FM Broadcasting History - Various Articles

Super FM Planned in Winston-Salem

This article appeared in Broadcasting on Jan. 1, 1941.

A sort of "super" FM station, which would have a primary coverage area of 70,000 square miles embracing about 5,000,000 population, is proposed in an application filed with the FCC Dec. 19 by Gordon Gray, broadcaster and newspaper publisher of Winston-Salem, N. C. Mr. Gray is the licensee of WSJS, and is also identified with the Reynolds tobacco interests.

The application is for location of a 50,000-watt FM transmitter on Clingman's Peak, 6,600 feet above sea level in the Mt. Mitchell area of North Carolina. The top of the antenna would be the highest point in the United States east of the Rockies, towering 6,875 feet. The 70,000-square mile area encompassed in the estimated coverage includes part of the Southern Appalachians, the cotton and tobacco Piedmonts and the Tennessee Valley basin. Service would be rendered to portions of seven States -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Mr. Gray states he proposes to operate the station primarily in the particular interest of the region and believes it would be an important factor in accelerating Southern industrial development. Associated with him in an advisory capacity is Lewis Windmuller, of Washington, who has been identified with radio since 1920. Engineering aspects of the project are under supervision of Glenn D. Gillett, consulting radio engineer, and Reed T. Rollo, Washington attorney, is counsel.

Picture Caption

This article appeared in Broadcasting on Jan. 1, 194l.

FM history was made recently at W2XOR, FM adjunct to WOR, Newark, when the first contract for an FM commercial broadcast was signed on behalf of Longines-Wittnauer Co. In the W2XOR control room, presumably to carry out the symbolic impression, J. R. Poppele (left), WOR chief engineer, and Theodore C. Striebert, vice-president and general manager of the station, watch as Fred Cartoun, vice-president of Longines-Wittnauer, applies the fine Spencerian flow to a contract calling for Longines evening time announcements on W2XOR for the year 1941.

New FM Station of WSM, Nashville, Starts Operation With 70 Hours Weekly

This article appeared in Broadcasting on March 10, 1941.

Becoming the first FM station to start operating on a regular schedule under full-commercial authorization by the FCC, W47NV, Nashville, FM adjunct of WSM, on March 1 started a weekly schedule totaling 70 hours of FM broadcasting. The station, operating with 20 kw. power on 44.7 mc., broadcasts from 1 to 11 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

The station incorporates several unique operating factors. Its antenna, completely insulated from WSM signals, utilizes the 878-foot transmitter tower of WSM, and technical operation of both WSM and W47NV centers in the WSM transmitter house [Broadcasting, Dec. 15]. The FM transmitter, designed by WSM Chief Engineer Jack DeWitt, is said to utilize a new method of generating Armstrong wide-swing FM signals and was custom-built under the direction of the WSM engineering staff.

The four-element FM turnstile array on the WSM tower, connected by coaxial cable to the transmitter house, is located just below the flagpole topping the tower. The coaxial line from the transmitter terminates at the base of the tower in a matching section which feeds the open wire line on the tower, an arrangement claimed to operate not only as an effective filter separating the AM signals of WWM and the FM signals of W47NV but also as a lightning ground for the entire structure. The FM signal is generated in a single relay rack unit in the control room of the transmitter house, coupled successively to a three-stage 1,000-watt amplifier and a 20,000-watt amplifier. The main rectifier and other power supply equipment are located in the basement of the transmitter house.

Although a complete separate staff has not been set up, Program Director Tom Stewart and Announcers Bill Terry Jr. and Herbert Oglesby are handling programs of the station. Coverage of the station is being tested, but preliminary reports form listeners indicate that coverage comes up to calculations, it was stated. First regular listener reporting lived in Beaver Dam, Ky., about 90 airline miles from the transmitter.

Picture caption: Commercial FM became a reality in Nashville March 1 when W47NY, FM adjunct of WSM, Nashville, took the air on a full commercial scale. Looking over the new station's custom-built 20 kw. FM transmitter, constructed by the WSM engineering staff, is Jack DeWitt, WSM chief engineer, and Warren McNeil, Tennessee bureau chief of Associated Press. At right, H. H. Campbell, president of Standard Candy Co., Nashville, slaps the monicker on the first sponsorship contract on the first commercially operating FM station, while Tom Stewart, program director of W47NV, grins contentedly. Mr. Campbell also qualifies as the No. 1 sponsor to sign on WSM, thus attaining a two-time "first" in Nashville radio sponsorship.

First FM Sponsors

This article appeared in Broadcasting on Apr. 14, 1941.

First commercial sponsor on New York City's first commercially licensed FM station, W71NY, is Longines-Wittnauer Co. (watches) which carries time signals every hour on the hour daily on the FM adjunct of WOR, placed by Arthur Rosenberg Co. Longines thus becomes the second sponsor in FM history, the first being Standard Candy Co., Nashville, on W47NV, adjunct of WSM [Broadcasting, March 10].

FM Staticless Broadcasting Awarded Commercial Status

Frequency Modulation Now on New Basis--Super Power Station for New York

This article appeared in the New York Times on Mar. 9, 1941.


Almost any day now strange new radio calls will begin to flash through the New York air. The calls will resemble nothing previously heard on the radio. In fact, they will differ so markedly in phonetic resemblance from ordinary radio call letters that casual dialers might suspect some interplanetary Buck Rogers exploit.

One radio call will be "W71NY," another "W51NY," and so on. These station calls are now being assigned by the Federal Communications Commission to signify the arrival at full commercial status of a new type of "noiseless" broadcasting, scarcely a year old. Such broadcasting is known technically as "frequency modulation," or FM for short.

The calls are not without meaning. In the call letters W71NY, for instance, the "W" is a standard prefix. The numerals denote the position of the station in the FM broadcast band between 42 and 50 megacycles. For instance, "71" means the station operates at the 47.1-megacycle position on the dial. The numeral four is dropped because it would appear as part of all call letters. The "NY" denotes a New York station.

In recognition of the pioneering work of Major Edwin H. Armstrong, who developed the system, the FCC late last week awarded a special commercial status to the inventor's experimental FM transmitter atop the Palisades at Alpine, N. J., and a new channel on 43.1 megacycles.

Alpine will serve 12,200,000 listeners within an area of 15,610 square miles in four States. Its programs are expected to be strongly received as far away as Springfield, Albany, Wilkes-Barre, Reading and Philadelphia, all nearly 100 miles from the station.

Major Armstrong soon will raise the antenna of his Alpine Station an additional eighty feet, increasing the total height of the tower to 480 feet. Following completion of this work commercial programs will be broadcast. A large part of the station's time, however, will be reserved for experimental programs.

Additional FM grants made last week by the FCC include one to the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Manufacturing Company of Rochester; another to the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, the latter for non-commercial operation. These stations bring the FCC's total number of FM grants throughout the country to forty-two. Fifty-one applications await sanction or refusal; and engineers estimate that perhaps another 100 are in preparation.

For a broadcasting system that only a few months ago received its first commercial impetus in the form of construction permits, the FM idea has progressed rapidly. Only last May the FCC decided to vacate the then No. 1 television channel and reassign it to staticless radio.

On eleven FM channels thus created, seven New York stations already are assigned. All are classed as experimental. Four now are broadcasting daily--W2XMN, at Alpine; W2XQR, Long Island City; W2XOR, 444 Madison Avenue, and W2XWG, atop the Empire State Building. Ten station applications are pending for the four remaining New York waves. There seems to be no dearth of interest on the part of those qualified to operate FM stations.

Progress from the construction status of New York's seven stations to full standing as "commercial" units awaits only the fulfillment of the FCC's rulings. These rulings call for the use of enough radio to cover New York's 8,500-square-mile FM area, and the development of new programs suitable to the high-fidelity characteristics of the new broadcast medium. Broadcasters interested in the Armstrong system of staticless reception already are at work on presentations.

The question of transmitter delivery is now the chief bottleneck in FM's development. High-power transmitters cannot be constructed and delivered a few days after orders are placed. They require weeks or months of labor by skilled workmen and engineers.

The building of a 50,000-watt transmitter requires from 4,000 to 5,000 man-hours and costs between $70,000 and $80,000. The antenna on the roof of the building in which the transmitter is installed may cost another $5,000 to $10,000. It may be a simple structure only a few feet long or a complicated array of metal known as a "turnstile," 50 to 100 feet in height.

There are many factors in FM broadcasting that do not apply to other types of broadcasting. The higher the sending aerial, for example, the smaller the amount of power needed to cover a given area. Thus, New York's high buildings are ideal sites for new stations. So great has been the demand for these lofty steel towers for FM aerials that very few desirable sites remain untaken.

W51NY, the "Buck Rogers" call assigned to the National Broadcasting Company's new FM station about 1,260 feet above Fifth Avenue will fly into space from Manhattan's loftiest pinnacle--the Empire State Building. Instead, the experimental status of the present 1,000-watt broadcaster, W2XWG, is to be continued until May.

Utilizing the call of W67NY, the Columbia Broadcasting System will install a 10,000-watt FM station atop the 700-foot tower at 500 Fifth Avenue. The CBS has set no date for FM commercial operation in New York, but midsummer is expected to find the new FM outfit installed and ready for use.

Of all the local FM broadcasters, W71NY is scheduled to begin commercial broadcasting first, using its present power of 1,000 watts, while awaiting the installation at 444 Madison Avenue of a new high-power transmitter now on order and promised for July delivery. It is owned by the Bamberger Broadcasting Service, which also operates WOR.

Other New York commercial construction permits issued include W55NY, by W. G. H. Finch, at a site near Columbus Circle; W63NY, Marcus Loew Booking Agency, the transmitting site of which may be at Palisades Park, N. J.; W59NY, Frequency Broadcasting Corporation, and W75NY, to be operated by Bloomingdale and Abraham & Straus, atop the Hotel Pierre.

The real and potential broadcasters, however, are not the only groups interested in the present and future of FM. They are being matched in this respect by the public, a recent survey indicates. Radio managers of several large New York department stores were asked if customers are interested in FM and are buying the new sets.

"Definitely--yes to both your questions," said one manager. "A decided up-trend in current sales is directly attributed to FM," said another. "It's our biggest feature," a third declared. "All customers ask for it," said another.

The radio head of a large metropolitan music shop was a strong FM advocate. He said: "It is almost impossible to sell receivers today unless they include the FM features. People who in the past only bought electric record players now are turning to radio because they are interested in the excellent tonal possibilities of FM."

Another music store manager said "FM has driven the price factor out of the mind of the average buyer. I find more people interested in FM; our percentage of FM sales is increasing rapidly."

Even New York's "radio row," in downtown Manhattan, finds the public interested in buying FM sets regardless of the fact that programs on the air are too few, and, in many cases, of insufficient quality to justify the advantages of the new system. One Cortlandt Street dealer said: "When my customers hear FM they want it and they buy it." Another volunteered: "It's the radio item of the year--we sell a lot."

The general public reaction to this new phase of broadcasting, therefore, seems to be highly favorable.

Major Armstrong seldom makes a prediction. A few days ago, however, when persuaded to talk about the future of FM, he said: "This Summer a large section of the public will find, from actual experience, that static-free reception is everything we have claimed for it."

Muzak FM Service Will Charge Fees

This article appeared in Broadcasting on July 7, 1941.

Adaptation of FM for a subscriber broadcast service was granted Muzak Corp., New York, in a July 1 FCC ruling. Muzak, a subsidiary of Associated Music Publishers, is authorized to operate a developmental FM station on 117.65 mc. with 1,000 watts power. At present Muzak is furnishing wired musical programs on a contract basis, the FCC announcement states, and a similar service is proposed for FM listeners.

Muzak informed the FCC it intends to restrict reception to subscribers by transmitting an accompanying "pig squeal" or discordant sound which can be eliminated only by use of special receivers leased to subscribers by Muzak Corp.

Although the FCC said the grant is on an experimental basis only, Muzak stated there was no more reason for people to pay for radio programs by buying advertised products than by eliminating the commercials and paying direct. Muzak further asserted that there was no reason why the public should pay directly for moving pictures and indirectly for radio when it was only a matter of circumstance that radio is available in its present form and that the American people never had been able to choose its manner of payment for the service.

Transmitter will be located at 11 W. 42d St. UP news service will be used and engineers from Associated Music Publishers and Wired Radio Inc. have been added to the Muzak staff in its new undertaking.

Experiment in FM Works Out

This article appeared in the New York Times on Mar. 1, 1942.


Recently a small experimental radio station was moved from the corner of a Long Island City laboratory to a new location atop a Manhattan skyscraper. A few days ago the almost magical effect of the change was revealed from the results of a survey to discover how far the waves leaped into space from the 800-foot pinnacle. The new site, it was found, increased the station's normal 1,000-watt effectiveness more than sixteen times.

In other words, with no change made in the "actual" electrical power to propel the signal into space the station's "apparent" power had jumped to 16,000 watts; at least that was the effect on thousands of FM receivers.

Such is the brief history of W2XQR, offspring of WQXR, now about to emerge from the experimental stage and become another regular FM broadcaster in New York. To make the transition from experimental to regular operations as effective as possible new circuits and control gadgets, even some new FM studios with all the refinements of paraphernalia dear to the hearts of radio technicians, are nearing completion.

FM, it seems, is responsible for a number of general refinements in the broadcast art as practiced by WQXR-W2XQR engineers. The three new studios at 730 Fifth Avenue, for instance, have been "designed around the idea of killing a lot of radio noise at its source"; that is, right inside the control units on which announcers and engineers turn knobs and switches to govern and route outgoing programs.

Engineers have a way of uncovering faults in their systems by improving a unit here, another there, and so on until the whole is elevated to higher performance. Because it is so free of noise, FM is said to be acting as a general stimulant in that direction. Following that idea, up-to-the-minute apparatus recently placed in service in the microphone-to-transmitter wire links is producing results so beneficial that the entire WQXR-W2XQR control-room system will be completely revamped to higher standards, according to Russell D. Valentine, chief engineer.

But that is not all. Because recorded music comprises the largest part of its daily programs, new studio gadgets also include the most advanced engineering devices to reproduce such recordings for the air waves. The idea is to make all the disks "sound well" despite the half-dozen or so recording methods employed by as many different record makers.

Recorded music or voices, if improperly reproduced, may sound tinny, perhaps excessively harsh--definitely quite unmusical. At 730 Fifth Avenue, the job has been simplified. All records--some 25,000 of them--are catalogued in accordance with the points on a special dial that governs an "electric filter" of almost prodigious capabilities, which, in turn, molds the "music" so it "sounds good" to the average ear. No guesswork is permitted because many hundreds of records normally are whirled off the turntables in a single day at WQXR-W2XQR and requests for "repeats" are many.

As an experiment, W2XQR might be called eminently successful, even though its programs so far have radioed into space from a temporary wire atop the Chanin Building. When the tests are over, however, a new and more efficient aerial will be installed. The station, then, will be ready to receive the Federal Communications Commission's expected frequency modulation power grant of 10,000 watts and a permanent place on the city's air waves as "W59NY."


Twenty-four FM stations are now operating commercially in the country, six others are nearly ready for that category, ten are operating experimentally with no immediate prospect of commercialism, fifty-five applications are pending and forty FM stations are under construction.

The census of FM receivers in use from coast to coast, as of Jan. 1, 1942--except in the military service--topped 255,000, 50,000 of which are in the New York area. FM Broadcasters, Inc., which made the survey, estimates that 200,000 additional receivers will be produced by Spring.


A few days ago it was learned that Pittsburgh is about to have a second FM broadcaster, this one to be operated by Westinghouse Radio Stations, Inc., which also operates KDKA. The informant was radio man Richard G. Devaney of that city, who pointed out that the men of Uncle Sam's Army, who have learned to know and operate such sets in the service, "praise FM to the skies" when they come home on furloughs.

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