Satellite radio is not a bad thing.
Without technology, this article might have been written on a typewriter, which admittedly, I’ve long forgotten how to do. But there is an inherent charm to doing things the way they were originally meant to be done. And while orbiting satellites outside of the Earth’s surface are an impressive way to listen to the radio, one terrestrial king has been transmitting waves like a tsunami across the country (and world) since the days the automobile was still a modern curiosity.
There is a reason they call it “The Big One”. 700 WLW is the biggest of them all.
Also known as “The Nation’s Station”, what is now essentially a radio dynasty owes its foundation to innovative Cincinnatian Powel Crosley, Jr. Crosley was an eccentric type who, at any given time, partially owned: the Cincinnati Reds, a refrigeration business, an aptly named Crosmobile, and a number of investments in then-cutting edge advancements. In 1921, WLW began as a series of 20-watt tests; by 1928, the behemoth was complete, operating at the maximum-allowed 50 kilowatts. This meant that localized radio was instantly archaic; 700 WLW was easily heard over a vast area, covering Florida to New York (and as far as Hawaii). It was quite a pressing issue at the time, especially given the pre-television reliance on radio-imagine waking up in Tallahassee to weather reports of a blizzard in Cincinnati.
Crosley wasn’t satisfied with this unprecedented achievement, and in 1934, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pressed a ceremonial button, 500 kilowatts were unleashed to the listening world. Complaints about the overpowering signal came from as far as Toronto (leave it to a Canadian to spoil the fun, eh?) and the FCC introduced broadcasting regulations due to WLW’s dominance. In a display of American pride, however, WLW amped up the wattage a few times in WWII to send special messages to our troops-literally an imposing statement that rattled the Germans.
Today 700 WLW operates at a whopping 50,000 watts and the station’s impact is fueled by personalities as large as its reach (38 states, much of Canada). All content is locally created. Notable alums include Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels. Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame once worked for “The Big One”, and a few nationally syndicated programs emanate from the station, such as America’s Trucking Network and Live on Sunday Night. The host of the latter, Bill Cunningham, is a regular on FOX News as well as the television host of a national daytime talk show. Occasional personality Eric Deters, a renowned attorney, was recently featured on Dateline NBC and sports fans certainly need no reminder of Al Michaels’ imprint over some of the most important athletic events of our lifetime.
One needs not travel to space to make a universal impact. For “The Nation’s Station” 700 WLW, a little American ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit have driven them to be the standard bearer of radio for nearly a century. Besides, should former WLW talent Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone vision of an alien invasion prove true one day, the first thing to go will be those satellites.