Friday, January 11, 2008


My favorite part of radio is the lunatics involved in it. My second favorite is any claim of any type of "first" no matter how conditional. First radio station, first regular broadcast, first 24 hour station etc etc. With enought qualifiers you too could have a first. Today's story is the tale ot the first public radio program ever broadcast on the gulf coast. This one has both.

It was in March of 1922, a busy month in radio history for the gulf coast. On march 31st WWL-AM went live on 833kHz , but 10 days earlier WGV-AM had gone live. WJBO-AM lit up in April as did WAAB, WCAG, WAAC and WBAM. It's a narrow window to be first at anything.

What makes them the first public station would make a Jesuit blush. The section of the Internal revenue Code that made WWL-AM a public station was orchestrated by Louisiana Senator Russell Long. Yes, son of the infamous power-broker, and sleaze-ball Huey P. Long. It's hard to say what Russell did to make it happen, but when he was done there were 3 new sections of tax provision, 26 U.S.C. 512(b)(15). The first two begin with "W" the third with "L." On the other hand the exclusion created a massive tax break for non-coms. I shouldn't complain.

WWL-AM claims to have broadcast the first "Public Radio Program" in that area. I assume this was by virtue of being the first public radio station in the region. Loyola University began it all with a piano recital and a transmitter in the university physics laboratory. If you didn't know, Loyola was a Jesuit University. (I swear could write a book about what the Jesuits did for radio.) They actually had to get permission from the Vatican to operate all 10 measly watts.

Before they founded WWL, the priestly and professors of Loyola University trained soldiers in radio operations. During WWII they produced propaganda programs informing on civil defense, rationing, and progress overseas. They radio joined the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1935, and sold off the station in 1989 to Keymarket Communications. Currently Entercom Communications owns the stick.