Media & History


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Article appearing in the September 20, 2007 edition of the Hardin County Independent
(written & submitted by your humble webmaster)
(staff photo)
The Chronology of 14WIEL According to Ron
Based upon Ron's notes to a new employee at the time, Dave Harris, with updates added

Hardin County's first radio station began broadcasting at 12 noon on September 28th, 1950. The original five owners were all businessmen in E-town: Horace Tabb, Holly Skidmore, J.W. Hodges, Stokely Bowling, and Clifford Diecks. Bill Harris managed the station for its first two years, then it was Walter "Dee" Huddleston for the next 20. For 56 years WIEL was housed at the same location on U.S. 62W (Leitchfield Road)  in E'town, although the building was expanded when WKMO-FM was added in the mid 70's (1977). Another FM, WRZI, came into the building in 1997 and still another FM, WTHX, came into the building in 2003.

WIEL is the oldest radio station in Hardin County. In 2000 we had some special programming celebrating her 50th anniversary. Dee Huddleston was General Manager for 20 years, 1952-1972, and Bill Walters followed after Dee became a U.S. Senator. The 80's saw numerous GM's and in 1989 WIEL left the Top 40 format after close to 40 years. After the Top 40 format, WIEL was an automated oldies station (Pure Gold), a news/talk station and back to an automated oldies format once again (Jones Radio), this time under the direction of Ross and Linda Becker of L.A. (originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin). The couple bought WIEL and WKMO in July of 1997 after purchasing WRZI the same year and moved all three stations under the same roof July 25, 1997.

Commonwealth Broadcasting bought the three stations in 2000, and after a short time as an country oldies station WIEL became an ESPN affiliate in 2001. A fifth station, WXAM, was purchased and moved into the building around 2005. In September 2006, a severe thunderstorm flooded the lower portion of the building and this, along with other facility matters convinced management the time had come to pack up and move. WIEL, along with her 4 sister stations, moved into their new studios in the Helmwood Plaza Shopping Center the last week of 2006.

WIEL, which celebrates 57 years on the air September 28th, 2007 still operates at AM-1400, the same frequency she has been at since 1950.

AM Radio Turned to Talk As Listeners Left for Stereo
by Brian T. Kehl, News-Enterprise 7/3/07

From the time KDKA, the first commercially licensed radio station in America, began broadcasting in Pittsburgh in 1920, AM owned radio. The two nearly were synonymous. If someone was listening to radio, they were listening to a station using amplitude modulation. All the shows and music were on AM. "Before FM, AM was all there was," said Cat Michaels, operations manager for Commonwealth Broadcasting, which runs Hardin County's last AM station, 1400 AM ESPN.

AM ruled the airwaves for about 55 years, but with the advent of better sound from FM, AM listeners began making the switch. FM, or frequency modulation, got a boost from regulators at the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1970s when it said only FM could use essentially stereo sound, which matches more closely with the human ear. The sound was not only fuller, but cleaner. The difference in amplitude of AM is what creates the static and AM is more dependent on weather conditions and the time of day. AM signals bounce off the ionosphere, which is lower during the day. Because of this, at night AM is more powerful and has a farther range.

"The decline really started in the late '70s, early '80s," said Bill Evans, president and general manager of WQXE and WULF in Elizabethtown. Evans got his start in radio on the old AM station WAKY as a 21-year-old disc jockey, and in 1969 switched to FM as one of the original WQXE signees. "When FM came out, it took 10 or 12 years for everyone to get FM radios," Evans said. "FM started broadcasting in stereo in the mid-1960s, and stations started picking up on it. All of a sudden the young generation got on with FM. By 1980, it was on par with the number of AM radios."

By the mid-1980s, most AM stations got the hint and many switched to a talk format. By the '90s, AM's decline became even more serious, despite the fact the FCC now allowed both bands to use stereo sound. "FM had already become the thing," Evans said. Now, according to Arbitron, a company that collects statistics for network radio, FM is far more dominant, with 9,103 licensed stations, as opposed to 4,754 licensed AM stations. Michaels and Evans see a future for AM.

"There is definitely a place for it," Michaels said. "Most AM stations that do well have a talk (format). Talk is in mono and you really don't need the sound. Locally, our ESPN station uses the band for sports talk." Evans said bigger populations help AM stations tremendously. "The salvation is in big markets where there is plenty of audience and population," he said. "They're all talkers. In Louisville, the dominant talker is WHAS."

The face of radio soon will change again. The FCC, as it has done with television, will be switching from analog to digital signals, meaning sound on both AM and FM will be significantly better. "It will be exactly the same as CD reproduction," Evans said. Another change is competition from Internet radio. As of now, that hasn't been a factor because of royalties, and because when stations stream, they tend to cut union-made commercials, Evans said. Michaels said for what his station does, Internet competition won't be a problem because of the station's specialized focus, with high school games, local news and information that are difficult to find on satellites or the Internet.

"It's the local element," he said. "We're the last connector to the listener."


From the Desk of Professor Urbahns

Paul, being our resident historian...kind of a sleuth with a super deuper magnifying glass, sought to expound a bit on Ron's history notes on the Ron Boone page. Here are his chronological findings:

Authentic BMI Radio Log
(courtesy Paul Urbahns)
60's DJ

DJ from Mid-60's from Fall 2000 Ancestral Trails
(courtesy Judy Boone)

Chuck Spataro
Chuck was a regular guest of Ron Boone's  (oh, the typo's)
(courtesy Judy Boone)

Newspaper Ad from Elizabethtown News
(courtesy Judy Boone)

Between what Judy has so graciously allowed us access to in terms of Ron's files
and momentos and what we have found in our old studios, we are continuing to churn
out historical items for sharing on this website, and with continued input from Paul Urbahns,
Scott Goettel, Bob Craft, Cale Tharp and a host of others will continue to do so.

Newspaper Ad from Elizabethtown News
(courtesy Judy Boone)
Memo from Ron Boone to Ross Becker
(courtesy Judy Boone)

News-Enterprise article covering the departure of GM Ross Becker
(Brian Walker was PD during Becker's tenure)
(courtesy Judy Boone)

Yet another station history as told by Ron Boone, updated at the time of Ross' departure
(courtesy Judy Boone)
Chamber Attendees
Members of the Chamber Luncheon January 9, 2003
(David Dunaway is current news director of WIEL and sister stations)
(courtesy Judy Boone)
Paragraph from the below publication "Chronicles of Hardin County 1766-1974"
(staff photo)

                    County Bicentennial
(staff photo)

The aftermath of radio consolidation
(courtesy Judy Boone & Ron's lost folders)

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