Radio AM to FM: June 20, 2003
They are all but extinct these days, but time was when they were common: AM radio stations with licenses that allowed for broadcasting only during the day. Usually that meant signing on at local sunrise and signing off at sundown.
The reason for what now seems strange was to give nighttime radio service to small communities and rural areas of the United States that didn't have local stations. To make up for the lack of a local, the FCC allowed certain 50,000 watt stations to have their frequencies cleared of all other stations at night, when AM coverage can span thousands of miles.
Local daytimers had to go off the air at night to protect the clear channels, otherwise the signals would interfere and prevent the clear channel stations from meeting their mandate.
But one station had a strange twist to its daytime-only license. KGBS (now KTNQ) did indeed have to sign off at night, but it was allowed to go back on the air from 9:00 Sunday night to 2:00 Monday morning -- the times that clear channel KDKA/Pittsburgh was off the air for weekly transmitter maintenance (12 Midnight to 5 AM local Pittsburgh time).
Youngsters reading this column -- anyone younger than 45 -- may think this strange. Why bother going back on the air for five hours one night per week, when you already have your FM station running the format 24 hours per day? But it must be remembered this was during a time when FM radios were still relatively rare, and the agreement actually dated back before KGBS had an FM sister at all. In fact, it predated KGBS, to the time when 1020 AM was known as KPOP. Still, I doubt it was ever a money-making timeslot.
On the other hand, being a 50,000 watt station out of Los Angeles on a clear frequency gave KGBS quite a reach ... the opposite direction of the reach KDKA had at a time when you could indeed hear stations such as KDKA -- or KFI from Los Angeles -- all across the country.
Want to hear a sample of KGBS during that time slot circa 1969? Head your internet browser over to www. reelradio.com/jp and scroll down to the recording of Mike Lundy.
Not Over Yet
Just when I thought that the mystery of T. A. Bross's question regarding an old radio station was solved -- many readers wrote in to say it was probably KGRB -- Larry Walpole of Redondo Beach sent a letter suggesting that it may have been KMAX out of Arcadia, on 107.1 FM.
"The 'old guy' Mr. Bross was talking about was "Max," the owner and operator of KMAX-FM," wrote Larry. "From what I gathered listening to the station, it was almost all Max and his wife. Unfortunately, Max suffered from poor health and his station, like KGRB/KBOB went the way of the dodo bird sometime in the late '70s or early '80s."
KRTH has canceled Ask the Professor, the long-running syndicated program in which listeners write in with questions in an attempt to try to stump professors from the University of Detroit. It was a fun program that I discovered back in my days of listening to KHJ, former sister station to KRTH. Hopefully the program will return to the local airwaves soon.
Speaking of which, wouldn't it be fun for KRTH owner Infinity, now that pending FCC rules will allow it to buy yet another Los Angeles AM radio station, to purchase KHJ and make it sister to KRTH again? I'd love to hear a high-energy top-40 station in Los Angeles once more; what better station to do it than KHJ?
Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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