July 27, 2007

Great Moments in Broadcasting

EXECUTIVES AT AN Illinois broadcasting company are red-faced after "falling asleep on the job" when requesting call letters from the Federal Communications Commission for new broadcast stations, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports in a rather funny story.

Skokie-based KM Communications Inc. requested -- and received -- a particularly unfortunate combination for a low-power digital television station planned for Wailuku, Maui. The Rant will not mention just what this combination was, due to the combination in question, but would note the following three items. First, U.S. broadcasting stations located west of the Mississippi River have call signs starting with the letter K; the call sign in question would NOT go down well with approximately half the U.S. population; and the only scoundrels who would be fine with it tend to drink heavily while complaining about their alimony payments and the supposed crookedness of the nation's family law system.

While the company is thanking its lucky stars THIS particular combination got caught before things got out of hand, executives also rescinded their request for KWTF for a radio station in Arizona. That seemed a bit much. I mean, I don't know about you, but I think that'd be a perfect call sign for one of those all-day talk radio stations. What better call sign* for a station whose sole purpose is to broadcast the remarks of angry radio commenters and their even angrier listeners? KWTF-FM is NOW on the AIR!

This incident is the latest in a long series in which radio stations request clever or stupid call signs and manage to somehow get them past the FCC's auspices. Perhaps the most famous of these was when KENO-AM, Las Vegas' first radio station, managed to get its call letters through without a hitch. (KENO later picked up a sister station, KENO-FM, which later changed its call letters to the even more clever KOMP).

The FCC even has a nice database that people can use to check call-letter assignments. A short search on this site shows there is no KRAP anywhere in America, nor any KVCH or KUR, but there is a KRUD-AM in Honolulu. And east of the Mississippi, there are questionable call signs as well. Springfield, Mass., is home to a talk radio station with the callsign of WHYN-AM. And it's not clear to me whether the folks at the unfortunately named WANK-FM, in Mt. Vernon, Ky., realize the alternative meaning of their call sign.

But I have to give credit to the good folks at WZUP-FM in Rose Hill, NC, for their cleverness in getting such a neat call sign. Unsurprisingly, it is a college radio station. Another college-based radio station, WWJD-FM, plays Christian music from its home base in the stupidly-named town of Pippa Passes, Ky. (This town name is almost as funny as Cooter, Mo., but not really. Yes, Cooter, Mo. It really exists. I passed it on the freeway during my trip. I nearly crashed the car).

Anyway, now that the FCC has automated its call-sign lettering process, it seems almost certain that similar incidents like this are slated to appear. Of course, there are so many four-letter call signs out there. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear down the road that some tiny station in Idaho got KOCK for its letters, or that WSHT managed to get on the air near Buffalo. As the Star-Bulletin story shows, sometimes, things have a way of slipping through.


* Aside from WFAN-AM, of course. Ira from Staten Island, you're on the air!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 27, 2007 06:16 PM | TrackBack
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