On This Date in 1925, WIBX Signed On Air for the First Time
It was 95 years ago today, December 5th, that one of New York's oldest radio stations signed on the air for the very first time. WIBX 1460 AM started broadcasting in the Clark Building in downtown Utica. The station would move around the dial until 1948
WIBX would move to the top floor of Hotel Utica at one point, and would move around the radio dial over the course of 20 years, before settling in early 1948 at 950 AM with a power increase to 500 watts.
Radio in 1925 was in its infancy and at the time WIBX began transmitting, there were about 1,600 radio stations operating throughout the United States. When WIBX incorporated in 1926, they described their operation this way: "to establish and maintain a radio sending station and to broadcast by radio, music, entertainment, speeches, advertising matter, and radio messages of all kinds," according to UticaAMradio.org.
It was estimated that when WIBX signed on the air, only about 19-percent of households actually had radio receivers and it wouldn't be until the late 1930s that radios would be considered standard features in cars. Today, according to a 2019 Neilsen study, 93-percent of American adults listen to the radio every week, more than television or smart phones.
Over the years, WIBX's programming would change significantly. In the 1930s, WIBX would become an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and would broadcast programs from "the Golden Age of Radio" including dramas, comedies, soap operas, and sports; as well as newscasts which would become the standard for the top and bottom of every hour. In the 1950s, the sports talk program Sportswatch debuted and would continue until 2013, with many legendary hosts that would move on to the national scene. Through the 1960s and 70s, WIBX would become known for its Middle of the Road (MOR) format which would include a mixture of music and personality, sports, nationally syndicated programs and news. In the late-1980s, WIBX dropped music and moved towards the news-talk format that it runs today, that features Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated program and its affiliation with Fox News Radio.
WIBX was on the air to cover some of the most significant events of the last century, broadcasting during the Great Depression, Prohibition, the attack on Pearl Harbor, six different wars, the assassination of President Kennedy, and more recently, the 9/11 attacks. WIBX recognizes its 95th anniversary at a time when the country and the world are struggling through the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic which includes mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings. The station has been considered essential in its coverage of the local pandemic response, which included extended live local coverage back in March when shutdown restrictions were announced by Oneida County and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Currently, WIBX's lineup includes its anchor morning program, First News with Keeler in the Morning, which is also simulcast each weekday morning on WFXV FOX 33 TV from 6 until 9 a.m.. Brian Kilmeade airs from 9 a.m. - 12 noon, followed by the legendary Rush Limbaugh Show until 3 p.m., and Sean Hannity until 6 p.m.. Evening hours include Eyewitness News, the Best of Keeler, Larry Elder, When Radio Was (Golden Age of Radio shows) and Coast to Coast AM. The 2020 version of WIBX also includes live streaming, a state of the art WIBX Mobil App, and a news and information website ranked among the top performers in the region.
Check out the video below produced by the late longtime radio personality and historian Lou Barile.
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