Merlin Flips FM News In Chicago & New York

FM News 101.9 101.1 WIQI i101 Chicago WEMP New Rock 101.9 New YorkThe “FM News” era at Merlin Media ends just a couple days past the one year anniversary of Merlin taking over both stations.

A little after 10:00 eastern time (9:00 central), both stations said farewell and thanks to the listeners of their News formats before segueing into their new music formats.

WIQI Chicago shifts to a very 90s based Adult Hits format “i101“. WEMP New York returns to Alternative as “New Rock 101.9“. Both potential identities were both reported here over the past few days. You can listen to the debut of “New Rock 101.9 New York at

Merlin CEO Randy Michaels commented on the changes stating, “Effective immediately, Alternative is back on the air in New York as New Rock 101.9 and Adult Hits are on the air in Chicago as i101. It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change. I’d like to thank the people who poured their heart and soul into the effort and I wish them all the best.”

The majority of staffers at both stations have been dismissed with the format changes. “Q87.7” WKQX Chicago OM Jim Richards is serving as interim OM/PD at both WIQI and WEMP.

The first hour on i101 featured:
NSync – Bye Bye Bye
Pink – Get The Party Started
311 – All Mixed Up
TLC – Waterfalls
EMF – Unbelievable
Goo Goo Dolls – Name
Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch – Good Vibration
Alanis Morrisette – You Learn
Poison – Unskinny Bop
Salt N Pepa – Whatta Man
Beck – Loser
Ace Of Base – All That She Wants
Young MC – Bust A Move
Vertical Horizon – Everything You Want

Meanwhile New Rock 101.9 launched with:
Beastie Boys – No Sleep Til Brooklyn
Alex Clare – Too Close
Foo Fighters – Walk
Third Eye Blind – Graduate
Phoenix – 1901
Of Monsters & Men – Little Talks
Offspring – Self Esteem
Black Keys – Tighten Up
Pearl Jam – Daughter
Rage Against The Machine – Guerrilla Radio
Foster The People – Don’t Stop
Green Day – Oh Love
Marcy Playground – Sex & Candy
Paramore – Misery Business
Group Love – Tounge Tied

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  1. phillyradiogeek says

    The i101 playlist sounds much like Mix 106.1 FM in Philadelphia.

    1. Michael says

      And the WEMP New Rock playlist sounds like Radio 1045 in Philly

      1. purplespeedbaka says

        New York needed a station that did that format, but I actually like New Rock a little better so far. It has the Philly stuff but with more rock. I like hearing Foster the People and Rise Against on the same station. 🙂 Now NR needs to get some DJs. I heard all electronic segues. Humans talking might be nice now and again.

        Side note: I’m gonna miss Lionel…

  2. SBay says

    Thrilled that alternative rock is back in New York! Please do not change it again. There has been a dearth of rock choices an it is great to once again have this channel back.

  3. Denise says

    It was so nice to hear news on an 101.9 a FM station that provided news and the traffic updates were great for those of us who travel during rush hour.
    The only news stations are on AM which I have no reception at work. News is what we needed not another music station.

  4. And so, the biggest epic fail in Radio History is euthanized.

    The problem was the condescending tone the stations took at launch. Also didn’t help that the stations got 0 buzz outside the Radio blogs and pubs at launch and the first buzz it did get was about the ad itself rather than what it was advertising.

    Add the fact that WEMP never regained the levels of audience it had w/ RXP (despite the fact it was different demo, it should’ve at least made half) and that WIQI in Chicago was outrated by a FrankenFM and you knew the writing was on the wall.

    Now as for the replacements, as long as WEMP doesn’t over do the classics and keeps it focused on the 2000s/2010s it has a CHANCE as there’s a clear hole for Modern/Alt Rock.

    Meanwhile, in Chi-Town, I don’t have high-hopes for i101. GenX is getting killed left and right nationwide and Adult/Variety Hits was already tried in Chicago w/ Jack. The only hope “i” has is if it manages to eat up ‘TMX just enough to be notable.

    Merlin Media started off poorly, now Randy needs to find some “Magic” soon or else it’ll be Tribune and ClearChannel all over again.

    1. Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says

      I can’t help but think that Merlin is now throwing tons of money in front of Broadcast Barter to buy back the “Q101” name, history and intellectual property (they still have to resolve that pesky C&D BB threw at Merlin upon the launch of “Q87.7”).

      If i101 is still on at the end of the year, I’ll be surprised. But they have to put SOMETHING on 101.1 after deleting all-news. Anything suggesting a return to alt-rock (even a simulcast of 87.7) on 101.1 will hurt Merlin’s cause.

      WRXP didn’t have the history or name value that Q101 had. But flipping back to alt-rock in New York is a stunner.

  5. Angel Gonzalez says

    Chicago got Shafted with this change. Q101 already came back under Q87.7 back in May. I really did like the unique news format FM News did provide. Important news, Local News, and (in a city full of AM Political talk stations), a “non” political talk about the news subjects of the day and the ability to call/text in your comments.

    This station was in my opinion on the up and up with their “Extended News Coverage”. It just needed some more time. After all some of us (like myself) was unaware that station even existed until I was stuck in rush hour traffic and happen to look at a billboard advertising it a few months back. After tuning in, I was hooked. Not since the days of WMAQ-AM did Chicago have a “CHOICE” for news. Well I guess it’s back to the monopoly.

    Oh and finally the music they are now playing in i101 is junk. Almost everyone I know hears music via the Internet. The only thing you couldn’t hear online is local news coverage which is what FM News provided on the radio.

    Now unless I need to hear a traffic report or a weather update, I pretty much have no use for AM/FM.

    1. Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says

      I can’t help but think that WIQI was intended to go as a news/talker right up until yesterday or the day before, and WEMP was probably going to go in a similar direction. But the investors backing Merlin likely forced Randy’s hand and made him cancel both formats outright, not only angered at the low ratings and revenue problems, but also that their FrankenFM – Q87.7 – outdrew WIQI after less than two months on the air with minimal promotion and investment.

      It would explain both the hastiness of the flips AND Randy’s last-minute absence from the combined staff meetings (where the fired news directors had to deliver the bad news instead).

      You have to ask yourself: did Randy REALLY want alternative back on WEMP?

      1. MattParker says

        Makes sense. Randy’s not the first to learn that taking money from vulture capitalists (like Bain) is supping with Satan.

  6. James S. says

    i101 will be gone by years’ end. Why is there no consistent Fox Sports radio provider in Chicago? It doesn’t get listened to, I guess? I get that WBIG 1280 has some of their format but are WSCR and WMVP really that dominant so much so that another sports radio couldn’t compete? Maybe a sports FM might be cool.

    1. Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says

      That’s pretty much the case. WSCR and WMVP have a boatload of play-by-play between the both of them – and WBBM has the Bears – that it would be impossible for any upstart to compete.

      Fox Sports Radio has the stigma of being a West Coast-centric network, especially since they and KLAC/Los Angeles are one and the same.

      i101 is a temporary format, but – again – I still hold to my guns that Merlin will come to Broadcast Barter with a boatload of money in their arms, and “Q101” will be reborn by year’s end.

  7. Arlene Pikser says

    VERY UNHAPPY about the change from FM News to rock. Having news on FM was great. All the other stations have music. Now I put the AM 1010 news on while getting ready for work and the AM station goes in and out (mostly out). I live in NYC and listening to news as I prepare to go to my office was a wonderful thing.
    PLEASE PLEASE go back to the news format.

    1. K.M. Richards says

      Look, we found one of the four listeners to “FM News”!

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