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Airwaves: September 1, 2006

No Static at All

August 11 was the day, 65 years ago, that commercial FM broadcasting came to Los Angeles when K45LA signed on the air at 7:00 PM.

This is not your father's FM. Or maybe it was. This is the first FM band as selected by the inventor of FM broadcasting, Edwin Armstrong. So the 45 in K45LA meant 44.5 megacycles (megahertz), a frequency that cannot even be picked up on modern FM radios that receive frequencies between 88 and 108 megahertz. (The K meant Western US and the LA meant Los Angeles).

K45LA broadcast out of the Don Lee studios on Melrose with a transmitter located on Mt. Lee with a height of 1700 feet. As explained by a story in the August 10, 1941 Los Angeles Times, that height was needed because of the way FM signals travel in a straight line.

Further, "weather disturbances (and) electrical interferences caused from home appliances and all other types of foreign static have been removed," the Times reported.

"The range of pitch is so increased that high and low tomes and overtones are clearly audible," the story continued. "Sound effects and the human voice are heard with full inflection and meaning. Indeed, FM will develop its own special announcers who speak without sibilance and stand father from the microphone that present announcers do."

After the war, the FCC changed the frequency of broadcast FM, so K45LA moved to the present FM band as KHJ-FM on 99.7. A short time later it moved again to 101.1 FM, and then in the early 1970s became ... KRTH, or K-Earth 101.

So, happy birthday, K-Earth 101 -- L. A.'s first FM radio station.

FM Addendum

Why did FM move, and what's there now?

Originally, FM was found at 42.1 to 49.9 kilocycles. Due to various reasons including, some say, pressure by RCA to hurt FM development as well as using the frequencies for television's Channel 1 -- yes, there was once a Channel 1 -- the FCC forced the entire band to move to where it is today, sandwiched between television channels 6 and 7.

Occasionally you can still find some old original band FM radios around. Perhaps they can be used to tune to what's on that band now: cordless phones and baby monitors.

Country Bash

As expected, satellite radio is poised to take at least some former KZLA (3.9 FM) listeners away from the traditional FM broadcast band in the fallout of KZLA's change from country music.

XM Satellite has officially replaced KZLA as the sponsor of "Country Bash '06," scheduled for October 14th at he Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

Taking an obvious poke at the broadcast industry, XM's Eric Logan said in a press release, "By sponsoring Country Bash '06, XM is sending a message loud and clear to country music fans in Los Angeles and across the country: XM Radio loves country music and XM is the best place for you to hear country music." Logan is a former board member of the Country Music Association.

Still, it's not the same. As much as I love satellite radio -- and I now listen to satellite radio more than FM -- it is comments like the following that make you realize radio is more than just music. I wish today's programmers understood:

"I am so upset. Peter Tilden and Ashley's program was a morning ritual for me and several others I know. They put a smile on my face."

"Came home to find rock on our favorite country station. The radio stays off."

"I miss the air staff. Where did they go?"

"Peter Tilden is a hoot."


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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