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Wed Apr 4 6:54 pm  #1


Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

This is old hat for most of us, but I suppose it's news to people who peruse Readers Digest.

Here’s Why Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’
 

 

Wed Apr 4 7:06 pm  #2


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

I always understood the "W" was for "Westinghouse" whom I guess had some play in developing broadcast standards east of the Mississipi.  Not true?
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

Wed Apr 4 8:06 pm  #3


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Interesting. I did not know that KDKA had those call letters due to grandfathering as it existed with those before the rule. I figure the same for VOCM out of St John's.


Cool Airchecks and More:
http://www.lettheuniverseanswer.com/
 

Wed Apr 4 8:06 pm  #4


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Generally, stations west of the Mississippi River start with a K.  Stations east of the Mississippi usually start with a W, with the notable exception of KDKA in Pittsburgh.

 

Wed Apr 4 8:13 pm  #5


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Fitz wrote:

Interesting. I did not know that KDKA had those call letters due to grandfathering as it existed with those before the rule. I figure the same for VOCM out of St John's.

Neither did I, but because KDKA is one of the oldest stations in the United States, I assumed it was assigned  the K call letters before they were designated for stations west of the Mississippi.
 

 

Wed Apr 4 8:17 pm  #6


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

What about KYW in Philly? 
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

Wed Apr 4 8:43 pm  #7


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

And the recently defunct (soon to be "funct" again) KQV - also in Pittsburgh - also has/had the letter "K." 

     Thread Starter
 

Wed Apr 4 8:48 pm  #8


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Jody Thornton wrote:

What about KYW in Philly? 

The KYW call letters have quite a history, going from Chicago to Philly to Cleveland and then back to Philly. 

The long and winding history of KYW

     Thread Starter
 

Thu Apr 5 5:02 am  #9


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

I had completely forgotten about KYW, but It was certainly a station I could hear virtually every night in southern Ontario back in the 70s.  I remember it had an all news format similar to WCBS in New York. 

I have only recently heard of KQV.  You could not receive it in southern Ontario because it broadcast with a power of only 5000 watts.   It originally signed on in 1919, so that explains why its call letters started with a K even though it was located east of the Mississippi.  The station is currently silent, but new owners plan to revive it sometime this year.

 

Thu Apr 5 7:29 am  #10


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Chuck99 wrote:

I had completely forgotten about KYW, but It was certainly a station I could hear virtually every night in southern Ontario back in the 70s.  I remember it had an all news format similar to WCBS in New York. 

I last remember hearing it in 1983, the night Karen Carpenter died.  We were living in Cayuga, and KYW was easy to pull in.

In fact, a decade later when 680 News came to be, I was reminded of KYW from my teen years, because every couple of minutes I used to hear, "KYW News time (what ever the time was)"
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

Thu Apr 5 7:50 am  #11


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

A lot of these geographical call letter anomalies came a long time ago. But there's at least one that didn't - and it happened in the 1980s! There's a small 400 watt nothing Christian outlet in a place called Spring Arbour, Michigan that was assigned the letters "KTGG." 

How in the world did that happen? 

It's a bit lost to history, but it's believed someone at the FCC saw the application using the abbreviation "MI" for Michigan, thought it stood for Missouri and went with a "K" designation. As far as I know, it's still on the air and it still uses that call sign. But how it got through all that red tape unchecked is incredible. 

This is such a trivial topic, but at least one guy has taken it to extremes. A radio historian named Thomas White has an incredible outline of where these off "K's and "W"s all appeared in the strangest places. But be prepared to be plunged into a plethora of minutiae. You can see it here.  

     Thread Starter
 

Thu Apr 5 8:37 am  #12


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Fitz wrote:

Interesting. I did not know that KDKA had those call letters due to grandfathering as it existed with those before the rule. I figure the same for VOCM out of St John's.

There are actually two other stations in Newfoundland with the "VO" designation that was used before the province joined Confederation in 1949. They're VOAR and VOWR, both Christian stations. VOCM is the rare mainstream rock station and has long been a huge presence there.

Canadian broadcasters used to work with a choice of CF, CH, CJ and CK, (and of course, "CB" for the CBC) but that changed in September 1970 when Toronto's Channel 19 signed on with "CICA." It was the first time I recall anyone ever using the "CI" prefix and although it now uses "TVO" as branding, it still has those call letters. There's since been a lot of them, including Global's CIII-TV, which I think was chosen because it occupied channel 3 on cable systems. (If memory serves, it used to be CKGN.)

So what's left? Industry Canada actually has a list of all the available call letters in Canada for broadcasters, so if you're ever thinking of starting a station, here's what you can pick from.   (I'm amazed CHTS is still on the list of choices. "C-HITS" is a natural for promos and would fit just about anywhere.)

You'll notice that the list contains nothing but four letter combos (including CKSL, which I guess is back in play now that 1410 in London is gone.) I'm guessing CBL and some of the corp.'s other stations get a pass because they were from the early days of broadcasting and it was the CBC. But how in the world did the three-lettered "CKO" ever come to be?  

     Thread Starter
 

Thu Apr 5 3:54 pm  #13


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

It's just a guess, but I wonder if CHTS has seemed to be a bit too close to a crude word to be chosen. And that might not be such a big deal any more, but of course call signs no longer have the importance that they once did. 
And although this doesn't directly address how CKO ended up with a three-letter call sign, according to the info at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_signs_in_Canada#Assignments "Three-letter call signs are only permitted to CBC Radio stations or to commercial stations which already had a three-letter call sign before the current rules were adopted".

 

Thu Apr 5 4:17 pm  #14


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Lorne wrote:

I wonder if CHTS has seemed to be a bit too close to a crude word to be chosen. 

Any good Brand Manager with a Hot 40 or "alternative" format would sacrifice their own third testacle and dip it into Outback's Bloomin Onion dipping sauce to use those calls.
 

 

Thu Apr 5 4:44 pm  #15


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

RadioActive wrote:

A lot of these geographical call letter anomalies came a long time ago. But there's at least one that didn't - and it happened in the 1980s! There's a small 400 watt nothing Christian outlet in a place called Spring Arbour, Michigan that was assigned the letters "KTGG." 

How in the world did that happen? 

It's a bit lost to history, but it's believed someone at the FCC saw the application using the abbreviation "MI" for Michigan, thought it stood for Missouri and went with a "K" designation. As far as I know, it's still on the air and it still uses that call sign. But how it got through all that red tape unchecked is incredible. 

This is such a trivial topic, but at least one guy has taken it to extremes. A radio historian named Thomas White has an incredible outline of where these off "K's and "W"s all appeared in the strangest places. But be prepared to be plunged into a plethora of minutiae. You can see it here.  

I got one much newer for you.. what  is now WKFF, but was KBUD.. 102.1 Sardis, Mississippi came about in the early 2000s.. rumor has it that someone at the fcc thought MS meant Missouri and gave it K call letters 

There's been a few K grants in Mississippi in the last few years 

 

Thu Apr 5 4:50 pm  #16


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

RadioActive wrote:

  (I'm amazed CHTS is still on the list of choices. "C-HITS" is a natural for promos and would fit just about anywhere.)
 

Nothing stopping any station from calling itself C-Hits anyway. Call letters are irrelevant to everyone but hobbyists and regulators, with the exception of heritage stations where the calls *are* the brand.
 

 

Thu Apr 5 4:54 pm  #17


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

Lorne wrote:

It's just a guess, but I wonder if CHTS has seemed to be a bit too close to a crude word to be chosen.

Tell that to the folks at the never-quite-gets-on-air CKNT, the would be talk station at 960 AM in Mississauga!  

(By the way, the clock is ticking - again - on that licence deadline. They have until the end of July to get on air, after getting yet another extension, the 4th they've received since November 2011 - seven years ago! The latest drop dead date is just a hair under four months from now. So far, no word on whether they've even hired any staff or have an actual physical location.) 

     Thread Starter
 

Thu Apr 5 5:27 pm  #18


Re: Why U.S. Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

This is why I tried to cover off the fact that the use of something resembling a vulgarity wouldn't be such a big deal now, by saying that call signs aren't really of consequence any more... and Don made the same point in a different (and probably better) way. I think that in the past stations might have wanted to avoid call signs like CHTS and CKNT, but for many years call signs have been essentially irrelevant and so I think that's why no one cares now (other than for people like us) one way or the other.