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Way back in 1992, 98.3 was WESA-FM in Charleroi and 103.5 was WRKY-FM in Steubenville.
They were independent locally owned stations and hadn’t yet relocated to get closer to Pittsburgh. Nor were they “Froggy”-branded country stations — and neither was “Key 95” WKYE-FM in Johnstown, nor WASP-FM (94.9)* licensed to Oliver, Fayette County.
Even Jeannette and Connellsville still had their own local radio stations in 1992, though the former’s WBCW (1530) was a daytimer that barely got to Shrader’s Dairy Queen on Route 130, and the latter’s WCVI (1340) and WPQR-FM (99.3) were hanging on by their fingernails.
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Pitt’s tiny student-run WPTS-FM was on 98.5, while WORD-FM was at 104.7 and WAMO-FM was at 105.9. The 106.7 spot was WWKS-FM — a sister station to Beaver Falls’ WBVP (1230), while Greensburg’s WSSZ-FM (107.1) was the classic-rock sibling of that same city’s full-service WHJB (620).
Some things, thankfully, don’t change. Down in Washington County, 1450 and 95.3 were locally owned by Washington Broadcasting Co. — as WJPA still is today — though the FM side was known as “K-Country” WYTK-FM in 1992.
Uniontown’s time-warped full-service WMBS (590) sounded much the same in 1992 as it sounded in 1982 (and today, by golly).
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Elsewhere, Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show was now heard on 470 stations, including KDKA (1020), which dropped its remaining music programming in December 1991 to clear the way for El Rushbo.
Now, Limbaugh’s syndicated TV show was getting ready to debut, and he’d visited Pittsburgh just a month earlier — in May 1992 — to promote his new book, The Way Things Ought to Be.
Nearly everybody figured that the act of the former KQV and WIXZ disc jockey would wear thin soon. It wasn’t like Limbaugh was going to inspire an entire generation of conservative radio and TV talk-show hosts, right?
Speaking of TV, there was no Channel 19 in Pittsburgh. The license that eventually became Pittsburgh’s CW affiliate, WPCW, was still located in Johnstown — but the station, known as WPTJ in 1988, had gone off the air in 1991, and there’s no record that anyone was missing it.
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Eventually, Channel 19 — the one-time WARD-TV (56) — would be re-licensed to Jeannette and sold to KDKA’s parent company.
But those so-called “TV duopolies” didn’t exist in 1992, either. Sinclair Broadcasting owned WPTT-TV (22), not WPGH-TV (53), which was owned by Connecticut-based Renaissance Broadcasting.
While 22 filled its schedule with reruns, syndicated programs (including “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) and Home Shopping Network, 53 had programming from the still-wobbly Fox network.
Channel 53 hadn’t yet launched (and then cancelled) its 10 p.m. news. And WPXI-TV (11) didn’t have a cable news channel.
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In 1992, WQEX-TV (16) was the funky, left-leaning-bordering-on-Marxist sibling to starchy WQED-TV (13).
And in the summer of 1992, Pittsburgh Pirates games were still pre-empting CBS programming on KDKA-TV (2), which was still owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting, just as God, Bill Burns and Frank Conrad intended.
And the Pirates were contending for the National League East championship for a third year in a row — maybe 1992 was a long time ago, now that we think of it!
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The strangest sights on local TV screens this week in 1992 weren’t the Pirates winning baseball games. They were scrolling obituaries, accompanied by appropriately somber music.
A strike by the Teamsters union had shut down the morning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and afternoon Pittsburgh Press, beginning on May 17.
We all knew the strike would soon be over, and the Press (owned by the Scripps-Howard chain) would wind up closing down the scrappy independent underdog P-G. For now, Pittsburghers needed those all important obituaries.
In the meantime, the Greensburg Tribune-Review, Washington Observer-Reporter and Beaver County Times were selling newspapers in Allegheny County as fast as they could print them.
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Ah, newspapers. Remember them? (Ahem. Sorry. Mr. MMNF remembers them. He was working for one in 1992 … but not during June. During June 1992, he was making pizzas for $5.35 an hour.)
In 1992, the World Wide Web was mostly a gleam in the eyes of Tim Berners-Lee, and the only people who had access to the Internet were nerds. (Again, like Mr. MMNF, who got his first email account that August.)
So the Post-Gazette — unable to publish — launched a daily fax newspaper and the Post-Gazette Radio Network. (By January of 1993, it had grown to 29 stations in the tri-state area, as far north as Crawford County and east into State College and Bedford, but it didn’t last.)
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Besides the Stanley Cup, we wish we had some other things back from 1992.
Local radio stations, like WESA in Charleroi? Yes.
WQEX-TV as a weirdo public station? Yes.
Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting? Yes.
The Pittsburgh Press? Yes.
Our hair? Oh, hell yes.
The Pittsburgh Pirates not stinking up the National League? Yes … but if we were going to ask for miracles, we’d ask for our hair back.
For now, we’ll take the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup again!
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* — correction appended
With the city about to host its first Stanley Cup parade in 17 years, Monday Morning Nostalgia Fix suddenly got all nostalgic for 1992.
We got out our big chunky glasses, stone-washed jeans and flannel shirts, which come to think of it, is the way we dress anyway.
We also were going to mousse our hair up in spikes, or was that the 1980s? Never mind, we don’t have enough hair left to mousse.
But even with our bad fashion sense aside, June 1992 wasn’t that long ago, was it?
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It seems like only yesterday: George Bush was president, and in local broadcasting, Mike Lange was doing Penguins games, WDVE-FM (102.5) and KDKA (1020) were battling for the number 1 and number 2 positions among 12-and-up listeners (the rocker passed the talker for the first time in the fall of 1991) and the city’s CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates were on KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV and WPXI-TV, just as they still are today.
Ah, but the devil’s in the details.
Seventeen years ago this week, 970 AM was still simulcasting WWSW-FM (94.5), which was proudly billing itself as an oldies station and was the number one station among listeners 25-54.
Jim Quinn and “Banana Don” Jefferson were doing mornings at the original B-94 (93.7, which still had its WBZZ-FM call letters), while Cris Winter was the recently appointed music director at ‘DVE.
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Oh, and remember when 102.5 and 94.5 were owned by separate companies — not to mention 105.9 and 104.7?
Yes, when it comes to changes in the local media landscape since 1992, it’s hard to overstate the impact of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — so-called “deregulation” — which allowed companies to own more than one FM and one AM station in a market for the first time.