First Radio Station In US Began 100 Years Ago Today in Michigan
Many firsts have happened in Michigan, and one of the most significant happened 100 years ago today, when radio station WWJ in Detroit became the first commercial radio station on the air in the country. (Of course, that meant an audience of maybe one hundred at the beginning.) According to a story in the Detroit News, which owned the station at that time, the transmitter was turned on permanently about 11 days later, but on this day, the paper's owner, William Scripps flipped the switch to the transmitter and as the saying goes, the rest is history. (Footnote: The Scripps company now owns local TV station, WXMI-Fox 17 but neither WWJ nor the Detroit News.)
Radio stations in Pittsburgh and San Francisco also claim to be the first radio station. Historians say it depends on your definition. KDKA in Pittsburgh, for example, says it was the first licensed commercial station, where as WWJ still had an amateur license one hundred years ago today. (Either way, they were within weeks of each other. And the station in San Francisco, it's complicated.)
The original call letters were 8MK, then WBL, and finally WWJ in 1922. in the early days it was news, live music, and University of Michigan football in about 1923. American humorist Will Rogers got his start on WWJ. For some five decades now, WWJ has been the all-news station in Detroit, and ranks among the most listened to stations in the Motor City.
In case you're wondering about the station in our building. WKMI went on the air in 1947 as WGFG, WKFR in 1963, WRKR, after a long legal battle came on in 1988, and K102.5 (which is also on WKFR's HD2 station), about five years ago. And the station that is now WVFM started out in our building as WKMI's FM sister station, WSEO.