K’s and W’s: Reason For Radio Call Signs.

A colorful and humorous illustration of a map of the United States, with the Mississippi River prominently dividing the map. On the left side of the map (west of the Mississippi), there are radio towers with call signs starting with 'K' like KABC, and on the right side (east of the Mississippi), there are radio towers with call signs starting with 'W' like WNBC. Include a few fun, fictional call signs like WKRP and WJM. The illustration should be lively and playful, with bright colors and a cartoonish style.

By Larry Billinger

When you flip on the radio or channel surf on TV, you might have noticed those little letters at the beginning of station names. Ever wondered why some stations start with “K” and others with “W”? Grab your remote, sit back, and let’s dive into the wild world of call signs!

The Mysterious Origins of K and W

It all started in the early days of radio when the government decided it was high time to organize the airwaves. They pulled out a map, squinted at the Mississippi River, and proclaimed, “East of the river shall be W, and west shall be K.” Just like that, the great divide was born.

Real Stations with Real Letters

  • KABC (Los Angeles, CA): Out in sunny California, KABC keeps the west coast entertained with news and talk shows. Imagine surfers tuning in while they catch the perfect wave.
  • WNBC (New York, NY): Over in the Big Apple, WNBC delivers the latest in news and entertainment. You can almost picture Times Square lighting up with those iconic letters.

The Wild Cards: When K and W Cross the Line

Life is never that simple, right? A few stations decided to be rebels without a cause:

  • KYW (Philadelphia, PA): This station throws the whole K and W rulebook out the window. Established before the rules were set in stone, KYW remains a proud Philadelphian anomaly.
  • KDKA (Pittsburgh, PA): As one of the oldest stations, KDKA scoffs at geographical boundaries, broadcasting with a K even though it’s firmly east of the Mississippi.

Fictitious Stations: The Ones We Wish Were Real

  • WKRP (Cincinnati, OH): This fictional station from the beloved TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” gave us a hilarious glimpse into the lives of quirky radio staff. Who could forget the Thanksgiving turkey drop?
  • WJM (Minneapolis, MN): From “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” WJM’s newsroom antics made us laugh and cry. It’s almost like we worked there, right?

So, What Do K and W Stand For?

Honestly, nothing at all! They’re just markers, regulatory stamps to help sort out who broadcasts where. It’s a little like sorting socks—sometimes, you just need a system.

The Great K vs. W Debate

In the grand scheme of things, whether you’re tuned into a K or a W station doesn’t really matter. But it does make for a fun fact to pull out at parties. Imagine the look on your friends’ faces when you explain why your favorite station has a K even though you’re sitting in the heart of Pennsylvania!

So next time you flip the dial, remember: it’s all about location, location, location. And maybe a little bit of historical quirkiness.

2 thoughts on “K’s and W’s: Reason For Radio Call Signs.

  1. Something more mysterious than the K & W origins? The thumbnail for this article!
    What in the random is that about?

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