WBUR's L-O-N-G Station ID

Scott Fybush scott@fybush.com
Sun Feb 24 17:55:06 EST 2013

On 2/24/2013 5:27 PM, Dale H. Cook wrote:
> At 12:47 PM 2/24/2013, Don Astelle wrote:
>> Why do people have an ongoing fascination with this topic?
> In part because, for decades, one of my primary responsibilities at
> work has been making sure that my employer has no reason to get a
> pink slip.

I've been away from e-mail for most of the weekend and am just catching 
up on this thread. A few observations, if I may:

-There is often a considerable amount of working space between the 
black-and-white of the FCC's printed rules and the gray area of actual 
FCC enforcement. Whatever the specific language of 73.1201 may actually 
have been at any given point in time over the last half-century, the 
record appears quite clear that in practice, FCC inspectors have never 
balked at formulations such as "WHDH AM and FM Boston" or "WNYC-AM New 
York." And when I say "never," I mean that in all of that time, as best 
I can determine, I can't find a single instance in which the FCC has 
fined a licensee specifically for improper wording of a legal ID. The 
only time 73.1201 comes into play, in my experience, has been when the 
Enforcement Bureau runs across a really bad actor and starts hauling out 
the rulebook to rack up the list of fines. As long as a licensee is 
otherwise operating a clean shop, the FCC appears to have zero interest 
in nitpicking the precise wording of the legal ID. (And to the extent 
the 73.1201 rules have been made more complex in recent years, it's been 
some ham-handed wording intended to clarify DTV subchannel simulcasts 
and HD Radio IDs.)

-Public radio stations, for whatever reason, seem to really like the 
not-quite-proper "WXXX-AM Anytown" ID formation. I don't know why that 
is; perhaps it traces back to some long-ago programming conference where 
some consultant suggested it, or perhaps it's because many of those 
public radio AMs came after their companion "-FM" outlets and thus their 
programmers felt they needed the "-AM" to differentiate.

In any event, the ID I'm supposed to read hourly at work includes "WXXI 
AM Rochester," and after raising the issue repeatedly during my first 
few years there, it became clear I was fighting a losing battle. 
(However, when I'm reading the ID live, it becomes "WXXI, AM 1370, 
Rochester" and nobody much seems to mind.)

-It should be clear by now that amongst those of us who spend a lot of 
time deep in the weeds of FCC records, there's value to both the "Query" 
functionality and the CDBS search. However, there's also something to be 
said for some of the external sites that provide alternate ways to 
search FCC data. I am particularly fond of FCCInfo.com, which combines 
much of the functionality of "Query" and the main CDBS search. Of 
particular relevance to this thread is the way in which FCCInfo pulls up 
the callsign history: it appears right under the current set of calls at 
the top of the page once you've searched for a station.

It is important to note, however, that the callsign history is 
incomplete, and woe betide those (like so many mediocre Wikipedia 
entries) attempting to use it as gospel. Not only does it leave out 
anything prior to 1978, it also seems to be missing a chunk of data from 
the early 1990s. It's a valuable resource nonetheless, but should be 
used as one of many sources if you're trying to compile a complete 
station history.

Other sites that I find useful as alternate points of access to FCC data 
are RECNet (http://cdbs.recnet.net:8080/fmq.php?), which also allows 
users to pull up Industry Canada data, and rabbitears.info, specifically 
for TV. RabbitEars founder Trip Ericson is about to begin working for 
the FCC itself, believe it or not, so his site might be changing in 
interesting ways.


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