WMNE was a pioneer commercial FM radio station, which was the second of two mountain-top broadcasting stations established by the Yankee Network. It began regular programming, as experimental station W1XER, in December 1940. In 1941 it was licensed for commercial operation from studios in Boston, initially with the call sign W39B, which was changed to WMTW in 1943. In late 1946 the station's designated community of license was changed to Portland, Maine, and its call letters became WMNE.
WMNE was deleted in October 1948. During the station's entire existence its transmitter site was located at the summit of Mount Washington in Sargents Purchase, New Hampshire.
In the 1930s investigations were begun into establishing radio stations transmitting on "Very High Frequency" (VHF) assignments above 30 MHz, well above those used by the standard AM broadcast band. These stations were informally known as "Apex" stations, because their coverage tended to be limited to line-of-site distances, so there was a premium in locating transmitter towers at high altitudes.
The Yankee Network, a regional network of AM radio stations located in the northeastern United States, began its own investigation of the potential for operation on the new frequencies. In late 1935 it was issued a license for an experimental station, W1XER, originally located in Boston. In early 1936 three Yankee Network engineers attended a demonstration by Edwin Howard Armstrong of his recent invention of "wide-band frequency modulation" (FM) transmissions. In 1937 a plan was developed envisioning that 90% of New England could be provided with FM programs by building a 50 kilowatt station on a mountain top at Paxton, Massachusetts (Mount Asnebumskit), plus 5 kilowatt stations on Mount Washington in New Hampshire and on Mount Mansfield in Vermont. (Later plans dropped the proposed Mount Mansfield station). This also proposed converting W1XER from AM transmissions to FM.
In order to provide better coverage, in 1937 W1XER was moved from Boston to the top of Mount Washington, where it was used as a link to report meteorological information from a weather observatory located there. The process of converting the station for FM broadcasting turned out to be an arduous undertaking, and W1XER did not start broadcast programming on a regular schedule until December 19, 1940. The Yankee Network inaugurated the first FM radio network in the United States, which officially made its debut in December 1940 when W1XER was permanently linked to over-the-air transmissions from W1XOJ in Massachusetts. Because of their superior audio quality, the FM stations became known for broadcasting live classical music concerts.
In May 1940, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the establishment, effective January 1, 1941, of an FM radio band operating on 40 channels spanning 42–50 MHz. On October 31, 1940, the FCC awarded the first fifteen construction permits for commercial FM stations, including one for 43.9 MHz to the Yankee Network for operation from atop Mount Washington, which was issued the call sign W39B. Commercial operation commenced on April 5, 1941, with an initial station rate card of $25 per hour daytime, and $50 per hour nightime.
Effective November 1, 1943, the FCC modified its policy for FM call letters, and the call sign was changed to WMTW. In December 1946, the station's frequency was changed 43.9 to 45.1 MHz. On June 27, 1945, the FCC announced the reassignment of the FM band to 80 channels from 88–106 MHz, which was later expanded to 88-108 MHz. WMTW's initial assignment on the new "high" FM band was 98.1 MHz, which was later changed to 100.5 Mhz. Stations were given permission to operate simultaneously on both their original "low band" and new "high band" assignments until the end of 1948.
In late 1946 the Yankee Network established a new AM station on 1490 kHz in Portland, Maine. This new station was given the WMTW call sign (now WBAE) and the Mount Washington FM station's call letters were changed to WMNE. In addition, WMNE's community of license was changed from Boston to Portland.
In October 1948 WMNE's license was unexpectedly turned in for immediate cancellation. Television Digest, while noting that "Yankee gave no reasons" for shutting down the station, opined that "but it is well known that: (1) Yankee has sunk some $2 million into FM, with literally almost no return. (2) WMNE's rugged location made it terribly expensive to build and operate. (3) Yankee feels FCC destroyed WMNE's reasons for being (huge coverage) when it moved FM to high band and cut station's power. (4) FM just didn't develop with speed expected." On July 24, 1953, the Yankee Network's first pioneer mountaintop station, WGTR, licensed to Worcester, Massachusetts and transmitting from Mount Asnebumskit, was also deleted.
The WMTW call letters were revived in 1954 for the launch of an unrelated television station. This station is still on the air, although the transmitter was relocated off Mount Washington in 2002. In 1958 a new and also unrelated radio station, WMTW-FM on 94.9 MHz, began operating with a transmitter from atop the mountain. This station is currently WHOM.
- ^ "Radio Engineering Labs, Inc." (advertisement), Broadcasting, May 15, 1944, page 49.
- ^ "The Yankee Network" (advertisement), Broadcasting, April 21, 1947, page 3.
- ^ "General and Special Experimental Stations Licensed by FCC" (January 21, 1936 list), Broadcasting, February 1, 1936, page 50.
- ^ "More FM Service in New England" by A. F. Sise, FM magazine, April 1941, pages 8-14.
- ^ "Ultra High" by Perry Ferrell, Jr., All-Wave Radio, February 1938, page 84.
- ^ "Yankee Starts Operation of FM Atop Mountain", Broadcasting, January 1, 1941, page 18-C.
- ^ "Chain of Staticless Stations Organized by Shepard Group", Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 1941, page 18.
- ^ "Boston String Orchestra in Debut Over FM", Boston Herald, January 11, 1942, page 4B.
- ^ "FCC Order No. 67" Federal Register, May 25, 1940, page 2011.
- ^ "New FM Call Letters Proposed", Broadcasting, November 15, 1940, page 77.
- ^ The initial policy for commercial FM station call signs included an initial "W" for stations located east of the Mississippi River, followed by the last two digits of a station's frequency assignment, "39" in this case, and closing with a one or two character regional identifier, which for stations serving the Boston, Massachusetts region was "B".
- ^ "Boston Games on FM", Broadcasting, April 14, 1941, page 42.
- ^ "FM Rate Card", Broadcasting, April 28, 1941, page 42.
- ^ "Standard Broadcast Station Call Letters for All Outlets Starting Nov. 1, FCC Rule", The Billboard, September 4, 1943, page 7.
- ^ "New Calls Named For FM Stations", Broadcasting, October 4, 1943, page 49.
- ^ "FM Low Band Stations Moved Temporarily", Broadcasting, December 23, 1946, page 4.
- ^ "FCC Allocates 88-106 mc Band to FM" by Bill Bailey, Broadcasting, July 2, 1945, pages 13-14.
- ^ "New Frequency Assignments for FM Stations in the United States", Broadcasting, June 23, 1947, page 37.
- ^ "WMNE, KSTL-FM Are Relinquished" Broadcasting, October 4, 1948, page 85.
- ^ "Curious Anomalies in FM Picture", Television Digest and FM Reports, September 18, 1948, page 5.
- ^ "For the Record: Existing FM Stations: FM Station Deleted", Broadcasting, August 3, 1953, page 102.
- "Tower Site of the Week: Mount Washington, N.H.: A Look Back" by Scott Fybush, 2003 (fybush.com)
- "John Shepard's FM Stations: America's first FM network" by Donna L. Halper (bostonradio.org)
- "Staticless Radio Gets Mountain-Top Station", Popular Science, April 1941, page 103.
- "More FM Service in New England" by A. F. Sise, FM magazine, April 1941, pages 8-14.
- "Mount Washington: Highest FM Station" by A. F. Sise, Radio-Craft, March 1942, pages 410-412.
- "Building a Radio Tower atop Mount Washington", by Daniel Dancis, February 12, 2019.