99X returns to 98.9 on the FM dial after eight months

Cumulus was able to satisfy complaints of interference from a Tallapoosa station

Originally filed Saturday, December 22, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

New rock station 99X is back on the FM dial on 98.9 after eight months in digital exile.

A Tallapoosa radio station Great Classics 98.9 at WWGA-FM filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging 99X was causing interference issues. 

In April, the FCC ordered Atlanta-based Cumulus to take 99X off 98.9. 

Gradick Communications - owner of Great Classics - had complained for several years and Cumulus’ engineers couldn’t fix the problem to Gradick’s satisfaction. 

But while 99X was off air, Cumulus was able to resolve the problem to the FCC’s satisfaction by reducing power to its westaccording to Sean Shannon, Cumulus Atlanta market manager. So Cumulus was able to bring the station back to 98.9 on Friday.

“Great response on social for the return,” Shannon wrote in a text. “That fan base is passionate.”

Tallapoosa is off I-20 near the Alabama border about 60 miles west of downtown Atlanta. 

While 99X was off the traditional FM dial, the station remained online and on the HD2 channel attached to Q100. 

Here was the original estimated coverage map for 99X, which was relatively modest:

Here’s the Great Classics coverage map:

99X has been on four different FM signals over the years. During its heyday, 99X was on the 100,000-watt 99.7. But in 2008, Cumulus moved it to the weaker 100.5 signal, swapping with the ascendant top 40 station Q100. 

The rock station was off the FM dial for 15 months, then returned in 2009 to 97.9. Two years later, it was moved to 99.1, then 98.9. In 2012, it was taken off the air again and 99X basically went dormant.

In early 2016, Cumulus brought it back to 98.9 focused almost exclusively on new music. 

99X - even on a modest signal that can generally be heard clearly inside the Perimeter - pulled in a 1.9 rating in its final full month on air earlier this year among 18 to 34 year olds, good for 20th place. 

Its current playlist includes songs by acts such as Portugal, The Man, Cold War Kids, Twenty One Pilots, the Black Keys, the 1975 and Mumford & Sons. The station is jockless. 

No other rock station in the market focuses on new music. Alt 105.7 - owned by iHeart Media - plays some newer songs but supplements heavily with classics from 99X’s best days in the 1990s and early 2000s. Its ratings has fallen off sharply the past three years. 

In April, 2016, Alt 105.7 (then called Radio 105.7) drew a 2.9 rating overall (16th place) and 4.6 among 18 to 34 year olds, good for 7th place. Last month? It hit a low of 1.2 rating and a 2 among 18 to 34 year olds, good for 20th place.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.