What Should Be Done With The Iconic WPLJ Call Letters?


It started as a Rock station in 1971 and, eventually turning Top 40, became one of the most popular radio stations in New York City. Three weeks from tomorrow, after nearly 50 years of delivering music and memories to listeners and fans in the largest market in the country, WPLJ will go off the air. EMF, who purchased the station from Cumulus, will be flipping to its national K-LOVE format. An iconic set of call letters such as WPLJ is a terrible thing to waste. Or is it? Let’s find out.

We reached out to several programming experts to ask them what they would do if they were given those four letters now that they will no longer be needed on 95.5-FM in New York City.

Lee Abrams: “I would build on the legacy. Those stations are this generations’ KMOX and KDKA’s. Grow out the original audience. Take that legacy and move into 2019. The prior owners didn’t do that but new owners need to look at what they have and build upon that foundation. Sadly, the new owners are on a religious mission, so like WLUP, brilliant new generation programming isn’t an option.”

Walter Sabo: “The best use of the calls is to retire them, like a great ball player’s number.”

Jon Quick: “If I could wave that magic radio wand, I would grab the call letters. Find a new frequency. Then, do a marketing campaign. “Despite what you may have heard, WPLJ is alive and well. We’ve just moved. Now on (frequency), WPLJ.”

John Sebastian: This is self serving but I’d procure the WPLJ call letters which are legendary in NYC and put them on another full signal FM in the New York market and debut The Wow Factor on it. The combination of these immediately relatable calls and my new unique format would result in an earthquake in the market’s ratings…#1 6+ by dominating 55+!

Fred Jacobs: “Maybe it’s time to retire call letters like sports franchises do with jerseys. It would be a shame for those calls to end up on AM in Poughkeepsie.”

                               Related Read: What Happened To WPLJ?

Gary Berkowitz: Outside of the New York area, I’m not sure WPLJ means much to anyone. Maybe to radio people, but not to ordinary listeners. As call letters go, they do have some punch to them, but again, I’m not sure there is any value outside of New York… I could argue that, at this point, based on ratings, they’re not worth all that much in New York either.”

Jay Stevens: “The only place in the world those call letters mean anything is NYC. So the question is: Would someone buy the call letters and IP and launch either a rock station or an AC station in New York?”

What would you do?


  1. Remember 101.1 WCBS changed to Jack and and the call letters were dropped to 101 Jack Then back again to WCBS and then there was 92.3 KTU switched to K rock and then they moved then KTU moved to 103.5 Fm so you see it can happen.

  2. When Salem took over WMCA 570 AM in New York in September 1989 and I was at the station, Stu Epperson the CEO told us that the WMCA call letters were legendary.

    This could be the same case with WPLJ.

  3. Call letters in their entirety are dead. Welcome to 2019 folks. Focus on your dial, digital streams and podcasts.

  4. The best solution would be for Cumulus to move the calls somewhere else in New York.

    Let’s see … WNSH? Whoops, they spun that off already.
    WABC? No, that would replace calls iconic in their own right.
    WNBM? I dunno … is the world ready for Tom Joyner, D.L. Hughley, and Ed Lover saying “WPLJ”?

    Buffalo? Syracuse?

    A waiver to use them west of the Mississippi on KLOS … oh, wait, that’s gone too.

    Maybe Fred Jacobs is right. Let’s petition the FCC to retire the WPLJ calls. Let’s petition the FCC to retire Cumulus too, while we’re at it.

  5. Up to me I would flip it back to Real Oldies from the 50s 60s & 70s New York City right now has NO real Oldies station. CBS FM now play 80s to now & to me that’s NOT a real oldies station. I would also keep the WPLJ calls – Flip to oldies & many advertisers will flock over as OLDIES SELLS!!!!!

    • That wasn’t the question. You are proposing something that cannot happen, because the sale to EMF pretty much ends that discussion.
      But thanks for playing, and Johnny Olson will tell you about your consolation prizes …

      • I am over 55 and have no use for oldies stations. I do not know a soul who listens to CBS FM. They are underestimating the following that Todd and Jayde in the Morning created after Scott left. People liked Scott but not everyone thought he was God. I tuned in CBS a couple of times and could not tolerate the music. The WPLJ crew still has a lot of good career ahead of them. Their listeners will follow wherever they land.

  6. Someone will end up with the intellectual property and the calls someday, or Cumulus will park it. Personally, even though there is both WXPK in Westchester and WFUV, I’d love to see the letters come back to a city station in a format a little more closely tied to PLJ’s roots, like a Triple AAA station based in the city. It’s a pipe dream, but using the calls for a more rock-oriented format would honor PLJ’s roots a bit, while freshening up the style and filling an urban void.

    It’d be threading a thin formatic needle between alternative, classic and mainstream rock, but it might be well worth it for the goodwill in New York. Something had to give with the Adult Top 40 format, so here’s hoping there’s something that can replace it and start a new chapter for some venerable call letters.

  7. Back in the 80’s when 95.5 became “Power” the WPLJ calls were parked on an AM in Scranton Pa.
    Now it would be better to leave them on 95.5 in NY as “Peace Love and Joy.”

  8. I think Jay Stevens probably has the best idea: Cumulus should ‘park’ the ‘PLJ calls on another East-of-the-Mississippi station, for now, and then sell the intellectual property rights to an online entrepreneur who would make loving use of them. There are some pretty diehard folks out there when it comes to memories of their favorite stations from yesteryear. We shall see.

  9. This is truly sad news. However, many of us may argue that WPLJ lost some luster when AOR ended. Top 40 stations may be a dime a dozen, but an iconic rock station…priceless.

    That said, a fresh start for an under performing B FM in NYC would be a great fit. Not sure any names come to mind that would take that plunge.

    • Looks like all this talk of a call letter change at 95.5 was a wee but premature? Well, hubby had a great idea, intended as a joke but it works. Keep them, but change on-air logo to We Praise Lord Jesus.

  10. Has anyone found an AM Radio station in NYC whose signal is not below the high level interference static baseline of this band of radio?
    Does this now mean Sirius XM has become free?
    How about the millions who can’t afford to pay for such services?
    You say all those genres of music are available thru your cable provider?
    Wow, has Uncle Sam now provided Cable services to the many?
    I don’t agree that this stations disappearance for a different format was in keeping with loyalty to a listener following, which probably numbers in thousands.
    You say it was not profitable?
    I have heard many very good stations across the country whose advertising does not match the general public who would have interest in such materials either because of cost or the need to have.
    Poor, poor marketing will collapse any public airwave when marketing due-diligence indicates improper advertising.
    Possibly the marketing research was right on target and management overrode any proffered ideas and this is the result of their doings.
    Thank you and RIP.
    WPLJ you will be missed.


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