WEIM call letter change

Scott Fybush scott@fybush.com
Tue Nov 2 18:10:34 EDT 2010

Martin Waters wrote:

> IMO, it's better -- more meaningful -- to follow the
> business/ownership/programming history rather than only the
> facilities. For example, I've always had the notion that WRKO is
> "generally" considered to be the continuation of the station John
> Shepard started in 1922 in Boston -- not a continuation of WLAW. Like
> WHDH, WLAW was purchased for its transmitting/antenna facilities and
> the station, as a business and broadcasting enterprise, was
> discontinued, while the purchasing stations, WNAC and WEEI,
> respectively, began broadcasting their existing programming over the
> newly purchased transmitting/antenna facilities.
> If this other method is used, how about WBZ in Boston? Wouldn't it
> have to be categorized as a continuation of WBZA, the station
> Westinghouse established in Boston several years after WBZ in
> Springfield was built, rather than the continuation of WBZ? The
> facility that originally was WBZ in Springfield was discontinued in
> 1962.

In this particular case, actually, no. Westinghouse did swap licenses in 
1931 - the WBZ license was in fact moved from Springfield to Boston upon 
the dedication of the new transmitting facility at Millis, while the 
Boston license was moved to Springfield.

> Or -- to avoid the issue of a synchronous station -- I'd point to
> WNBC. WFAN is not a continuation of WNBC. It just took over the
> facility.
> Well ... my $0.02.

And you're entitled to your interpretation, of course. But I think that 
way lies chaos, because it at least carries with it the implication that 
ANY change of callsign/ownership constitutes a "new station."

Emmis bought WNBC in its entirety. Aside from the callsign (which at the 
time legally had to stay with NBC), Emmis was free to retain WNBC's 
format and staff - and indeed, they did keep the morning show, Don 
Somebody, as I recall <ggg>. But they chose instead to use the facility 
- the "station," if you will - to carry different programming under a 
new identity.

So by those standards, was "Sports Hub" a new station when WBMX 98.5 
became WBZ-FM 98.5 last summer? Were WCOZ and WZOU and WJMN each 
separate stations?

My sense is that to go that route is to put one at the mercy of the 
marketers who are often more interested in short-term station promotion 
than in any sort of history. My own station, WXXI 1370 in Rochester, 
invariably portrays itself as having signed on "July 2, 1984." Indeed it 
did, under those calls and this ownership, but it's very hard to argue 
that the WXXI that signed on in July 1984 doesn't share license 
continuity (not to mention transmitter and studio location) with the 
station known as WSAY and then WRTK, which operated from 1936 until 
being sold in June 1984. It was in WXXI's interest to separate itself 
from some of the questionable history and business practices of its 
predecessors, but it's not necessarily in the interest of broadcast 
history to do so.

Mind you, it's certainly *possible* to trace broadcasting history that 
way. My colleagues who wrote "Airwaves of New York" in the 90s did that 
with New York City AM radio - they treated WHN and WMGM and the second 
WHN each as separate stations, for instance, and that's how they came up 
with a history of "160 stations on the New York AM dial." And of course 
there's great value in following the continuity of "WNAC" from 1230/1260 
to 680 and into today's WRKO, and of "WEEI" from 590 to 850; in writing 
the Archives history of each station, we were careful to provide links 
for those wanting to follow those paths.

But in the end, it seems to me that the station license is often the 
only unquestionable thread that remains unbroken across eight or more 
decades of a station's history, and the availability of records to trace 
those licenses (via the old FCC card files, now on microfilm, and more 
recently through CDBS) makes the license history the most consistent way 
to track any given station's legacy.


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