WGM (radio station)

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WGM was an Atlanta, Georgia AM radio broadcasting station, operated by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper from March 17, 1922 to July 29, 1923. Although the station gained national prominence, it was shut down by its owner after just over a year of operation. The station equipment was then donated to Georgia Tech, where it was used in early 1924 to help set up radio station WBBF (later WGST, now WGKA AM 920).


The Constitution's weekly "Radio Department" page provided extensive coverage of WGM activities (August 1922)[1]

In early 1922 there was growing interest by the general public about the introduction of radio broadcasting. On December 1, 1921 the U.S. Department of Commerce, which regulated radio at this time, adopted a regulation formally establishing a broadcasting station category, which set aside the wavelength of 360 meters (833 kHz) for entertainment broadcasts, and 485 meters (619 kHz) for market and weather reports.[2] By the end of the year there were over 500 authorized stations in the United States.

In many communities there was competition to be the first to start a station. In Atlanta both of the two major newspapers, the Journal and the Constitution, began plans to establish stations.[3] The Journal would be first to get a station on the air, inaugurating WSB on March 15, 1922. Two days later, on March 17, the Constitution received its own telegraphed authorization for a broadcasting station, with the randomly assigned call letters WGM, valid for transmitting on both wavelengths.[4] The paper's review of the potential benefits of the new service was enthusiastic: "Although radio news service is still in its infancy, there is every evidence that it is only a question of a very few months when it will be considered as an imperatively necessary source of information." and "It is not a fad. It is an industrial revolution."[5]

WGM's debut broadcast began at 7:00 p.m. that evening. Because the newspaper had not yet procured a radio transmitter, the broadcast was made using a transmitter located at the Georgia Railway and Power company, that it had been using for its own amateur station, 4FT. The newspaper announced that broadcasts from WGM were planned to be conducted nightly, from 7 to 7:30 and 9 to 9:30 o'clock. In addition, the paper predicted that "it is believed that in a very few months there will not be a southern community that will not be hanging on the radio telephone to a man, woman and child during the hours The Constitution is broadcasting".[6]

Because WSB was also transmitting on 360 meters, the two newspapers had to establish a time sharing agreement allocating broadcast hours. Competition was so fierce between the two that WSB's manager, Lambdin "The Little Colonel" Kay, banned any person who had previously appeared on WGM from broadcasting over WSB.[7]

WGM's use of the Georgia Railway and Power transmitter came to an end in late May, when the power company received its own broadcasting station authorization, as WDAW. The newspaper announced that WGM was suspending operations until a new transmitting facility could be constructed.[8] In early July WGM resumed operations from its "radio plant" atop the Constitution building.[9] (During this pause WGM's license was temporarily deleted,[10] then reinstated, with the same call letters and owner.)[11]

"Warner's Seven Aces" performing at WGM[12]

In September 1922 the Department of Commerce set aside a second entertainment wavelength, 400 meters (750 kHz) for "Class B" stations that had quality equipment and programming.[13] Both WSB and WGM were assigned to this new wavelength, with WGM introducing the use of its new home-built 500-watt transmitter. In May 1923 additional "Class B" frequencies were made available, with Atlanta allocated 700 kHz,[14] and WSB and WGM were reassigned to this new shared frequency.[15] That summer WGM's schedule was reported to be 7 to 8 p.m. and 10:30 to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time daily except on Wednesdays, which was Atlanta's "silent night" when stations in the area remained off the air in order aid listeners attempting to pick up weak distant signals.[16]

Although WGM was a high-powered station providing extensive and varied programming, on July 22, 1923 a front page Constitution headline announced that the station would be shutting down at the end of the month,[17] with the station's assets to be contributed to Georgia Tech, so that the college could establish its own station.[18] WGM made its final broadcast on the evening of July 29, 1923.[19] The Commerce Department officially deleted the station's license effective August 28, 1923.[20]

Financed largely through the Constitution's donation, the new Georgia Tech station, WBBF (later WGST, now WGKA)[21] began operating in early January 1924. During the station's debut broadcast on January 14, college president M. L. Brittain's opening speech lauded "the generosity of Editor Clark Howell and The Constitution", with the newspaper reporting that Brittain also had "expressed the gratitude of the institution to The Constitution for presenting without cost to Tech the powerful broadcasting equipment".[22]


  1. ^ "The Sunday Constitution's Radio Department", page 3 of the August 6, 1922 issue of the Atlanta Constitution.
  2. ^ "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
  3. ^ The Journal was an afternoon newspaper, while the Constitution published in the morning. The two papers came under common ownership in 1950, and were merged into the Journal-Constitution in 2001.
  4. ^ "New Stations: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, April 1, 1922, page 2.
  5. ^ "Radio Telephone License Granted to Constitution", Atlanta Constitution, March 17, 1922, pages 1-2.
  6. ^ "Constitution's Radio Service Broadcasted For First Time Friday", Atlanta Constitution, March 18, 1922, page 1.
  7. ^ "The Voice of the South", Peachtree Parade by Ernest Rogers, pages 73-75.
  8. ^ "WDAW New Call Letters Given Power Company", Atlanta Constitution, May 27, 1922, page 1.
  9. ^ "Leide's Program Introduces WGM", Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1922, page 14.
  10. ^ "Alterations and Corrections: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, June 1, 1922, page 8.
  11. ^ "New Stations: Broadcasting Stations" Radio Service Bulletin, November 1, 1922, page 3.
  12. ^ "WGM 'Old Reliable' of the South", Radio Digest, March 3, 1923, page 5.
  13. ^ "Amendments to Regulations: Regulation 57", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1922, pages 10-11.
  14. ^ "Radio Conference Recommendations: New Wave Lengths", Radio Age, May 1923, page 11. Beginning with these assignments radio stations ended the practice of broadcasting their market reports and weather forecasts on the separate 485 meter wavelength.
  15. ^ "Class B Calls and Waves", Radio Age, June 1923, page 12.
  16. ^ "Distant Concerts", Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 12, 1923, Radio section, page 3.
  17. ^ "School Presented Big Radio Station", Washington (D.C.) Evening Star, July 29, 1923, page 25.
  18. ^ "Donation by the Constitution Enables Tech to Institute Advanced Radio Instruction", Atlanta Constitution, July 22, 1922, page 1.
  19. ^ "The Final WGM Concert to be Notable Broadcast", Atlanta Constitution, July 29, 1923, page 5.
  20. ^ "Strike out all particulars for the following named stations", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1923, page 10.
  21. ^ "New Stations: Broadcasting Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1924, page 3. Although much of the equipment used by WBBF had been inherited from WGM, the Department of Commerce treated WGM and WBBF as separate stations, and current Federal Communications Commission records list January 7, 1924 as WGKA's "first license date".
  22. ^ "Tech Sends First Message To Radio Fans of America" by Parks Rusk, Atlanta Constitution, January 15, 1924, page 1.
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