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|City of license||San Francisco, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Branding||All News 740 and FM 106.9|
|Slogan||"What's Happening and Why"|
|Repeaters||106.9 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||December 9, 1921 (experimental under various calls from 1909–1921)|
|Audience share||3.8, #5 (Sp'08, R&R)|
|Callsign meaning||Columbia Broadcasting System
(Former legal name of CBS)
|Affiliations||CBS Radio, CBS News|
|Sister stations||KBCW, KFRC-FM, KITS, KLLC, KMVQ-FM, KPIX-TV, KZDG|
KCBS, 740 AM, is an all-news radio station located in San Francisco, California, United States. The station serves as an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network (of which KCBS serves as its West Coast flagship station) and Dial Global. The station is owned by the CBS Radio subsidiary of CBS Corporation. The station shares studios with CBS owned-and-operated television station KPIX-TV (channel 5) on Battery Street, and its transmitter is located in Novato. KCBS's programming is also simulcast on co-owned FM station KFRC (106.9).
As KQW (1909–1949)
KCBS has its roots in the experiments of San Jose engineer Charles Herrold as far back as 1909, making the broadcaster a leading contender for the title of oldest continuously broadcasting station in the United States and possibly the world. Herrold used a variety of different radio call signs in the early days, including FN, SJN, 6XF and 6XE. In the very beginning, Herrold used a simple greeting like "San Jose calling." That greeting and the initial FN sign (which was an inverted abbreviation of "National Fone") reflected the fact that he had been partially working on the idea of a radiotelephone.
On December 9, 1921, Herrold received a commercial license under the callsign KQW. It was the 21st licensed radio station in the United States and the 11th in the state of California. However, the "arc-phone" Herrold had been using for over a decade had to be scrapped. It would only work at wavelengths above 600 meters, and all radio stations were restricted to 360 meters (roughly the equivalent of 833 kHz). He quickly created a replacement, using a tube-like transmitter drawing power from San Jose's streetcar lines. However, he never recovered financially from the loss of his arc-phone, and was forced to put the station on the market in 1925. After initially giving an option to a civic foundation, he sold it to the First Baptist Church of San Jose. Herrold stayed on as a technician for the station he had created for a few years, but died in obscurity in 1947.
There is at least one authentic broadcast recording chronicling this early history. On November 10, 1945, KQW presented a special program called "The Story of KQW," commemorating Herrold's early broadcasts. It includes a brief recorded statement by Herrold, just before his 70th birthday. During the introduction to the program, a KQW announcer explains that the program was produced to mark the 25th anniversary of the broadcasting industry as well as the 36th anniversary of KQW. The announcer then goes on to say that KQW was the first radio station in the world to operate on a regular schedule. The major events in Herrold's work are then dramatized.
In 1926, station manager James Hart bought KQW's license and facilities, eventually buying the station itself in 1930. Until 1942, it operated as a service of the Pacific Agricultural Foundation to farmers in the Central Valley. A series of power boosts brought the station's effective radiated power to 5,000 watts by 1935. It served as the San Jose affiliate of the Don Lee Broadcasting System from 1937 to 1941; during the time, that it was owned by Julius Brunton & Sons, the station's operations being co-located with KJBS at 1470 Pine Street in San Francisco.
However, in 1942 CBS offered to move its San Francisco affiliation to KQW after KSFO (560 AM) turned down CBS' offer to buy the station. KQW jumped at this offer, having been without a source of network programming for over a year. CBS moved its affiliation to KQW later that year, with an option to buy the station outright. KJBS Broadcasters then sold the station and KQW moved to a lavish CBS-owned studio at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. For all intents and purposes, it became a San Francisco station, though it continued to be licensed in San Jose. An announcer remained at the transmitter to identify the station as "KQW, San Jose" every hour.
The beginning of KCBS (1949–1995)
At the end of World War II, KQW found itself in a battle with KSFO for its longtime home on 740 AM, the last Bay Area frequency that was authorized to operate at 50,000 watts. When CBS affiliated with KSFO in 1937, it cut a deal with KQW to swap frequencies with KSFO, which would then boost its power to 50,000 watts. The change was awaiting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval when World War II broke out. By 1945, however, KQW had become San Francisco's CBS affiliate, and CBS was obviously not about to give up the advantage of having the last 50,000-watt frequency in the Bay Area. While the FCC granted the frequency to KSFO, its owners, Associated Broadcasters, later decided to concentrate on plans for its new television station, KPIX-TV (channel 5). Eventually, Associated Broadcasters traded 740 back to CBS in return for KPIX getting the CBS television affiliation for the Bay Area.
CBS exercised its option to buy KQW in 1949, changing the calls to KCBS (the KCBS callsign predates the use on the CBS-owned television station (then KNXT) in Los Angeles by over 30 years, and KCBS-FM there as well). The station also officially changed its city of license to San Francisco after seven years. In 1951, KCBS signed on at 50,000 watts for the first time from an elaborate multi-tower facility in Novato originally intended for KSFO. However, the station is a class B station, not a Class A (clear-channel).
In 1968, KCBS became one of the first all-news stations in the country. However, it already had a long history in news dating back to World War II, when it was the center of CBS' newsgathering efforts in the Pacific Theater. In 1971, KCBS moved its studios to the 32nd floor of One Embarcadero Center.
Common ownership with KPIX (1995–present)
Westinghouse Electric Corporation (which purchased KPIX-TV from Associated Broadcasters in 1954) bought CBS in 1995, bringing the Bay Area's oldest radio station and its oldest television station under common ownership. In May 2006, KCBS and KPIX-TV moved their San Jose news bureau to the Fairmont Tower at 50 West San Fernando Street, the address of Charles Herrold's original broadcasts. Although CBS management was not aware of the history of the San Fernando Street address when the move was planned, they quickly recognized and embraced its significance when informed, giving long-overdue credit at the bureau's opening celebration to one of the inventors of broadcasting.
In mid-March 2005, KCBS, along with nearly all of the other all-news stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting (which renamed itself CBS Radio that fall), began streaming its audio (reversing a long-standing Infinity Radio policy of not doing so) over its website (New York City's WCBS-AM began streaming its programming online the previous December). Local commercials which are heard on the radio signal are pre-empted on the Internet stream for a small selection of sponsored ads, and more often for public service announcements, station promos and repeats of pre-recorded CBS Radio Network feature segments already on the broadcast schedule (including Lloyd DeVries' stamp collecting segment, Dr. Emily Senay's "Healthwatch" and Neil Chayet's "Looking at the Law"); before the fall of 2008, outside sponsors purchased considerably more spots on the internet stream. In March 2010, KCBS and the other CBS Radio stations blocked Internet listeners outside the United States from accessing its live stream.
In 2007, the station began identifying itself on-air as "KCBS and KCBS-HD", a reference to the stations' broadcasting in hybrid digital. On October 27, 2008, KCBS began locally simulcasting its complete program schedule (including commercials) on co-owned KFRC-FM (106.9) and digital KFRC-HD-1. KFRC-FM-HD-1 and HD-2 transmit from Mount Beacon above Sausalito in Marin County. KFRC had previously programmed a classic hits format (which remains on digital KFRC-HD-2). The station's microphone flag now carries the 740 frequency on two sides of the cube, and 106.9 on the other two sides. 106.9 did not change its call letters, due to the existing usage of the KCBS-FM calls on its adult hits sister station in Los Angeles on 93.1 FM; however, in 2011, the station adopted the joint branding "KCBS All News 740 AM and 106.9 FM."
In 2009, KCBS celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding by Dr. Charles Herrold with a yearlong series of centennial events throughout the Bay Area, culminating in the public dedication of a new plaque at the location in San Jose where the experimental broadcasts originated. During that year, KCBS adopted the slogan "The World's First Broadcasting Station." Openly acknowledging that its CBS sister station KDKA in Pittsburgh claims to be the world's oldest radio station based on continuous operation since 1920 and being the first commercial station licensed by a governmental entity, KCBS instead claims to be the world's first such station, basing it on a historic succession of owners and callsign changes from 1909 to the present day. In mid-September 2010, KCBS Radio's website merged with that of KPIX and their sister radio properties in the San Francisco market under the "CBS San Francisco" banner.
KCBS's signal can be heard clearly as far north as Sacramento and Hopland and as far south as San Luis Obispo on most days. Under the right conditions, its daytime signal reaches as far north as Redding and as far south as Santa Maria. At night, with its 50,000 watts of power, the signal can be heard throughout California including Los Angeles and San Diego, and can cover several western states such as Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah. On rare occasions, its signal travels across the Pacific Ocean and is receiveable by DXing in Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado and the northwestern portion of Mexico.
Content and personalities
KCBS is well known for a number of personalities. On weekday mornings, the morning anchor team talks with Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, former Oakland Raiders coach, and sportscaster John Madden. Morning team members Stan Bunger, Steve Bitker and Susan Leigh Taylor talk with Madden about a wide variety of topics, generally focusing on sports. The station also hosts special segments each weekday with CBS News technology analysts Larry Magid and Brian Cooley, and longtime food and wine editor Narsai David.
Similar to its sister stations such as WBBM and WCBS, KCBS airs traffic and weather reports in intervals beginning at :08 minutes past the hour (promoted as "traffic and weather together every ten minutes"), sports updates at :15 and :45 minutes past the hour, and business news ("Moneywatch") at :25 and :55 minutes past the hour. KCBS Cover Story airs weekly as an extended look at a major issue in the news, while In Depth is a weekly long-form interview program. In addition, KCBS simulcasts 60 Minutes and Face The Nation, which is also standard practice at other CBS-owned all-news radio stations. KCBS also simulcasts a seven-minute block of the CBS Evening News live from 3:31 to 3:38 p.m. weekdays, allowing listeners to hear the program's top stories two hours before the newscast airs on KPIX-TV.
Bob Price, a longtime business anchor and editor for KCBS who worked for over 20 years at the radio station, anchored from what is currently known as the San Francisco floor of the New York Stock Exchange until his retirement on November 5, 2009. Jason Brooks has served as anchor of business news segements since Price's retirement.
In 2011, Kim Wonderley became morning traffic anchor at the station (performing traffic reports from 5 to 10 a.m.), while she simultaneously performed traffic reporting duties for other Bay Area radio stations. A KCBS direct mail piece claimed, "More people rely on her morning traffic reports on KCBS than on any other station." Patti Reising was a weekday afternoon news anchor in 2011.
KCBS occasionally runs a "Mystery Newsmaker" listen-and-phone contest. Listeners hear a sound bite in the morning (7:40 a.m.) and are invited to be the tenth caller to correctly identify the speaker at a certain point in the afternoon (usually 4:40 p.m.) in order to win a prize.
- KCBS Radio Website at CBS San Francisco
- The History of KQW/KCBS
- KQW 30th Anniversary broadcast
- FCC History Cards for KCBS
- Query the FCC's AM station database for KCBS
- Radio-Locator Information on KCBS
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for KCBS