Here’s Why Ocean County Didn’t Have A Radio Station Before 1968 [50 Memories in 50 Days]
Written by WOBM Chief Engineer Tom Trembly
Some have wondered – did anyone try to create a radio station in Ocean County before WOBM came along?
The answer is yes!
Until WOBM signed on in 1968, Ocean County was very unique in that it was part of a large, 65 mile expanse between Asbury Park and Atlantic City with no radio station of any kind. But the absence of an Ocean County radio station wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Even in 1968, FM radio was still largely the “odd man out” with few listeners – AM radio was dominant. (The exact opposite is true today.) So the very first attempt at radio in Ocean County was on the AM dial, at 1230 kHz.
Starting in 1957, the following parties submitted their applications for a Toms River station at 1230 AM to the FCC:
- WFPG, Inc. (then owner of WOBM’s present day sister station in Atlantic City, Lite Rock 96.9 WFPG)
- Ocean County Broadcasters (was affiliated with another Atlantic City area station)
- Harlan Murrelle & Associates (was affiliated with two present day Atlantic City area stations)
- Radio Toms River (Nicholas J. Zaccagino, an NBC employee who resided in New Rochelle, NY)
But after a protracted legal battle, the FCC reached a final decision in 1962. No one would be building a new AM radio station in Toms River.
The reason? The distance AM radio signals travel (at least during daylight hours) is determined by “ground conductivity”, or how easily signals travel through different types of soil or water. Sandy coastal soil has the worst possible ground conductivity, with the range of AM signals extremely limited. By contrast the ground conductivity of seawater is by far the best, with even low power AM signals traveling hundreds of miles across the open ocean.
This last fact is what did AM radio in for Ocean County. With Toms River being equidistant to New York and Philadelphia, and even closer to Atlantic City, the radio dials – both AM and FM – are extremely crowded. Very few frequencies exist where a new radio station can be placed without causing interference to other stations. Previous attempts to establish new stations at 1230 AM in Red Bank and Freehold were also scuttled by the FCC, since those Monmouth County towns are too close to other stations in the crowed radio dial surrounding New York City.
While the possibility seemed tantalizing, a new radio station in Toms River at 1230 AM would need to operate with very low power (100 watts) to avoid interference over a wide coastal expanse from Virginia to Massachusetts. Meanwhile coverage in the local Toms River area would be poor due to sandy soil coupled with low power. Ultimately, the FCC decided that it would be better to allow other stations in Wildwood and Long Island to increase their power to the recently allowed 1000 watt maximum rather than establish a new station with a tiny signal in Toms River.
The 1230 AM saga wasn’t the only “pre-WOBM” attempt at Ocean County radio. In 1958, WJLK (now our sister station 94.3 The Point) applied for a new 500 watt, daytime only radio station on 1350 AM in South Toms River. This application would later be dismissed in favor of a new radio station on 1350 AM in Princeton.
On the FM dial, WJLK also made some attempts to expand into Ocean County. The first effort was a 1958 attempt to change frequency to 101.5 FM with a major power boost, including a signal that would blanket all of Ocean County. However, the FCC denied this in favor of a Trenton station. (Decades later, that Trenton station would become our sister station WKXW, New Jersey 101.5.)
Having completely lost out in 1958, WJLK decided to try again, this time seeking a move to 104.7 with a large power boost, a new studio at 713 Arnold Ave., Pt. Pleasant Beach, and a tower at the Ocean/Monmouth line just south of Allaire State Park. This plan was actually approved by the FCC in May 1962, but WJLK decided not to proceed with it in September 1963. This coincides with the time when it became a very clear that a new station on 92.7 would be built in Toms River, so perhaps WJLK was “scared off” by what would become WOBM!
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