ⓘ WGY (AM)
WGY is a commercial AM radio station licensed to Schenectady, New York, and serving the Capital District including the Albany-Schenectady-Troy radio market. It is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., and it airs a News/Talk radio format. Programming is simulcast on WGY-FM 103.1 MHz. WGY is one of the oldest stations in the United States.
WGY is a Class A clear channel station powered at 50.000 watts using a non-directional antenna. It transmits from a single tower located off Mariaville Road, near the New York State Thruway, in the Town of Rotterdam. The stations daytime signal provides at least grade B coverage from the outer northern suburbs of New York City to the fringes of the North Country, as well as parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. At night, WGY can be heard across much of the eastern half of North America with a good radio.
1. Programming and News
Weekdays on WGY-AM-FM begin with a local morning talk and information show, "Chuck & Kelly," featuring Chuck Custer and Kelly Lynch. The rest of the weekday schedule is nationally syndicated conservative talk shows, hosted by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Nights feature Buck Sexton, Michael Berry from co-owned KTRH Houston, Ben Shapiro and "Coast to Coast AM with George Noory." Before dawn, WGY-AM-FM carries "This Morning, Americas First News with Gordon Deal." Weekends feature a local morning talk and information show hosted by Joe Gallagher. Thats followed by programs on money, health and religion, some of which are paid brokered programming. Weekend syndicated shows include "Bill Handel on the Law," "The Weekend with Joe Pags," "The Truth About Money with Ric Edelman," "Somewhere in Time with Art Bell" and "Sunday Night Live with Bill Cunningham."
On weekdays, newscasts air every 30 minutes. Local Capital-District-area news is heard from 5 a.m. until midnight. Top-of-hour newscasts are approximately six to seven minutes long and usually include two minutes of Fox News Radio, local news, traffic "WGY All-Day Traffic" and weather "WGY AccuWeather Forecast". Some weekend newscasts substitute sports for traffic. Bottom-of-the-hour updates, lasting around three minutes, usually consist of a lead national story, some local news, and a weather report. The news staff includes: Morning Anchor: Read Shepherd; Midday Anchor: Diane Donato; Afternoon Anchor: Jim Gagliardi; plus Anchor/Reporters George Morris, Mike Patrick, Chuck Taylor and Chad Erickson.
2.1. History Experimental Years
WGYs original licensee was General Electric GE, a company headquartered in Schenectady that had extensive experience in radio research and development. In 1903 Reginald Fessenden contracted with GE to help him design and produce a series of high-frequency alternator-transmitters. This project was ultimately assigned to Ernst F. W. Alexanderson, who in August 1906 delivered a unit which was successfully used by Fessenden to make radiotelephone demonstrations.
In early 1915, GE was granted a Class 3-Experimental license with the call sign 2XI. That license was canceled in 1917 due to the United States entry into World War I. 2XI was relicensed in 1920.
Ernst Alexanderson continued alternator design research and developed more powerful transmitters that by 1919 were considered the best available option for long distance radiotelegraph communication. In 1919 GEs leadership in alternator manufacture led the U.S. government to promote the idea of the company taking over the assets of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. This purchase was used to form a GE subsidiary, the Radio Corporation of America RCA, which became the leading radio company in the United States. In 1921, GE signed a cross-licensing agreement with the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company that made RCA the sales agent for radio equipment produced by the two companies. In 1932 RCA became an independent company as part of an antitrust settlement.
Alternator radio transmitters became obsolete by the mid-1920s due to advances in vacuum-tube technology, and another GE employee, Irving Langmuir, played an important role in this development. GE was a major manufacturer of radio vacuum tubes during World War I, and produced over 200.000 for the military during the conflict. Tubes of increasing power ratings were designed, and by the summer of 1922 Langmuir had introduced a 20-kilowatt version.
Radio communication was initially generally limited to Morse code transmissions. By the early 1920s improvements in vacuum-tube capabilities made audio transmissions practical. Effective December 1, 1921, the United States Department of Commerce, which beginning in 1912 had been responsible for regulating radio stations, set aside two wavelengths for use by broadcasting stations: 360 meters 833 kHz for "entertainment", and 485 meters 619 kHz for "market and weather reports".
On February 4, 1922, GE received its first broadcasting license, for a new station located in Schenectady which was authorized to transmit on the 360 meter entertainment wavelength and was issued the randomly assigned call letters WGY. A few months later permission was granted to also broadcast on 485 meters. The original transmitter produced an antenna power of 1.500 watts, which was three times the wattage of the standard "high-powered" station at the time. Unusual for the period, the stations studio and transmitter site were at separate locations. Broadcasts originated from a studio on the fourth floor of Building 36 at the General Electric Plant in Schenectady, which was connected to a T-top wire antenna located atop another GE building about 3/5ths of a mile one km distant.
2.2. History Early Broadcasts
The station was placed under the oversight of Martin P. Rice, who was the manager of the companys publication bureau. WGYs debut broadcast started at 7:47 p.m. on February 20, 1922, when Kolin Hager, or as he was known on the air, "KH", signed on with the stations call letters, explaining the W is for wireless, G for General Electric, and Y, the last letter in Schenectady. The first broadcast, "furnished by some of this citys best talent" lasted about one hour. and consisted of live music and announcements of song titles and other information. The stations second program took place two days later, and featured a speech about George Washington, delivered by W. W. Tranch, Schenectadys American Legion post commander, followed by a concert.
WGY was a pioneer in the use of remote broadcasts originating from locations outside of the main studio, carrying out the first one just days after it signed on. On February 23, 1922, the station ran a telephone line connection to the Union College gymnasium, where New York governor Nathan L. Miller and others gave speeches commemorating the 17th anniversary of the Rotary Club. This was followed by a short concert. Other early programming included coverage of the Yale-Harvard football game live from New Haven, Connecticut; the WGY String Orchestra live from the State Theater in Schenectady, and talks and presentations by various GE innovators, explorers, state and local officials.
A few months after WGY began broadcasting, Edward H. Smith, director of a community theater group called the Masque in nearby Troy, suggested to Kolin Hager that WGY carry weekly 40-minute long adaptations of plays. A troupe was formed known as the WGY Players performing as radios first dramatic series. On August 3, 1922 they presented Eugene Walters 1908 play The Wolf, the first of forty-three dramatizations performed during the 1922-1923 season. Smith became a pioneer of radio drama sound effects during this first play when he slapped a couple of two-by-four boards together to simulate the slamming of a door. Initially the actors wore costumes and makeup on the theory that this would enhance performances, but the practice was soon discarded as unneeded. The WGY Orchestra was used to provide music between acts. Response was immediate, with the station reporting that the broadcast resulted in its receiving more than two thousand letters. On November 9 the Players presented on The Sign of the Four starring Edward H. Smith as Sherlock Holmes, and the worlds only consulting detective joined the growing number of "disembodied voices floating through electromagnetic heaven."
In 1923, Guglielmo Marconi, credited as the inventor of radio, paid a visit to Schenectady to see WGYs transmitter and studios.
2.3. History TV Experiments
Beginning in 1926, Ernst Alexanderson worked on an experimental mechanical television system. This led, on September 11, 1928, to the WGY Players broadcasting the first televised play, an old spy melodrama titled The Queens Messenger and starring Izetta Jewel and Maurice Randall. Alexandersons development of a portable and simplified television transmitter made the broadcast possible. The only viewers were newspaper and magazine writers watching the program on a 3x3-inch 7.6 cm screen located three miles five kilometers away in the WGY studio. The broadcasts took place at 1:30 and 11:30 p.m.
In September 1922 the Department of Commerce set aside a second entertainment wavelength, 400 meters 750 kHz for "Class B" stations that had quality equipment and programming. Locally, both WGY and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute station, WHAZ, were assigned to this new wavelength on a time-sharing basis. In May 1923 additional broadcasting frequencies were announced, and the Schenectady/Troy region was given exclusive national use of 790 kHz. WGY and WHAZ were assigned to share this new allocation. On November 1, 1927 WHAZ moved to a new frequency, giving WGY full-time use.
WGY also used the first condenser microphone, developed by General Electric for radio studio applications, on February 7, 1923.
2.4. History Network Radio
On January 4, 1923 the American Telephone and Telegraph Company AT&T made the first network radio broadcast, using special telephone lines to relay a program from its New York City station, WEAF now WFAN to a Boston station. On June 3, 1923 WGY participated in AT&Ts second network test, which linked WEAF to WGY, KDKA in Pittsburgh, and KYW in Chicago. The Radio Corporation of America RCA responded by developing a network operation centered on its New York City station, WJZ now WABC, and in December 1923 made its first test network connection with a hookup to WGY. The WJZ network never advanced beyond a few affiliates, and struggled with the low fidelity of relying on Western Union telegraph lines to link stations. In 1926, RCA bought out AT&Ts network operations, and WGY affiliated with the newly established WEAF-based NBC Red Network. In the Albany market, WABY now 1400 WAMC affiliated with the NBC Blue Network, which later became ABC Radio, while WOKO now 1460 WOPG became a CBS affiliate. WGY remained with NBC Radio until it folded in 1989.
In 1925, WGY helped organize the New York State Radio Network, formed with WMAK Buffalo, WHAM Rochester, WFBL Syracuse and WGY.
In 1924, the transmitter site was moved to its current location in the Town of Rotterdam, then known as South Schenectady. This site was also home of GEs experimental shortwave radio stations W2XAF 31.48 meters or 9.525 MHz and W2XAD 19 meters or 15 MHz. WGYs power levels were steadily increased, first to 5.000 watts, then 10.000 watts and finally to 50.000 watts on July 18, 1925. By 1928, the WGY transmitter was capable of operating at 150.000 watts, and an application was made to increase to this power. However, this was three times the limit allowed by the Federal Radio Commission FRC, and the application was denied. Temporary broadcasts were carried out at the 100 kW August 4, 1927 and 200 kW March 9, 1930 power levels. From those broadcasts, the station received reception letters and telegrams from as far away as New Zealand. Plans were to make those power increases permanent, but were never carried out.
2.5. History Clear Channel Status
Effective November 11, 1928, the Federal Radio Commission implemented a major reassignment of transmitting frequencies, as outlined by its General Order 40 Band Plan. Following standards set by the Davis Amendment, each of five regions was assigned eight "clear channel" frequencies. Under this plan WGY remained on 790 kHz, however, this frequency was now designated for primary use in the westernmost region, where it was assigned to KGO in Oakland, California. General Electric sought to have WGY given its own clear channel assignment, but was unsuccessful. KGO was also owned by General Electric, so the company ultimately transferred the 790 kHz clear channel status from KGO to WGY by reducing KGOs power. KGO began operating at 7.500 watts, which was lower than the minimum 10.000 watts permissible for a clear channel station.
By 1935, the engineering staff of WGY began work to replace the T-top antenna system with a single vertical radiator tower. At the time, the station was plagued with signal fading at a distance of 30–100 miles 50–160 km from the transmitter site due to cancellation by out-of-phase co-channel signals from the same source. The ideas for this tower were formed from experiments at WJZ in New York. From this, a square, half-wavelength on 790 kHz 625 foot 190 meter tower was constructed in 1938. The half-wavelength design greatly reduced high angle radiation, thus solved the close in fading issues, and this antenna is still in use today.
In 1938 the stations studios were moved from Building 36 into a brand new building on River Road, in Downtown Schenectady. These studios were torn down in 1961 to make way for Interstate 890. At that time the studios were moved to 1400 Balltown Road in Niskayuna, New York, co-located with GE owned-and-operated WRGB-TV Channel 6.
2.6. History Move to 810
In 1941, the stations on 790 kHz, including WGY and KGO, were moved to 810 kHz to comply with the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement NARBA. In 1942, during World War II, a concrete wall was built around the base of the transmitter tower to prevent saboteurs from shooting out the base insulator on the tower and taking the station off the air.
As the "Golden Age of Radio" ended, WGY evolved into a full service, middle of the road format of popular music, news and talk. It was the flagship station of General Electrics broadcasting group until 1983, when it was sold to Empire Radio Partners, Inc. General Electrics Schenectady operations also pioneered television by putting WRGB-TV on the air, which signed on as W2XB in 1928; and FM radio station W2XOY, later WGFM, then WGY-FM, and today WRVE, which signed on in 1940 and is credited as the first FM station to broadcast in stereo around the clock. Dame Media, Inc. acquired WGY-AM-FM during proceedings in a Philadelphia bankruptcy court, late 1993.
2.7. History All Talk and News
The AM station eliminated its remaining music programming and became an all-news/talk station on Memorial Day Weekend, 1994. Dame moved the studios to One Washington Square at the end of Washington Avenue Extension, in the west end of Albany, in late 1994, where they remained until 2005. In 1999, Dame Media sold its entire radio group to Clear Channel Communications based in San Antonio. Clear Channel combined all of its Albany-area radio station facilities into the former CHP Community Health Plan building on Route 7 Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham, in August 2005.
After being one of the founding members of the NBC Radio Network, WGY changed to ABC News Radio in July 1994. Then in August 2005, Clear Channel Communications switched the majority of its news/talk radio stations, including WGY, to Fox News Radio as a boost to that networks launch. Paul Harvey features from ABC remained on WGY for an additional year.
On September 20, 2010, WGY began simulcasting its programming on a 5.600 watt WHRL 103.1 FM. This gave listeners the choice to hear WGY programming on the AM dial or the FM band. Clear Channel changed the call sign to WGY-FM. The new slogan became "AM 810, 103.1 FM, News-Talk WGY." WHRL, "Channel 103.1", had broadcast an Active Rock format for almost ten years and had been a Smooth Jazz station before that.
On February 6, 2012, WGY began an affiliation with AccuWeather for its weather coverage. It discontinued its ties with The Weather Channel after more than a decade. In 2014, Clear Channel Communications changed its corporate name to iHeartMedia.
3. Awards and Notable Hosts
Several notable former WGY personalities include Mike Gallagher, who hosted afternoon drive in the mid-1990s before moving to 770 WABC in New York, and is now part of the Salem Radio Network. Other notable hosts include Mark Williams, J. R. Gach and Andrew Wilkow of Sirius Satellite Radio who was heard in afternoon drive and later late mornings from 2003–2006. Another WGY weekday local show was hosted by Al Roney 9:00 AM-Noon. He was replaced by the syndicated Glenn Beck Program on February 25, 2010. Don Weeks retired in 2010 after spending 30 years as WGYs morning host. Weeks died in 2015 at age 76.
In 2009, WGY received a Radio Television Digital News Association RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award for its coverage of the 2009 Capital Region ice storm.
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