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Re: Radio and TV call signs (was WNAB)

The early '50s for the end of the WNBT calls on TV must be correct. After TV
in New York city, the calls retired from the bustle of the big city to the
more tranquil environment of the mountains of north-central
Pennsylvania--specifically to an AM in Wellsboro PA, which, if memory
serves, began life as a daytimer on 1570 and shortly afterward became a
Class IV fulltimer on 1490. I remember visiting Wellsboro sometime while I
was in grad school, which was from 56 through 58, and AM there _was_ WNBT. I
was quite surprised to find out where those rather famous calls had moved.

I believe that WNBT and probably WCBW adopted different calls containing
the -TV suffix as soon as the FCC stopped requiring TV stations to have
calls that were distinct from those of co-owned and co-located radio
stations (that is, when the FCC started to allow the use of the -TV suffix).
I think it was CBS that lobbied the hardest for that rule change because of
its situation on the West Coast.

This is my recllection of what happened. Please correct me if I'm wrong. CBS
owned AMs in the Bay area (originally KQW San Jose which, in 1951, became
KCBS San Francisco) and Los Angeles (KNX). CBS and NBC each owned only one
TV station on the West Coast. (CBS owned KNXT Los Angeles; NBC also owned
its LA TV station, which I think was KRCA.) KNXT were good calls for the CBS
LA TV property because the TV call sign fully embodied the calls of the
associated AM as a result of KNX being a three-letter call. Presumably, CBS
wanted the KCBS radio calls in San Francisco, not in LA, because, in San
Francisco, there was also an NBC O&O radio station (KNBC). In LA, NBC did
not own its radio affiliate, KFI. Of the three major networks, only ABC
owned both radio and TV properties in LA and SF. When the FCC changed the
rules so that a company could use the same root calls for an AM and a TV
that it owned in different markets, CBS changed the calls of KNXT to KCBS-TV
and NBC changed the calls of KRCA to KNBC-TV. Thus KNBC (AM) and KCBS (AM)
were in SF and KNBC-TV and KCBS-TV were in LA. Meanwhile, ABC owned KGO and
KGO-TV in SF and KABC (formerly KECA) and KABC-TV in LA.

Clearly, this call-letter juggling had a lot to do with the network execs'
perception that there was more benefit in having TV-station calls that
identified a station with its network than in having calls that identifed
the station with its assocated radio station in the same market. Now, of
course, the idea is to identify TV stations with a channel and a network (as
in NBC-4 in New York) so the calls have ceased to matter. And with
broadcasting companies owning so many radio stations in each market, the
idea of associating a TV station with a radio station would now seem to be
completely anachronistic. I guess that if virtual channel numbers ever
really get off the ground, as envisioned by the ATSC HDTV standard, channel
numbers will regain importance, but at the moment, few cable systems enable
viewers to tune in over-the-air terrestral TV stations on their over-the-air
channels. Since cable serves almost 70% of US households, a TV station's
over-the-air channel number would seem to be rather irrelevant at the


Dan Strassberg, dan.strassberg@worldnet.att.net
Phone: 1-617-558-4205, eFax: 1-707-215-6367

-----Original Message-----
From: A. Joseph Ross <lawyer@world.std.com>
To: David W. Harris <dwh@totalnetnh.net>
Cc: boston-radio-interest@bostonradio.org
Date: Sunday, July 09, 2000 1:44 AM
Subject: Re: WNAB

On 8 Jul 2000,  David W. Harris wrote:

> The confusion for New York listeners
> is certainly plausible, though; it was resolved on Saturday, November 2,
> 1946, when WABC and WABC-FM became WCBS and WCBS-FM.  The same day saw
> and WEAF-FM change to WNBC and WNBC-FM.

This is certainly a definitive history, as far as it goes.  It leaves the
television stations, WNBT and WCBW.  I believe that WNBT kept those call
letters until it became WRCA-TV in the early 50s, and eventually became
WNBC-TV sometime in the 60s, along with corresponding changes in the call
letters of its sister radio stations.  But when did WCBW become WCBS-TV?

A. Joseph Ross, J.D.                        617.367.0468
15 Court Square                     lawyer@world.std.com
Boston, MA 02108-2503      http://world.std.com/~lawyer/