With the announcement Friday that NBC radio would move its newscasts and popular Talknet from WWRC-AM (980) to business-formatted WPGC-AM (1580), one of local broadcasting's oldest relationships came to an end.

WRC-AM was put on the air by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in August 1923. Three years later, RCA formed the first broadcasting network, National Broadcasting Co., making WRC one of NBC's original owned-and-operated stations. In 1984, NBC sold the station along with the NBC and Talknet affiliation to Greater Media Inc. for more than $3.5 million. (An additional "W" was added to the call letters to denote the ownership change.)

For several years the network's newscasts have been aired on WWRC only between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. while the station's news staff has produced its own locally oriented hourly reports for prime listening time. Those newscasts often include NBC-generated sound bites. WWRC has rarely aired the 10 to 12 news specials produced by the network each year, but it has carried the complete Talknet lineup, which features syndicated ratings getters Bruce Williams and Neil Myers.

But starting Feb. 17, WPGC-AM will carry NBC Radio's hourly newscasts, news specials and Talknet.

"They {WPGC} will run more of our programs and run more of our commercials," said Jack Clements, vice president of network operations for Westwood One, NBC Radio's parent company. "Over the years WWRC has changed its format and can't handle the program inventory that we'd like it to handle. It's their programming choice but our priority is to have NBC hourly news and news specials aired in Washington. This is where newsmakers are and it's important for them to hear NBC."

WWRC, which operates 24 hours at 5,000 watts, had complained in the past about NBC's quality. Former WWRC program director Ken Mellgren had held several meetings and conversations with Ron Nessen, Westwood's vice president of news, concerning the quality of the network's newscasts. Westwood One, a Los Angeles-based music syndicator, paid General Electric $50 million for NBC Radio in 1987 and combined the operation with its other network, Mutual Broadcasting System. On April 2, the network launched a morning news magazine that included a segment for listener calls. It was later discovered that three of the show's five phone calls were faked, made from NBC's Arlington studios by the show's own producers.

Although Clements refused to discuss his network's annual compensation to WWRC for carrying its newscasts along with advertising sold by the network, one source familiar with the agreement said it dropped to about $200,000 this year. The station's ratings have also declined in the last two years. Although WPGC will collect less than $100,000, that could increase if WPGC's ratings improve and if NBC's visibility gains. "They are paying compensation based on ratings {spring and fall} and hopefully it'll go way up as the ratings go up," said WPGC General Manager Ben Hill.

WWRC's program director, Tyler Cox, said Friday evening he was told by NBC "the audience size is not as important as having their newscasts being heard." Cox countered: "WWRC will be looking to affiliate with a quality national news organization" but was unsure which news network that might be and what programming would replace NBC.

WPGC-AM, one in a chain of minority-owned stations operated by Cook Inlet Radio Partners LP, a partnership of eight Inuit tribes based in Anchorage, was simulcasting urban contemporary music with its FM sister station until 26 months ago when it moved to a business-news format and began carrying Business Radio Network. Last spring WPGC-AM made its debut in the Arbitron survey and during the summer survey of adults 25 to 54 years old attracted an estimated 17,000 listeners during an average quarter-hour or a .3 share of the total audience during morning drive, dropping to about 5,000 listeners midday before increasing to an estimated 14,000 listeners in the afternoon. At the same time, WWRC claimed about 60,000 listeners or a 1.2 morning share, 65,000 listeners and a 1.6 share in middays, and 63,000 and 1.6 share during afternoon drive. During the evening hours when radio's audience is smaller, Talknet's Williams averaged 46,000 listeners with a 2.8 share.

But before Williams -- who has about 700,000 listeners nationwide -- can be heard on WPGC, the station will have to get the FCC's approval to broadcast 24 hours. For the 36 years it's been on the air, WPGC-AM has broadcast only in the daytime. That has been a problem at times. The station carries University of Virginia football games and on Nov. 3 had to sign off before the nationally ballyhooed Cavaliers game with Georgia Tech had ended. And although it broadcasts at 50,000 watts of power, the signal is directed away from the north and toward the west from its Capitol Heights towers. Thus, Montgomery County listeners interested in business news have difficulty hearing it.

WPGC's program director, Donna Francavilla, expects the FCC to approve the 24-hour broadcasts before New Year's and said the nighttime power will be 292 watts.