WTMD (89.7 FM) is an adult album alternative-formatted public radio station owned by Your Public Radio, previously licensed to Towson University and located in Towson, Maryland. The station serves Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
|Broadcast area||Baltimore, Maryland|
|Owner||Your Public Radio Corp|
First air date
|February 12, 1976|
Former call signs
Call sign meaning
|Where Towson Makes a Difference|
Like most college radio stations, WTMD has its origins in a network of closed-circuit carrier current transmitters inaugurated in spring 1972. Although carrier current stations are not licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the operation adopted the unofficial call sign WVTS ("Voice of Towson State") as a familiar form of identification.
Efforts immediately began to build out an FM station, although it was hampered by a lack of available frequencies as other educational broadcasters built their stations first. A plan to partner with Morgan State University to launch a shared station (later to become WEAA) fell through. A 1973 letter to The Towerlight was reflective of the overall mood surrounding the station, bemoaning the fact that the largest mass communications program in the state had only a carrier current station – which the author described as a "sophisticated intercom" – for training. Concerns also abounded about poor news and events coverage, and a lack of professionalism on the part of airstaff.
In 1974, the FCC granted Towson State permission to build on 89.7 MHz. This station was assigned the callsign WCVT ("Communications Voice of Towson"), and signed on February 12, 1976 with a typical college radio format of primarily progressive rock and a variety of specialty shows. The carrier current station was also renamed WCVT and became a training ground for the FM station, greatly improving its on-air quality. WCVT's eclectic music found a small but loyal audience. The station was recognized by the Baltimore City Paper in 1988 as the city's best.
WCVT upgraded to 10,000 watts in 1981. Towson State began directly funding the station in 1988 with the intention of hiring professional management, which it did in the same year.
In 1991, faced with an audience that was unsustainably small for its funding needs, WCVT flipped to smooth jazz and light adult contemporary "89.7 The Breeze", changing callsigns to WTMD. Despite the apparent meaning of "Towson, Maryland", the call letters began as an initialism for "Where Towson Makes a Difference." Students protested the loss of their musical outlet, arguing that since they were still a major funding source it should play what they wanted. General manager Jim English put it bluntly to the Baltimore Sun: "Nobody's listening." Management contended that the station's primary goal was to teach broadcasting, not entertain students, and it needed to switch to a more accessible format to resolve persistent revenue shortfalls. Full-service NPR member station WJHU (88.1 FM) had four times the audience with a comparable signal.
After eleven years of what Sun media reporter David Folkenflik derisively referred to as "low-calorie" elevator music, WTMD flipped to adult album alternative (AAA) – a mix of indie rock, rock, folk and alternative country – on December 3, 2002. Station management indicated they were impressed by the success of stations such as WXPN and KCRW, and sought a musical format not otherwise accessible in Baltimore; at the time, WEAA, WJHU, and Washington's WPFW also devoted at least part of their broadcast days to jazz. The AAA format has achieved a similar level of success, and WTMD has developed a reputation as a strong supporter of the local music scene.
WTMD concurrently moved from faculty oversight in the Department of Electronic Media and Film to direct management by the university's communications department. The station currently has an all-professional office and air staff, although Towson students are hired as interns and have worked their way into on-air positions. In 2014, the station's management was delegated to the affiliated nonprofit Towson University Public Media, though the university retained ownership of the station and its assets.
The carrier current network became known as WTSR ("Towson State Radio") in 1981, and gradually became more eclectic after the FM station dropped progressive rock. It was shut down in 2004; WTSR moved online and still exists today as XTSR.
In May 2021, Your Public Radio Corp., the owner of WYPR, reached an agreement to acquire the station for $3 million. WTMD will retain its format and programming. The acquisition closed that November, after receiving Federal Communications Commission approval.
First Thursday Concerts in the ParkEdit
WTMD produces First Thursday Concerts in the Park, a series of six free after work shows at West Mount Vernon Park in downtown Baltimore, and starting in 2014, Canton Waterfront Park. Artists like The Damnwells, Joan Osborne, Los Lonely Boys, LP, Steve Forbert, The Colour, The Young Dubliners and others have performed, attracting crowds of about 3,000.
The 2013 calendar included performances by artists The Lone Below, Alpha Rev, The Wild Feathers, and the Kopecky Family Band. As of 2013, First Thursday attendance has dramatically increased, doubling from previous years to draw 6,000 to 7,000 attendees.
The 2014 calendar included artists such as Joan Osborne, Joseph Arthur, Marah, Los Lonely Boys, Spanish Gold, LP, Grizfolk, Strand of Oaks, Lydia Loveless, Moon Taxi, The Whigs, JD McPherson, The Hold Steady, Hamilton Leithauser, and Among Wolves.
Relationship with WashingtonEdit
WTMD partnered with WAMU in Washington, D.C. whereby WAMU rebroadcast WTMD on their second HD Radio digital subchannel. This brought back independent music radio to Washington for the first time since WHFS dropped its alternative rock format in 2005. In fact, this partnership was recognized and praised by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner McDowell in his remarks when the Commission voted to make HD multicasting permanent. WTMD was simulcast full-time on WAMU-HD2 until September 2007, when WAMU removed all music programming from its primary signal and flipped the HD2 subchannel to Americana and bluegrass-formatted "Bluegrass Country". The simulcast moved to overnights and weekends on WAMU-HD3; in 2010, the WTMD-programmed blocks were flipped to content from XPoNential Radio.
WTMD also broadcast on FM translator W288BS, located in the Washington suburb of Great Falls, Virginia on 105.5 FM. This translator was fed by WAMU's HD signal and began relaying Bluegrass Country in October 2008.
- "FCC History Cards for WTMD" (PDF).
- Esslinger, Dean (2005). Towson University. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 9780738541877.
- Knox, Felicity (3 December 2018). "Sound Salvation: Radio at TU". Towson University Special Collections and University Archives.
- "Towson State's WCVT plans to change call letters, format". Baltimore Sun. 9 May 1991.
- Folkenflik, David (27 November 2002). "WTMD, at Towson, to change its format". Baltimore Sun.
- Kirkman, Rebecca (13 November 2018). "WTMD celebrates 15th anniversary". TigerConnect.
- "WTMD's New Home to Add Performance Space, Studios". Towson, MD Patch. 28 March 2012.
- "Inside WTMD". WTMD 89.7.
- "WYPR To Acquire WTMD". WYPR. 2021-05-28. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
- "WYPR Acquisition of WTMD Finalized on Public Radio Music Day". WYPR. 10 November 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
- Case, Wesley  (2014, April 03) Higher-profile acts on tap as WTMD's First Thursdays moves. The Hold Steady, The Mowgli's will join concert series as it relocates to Canton Waterfront Park. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
- http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-05-02/entertainment/bs-ae-first-thursdays-return-20130426_1_first-thursdays-wtmd-station[bare URL]
- "WTMD's First Thursday Festival, Presented by Brewers Hill".
- "WAMU Multicasting Gets 'Real' With Planned HD3 Launch, Receiver Giveaways". Radio World. 14 September 2007.
- "WAMU-FM changes schedule; adds "Intersection"". Radio & Television Business Report. 2 August 2010.
- Hughes, Dave (28 October 2008). "[WAMU has not quite given its blessing to...]". DCRTV.
- WTMD website
- WTMD in the FCC FM station database
- WTMD on Radio-Locator
- WTMD in Nielsen Audio's FM station database