Tag Archives: WLW

Radio Waves: WLW at 100, WWVB Upgrades, Ofcom Radio Amateur Data, and Unlocking the Airwaves

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Mike Terry, Dave Zantow, and John Figliozzi  for the following tips:


WLW-AM Begins 100th Year On Air (WVXU)

It wasn’t Cincinnati’s first radio station, but WLW-AM is still the biggest.

Cincinnati industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. began broadcasting WLW-AM over a 20-watt station from his College Hill home on March 2, 1922 – which means that the station is entering its 100th year today.

WLW-AM wasn’t Cincinnati’s first commercial radio station, but it is the oldest surviving station from the 1920s. WMH was operated by the Precision Instrument Co. from Dec. 30, 1921, to January 1923.  WMH was sold to Crosley and merged into WLW, says Randy Michaels, the former WLW-AM programmer and Jacor/Clear Channel executive who is the best radio historian I know.

In 1934, WLW-AM became “the Nation’s station” when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flipped a switch in the White House to activate the station’s unprecedented 500,000-watt experimental transmitter under its Tylersville Road tower. WLW-AM broadcast at “super power” around the clock for five years, through 1939, and continued the mega-wattage output midnight-2 a.m. until 1943. For years WLW-AM has boasted that the 50,000-watt signal reaches 38 states. (I’ve heard the station in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.)

For 99 years, WLW-AM has broadcast some of the most popular personalities in town: Jim Scott, Gary Burbank, Bob Trumpy, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, Cris Collinsworth, Jim LaBarbara, Bill Cunningham, Mike McConnell and Dale Sommers. Before them came Ruth Lyons, Bob Braun, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, newsman Peter Grant, sportscaster Red Barber and comedian Red Skelton.

Although WLW-AM likes to promote itself as “news radio,” it’s perhaps best known for carrying Reds and most Bengals games, plus University of Cincinnati football and basketball and Xavier basketball.[]

WWVB broadcast system upgrades may include temporary outages (WWV)

The WWVB broadcast system is being upgraded with new equipment to improve the reliability of the signal. In order to install this equipment, beginning on March 9, 2021 the WWVB signal may be operated on a single antenna at approximately 30 kW radiated power for periods up to several days in duration, and may have occasional outages. Periods of reduced power operation lasting longer than 30 minutes will be logged on the WWVB Antenna Configuration and Power web page, and any outage longer than five minutes’ duration will be recorded on the WWVB Outage web page. Upgrades are expected to be complete by March 31, 2021.

Ofcom released age of radio amateurs data (Southgate ARC)

Following a Freedom of Information request about the age of radio amateurs Ofcom said they do not hold Date-of-Birth information for many radio amateurs but released what information they do have

Ofcom say “We do not hold a full breakdown of the age of issued amateur radio licensees as date of birth is not a mandatory field for licence applications.”

In September 2000 the then communications regulator (RA) abolished the ban on people under 14-years-old holding a Full amateur licence, since that time a person’s date of birth has served little regulatory purpose.

The data Ofcom released showed they only had Date-of-Birth information for:
7,312 out of 28,845 Foundation licences
4,104 out of 12,127 Intermediate licences
44,944 out of 54,072 Full licences

As of March 1, 2021 there was a total of 95,044 valid UK amateur radio licences.

Download the FoI reply and the available age data at
https://ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/214915/age-of-amateur-radio-licensees.pdf

You can submit a Freedom of Information request to Ofcom online at
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/new/ofcom

Unlocking the Airwaves (UMD)

Unlocking the Airwaves: Revitalizing an Early Public and Educational Radio Collection is a comprehensive online collection of early educational public radio content from the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). The forerunner of CPB and its arms, NPR and PBS, the NAEB developed and distributed educational radio programs and accompanying print materials to schools and communities across the United States. What’s more, the NAEB lobbied extensively to unlock the airwaves—to access precious frequency space—in order to bring the voices of poet Robert Frost, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and conservationist “Ranger Mac,” among many other individuals, into American homes and classrooms.

The NAEB’s history is the dramatic story of idealists who believed in the utopian possibilities of technology for education and social uplift and who faced considerable challenges in pursuit of those goals, including economic depression, world war, and the scarcity of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s a story that has much to tell us about 20th century American culture, as well as the 21st century’s environment of online educational technology and podcasting that we live in today.

Despite its historic importance and contemporary relevance, most of the NAEB members’ programs were never heard again after their initial brief moments on the air. The archives for the radio programs and their related paper documentation have been split for over 25 years between two institutions: the University of Maryland and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Unlocking the Airwaves reunites the split collections, finally realizing the potential of the collections of the NAEB for exploration and and the broader public.

Click here to explore Unlocking the Airwaves.


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Clyde Haehnle: Loss of a broadcasting icon

(Source: The VOA Museum via David Snyde)

Museum Icon Passes Away

The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting mourns the loss of one of its major leaders and benefactors. Clyde Haehnle passed away peacefully on Sunday, April 8th.   Over the years, this icon in the development of broadcasting technology, not only locally but nationally, was the driving force behind the museum.

A veteran broadcasting engineer and executive, Mr. Haehnle was instrumental in the early meteoric development of Powel Crosley’s WLW. While working at WLW, fresh out of electrical engineering school at the University of Cincinnati, he was assigned in 1942 to work on design and construction of VOA-Bethany Station, the transmission facility of the newly- minted Voice of America. The facility operated from 1944 thru 1994 and beamed programs worldwide from the highest power shortwave transmitters built in the world at that time.

The rhombic antenna design requiring extensive mathematical calculations fell to Mr. Haehnle. His work accomplished with pencil, paper and a slide rule resulted in some of the most efficient antenna arrays ever built and enabled the VOA programs transmitted from the hilltop north of Cincinnati to be heard by eager listeners worldwide. P of Engineering at AVCO Broadcasting. He held many patents in electronic technology and continued to be a curious and thoughtful proponent of technology well into his ninth decade.

Mr. Haehnle’s untiring leadership and support has enabled the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting to develop into a rich educational institution celebrating the role broadcasting has made in the dissemination of programs globally encouraging democratic principles to truth-starved audiences.

The Museum plans a celebration of Mr. Haehnle’s extraordinary life later this spring.

Read more about Clyde.

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When WLW was the one and only “Super Station”

WLW's diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons)

WLW’s diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons 2.0)

(Source: National Endowment for the Humanities)

For a Brief Time in the 1930s, Radio Station WLW in Ohio Became America’s One and Only “Super Station”

by Katy June-Friesen

When President Franklin Roosevelt, sitting in the White House, pushed a ceremonial button on his desk in May 1934, a five hundred thousand-watt (500 kW) behemoth stirred in a field outside Cincinnati. Rows of five-foot glass tubes warmed. Water flowed around them at more than six hundred gallons per minute. Dozens of engineers lit filaments and flipped switches, and, within the hour, enough power to supply a town of one hundred thousand coursed through an 831-foot tower.

Thus began WLW’s five-year, twenty-four-hour-a-day experiment: a radio station that used more power and transmitted more miles than any station in the United States had or would. The so-called super station—licensed by the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a temporary basis—amped up the debate among broadcasters, government regulators, and listeners about how radio should be delivered to serve the “public interest,” a mandate laid out in the Radio Act of 1927, and influenced legal, programming, and technical decisions that shape the broadcast system we know today.

Since radio’s beginnings in the early 1920s, industry and government leaders promoted it as the great homogenizer, a cultural uplift project that could, among other things, help modernize and acculturate rural areas. The challenge was how to reach these areas, many of which received few or no radio signals in the mid-1930s. One solution was high-powered, clear-channel stations that could blanket large swaths of the country with a strong signal. These stations operated on “cleared” frequencies that the government assigned to only one station to prevent interference.

WLW had operated on one of forty designated clear channels since 1928. The station’s creator and owner, an entrepreneur, inventor, and manufacturer named Powel Crosley Jr. frequently increased the station’s wattage as technology and regulation allowed. In 1934, when WLW increased its power from 50 kW to 500 kW, all other clear-channel stations were operating at 50 kW or less. Now, WLW had the ability to reach most of the country, especially at night, when AM radio waves interact differently with the earth’s ionosphere and become “skywaves.” People living near the transmitter site often got better reception than they wanted; some lights would not turn off until WLW engineers helped rewire houses. Gutters rattled loose from buildings. A neon hotel sign near the transmitter never went dark. Farmers reported hearing WLW through their barbed-wire fences.

Continue reading…

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Ted Landphair takes us to the VOA Bethany transmitting station

bethanyvoa

VOA Bethany transmitting station, now a museum and park.

Veteran Voice of America “Americana” reporter and essayist, Ted Landphair recently posted an essay on his blog outlining the past and present of VOA’s Bethany, Ohio transmitter site. This article is a fascinating read and takes us back to the the site’s roots in WLW and wartime propaganda.

Thanks Ted–and to Kim Elliot for bringing this article to my attention.

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