The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1950s

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Numerous scandals rocked the broadcasting industry in the late 1950s, many of which had more to do with perceptions of broadcasters' candor with the audience than with violations of any statute. A particular concern in the radio business, as the radio networks and house orchestras of the big-band era became less important and more and more stations played records for a substantial fraction of their programming, was “payola” — the practice of stations, program producers, or disk jockeys accepting payments from record companies in exchange for promotion of the records being played, without informing the audience that they were listening to an advertisement. (This was and is permitted if commercial sponsorship is disclosed.) Often, DJs would take payments secretly, without even telling their employers that they were doing so. On December 3, 1959, the FCC issues a notice requiring all stations to report whether their employees or independent contractors had received such undisclosed payments in the previous year.


Mar. 3
WLYN (1360) sold to Theodore Feinstein.
Apr. 27
WBMS (1090) changes format from classical to popular music.
May 25
WBMS-FM (104.1) appears in the Daily Boston Globe radio listings for the last time. It's not known if the station was still on the air at this time or if the Globe was just late in updating its FM listings.
Oct. 8
WORL (950) is purchased by Pilgrim, moves transmitter to Saugus.


WBMS becomes WHEE.
June 10
WCAP, Lowell, started on 980 kHz.
WGBH(FM) started on 89.7 MHz
Dec. 22
WCOP is sold to a partnership of T.B. Baker, Jr., A.G. Beaman, and Roy V. Whisnand.


Mar. 10
WBZ begins 24-hour programming.
May 14
WHEE (1090) returns to old WBMS callsign.
Aug. 20
WBMS moves studios from 35 Court St. to the Hotel Shelton, 91 Bay State Road, in Kenmore Square.


June 17
WNAC purchases WLAW, moves to 680; 1260 becomes WVDA. WNAC keeps its previous FM service on 98.5, in preference to WLAW-FM's 93.7; WLAW-FM's license is returned to the FCC.
Sep. 27
WTAO-TV, Cambridge, started on channel 56.
Oct. 14
WHOB, Gardner, becomes WGAW.


July 8
WCOP sold to Boston Post.
Aug. 3
WBMS (1090 Boston) moves studios to the Somerset Hotel, 400 Commonwealth Ave.
Aug. 31
Hurricane Carol knocks down the WBZ-TV tower, behind the studios on Soldiers Field Road.


May 2
WGBH-TV starts on channel 2.


WTAO-TV goes dark.
May 3
Boston Post folds, sells WCOP to Plough.
Oct. 1
WMRC started on 1490 kHz.


May 8
Friendly Group files to sell WBMS (1090 Boston) to Bartell Broadcasters. (Granted June 13.)
June 25
The Richmonds purchase WMEX from Poté brothers.
WMEX goes Top-40.
Sept. 5
Bartell's purchase of WBMS is consummated; the station becomes WILD.
Nov. 26
WHDH-TV started on channel 5.
Dec. 2
WVDA becomes WEZE.


Oct. 22
Bartell files to sell WILD (1090 Boston) to Nelson B. Noble. (Granted Nov. 19.) Noble hires air talent away from other Boston stations and launches a new “non-top forty” format on December 15.

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