|City of license||Seattle, Washington|
|Broadcast area||Puget Sound region, Washington|
|Branding||710 ESPN Seattle
("KIRO" pronounced as "Cairo")
|First air date||April 27, 1927|
|Power||50,000 watts (Day and Night)|
|Former callsigns||650 KPCB (1927-1937)|
KIRO (710 AM) is a radio station based in Seattle, Washington on the shores of Lake Union with 2 towers on Maury Island, broadcasting on 710 kHz in the AM radio spectrum. The station's format is sports radio and it is affiliated with the ESPN Radio Network.
The Early Years as KPCB 650 (1927-1937)
KIRO began broadcasting on April 27, 1927, as the 100-watt station KPCB 650. Its founder was Moritz Thomsen of the Pacific Coast Biscuit Company. Among its announcers was Chet Huntley, later of television's Huntley-Brinkley Report. In 1935 Saul Haas's Queen City Broadcasting Company took over the station. He changed the call letters to KIRO and increased its power to 500 Watts. Haas, who was well connected in liberal politics and the business community, wanted a simple, pronounceable, and recognizable word for his new station. KING, after King County, Washington, was not available at that time.
1937 to 1960 (Now 710 KIRO)
In 1937, KIRO was assigned the 710 frequency and increased its power to 1,000 Watts. Soon after, the Seattle CBS affiliation moved to KIRO from KOL. Known as "The Friendly Station," KIRO personalities broke from the formal announcing style that was commonplace during the early days of radio.
On June 29, 1941, KIRO's new, 50,000-Watt transmitter on Maury Island became operational. From the 1930s through the 1950s, KIRO recorded countless hours of CBS programming for time-delayed rebroadcast. These electrical transcriptions are, in many cases, the only recordings made of World War II-era news coverage over the CBS network. The discs were donated to the University of Washington in the early 1960s and are now held at the National Archives as the Milo Ryan Phonoarchive Collection.
In 1948, the original KIRO-FM (now KKWF) took the air at 100.7 MHz, initially rebroadcasting its AM sister's programming. Preparing for a future television allocation, KIRO moved in 1952 from downtown studios to a larger building on Queen Anne Hill. This peak was already home to the KING-TV transmitter and would soon be the site for KOMO-TV as well. Queen City Broadcasting was awarded Seattle's last remaining VHF license in 1958.
1960 to 1980
Haas sold KIRO in 1964 to Bonneville International Corporation, part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bonneville executives Lloyd Cooney and Ken Hatch arrived in Seattle to lead the combined broadcast group, which included KIRO AM, in 1964. Like many network radio affiliates following the demise of full-time block programming, KIRO spent the 1960s playing Middle of the road music in addition to long-form news and interview shows. Morning host Jim French spent many years broadcasting from the rotating restaurant atop the Space Needle and was live on the air from that perch during a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in April, 1965. Bonneville moved its Seattle radio and TV stations to the newly constructed "Broadcast House" at Third and Broad Streets in 1968.
In 1973, KIRO ended a 35-year affiliation with CBS—an affiliation it has since resumed—and switched to the Mutual Broadcasting System. Around this time, KIRO also picked up Herb Jepko's "Nitecap," a groundbreaking overnight telephone-talk show from Salt Lake City sister station KSL. "Newsradio 71 KIRO" debuted in June 1974, with news and talk segments replacing most music programming.
1980 to 2008
Station leadership and ownership remained constant through the next decades. In 1980, Cooney left to run for US Senate and Hatch became President, CEO and Chairman - a position he held until 1995. Under Hatch's leadership, KIRO Inc. (which included KIRO TV, AM, FM, KING AM, FM and Third Avenue Productions) became one of the nation's premier regional broadcast groups. KIRO AM received much national recognition and was lead very successfully by General Manager Joe Abel during this period.
For 25 years, KIRO's morning news, anchored by Bill Yeend, consistently placed at or near the top of the Seattle Arbitron ratings. Yeend now anchors the morning news at cross-town rival KOMO AM. Gregg Hersholt was the station's morning news anchor for the next 10 years until he left the station on May 28, 2010, ending his 26 year career there. Linda Thomas now hosts Seattle's Morning News.
Sports play-by-play has been a staple of the KIRO schedule throughout its years as a news/talk station. Since the team's inception in 1976, KIRO has been the flagship broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks. About that same time, it was the flagship station for the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League. From 1985 to 2002, the station originated Seattle Mariners baseball broadcasts; the broadcasts returned to KIRO in 2009. From 1978 to 1987 they were the flagship station of the Seattle SuperSonics. Additionally, KIRO has carried Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars college football for stints during the '80s and '90s.
KIRO was also the radio home to popular sportscaster Wayne Cody, who did live sideline reports during Seattle Seahawks football games, Washington Huskies college football play-by-play, NASL Seattle Sounders pro soccer play-by-play, and hosted a sports radio talk show weeknights that was the only one of its kind at the time in Seattle.
Reporter Dave Ross joined the station from Atlanta station WSB in 1978 and took over as noon to 3 p.m. talk host in 1987. He moved to the 9 a.m. to noon timeslot after the retirement of Jim French in 1992. Ross unsuccessfully ran for Washington's eighth Congressional district as a Democratic candidate in 2004. While Ross unofficially announced his candidacy in May, he did not leave his on-air position until just prior to the July filing deadline. In response to complaints from state Republican party officials, Ross claimed that he was contractually bound to continue working for KIRO until he was a bona fide candidate.
Though he returned to the air immediately following the November election, the station's ratings did not recover entirely, and Ross was moved to the afternoon drive-time shift in February, 2005. Ross moved back to his 9am-noon shift in May 2006.
In addition to his KIRO work, Ross does a daily commentary on the CBS Radio Network and is a frequent substitute for Charles Osgood on CBS Radio's "Osgood File" segments.
After selling KIRO-TV to A.H. Belo Corp. in 1995, the Bonneville Seattle radio stations moved to facilities on Eastlake Avenue. KIRO (AM), KIRO-FM (now KKWF) and KNWX (now KTTH) were sold to Entercom Communications of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, in 1997. Bonneville reacquired KIRO, KTTH, and KBSG (now KIRO-FM) from Entercom in 2007.
On August 12, 2008, KIRO began simulcasting their programming on sister station KBSG-FM, which dropped their long-running classic hits format. This began the transition of KIRO Newsradio from AM to FM. To complete the transition, KIRO-AM switched to a sports radio format (as 710 ESPN Seattle) on April 1, 2009, and began carrying Seattle Mariners games, beginning in the 2009 season. KIRO also simulcasts the Seattle Seahawks games with KIRO-FM that do not conflict with those of the Mariners, and has extensive team-related programming throughout the year. KIRO-FM continues the news/talk format.
710 ESPN Seattle is the home of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners, in addition to a variety of local and syndicated sports talk programming. Local hosts include Brock Huard, Dave Grosby, Bob Stelton, Jim Moore and esteemed Seattle sports icon Kevin Calabro. Mike Salk was a host until March 2013, when he moved to WEEI-FM in Massachusetts. Brian Long became the program director in December 2010, coming from KSPN (AM) in Los Angeles.
Notes and references
- Virgin, Bill (January 18, 2007). "Entercom trades radio stations". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
- Bonneville International (July 30, 2008). "KIRO Radio to begin simulcast on 710 AM and 97.3 FM". Retrieved November 10, 2013.
- Evans, Jayda (November 14, 2008). "Seattle gains a second all-sports radio station". Seattle Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
- Evans, Jayda (November 12, 2008). "Sources: KIRO-AM to shift to all sports". Seattle Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
- KIRO (710 ESPN Seattle)
- Query the FCC's AM station database for KIRO
- Radio-Locator Information on KIRO
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for KIRO
- Pictures and information about the KIRO transmitter facility
- FCC History Cards for KIRO