WGY ("AM 810, 103.1 FM, NewsRadio WGY") is a commercial AM broadcasting station owned by iHeartMedia and licensed to Schenectady, New York. Its format consists of news and conservative talk, and its programming is simulcast on WGY-FM 103.1 MHz, plus, except for sports play-by-play, iHeartRadio streaming. WGY has been in operation since February 1922 and is one of the oldest stations in the United States, as well as the oldest in the New York state Capital Region.
|City||Schenectady, New York (WGY)|
Albany, New York (WGY-FM)
|Broadcast area||Capital District, Mohawk Valley, western New England|
|Slogan||Capital Region's Breaking News, Traffic and Weather Station|
|Frequency||810 kHz (also on HD Radio)|
|Repeater(s)||103.1 MHz (WGY-FM) (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||February 20, 1922|
|Class||A (Clear Channel)|
|Callsign meaning||Randomly assigned, but explained as|
Wireless General Electric
|Former frequencies||833/619 kHz (1922)|
750/619 kHz (1922-1923)
790 kHz (1923-1941)
|Affiliations||Fox News Radio, Premiere Radio Networks|
(CC Licenses, LLC)
|Sister stations||WRVE, WPYX, WTRY-FM, WKKF, WGY-FM, WOFX|
WGY is a Class A station which transmits 50,000 watts non-directional from a single tower located in the Town of Rotterdam. The daytime signal provides at least grade B coverage as far south as Newburgh on the fringes of the New York City market, as far west as the fringes of the Syracuse and Binghamton markets, as far north as Rutland, Vermont and as far east as the suburbs of Springfield, Massachusetts. At night, it reaches much of the eastern half of North America.
WGY carries the standard iHeartMedia talk radio lineup of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, along with Michael Berry, and Coast to Coast AM. Newscasts air every 30 minutes, with more frequent coverage in cases of breaking news or inclement weather. Local Capital-District-area news is only broadcast from 5:00 AM until 12:00 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. Joe Gallagher handles local talk on the weekends.
WGY's on-air staff includes: Anchor/Reporters: George Morris, Mike Patrick, Chuck Taylor; Morning Hosts: Chuck Custer & Kelly Lynch; Morning Anchor: Read Shepherd; Midday Anchor: Diane Donato; Afternoon Anchor: Jim Gagliardi; plus Chad Erickson.
WGY's 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, and 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 GE's 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 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 station's 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.
The station was placed under the oversight of Martin P. Rice, who was the manager of the company's publication bureau. WGY's 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 station's 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 city's best talent" lasted about one hour. and consisted of live music and announcements of song titles and other information. The station's second program took place two days later, and featured a speech about George Washington by W. W. Tranch, Schenectady's 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 radio's first dramatic series. On August 3, 1922 they presented Eugene Walter's 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 world's only consulting detective joined the growing number of "disembodied voices floating through electromagnetic heaven."
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 Queen's Messenger and starring Izetta Jewel and Maurice Randall. Alexanderson's 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, with WGY and WHAZ assigned to share this new allocation. On November 1, 1927 WHAZ moved to a new frequency, giving WGY full-time use.
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&T's 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&T's network operations, and WGY affiliated with the newly established WEAF-based NBC Red Network, and after the split of the sister NBC Blue network into today's ABC Radio, WGY remained with NBC Radio until it folded in 1989.
In 1924, the transmitter site was moved to its current location in the Town of Rotterdam known as South Schenectady. This site was also home of GE's experimental shortwave radio stations W2XAF (31.48 meters or 9.525 MHz) and W2XAD (19 meters or 15 MHz). WGY's 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.
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 effectively transferred the 790 kHz clear channel status from KGO to WGY by reducing KGO's power to 7,500 watts, which was lower than the minimum 10,000 watts permissible for a clear channel station. (The Davis Amendment was repealed in 1936. In 1947 KGO's power was increased to 50,000 watts, through the use of a directional antenna that limited its signal toward WGY).
By 1935, the engineering staff of WGY began to 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 station's 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 I-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/6.
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, slowly evolving as programming tastes changed. It was the flagship station of General Electric's broadcasting group until 1983, when it was sold to Empire Radio Partners, Inc. General Electric also owned pioneering sister stations in television (WRGB-TV, which signed on as W2XB in 1928), and FM radio (W2XOY, later WGFM, then WGY-FM, and today WRVE, which signed on in 1940).
Dame Media, Inc acquired WGY and WGY-FM the during proceedings in the Philadelphia bankruptcy court, late 1993. The station changed from full service to news/talk 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, New York late 1994, where they remained until 2005. In 1999, Dame Media sold its entire radio group to Clear Channel Communications, whose ownership remains to this day (now under the name iHeartMedia). Clear Channel combined all of its radio station studio operations into the former CHP (Community Health Plan) building on Route 7 (Troy-Schenectady Road) in Latham August 2005.
WGY carried ABC News Radio from July 1994 until August 2005, when Clear Channel Communications switched the majority of its news/talk radio stations to Fox News Radio as a boost to that network's launch. Paul Harvey would remain on WGY for an additional year though. Three notable former WGY hosts are Mike Gallagher (who hosted afternoon drive in the mid-1990s before moving to WABC and is now part of the Salem Radio Network), Mark Williams, J. R. Gach (controversial shock jock) and Andrew Wilkow of Sirius Satellite Radio (who did part of afternoon drive and later late mornings from 2003–2006). Another WGY weekday local show was hosted by Al Roney (9:00 AM-Noon); however, he was released  and replaced by nationally syndicated talk show host Glenn Beck on February 25, 2010.
In 2009, WGY received a Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Edward R. Murrow award for its coverage of a Capital Region ice storm.
On September 20, 2010, WGY began simulcasting its programming on a 5,600 watt Albany station at 103.1 FM, in the process changing that station's call letters from WHRL to WGY-FM. The new slogan became "AM 810, 103.1 FM, News-Talk WGY."  (The former WGY-FM on 99.5 FM became WRVE. WHRL, "Channel 103.1", had broadcast an Active Rock format for almost ten years.)
On February 6, 2012, WGY began an affiliation with AccuWeather, severing its long-lived ties with The Weather Channel for its hourly and half-hourly weather reports.
- "WGY Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division.
- Wgy | Wgy.Com | Wgy-Hd |
- "Experiments and Results in Wireless Telephony" by John Grant, The American Telephone Journal, January 26, 1907, pages 49-51.
- "New Stations: Special Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, May 1915, page 4. The "2" in 2XI's call sign indicated that the station was located in the second Radio Inspection district, while the "X" signified that it was an Experimental license. (serial #112) The Department of Commerce regulated radio at this time under the authority of the Radio Act of 1912, which had been approved on August 13, 1912.
- "New Stations: Special Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, December 1, 1920, page 4.
- Saga of the Vacuum Tube by Gerald F. J. Tyne, 1977, page 146.
- "Irving Langmuir—Creator of the Super-Tube" Popular Science, October, 1922, page 63.
- "Regulations Governing Radio Communication" (Edition September 28, 1912)
- "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, March 1, 1922, page 2. Limited Commercial license, serial #285, call letters WGY, issued February 4, 1922 for a three month period to the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York.
- "Alterations and Corrections: Broadcasting Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, July 1, 1922, page 10.
- "WGY", The Wireless Age, July 1922, page 42.
- Empire Radio Partners, WGY 65th year of service commemorative book, 1987
- "Wireless Local Music to City in Long Island", Schenectady Gazette, February 21, 1922, page 11.
- WGY Operating Log (February 20, 1922)
- "Legion Man Speaks From WGY Station", Schenectady Gazette, February 23, 1922, page 12.
- "Gov. Miller's Speech Sent Out From WGY", Schenectady Gazette, February 24, 1922, page 11.
- McLeod, Elizabeth, "The WGY Players and the Birth of Radio Drama", 1998 (otr.org); Sterling, Christopher H., & John M. Kittross, Stay Tuned, A History of American Broadcasting (Lawrence Eribaum, 3rd Edition, 2001), p. 88.
- "The Mystery of Sound Effects in the Radio Studio" by Lucille Fletcher, The Etude, November 1940, page 731.
- Rudel, Anthony J., Hello, Everybody, the Dawn of American Radio (Harcourt Books, 2008), p. 206; Fletcher, Lucille, "Onward & Upward With the Arts," The New Yorker, Vol. XVI, No. 9, April 13, 1940, p. 47; "Squeaks, Slams, Echoes, and Shots," in Kern, John D., & Irwin Griggs, This America (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2005), p. 200; Shurick, Edward P. J., "Chronology of Milestones: Dramatics", The First Quarter-Century of American Broadcasting (Midland Publishing Company, 1946), p. 81. See also, Meenam, W. T., "Back-Stage with 'Radio Mike,' How Broadcasters Send Realistic Drama Over the Air", Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 105, No. 3, September 1924, p. 68; Huntley, Charles H., "When 'All the Air's a Stage – And the Radio Audience Joins the WGY Players in Creating the Illusion of the Spoken, but Invisible Drama – Success of Schenectady Station in Presenting Plays – How It's Done", The Wireless Age, Volume 10, No. 1, October 1922, pp. 27-28.
- Hartford Courant, "Radio Radiations: WGY, Schenectady," November 9, 1922, p. 14; Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, "In the Air Today," November 9, 1928, Case Six; McLeod, Elizabeth, "The WGY Players and the Birth of Radio Drama", 1998 (otr.org); King, R. R., "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes and the 1920s Radio Drama", Radio Recall, June 2008 (mwotrc.com)
- Wilkin, Jeff (September 11, 2006). "In 1928, WGY transmitted first pictures on television". Daily Gazette. p. C. 1.; McLeod, Elizabeth, "Old Time Radio Moments of the Century", 1999 (old-time.com); Hertzberg, Robert, "Television Makes the Radio Drama Possible", Radio News, December 1928, pages 524-527, 587-588 (earlytelevision.org); Lanza, Joseph, & Dennis Penna, Russ, Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique (Feral House, 2002), p.155; Hawes, William, American Television Drama, The Experimental Years (University of Alabama Press, 1986), p. 155.
- "Amendments to Regulations: Regulation 57", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1922, pages 10-11.
- "Radio Conference Recommendations: New Wave Lengths", Radio Age, May 1923, page 11. Beginning with these assignments radio stations ended the practice of broadcasting their market reports and weather forecasts on the separate 485 meter wavelength.
- "Class B Calls and Waves", Radio Age, June 1923, page 12.
- Wheeler, Howard. History of WGY, W2XAF and W2XAD, memoir and personal papers of (WGY engineer), July 3, 1933
- "The AT&T Network", Report on Chain Broadcasting, 1941, page 6.
- "The RCA Network", Report on Chain Broadcasting, 1941, pages 6-7.
- "October 18, 1928 letter from Louis G. Calwell", General Electric Company, Appellant vs. Federal Radio Commission, Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia (October Term, 1928), page 33.
- "WGY's History Traces Epic of Broadcasting", Schenectady Gazette, July 7, 1938, page 17.
- National Broadcasting Company, MEMO INT-628 dated October 2, 1936
- "New WGY Home Known as 'Little Radio City'", Schenectady Gazette, July 7, 1938, page 17.
- "Fired WGY Host Al Roney Thanks his Fans". Times Union Business Section. March 2, 2010.
- "Capital Region Ice Storm (WGY-AM, Latham, New York)" 2009 Radio Television Digital News Association News (RTDNA) Regional Edward R. Murrow Award Winners: Region 11: Radio, Large Market: Breaking News Coverage (rtdna.org)
- WGY Now On FM!!!!! 2010 (wgy.iheart.com)