September 23, 2021

9 thoughts on “Frank Kingston Smith, WBZ Boston | December 28, 1979

  1. WBZ is not considered the first commercial station in America. That distinction belongs to KDKA in Pittsburgh, which came on the air in November 1920, nine months before WBZ. As a matter of fact, it was KDKA’s success that prompted Westinghouse to create WBZ (in Springfield, MA for its first 10 years) in the first place.

    1. Jay, technically speaking, because KDKA was the first to actually transmit, yes. However, in a legal sense, because the Department of Commerce issued the first license specifically for broadcasting to WBZ, the latter is considered first. It depends upon how one looks upon it. Most people recognize KDKA as first.

      Wikipedia has this writeup about which station is first:

      “WBZ was one of a handful of stations which already met the new standard, and in fact its initial license had been the first Limited Commercial license that had specified broadcasting on the 360-meter wavelength that would be formally designated by the December 1st regulations. By some interpretations, this made WBZ America’s first broadcasting station, and in 1923 the Department of Commerce, referring to WBZ, stated that “The first broadcasting license was issued in September, 1921″.”

        1. I suppose it depends upon who you ask. It’s fair to say either one, since both can claim ‘first’, just using different metrics. I recall many many years ago when WBZ did a retrospective. At the moment the occasion escapes me. In it, they claimed to be the first commercial broadcasting station in the country, but they did nod to KDKA for having been on the air first – albeit with a “limited commerical license”. I suppose that in picking nits, WBZ could be considered the first radio station to be issued a FULL official licence intended for broadcasting.

          Something else. And, this is a bit fuzzy to me, as I’m trying to learn how commercial radio came to be in the first place. The first radio station to be given a licence at all, was 1XE, in Medford Hillside, Massachusetts. Outside of Boston. For the life of me, I don’t know where that is, unless it’s modern day Medford. Anyway, 1XE began as an experimental station. Actually, it started as an amateur station. Hams got all the first transmitters on the air, and consider that 1920 was only a decade after most transmissions were simple spark-gap generated. I saw one work last Summer at the ARRL in Newington CT. 1XE went beyond simple ham transmissions and waiting for reception reports. They actually broadcast spoken word. I am not sure but I think Donna Halper wrote that what became WGI had a small studio for live musicians. Thus, that station really is the FIRST radio station that ever broadcast. In fact, the station first broadcast in 1917! It had to be shut down when America entered WW1, but it came back in 1919. That station didn’t get a full commerical license until 1925. So much for firsts.

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