Friday, August 30, 2013

KTHS History Per Hollis Duncan

Former KAAY engineer Hollis Duncan recounts the history behind KTHS, the precursor to KAAY:

"From its earliest days, the future of KTHS was tied to both WFAA in Dallas and WBAP in Fort Worth. The outcome of this strange relationship unexpectedly worked to the benefit of KTHS, WFAA, and WBAP.

WBAP and KTHS were together from the very start. During the Summer of 1924, WBAP paved the way for KTHS by hosting The World's Longest Remote Broadcast from Hot Springs High School. WBAP later supplied KTHS General Manager Givens Campbell "Cam" Arnoux (AR-noo) and KTHS Chief Engineer Ed L. Olds. After its Grand Opening on New Years Eve 1924, KTHS shared time on 780 kHz with WBAP.

WFAA and WBAP came on the air within months of each other in 1922. WFAA found it sharing time on 1040 kHz with KRLD, owned by competitor Dallas Times-Herald.

WFAA was owned by George B. Dealey of the Dallas News and WBAP was owned by Amon Carter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both the Dallas News and WFAA were operated under the A.H. Belo Corporation, who still owns The Dallas Morning News.

As radio became a more established and important business, WBAP was finding it troublesome to share time with distant station KTHS. Over in Dallas, WFAA was finding it REALLY troublesome to share time with their hated competitor the Times-Herald.

Fort Worth and Dallas were distant Cities in the 1920s and the News and the Star-Telegram were not competitors. It is reported that Mr. Dealey and Mr. Carter held each other in high regard, so they decided to resolve the situation.

After negotiation, WFAA and WBAP came to an agreement with KTHS for WFAA to share time with WBAP on 800 kHz and for KTHS to move to 1040 and share time with KRLD. This change was approved by the Federal Radio Commission and became effective on May 1, 1929.

The shift to 800 kHz (later 820 kHz) was a good move for WFAA-WBAP, giving one or the other station access to the Dallas-Fort Worth market. It was also proved to be a good move for KTHS, allowing a power increase to 10,000 watts and paving the way for its move to 1090 kHz. KRLD found a full-time home on 1080 kHz and KTHS started sharing time with WBAL, a station that KAAY continues to protect at night.

Because WBAP could use 800 kHz for only half of the broadcast day, Mr. Carter bought KGKO-570 in Wichita Falls, Texas, and moved the station to Fort Worth as an alternate outlet for WBAP. Because it seemed silly to leave KGKO's facilities idle when WBAP was operating on 800, WFAA asked to use 570 and KGKO's call letters were formally changed to WFAA-WBAP-570. As an aside, a station in Benton, Arkansas, (now deleted) acquired the KGKO call letters and used them on 850 kHz for many years.

Both WFAA and WBAP were NBC Red Network Affiliates and KGKO as affiliated with the NBC Blue Network. This situation became slightly more complicated when the NBC Blue Network became the ABC Radio Network WFAA and WBAP changed Networks several times a day when they changed frequency from 800 to 570.

The WFAA-WBAP time share continued until May 1, 1970, when WBAP bought 820 kHz and gave WFAA sole possession of 570 kHz. WBAP became a National powerhouse while WFAA drifted along until leaving radio in 1983.

I doubt that KTHS had a great deal of choice. In the late 1920s, the new Federal Radio Commission was busily reallocating the broadcast band and little stations like KTHS were assigned to poor positions on the Broadcast Band or regulated out of existence. That is what reportedly happened to KFMQ-Fayetteville, one of the earliest radio stations in Arkansas. THe FRC assigned KFMQ to a frequency that was shared with a Fort Smith station and KFMQ either sold or just gave up.

Although both the Dallas News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had plenty of political influence, it appears that KTHS had powerful Arkansas Senator Joe T. Robinson on its side. The FRC file of the Joe T. Robinson Papers in Fayetteville probably makes for very interesting reading.

It has been said that the future is often determined by the past, and the dance of WFAA, WBAP, and KTHS might be a good example."

Thank you, Hollis!  Sometimes, the pointless frequency-shuffling done by the Federal Radio Commission (precursor to the Federal Communications Commission) probably made more sense to them than the radio stations....

Good read, Hollis!  We're looking forward to more interesting history of KTHS and KAAY!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)


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