WWRL 1600 AM, a longtime progressive radio station that included LGBT programming as a major part of its lineup, is changing its format, according to its staff. Beginning January 1, all of the station’s current shows will be off the air, as WWRL becomes a Spanish-language broadcaster. Access 1 Communications, WWRL’s black-owned parent company, notified employees about the coming changes via e-mail and phone calls on Friday.
By Nathan James
“It was a business decision,” says John Campanario, host of the popular LGBT talk forum, Out And About. Speaking to GBM News, Campanario explained that advertisers have been pulling away from talk radio, resulting in lower revenues for WWRL. “The antics of people like [right-wing talk show hosts] Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have put advertisers off talk radio, across the spectrum,” says Campanario, who is also a digital marketing executive with the station. “This is happening nationally.”
The station was home to such notable personalities as veteran talk show host Mark Riley, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Armstrong Williams. The LGBT community was served by its Equality Pride Radio line, including the Out And About show, which was expanded this fall to a two-hour live program, Clay Cane Live, with the well-known journalist and his co-host, J’Nara Corbin, and The Karel Show, among others. Introducing daily LGBT-oriented content on New York City broadcast radio was a first in the local industry, and signaled a weather change in the medium. “We were very happy to do Equality Pride Radio,” Campanario observes, “and I think LGBT radio will find a new home in New York.” The 86-year-old station has always been a New York institution. Beginning with its first broadcasts out of a home in the Woodside section of Queens, during 1926, WWRL always had a multicultural, progressive style. In 2006, WWRL adopted its progressive talk format, which led to the addition of Equality Pride Radio in recent years.
“WWRL’s new format,” says Campanario, who is staying on at the station, “will be Central and South American music, for the 18-34 age range.” The station’s owners believe there is a sufficiently large audience to draw advertisers back to WWRL. “It was a good run,”Campanario reflects, “But times change.” The city’s other progressive talk station, WBAI, has been beset by financial and management difficulties since last year, culminating in the layoffs of all the major personalities on the station earlier this year, by owner Pacifica Radio.
The final broadcast of Out And About airs December 18, and other programs will see their last appearances in the next two weeks.