WFLA 970 AM ("Newsradio 970 WFLA") is talk-formatted AM radio station in Tampa, Florida, serving the Tampa Bay media market. The station is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc. Inc., the largest U.S. radio station owner. The station's studios are located in South Tampa and the transmitter site is in Town 'n' Country.
WFLA began in 1925 as Clearwater radio station WGHB (1130 AM). By 1927, its call letters changed to WFLA and it moved to 590 AM. It shared the frequency with WSUN before they both moved together to 620 AM in 1929. In January 1941, WFLA moved to 940 AM, then to its present 970 AM that March.
WFLA carried most of the popular network shows during the golden days of radio. From 1945–1949, the station carried a gospel show, which featured legendary bass singer J. D. Sumner and The Sunny South Quartet. It had various music formats over the subsequent years (top 40, middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary) before switching to news/talk in 1986. It has been the market leader in this format ever since, and usually is among the top five stations in the market, according to Arbitron ratings.
At one time, WFLA and its FM radio sister (93.3 FM, now WFLZ-FM) were owned by Media General, the parent company of The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV. In the 1980s, federal regulations forced Media General to divest the radio stations because of its other local media holdings. The radio stations were sold to Blair Broadcasting in late 1982. Sconnix Communications of Charleston, South Carolina, bought WFLA and what was then WPDS from Blair Broadcasting (which was divesting all of its English-language broadcasting properties to concentrate on what became today's Telemundo) in 1987, and Jacor Communications purchased WFLA from Sconnix in 1988. (Clear Channel Communications purchased Jacor in 1999 and thus acquired WFLA and WFLZ.)
In 1990, the station moved from downtown Tampa to its present location at 4002 W. Gandy Blvd., in south Tampa. Another Clear Channel property in Tallahassee now uses the calls, WFLA-FM.
WFLA gave national hosts Glenn Beck and Lionel their starts in talk radio. Other prominent alumni, from the days when the station concentrated on local programming, include Bob Lassiter (d. 2006), Jay Marvin, Dick Norman (d. 1989), Chuck Harder, Jack Ellery and Freddy Mertz. Other former hosts include Al Gardner, Mark Larsen, Daniel Ruth, Mark Beiro, Paul Gonzalez and Mel Berman (d. 2010).
The station's local morning show, AM Tampa Bay, is hosted by broadcasters Jack Harris and Tedd Webb. The station is also the home and flagship for nationally syndicated afternoon host Todd Schnitt (The Schnitt Show). The station's weekday lineup includes nationally syndicated programs hosted by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, as well as Coast to Coast AM. Saturday programming includes Reel Animals, an outdoors sports show hosted by Mike Anderson; a home improvement show hosted by David Bell with local experts; the nationally syndicated Cigar Dave Show, which originates from WFLA's studios; and Tony "Fatso" Siciliano's On The Grill, a cooking show that also originates from WFLA studios and can be heard on XM Satellite Radio. The Sunday lineup features The Florida Gardening Show, hosted by Mark Govan, followed by Ask An Attorney with Joe Pippen, and the Duncan Duo Real Estate Show hosted by Andrew Duncan.
National news is provided by Fox News Radio. At one time, WFLA had live, local newscasts around the clock; in recent years, local newscasts have been limited to 5 a.m.-7 p.m. ET weekdays, and 6 a.m.-1 p.m. ET weekends. As of April 2012, the weekday on-air news staff included anchors Martin Giles (morning drive), Steve Hall (middays), Bill Cole (afternoon drive), and Dennis Pavluk (early evenings), with Hal Lamb as the weekend anchor. Sharon Parker, Gordon Byrd, and Ryan Lang report for the station. Dozens of newscasters have been behind the microphone over the years; most prominent are Giles, Hall and Parker, each having been with the station for more than 20 years, as was former news director Don Richards (d. 2008). Another prominent long-time personality is traffic reporter Gary McHenry, who has been a part of the station since the 1970s and provides updates during morning and afternoon drive.
The station is the home of University of South Florida Bulls football games. Jim Louk is the play-by-play announcer, and Mark Robinson serves as color analyst. Jim Lighthall and Justin Pawlowski serve as pregame, halftime and postgame hosts. It also carries other sports programming on a case-by-case basis when there are scheduling conflicts with sports events on its sister stations, WDAE (620 AM) and WHNZ (1250 AM), which hold the rights to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Storm and University of Florida broadcasts.
WFLA provides news coverage for other Clear Channel stations in the Tampa Bay market, and its anchors and reporters often are heard elsewhere in the state, providing reports and sometimes complete newscasts for those markets. WFLA also serves as a hub for the Florida News Network. Clear Channel's corporate director of news/talk programming, Senior Vice President Gabe Hobbs, was based at WFLA's studios until January 2009, when he and nearly 2,000 other Clear Channel employees nationwide were laid off in a cost-cutting measure.
Since December 2008, WFLA has been simulcast on the FM radio band, via the HD-2 (digital radio) subchannel of sister station WXTB (97.9 FM). From May 2012 to February 2013, WFLA had been simulcast on a low-powered translator in West Tampa, W237DI 105.9 MHz, which covers most of the city of Tampa. This repeater was leased to Clear Channel by the Radio Training Network, the parent company of The Joy FM. On February 2013, Clear Channel changed the programming on that translator to WMTX 100.7 to broadcast its HD-2 classic rock subchannel, Thunder Across The Bay. The station currently simulcasts over translator on 96.7 FM W244BE, Brandon. The translator is located in Holiday.