WBEN-FM, known as "95.7 Ben FM," is an adult hits station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The station plays a mix of 1970s, 1980s and 1990s hits, with some current hot adult contemporary singles. Named after Benjamin Franklin, the station pioneered a "Playing Anything We Feel Like" radio format, a formula that originated in Canada as Jack FM. Unlike many Adult Hits stations, "Ben" uses DJs. The voice of actor John O'Hurley is used for station imaging voiceovers. WBEN-FM's transmitter is located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, and studios are in Bala Cynwyd.
The station was founded as WFLN by civic leaders as a "fine arts" station, and first went on the air in March 1949 with a classical music format. The station was sold in 1988 to Marlin Broadcasting, which added more news, sports and traffic reports. From 1995 to 1997, WFLN was bought and sold five more times. With each purchase, budget cutbacks were instituted and, while maintaining the Classical format, the station adopted a more commercial sound with shorter familiar selections dominating the playlist in most dayparts.
Finally, on September 5, 1997, at 6 PM, Tom Milewski, the chief operating officer for Greater Media, which had recently acquired the station, announced that the station was ending its Classical programming. WFLN's classical recordings were donated to WRTI (Temple University's non-commercial radio station) and Greater Media provided financial support to Temple as formerly all-Jazz WRTI adopted the WFLN Classical format during the day along with three of the WFLN program hosts. WRTI continued to program its Jazz format at night. Greater Media stated at the time that classical music would be best preserved as a non-commercial format; Greater Media's support of WRTI also served to deflect criticism that the company was taking away Philadelphia's only Classical radio station.
After the Classical format ended, 95.7 then became WXXM, "Max 95.7", adopting a Modern AC format similar to, but slightly softer than alternative rock station Y 100. The first song played in the new format was Sheryl Crow's "A Change Would Do You Good." "Max" reported to radio trade publications as a hot adult contemporary station. WXXM was jockless for the first 6 months as "Max", and the ratings plummeted compared to the final survey under the Classical format. Although WXXM added well-known Philadelphia jock Paul Barsky to mornings in February 1999, which resulted in some ratings improvement, it wasn't enough to warrant keeping the format.
At Noon on May 13, 1999, in the middle of Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery", the station flipped to "Jammin' Gold", playing a blend of urban oldies from the '60s to the '80s, disco, classic dance tunes, and some '70s pop hits. The first song on "Jammin' Gold" was "Back Stabbers" by The O'Jays. On August 30, WXXM changed call letters to WEJM. Given Philadelphia's history with the R&B genre, as well as having the demographics needed to support the format, "Jammin' Gold" was initially well received in the market. However, by 2001, the station's ratings began to slip.
On June 15, 2001, WEJM became "Mix 95.7", another incarnation of Hot AC. On July 17, WEJM changed call letters to WMWX. As "Mix," the station initially leaned toward Modern AC, before moving to a more traditional Hot AC approach. The station continued to be plagued by mediocre ratings.
Meanwhile, Infinity/CBS Radio was in the process of flipping some of its FM stations to Adult Hits, a broad-based adult rock and pop format branded as Jack FM with its most-notable slogan "We play what we want!!" Jack stations typically had playlists that could encompass up to two thousand songs. Stations that adopted the format were mostly under-performers in their previous formats, but a few, such as New York's WCBS-FM, were decently-rated heritage oldies stations.
With rumors circulating that there were plans to switch oldies WOGL to "Jack," on March 21, 2005, after playing "Better Man" by Pearl Jam, "Mix" became "95.7 Ben FM." The first song on "Ben" was "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John. The call letters were changed to WBEN-FM on May 9, 2005. The "Ben" format is similar to the "Jack FM" stations in terms of playlist size and the character of the songs played (format and decade of original release), with the slogan "playing anything we feel like." WBEN-FM has tweaked its format in recent years to add some women-friendly urban-flavored hits to further distinguish "Ben" from sister WMGK.
Club Ben (WBEN-FM HD2)
In 2006, WBEN added an HD2 digital signal to carry a commercial-free hybrid Rhythmic AC/Classic Dance format under the name "Club Ben." The format consists of a mix of ‘70s funk and R&B, and ’80s and ‘90s pop/dance music. This format is similar to the former "Jammin' Gold" format, as well as the Rhythmic AC format formerly aired on WISX.
- Both the current and original call letters invoke the name of Ben Franklin; the original WFLN stood for its owner of the time, Franklin Broadcasting.
- Buffalo radio station WBEN (AM) (which was named for the Buffalo Evening News), is owned by Entercom Communications. Entercom is based in Philadelphia, even though they have no station holdings in the market. Entercom granted WBEN-FM the permission to use the call sign, a move that proved to be short-sighted: when FM station WLKK changed to a simulcast of WBEN-AM, it was unable to use the WBEN-FM call sign.