Friday, March 16, 2012

KDKA (AM)

KDKA (1020 kHz) is a radio station licensed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Created by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation on November 2, 1920, it is the world's first commercial radio station, a distinction that has also been challenged by other stations, although it has claimed to be the "world's first commercially licensed radio station". KDKA is currently owned and operated by CBS Radio and its studios are located at the combined CBS Radio Pittsburgh facility on Foster Drive in Pittsburgh; its transmitter is in Allison Park.

KDKA operates on a clear channel and broadcasts a news/talk radio format. News and spoken word programming has been a central feature of its programming from its beginning. Its 50 kilowatt signal can be heard throughout Central and Western Pennsylvania, Central and Eastern Ohio, Central and Northern West Virginia, Western Maryland, Southwestern New York state and even border areas of North-west Virginia, North-east Kentucky and Lake Erie shore parts of Ontario, Canada during the day. At night, it reaches much of the eastern half of North America. KDKA enjoys grandfathered status as one of five remaining stations east of the Mississippi River that have call letters beginning with K. Three of them are in Pittsburgh, the other two being KDKA-FM, KDKA's sister station, and KQV, as well as KDKA's longtime sister station KYW in Philadelphia (though the KYW callsign has in the past been used in Chicago and Cleveland) and KFIZ in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

KDKA's roots began with the efforts of Westinghouse employee Frank Conrad who operated KDKA's predecessor 75 watt 8XK from the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg from 1916. Conrad, who had supervised the manufacturing of military receivers during WWI, broadcast phonograph music and communicated with other amateur radio operators via 8YK. On September 29, 1920, the Joseph Horne department store in Pittsburg began advertising amateur wireless sets for $10, which could be used to listen to Conrad’s broadcasts.

Westinghouse vice president and Conrad’s supervisor, Harry P. Davis, saw the advertisement and recognized the economic potential of radio. Instead of it being limited as a hobby to scientific experimenters, radio could be marketed to a mainstream audience. Consequently, Davis asked Conrad to build a 100-watt transmitter, which would air programming intended to create widespread demand for Westinghouse receivers. The KDKA callsign was assigned sequentially from a list maintained for the use of US-registry maritime stations, and on November 2, 1920, KDKA broadcast the US presidential election returns from a shack on the roof of a Westinghouse building in East Pittsburgh. There is some indication that the new license had not been received by that date, and the station may have gone on the air with the experimental call sign of 8ZZ that night. The original broadcast was said to be heard as far away as Canada. KDKA continued to broadcast from the Westinghouse building for many months.

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