January 29 - February 5, 2004

Oklahoma City, part III

It's still frigid and snowy here in the northeast as we wrap up our look at Oklahoma City, so we're certainly enjoying our recap of a very warm (101 degrees every day!) August 2002 visit to this interesting and historic radio market - and we hope you are, too.

Our busy Saturday afternoon found us on the north side of town, where nearly all of Oklahoma City's FM and TV stations have ended up over the years. After a quick drive past the KEBC (1340) tower and former KXXY (96.1) studios/aux site at 101 NE 28th Street, a few blocks from the State Capitol (which was just getting a dome built, many decades after the rest of the building went up), we headed up to the intersection of N. Kelley Ave. and Wilshire Blvd., about five miles north of downtown.

That's where we find Oklahoma City's CBS affiliate, KWTV (Channel 9), with a low-slung fifties-style studio building and a tall (1577') tower behind it. KWTV signed on in 1953 as the sister station to KOMA radio; its tower was briefly the tallest in America, and the calls stand for "World's Tallest Video," or so they claim.

(This tower is remarkably well-braced against the devastating storms they get here; look carefully and you can see the multiple levels of double guy wires.)

Off a side road behind KWTV's Kelley Ave. studio is the Oklahoma City studio facility for OETA, the statewide public television network. OETA's KETA (Channel 13) operates from the KWTV tower as well.

Across Kelley Ave. from KWTV is a shorter tower that's home to KOMA-FM (92.5), and just behind it, fronting on Wilshire Blvd., is the studio/transmitter complex of Fox affiliate KOKH (Channel 25). KOKH has an unusual history - it was once a noncommercial station, operated by the Oklahoma City schools, but was sold in the eighties and went independent, then to Fox. KOKH is owned by Sinclair, and in that Sinclair duopoly style it now shares its studios and offices with WB affiliate KOCB (Channel 34).

(Being Sinclair, KOKH's news operation also fell victim to "News Central"ization a year or so after our visit, so Oklahoma Citians who depend on the "Fox 25 Primetime News @ 9" are getting their weather and national news not from Wilshire Blvd. but from Hunt Valley, Maryland...)

The KOKH tower is also home to two class C FMs: Renda's AC KMGL (104.1) and classic rock KRXO (107.7).

The KOCB tower is about half a mile north of KOKH, reached via some smaller roads just across Wilshire from the KOKH driveway. There's still a building at the base, though most of KOCB's operations are now handled out of KOKH; the tower also holds the antenna of Citadel's modern AC "Kiss" KYIS (98.9).

From KOCB, we look north a quarter-mile or so to the tower of KOCO-TV (Channel 5), Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate. We get there by heading back out to Kelley and north to E. Britton Road, where KOCO's big studio building is separated by a parking lot from the transmitter building and tower. KOCO's low-band VHF signal is a very frequent summertime visitor to the northeast; in fact, it was the first signal we logged by skip here at NERW Central when we put our antennas up a few months before this trip.

KOCO, in turn, sits just a mile west of a relatively nondescript tower that's home to gospel daytimer KTLR (890, formerly KBYE, with a defunct studio building still at the base of the tower) and Christian contemporary KOKF (90.9) - and less than a mile east of one of the most interesting studio/transmitter complexes in town.

"WKY" is the oldest set of call letters in Oklahoma City, and it's been seen and heard on both TV and radio over the years. On the radio side, WKY (930) runs 5000 watts both day and night. By day, its 961' single Franklin-type tower is the tallest AM radiator in the country (taller by about 27 feet than WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota and exceeded only by the night operation of WRDT 560 in Monroe, Michigan - but its 13.9 watts are fed into a tower that's really an FM tower.)

The current WKY day tower is of relatively recent construction; its predecessor came down in a tornado on June 13, 1998 (by a stroke of luck, its destruction was televised live when KWTV aimed its tower camera this way) and it was subsequently rebuilt, again as a Franklin.

At night, WKY uses three towers - the tall day tower and two much shorter towers out at the back of this complex on East Britton Road.

"Complex"? It sure is - that building in front of the WKY day tower is the original WKY-TV (Channel 4) building. WKY-TV changed hands over the years, becoming KTVY when it was first sold out of the Gaylord Publishing empire that included WKY radio, the Daily Oklahoman and the (now-defunct) Oklahoma City Times, then changing calls again to the present KFOR-TV. (And note how the signage on the building mentioned KFOR-DT - channel 27 - even back in 2002!)

WKY radio remained in Gaylord hands, though it was eventually LMA'd out to Clear Channel, and was finally sold just last year to Citadel. Its transmitter building sits just behind KFOR - and next door sits a studio complex that once housed WKY radio and now houses Renda Broadcasting's cluster (KOMA, KOMA-FM, KMGL, KRXO).

Across Britton from WKY and KFOR and the Renda studios is the shorter tower of Citadel's KKWD (97.9 Edmond), a relatively recent move-in; KFOR's own tower is just a bit to the east, right across Britton from the KOCO facility.

Back to Kelley we go, continuing our northward journey to some newer tower sites, which you can see in the panoramic view above, taken from the KOCB site. Those are KOCB's guy wires at right, KOCO's tower at the left, and in the distance at the right a cluster of tall towers that sit east of Kelley, south of Hefner Road and west of Eastern Avenue.

Pax outlet KOPX (Channel 62) sits behind a vocational school building on E. 101st Street, just off Kelley; TBN religious broadcaster KTBO (Channel 14) is just north of KOPX, behind its own studio facility on Hefner (done up in traditional TBN colonial-mansion style); just to the north, off Eastern, sits UPN affiliate KAUT (Channel 43).

The KAUT tower is also home to Citadel rocker KATT (100.5) and to KGOU (105.7 Spencer), which simulcasts the University of Oklahoma's KROU (106.3 Norman).

And our northward journey ends on NE 122nd Street, just south of the recently-completed Kilpatrick Turnpike, where a newly-completed 1644' candelabra owned by American Towers is home to the Clear Channel FMs (KXXY 96.1, KTST 101.9, KJYO 102.7) and to KSBI (Channel 52).

And with that, we say goodbye to Oklahoma City...and head back east for next week's "best-of" installment. See you then!

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