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What Washington Radio Station Names Mean

What Washington Radio Station Names Mean
Photograph by JHK2303/Shutterstock.

WPGC’s name once stood for “We’re Prince George’s County.” But in March the station, whose roots in the county go back to the late ’50s, left Lanham and joined its corporate siblings WJFK, WNEW, and WIAD in moving to Half Street SE, a couple blocks from Nationals Park. “We love it,” says Steve Swenson, the senior vice president and marketing manager of CBS Washington, DC. Not only do the newshounds at WNEW find it easier to cover stories from a center-city location, “We also found that recruiting employees was a little more of a challenge when you’re on the eastern side of the DMV.”

The new digs also reflect the stations’ commitment to local programming, Swenson says, with a street-level performance space and a studio visible from the sidewalk. “Our goal was to create much more street-level activity,” he says.

WPGC’s transmitter still straddles the DC-PG border, and Swenson says Joe Clair’s morning show has raised ratings across the region. The new offices allow employees of the various stations to mingle, unlike in Lanham, which was “kind of a little more hodgepodge.” Does anyone miss working in the station’s namesake county? “Probably any of the employees whose homes are out that way,” Swenson says.

But WPGC isn’t the only local radio station, operating or defunct, whose call letters reflect an earlier identity. Here’s where some of the names that have surfed Washington’s airwaves came from.

WMAL

Martin A. Leese, an optician, launched the station in 1925 and was its first announcer.

WETA

Founded by the Greater Washington Educational Television Association.

WGMS

“Washington’s Good Music Station.”

WGAY

The easy-listening station was not named for country-music impresario Connie B. Gay, who bought the station years after the call sign was chosen.

WTOP

Its old spot at 1500 AM was at the “top” of your dial.

WUST

It once broadcast from the 1100 block of U Street, Northwest, and then from a block off that famed stretch, at 815 V Street—now the site of the 9:30 Club.

WAVA

Stands for Arlington, Virginia—still the station’s home.

WWDC

You can figure this one out.

This article appears in our July 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously the news editor and lead media reporter for the Poynter Institute, arts editor for the now completely vanished TBD.com, and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.