Scott Fybush scott@fybush.com
Wed Sep 24 17:36:11 EDT 2008

Doug Broda wrote:
> While I think you're describing the events by which KKHJ returned to KHJ 
> in 2000 correctly, having heard the same thing at the time from multiple 
> sources, three other stations have also reclaimed their three letter 
> calls, per http://earlyradiohistory.us/3roll.htm - as follows:
> WGH Newport News VA changed to WCMS in 12/04, then returned to WGH in 
> 7/05. (And in fact that's the SECOND time they changed the calls back to 
> WGH... having been WNSY from 9/83 to 12/84.)
> Also, WIL St. Louis changed to WRTH in 1990, but returned to WIL in 2005 
> (thereafter becoming KZQZ earlier this year).
> And KSD St. Louis became KUSA in 1984, returning to KSD in 1993 
> (thereafter becoming KTRS in 1997).
> The only thing I can see as a possible distinguishing factor is that in 
> each of these cases, the three letter calls were still on a co-owned FM 
> at the time they were returned to the AM. Does that make it OK under FCC 
> rules?

Kinda sorta.

In the case of WGH's second return, as well as the returns of WIL and 
KSD, the continuation of the three-letter "base call" on FM meant there 
was no issue with returning the call on AM. As long as the base call 
remains active SOMEWHERE (FM, TV, and conceivably on LPTV or LPFM, too, 
though this hasn't been tried), it can be reused by the same owner in 
the same market on other services with no special FCC action required.

So KUT in Austin, for instance, could become KUT-FM and add a KUT(AM) 
just by filing the forms - in exactly the same way CBS could flip WODS 
or WBCN to WBZ-FM any time it pleases.

The first return of WGH falls into a different category. When WGH(AM) 
became WNSY in 1983, there was no WGH-FM or WGH-TV keeping the base call 
alive, and it took special FCC permission to return to WGH(AM) a year later.

There have been a few other examples in addition to KHJ and WGH: KRE in 
Berkeley changed calls in 1963 and was allowed to go back to KRE in 1972 
(there was a KRE-FM, but it changed calls at the same time). KYA in San 
Francisco briefly changed calls in 1960, but changed back quickly. WHN 
disappeared from New York in 1948, then returned in 1962. And there were 
two extraordinary cases in 1957-58, when the FCC allowed the WJZ calls 
to be put on TV in Baltimore, four years after WJZ(AM) in New York 
became WABC(AM), and notwithstanding that the ownership wasn't even the 
same (Westinghouse appealed to history, noting that it had put WJZ on 
the air in Newark way back in 1921 before selling the station to NBC, 
which later spun it off into ABC); and in Austin, the University of 
Texas got KUT(FM) for its new FM signal in 1958, 26 years after selling 
the original KUT(AM).

Which is to say, it's all politics - get the right DC lawyer and appeal 
to the right people at the Media Bureau or the full Commission, and you 
can get just about any call change passed.


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