Radio historian Jim Hilliker sent some new material after last week’s column regarding the 90th birthday of KHJ (930 AM) and KFI (640 AM). It appears there is some documentation of KFI’s first broadcast after all.
The Los Angeles Times ran a story in the April 15, 1922, edition that centered mainly on the Times-owned KHJ and its first broadcast – complete with a mention that the opening-day program on April 13 was “heard clearly in Montana.”
At the end of the story was a single paragraph telling of KFI: “Radio station KFI, newly installed by Earle C. Anthony, Inc., 1000 Hope Street, will broadcast a concert of sacred music and an Easter message by Rev. Baker P. Lee tomorrow morning from 11 a.m. to 12 noon on 360 meter wavelength.”
Perhaps the fact that KHJ was owned by the Times precluded much coverage of competing radio stations, or perhaps Anthony was shrewd enough to realize that giving his programming information to the Times was akin to giving battle plans to the enemy.
Regardless, this appears to be the only available information about KFI’s first broadcast, on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1922.
That 360-meter frequency, also known as 833 kilocycles – now called kilohertz – is not used as a broadcast frequency today. These days the stations are all on frequencies that end in factors of 10 … 570, 640, 930, etc. But in the very early days of broadcasting, every local station used 833 on the AM dial, broadcasting at various times of the day on the shared frequency.
Hilliker: “There were about eight or nine radio stations that were broadcasting regularly in the Los Angeles area by the time KHJ and KFI went on the air in April of 1922. All of them were first ordered by the government to share or divide their air time on one frequency.
“The government could not predict how quickly radio would grow and how many broadcast licenses would be requested. Back in 1921-1922, all you had to do to get a radio station on the air was prove that you had proper equipment to broadcast and had the proper engineering license to run the transmitter. Just about anyone could get a radio station for the asking back then.”
By the end of 1922, more than 500 radio stations were licensed throughout the country. Obviously, having all stations share their time on one frequency was not going to work. So the government opened up 750 AM in late 1922 for high-powered (500-watt) stations such as KHJ and KFI to share. It was not until May 1923 that a full band of stations was opened up, first from 550-1350. By 1924 it was 550-1500, then 540-1600 in 1941, and in the 1990s, 540-1700.
“KFI moved to 640 in May 1923, where it has been ever since,” Hilliker said.
KHJ, meanwhile, was on 833, 740, 750 and 760 in the early 1920s; on Nov. 11, 1928, it went to 900, and then finally on March 29, 1941, it moved to its present home at 930.
KNX (1070 AM) is another of the broadcast pioneers, starting out as a ham radio station, switching to commercial licensing in December 1921 as KGC, then finally becoming KNX on May 4, 1922.
Hilliker explained that there were more than 20 stations in Los Angeles during 1922 and 1923, but only KHJ, KFI and KNX survived and were the cornerstones of local broadcasting “until a new set of radio stations came on the air between 1924 and 1928.”
Such stations included KFWB (980 AM) and KGFJ (now KYPA, 1230 AM).
As described last week, many early stations broadcast using a paltry 5 watts, though others had up to 100 watts.
KHJ and KFI were the first to make it to 500; KFI even went as high as superpower status in 1927 with 5,000 watts. In 1931, KFI climbed to 50,000 watts, the power it uses today. KHJ hit its peak of 5,000 watts (100 watts at night) in 1930, while KNX joined KFI in true 50,000-watt flamethrower status in 1934.
Why the difference?
KFI and KNX are on frequencies designed to serve large parts of the United States, also known as clear channels. The idea was to bring radio to parts of the country without local stations. KHJ, on the other hand, was assigned a regional frequency by the government, and it had to limit power in order to reduce interference to stations in other parts of the country.
Setting it straight
Last week I mentioned the great top-of-the-hour ID that KFI currently runs, and gave credit to marketing director Neil Saavedra for its creation.
“As much as I would love to take credit for Craig Taylor’s amazing work with KFI’s on-air imaging, that was all Craig,” Saavedra said. “He’s an extremely talented guy and he deserves the credit.”
I stand corrected; thanks for letting me know.
Richard Wagoner is a freelance writer based in San Pedro. Send questions to him via email at email@example.com.
Article source: http://bit.ly/J3mRAI