November 14-21, 2001
The Big Travelogue: Part Eleven
nothing like a good road trip to get a feel for the state of
radio these days. From June 23 until July 7, your editor (accompanied
by Boston Radio Archives creator Garrett Wollman) hit the road
to see what's on - and in - the air across a broad swath of mid-America.
For the next few installments of Site of the Week, we'll be
recapping the many highlights of what we like to think of as
The Big Trip, 2001 edition. Come along...
here for part one
here for part two
here for part three
here for part four
here for part five
here for part six
here for part seven
here for part eight
here for part nine
here for part ten
Tuesday, July 3 - Our visit to Kansas City may have
included plenty of fine AM sites (see part ten), but there's
also much to see here where FM and TV are concerned.
Kansas side of the line, where our visit begins, there's just
a single relevant site to visit: the Shawnee Mission Parkway
studios of the market's CBS affiliate, KCTV (Channel 5).
The station moved here when it abandoned its original home
at 125 E. 31st Street in Kansas City proper - but that's an address
to which we will return in earnest in just a little bit. (Can't
wait? Just look at the top of the page for a hint of what's still
After making our way around the west side AM sites, we enter
downtown Kansas City, where we find ABC affiliate KMBC-TV (Channel
9) in a building apparently shared with an...opera house?
(We await clarification on this one from those who know the market
Just up Central Street is a storefront where KMBC's LMA partner,
independent KCWE (Channel 29), has its sales office.
From downtown, we
head south on Main Street, admiring one of the most distinctive
features of the Kansas City skyline: the tall towers of Signal
That 31st Street address? KCTV doesn't use it for a studio
anymore, having donated that space to public station KCPT (Channel
19), but its transmitter is still there, feeding an antenna atop
what I'm told is the tallest self-supporting tower in America.
(KC radio historian Mark Roberts says it was the tallest in the
world until 1968!)
tower is shared with KCMO-FM (94.9) (KCTV was, you see, the former
KCMO-TV) and Leavenworth-licensed KQRC (98.9), as well as the
future KCTV-DT (Channel 24). At night, we'll see it again, illuminated
by strings of white lights that outline the corners of the tower
and create a sight visible for miles around.
Head west on 31st Street for a mile or so and you come to
the corner of Summit, and there you'll find another distinctive
Kansas City site.
street address is 3030 Summit, but it's known far and wide simply
as "Signal Hill, Kansas City, MO," home to WDAF-TV
(Channel 4), the city's first TV station.
For decades, WDAF-TV was the NBC affiliate for Kansas City,
but the mass affiliation swaps of the nineties brought some big
changes to this heritage station.
In September 1994, WDAF-TV was sold to New World (separating
it from WDAF radio after 45 years), and promptly joined the rest
of the New World stations in becoming a Fox affiliate.
That, in turn, put NBC on the UHF dial, on relative newcomer
KSHB (Channel 41) - but it meant no change of transmitter site
at all. KSHB (and KSHB-DT 42) share this tower with WDAF-TV,
WDAF-DT (Channel 34) and the FM on 102.1 that's now KSRC and
used to be WDAF-FM, KYYS and KOZN.
Wednesday, July 4 - Independence Day finds us in Independence,
Missouri, heading west back towards Kansas City to pick up a
few more sites before heading off to our next destination.
of towers rise over the east side of the I-435 loop near where
it crosses I-70 (and not far from the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium
and the Royals' Kaufman Stadium).
On E. 22nd Street, a candelabra tower is home to KMBC-TV,
itself a product of a long-ago affiliation swap and a long-ago
Back in 1953, the owners of KMBC radio and WHB radio decided
to try to resolve the long fight over channel 9 by telling the
FCC they'd share the channel. It signed on that year as a CBS
affiliate, with KMBC-TV and WHB-TV trading off 90-minute blocks
(A similar arrangement lasted from 1953 until 1961 back home
in Rochester on channel 10, but that's a tale for another time...)
KMBC-TV bought out WHB-TV in 1954, and channel 9 became an
ABC affiliate the following year, with KCMO-TV going to CBS.
In 1967, KMBC radio (980/99.7) was sold and became KMBZ, calls
that live on to this day on the AM side.
of this explains the satellite truck with the big "12"
logo at the base of the tower - until you recall that KMBC-TV
is today owned by Hearst-Argyle, which also owns WISN-TV (Channel
12) in Milwaukee...
In any case, this tower is now home as well to KCWE, KCWE-DT
(Channel 31), KMBC-DT (Channel 7) and KYYS (99.7, the former
Crossing I-435, we find ourselves on the Blue Ridge Cutoff,
which parallels 435 to the east. Just north of I-70, a guyed
tower carries FM antennas for KUDL (98.1) and more recent move-ins
KCFX (101.1 Harrisonville), KCIY (106.5 Liberty) and KLJC (88.5).
A mile or so to the north, a cluster of towers includes the
tall one shown to the left, home to KCPT (Channel 19), KBEQ (104.3)
and public radio KCUR (89.3). This tower also held KSMO (Channel
62), but we believe that station has moved a bit north, to another
site we'll examine shortly.
Look carefully at the left edge of the picture and you can
see the KMBC-TV tower back in the distance, too.
Just to the right and out of frame is another tower that holds
community FM station KKFI (90.1).
didn't make it to another group of FM towers a few miles south
along 435, one housing KMXV 93.3, KFKF 94.1, KRBZ 96.5 and KPRS
103.3, the other home to brand-new KFME 105.1, licensed to Garden
City, Missouri and just on the air a few weeks prior to our visit
One more tower completes our Kansas City visit: a new candelabra
tower just south of Truman Road that's home to KSMO-DT (Channel
47), the KSMO analog channel 62 that used to share the KCPT tower...and
to the application for religious KTAJ's DTV operation.
KTAJ, you may recall, is licensed to St. Joseph, 60 miles
north, but it wants to put digital channel 21 right in the heart
of the Kansas City market when it signs on.
From here, we diverge from the radio agenda for an hour or
so to visit Harry Truman's home in Independence, where we note
the rooftop Yagi antenna that the Trumans apparently used for
the little TV they watched. (Our tour guide, upon being asked,
points out that the TV is in a corner of the living room where
it would have been impossible to see from most of the chairs!)
Back on the road,
we drive two hours or so east to a late lunchtime stop in the
college town of Columbia.
Before lunch, we stop along Business Loop 70E at the market's
number-three station, little KMIZ (Channel 17). KMIZ also operates
Fox LPTV K11SN and a cable-only WB affiliate, but it's outspent
and outrated by the two big VHF stations in the market, which
we'll see in a bit.
It being a holiday and our time being short, we don't spend
much time with Columbia radio, driving past the nearby KFRU (1400)
tower and trying, but failing, to find the KTGR (1580) tower
close by, before heading south on US 63 and out of town. (In
retrospect, we should have stopped to see KFMZ 98.3, as well;
it lost its license a few months later and is now dark!)
KMIZ and most of
the FM stations are north of town, and we're not headed that
Instead, we're pointed south on 63, heading straight for the
very tall tower that belongs to Columbia's NBC affiliate and
its NPR station, which are co-owned.
Puzzled? No need; you see, KOMU-TV (Channel 8) and KBIA (91.3)
both belong to the University of Missouri.
KOMU is a full commercial station with a very respectable
news commitment, staffed by students from Missouri's prestigious
journalism school. Never mind internships; these students get
to shoot, report and anchor the news on the market's top station!
(KOMU, too, would be in the headlines a few months later,
as state politicians protested the news director's decision to
ban the anchors and reporters from wearing flag pins in the days
after September 11...but that was all far in the future on this
sweltering July 4 afternoon...)
later and we've arrived in the penultimate state capital of our
It's a very, very quiet Independence Day in Jefferson City,
and we have the west side of the capital building all to ourselves
as we drive up for the requisite picture.
(Later, watching the local TV news, we'll learn that there's
a party taking place on the other side of the building,
but we never drove over there to see what was happening!)
We don't observe much of the Jeff City radio dial, since KLIK
(1240) and KWOS (950), which recently swapped dial positions,
are both south of town and we're not headed that way.
we point the car north again, this time on US 54, which cuts
a diagonal towards the northeast and our ultimate destination
of St. Louis.
Exiting the US 54 freeway at the exit for highways "OO"
and "AA" (which strikes us as an appropriate preview
for the fireworks we hope to see later in the evening!), we turn
north onto old 54 at Holts Summit for our last two mid-Missouri
First up is the region's CBS affiliate, KRCG-TV (Channel 13),
with studios at the base of this tall guyed stick.
(In an earlier, lower-powered era, KRCG operated KMOS, channel
6 in Sedalia, as a satellite station; later, it donated that
facility for use as the region's public TV outlet.)
We're told Jeff City viewers gravitate to KRCG for their news,
while KOMU dominates in Columbia, belying the idea of a joint
Another mile north and we're at a slightly less impressive
site, the newer tower of religious KNLJ (Channel 25), operated
by a minister who runs a homeless shelter in St. Louis and frequently
uses the residents to host his telethons! (He also owns KNLC
in St. Louis, which is becoming that city's UPN affiliate for
lack of a better option.)
KNLJ now has an FM sister, KNLG (90.3), advertised on a wooden
sign leaning against the channel 25 building. We hear it, and
several sister stations, identified as part of a group ID on
several stations along the route of our trip this week.
From here, it's
another two hours or so east to St. Louis, where you can meet
us next week for Part Twelve!
Meanwhile...you can still enjoy the Big Trip's lovely
KFAB view and eleven more favorites from Tower Site of the Week
all year long, if you order the Tower Site 2002 Calendar!
This full-color, 8.5-by-11 inch, glossy calendar features a dozen
exciting tower images, and it can be on your wall for just $15,
postpaid! (NY residents include sales tax; US$20 postpaid to
You can have yours for the holidays - and our ordering deadline
has been extended, so it's not too late to send your check or
money order, payable to Scott Fybush (that's me), to 92
Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester NY 14618.
Your purchase of a calendar helps keep Site of the Week coming
all year round...thank you!