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March 15, 2023 11:17 am  #1

Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

SOWNY Member Mace drew my attention to a station I have to admit I didn't know about. 

It's WNZK-AM, an ethnic station in Detroit and a real rarity. Because it's on a clear channel frequency, it's forced to switch positions when the pattern change kicks in. It broadcasts on 690 during the day and then switches to 680 at night, to prevent interference with other more powerful outlets. 

I well recall that CHYR in Leamington used to do the same thing when it was on AM. It started the day on 710 but was forced to switch to 730 when the sun went down. Unlike its Detroit counterpart, it also changed call letters to CHIR when it was in the dark. A move to FM ended this bizarre back-and-forth for good, but I always thought it was the only one in North America that did this. 

Until I learned about WNZK. What's weird about the Birach Broadcasting outlet is that they don't change their call letters when they make the switch. 

Are there any other stations in North America that still do this? I find it very odd and I wonder how many non-radio enthusiasts like the ones that gather here get confused by the frequency switch.

By the way Birach also owns WTOR AM 770 in Youngstown, New York, which aims at ethnic audiences in the GTA. And they make no secret of it. They even list the location of the station on their website as "Toronto."


March 15, 2023 2:34 pm  #2

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

WBAP and WFAA Dallas used to switch frequencies day and night 570 and 820 KHz in the 50s and 60s. 820 KHz was a clear channel in those days.      

Last edited by canam2021 (March 15, 2023 2:42 pm)


March 15, 2023 11:25 pm  #3

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

This isn't quite the same thing, but in the early days of TV, two stations sometimes shared the same channel. The closest one to the GTA was probably in Rochester, N.Y., where WHEC, owned by Gannett, was on Channel 10 some of the time while WVET, a property of Veterans Broadcasting, was on the same frequency the rest of the time. I'm not entirely sure how they figured out who was on when, but I do know that it was even more awkward than it sounds.

WHEC broadcast out of one building while WVET was in another downtown. This odd arrangement, called a "shared time station," lasted from sign on in 1953 until the owners of WVET sold their share and went on the air as the sole proprietors of WROC, at the time on Channel 5 (later Channel 8.)

Since both "channel 10s" were CBS affiliates, I would love to know how they worked this out and who got the money for which dayparts. I can't imagine anything like this ever happening today.

1954 Channel Line-up:


     Thread Starter

March 16, 2023 7:34 am  #4

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

If you think CRTC rules can be arcane, this is an example of how the FCC could be even worse at times. 

When channel 10 became available in Rochester after the freeze on new TV licenses (1950-52) was lifted, four radio stations applied for it. In addition to WHEC (1460) and WVET (1280), WRNY (680) and WARC (950) got into the mix. 

Under the FCC's rules of the time, all four would have ended up spending years in comparative hearings in Washington, expending oodles of legal fees and time to try to prove that their application was just a smidge better than the others.

There was one easy off-ramp from those hearings, and that was joining forces with another applicant to propose a share-time. For whatever reason, those proposals were almost always granted immediately, as WHEC/WVET was. There were others in Phoenix, Kansas City and a handful of other markets. Most ended up with one partner selling out to the other within a year or two, so by 1955 it was only WHEC/WVET still sharing.

WHEC and WVET shared a transmitter and the CBS and ABC affiliations. They appear to have figured out a pretty good cooperative workflow - nearly all of their print promotions had a big "10" logo and only mentioned the individual call letters in small print. 

I interviewed a longtime WHEC news anchor in 1999 for the 50th anniversary of Rochester TV and asked him about the arrangement before Veterans split off. He said WVET had the 11 PM news daily, while WHEC only had the 6 PM newscast on three days out of the week, so there were days when there was no news on WHEC-TV, though the news department was still hard at work on WHEC radio. 

There was an interesting "what if" later in the 1950s, when there was another bit of FCC weirdness in which a challenge to the shared channel 10 license could actually have taken WHEC and WVET off the air. After the FCC had granted the share-time on channel 10, it threw a bone to the other rivals and gave WARC a permit for channel 15 and WRNY a permit for channel 27. Neither radio station bothered then to build out what would have been an unsuccessful UHF station - but WHEC/WVET asked the FCC to let them build channel 27 and operate it as a reverse share-time. Whichever station wasn't using channel 10 as a CBS affiliate would have been on 27 as an ABC affiliate. (But it also would have been a back-door way to keep SOMETHING on the air if they'd lost channel 10.) 

Once the channel 10 license situation was sorted out, the channel 27 plan was quietly dropped. 

In the meantime, WHEC needed a bigger radio/TV studio by the end of the 1950s, and in 1958 it bought the building at 191 East Avenue that WRNY had built for the TV station it never got, so for another 31 years WHEC operated out of what had originally been the "WRNY Building." 

And after WVET sold its half of channel 10 and took over WROC-TV, it used WROC's existing "Rochester Radio City" building on Humboldt Street, which conveniently left the original WVET building on Clinton Avenue ready to be occupied quickly when Rochester got a third TV station, WOKR 13, in 1962. 


March 16, 2023 9:57 am  #5

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

Wow, Scott. Thanks for filling in that history. I had no idea how it came to be. What a mess! 

The closest modern-day situation I can compare it too was in 2007, when Bell bought the CHUM properties in Toronto. They took over City TV and cable news channel CP24 and held them for what - about a year?  But then the CRTC, in its infinite insanity, decided that gave Bell too much power in a single market so they forced the sell off of City to Rogers - but were allowed to keep CP24, which was intricately intertwined with City TV branding. 

Sounds like regular business, except for this: the decision happened so fast, that both stations had no time to prepare for it. So the now Rogers-owned City and the Bell-owned CP24 were not only located in the same building but in the same newsroom! Imagine two fierce competitors working out of the same office and room, and you'll have some idea how insane it was. 

I've been told by those who were there that the staff members who were on one team suddenly looked at the other group as the enemy. In one case, a certain anchor I won't name - who was formerly very friendly with everybody - completely stopped talking to the workers from the other company, barely even saying "hi" to the people she'd worked with for years. 

Newsroom line-up meetings, which had been formerly held out in the open, were now ensconced in secret huddled rooms so the other team didn't find out that one had an exclusive before it went to air. It was absolute chaos and it went on for months, until Gord Martineau suggested Rogers buy the building at Yonge-Dundas Square, where City remains to this day. 

But for months and months, it was like the Kremlin and the CIA working side-by-side and trying to throw the other guy off track. Not exactly shared time. Just shared building. And it was even worse in some ways than what happened in Rochester.

In any event, here's one of those ads you referred to. It's from 1956, and it doesn't say who's presenting that line-up - WHEC or WVET. But both are listed in the small print at the bottom with the tagline that they're operated share time. It was the early days of TV, so I suppose no one knew what they were doing anyway. But if the City/CP24 is even a minor comparison, it must have been a very odd way to run a railroad!

     Thread Starter

March 16, 2023 11:26 am  #6

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

City/CP24 at 299 Queen West.
TSN/Sportsnet at 9 Channel 9 Court.

Trivia Question. Who was President of both, once at the same time, then later, Sportsnet.


March 16, 2023 7:01 pm  #7

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

At one time in North York, (long before the Corus era), Q107 and AM640 had studios across from each other. (I assume they're now near the Lakeshore in the Corus building)


March 16, 2023 9:42 pm  #8

Re: Are There More Radio Stations That Switch Frequencies Twice A Day?

There was an example of this in the UK much more recently. The ITV channel in London was shared by two different franchisees (what we would call “affiliates”): Thames Television on weekdays, and London Weekend Television on weekends, both occupying Channel 9 when they were on VHF.

On paper, technically London still has two separate ITV franchises for weekdays and weekends, but it’s no longer noticeable to viewers as they’re both owned by ITV plc and both branded as ITV1 with no on-air distinction. But in Canadian terms, it would be like CTV in Toronto having CFTO-TV on weekdays and some other station on weekends, nowadays both branded as CTV.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (March 16, 2023 9:47 pm)