Pre-war FM callsigns (was: Re: WCVT (101.7 Stowe, VT))

Tue Dec 13 07:26:04 EST 2011

I remember getting my first AM/FM receiver for my 13th birthday in
1948. It had only tne then-new (88 to 108-MHz) FM band. A gentleman in
my building who was a classical music fan had a Scott console radio
that picked up both bands. He occasionally deigned to let me visit his
apartment and listen, so I learned which stations were simulcasting on
both the new band and the old (42 to 50?-MHz) band. Most apparently
used the same calls on both bands. But not Maj Armstrong's stations,
which transmitted from his Alpine tower a few miles away across the
Hudson--clearly visible from my sixth-floor bedroom window. Armstrong
at first did not use the (commercial) WFMN calls. The stations IDed as
W2XMN (on the old band, IIRC) and W2XEA (on the new band). W2XEA (on
93.1--later occupied by WPAT-FM) had the loudest and cleanest signal
of any of the FM stations I could pick up. Considering that it was the
only station within my line of sight, I suppose that should have been
no surprise. (Hmmm. Maybe the Alpine tower wasn't the only FM site
that was within my line of sight. The top of the Empire State
Building, about 15 miles to the south, was visible from the living
room. I assume that at least RCA-owned WEAF-FM had its antenna on the
ESB.) Anyhow, I believe that Armstrong used the separate W2Xxx calls
until the FCC closed down the old band. At that point, what had been
W2XEA started IDing as WFMN.

Dan Strassberg (
eFax 1-707-215-6367

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Garrett Wollman" <>
To: "A Joseph Ross" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 2:27 AM
Subject: Pre-war FM callsigns (was: Re: WCVT (101.7 Stowe, VT))

> <<On Tue, 13 Dec 2011 00:29:13 -0500, A Joseph Ross
> <> said:
>> It occurs to me that those original FM calls must have caused a lot
>> of
>> trouble.  If a station was on the same channel in Boston and in
>> Buffalo,
>> or Baltimore, or Binghamton, or ..., they would have had to have
>> the
>> same callsign.
> That was, in fact, one of the motivations for changing the system.
> The other primary motivation was that broadcasters expected to need
> to
> change channels as the FM band became more developed, and they did
> not
> want to lose all the "goodwill" built up for their station's
> identity
> simply because they moved to a different (presumably better)
> frequency.
> There were only 44 commercial FM stations when the change was made.
> The 1944 /Broadcasting Yearbook/, published two months after the
> change, shows:
> Alpine: WFMN 43.1 (Armstrong)
> Baton Rouge (BR): WBRL 44.5 (WJBO)
> Binghamton (BN): WNBF-FM 44.9
> Boston (B): WBZ-FM 46.7, WGTR 44.3, WMTW 43.9
> Chicago (C): WBBM-FM 46.7, WDLM 47.5 (WMBI), WGNB 45.9, WWZR 45.1
> (Zenith)
> Columbus (CM): WELD 44.5 (WBNS)
> Detroit (D): WENA 44.5 (WWJ), WLOU 44.9 (WJLB)
> Evansville (V): WMLL 44.5 (WEOA-WGBF)
> Fort Wayne (FW): WOWO-FM 44.9
> Hartford (H): WDRC-FM 46.5 and WTIC-FM 45.3
> Kansas City (KC): KOZY 44.9 (independent)
> Los Angeles (LA): KHJ-FM 44.5
> Milwaukee (M): WMFM 45.5 (WTMJ)
> Nashville (NV): WSM-FM 44.7
> New York (NY): WABC-FM 46.7 (CBS), WABF 47.5 (independent), WGYN
> 44.7 (Muzak),
>        WHNF 46.3, WNYC-FM 43.9, WBAM 47.1 (WOR), WQXQ 45.9 (WQXR)
> Philadelphia (PH): KYW-FM 45.7, WCAU-FM 46.9, WFIL-FM 45.3, WIP-FM
> 44.9,
>    WLBC 46.5 (WIBG), WPEN-FM 47.3
> Pittsburgh (P): KDKA-FM 47.5, WTNT 44.7 (WWSW)
> Rochester (R): WHEF 44.7 (WHEC), WHFM 45.1 (WHAM)
> Salt Lake City (SL): KSL-FM 44.7
> Schenectady (A): WBCA 44.7 (independent), WGFM 48.5 (WGY)
> South Bend (SB): WSBF 47.1
> Springfield (SP): WBZA-FM 48.1
> Winston-Salem (MM): WMIT 44.1 (WSJS)
> I've given the "trading area" codes that were used by these stations
> prior to the change.
> You'll note that there are only two stations in the South (Nashville
> and Baton Rouge), and only three stations west of the Mississippi
> (in
> Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles).  Nashville's W47NV
> was
> the first ever commercial FM station.  NBC did not have any, in any
> of
> its markets; there was no commercial FM in Washington, D.C.  (There
> was an experimental FM there, operated by the engineering firm
> Jansky
> & Bailey.)  Why we ended up with FM stations in Evansville,
> Milwaukee,
> Kansas City, and Salt Lake, but not San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver,
> St. Louis, or Cincinnati is something of a mystery.
> -GAWollman

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