WBWL (101.7 FM; "101.7 The Bull") is an American radio station licensed to serve the community of Lynn, Massachusetts. Established in 1963, WBWL is owned by iHeartMedia and serves the Boston metropolitan area. The station broadcasts a country music format. The station's studios are located in Medford and the transmitter site is on Murray Hill, also in Medford.
For a more detailed history, see WFNX
WBWL signed on August 5, 1963 as WLYN-FM, owned by Puritan Broadcasting Service along with WLYN (1360 AM). At the outset, WLYN-FM largely simulcast its AM sister station during hours in which the AM was on the air. During the 1970s, the simulcast was cut to drive time, with WLYN-FM brokering the remaining time to ethnic programmers; by 1974, the station's English-language programming included country music. Although WLYN changed its call letters to WNSR in 1977, WLYN-FM retained its call sign, but dropped the "-FM" suffix; both changes were reversed on December 31, 1979.
WLYN-FM began to devote its nighttime programming to new wave music in 1981; the following year, the station had become a full-time modern rock station known as "Y102," with the ethnic programming moving to the AM station. In September 1982, Puritan announced that it would sell WLYN-FM to Stephen Mindich, publisher of the Boston Phoenix; the station eventually became part of the Phoenix Media/Communications Group. Mindich retained the modern rock format upon assuming control in March 1983, relaunching it on April 11 as "Boston Phoenix Radio," with the WFNX call letters coming into use ten days earlier. WFNX would subsequently become one of the earliest alternative rock stations.
WFNX broadened its focus to Greater Boston after the sale to Mindich, opening a sales office at the Phoenix offices in Boston, but its studios remained in the same building as WLYN in Lynn. The station did move its transmitter from WLYN's tower in Lynn to Medford in 1987 and to One Financial Center in Boston in 2006 to provide a better signal within the market; from 1998 to 2006, a translator station, W276AI (101.3 FM) was operated from the John Hancock Tower to improve WFNX's reception in Boston, but was discontinued when the move to One Financial Center rendered it redundant. During 1999 and 2000, Phoenix Media/Communications Group also acquired WCDQ (92.1 FM, renamed WPHX-FM) in Sanford, Maine, WNHQ (92.1 FM, renamed WFEX) in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and WWRX-FM (103.7 FM) in Westerly, Rhode Island to serve as WFNX simulcast stations. WWRX-FM was sold to Entercom, eventually becoming WVEI-FM, in 2004, while WPHX-FM was sold to Aruba Capital Partners, becoming WXEX-FM, in 2011. Even with these expansions, WFNX broadcast at a lower power than other Boston market stations, limiting WFNX's signal in the outer portions of the market.
Phoenix Media/Communications Group announced on May 16, 2012 that it would sell WFNX to iHeartMedia (then known as Clear Channel Communications), after finding it difficult to sustain its continued operation. WFEX was sold to Blount Communications, which would rename that station WDER-FM the next day. Live programming ended on July 20, 2012, with the last song being "Let's Go to Bed" by The Cure (the first song on WFNX in 1983); an automated version of WFNX remained available online until March 2013, when the Boston Phoenix publication shut down (citing huge financial losses), and was also heard on 101.7 FM until 4:00 PM on July 24, when Clear Channel assumed control of the station. At that time, after playing "Shake It Out" by Florence and The Machine, 101.7 began stunting with a loop of the Boston-famous song Dirty Water by The Standells. At approximately 4:28 PM, WFNX relaunched as WHBA, an adult hits station branded as "101.7 The Harbor." The first song on "The Harbor" was "Sweet Emotion" by locally founded band Aerosmith. The launch of WHBA marked the return of the adult hits format to the Boston market; a similar format aired on WMKK (93.7 FM) from March 2005 until it became WEEI-FM in September 2011.
On December 20, 2012, at 6 PM, the station flipped to dance, branded as "Evolution 101.7;" the format had been launched as an online station on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio service six weeks earlier. The final song on "The Harbor" was "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, while the first song on "Evolution" was "Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia. As "Evolution," the station claimed to be "the first real EDM station in the country." The call letters were changed to WEDX on January 2, 2013. On January 14, 2013, Sisanie, who provides voicetracks for several top 40 and rhythmic top 40 stations also owned by Clear Channel (including WEDX's sister station WXKS-FM), became the first "airstaffer" to be added to WEDX's daily lineup, voicetracking in afternoons. In December 2013, the station began simulcasting on WXKS-FM's HD2 channel, which previously broadcast an all-comedy format. The move was because of WEDX's limited signal, which is nulled to the south to protect Providence-based sister station WWBB (101.5 FM).
On June 13, 2014, at Noon, after playing "How You Love Me" by 3LAU, WEDX began airing a country music stunt and asking listeners to go online and use the hashtag "#CountryOn1017" to vote on what artists the station should play. At 3 PM, WEDX officially flipped to country, branded as "101.7 The Bull". The first song on "The Bull" was "This Is How We Roll" by Florida-Georgia Line. The new format competes against established country station WKLB-FM (102.5 FM), and serves as the Boston affiliate of the syndicated Bobby Bones Show. "Evolution" remains available through WXKS-FM's HD2 channel, the iHeartRadio mobile application, and in early-morning blocks on Saturdays and Sundays on WXKS-FM. The call letters were changed to WBWL on June 30, 2014 to match the new format.
iHeartMedia had filed with the FCC to downgrade the signals of stations it owns in Rhode Island (WWBB) and on Cape Cod (WCIB), which enabled WBWL to offer a non-directional, upgraded signal, from the previous transmitter site in Medford. The modifications were completed in August of 2014.