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This Day in Georgia History

March 15, 1922

WSB Radio Began Broadcasting

The Atlanta Journal began operation of the first commercial radio station in the South. The Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution had been in a race to launch the South’s first radio station. On the afternoon of March 15, the Journal received a telegram from Washington, D.C. The U.S. Commerce Department had approved the Journal’s application for a license to operate a commercial radio station. That evening, the new radio station began broadcasting with a 100-watt transmitter. Under the call letters WSB, the new radio station began a daily program of broadcasting that started at noon with a weather forecast, followed by an afternoon of crop and market information. At 6 p.m., there were 90 minutes of sports and news. From 7:30 until 9 p.m., when the station signed off, WSB observed quiet time in order to allow Atlanta radio owners to listen to concerts aired from stations outside the South. Though it is not clear how long this policy remained in effect, the Journal announced that it would be operating WSB “purely for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, and there will be no commercial features connected with it.” As it turned out, the station’s emphasis on weather forecasts and crop news became very important to farmers, many of whom had no other access to such news. Eventually, WSB-AM was given authority to operate a 50,000-watt transmitter. Because no other radio station could operate on its frequency at night, WSB’s AM signal could be heard nightly across much of the South. And, despite the tradition that the call letters “WSB” stood for “Welcome South Brother,” in reality the Atlanta station was the second in the “WS” series of radio call letters, following station WSA in Hampton, N.Y.