Puerto Rico 1975
WJIT AM & FM conversion to 11-Q and Sonorama

San Juan, Puerto Rico was U.S. Market #31 in 1975
Above is a map of the Pulse San Juan Metro Survey Area

Back to San Juan!

In 1975, the executive recruiting firm of Ron Curtis & Associates contacted me in Phoenix and asked me to interview in New York for the General Manager's position at a radio combo in Puerto Rico. Without knowledge of the identity of the stations, I was asked to prepare a management strategy based on current market conditions.

When I arrived in New York, I discovered the meeting was at the headquarters of Pueblo International, Inc., owners of perennial also-ran San Juan stations WJIT AM&FM. I interviewed with CEO Harold Toppel and was hired before the other two candidates even had a chance to meet with them.

I left Arizona State in my final college year, as completing the few credits I needed for a diploma seemed a lesser option than working for a company like Pueblo. I was soon back in Puerto Rico and found out how truly horrid the station operations were. There was a reason they were losing nearly $200,000 a year and were last in the ratings.

WJIT Rate Card - 1974

WQII had previously been WJIT, an ill fated and poorly managed Top 40 station that was somehow attached to the Holsum Baking operation in San Juan. When Holsum was acquired by the Island's major supermarket chain, the main operation of Pueblo, losses exceeded $20,000 a month and the physical plant was in a shamble. At the time, San Juan was a $12 million a year radio market. WJIT had an AM-FM combo rate of $13 for 60’s. Five years later, the minute rate was well in excess of $100.
Rates were not the only problem the WJIT combo had. Just staying on the air was a challenge. My first task was to begin the 1975 license renewal application. After finding that the stations had not even operated on several days each of the FCC composite week and had, further, not run the correct Public Affairs, news and Other commitments, FCC counsel Rainer Kraus and I had significant work to do to save the licenses. To gain credibility, I organized the first San Juan Broadcasters group to do all the community leaders ascertainment collectively.

The studio site in a congested mid-town mall was inadequate and expensive; a defunct UHF TV facility was purchased and renovated for radio use. One advantage: the location was about 700 feet above San Juan and could be an FM site, too.
The technical facilities were so deteriorated that we decided to shut both stations down and rebuild. Renovation was begun, and it included all new transmitters, a redesign of the 4-tower directional system on AM, and all new studio equipment.

A view of the Los Filtros, Guaynabo, location where the abandoned Channel 18 TV tower still stood. With a commanding view of the metro San Juan area, it was a perfect location for the FM and was also only a 10 minute drive to the AM site.


The old WTSJ Channel 18 building was gutted and renovated. This picture, taken a few years later, shows the results. Located on top of a hill overlooking the entire San Juan metro, it served as the FM transmitter site for over 25 years.

New studios, were ready for 11-Q to debut on August 28, 1975 with Puerto Rico's first Adult Contemporary format... Sophy, Wilkins and Yolandita from Puerto Rico and Julio Iglesias, Camilo Sesto and José José were representative artists.

The WJIT transmitter site was in such poor condition that the station was often off the air for one and two day periods.

The 4-tower directional system was redesigned and rebuilt by Jules Cohen and Bob duTreil and returned to the air with new equipment and improved coverage. It took four months to install new equipment and adjust the directional system. Here, WQII's Ing. Grafton Olivera, consults with the rigger about bring down the 450 foot TV tower that was in the middle of the directional array.

Harris 10 kw FM main transmitter and 3.5 kw auxiliary transmitter at WSRA Sonorama 93. Note the dual exciters in the rack, and the Optimod 8000 audio processing.

Business card above and first rate card, below.

Initially, the station was licensed to Metro Broadcasting. Later, to capitalize on its ownership by the largest supermarket chain in Puerto Rico, the name was changed to Pueblo Broadcasting.

Puerto Rico takes its Q.
11-Q went on the air August 28th of 1975.

For the first time, Puerto Rico had a station with a dial-position based slogan. At 1140 with 10,000 watts day and night, WQII was a solid competitor all over Eastern Puerto Rico. Here is one of the first jock meetings. Abdiel Román (7-Midnight), Wilma González (Office Manager and APD), Víctor Manuel (3-7 PM), Saúl Maldonado (Traffic & Production), Rey Moreira (PD and 10-3PM) and David Gleason (GM) talk about the new format. Missing: Kike Cruz, mornings, and Gilberto López, overnight guy on 11-Q.

WQII rapidly became the San Juan market's top station in 18-49. Both listener and sales promotion were a major part in the success of this station. The ad layout here features "Kanga-Q" the 11-Q mascot and the slogan, "jump to 11-Q."

In 1975, no FM station appeared in San Juan ratings. WSRA became the first to show with its locally produced mix of American and Latin easy listening music and a bilingual on air approach. The station continued to be successful through 1979, despite having four direct format competitors in San Juan.

Another of the innovations at 11-Q was the computerization of all traffic and business functions. No other station, radio or TV, in Puerto Rico was computerized. The ability to produce exact time invoices, show when make-goods had run, and to provide computerized statements was not just a time savings; it was a guarantee to advertisers that 11-Q and Sonorama ran schedules as ordered! This turned out to be a major sales driver, and demonstrated to the ad community that the stations were the most modern and professional in the market.

One of the direct competitors to WSRA contracted with Bonneville for its syndicated music programming. Bonneville's consultant advised them that "they should not plan on beating WSRA" because that station "is perfectly executed." The next year, we blew the format up.

Sonorama went on the air in early 1976 with a beautiful music format.  Here is the coverage map from the first sales brochure.

Sonorama advertised in both English and Spanish. Here is a
San Juan Star English version.

"Two Radio Miracles"
Click on article to read a PDF version.
Click HERE to read text version

"Those who work in the radio business, those in the know, agree in stating that what happened with 11-Q and Sonorama 93 has all the elements of a miracle. There is no other explanation for the extraordinary growth achieved by both stations in such a short time. We will start by mentioning that, in only 9 months on the air, both stations have jumped, insofar as audience is concerned, over most of the other stations in the metropolitan area, stations that have been on the air for years."
An article in one of the local TV magazines featured the new stations, and included a picture of the air staff hanging from the FM tower! (I am the third from the bottom)
Another problem in San Juan was the lack of any ratings service. The Clapp & Mayne service I helped get started in 1971 had been canceled due to bickering among the subscribers. Before even going on the air, I took the first steps to get The Pulse to rate the market. Working with Richard and Larry Roslow at The Pulse and several broadcasters such as Reinaldo Royo at WKAQ and Bob Bennett at WBMJ, the first Pulse was issued for Summer, 1975. During the two years that the market had been unrated, rates fell by nearly half, as there was no metric to establish value with, and advertisers adopted a "take it or leave it" attitude and offered low rates. 

The Pulse Feb-Mar 1976

The new station had been on the air for 6 months when the Spring Pulse was conducted. The station that "couldn't work" was #1 with a 3.1 rating and nearly a 15 share in 18-49 (Above table). This position was maintained up till we unintentionally created the "FM revolution" of 1979 in Puerto Rico.

Click on the Pulse graphic above or the chart below to see a full PDF
 of the San Juan Pulse for Fall of 1976.

A ratings ranker from WQII in 1978 shows the dominance in women and
18-49 overall.

I conducted a two-year campaign, enlisting the Economic Development Board and the PR Planning Board for statistical backing, to have SRDS list San Juan among the market tables in that time-buying publication.
 Finally, the city was listed as market #31 nationally, and WQII/WZNT signed Bernard Howard as national reps. Click on the ad to see a full size PDF version of the Inside Front Cover announcement in Broadcasting Magazine, May 16, 1977.

SRDS ad for WQII in 1979... #1 in the 31st US market!

Here is the SRDS market ranking table that shows San Juan among the other US Markets.
When 11-Q was getting ready to go on the air, even the record promoters thought it would be a disaster. A station with only ballads? Impossible. "Boring, monotonous" was the consensus. It debuted at #1 in 18-49 women, and remained there for five years until Z-93 disrupted the entire market in 1979.
In fact, 11-Q was the first Spanish AC in the US, and, although it was an AM station, WQII was the prototype for the Spanish FMs of the next several decades including KLVE, WAMR, WPAT and others.

Camilo Sesto tries out a Q-miseta Left to right: Rinel Sousa, CBS records, Manolo Sánchez, Camilo´s manager, Camilo, Pedro Miranda, 11-Q morning host, Rey Moreira, 11-Q mid-days and PD, Wilma González, 11-Q Office Manager and David Gleason, general manager.

Camilo Sesto's first visit to San Juan was promoted on 11-Q and the listeners turned out to see him and to win 11-Q prizes. 11-Q was the first station to bring international stars like Camilo, José Velez, Roberto Carlos and others. And the station was a strong supporter of local talent like Willkins, Nydia Caro, Yolandita, Oscar Solo, Olguita, Danny Rivera, Aquamarina, Anexo 3, Katraska, and many others.

Click on the picture for the full sales brochure for the System 9000

Within a year of going on the air, WQII moved to live-assist automation. This produced the additional advantage of having the Monday to Friday talent available via voice tracking on weekends and holidays. Voice tracking even allowed the DJs to be out at street promotions while their shifts ran, making live cut-ins very vivid!

An article ran in Vea magazine showing how the automation made 11-Q an even better station.

11-Q was very promotionally oriented. Here, the school children who won a "biggest Valentine" contest claim their prize of a sound system for their school. With them are Puerto Rican pop stars Olguita, Oscar Solo and Mauro.

A 1976 Hit List from 11-Q showed the top 40 most requested tunes from the first 6 months of the year. Click on the list for a slow-to-load high resolution version that you can actually read.

Arbitron now recognizes Puerto Rico as the 13th market in the US... and the entire Island is a single market, not just the San Juan metro pictured above.

Pueblo Supermarkets...

Pueblo International, the owner of WQII and WSRA (and later WZNT) was a major supermarket company. It was nothing short of a culture clash to compare a business with over 30% margins with one with margins well under 1%.

The Pueblo officers had titles like "Vice President - Meat Operations." It was educational, and taught a lot about retailing that was useful in the radio business.
A look at the financial operations of a station in the 70's
Here are the budgets and financials of Pueblo Communications, formerly Metro Broadcasting, for the years from 1976 to 1980. The parent had a non-calendar fiscal year.

Pueblo 1979 Annual report.
Click on the Cover for the full PDF version of the report.

Here is the cover of a Pueblo Annual report. In 1978, the company made more from the radio stations than from the supermarkets. They did not make note of this in the report, though.

The text under this picture in the Pueblo Annual Report reads like this...
"Management is particularly pleased with the turnaround of the company’s Metro Broadcasting subsidiary. The two radio stations now fully automated and with new broadcasting formats to attract larger music listening audiences, are expected to enhance Pueblo’s future operating results.

Pueblo was a public corporation (NYSE: PII) while I was with the company. The economic problems caused by the purchase and later sale and bankruptcy of the Long Island, NY, Hills chain brought the stock tumbling. The Toppel brothers, founders of the company, attempted an LBO. The economic slump in PR in the early 80's forced the sale of the company to the  Cisneros family interests from Venezuela. Pueblo is now out of business.