WCLV (104.9 FM) – branded WCLV Classical 104.9 – is a non-commercial educational classical radio station licensed to Lorain, Ohio. Owned by Ideastream, the station serves Greater Cleveland and parts of surrounding Northeast Ohio. The WCLV studios are located at Playhouse Square in Downtown Cleveland, while the station transmitter resides in the Cleveland suburb of Avon. Besides a standard analog transmission, WCLV broadcasts over a single HD Radio channel, and is available online.
WCLV was actually established as a commercial, classical music station on November 1, 1962 on 95.5. On July 3, 2001, WCLV moved to 104.9, selling the 95.5 frequency to Salem Communications, who established WFHM. On January 1, 2013, WCLV 104.9 became a non-commercial station.
The current WCLV license began on July 23, 1975 as WZLE under license to Lorain, Ohio. First owned by Gene Sens, WZLE's first studios were located in what was formerly a shoe store at the Sheffield Shopping Center. The station was programmed by Jeff Baxter; David Mark served as production voice (previously, Baxter was Jack Riley's radio partner at WERE in the 1960s; Mark was the promotional voice of many TV and radio stations around the world from the 1970s, something he would continue into the 21st century). By 1990, WZLE and AM station WRKG came under common ownership by Cincinnati broadcaster Vernon Baldwin, with studios in the historic Antlers Hotel in downtown Lorain. Initially carrying a format of pop standards billed as "mellow gold," WZLE was sold to Lorain Christian Broadcasting Company in 1983, and subsequently flipped to religious programming, which later evolved into Christian contemporary. In late 1998, WZLE was sold off to Jacor Communications; Jacor itself was acquired by iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel Communications) the very next year.
WAKS (104.9 FM)
On May 20, 1999, WZLE dropped its Christian contemporary format for automated Top 40 as KISS 104.9. The WZLE studios were then moved to Downtown Cleveland in the Tower City Center's Skylight Office Tower with sister stations WMMS and WMVX.
Soon, however, a fight broke out between Clear Channel and Radio One over local rights to the "KISS" brand. Weeks earlier, Radio One had flipped station WENZ from modern rock to hip-hop/R&B as Kiss 107.9, adopting the brand from their Washington, D.C. hip-hop outlet, WKYS. Clear Channel claimed ownership using Los Angeles Top 40 giant KIIS-FM as the basis for their claim, as it had already launched similar stations in Dayton and Cincinnati. Radio One eventually lost the fight; that September, WENZ became Z-107.9. On September 13, 1999, WZLE briefly changed its call letters to WMTX. Four days later, on September 17, 1999, the station adopted the call letters WAKS.
2001 "frequency swap"
On July 3, 2001, WAKS was one of seven Northeast Ohio radio stations involved in a complex exchange between three radio companies. Although generally reported as a "frequency swap", in reality these seven radio stations mostly traded intellectual properties – callsigns along with their respective formats and staffs – all to facilitate the transfers of ownership of four of the seven stations. As part of this complex exchange, Clear Channel Communications sold WAKS to Radio Seaway; both companies retained their respective on- and off-air staff. Radio Seaway then changed the WAKS callsign to WCLV-FM; changed the station's format to classical; and rebranded the station WCLV 104.9. In effect, this new WCLV-FM (104.9 FM) licensed to Lorain became the successor to the former WCLV (95.5 FM) licensed to Cleveland.
On November 1, 2001, Radio Seaway donated commercial radio station WCLV-FM (104.9 FM) to the non-profit WCLV Foundation. Radio Seaway partners Robert Conrad and Rich Marschner arranged the transaction in response to what they and others felt was a disturbing trend in larger radio markets – corporate buyouts of traditionally classical commercial stations, with the new owners invariably discontinuing the format. In addition to assuring the continuation of the classical music format, the transfer of commercial station WCLV-FM to the non-profit WCLV Foundation provided funding via the station's "excess profits" for local arts organizations: the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Play House, and the Cleveland Foundation. When compared to WCLV (95.5 FM), WCLV-FM (104.9 FM) struggled to provide coverage to eastern parts of the Greater Cleveland area, particularly in Lake County. Beginning in 2001, WCLV-FM remedied this problem with a simulcast of the classical format over an AM station in the eastern Cleveland suburb of Painesville – WBKC (1460 AM).
On January 20, 2003, the station changed its callsign from WCLV-FM to WCLV. This occurred when the WCLV callsign (without the "-FM" suffix) became available following the callsign change of WCLV (1420 AM) to WRMR (1420 AM). The station continued to brand itself WCLV 104.9. On August 4, 2003, WCLV (104.9 FM) began HD Radio broadcasts. The station was second only to Elyria-licensed WNWV to broadcast via HD Radio in the Cleveland radio market. In 2006, WCLV (104.9 FM) ceased its simulcast over WBKC (1460 AM).
On August 10, 2010, WCLV announced it would move from its long-time "Radio Ranch" studios in Warrensville Heights to the Idea Center at Playhouse Square in Downtown Cleveland, home to area PBS member WVIZ and area NPR member WCPN. The station's transmitter site will remain in Avon. The move occurred in December 2010. On May 4, 2011, Radio Seaway announced it was donating WCLV to WVIZ and WCPN's owner, Ideastream. Under the terms of the deal, Cleveland Classical Radio, which has long operated the station on behalf of Radio Seaway, continued to operate the station until November 1, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the WCLV intellectual unit. On that date, WCLV officially became part of Ideastream.
Commercial operation continued until January 1, 2013, when the station joined WVIZ and WCPN in operating as a non-commercial, public radio station. Also on January 1, 2013, a new HD broadcast of WCLV was made available via sister station 90.3 WCPN on its HD-2 channel (90.3 HD-2). This addition allowed those in eastern suburbs to once again receive WCLV via FM (albeit requiring a Hybrid Digital 'HD' radio). From 2001 through 2012, WCLV was one of the few remaining commercial classical music stations in the United States.
On June 29, 2007, WCLV broadcast the final episode of Adventures in Good Music. The program, which had been airing weeknights at 8 p.m., had actually discontinued production some four years earlier – two years before the death of host Karl Haas, who began the show on a Detroit radio station in 1959. The show's syndication to other classical stations, mostly affiliated with NPR, also ended. Essential Classics, another program of recorded music, replaced Adventures in Good Music on the WCLV schedule. Local personalities heard on WCLV include Jacqueline Gerber (mornings), Mark Satola (middays), Bill O'Connell (afternoon drive), John Simna (evenings), and Rob Grier (overnight) On Sunday afternoons, Dennis Lewin (of the rock band Beau Coup) hosts Turning You onto Classical Music.