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City of license Washington, D.C.
Broadcast area Washington, D.C.
Baltimore, Maryland
Northern Virginia
Shenandoah Valley
Virginian Piedmont
Central Maryland
Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia
Branding WTOP Radio
Slogan "Washington's News, Traffic and Weather Station"
Frequency 103.5 (MHz)
(also on HD Radio)
Translator(s) W282BA 104.3 Leesburg
Repeaters WTLP 103.9 Braddock Heights
WWWT 107.7 Manassas
First air date September 25, 1926
Format Analog/HD-1: All News
HD-2: WorldBand Media
HD-3: The Gamut
Callsign meaning Originally at 1500 kHz, which was regarded as "at the TOP of your radio dial" (former)
Washington's TOP News
Affiliations CBS Radio News
Owner Hubbard Broadcasting
(Washington DC FCC License Sub, LLC)
Sister stations WFED, WWFD, WBQH
Webcast WTOP Webstream
Website WTOP Online

WTOP is an all-news formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Washington, D.C., serving its metropolitan area. WTOP is owned by Hubbard Broadcasting.[1][2][3][4] The studios are located in the McLean Gardens neighborhood on D.C.'s northwest side, and the transmitter is located at nearby American University.

WTOP is one of three all-news stations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the second being sister station WFED, which is aimed at federal government employees; the third being WNEW-FM.

The station's primary signal is at 103.5, with simulcasts on WTLP 103.9 FM from Braddock Heights, Maryland and WWWT 107.7 FM from Manassas, Virginia. All stations in the WTOP "network" broadcast in monaural to increase their coverage areas.


  • History 1
    • 1920s: Born in Brooklyn 1.1
    • 1930s: CBS O&O 1.2
    • 1940s 1.3
    • 1960s and 70s: All-news 1.4
    • 1990s-2010s: Move to FM 1.5
  • Station profiles 2
  • Programming 3
    • Affiliations 3.1
    • Schedule 3.2
  • Ratings 4
  • Recurring Segments 5
  • Awards 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


1920s: Born in Brooklyn

WTOP's origins trace back to Brooklyn, New York, as station WTRC (operated by the Twentieth [District] Republican Club), going to air September 25, 1926, on 1250 kilocycles with a power of 50 watts. The Twentieth Republican Club, and the station, were run by the Ku Klux Klan; pressure by the federal government on the Klan forced WTRC to move out of the New York area. Ironically, the station moved to the federal government's backyard; on August 2, 1927, WTRC migrated to Mount Vernon Hills, Virginia as WTFF (which stood for the Klan's newspaper "The Fellowship Forum") at 1470 kHz. In November 1927, the power of WTFF was increased to 10,000 watts and the frequency changed to 1480 kilocycles.

On January 10, 1929, the call sign was changed to WJSV, reflecting the initials of James S. Vance, who was publisher of "The Fellowship Forum" and a Grand Wizard in Virginia. Realizing the expense of running a 10,000-watt radio station, Vance quickly worked out a deal with the nascent Columbia Broadcasting System to become the new network's primary station in Washington, D.C. CBS took over all of WJSV's programming and engineering costs, with an option to renew or purchase the station after five years. Soon realizing they were affiliated with the Klan, negotiations began for CBS to purchase the station outright.[5]

1930s: CBS O&O

The WTOP logo before WWWT 107.7 was added to the "tri-mulcast".

In June 1932, CBS finally purchased WJSV and moved it from Mount Vernon Hills to Alexandria, Virginia. After three months off the air, WJSV resumed broadcasting on October 20, 1932. Arthur Godfrey, who later hosted a variety program on CBS Radio and CBS Television, hosted a program on WJSV called The Sundial on which he honed a laid-back, conversational style that was unusual on radio at the time but came to be common practice for disc jockeys.

On September 21, 1939, WJSV recorded its entire broadcast day for posterity. The famous "One Day In Radio" tapes still exist and copies can be found at various Old Time Radio websites.

WJSV was also a key training ground for pioneering newsman Frank Blair, who later became an NBC News correspondent and later was a long time news anchor on the Today show during the 1960s and early 1970s, also worked at WJSV.


In 1940, WJSV's operating power was increased to 50,000 watts, with a new transmitter site built in Wheaton, Maryland, still in use today. On March 29, 1941, with the implementation of NARBA, WJSV moved its broadcast frequency from 1460 to 1500 kHz.

On March 16, 1943, after paying the Tiffin, Ohio police department $60,000, the calls were changed to the current WTOP because its new frequency was now at the "top" of the mediumwave AM band. The Washington Post bought a 55% share in WTOP from CBS in February 1949 and took over the remainder of the station in December 1954. The WTOP callsign was a coincidence under the newspaper's partial ownership as the callsign never stood for WashingTOn Post.

1960s and 70s: All-news

After its signature personality Arthur Godfrey left WTOP in 1948 to concentrate on his television and midday network radio shows, the station gradually faded in popularity as it faced competition from the Washington Star's WMAL with the morning team of Harden and Weaver, and NBC-owned WRC which featured future Today Show personality Willard Scott. In the 1960s, after a series of failed music formats, WTOP phased out its music programming for a combination of newscasts and phone-in talk shows; eventually the call-in shows were dropped in favor of an all-news format. Among those working for WTOP during this time were Sam Donaldson, later on ABC-TV; Jim Bohannon, who took Larry King's place on his all-night radio network talk show after King went to CNN; and including Ralph Begleiter and Jamie MacIntyre, both of whom went to CNN.

WTOP studios were apparently a critical link in Emergency Broadcast System activation scenarios during the Cold War era. [6]

The Post sold WTOP to The Outlet Company company in June, 1978, in reaction to the FCC desire to break up the Post/WTOP cross-ownership arrangement. One month later, WTOP-TV was swapped with the Detroit News's WWJ-TV, and became WDVM-TV. The station is today WUSA-TV, owned by Gannett. The original FM frequency for WTOP-FM was 96.3 MHz, but that frequency was donated to Howard University. That station became WHUR in 1971, a commercially run radio station.

1990s-2010s: Move to FM

Outlet re-organized and sold WTOP to Chase Broadcasting in 1989, who in turn sold it to Evergreen Media (which eventually became Chancellor Broadcasting) in November 1992. During this period, Evergreen started WTOP's move to the FM dial on April 1997, when Evergreen's newly acquired 94.3 MHz facility in Warrenton, Virginia began simulcasting the WTOP signal for better coverage in the sprawling Northern Virginia suburbs. Shortly afterward, on October 10, 1997, Bonneville International Corporation purchased WTOP.

On April 1, 1998, that frequency was swapped for a stronger signal at 107.7, also licensed to Warrenton. (The 94.3 facility now relays the air feed for sports station WTEM.) Then in December 2000, WTOP gained another simulcast in Frederick, Maryland with WXTR at 820 kHz, establishing the "WTOP Radio Network."

In 2005, the station began providing podcasts of selected broadcast programs, and in 2006, WTOP began broadcasting in digital "HD Radio", utilizing iBiquity Digital Corp.'s IBOC (in-band on-channel) technology.

On January 4, 2006, Bonneville International announced that WTOP would move to a new primary frequency of 103.5 FM, then held by classical station WGMS (which would move to 103.9 and 104.1 FM). The frequencies long-used by WTOP, 1500 AM and 107.7 FM (and the low-powered 104.3 FM translator in Leesburg), would be reassigned to the new "Washington Post Radio" for a March 30, 2006 launch date. Fittingly, this new partnership also signaled the Post's re-emergence into the radio scene on the very same dial spot WTOP once held. The station has been dominant in the 25-54 demographics since moving to FM.

The stations' respective call signs were changed as of January 11, 2006: the former WTOP pair became WTWP (The Washington Post) and WTOP's new primary stations (formerly WGMS-FM and WXTR) assumed the WTOP calls. HD Radio digital subchannels of the 103.5 carrier originally had broadcast Bonneville International's "iChannel" music format, which features unsigned, independent rock bands on the HD2 channel, and the HD3 channel aired continuous traffic and weather updates. Later iChannel was dropped for an LMA of the HD2 to a group that currently airs programming aimed at the South Asian community in the Washington area. Currently, WTOP-FM's HD3 channel is carrying a wide-ranging pop music channel called "The Gamut".

In 2006, WTOP dropped its long-standing association with The Weather Channel and began airing weather reports exclusively from WJLA-TV all day long. Previously, WTOP had used weather reports from WJLA chief meteorologist Doug Hill during morning and evening rush hours and The Weather Channel all other times. The station now uses all WJLA-TV meteorologists, not just Doug Hill. WJLA-TV's "Live Super Doppler 7" has and continues to be featured in weather reports as necessary.

In 2007, the WTOP radio configuration was realigned once again. WTLP-FM (formerly WGYS) at 103.9 picked up the WTOP simulcast on April 6, 2007 after the adult hits "George 104" simulcast with WXGG (now WPRS-FM, since sold to Radio One) was broken up, and adopted the WTLP calls on July 5, 2007.

Also in 2007, WTOP began broadcasting on WJLA-TV's "Weather Now" digital sub-channel, which is carried on cable systems well beyond WTOP's broadcast area, though this was ended in late July 2009.

In May 2007, WTOP sold the naming rights to its "Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center" (its nickname for its studio) to area business Ledo Pizza.[7] That sponsorship concluded at the end of 2007. Other sponsorship continues, with sportscasts being "fed" by Ledo Pizza.

WTOP AM (which was now on 820 in Frederick) changed its calls to WTWT and switched to the Washington Post Radio simulcast on June 28, 2007. On September 20, 2007, the 1500/107.7/820 multicast changed format over to a general talk format as "Talk Radio 3WT" under the WWWT/WWWT-FM/WWWB call letters, which was cancelled on August 11, 2008. WWWT and WWWB took over the "Federal News Radio" format (and for the 1500 kHz facility, the WFED calls),[8] while WWWT-FM went back to simulcasting WTOP-FM. The former WFED took over the WTOP callsign on the AM dial and became a simulcast of WTOP, with preemptions for sporting events. On June 13, 2009, the 1050 AM frequency changed to a separate news/talk format, operated by Air America Radio as WZAA. On January 26, 2010, following the shutdown of Air America Radio, WZAA returned to the WTOP simulcast. It took back the WTOP call letters on February 1, 2010. WTOP AM left the simulcast on June 23, 2010, as Bonneville rented the station to United Media Group. United Media changed the call letters to WBQH and aired what they called a "regional Mexican" format.

In March 2008 WTOP-FM completed a year-long, $2.5-million state-of-the-art renovation of its newsroom and studios, the first since 1989 when the station moved into the building it presently occupies in northwest Washington.

In 2008, WTOP-FM generated $51.75-million in revenue, the sixth-highest total for any radio station in the United States and the only station not based in New York City or Los Angeles to crack the top ten.[9] In 2009, the station generated $51-million in revenue, good for second among all radio stations in the United States, trailing only KIIS-FM in Los Angeles.[10] In 2010, WTOP generated $57.225-million in revenue, making it tops among radio station in the United States.[11] In 2011 WTOP once again generated more revenue than any other station in the United States, this time with $64 million.[12]

WTOP reporter filing story, Inauguration Day 2013

In 2010, WTOP-FM's coverage of the record Washington-area snowfalls in early February earned it record ratings as the only local media outlet on the air and covering the storm live all day and night. During the week of the storms, which dropped two feet of snow in the area, WTOP had a 16.9% share of the area's radio audience, far exceeding its typical weekly average of around 10%. Consumer research company Arbitron estimated a total of 1.49 million people tuned in at some point during the week, 39% of the total local radio audience of 3.8 million.[13]

Bonneville announced the sale of WTOP-FM, WTLP, and WWWT-FM, as well as 14 other stations, to Hubbard Broadcasting on January 19, 2011.[14][15]

In 2011 WTOP-FM brought their traffic reporting in-house, ending their relationship with Metro Networks. This meant that Lisa Baden, the longtime "voice of D.C.-area traffic" and a Metro Networks employee, was forced to leave the station in what WTOP's Vice President of News and Programming Jim Farley said was strictly a business decision. Farley said WTOP tried to bring Baden and other Metro Networks employees to WTOP, but they have clauses in their contracts prohibiting them from working for competitors for one year. Baden said she was "devastated".[16]

Station profiles

Callsign Frequency City of license ERP Class HAAT Facility ID Former Callsigns
WTOP-FM 103.5 MHz (also on HD Radio) Washington, D.C. 44,000 watts B 158 meters 11845 WGMS (1951–2006)
WQQW (1948–1951)
WTLP 103.9 MHz (also on HD Radio) Braddock Heights, Maryland 350 watts A 292 meters 47105 WGYS (2006–2007)
WWVZ (1996–2006)
WXVR (1995–1996)
WZYQ (1980–1995)
WWWT-FM 107.7 MHz (also on HD Radio) Manassas, Virginia 29,000 watts B 197 meters 21626 WTWP-FM (2006–2007)
WTOP-FM (1998–2006)
WUPP (1997–1998)
WRCY (1992–1997)
WMJR (1984–1992)
WWWK (1982–1984)

The HD3 subchannels of each station, along with WWFD (820 AM, Frederick, Maryland), and W282BA (104.3 FM, Leesburg, Virginia), air a freeform music format known as "The Gamut". Prior to flipping to The Gamut in 2013, WWFD simulcast WFED and W282BA simulcast WTOP.



WTOP is affiliated with the CBS Radio Network, and reports from several of WTOP's correspondents (including Neal Augenstein, Hank Silverberg and Tom Foty) are played on CBS's network. WTOP's basic format and hourly broadcast schedule, as noted above, is similar to that used by the CBS-owned-and-operated all-news stations, such as WCBS from New York City. WTOP is also affiliated with CNN and the Bloomberg Radio Network.


The station's basic schedule includes playing CBS News reports at the hour and half hour, followed by local reports. "Traffic and Weather Together" are played on the 8s (:08, :18, :28, :38, etc.). Sports news is played at :15 and :45 past each hour and business news is played at :25 and :55 past each hour. Live interviews are played at :25 and :55 past most hours. The station also features regular commentaries from figures such as Cal Thomas, Wolf Blitzer, and Gwen Ifill, among many others, at specific times during the week.


As of July 2009, WTOP is ranked #1 in the Arbitron ratings among radio stations in the Washington area.

Recurring Segments

Friday Freebies: Usually every Friday, though there are exceptions, anchors present sales local stores are having.

To Your Health: Anchors discuss health topics such as health warnings and how to stay fit every hour. Dr. Oz also has taped spots on the network.

Garden Plot: Mike McGraph answers listener's gardening questions.

Mystery Newsmaker Contest: WTOP plays a clip and if a listener guesses who the voice belongs to, they win something, usually tickets to events of meuseums.

Core Values: Former WMAL pundit Chris Core has a few minutes long monologue similar to Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points memo segment on The O'Reilly Factor.

Sprawl & Crawl: A correspondent usually discuss road construction that could slow down traffic and why it's happening.

Data Doctor's Tech Tips: In this feature they discuss tech scared such as viruses or offer tech advice, similar to Mike McGraph's Garden Plot.


See also

  • WJSV schedule for September 21, 1939
  • Free mp3s of 19 hours of the broadcast day of WJSV for September 21, 1939
  • Information on WJSV Broadcast Day
  • History of WTOP


  1. ^ "WTOP Facility Record".  
  2. ^ "WTLP Facility Record".  
  3. ^ "WWWT Facility Record".  
  4. ^ "W282BA Facility Record".  
  5. ^, Retrieved on 2009-03-12.
  6. ^ NIAC Order No. 1, Dec 1970, Retrieved on 2010-10-22.
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  8. ^ Federal News Radio Expands to Full Market Signal (
  9. ^ "". 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  10. ^ Clabaugh, Jeff (March 17, 2010). "". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  11. ^ "BIA/Kelsey". 2011-03-28. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  12. ^ Clabaugh, Jeff (April 12, 2012). "". Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  13. ^ Farhi, Paul (2010-03-03). "WTOP (103.5 FM) tops ratings with coverage of Washington's Feb. snowstorms". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  14. ^ Farhi, Paul (January 20, 2011). "WTOP news radio to be sold to Minnesota broadcaster". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  15. ^ "Hubbard deal to purchase Bonneville stations closes".  
  16. ^ "Voice of D.C.-area traffic reluctantly leaves WTOP". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  17. ^ "2010 Marconi Awards". FMQB. 

External links

  • Official website (Mobile)
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WTOP
  • Radio-Locator information on WTOP
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WTOP
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WTLP
  • Radio-Locator information on WTLP
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WTLP
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WWWT
  • Radio-Locator information on WWWT
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WWWT
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for W282BA
  • Radio-Locator information on W282BA

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