Wednesday, July 21, 2010

XENT came from KTNT

Presently 790 XENT-AM is licensed to La Paz, Baja California in Mexico. If you don't know your Mexican geography, that's near the southern end of Baja California, about 750 air miles from San Diego California. that is not where those call letters began. they used to belong to a very well-known border blaster, whose own genesis began in Muscatine, Iowa. In a way, XENT-AM began as 1170 KTNT-AM back in 1925.  KTNT was founded by Norman G. Baker.

He launched it mostly to hawk his other businesses which included a cafe, a newspaper, and a number of mail order sundries which focuses on medical quackery. In 1914 he invented the Calliope. It was the last honest thing he did. the rest of his life was spend shilling a quack remedy cancer cures. He was a charlatan, and an indomitable quack. KTNT was a 500 watt station, essentially a local service. But he milked it for all it was worth. In Muscatine he has two baker sanitariums where he could cure cancer.  He attacked the medical establishment. He declared that he was a mentalist.  There were wild rumors of him incinerating bodies. In 1931 he came up for renewal of his FRC license and was turned down with extreme prejudice. The rejection read in part: "In our opinion the program service proposed would not be in the public interest."  He would be back.  More here.
910 XENT-AM first went on air in January of 1933 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamulipas. The sign on was at 6:00 PM and the sign off was at 7:30 AM. It was a big time border blaster operating at 150,000 watts, the second strongest radio station in North America at the time. It's buildings were built in that classic mission style but painted a striking purple.  He pledged that he would use his station to promote world peace. Baker immediately got back to his medicine sideshow. He opened a Baker Hospital and distributed "Cancer is Curable" pamphlets. From his high-wattage pulpit he declared that he could diagnose cancer from handwriting. He testified that aluminum cookware caused cancer. Baker thought a lot of things caused cancer, and more so that he could cure it.  He cussed, and maligned Jews and praised Hitler. There's not much nice to say about the guy really. The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners complained to the AMA about him. It started the ball rolling again.In Laredo Dr. Albert Cook went on the offensive. He paid former XENT employees as informants and collected dirt on Baker.

In 1937 Baker applied for a new license in Muscatine and was firmly rejected by the FCC. Furious he decided to run for Senate in Iowa. He drove around in Purple cars and wore lavender suits. He failed to get a nomination but he got 27,000 votes. It all was good for more press and more listeners to XENT. But Dr. Cook was catching up to him. Cook had graduated to informing the Feds.  Baker got indicted on the charge of violating the Brinkley clause of the Federal Communications act of 1934.  It was actually written to shut down another border blaster, XERA run by John Brinkley.  Section 325 (b) reads as follows:
No person shall be permitted to locate, use, or maintain a radio broadcast studio or other place or apparatus from which or whereby sound waves are converted into electrical energy, or mechanical or physical reproduction of sound waves produced, and caused to be transmitted or delivered to a radio station in a foreign country for the purpose of being broadcast from any radio station there having a power output of sufficient intensity and/or being so located geographically that its emissions may be received consistently in the United States, without first obtaining a permit from the Commission upon proper application therefor.
It says that American citizens need permission from the FCC to operate radio stations even if they are licensed in Mexico. In 1937 in federal court in Laredo he was found guilty and got a $2,000 fine and 6 months in jail.  Inexplicably he appealed and won. XENT continued operating and Baker started a new "health resort" in Eureka Springs, Arkansas knowing that Iowa was off-limits. he rebuilt and refurbished the old Crescent Hotel.  His personal office had bullet-proof glass and purple walls. In Arkansas he was charged with malpractice, and mail fraud. This time he got a $4,000 fine and 4 years in jail. In 1941 he began his term at Leavenworth federal prison. With Norman behind bars XENT was left without it's captain at the helm. In 1944 the Mexican government denied his license renewal. Some versions of the story claim that he sold it. But all versions have his trusted aids burning his files. He died in 1958 of a very ironic cancer.