Wednesday, December 04, 2013

WJY and WJZ: Fraternal Twins

First of all, WJY technically precedes WJZ. It's incongruous and that's because the first time the WJY calls  were used for only one day. RCA used them on July 2nd, 1921 for the Dempsey Carpentier fight. The transmitter, which had been borrowed from GE overheated in under 4 hours and crapped out. The canonical radio history text Airwaves of New York refers to this event as radio "pre-history."  But history it is indeed.

WJZ came next, a mere 90 days later, signing on October 1st 1921 at 833 kHz. It was the first officially licensed station in New York, though Westinghouse had already established WBZ in Boston and KDKA in Pittsburgh beforehand. Just 4 days later, WJZ aired the 1921 Worlds series played between the Giants and the Yankees. In other words they came out pretty strong.

In May of 1923, Westinghouse sold WJZ to RCA. On May 14th RCA immediately transferred the station from Newark, NY to New York City. Just one day later, time they debuted WJY on 740 AM.  Both stations operated out of operated from a pair of studio on the 6th floor of Aeolian Hall at 29 West 42nd St. Their transmitters fed an identical pair of antennas on the roof.

The original idea was that WJY was to feature more high brown programming and WJZ would feature popular music. But that's not what happened.  WJZ operated 24/7 (mostly) and WJY had to share time with WOR. And while they were sometimes on air at the same time, it confused listeners and WJY became a depository for the dregs that didn't get airtime on WJZ. It left them with an unavoidable second-class status beside the real super-station.

At the end of 1925 WJZ started using their new 50k watt transmitter from a new site in Bounb Brook, NJ. interference complaints left them at reduced power for another 10 years but the transition had begun. In July AT&T transferred ownership of WEAF to RCA as well leaving WJY the runt of the litter. That month it went off air. RCA continued to hold the license, but in 1927 they opted not to renew it. That year WEAF and WJZ moved to 711 Fifth Avenue and the national Broadcasting company was all under one roof. It's where they stayed until a 1942 rule-making by the FCC decided that no broadcaster could own more than one station in a market... time marches on.