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Wisn (am)

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Wisn (am)

City of license Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Broadcast area Greater Milwaukee
Branding News/Talk 1130 WISN
Frequency 1130 AM kHz (also on HD Radio)
Repeaters 97.3-2 WRNW-HD2, Milwaukee
First air date October 23, 1922 (1922-10-23)
Format Talk
Power 50,000 watts daytime
10,000 watts nighttime
Class B
Facility ID 65695
Callsign meaning The WISconsin News (former Milwaukee Hearst newspaper that merged with The Milwaukee Sentinel.)
Former callsigns WIAO (1922-1924)
WSOE (1924-1928)
Former frequencies 1110 AM (1927-1928)
1120 AM (1928-1941)
1150 AM (1941-1965)
Affiliations Premiere Radio Networks, Fox News Radio
Owner iHeartMedia, Inc.
(Capstar TX LLC)
Sister stations WKKV, WMIL, WOKY, WRIT, WRNW
Webcast Listen Live

WISN (1130 AM) is a talk radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., and the home of local afternoon radio host Mark Belling, who occasionally substitutes for Rush Limbaugh on his national program. Its studios are located in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield and the transmitter site is in Dover.

The station became the new home for Milwaukee Panthers basketball broadcasts in 2007-08, including the Coach Rob Jeter Radio Show. The station was the home of Marquette basketball broadcasts from 1971 to 2006 before opting not to renew its contract with Marquette.[1]

As of January 2015, WISN was sixth of 10 rated stations during the last ratings sample of the Milwaukee market.[2]


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • The Hearst era 1.2
    • Sale to Clear Channel 1.3
  • References 2
  • External links 3


Early history

On July 22, 1922, a broadcasting license was issued jointly to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the daily evening newspaper, The Wisconsin News, which was owned by the Hearst Corporation.[3] The call letters assigned (sequentially, they had no meaning) were WIAO. Since December 1, 1921, radio stations had been assigned two wavelengths: 360 meters (833 kHz) for "broadcasting news, concerts and such matter", and 485 meters (619 kHz) for "broadcasting crop reports and weather forecasts". As such, WIAO was licensed to broadcast on a wavelength of 360 meters (833.3 kHz). Although its license called for “unlimited” time at a power of 500 watts, the fact that the three other Milwaukee stations: WAAK (Gimbel Brothers department store), WCAY (Kesselman O’Driscol Music Co.) and WHAD (Marquette University), were also licensed for the 360 meter band, meant that WIAO had to share time with them.

At 10:15 a.m. on October 23 of that year, WIAO went on the air from the school's Marshall Street building with 100 watts of power, using a student-built transmitter.[4] That power level was formalized on January 9, 1923 when a new license was issued.[5]

On July 23, 1923, another new license was issued — this time solely to the School of Engineering — specifying a power level of 200 watts. The power level was reduced to 100 watts on October 9.[5]

In January 1924, The Wisconsin News, began programming the station on a part-time basis.[6] On May 31, 1924, the station was authorized to shift its frequency to 246 meters (1220 kHz).[5] The station did so at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 9.[7] On August 18 of that year, WIAO changed its call letters to WSOE.[8] On December 31, the school announced that it had purchased all of the equipment of WCBD in Zion, Illinois (one of the first religious stations, which also preached "flat earth" information). The purchase included a new, more powerful (500-watt) transmitter and twin towers, which were mounted atop the school's Oneida (now Wells) Street building.[9] The new WSOE was dedicated on July 8, 1925.[10] At that time, The Wisconsin News took over programming the station full-time, while the School of Engineering took care of technical operations. Formal approval of the power increase was issued on July 15.[5]

The authorized power level was increased to 1,000 watts on April 21, 1927.[5]

At 3:00 a.m. on June 15, 1927, the first of two major reassignments of radio frequencies made by the new Federal Radio Commission (FRC) took effect.[11] The reassignment affected almost 600 of the nation’s 694 radio stations.[12] WSOE was shifted to a wavelength of 270 meters (1110 kHz).

The Journal Co. had programmed Marquette University’s station, WHAD (which was unrelated to the current-day Delafield-licensed Wisconsin Public Radio outlet), since January 1925. It couldn’t come to a satisfactory agreement with them on where to take the station, and at the suggestion of a Federal Radio Commissioner, decided to purchase another. On April 20, 1927, The Journal Co. purchased WKAF.

On June 1, 1927, WSOE was shifted to a frequency of 1110 kHz and its power reduced to 500 watts.[5] WHAD was assigned to a wavelength of 293 meters (1020 kHz),[13] and ordered to share time with WKAF until the Journal Co. took over the latter station, at which time WHAD would be moved to another frequency.[14] That happened on July 25, 1927, and the call letters were changed to WTMJ.[15]

As a result, WHAD was shifted to 270 meters (1110 kHz) on September 15, and ordered to share time with WSOE.[16] On October 15, WSOE’s power was cut to 250 watts.[5]

To compete with WTMJ, The Wisconsin News entered into a lease arrangement with the School of Engineering on November 15, 1927. The lease was for a minimum of three years. The agreement specified that the newspaper was to “operate the station and furnish all financial support while its ownership and technical supervision was to remain in the hands of the school." Subsequent license applications filed on January 11 & 12 were filed in the name of the School of Engineering and The Wisconsin News, respectively.[5]

To reflect the new arrangement, The Wisconsin News changed the call sign from WSOE to WISN on January 23, 1928.

With the issuance of its General Order 40 on August 30, 1928, the FRC assigned WISN a new wavelength of 267 meters (1120 kHz)[17] at 250 watts of power. The new assignment took effect on November 11. It was also ordered to share time with WHAD, with WISN receiving six-sevenths of the available time, and WHAD one-seventh.[18] The studios, transmitter and towers were still located at the School of Engineering. WHAD had objected to the time-share arrangement with WISN, but its request to shift to 900 kHz was denied by the FRC on October 22.[13]

WISN applied for permission to increase its power to 1000 watts on July 29, 1930, and it was granted by the FRC on September 12. The station was sold to The Wisconsin News in November of that year.[19]

The station continued to be located at the School of Engineering until 1932. That year, the School of Engineering reorganized itself as a non-profit corporation, and changed its name to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). It moved from the Oneida Street building after purchasing the German-English Academy on North Broadway Street. Hearst also owned the morning newspaper, The Milwaukee Sentinel, and the WISN station offices and studios were relocated to its building on Michigan Street. The transmitter and tower were relocated to the top of the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co.’s Public Service Building, and the newspaper took over operational responsibility for WISN.

WHAD applied for 900 kHz again in 1929, under the understanding that it would share time with WLBL. Its application was denied as WHAD and WLBL had entered into a time sharing agreement. WHAD appealed to the United States District Court of Appeals, which subsequently upheld the FRC’s decision. It subsequently tried to negotiate a better time-sharing agreement with WISN. The latter interpreted the 1/7 requirement to be one day, while WHAD interpreted it as divided over a week. On November 12, 1931, a hearing was held to decide the matter, and as a result, in licenses issued to the two stations effective on February 19, 1932, specified definite hours for the operation of each.[20]

The Wisconsin News purchased WHAD from Marquette University in 1934, and on May 29, WHAD was deleted and WISN was able to broadcast seven days a week.[21]

In 1937, The Wisconsin News became The Milwaukee News, though the newspaper folded in 1939. WISN then became The Milwaukee Sentinel station, but the call letters were not changed.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shifted WISN to 1150 kHz in 1941 as a part of the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement (Havana Treaty).

The station shifted to its current frequency of 1130 kHz on March 11, 1965, at which time its power was increased from 5,000 W to its current 50,000 W daytime, 10,000 W nights into nine towers. The stated purpose of this change was "bragging rights" as the highest-powered AM station in the entire state. (A Madison station formerly had "bragging rights" with 10,000 watts days and 5,000 watts nights into six towers). A further increase beyond 10,000 watts was planned, and the required additional land and three additional towers, for a total of twelve towers nights, was planned, but was never implemented.

The Hearst era

The Hearst Corporation later purchased WISN, and in 1955, acquired a recently signed-on television station, WTVW (channel 12). Unlike WISN radio, which was affiliated with CBS, WISN-TV was an affiliate of ABC and DuMont. On February 1, 1956, WISN radio affiliated with the ABC Radio Network, aligning both radio and television properties with one network. [22] CBS placed advertisements in Milwaukee newspapers advising listeners to tune to WBBM in Chicago to hear their favorite CBS radio network programs. [23]

In 1958, the station reacted to growing listener and advertiser backlash against the growing popularity of rock-and-roll and declared its format to be "non-rock, anti-Top 40." To mark the event, the station played 5 hours of rock music then burned that music in the station's courtyard.[24]

In 1961, WISN-TV affiliated with CBS. That same year, Hearst signed on a sister FM station, WISN-FM.

The Milwaukee Journal reported on February 9, 1962 that ABC radio was discussing a possible move to Milwaukee's unaffiliated WRIT (1340 AM). [25] On August 11, 1962, the same newspaper reported that those negotiations did not result in ABC shifting to WRIT. The ABC radio network was to remain with WISN. [26]

WISN aired an adult contemporary format from the 1970s into the 1980s, when it changed to its current news/talk format.

In 1977, WISN-TV switched its affiliation back to ABC.

Sale to Clear Channel

In 1997, in the wake of the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Hearst decided to expand its stake in television (creating Hearst-Argyle Television), and sold its radio stations except for two in Baltimore. Clear Channel Communications bought WISN radio, along with sister station WLTQ-FM the next year. The radio stations stayed within the combined WISN-TV/AM/WLTQ studios at N. 19th St. and Wells St. until 2000, when all five Milwaukee Clear Channel stations moved into WOKY's expanded facility on Howard Ave. in Greenfield.

In 2007 the station ended their affiliation with ABC Radio and switched to Clear Channel's Fox News Radio network for national reporting and newscasts, and ABC moved to WTMJ.

Since July 27, 2009, the last remaining link between WISN Radio and WISN-TV was severed, when Clear Channel signed an agreement with WITI (Channel 6) to provide local news and weather content on its area stations. This ended a longtime agreement dating back to the Clear Channel sale for Weather Watch 12 to provide forecast to the six stations in Clear Channel's Milwaukee cluster.[27]

At the start of August 2012, WISN's programming began to air on the HD2 HD Radio channel of sister station WRNW (97.3), returning in some form 1130's programming to the former WISN-FM for the first time since FCC action forced broadcasters to end simulcasts of the same programming on their AM and FM signals.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Frost, S.E., Jr., PhD, Education’s Own Stations: The History of Broadcast Licenses Issued to Educational Institutions. The University of Chicago Press, 1937, p. 212.
  4. ^ “New Station to Be Opened for Radio Fans”. The Wisconsin News/The Milwaukee Telegram, October 22, 1922, Part II, p. 2.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Frost, p. 212.
  6. ^ “Fight News to be Broadcast by Radio”. The Wisconsin News, January 24, 1924, p. 6.
  7. ^ “Wave Length is Changed by WIAO”. The Wisconsin News & The Evening Sentinel, June 9, 1924, p. 10.
  8. ^ “WIAO Changes to New Call Letters: WSOE to Designate Lake Front Station; More Power Added”. The Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Telegram, August 17, 1924, Part I, p. 14.
  9. ^ Grignon, Gaston, W., “Close Big Deal for WCBD: School of Engineering Announces Purchase of Powerful Outfit”. The Wisconsin News, December 31, 1924, p. 18.
  10. ^ “Open New WSOE Air Station July 7: Dedication to Last 7 Hours: New Equipment to be Most Powerful in State; May Reach Europe”. The Wisconsin News, June 26, 1925, pp. 1, 16.
  11. ^ “Stations Will Change Waves Tomorrow”. The Wisconsin News, June 14, 1927, p. 12.
  12. ^ “Stations Must Change Waves or Quit Ether”. The Wisconsin News, June 15, 1927, p. 16.
  13. ^ a b Frost, p. 194.
  14. ^ The Milwaukee Journal’s Broadcast Service to Wisconsin, Part I & II. (undated), p. 13. Milwaukee Journal Stations. 1922-1969. Milwaukee Manuscript Collection 203. Wisconsin Historical Society. Milwaukee Area Research Center. UWM Libraries. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Box 3, folder 4.
  15. ^ "WTMJ on Air Monday Night: Initial Broadcast of Journal's new station at 7:30 p.m., The Milwaukee Journal, July 25, 1927, p. 17.
  16. ^ “Three Locals Affected by Wave Change”. The Sunday Sentinel and Milwaukee Telegram. September 25, 1927, Radiologue, p. 4.
  17. ^ BCL, “U.S. Radio Stations on New Wave Lengths Sunday: WTMJ Shifts to 620 K.C.; Adjustments Made”. The Milwaukee Journal, November 11, 1928, Recreation Section, p. 1,
  18. ^ Grignon, Gaston W., “Many Stations Change Wave Lengths Sunday: Expected to Clear Ether”. The Wisconsin News, November 9, 1928, Part 2, pp. 2, 4.
  19. ^ This is based upon the fact that the initial lease was for three years, as well as that according to Frost (p. 213) in its license application of December 30, 1930 WISN stated that the newspaper was the owner.
  20. ^ Frost, p. 195.
  21. ^ Frost, p. 196.
  22. ^ Full page advertisement, Milwaukee Sentinel, Wednesday, February 1, 1956, p.10, part 1.
  23. ^ WBBM Advertisement, Milwaukee Sentinel, Friday, March 16, 1956, p. 21, part 1.
  24. ^ Fisher, Marc. Something in the Air. Random House. p. 48.  
  25. ^ "WRIT Expected to be ABC Outlet", The Milwaukee Journal, Friday, February 9, 1962, p. 8, Part 2.
  26. ^ "WISN to Retain Ties with ABC", The Milwaukee Journal, Saturday, August 11, 1962, p.6.
  27. ^

External links

  • 1130 WISN
  • Milwaukee radio: a retrospective
  • Query the FCC's AM station database for WISN
  • Radio-Locator Information on WISN
  • Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WISN

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