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Why St. Louis radio, TV stations start with K

6:16 AM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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By Heidi Glaus

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Look or listen to just about any television or radio station in St. Louis and you'll notice darn near every one of them starts with the letter K and well that's no coincidence.

"Well that actually began in radio when they first started licensing broadcast stations in the early part of the 20th century," explains Eileen Solomon, Professor in the School of Communications at Webster University.

Before 1912,  a station could pick and choose whatever letters they wanted, but as more stations hit the airwaves, the federal government put rules in place.  

"In 1923 they decided radio stations, well it was radio then, west of the Mississippi would begin with a K and east of the Mississippi would begin with a W," Solomon adds.

Why the Mississippi, you ask?

"Why not," Solomon says with a laugh.

It seemed to be the easiest divider. Of course as with all rules, there are exceptions.

"There's KDKA in Pittsburgh and KYW in Philadelphia. Additionally there is a station in Alaska that starts with a W," Solomon points out.

As for the other letters, well station owners could request specific letters, but sometimes they were simply assigned and of course there are many stories about stations around town, but maybe the best is the one about KMOX.

"Well, the story is the call letters are KMOX K because we are west of the Mississippi, MO because it's in Missouri and X because it went on the air in Christmas Eve," Solomon says.

If you have a Hey Heidi question, email Heidi at


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