Ever wondered how radio stations get their call letters?
Those 4 somewhat random alphabetical wonders do have a rhyme and reason and this article sets out to discover what it may be.
We’ve all heard call letters for broadcast radio and television stations, as they are the core purpose of station ids and station imaging. Perhaps because they seem so commonplace, we don’t really ever think about their purpose other than a gentle reminder or reinforcement of the station’s branding at regular intervals during the broadcast day as regulated by the FCC.
What I’ve wondered personally is if you could buy custom call letters like you could obtain a personalized license plate…
For instance, back in the day, my great-grandfather Joe McManus owned a radio station in London, Ontario Canada, a centennial project (Canada’s Centennial was in 1967) which he christened AM 1290 CJOE, incorporating his own name into the call letters. At that time, the station was located centrally in the Hotel London in the heart of the downtown on the corner of Dundas St. and Wellington St. This is currently the site of a different building which houses several local radio stations. After the sale of the station in 1972, the station was re-branded as 1290 CJBK and it is still to this day. CJBK is located in the south of the city further down Wellington north of Southdale Rd.
From what I understand, the first letter is decided upon region, perhaps by province or state. All of the Ontario call letters start with a C, or at least the station call letters that I’ve heard.
Can you add to this conversation? Broadcasters, come on up! On the other hand, if you’re a listener or viewer of broadcast television or radio, what are the most unique call letters you’ve ever heard?
P.S. If you worked for 1290 CJOE between 1967 and 1972 in London, ON Canada or were a listener, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!