Call signs in North America
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Call signs are frequently still used by North American broadcast stations, in addition to amateur radio and other international radio stations that continue to identify by call signs around the world. Each country has a different set of patterns for its own call signs.
Many countries have specific conventions for classifying call signs by transmitter characteristics and location. The call sign format for radio and television call signs follows a number of conventions. All call signs begin with a "prefix" assigned by the International Telecommunications Union. For example, the United States has been assigned the following prefixes: "AAA"–"ALZ", "K", "N", "W". For a complete list, see international call sign allocations.
- 1 Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean
- 2 Canada
- 3 Mexico
- 4 United States
- 5 Other regions
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean
Pertaining to their status as former or current colonies, all of the British West Indies islands shared the "VS", "ZB"–"ZJ", "ZN"–"ZO", and "ZQ" prefixes. The current, largely post-independence, allocation list is as follows:
- Anguilla (in amateur radio "VP2E" prefix)
- Antigua and Barbuda (uses "V2" prefix)
- Bahamas (has the "C6" prefix)
- Barbados (uses "8P")
- Bermuda (also uses "VS", in amateur radio normally "VP9")
- British Virgin Islands (for amateur radio uses "VP2V")
- Cayman Islands ("ZF" for amateur operation, "ZF1" for Grand Cayman, "ZF8" for Little Cayman and "ZF9" for Cayman Brac islands. Visiting reciprocal for all islands is "ZF2")
- Dominica (Commonwealth of Dominica, uses "J7")
- Grenada (uses "J3")
- Jamaica (uses "6Y")
- Montserrat (for amateur operation "VP2M" prefix)
- St. Kitts and Nevis (uses "V4")
- St. Lucia (uses "J6")
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines (uses "J8")
- Turks and Caicos Islands (typically uses "VP5")
Cuba uses the prefixes "CL"–"CM", "CO", and "T4", with district numbers from 0 to 9 to amateur operations.
The Dominican Republic uses the prefixes "HI"–"HJ".
French West Indies
All of the French possessions share the prefix "F". Further divisions that are used by amateur stations are:
Haiti has been assigned the callsign prefixes "HH" and "4V".
Trinidad and Tobago
The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago use the "9Y"–"9Z" prefixes.
Canadian broadcast stations are assigned a three-, four-, or five-letter base call sign (not including the "–FM", "TV" or "–DT" suffix) beginning with "CB", "CF", "CH", "CI", "CJ", "CK", "VA"–"VG", "VO", "VX", "VY", or "XJ"–"XO". The "CB" series calls are assigned to Chile by the ITU, but Canada makes de facto use of this series anyway for stations belonging to, but not exclusively broadcasting programs from, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Several other prefixes, including "CG", "CY", "CZ" and the "XJ" to "XO" range, are available. Conventional radio and television stations almost exclusively use "C" call signs; with a few exceptions noted below, the "V" codes are restricted to specialized uses such as amateur radio.
Special broadcast undertakings such as Internet radio, cable FM, carrier current or closed circuit stations may sometimes be known by unofficial call signs such as "CSCR". These are not governed by the Canadian media regulation system, and may at times reflect call signs that would not be permissible on a conventional broadcast platform.
Four-letter call signs are the norm. Three-letter call signs are only permitted to CBC Radio stations or to commercial stations which already had a three-letter call sign before the current rules were adopted, and five-letter call signs exclusively identify CBC transmitters (which may be either rebroadcasters or Ici Radio-Canada Télé owned-and-operated stations outside of Quebec).
Stations of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation tend to identify themselves as "CBC Radio One"/"CBC Radio Two" (English-language) or "La Première Chaîne"/"Espace Musique" (French-language) of a city, although they do have official three- and four- letter call signs. These generally (but not always) begin with "CB".
Call signs with four digits preceded by "VF" (for radio) or "CH" (for television) are only assigned to very-low-power local rebroadcasters; "VO" call signs may only be used commercially by stations in Newfoundland and Labrador which were licensed before that province joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949 (VOCM, VOAR and VOWR broadcast from St. John's long before confederation). Only one station, VOCM-FM, has been allowed to adopt a "VO" call sign after 1949. It was granted the VOCM calls because of its corporate association with the AM station.
All Canadian FM stations have an "–FM" suffix, except for low-power rebroadcasters which have semi-numeric "VF" call signs. Higher-power rebroadcasters are generally licensed under the call sign of the originating station, followed by a numeric suffix and, for FM re-broadcasters of an AM station, a "–FM" suffix. For example, CJBC-1-FM rebroadcasts CJBC (860; Toronto), whereas CJBC-FM-1 rebroadcasts CJBC-FM (90.3l Toronto). Some rebroadcasters, however, may have their own distinct call signs. Canadian television stations always use the "-TV" suffix, with the exception of those CBC-owned stations which have a call sign in the "CB-(-)T" format. Canadian digital transitional television undertakings have "-DT" suffixes, even where the base call sign is a CBC/Radio-Canada O&O in pattern "CB(insert third letter)T", "CB(insert third letter)ET" or "CB(insert third letter)FT" (respectively for English language or French language television). For instance, Ici Radio-Canada Télé's O&O CBOFT-DT would represent "CBC Ottawa Français Télévision - Digital Television". Canada does not use the "-LP" or "-CA" suffixes that are in use in the United States but makes limited use of "-SW" for privately owned shortwave radio stations.
For rebroadcasters which use a numeric suffix, the suffixes usually follow a 1–2–3 numeric sequence, which indicates the chronological order in which rebroadcast transmitters were added. There are some cases where television rebroadcasters are suffixed with the channel number on which the transmitter broadcasts (for instance, CIII-DT's rebroadcasters are numbered with their channel assignment rather than sequentially), but this is not generally the norm.
Experimental television stations in Canada had call signs beginning with "VX9".
The "CG" prefix is used by Canadian Coast Guard stations and ship-to-shore radio on federally owned ships. Coast Guard Radio stations have also used "VA" through "VF". Individual ships will use call signs with a Canadian two-letter prefix (such as "CF", "CY", "CZ", "VB", "VC" or "VY") followed by a four-digit number. Aircraft are identified with a prefix such as "CF" or "CG" followed by three letters. Military radio fixed stations also bear call signs in the "CF"-"CK", "CY"-"CZ", "VE" and "VX"-"VY" series. Environment Canada weather stations have call signs of three letters and three numbers, issued from various "C", "V" or "X" Canadian prefix series.
Canadian amateur radio stations generally begin with "VE", some also use "VA". The number following these letters indicates the province, going from "VA1"/"VE1" for Nova Scotia, "VA2"/"VE2" (Québec), "VE3"/"VA3" (Ontario) through "VA7"/"VE7" for British Columbia and "VE8" for the Northwest Territories, with latecomer "VE9" for New Brunswick ("VE1" used to be for all three Maritime provinces). "VE0" is for maritime mobile amateur transmissions. "VY1" is used for the Yukon Territory, "VY2" for Prince Edward Island, and "VY0" for Nunavut. "CY0" and "CY9" are Sable Island and St. Paul Island; with little or local population, reception of these distant points is rare, although amateur radio stations do temporarily operate from these islands during shortwave radio contests. Special prefixes are often issued for stations operating at significant events.
The Dominion of Newfoundland prefix "VO" remains in active use by amateurs in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, VO1AA atop Signal Hill in St. Johns being the most famous amateur station. Radio amateurs on the Island of Newfoundland use calls beginning with "VO1", while Labrador amateurs use "VO2". A popular backronym for "VO" stations is "Voice of...", although prefixes do not have any official meaning.
Mexican broadcast stations are assigned a three-, four-, five-, or six-letter call signs beginning with "XE" (for mediumwave and shortwave stations) or "XH" (for FM radio and television stations). Some FM and television stations (like XETV) are grandfathered with "XE" call signs and a "–FM" or "–TV" suffix. Mexican stations are required to identify twice an hour, at both the top and the bottom. Radio and television stations Mexico that usually broadcast programming in English are required to play the Mexican national anthem every day at midnight local time. As in Canada, stations that rebroadcast other stations may have the same call sign, but with a different number at the end (such as XEMN and XEMN-1). More commonly, television rebroadcasters are assigned "XH" calls in the same manner as any other Mexican television station.
Amateur radio stations in Mexico use "XE1" for the central region, "XE2" for the northern region, and "XE3" for the southern region. "XF" prefixes indicate islands. "XF4" is usually used for the Revillagigedo Islands and nearby islets. Special call signs for contests or celebrations are occasionally issued, often in the 4A and 6D series, although these will follow the usual district numbering system (4A3 for the south, etc.).
The earliest identification, used in the 1910s and into the early 1920s, was arbitrary. The U.S. government began requiring stations to use three-letter call signs around 1912, but they could be chosen at random. This system was replaced by the basic form of the current system in the early 1920s. Examples of pre-1920 stations include 8XK in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which became KDKA in November 1920 and has remained in use since; and Charles Herrold's series of identifiers from 1909 in San Jose, California: first "This is the Herrold Station" or "San Jose calling", then the call signs FN, SJN, 6XF, and 6XE, then, with the advent of modern call signs, KQW in December 1921, and eventually KCBS from 1949 onward.
All broadcast call signs in the United States begin with either "K" or "W", with "K" usually west of the Mississippi River and "W" usually east of it (except in Louisiana and Minnesota, which do not strictly follow the dividing line between the two groups). Initial letters "AA" through "AL", as well as "N", are internationally allocated to the United States but are not used for broadcast stations.
In the United States, broadcast stations have call signs of three to seven characters in length, including suffixes for certain types of service, but the minimum length for new stations is four characters, and seven-character call signs result only from rare combinations of suffixes.
Each station with a traditional full-power license, whether AM, FM, television, or private shortwave, has a call sign of three or four letters, plus an optional suffix of either "-FM" or "-TV". A broadcast translator or other low-power station has either four letters with a mandatory two-letter suffix indicating its type, or a five- or six-character call sign consisting of "K" or "W", followed by two to three digits indicating its frequency, followed by two letters issued sequentially.
For most of the 20th century, new full-power stations were also assigned their four-letter call signs sequentially by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if the permit holder did not choose a call sign prior to full licensing. For four-letter call signs beginning with W, sequential call signs were incremented with the fourth letter being least significant and changing each time, the second letter being the next most significant, and the third letter being the least significant and changing only after every combination of second and fourth letter was exhausted. Thus, the first sequential four-letter call signs in the W sequence were of the "W_A_" form, such as (the now defunct) WMAF in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts followed soon after by WMAQ in Chicago (now WSCR for the AM radio station, but remaining in use for the call sign of television station WMAQ-TV). The "K" sequence was also sequential, but with a more complicated history concerning the second letter; the third and fourth letters, however, were incremented in the most obvious way, with the fourth letter least significant, then the third letter, then the second letter. For both K and W, any call signs which were already assigned were simply skipped over in the sequential system.
The FCC has since begun requiring permit holders to choose the call sign prior to licensing; stations not yet given a call sign show up in FCC electronic records with the word "NEW" or the file number of the original station application instead. Stations may change their call signs whenever they wish to, and often they do so in connection with a change of radio format. Call signs become available again after 30 days of non-use, although stations (frequently under common ownership) can swap call signs at the same time.
Records for officially deleted stations still remain in the electronic FCC database for some time, but with the last call sign prefixed with a "D", which is not allocated for valid station call signs in the United States; for example, a station whose last call sign was KXXX before deletion will appear in the database as DKXXX so as not to conflict with any station that may be assigned KXXX in the future. Call signs beginning with "D" are not in use in the United States and are unlikely to ever be assigned in the United States.
Short call signs
In the 1920s, many stations were assigned three-letter call signs. These have been grandfathered under the current system, even though many of these stations have changed owners. Such stations include WWJ (AM) and WJR (AM) in Detroit, KOA in Denver, KSD (now KTRS) in St. Louis, WGN in Chicago, and WRR (FM) in Dallas, which was originally assigned WRR-FM in 1948 as a sister station to WRR (AM) from 1921 (WRR is an unusual case in that the call sign was moved from the original AM station to a commonly owned FM station, formerly WRR-FM, before the AM station was sold). For decades, the Federal Communications Commission carried out a policy of "drop it and lose it forever" with respect to the three-letter call signs, but it recently allowed the radio station KKHJ in Los Angeles to reclaim its historic three-letter call, KHJ.
The FCC allows FM radio and television stations under common ownership with a three-letter AM or FM in the same market to use five-letter (three plus "–FM" or "–TV" suffix) call signs; for example, KGO-TV in San Francisco or WMC-FM in Memphis. In some cases, such as WIL-FM in St. Louis, the five-letter call sign may outlive the three-letter call sign on which it is based. There was also the unusual case of Baltimore's WJZ-TV, which was allowed to adopt this call sign despite the fact that no form of the WJZ call sign had been in use for over four years prior, and when WJZ did exist, it had been in a different region and owned by a different company since the 1920s. The call signs WJZ and WJZ-FM were later reused for Baltimore sister stations of that new WJZ-TV.
Stations which have been "conformed" in this manner may keep the five-letter call sign even after they are no longer co-owned with the "parent" station (although this was not the case prior to the mid-1980s). WWL (AM) and WWL-TV in New Orleans would be an example of eponymous stations no longer under common ownership. From the 1930s through the end of World War II, WJZ was assigned to an NBC "Red Network" station in NYC at 770 AM. NBC had two networks operating during this period that served the same communities and was required by the FCC to divest one of the networks. The "Blue Network" became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). During the pre-war and war years, the CBS station in New York City was WABC at 880 AM. A large swap took place when the CBS station was able to acquire WCBS allowing the new ABC network station, WJZ, to pick up the WABC calls. WJZ at that time went back to Baltimore. To complete the deal, the NBC station in New York City, WEAF (at 660 AM) was able to switch its call letters to WNBC. All three networks then had their network name as part of their New York City stations' call signs.
K and W
New broadcast stations are assigned call signs beginning with "K" if their city of license is located west of the Mississippi River, and beginning with "W" if they are licensed east of the river. No broadcast stations are assigned call signs beginning with "N" or "AA"–"AL". Again, some early stations have been grandfathered, so there are four broadcasters with a "K" prefix east of the Mississippi, and a few dozen with a "W" on the west side (there are more grandfathered "W" stations because the dividing line used to be two states farther west). Some examples of stations with a now-unusual first letter are KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, KYW in Philadelphia, WBAP in Fort Worth, Texas, and WACO-FM in Waco, Texas, which also has the distinction of being one of only three radio stations whose call sign is the same as its community of license. Stations located near the Mississippi River, as well as some in northern Minnesota and southern Louisiana, may have either letter, depending on the precise location of their community of license and on historical contingencies. Metropolitan areas that straddle different states on both sides of the river, such as St. Louis, Memphis, and the Quad Cities area encompassing Iowa and Illinois, have stations with both call letter prefixes, because of the stations' communities of license being located on either side of the river.
The FCC allows derived call signs in the same market as a commonly owned AM or FM without respect of the boundary, so stations may establish common branding across bands and services. One famous example was the case of the former KWK in St. Louis, which after several petitions was permitted to change the call sign of its sister FM station in Granite City, Illinois, then WWWK (FM), to KWK-FM. Later, the AM station would change its call sign and the FM station became KWK (FM), thereby becoming an exemplar of both categories of grandfathered stations.
The assignment of "K" and "W" prefixes applies only to stations in the broadcast radio and television services; it does not apply to weather radio, highway advisory radio, or time signal stations, even though these are all broadcasts in the usual sense of the word, nor does it apply to auxiliary licenses held by broadcast stations, such as studio-transmitter links and inter-city relay stations.
For example, the time signal stations WWV and WWVH are respectively located in Colorado and Hawaii (WWV originally began in Maryland and was later moved west; however, even ignoring that fact, U.S. government-owned stations are overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and not the FCC, and are thus not subject to the FCC's rules on call signs; most do not have call signs at all).
NOAA Weather Radio stations clustered between 162.4 and 162.55 MHz have call signs consisting of a "K" or "W" followed by letters, and two digits. The "K" and "W" prefixes are both used interchangeably on both sides of the Mississippi River (for example, KHB36 in Washington, D.C. and WXK25 in El Paso, Texas).
Highway advisory radio stations scattered throughout the AM band use call signs consisting of "K" and "W" followed by two or three letters and three digits. As with weather radio, "K" and "W" calls are both used on both sides of the Mississippi River.
Call signs in the western United States are often confused with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airport codes because both make use of four-character codes that begin with the letter "K". Examples include KSFO (which simultaneously refers to San Francisco International Airport and radio station KSFO), KLAX (which simultaneously refers to Los Angeles International Airport and KLAX-FM), and KDFW (which simultaneously refers to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and television station KDFW).
FM radio and television call signs may be followed by a dash and the two-letter class of station: "-FM", "-LP", "-TV", or "-CA". For digital television, the early "–HD" and later "–DT" suffixes are usually not used (among the exceptions are KMYA-DT and WOI-DT), as the digital channel is not licensed separately from the analog for full-power stations (since June 2009, stations have the latitude to choose a "-TV" or "-DT" suffix for their calls). Some station owners using the iBiquity HD Radio IBOC system have expressed a desire for "–HD" call signs, but this is unlikely to happen because HD Radio is a sideband service on the same center frequency. Occasionally, an FM or television station may have one or more boosters, which retransmit the main station's signal to overcome terrain obstacles. In this case, the main portion of the call sign remains the same (unlike translators), and the boosters are given sequential numeric suffixes like "–FM1".
It should be noted that the "-FM" or "-TV" suffix is not required to be assigned to television or FM radio stations, except where there is another station that shares the same three- or four-letter base call sign without an accompanying suffix. AM radio stations usually never have an "-AM" (or any other) suffix. If a station has no suffix, the FCC uses parentheses to identify the station unambiguously in documentation (such as in rulemaking proceedings), in the same manner that Wikipedia handles disambiguation of article names (except that there is no space between the two). This ensures that, for example, WIKI(AM) is not mistaken for WIKI-FM and WIKI-TV just because it was identified as only WIKI. This occurs regardless of whether there is actually another station using the call sign.
Low-power television and FM radio stations share the "–LP" suffix. Class A television stations, which are LPTV stations that receive protection from RF interference by primary stations, use the "–CA" suffix. Low-power television stations operating an ATSC digital signal, they instead receive the suffix "-LD", although digital television stations which have their RF channel numbers and sequential letters use only "–D", as in W08EG-D. The "-CD" suffix was assigned to be used for digital class A stations, but stations did not appear this way in the FCC database until 2009 or 2010. This only occurs when the analog station's broadcast license is cancelled, and the class-A status is transferred to its digital companion channel.
The first suffix to be introduced was "-FM", on November 1, 1943, when the call signs of all 45 then-licensed FM stations were changed. Call signs under the old system consisted of W or K followed by the last two digits of the frequency (from 31, for 43.1 MHz, to 99, for 49.9 MHz) and one or two letters indicating the city served. No provision had been made for conflicting city codes (for example, whether an "M" could stand for Milwaukee or Minneapolis, or both), severely limiting the application of this system in the anticipated post-war boom of FM station construction. Public confusion was cited as another reason to eliminate the old system. At this time, FM stations had to be licensed to the same organization and serve the same city as the station with the unsuffixed call sign in order to be eligible for an "-FM" suffix. Non-commercial educational FM stations such as WNYE and WBEZ, in the 41–43 MHz band, already used regular four-letter call signs. There was no "-TV" suffix as yet, so the few commercial television stations as then existed had to use distinct call signs from the radio stations they were associated with (for example, WRGB rather than WGY-TV).
Translator stations on FM radio and television are assigned sequential call signs. These stations use an appropriate initial letter followed by a two- or three-digit channel number, and then a two-letter sequential suffix. For example, a translator on VHF channel 4 might have the call sign K04AX (though it is much less common for television translator channels to be assigned an allocation between 2 and 13). Digital translator stations are assigned call signs in the same manner, except that the letter "-D" may be appended ("e.g.", K04AX or K04AX-D). The FM band also has channel numbers starting at the number 200 (or 201 for practical purposes), although they are almost unknown to regular listeners who usually tune into a station based on its frequency. W201AA was the first FM translator at 88.1 MHz in the east, for example. Such call signs are never reused by another station, though it is unclear if this could occur in the future due to exhaustion of the 676 (26²) two-letter combinations. As of 2009[update]. channel 13 in the Western United States (where the Rocky Mountains make translators a necessity) is up to K13Z"x". In this limited case, the X does not indicate an experimental station.
The FCC makes no differentiation between translating and originating LPTV stations, thus either type of station may have an alphanumeric or a regular "-LP" or "-LD" call sign.
Beginning in 2009, the FCC allows digital television stations to apply for translator stations that are not given a separate call sign, instead taking on the one of the primary station. This is only in the case of areas that would lose coverage due to the digital television transition.
Many stations prefer not to use call signs at all, since a moniker or slogan is more easily remembered by listeners (and those filling in diaries for the Arbitron radio ratings). However, in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission does require periodic station identification using the formal call sign, as close to the beginning of each hour as possible, at a "natural break in programming". However, this rule is now rarely enforced. Stations are also required to identify their community of license. Only the frequency, name of the licensee, channel number, and/or network affiliation may come between the two.
HD Radio stations must identify clearly that they are using a digital transmission mode, and must identify each program stream individually, but need not do so in any particular form; many licensees have chosen to identify as "WXXX HD2" and so on but this is not part of their call sign. Translator stations only need to have their call signs announced three times a day (at particular times) through the main station, or though some broadcast automation means (via voice or via Morse code) hourly by the translator.
There are some unusual cases, such as the low-frequency WWVB time station. Because of the station's very narrow-bandwidth signal, that station only broadcasts a one bit per second signal that cannot usually be understood by human beings, so the station is identified by shifting the broadcast carrier wave's phase by 45 degrees twice an hour [see Phase-shift keying (PSK)].
A common method of station identification by radio is along the lines of the call sign, the frequency, and the ownership (for example: "KQKS Lakewood/Denver: A Lincoln Financial Group Station. This is KS1075").
Because television is a visual medium, television stations instead usually display a small graphic or text at the bottom of the screen listing their call sign, community of license, and so forth. Many such stations display their station identification non-intrusively in small type during short promotions, either for an upcoming show or their next local newscast (even incorporating these identifications at the start of newscasts), that air just before the top of each hour.
Callsigns as names or initials
It is fairly common for stations to choose a call sign that can be transformed into a name, such as Medford, Massachusetts's WXKS-FM (107.9), one of many Clear Channel Communications-owned stations that call themselves "KISS." In other instances, the letters may be an initialism for a name or slogan. Some of the most famous of these include WGN (WGN (AM) and WGN-TV), owned by the Tribune Company, parent of the "Chicago Tribune", which stands for the latter's longtime slogan "World's Greatest Newspaper"; WIS in Charleston, South Carolina, which stands for "Wonderful Iodine State;" and WISN in Milwaukee, which dually stands for the station's original owner, the Wisconsin News, and the station's location in Wisconsin.
Affiliates of the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) in New York City and Los Angeles get their call signs from their network, with New York City stations adding the "W" and Los Angeles or San Francisco stations adding the "K". Stations operated by schools and universities may adopt their school's "initials" into the call sign, such as WWVU in Morgantown, West Virginia, the university-owned radio station of West Virginia University. West of the Mississippi, this can be seen with KKSU in Manhattan, Kansas, the former AM station and current television station of Kansas State University.
Callsigns as numbers
It is also common for television stations to choose call letters that either directly or indirectly reference the station or channel number upon which they broadcast. Some examples of this are: in Winston–Salem, North Carolina, the call sign WXII was chosen to represent the Roman numeral for 12, the channel on which the station broadcasts (as applies to KXII in Sherman, Texas/Ardmore, Oklahoma); the former WIIC (now WPXI) in Pittsburgh was chosen to accent the fact that the station broadcast on VHF channel 11; Philadelphia's WPVI was chosen to remind viewers that the station broadcast on VHF channel 6. The Roman letters can precede another letter suggesting a city, as with WIVB for channel 4 in Buffalo, New York. WTWO in Terre Haute, Indiana references its position on channel 2. Phonetic spellings such as KFOR-TV (representing its channel 4 allocation) in Oklahoma City, WFOR-TV (representing its channel 4 allocation) in Miami and near-misses such as WSYX in Columbus, Ohio (representing its channel 6 allocation) and WSVN in Miami (representing its channel 7 allocation) fit the pattern.
Experimental and non-broadcast stations
United States amateur radio call signs are issued with one or two letters, followed by a single digit, and then one to three more letters. Generally the shorter the call (up to a 1x2 or 2x1 format) the higher the grade of license, but an amateur who upgrades is not required to change his or her call sign. In any case some of the available blocks have been used up. The 1x1 call signs, such as K6O, are for short-term special event stations. Outlying areas have special calls. For example, those issued in Hawaii can (like other American call signs) start with "A", "K", "N", or "W", but then will have "H6" or "H7" before the one to three additional letters. Other Pacific possessions use other "H" numbers. For example, a station on Guam could be "KH0–". Stations in Alaska have "L" as their second prefix letter, and stations in the Caribbean region (such as the Virgin Islands) use "P" for their second letter.
The number in the call sign refers to one of the ten radio districts into which the United States is divided, but that only indicates where the license was issued. It is no longer necessary for an American amateur radio operator to change his/her call sign when moving to a new district. Most amateurs going to an exotic location will sign/(prefix) to show their location. Thus a station visiting American Samoa could be (regular call)/KH8. American amateurs are also permitted to operate in Canada under their own call signs with a location indicator.
Amateur stations are required to identify themselves by their call sign once every ten minutes during a communication and at the end of the communication.
Experimental stations use call signs out of the amateur radio sequence, with the letter following the region digit required to be an "X" (all VHF television stations that were operational before World War II were licensed as experimental stations). Notable experimental stations included Major Armstrong's FM station W2XMN in Alpine, New Jersey; Powell Crosley's 500-kW superpower AM W8XO, operating nights only with WLW's programming and frequency from Mason, Ohio; and Don Lee's pioneering television station, W6XAO in Los Angeles, California (synchronous "booster" transmitters for AM stations are still considered experimental in the U.S., despite 50 years of experience in Europe, and new experimental call signs are being assigned for new licenses even now, by inserting a region digit and the letter "X" into the parent station's call sign).
Leisure craft boats with VHF radios may not be assigned call signs, in which case the name of the vessel is used instead. Ships wishing to have a radio license anyway are under FCC class SA: "Ship recreational or voluntarily equipped." Those calls follow the land mobile format of the initial letter K or W followed by one or two letters, followed by three or four numbers (such as KX0983 or WXX0029).
Puerto Rico, Navassa Island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all use the American standard call signs of "W" (being east of the Mississippi River). Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands use "K". American Samoa uses "K" as well, but WVUV was grandfathered in, and remains as an AM radio station; the low-power television station that was WVUV-LP changed its call sign to KKHJ-LP in 2008. All of these areas are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Call signs are also used in other parts of the world, particularly those which have had significant U.S. influence at some point. This includes the Philippines (which is assigned "DZ" followed by two letters), Japan (which is assigned "JO" followed by two letters), and formerly Australia. Another well-known call sign outside of the region is HCJB in Ecuador, and several radio time sources used to set radio clocks or for audible listening, such as CHU in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
- Call sign
- City of license – another element of station licensing
- Facility ID – used by the FCC in the United States to distinguish broadcast stations without regard to call sign changes
The rules governing call signs for stations in the United States are set out in the FCC rules, 47 C.F.R. chapter I. Specific rules for each particular service are set out in the part of the rules dealing with that service. A general overview of call sign formats is found at 47 C.F.R. 2.302. Rules for broadcast stations' call sign are principally defined in 47 C.F.R. 73.3550.
- "Cayman Amateur Radio Society". Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- Weather radio transmitter lists by province, Environment Canada
- CY9 St. Paul Island DXpedition, CY9AA, June 1997
- VO1AA TPN7055.ca
- Cheek, Marty. "About Doc Herrold". Pleasanton, California: Bay Area Radio Museum. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- The others are WARE (1250; Ware, Massachusetts) and WISE-FM (90.5; Wise, Virginia).
- 47 C.F.R. 74.791
- Example: Query the FCC's TV station database for WKTB, formerly W38CU and W47DN-D
- "FM Stations to Get Four Letter Calls". Broadcasting and Broadcast Advertising (Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc.) 25 (9): 14. August 30, 1943.
- 47 C.F.R. 73.1201
- 47 C.F.R. 97.111.
- Tophour.com - Top-of-the-hour station identifications with call signs from American AM and FM radio stations
- Military Callsign List
- K/W Call Letters in the United States - A comprehensive historical review of K and W call letter assignments for AM band (mediumwave) radio stations in the United States