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In Chicago Smooth Jazz Radio Moves Again

Some of our perennially most popular posts are about smooth jazz radio in Chicago (and there’s a lot of different kinds of jazz on Chicago radio). After being bumped around the dial for the last five years, the format has emerged on a new station once again, this time broadcasting from a new translator station high atop the John Hancock Center.

It’s been quite a ride. Smooth jazz was bumped from its two-decade home station WNUA-FM in 2009, moved to a TV channel 6 back-door to the FM dial, was axed again in 2012, only to migrate to an HD2 channel this past January. Then, once again, earlier this month the smooth jazz format came to an end on WTMX-HD2, replaced by an all-Jazz Christmas format for the holidays.

However, all is not lost for smooth jazz fans. On December 26 WTMX-HD2 began airing a new–but similar–urban jazz format called “The Groove.” The new station is headed up by veteran Chicago broadcaster Rick O’Dell, who was at the helm for the all the format’s incarnations. The smooth jazz format that aired on WTMX-HD2 from January to December was simulcast from O’Dell’s internet radio stream.

The station is also heard on analog radios via a new translator at 103.9 FM located right on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. “The Groove” is owned by Windy City Broadcasting, which leases the HD2 channel and owns the translator, which it purchased this past summer for a cool million bucks. That’s a lot of money for a 15-watt station, though Windy City has applied to boost power to 99 watts. Still a low-powered station, but being positioned up high in the heart of the city makes it accessible to a lot of listeners.

The channel 6 / 87.7 FM signal that first caught my attention five years ago is still on the air. The alternative rock format left the station in January when it returned to its former and storied q1home at 101.1 FM, where it was previously known as Q101 (the rights to the Q101 name are now owned by a web radio station).

Since January 87.7 has been leased by Tribune Broadcasting to air a sports talk station called The Game. However, that too is coming to an end tonight at midnight, when Tribune pulls the plug. In a November incident that went viral in sports and broadcast circles, the station’s two afternoon hosts learned about the shut down on Twitter live on the air, before they had been notified by management. The whole broadcast was caught on video by the live station cameras. Oops.

Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that the signal will be taken over by the company behind the Me TV network–Weigel Broadcasting–which syndicates nostalgic old re-runs to digital television sub channels throughout the country. Feder says the new station will start February 1, and that 87.7 FM will simulcast its WGN-AM signal in the interim.

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