WGKA (920 AM) – branded AM 920 The Answer – is a commercial news/talk radio station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, serving primarily the Atlanta metropolitan area. Currently owned by Salem Media Group, WGKA serves as the Atlanta affiliate for the Salem Radio Network and the Clemson Tigers football radio network. The WGKA studios are located on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, while the station transmitter resides near the Morningside Nature Preserve. Besides a standard analog transmission, WGKA is available online.
|Broadcast area||Atlanta metropolitan area|
|Branding||AM 920 The Answer|
|Slogan||News. Opinion. Insight.|
|First air date||January 14, 1924|
|Power||14,000 watts daytime|
490 watts nighttime
|Callsign meaning||Glenkaren Associates|
|Former callsigns||WBBF (1924–25)|
|Former frequencies||1110 kHz (1924–28)|
890 kHz (1928–41)
|Affiliations||Salem Radio Network|
Clemson Tigers football network
|Owner||Salem Media Group |
(Salem Communications Holding Corporation)
|Sister stations||WAFS, WLTA, WNIV|
Historically, the station is perhaps better known as the original home of WGST, founded by the Georgia Institute of Technology; WGST's programming and call letters moved to WGST (640 AM) via an intellectual property transaction in 1989.
The station was first licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on 1110 kilocycles, on January 7, 1924; owned by the Georgia Institute of Technology, then known as the "Georgia School of Technology", it got the sequentially issued call sign of WBBF. Much of the initial station equipment had been donated by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, which had closed its station, WGM, the previous July. This donation to the electrical engineering students was made to help familiarize them with the new technology used for radio broadcasting.
WBBF's debut broadcast was made on the evening of January 14, 1924, beginning at 7:30 p.m. with a ten-minute address by President M. L. Brittain. He lauded "the generosity of Editor Clark Howell and The Constitution". The Atlanta Constitution reported that he also "expressed the gratitude of the institution to The Constitution for presenting without cost to Tech the powerful broadcasting equipment." The program finished at 8:30 with fifty band students playing the college's fight song, "Ramblin' Wreck." The station's initial schedule was limited to a single one-hour program on Monday evenings; WBBF suspended operations in early June for summer vacation, before resuming in September.
WGST (920 AM)Edit
On January 12, 1925, WBBF's call letters were changed to WGST (Georgia School of Technology). In 1928, as part of the implementation of the Federal Radio Commission's General Order 40, the station moved to 890 kHz. In April 1930, the school made an agreement with the Southern Broadcasting Stations, Inc. to operate WGST as a commercial station, while still under the oversight of Georgia Tech. WGST was a CBS Radio Network affiliate, carrying its dramas, comedies, news, sports, game shows, soap operas and big band broadcasts during the "Golden Age of Radio."
In March 1941, under the provisions of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA), stations transmitting on 890 kHz were moved to 920 kHz, where WGST and its successors have been ever since. During the 1940s, the studios and offices were located in the Forsyth Building in Downtown Atlanta. For many years the antenna was old-fashioned design using multi-strand horizontal wires, strung between two supporting towers on the Forsyth Building, across from Georgia Tech's campus.
WGST was the first station to play rock 'n roll in Atlanta in the 1950s. Radio personality Paul Drew made his debut on WGST with a weekend show "The Big Record." Ray Charles' song "I Got a Woman" was recorded at WGST in the early 1950s. In 1956, WGST moved next to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus. The station's facilities were built on top of the Coliseum's locker rooms, featuring two large studios for live performances, complete with grand pianos. They remained in use by WGST into the 1970s; starting in 1977, Georgia Tech's FM radio station, WREK, occupied most of the original studios, including one of the two big rooms, until 2004 when WREK moved to the current studios in the Georgia Tech Student Center.
Through most of the 1960s, WGST ran a Top 40 radio format, but by the late 1960s it changed to middle of the road music, in an attempt to cut into WSB's audience. In 1971, WGST switched back to Top 40, and was billed simply as "92". By 1972, the station had changed to a Solid Gold Oldies format. In 1973, it adopted a mix of oldies and adult contemporary music. The station did fairly well in the Arbitron ratings (now Nielsen Audio), but it was stronger at night, particularly in the male 25-49 demographic, boosted in part when WGST became the flagship station for the Atlanta Flames hockey broadcasts. The station continued with its long-running Georgia Tech Football Network and Georgia Tech Basketball broadcasts.
As the city kept growing, it was difficult to hear the station in some of Atlanta's suburbs. That made it hard to achieve numbers comparable to ratings king WSB, which is powered at 50,000 watts around the clock. WGST ran at 5,000 watts by day, but dropped to 1,000 watts at night, to protect other stations on the frequency. In 1968, Georgia Tech put an FM station, WREK, on the air. In 1973, the Georgia Board of Regents decided WGST was "surplus property." In 1974, it was sold for five million dollars to the Meredith Corporation, despite opposition from alumni groups, members of the Georgia General Assembly and even the Governor of Georgia. However, profits from the sale were used to upgrade Georgia Tech's student-run WREK, which in 1978 moved to the Coliseum studios vacated by WGST in 1975.
Under the Meredith Corporation, WGST tried to compete with WSB by becoming a full service Top 40 station and hiring big name DJs such as Chuck Daugherty, Sam Holman from WABC in New York City, Tony Taylor from WNBC, also in New York, and Skinny Bobby Harper, who came from Kansas City. But WGST's ratings languished, despite the high-priced talent Meredith had assembled. By October 1977, WGST switched to an all-news format. But it began adding some talk shows by 1980 and in 1983, hired Neal Boortz who already had experience hosting on Atlanta talk station WRNG (now WCNN). Boortz became the cornerstone for the WGST talk line-up.
WAFS (920 AM)Edit
In 1988, WPBD (640 AM) began operations, although the owners soon announced that the station was for sale. Jacor made arrangements to purchase WPBD and transfer WGST's call letters and format onto the new station. As part of these moves, Jacor divested WGST to the Moody Bible Institute, a Christian radio organization in Chicago, for $2.3 million. On June 30, 1989, Moody changed WGST's callsign to WAFS and changed format from news/talk to Christian talk and teaching; Jacor concurrently changed WPBD's call letters to WGST (640 AM).
The Moody Bible Institute sold WAFS on March 24, 2004 to Salem Communications. On August 2, 2004, Salem swapped call letters between its two stations on 920 and 1190 kHz, which resulted in the WGKA call letters moving to 920 kHz, and the WAFS call letters now appearing at 1190 kHz.
The Salem Radio Network provides most of the station's weekday programming, with shows hosted by Hugh Hewitt (morning drive), Mike Gallagher (late mornings with a late evening replay), Dennis Prager (middays), Sebastian Gorka (afternoons), Jay Sekulow (evenings), Larry Elder (evenings), and Eric Metaxas (late nights).
- "New Stations: Broadcasting Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1924, page 3. Although much of the equipment used by WBBF had been previously used at WGM, the Department of Commerce considered WGM and WBBF to be separate stations, and current Federal Communications Commission records list January 7, 1924 as WGKA's "first license date".
- "Tech Sends First Message To Radio Fans of America" by Parks Rusk, Atlanta Constitution, January 15, 1924, page 1.
- "Last Tech Radio Concert Until September", Atlanta Constitution, Juie 2, 1924, page 12.
- "Georgia School of Technology", Education's Own Stations by S. E. Frost, Jr., 1937, pages 105-106.
- "United States Assignments", March 29, 1941, North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement.
- "WGST Atlanta Goes to MBS in Autumn" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 17, 1948. p. 42. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- Broadcasting Yearbook (1949 edition) page 104.
- "Atlanta Area AM Radio Stations" by Jeffrey Leachman (leachlegacy.ece.gatech.edu)
- I Got a Woman by Ray Charles (allmusic.com)
- Broadcasting Yearbook (1970 edition) page B-49.
- Broadcasting Yearbook (1978 edition) page C-50.
- Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook (1987 edition) page B-70.
- "WGST's AM Frequency to Be Sold". The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. January 11, 1989. p. B/2.
- Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook 2003-2004 page D-113
- "Black Radio Milestone Is Lost in a Shell Game Owner's Actions Questioned in Sale of WPBD". The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. 1989-07-02. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- "Scooping up stations" by Lisa R. Schoolcraft, Atlanta Business Chronicle, August 16, 2004 (bizjournals.com)
- MBI-Moody Broadcasting Network::WAFS::Home
- "News Talk Station WGKA-AM Moves to 920 AM Aug. 2; Atlanta Radio Station Improves News Talk Signal with Frequency Change", July 30, 2004 (salemmedia.com)
- "Salem Rebrands Talkers as The Answer" by Lance Venta, January 5, 2015 (radioinsight.com)
- WGKA official website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WGKA
- Radio-Locator Information on WGKA
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WGKA
- "Inventory of the WGST Radio Station Records, 1928-1975 MS #008". Georgia Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on March 25, 2008. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
- "1968 Atlanta Radio Time Warp" by Jeffrey Leachman (leachlegacy.ece.gatech.edu)
- FCC History Cards for WGKA (covering 1927-1981 as WGST)