Sunday, February 22, 2009

History of WMAQ: Chapter 2, Pt. 1

Reprinted in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.

The History of WMAQ Radio
Chapter 2
Tom Gootee

The city of Chicago presented an ideal servicing area for broadcasting, due to the compact downtown business section, as opposed to New York and other cities. Consequently, the Westinghouse Company sent their engineers to the Windy City in the fall of 1921, and a site for the proposed station in the Commonwealth Edison Building was agreed upon. Much of the equipment was shipped from Pittsburgh, and the Department of Commerce issued a license for operation of the new station using the call KYW on the 360 meter wavelength. That wavelength, incidentally, was common to all broadcasting stations in the United States at that time, and radio communication was under the Federal jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation. It was not until almost a year later that a second wavelength, 420 meters, was allotted to radio broadcasting by the Department of Commerce.

KYW continued to operate through the Christmas season and well into the year 1922 before other parties became interested in the possibilities of also constructing and operating radio stations in the Chicago area. Throughout the winter there had been some agitation around City Hall and Federal Building for a city-owned radio station, and in February a “large” 100 watt ship transmitter was purchased by the City of Chicago. The equipment was overhauled and rebuilt, and put on the air with the call WBU. This station shared time with KYW, but the combined daily time of both stations seldom exceded two hours. WBU continued to operate for several years, but was finally abandoned as an expensive luxury of the City government.

- This article was originally published at and is reprinted by permission.


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