.

In 1992, the close ties with Capitol Broadcasting dissipated, and the station was left along in the expensive bank building; they moved to a lower floor to save money.  In July 1997, the station returned to the WZEW calls with an Adult Album Alternative format. 

In the early 2000s, the Retirement Systems of Alabama began construction on a taller office building in downtown Mobile.  This would cause RF and coverage problems for WZEW's transmitter atop the First National Bank building, so in 2005, they received a permit to relocate to a tower site south of town.  That facility signed on in 2007.  The old transmitter "pole" atop the bank building remained until 2011, when it was removed.

The station added HD digital broadcasting at the end of October 2017.  A second channel playing AAA-formatted Christmas music debuted in December, which gave way to a full-time channel for the "92 Blues" show at the end of the month.  That, in turn, gave way to what appears to be a loop of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Tarkus" with a promo mentioning something coming up from Mobile Bay soon.  The song(s) changed every few days, teasing a change to debut on May 9 2018.  On 9 May, the loop of "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin and "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd gave way to a classic rock and blues format as "92.5 The Crab" just after 7 am, with the HD2 feeding a translator located on the Shelton Beach Road tower that houses several other broadcasters.

Shortly after that translator debuted, the station began working to move a second translator to Mobile from the Tillmans Corner area.  The move for it to the Shelton Beach Road tower was approved at the end of June; a few weeks later the station increased the HD power to the maximum permissible, 10% of analog power.  In early August 2018 the station added a second HD subchannel, stunting with a loop of TV theme songs, which later morphed into a more AAA-type mix like their main channel, with lots of Alabama Shakes, and PAD text that said "A new sound of Mobile station is coming soon".  On 28 August 2018, the CRAB format moved to the 96.5 translator.  In early November 2018, the HD-3 and the translator it feeds debuted a Classic Soul format as "The Soul of Mobile".

In early December 2021, the station suffered a "computer meltdown" that took the HD2 and HD3 stations completely off and also erased all their music on computer at both WZEW and WNSP.  The stations were back up and running quickly, but the HD2 and HD3 stations were dead air for a few days.