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KFBK New Logo.png
CitySacramento, California
Broadcast areaSacramento and Stockton, California
BrandingNews 93.1 KFBK
SloganSacramento's News, Weather and Traffic Station
Frequency1530 kHz
First air dateSeptember 17, 1922; 97 years ago (1922-09-17)
Power50,000 watts
Facility ID10145
Transmitter coordinates38°50′54.00″N 121°28′58.00″W / 38.8483333°N 121.4827778°W / 38.8483333; -121.4827778
Callsign meaningnone, sequentially assigned
(AMFM Broadcasting Licenses, LLC)
Sister stationsKBEB, KFBK-FM, KHYL, KYRV, KSTE, K296GB
WebcastListen Live

KFBK (1530 AM) is a class A radio station owned by iHeartMedia and licensed to Sacramento, California. Its studios are located in North Sacramento, near Arden Fair Mall. Programming, which is simulcast by KFBK-FM, is primarily "News/Talk", and includes "The KFBK Morning News" with Cristina Mendonsa and Sam Shane (local), The Rush Limbaugh Show (local 1984-1988, syndicated since 1988), Tom Sullivan (originally local, now syndicated via NBC News Radio), "The Afternoon News" with Kitty O'Neal (local), "The Pat Walsh Show" and Coast to Coast AM (syndicated).

KFBK's 50,000-watt transmitter site is near Pleasant Grove. The station employs a directional antenna which operates with separate day and night parameters and has the highest field strength of any AM station in the United States.[1] Its daytime signal covers much of the northern portion of the state, from the northern Sacramento Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area and the fringes of the Central Valley. At night, it reaches much of the western half of North America.



According to official government records, KFBK's first license was granted in August 1922.[2] However, the station has in some cases included as part of its history an earlier Sacramento station, KVQ, which began broadcasting in February 1922.[3]

KVQ received its initial license, as Sacramento's first broadcasting station, on December 9, 1921, issued to J. C. Hobrecht.[4] It was operated in conjunction with the Sacramento Bee newspaper, and made its debut broadcast on February 2, 1922.[5] A few months later, ownership was transferred from J. C. Hobrecht to the Bee's publisher, James McClatchy,[6] followed a short time later by a transfer to "Sacramento Bee (James McClatchy Co.)".[7] However, KVQ suspended operations on December 20, 1922[8] and was formally deleted on January 2, 1923.[9] Early reviews in the Sacramento Bee treated KVQ as a separate station from the later KFBK,[10][11] and government regulators at the time consistently considered the two to be separate, unrelated stations.

Early history[edit]

Following a series of test transmissions, KFBK held its formal debut broadcast on September 17, 1922.[12]

KFBK was first licensed, as the city's second broadcasting station, on August 16, 1922 to the Kimball-Upson Company,[13] and initially was operated in conjunction with the Bee's primary competitor, the Sacramento Union. The call letters were sequentially assigned from an alphabetic list maintained by the Department of Commerce, which regulated radio in the United States at this time. KFBK began test transmissions in early September,[14] and made its formal debut broadcast on September 17, 1922.[15]

Initially there was only a single wavelength, 360 meters (833 kHz), available for radio station "entertainment" broadcasts,[16] which required stations in various regions to develop timesharing agreements assigning operating hours. As of November 1, 1922 there were seven "Inland Stations" sharing time on 360 meters, with KFBK allocated 6:00 to 6:30 P.M. daily except Sunday, plus 8:00 to 9:00 P.M. Thursdays and 8:00 to 10:00 P.M. Sundays.[17]

In May 1923 the Department of Commerce greatly expanded the number of broadcasting station frequencies,[18] and later that year KFBK was assigned unlimited use of 1060 kHz.[19] A series of reassignments followed, until November 11, 1928 when, under the provisions of Commerce's General Order 40, the station was assigned to a low-powered "Local" frequency, 1310 kHz.[20]

As was true with most stations in the early 1920s, KFBK was initially operated without advertising, and was primarily used for publicity purposes. The Sacramento Union eventually ended its close association with the station. In 1925 the Sacramento Bee saw this as an opportunity to re-enter the broadcasting field which it had left nearly three years earlier when it had shut down KVQ, but now on a commercial basis. Effective September 1, 1925, the James McClatchy Company, a local, family-owned company which owned the Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee and Fresno Bee newspapers, made an agreement with station owner Kimball-Upson for a half interest in KFBK's equipment and good will. The Kimball-Upson company was granted a $3,000 credit for advertisements placed in the Bee, while the newspaper company agreed to enlarge the station's studio and pay for KFBK's operating and maintenance expenses. As part of this arrangement, McClatchy assumed control over all airtime sales at the station, with net profits up to $6,000 shared equally between the two partners, and 80% of any higher profits going to McClatchy.[21] The station's new status was formally introduced by a special broadcast made on September 5, 1925.[22]

In early 1929, ownership of KFBK was transferred from Kimball-Upson to the James McClatchy Company.[23] McClatchy later acquired additional radio stations in the region, including KBEE in Modesto and KMJ in Fresno. From 1964 to 1978, KFBK was a sister station to Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto TV station KOVR. The cluster of KFBK, KBEE and KOVR was possible because Sacramento and Modesto, then as now, are separate radio markets.

In 1936 KFBK was granted permission to make a major upgrade, going from 100 watts on 1310 kHz to 5,000 watts on the "High Powered Regional" frequency of 1490 kHz, which had previously been exclusively assigned to WCKY in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1937 KFBK increased power again, to 10,000 watts. In March 1941, under the provisions of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement, KFBK and WCKY shifted to 1530 kHz, a frequency designated as a "Clear Channel" assignment, with both stations now classified as "Class I-B".[24] On October 2, 1948, KFBK increased its power to 50,000 watts, concurrent with the installation of a directional antenna to limit its signal toward WCKY.[25]

1950s and 1960s[edit]

As television took over network programming, KFBK reinvented itself as a news, information, sports, and entertainment station. Because of its strong signal and location in the heart of the Central Valley, the station became the chief source for farmers to obtain weather reports and price and other farming information. KFBK carried CBS Radio Network programming including top-of-the-hour newscasts, plus specialized reports from Edward R. Murrow and Lowell Thomas. Local news programs included the Richfield Reporter. Tony Koester was both the long-time voice of the minor league Sacramento Solons and the station's sports director. When the San Francisco Giants arrived in 1958, the station began a long partnership carrying their games. Entertainment programming included Arthur Godfrey and Doug Pledger.[26]

The talk of the town[edit]

In the 1970s, with less network programming available, KFBK began programming talk shows as part of their broadcast day, promoting them as "The Talk of the Town". After a brief trial as an adult contemporary music station, ownership committed themselves to a format that included news blocks during morning and afternoon drive time, with the remainder of the day's programming featuring local talk shows. With the U.S. Federal Communications Commission implementing a newspaper-broadcasting cross-ownership rule, McClatchy was forced to divest itself of its radio and television stations. KFBK was sold to Westinghouse Broadcasting and later shifted network affiliation to ABC Radio.[26]

KFBK begins FM simulcasting[edit]

KFBK-FM began simulcasting KFBK on December 1, 2011 at 92.5 FM, the former home of KGBY. This was mainly to fill in areas east of Sacramento where the AM signal is weaker at night as result of the need protect WCKY. Beginning on December 26, 2013 KFBK briefly operated a trimulcast, adding 93.1 FM, the former home of Classic 93.1 (KHLX); this ended a week later when KHLX adopted a country music format as KBEB.

Later years[edit]

Changes in ownership laws saw KFBK, its FM outlet, and other area stations becoming part of Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) entering the 1990s.

Prominent staff members[edit]

During the 1980s, KFBK employed Morton Downey, Jr. as a local midday host. After Downey's departure, Rush Limbaugh replaced him at the station. Limbaugh first rose to prominence at KFBK before becoming nationally syndicated in 1988 and his national program still airs on KFBK in the same time slot (9:00 a.m.–noon) where he hosted locally.

Limbaugh's local replacement, Tom Sullivan is also nationally syndicated, after taking an anchor position at the new cable TV business channel Fox Business Network. Sullivan's national show continues to air on KFBK in its former local time slot.[27]

A number of other KFBK alumni have gained national prominence. Former KFBK news reporter/anchor Laura Ingle is a featured reporter on Fox News Channel. Former KFBK reporter and weekend anchor Todd Starnes hosts commentaries for Fox News Radio, and former KFBK evening host Spencer Hughes airs a weekday program Fox Across America on Fox News Radio's satellite radio channel.


  1. ^ "Tower Site of the Week: KFBK 1530, Sacramento, California" by Scott Fybush, October 28, 2005 (Fybush.com)
  2. ^ "Date First Licensed", FCC History Cards for KFBK (FCC.gov).
  3. ^ "Radio stations 40 or more years old in 1962" (KFBK entry), Broadcasting, May 14, 1962, pages 123-124.
  4. ^ "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 2. Limited Commercial license, serial number 250, issued for a one year period to J. C. Hobrecht for operation of KVQ on 360 meters (833 kHz).
  5. ^ "Victor Artists Will Give Bee Radio Concert To-day", Sacramento Bee, February 2, 1922, page 1.
  6. ^ "Alterations and Corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1922, page 7.
  7. ^ "Alterations and Corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, November 1, 1922, page 7.
  8. ^ "KVQ Quits Broadcasting Field In Interest Of Fans", Sacramento Bee, December 20, 1922, page 1.
  9. ^ "Strike out all particulars", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1923, page 7.
  10. ^ "Five Radio Stations Give Service to Sister State", Sacramento Bee, February 3, 1932, page A-Five.
  11. ^ "The Bee Pioneered Radio in Superior California", Sacramento Bee, April 24, 1937, page 3-R.
  12. ^ "Opening Concert" (Kimball-Upson Company advertisement), Sacramento Bee, September 16, 1922, page 13.
  13. ^ "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1922, page 3.
  14. ^ "KFBK Ready For Test; Tune Up And Listen", Sacramento Union, September 2, 1922, page 1.
  15. ^ "KFBK in Rare Tune For Sunday Night's Big Radio Concert", Sacramento Union, September 16, 1922, page 8.
  16. ^ "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
  17. ^ "Central California Broadcasting Schedule---Effective Nov. 1, '22" ("Inland Stations" section), Radio magazine, December 1922, page 36.
  18. ^ "Radio Conference Recommendations: New Wave Lengths", Radio Age, May 1923, pages 11-12.
  19. ^ "Alterations and Corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1923, page 9.
  20. ^ "Broadcasting Stations, Alphabetically By Call Signals, Effective November 11, 1928" Commercial and Government Radio Stations of the U.S. (June 30, 1928), page 167
  21. ^ "Sacramento Bee Calling, Hello, Hello" (chapter 2), Sacramento on the Air: How the McClatchy Family Revolutionized West Coast Broadcasting by Annette Kassis, 2015.
  22. ^ "To-night Marks Entry Of The Bee-Kimball-Upson Radio Station On Broadcast Circles of The State", Sacramento Bee, September 5, 1925, page 1.
  23. ^ "Alterations and Corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, January 31, 1929, page 7.
  24. ^ "United States Assignments", Arrangement between the United States of America, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico, comprising recommendations of the North American Regional Radio-Engineering Meeting (supplemental to North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement [NARBA], Habana, 1937), page 1443.
  25. ^ "KFBK (advertisement)" (PDF). Broadcasting. October 4, 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  26. ^ a b Sacramento Radio History
  27. ^ "The Tom Sullivan Show"

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Sacramento on the Air: How the McClatchy Family Revolutionized West Coast Broadcasting by Annette Kassis, 2015.