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Matt352 posts since 25 Mar 2001
I was just watching an American film and it reminded me of something I have wanted to know the answer to for a long time:

What do the letters in the name of radio and TV networks in America actually stand for?

For example, in Frasier, Frasier works at 'KACL'. What does that stand for? It seems to be random letters!!

Could any of the American members enlighten me!!! (Or English members if you know!) - I am just intrigued!!
chinajan0 post since 27 Feb 2017
I have always assumed that these designators are just allocated in a similar way to, for example, aircraft or car registrations.

I would assume you get a selection to pick from though, otherwise most of them wouldn't have that amount of Ks, Xs or Zs in them.

Unless, of course, you know better......?
aztec west0 post since 1 Jan 2002
AFAIK the US codes are based on the Mississippi river.

K for the west and W for the east.
I believe they use C for Canadian codes.

Hope that's right but apologies if it's not... Smile
LarryScutta0 post since 27 Feb 2017
chinajan posted:
I have always assumed that these designators are just allocated in a similar way to, for example, aircraft or car registrations.

I would assume you get a selection to pick from though, otherwise most of them wouldn't have that amount of Ks, Xs or Zs in them.

Unless, of course, you know better......?


They are call-signs. Originally all radio stations had call-signs (the first BBC station in London was 2LO - the LO for London). Countries are allocated the first letter although for most countries the oly place they are used are for amatur radio - IIRC UK amateur licensees hold call signs beginning with GB or 2

In the US the use of call signs instead of station names is still used for both radio and TV stations. The US's allocation are the letters K & W. K is used by stations west of the Missisippi, W for those west of the river. With older stations the other letters relate to the original owner, such as newspapers andbroadcasting companies. Good examples are WABC in New York and KABC in Los Angeles - both ABC affiliates.

Because some call signs are used by radio and TV stations the suffix -TV, -FM or -AM are used

Also note that US TV works slightly diffrently in the respect that a station with a call sign is 1 transmitter. - there are no national terrestrial stations. So if the same system was acive in the UK Anglia wouldn't have it's own call sign, it's 3 transmitters would.
MrTomServo1,252 posts since 4 Jan 2003
As for KACL ... it's not only the initials of the producers, it's sort of a joke, because one could pronounce it "cackle." It's a tenuous talk-radio joke, but a joke nonetheless.

Station call letters used to be three letters long, like WJZ, WGN and KNX. But, they soon realised that there were more stations than letter combinations, so they expanded to four letters. Other lower-power transmitters have combinations of letters and numbers, like W6XYZ or K35DG. The numbers do not necessarily correspond to their channel or frequency assignment.

As for the hyphen stuff, there are three sorts of those. For instance, there is KFMB (with no hyphen, that's at AM 760), KFMB-FM (which is defunct now, it used to be at 94.9 FM), KFMB-TV (channel 8 analogue) and KFMB-DT (channel 8 digital). So AM stations have no hyphen (because they were the first kinds of stations to exist, and everything else does.

This can be confusing, because KCBS-TV (Los Angeles) and KCBS-FM (San Francisco) are two very different stations, and are not really connected other than they're CBS affiliates.

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LarryScutta0 post since 27 Feb 2017
There are quite a few fictional or English based US call signs -

The talk station in the SImpsons is KBABL (as in K Babble), The TV station in The Muppets Tonight was K-MUP.

In London there is a DAB station owned by US radio group called Clear Channel called WLON and the AM station for Wolverhampton was for years called WABC, although that was 'Wolverhampton and Black Country'. There was also WWEN a TV production company called World Wide Entertainment News
tvyvr4derek111 posts since 24 Jun 2001
In a nutshell, yeah, call signs generally start with K west of the Mississippi, and W east of the River. A few exceptions do exist, but it'll only add to the confusion, so I won't mention them.

MrTomServo posted:
Other lower-power transmitters have combinations of letters and numbers, like W6XYZ or K35DG. The numbers do not necessarily correspond to their channel or frequency assignment.


I thought the W6XYZ call sign was defunct by now? It was the experimental call sign of Channel 5 LA, which became KTLA-TV. Of course there are always things that I don't know...

Oh, and I remember on another episode of Simpsons that Homer was listening to "The Fossil, KFSL" or something like that.
MrTomServo1,252 posts since 4 Jan 2003
tvyvr4derek posted:
[I thought the W6XYZ call sign was defunct by now? It was the experimental call sign of Channel 5 LA, which became KTLA-TV. Of course there are always things that I don't know...


Nope, you're right! I'd just remembered that particular call sign for some reason, and I couldn't figure out where it came from. Now I can sleep at night. Smile

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