Crosley Broadcasting Corporation
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|Founded||March 22, 1922 (with the sign-on of WLW)|
|Founder||Powel Crosley, Jr.|
|Defunct||1968 (Crosley name retired); 1977 (last of Avco radio broadcast assets sold)|
The Crosley Broadcasting Corporation was a radio and television broadcaster founded by radio manufacturing pioneer Powel Crosley, Jr..
The company was founded by pioneer radio station operator Powel Crosley and based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its flagship station, WLW (AM), was first licensed in March 1922, and most of its broadcast properties adopted call signs with "WLW" as the first three letters. In the 1930s, WLW had an effective power of 500,000 watts, and was the only U.S. AM station ever to be permitted to transmit with more than 50,000 watts. By the 1950s, the company would operate a small television network in the eastern Midwest.
During World War II, Crosley built the Bethany Relay Station in Butler County, Ohio's Union Township, one mile west of its transmitter for WLW, for the Office of War Information. It operated as many as five shortwave stations, using the callsigns WLWK, WLWL, WLWO, WLWR and WLWS. It operated the facility for the government until 1963.
In 1945, the Crosley interests were purchased by Aviation Corporation. The radio and appliance manufacturing arm changed its name to Avco, but the broadcast operations continued to operate under the Crosley name until they adopted the Avco name in 1968.
Crosley (Avco) also owned WLWF, an FM station it operated along with its WLWC (now WCMH-TV). WLWF went silent in 1953, and Crosley (Avco) returned its license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the late 1950s, a construction permit for a new station on WLWF's frequency was granted to Taft Broadcasting, owner of WTVN-TV also in Columbus (now WSYX-TV), who signed on the station in late 1959 as WTVN-FM (it is now WLVQ-FM).
From the 1950s through the 1970s, Crosley operated a small television network in which programs were produced at one of its stations and broadcast on the other Crosley stations in the Midwest, and occasionally by non-Crosley stations as well. The company occasionally produced programs picked up for broadcast on either NBC or DuMont. Programs which aired nationally included NBC's Midwestern Hayride (on which Rosemary Clooney often performed) and Breakfast Party. Other programs originated on the Crosley network included DuMont's The Paul Dixon Show and The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club. The Phil Donahue Show started in 1967, originating from WLWD in Dayton, Ohio.
Beginning in 1975, Avco sold all of its broadcasting holdings. In 1975, it sold WLWC-TV in Columbus, WLWI-TV in Indianapolis, WOAI-AM-FM-TV in San Antonio (the AM station was sold to the nascent Clear Channel as the chain's second property), and WWDC-AM-FM in Washington D.C.; in 1976, it sold WLW and WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, WLWD-TV in Dayton, and its Avco Embassy Television and Avco Embassy Program Sales divisions; in 1977, it sold KYA-AM-FM in San Francisco and WRTH in Wood River/St. Louis.
The closest equivalent to a "successor" to Avco Broadcasting was Multimedia, Inc., to whom Avco sold flagship TV station WLWT, as well as Avco Program Sales in 1976. In December 1995, Gannett (who owned former Crosley station WXIA-TV in Atlanta) acquired Multimedia, Inc., while the respective syndication division was acquired by MCA Universal. By 1997, all of the original Crosley radio and television properties had been sold off by its successor companies, with the exception of WTHR in Indianapolis, which is still owned by an affiliate of the Dispatch Broadcast Group.
The deserted ruins of the major Crosley manufacturing facility can still be seen on the west side of I-75, just north of the area where the Cincinnati Museum Center (previously the Union Terminal train station) is currently located and near where Crosley Field once stood. The impressively huge transmission tower and old 50,000-watt transmitter at the Tylersville Road facility near U.S. Route 42 (Reading Rd.), between Dayton and Cincinnati still exists.
WLW- call letters
By the 1970s the Crosley name had ceased to exist in the memory of most US citizens (as would that of its major successor company, Avco, a decade later); but many of the "WLW-" station call-letters persist.
WCMH-TV used the WLWC call letters from its 1949 sign-on until the station was sold to Outlet Broadcasting in 1976. In the 1990s, WCMH entered into an agreement to manage the operations of WWHO in the Columbus market under a "local marketing agreement" (LMA) with Fant Broadcasting, owner of WWHO-TV. Outlet, in turn, owned 20% of Fant. Due to the success of this arrangement, WCMH's sister station WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island entered into a similar arrangement to operate Channel 28 in that market, also owned by Fant.
At about the same time, Premier Broadcasting Corporation also announced that it would be using the WLWC call letters for Columbus low-power television station W62BE. Because of the historic and brand value of the WLWC call letters in the Columbus market, Outlet arranged to have the call sign "warehoused" on Channel 28 in Providence in order to keep competitors from using them in the Columbus area. Channel 28 applied for and was assigned the WLWC call letters and has used them ever since. Premier's television station, now silent, ultimately took the call letters WLWG.
Lima, Ohio Radio station WBKS used the WLWD call letters when it was branded "Wild 93.9". The WLWD call letters are familiar in the Lima area since the WDTN signal reaches various portions of the Lima market either over the air or through cable carriage. Today, the WLWD call letters are used by a low-power Daystar station in Springfield, Ohio, which is part of the Dayton, Ohio television market.
Former Crosley assets
Broadcast outlets operated by Crosley Broadcasting or its successor Avco include:
AM Radio Stations
- WLW: 700 kHz in Cincinnati, Ohio
- WINS: 1010 kHz in New York, New York from 1946 to 1953 (now an Entercom station; purchased by Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1962.)
- WSAI: 1360 kHz in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1928 to 1945 (acquired thereafter by the "Gordon Broadcasting Company", this station played a significant role in the commercialization of "rock radio" during the 1950s)
- WOAI: 1200 kHz in San Antonio, Texas
- WWDC: 1260 kHz in Washington, DC
- KYA: 1260 kHz in San Francisco, CA
- WRTH: 590 kHz in Wood River, IL/St. Louis, MO
FM Radio Stations
- WLWA: 101.1 MHz in Cincinnati, Ohio - Frequency occupied since 2006 by WIZF-FM
- WLWB: 97.5 MHz in Dayton, Ohio
- WLWF: 96.3 MHz in Columbus, Ohio — long defunct; frequency now occupied by WLVQ
- WOAI-FM in San Antonio, Texas - long defunct, listed as operating on 102.3 and 102.5 in the 1940s
- WWDC-FM: 101.1 MHz in Washington, DC
- KYA-FM: 93.3 MHz in San Francisco, CA
Stations are arranged in alphabetical order by state and city of license.
Note: Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was built and signed-on by Crosley/Avco.
|City of License / Market||Station||Channel||Years Owned||Current Ownership Status|
|Atlanta, Georgia||WLWA||8/11||1953–1962||NBC affiliate, WXIA-TV, owned by Tegna|
|Indianapolis, Indiana||WLWI**||13||1957–1974||NBC affiliate, WTHR, owned by Dispatch Broadcast Group|
|Cincinnati, Ohio||WLWT**||4/5||1948–1976||NBC affiliate owned by Hearst Television|
|Columbus, Ohio||WLWC**||3/4||1949–1976||NBC affiliate, WCMH-TV, owned by Nexstar Media Group|
|Dayton, Ohio||WLWD**||5/2||1949–1976||NBC affiliate, WDTN, owned by Nexstar Media Group|
|San Antonio, Texas||WOAI-TV||4||1965–1975||NBC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, April 1, 1922, page 2. Limited Commercial license, serial #312, issued on March 2, 1922 for operation on 360 meters (833 kHz) for a three month period to the Crosley Manufacturing Company.