|City of license||Oak Ridge, Tennessee|
|Broadcast area||Knoxville, Tennessee|
|First air date||February 1948|
WATO (1290 AM) was a radio station in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The call letters were chosen for the first three letters in "Atomic City" as Oak Ridge was known at the time of the Manhattan Project. WATO is licensed to broadcast at 5 kW during daytime hours and 500 watts at night. It is currently broadcasting at 1 kW during daylight hours and 125 watts at night from a temporary site while it looks for a new permanent home.
The station commenced broadcasting February 1, 1948. under the authority of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. It was the first radio station to be established on a U.S. military reservation. Initially it broadcast on 1490 kHz, but it moved to 1290 kHz on January 24, 1959, when the original owners bought out WOKE.
The station went off the air in March 2008 when one of its three 200-foot (61 m) transmission towers fell during a storm. Its owner, Horne Radio, determined that it would be financially infeasible to return the station to the air. In October 2008 Horne announced that it would sell WATO's transmission site and would surrender the station's broadcasting license to the Federal Communications Commission. On February 19, 2009 the Federal Communications Commission granted an application to temporarily move the transmitter site, with reduced power, to a site 5 miles west of the original transmitter site, broadcasting from a tower formerly used by WORI which is now silent. There is also an application on file for a change of ownership.
Ann and Larry Walden of Lenoir City, Tennessee, purchased WATO and brought it back on the air August 26, 2009; the new format included a talk show, Oak Ridge High School sports, music, and more. Lipstick Lingo, hosted by Martha Woodward, also aired on WATO Radio.
In the first week of April 2010, WATO again ceased broadcasting, this time due to the owners of the land and its transmitting equipment selling off the property to a hotel developer. Because of economic conditions, the owners of WATO could not afford to buy its own property or equipment. The owners placed its license up for sale., however, on April 2, 2012, the license was cancelled at the licensee's request.
- Mike Blackerby, No more airing it out; After 60 years, station signs off on Oak Ridge football, Knoxville News Sentinel, October 16, 2008
- Restore the Voice of the Secret City
- Federal Communications Commission database, accessed February 18, 2009
- FCC STA letter
- "Radio Comes to Oak Ridge". Broadcasting. February 16, 1948. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- Senator Bill Frist, Tribute to WATO Radio, Congressional Record, January 27, 2008
- e-DXN, retrieved on April 28, 2009
- After 60 years, Oak Ridge sports loses radio signal, The Oak Ridger, July 24, 2008
- Radio formats, Retrieved on 2009-03-05.
- Photos from 2008
- License transfer application
- Work in progress, Retrieved on 2009-09-06.
- WATO soon back on the sir, Retrieved on 2009-09-06.
- WATO back on (includes video), Retrieved on 2009-09-06.
- Tune in to WATO Radio, Retrieved on 2009-09-06.
- Knoxville News-Sentinel: "Oak Ridge's only radio station WATO off air again", April 8, 2010.
- Federal Communications Commission Broadcast Actions report, April 5, 2012
- WATO's Website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WATO
- Radio-Locator Information on WATO
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WATO