The average American loves to listen to the radio while driving in their car and everybody has their favorite stations, whether it be a pop, rock, or hip-hop music station that they can sing along to, a talk show station filled with laughs, or a news station to keep them updated about the happenings in the world.
But what do those four letters in the name of a radio station stand for and what could they possibly mean?
These four letters are called CALL SIGNS (also referred to as call names, call letters, or call signals) and they were created in order for radio broadcasters to identify themselves and for their listeners to be able to identify what radio station they are listening to.
The only letter in the call sign that really has any sort of meaning is the first letter.
If the first letter of the call sign is a K, that means that the station is located West of the Mississippi River.
If the first letter is a W, that means that the station is located East of the Mississippi River.
There are a few exceptions, as some older stations were “grandfathered in,” so they do not follow these regional regulations.
In addition, there have been a few occasions where the government forgot to follow its own rule or approved a station’s special request. Although it’s much rarer for you to come across these stations, if the first letter of the call sign is A, that means that it is an Army or Air Force radio station and if the first letter of the call sign is N, that means that it is a Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard radio station.
The rest of the letters in the four-lettered call sign don’t really have any particular meaning. Some stations may be assigned a call sign at random and some stations may choose a particular call sign based on how the letters sound when read together.
In Los Angeles, KIIS was only chosen because it sounds just like kiss.
and KROQ chose its letters because their station plays rock music.
In San Francisco, there is a station called KABL because San Francisco is famous for their cable cars and they have another station called KAML because their station’s mascot is a camel.
There is a station in Miami that is called WFUN. Maybe they chose it because they like to have fun in the sun in Miami?
There used to be a station in Chicago called WAIT, where they played “elevator” music, so the name was rather fitting.
Last, but not least, there’s a station in Washington that only broadcasts news about sports and the station is called KRAP.
When it comes down to it, the sky’s the limit, as long as it starts with a K in the West and W in the East, it’s not too vulgar, and the FCC gives the station approval.