N.B.: This profile has not been updated in several years, and may contain significant inaccuracies.
WHAM uses 50,000 Watts day and night, nondirectional, from a guyed tower in the town of Chili, south of Rochester. WHAM broadcasts in C-QUAM stereo.
WHAM is Rochester's oldest radio station, with a heritage that dates back to March 1922, when Frank Gannett's Rochester Times-Union put station WHQ on the air as the city's first radio outlet.
WHQ was not an immediate success; in fact, it lasted only two months before equipment problems and a poor signal (caused in part by the steel-framed Times-Union building beneath the WHQ antenna) brought its broadcasting career to a halt.
George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak, rescued WHQ from oblivion, buying the equipment and hiring Lawrence Hickson (who would later build WHEC) to rebuild the station atop his Eastman Theatre. Owning the station gave Eastman the right to choose his own call letters, and legend has it that he thought WHAM sounded nice. So it was that when the station returned to the air on July 11, 1922, it was not as WHQ but as WHAM.
WHAM quickly established itself as Rochester's premier station, affiliating with the NBC Red network soon after its founding in 1926, and gradually upping the power at its new transmitter site in Victor (some 18 miles southeast of the city) to a full 50,000 watts after moving from 1080 to 1150 kHz. WHAM got the channel to itself by the end of the 1920s, after buying out WABO at the Lake Avenue Baptist Church, which shared the frequency with WHAM on Sunday mornings. WHAM also found itself with a new owner in the 1930s, as Eastman sold the station to Stromberg-Carlson, the local telephone-equipment manufacturer.
WHAM quickly branched into new technologies as well, putting Rochester's first FM station on the air in 1939. First as W8XVB, then as W51R, and finally as WHFM on 45.1 and then 98.9, WHAM's FM outlet pioneered the medium in Western New York. WHAM was also a TV pioneer, putting WHAM-TV 6 on the air July 11, 1949 as Rochester's first TV station. WHAM, WHAM-TV, and WHFM moved into a new facility on Humboldt Street known as "Television City." (The building still houses WROC-TV, the descendant of WHAM-TV, and the old WHAM radio studios survive largely intact as offices and control rooms). Meantime, the WHAM transmitter had moved from Victor to Chili, closer in to the city.
In 1956, Stromberg-Carlson sold its broadcasting interests, and WHAM and WHFM went to William Rust, who moved the stations to new studios at 350 East Avenue. For the next three decades, WHAM offered listeners a steady diet of local and national news, music, talk, and sports from the East Avenue studios.
In 1985, Rust sold WHAM to Syracuse-based Lincoln Group, Ltd., which already owned WVOR(FM) in Rochester. Lincoln moved WHAM and WVOR into new studios in Midtown Plaza downtown, and although the amount of local talk on WHAM decreased, and the music disappeared entirely, WHAM's status as Rochester's dominant news-talk voice remained unchanged.
American Radio Systems bought Lincoln Group in 1996, but under a Justice Department consent decree, it was compelled to sell WHAM, WVOR, and WNVE(FM) to a separate owner. Jacor made the winning offer, picking up WHAM's sister station WHTK(AM) in the deal as well.