WGY (AM)

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This article is about the pioneering AM radio station in Schenectady, New York. For other uses, see WGY.
WGY
WGY News Radio logo.png
City of license Schenectady, New York (WGY-AM)
Albany, New York (WGY-FM)
Broadcast area Capital District, Mohawk Valley, western New England
Frequency 810 kHz (also on HD Radio)
103.1 MHz (also on HD Radio)
First air date February 20, 1922
Format News/Conservative talk
Power 50,000 watts
Class A (Clear Channel)
Facility ID 15329
Transmitter coordinates 42°47′32.41″N 74°0′42.9732″W / 42.7923361°N 74.011937000°W / 42.7923361; -74.011937000Coordinates: 42°47′32.41″N 74°0′42.9732″W / 42.7923361°N 74.011937000°W / 42.7923361; -74.011937000
Callsign meaning Obtained from sequential list, but explained as
Wireless General Electric
in SchenectadY
Former frequencies 833 kHz (1922-1923)
790 kHz (1923-1941)
Affiliations Fox News Radio, Premiere Radio Networks
Owner iHeartMedia, Inc.
Sister stations WRVE, WPYX, WTRY-FM, WKKF, WGY-FM, WOFX
Webcast Listen Live
Website wgy.com

WGY (AM 810 103.1 FM NewsRadio WGY) is a radio station licensed to Schenectady, New York and owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., broadcasting a news and conservative talk radio format. It broadcasts 50,000 Watts non-directional from a single tower in the Town of Rotterdam.[1] It is one of the United States' oldest radio stations as well as the oldest in New York's Capital Region. WGY was the flagship station of General Electric's broadcast group from 1922 until 1983.

By the 1928 Band Plan, 790 kHz was allocated to Oakland, California, and to KGO (q.v.), which was then owned by General Electric, on an internationally cleared basis. In order to obtain a cleared channel in Schenectady, NY, for what would become the present-day WGY, GE effected a breakdown of 790 kHz, whereby WGY would assume the maximum permissible power, and KGO would be lowered in power to 7.5 kW, which was then lower than the minimum permissible power for a clear channel station, and also was then higher than the then maximum permissible power for a regional channel station. Both stations retained omnidirectional antennas. Therefore, GE effectively removed from the West one of its eight cleared channels and added another cleared channel to the East thereby giving the East nine cleared channels and the West only seven. The four other "regions" in the Band Plan all retained their allotted eight cleared channels. In 1941, stations on 790 kHz were moved to 810 kHz and roughly simultaneously, KGO was directionalized and power was increased to 50 kW, the new minimum (and maximum) power for a U.S. cleared channel.

History[edit]

As early as 1912, General Electric company in Schenectady began experimenting with radio transmissions, being granted a class 2-Experimental license for 2XI on August 13, 1912 by the Commerce Department.[2]

WGY signed on on February 20, 1922 at 7:47pm at 360 meters wavelength (about 833 kHz),[3] with Kolin Hager at the mike, or as he was known on the air, as KH. Hager signed on with the stations call letters, explaining the W is for wireless, G for General Electric, and Y, the last letter in Schenectady.[4] The first broadcast lasted for about one hour and consisted of live music and announcements of song titles and other information.[5] The early broadcasts originated from building 36 at the General Electric Plant in Schenectady. The original transmitter produced an antenna power of 1,500 watts into a T top wire antenna, located about 1/2 mile away, also at the GE plant.[6]

WGY led the way in radio drama. In 1922 Edward H. Smith, director of a community-theater group called the Masque in nearby Troy, suggested weekly forty-minute adaptations of plays to WGY station manager Kolin Hager. Hager took him up on it and the troupe performed on the weekly WGY Players, radio’s first dramatic series.[7]

During their initial broadcast—of Eugene Walter’s The Wolf on August 3, 1922—Smith became the electronic media’s first Foley artist when he slapped a couple of two-by-fours together to simulate the slamming of a door, and radio sound effects were born. While the invisible audience could not see that the actors wore costumes and makeup—which were expected to enhance performance but didn’t and were soon discarded—they could hear the WGY Orchestra providing music between acts. Response was immediate, with more than two thousand letters pouring into the WGY mail room.[8]

In November WGY achieved another first. Committed now to a weekly time slot on Friday nights, the Players put on The Sign of the Four on November 9, starring Edward Smith as Sherlock Holmes,[9] and the world’s only consulting detective joined the growing number of “disembodied voices floating through electromagnetic heaven.” The WGY Players did forty-three dramatizations that first season and the series gained national attention.

By May 15, 1923 the station was operating on 790 kHz with a frequency/time share agreement with RPI's WHAZ.[10] Later, WHAZ moved to 1300 kHz allowing WGY to operate full-time on 790 kHz.

WGY pioneered the art of Remote Broadcasting, carrying out the first one just days after it signed on. On February 23, 1922 the station broadcast a concert from Union College.

Other early programming included coverage of the Yale-Harvard football game live from New Haven, Connecticut, the WGY string orchestra live from the State Theater in Schenectady, and talks and presentations by various GE innovators, explorers, state and local officials.

In 1924, the transmitter site was moved to its current location in the Town of Rotterdam known as South Schenectady. This site was also home of GE's experimental shortwave radio stations W2XAF (31.48 meters or 9.525 mHz) and W2XAD (19 meters or 15 mHz). From this site, the station's power levels were increased first to 5,000 watts, then 10,000 watts and finally to 50,000 watts on July 18, 1925. Temporary broadcasts were carried out at the 100 KW (August 4, 1926) and 200 KW (March 9, 1930) power levels.[11] From those broadcasts, the station received reception letters and telegrams from as far away as New Zealand. Plans were to make those power increases permanent, but were never carried out.

The station as it appeared circa 1930-1945.

WGY also used the first Condenser microphone, developed by General Electric for radio studio applications, on February 7, 1923.[12]

In 1923, WGY formed the first radio network with WJZ and WRC, however the station also broadcast programs from rival station WEAF. Later in 1925, the New York State radio network was formed with WMAK, WHAM, WFBL, and WGY. In 1926, WGY affiliated with the WEAF-based NBC Red Network, and after the split of the sister NBC Blue network into today's ABC Radio, WGY remained with NBC Radio until it folded in 1989.

To add to their laurels, six years later the Players performed an old spy melodrama titled The Queen’s Messenger in the world’s first dramatic program to be broadcast simultaneously over both radio and the new medium called television.[13]

“Radio station WGY had cornered the market on talk and music by 1928,” the Daily Gazette recalled. “Scientists from the General Electric Co. could have winked to their audience and said, ‘You ain't seen nothing yet.’ The smart guys who developed amplifiers, transmitters and bright lights were working on that next step—sound and pictures. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1928, they succeeded. WGY became the first radio station in the world to televise a drama on separate radio channels.”

The program starred Dr. E. F. W. Alexanderson, General Electric Consulting Engineer, along with Izetta Jewel and Maurice Randall. It was Alexanderson’s portable and simplified television transmitter which made the broadcast possible. The only viewers were newspaper and magazine writers watching the program on a 3- by 3-inch screen three miles away in the WGY studio. The broadcasts were made at 1:30 and 11:30 pm.[14]

By 1935, the engineering staff of WGY began to make plans to replace the T top antenna system with a single vertical radiator in the form of a tower. At the time, the station was plagued with signal fading at a distance of 30–100 miles from the transmitter site due to cancellation by out of phase co-channel signals from the same source. The ideas for this tower were formed from experiments at WJZ in New York.[15] From this, a square, one half wavelength (on 790 kHz), 625 foot tower was constructed in 1938. The one half wavelength design greatly reduced high angle radiation, thus solved the close in fading issues. This tower is still in use today.

In 1938 the station's studios were moved from building 36 into a brand new building on River Road, in downtown Schenectady. These studios were torn down in 1961 to make way for I-890. At that time the studios were moved to 1400 Balltown Road in Niskayuna, New York co-located with GE owned and operated WRGB TV-6.

In 1941, WGY changed frequency from 790 kHz to 810 kHz to comply with the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement also known as NARBA. In 1942, during World War II, a concrete wall was built around the base of the tower to prevent saboteurs from shooting out the base insulator on the tower and taking the station off the air.

WGY was the flagship station of General Electric's broadcasting group until 1983 when it was sold to Empire Radio Partners, Inc. General Electric also owned pioneering sister stations in television (WRGB-TV, signed on as WGY-TV in 1928) and FM radio (W2XOY, later WGFM, then WGY-FM, and today WRVE, signed on 1940).

As the golden age of radio ended, WGY evolved into a full service middle of the road format, slowly evolving as programming tastes changed. The station changed from full service to news/talk on Memorial Day Weekend, 1994.

Dame Media, Inc acquired WGY and WGY-FM the during proceedings in the Philadelphia bankruptcy court, late 1993. Dame moved the studios to One Washington Square at the end of Washington Avenue Extension, in the west end of Albany, New York late 1994, where they remained until 2005.

In 1999, Dame Media sold its entire radio group to Clear Channel Communications, whose ownership remains to this day (now under the name iHeartMedia). Clear Channel combined all of its radio station studio operations into the former CHP (Community Health Plan) building on Route 7 (Troy-Schenectady Road) in Latham August, 2005.

Former logo of the radio station

On September 20, 2010, WGY began simulcasting its programming on 103.1 FM (the former WHRL, which took the calls WGY-FM, previously on 99.5 FM). WGY 103.1 FM broadcasts at 5,600 watts power.

Programming[edit]

Like its iHeartMedia sister stations, WGY carries the standardized iHeartMedia talker lineup of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity along with Michael Berry (radio host), Mark Levin and Coast to Coast AM. Newscasts air every 30 minutes with more frequent coverage in cases of breaking news or inclement weather. Top-of-hour newscasts are approximately six to seven minutes long and usually include two minutes of Fox News Radio, award-winning[16] local news, traffic ("WGY All-Day Traffic"), and weather ("WGY Accuweather Forecast"); some weekend newscasts substitute sports for traffic. Bottom-of-the-hour updates, lasting around three minutes, usually consist of a lead national story, some local news, and a weather report. (On Monday, February 6, 2012, WGY began its affiliation with AccuWeather, severing its long-lived ties with The Weather Channel for its hourly and half-hourly weather reports.)

During "Chuck and Kelly" (weekdays 5:30-9:00 AM), this format is altered in that there are also Wall Street Journal updates at :15 and :45 past the hour, sports updates at :25 and :55, and "Traffic and Weather on the 10s" to go along with the normal news updates anchored by Tom Rigatti. WGY carried ABC News Radio from July 1994 until August 2005, when Clear Channel Communications switched the majority of its news/talk radio stations to Fox News Radio as a boost to that network's launch. Paul Harvey would remain on WGY for an additional year though.

Another WGY weekday local show was hosted by Al Roney (9:00 AM-Noon); however, he was released [17] and replaced by nationally syndicated talk show host Glenn Beck on February 25, 2010. Handling local talk on the weekends is WGY veteran Joe Gallagher (6:00-10:00 AM).

Three notable former WGY hosts are Mike Gallagher (who hosted afternoon drive in the mid-1990s before moving to WABC and is now part of the Salem Radio Network), Mark Williams, J. R. Gach (controversial shock jock) and Andrew Wilkow of Sirius Satellite Radio (who did part of afternoon drive and later late mornings from 2003–2006).

Schedule[edit]

WGY largely parallels the iHeartMedia standard program slate used by the company's other talk radio stations: a local morning show (hosted by Chuck Custer and Kelly Lynch), the Glenn Beck Program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, The Michael Berry Show, The Mark Levin Show, and Coast to Coast AM.

The complete program schedule can be found directly from WGY's schedule page.

News Team[edit]

  • Chuck Custer - Morning Host
  • Kelly Lynch - Morning Host
  • Tom Rigatti - Morning Anchor
  • Diane Donato - Midday Anchor
  • Read Shepherd - Afternoon Anchor
  • John Craig - Anchor/Reporter
  • George Morris - Anchor/Reporter
  • Mike Patrick - Anchor/Reporter
  • Jim Gagliardi - Anchor/Reporter
  • Chad Erickson - Anchor/Reporter

[18]

Streaming audio[edit]

In late 2005, WGY began streaming its local shows on their website (the combination of affiliate contracts and/or hosts with pay services preclude full streaming). In May 2006, WGY began posting the most recent top-of-hour newscast on the website for on-demand streaming as well as podcasts of newscasts and key features.

Simulcast on FM[edit]

As of 00:01 EDT (04:01 UTC) 20 September 2010, WGY began simulcasting its signal on 103.1 MHz. The former callsign, WHRL, has been changed to the new callsign, WGY-FM. This is another first of firsts for the pioneering radio station in NY. WHRL is the former Channel 103.1 station that broadcast an Active Rock format for almost ten years. The new slogan is AM 810 103.1 FM News-Talk WGY. [19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WGY Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division. 
  2. ^ Department of Commerce, US government license number 112, dated August 13, 1912
  3. ^ "Radio Service Bulletin Number 59, March 1, 1922". Federal Radio Commission. 
  4. ^ Empire Radio Partners, WGY 65th year of service commemorative book, 1987
  5. ^ Operating log, WGY dated 2/20/22
  6. ^ "Description of the General Electric Company's Broadcasting Station (WGY) at Schenectady, NY.". Baker, W.R.G., Proceedings of The Institute of Radio Engineers, Inc, Volume 11, issue 4, 1923. 
  7. ^ McLeod, Elizabeth, The WGY Players and the Birth of Radio Drama <www.midcoast.com/~lizmcl/wgy.html>; Sterling, Christopher H., & John M. Kittross, Stay Tuned, A History of American Broadcasting (Lawrence Eribaum, 3rd Edition, 2001), p. 88.
  8. ^ Rudel, Anthony J., Hello, Everybody, the Dawn of American Radio (Harcourt Books, 2008), p. 206; Fletcher, Lucille, “Onward & Upward With the Arts,” The New Yorker, Vol. XVI, No. 9, April 13, 1940, p. 47; “Squeaks, Slams, Echoes, and Shots,” in Kern, John D., & Irwin Griggs, This America (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2005), p. 200; Shurick, Edward P. J., The First Quarter-Century of American Broadcasting (Midland Publishing Company, 1946), p. 81. See also, Meenam, W. T., “Back-Stage with ‘Radio Mike,’ How Broadcasters Send Realistic Drama Over the Air,” Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 105, No. 3, September 1924, p. 68; Huntley, Charles H., “When ‘All the Air’s a Stage – And the Radio Audience Joins the WGY Players in Creating the Illusion of the Spoken, but Invisible Drama – Success of Schenectady Station in Presenting Plays – How It’s Done,” The Wireless Age, America’s Foremost Radiophone Review, Volume 10, No. 1, October 1922, p. 27.
  9. ^ Hartford Courant, “Radio Radiations, Radio Interests Japanese Public,” November 9, 1922, p. 14; Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, “In the Air Today,” November 9, 1928, Case Six; McLeod, Elizabeth, The WGY Players and the Birth of Radio Drama <www.midcoast.com/~lizmcl/wgy.html>; King, R. R., The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes and the 1920s Radio Drama, Radio Recall, June 2008 <www.mwotrc.com/rr2008_06/holmes.htm>.
  10. ^ "Building the Broadcast Band". White, Thomas H. June 7, 2008. 
  11. ^ Wheeler, Howard. History of WGY, W2XAF and W2XAD, memoir and personal papers of (WGY engineer), July 3, 1933
  12. ^ Wheeler, Howard. History of WGY, W2XAF and W2XAD, memoir and personal papers of (WGY Engineer), July 3, 1933
  13. ^ McLeod, Elizabeth, Old Time Radio Moments of the Century <www.old-time.com/mcleod/top100.html>; New York Times, “Play Is Broadcast by Voice and Acting in Radio-Television,” September 12, 1928, pp. 1, 10; Lanza, Joseph, & Dennis Penna, Russ, Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique (Feral House, 2002), p.155; Hawes, William, American Television Drama, The Experimental Years (University of Alabama Press, 1986), p. 155; Wilkin, Jeff, “In 1928, WGY Transmitted First Pictures on Television,” Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NY, September 11, 2006, p. C1.
  14. ^ Wilkin, Jeff, “In 1928, WGY transmitted first pictures on television,” Daily Gazette, September 11, 2006, p. C. 1.
  15. ^ National Broadcasting Company, MEMO INT-628 dated October 2, 1936
  16. ^ "2009 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award Winners". 
  17. ^ ""Fired WGY Host Al Roney Thanks his Fans" Times Union Business Section, March 2, 2010". 
  18. ^ Wgy | Wgy.Com | Wgy-Hd |
  19. ^ WGY now on FM!

External links[edit]