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September 1989

With all the new commercial shortwave broadcast stations that have started up from the U.S. in recent years, you might think this is the first time the U.S. has been so amply represented by private interests on SW. But not so. Before WW II all international SW broadcasting from the U.S. was done by private companies, including some of the biggest names in the broadcasting industry. These stations were eventually closed down or absorbed by the VOA. Most of us have little knowledge of them, or of our country's considerable shortwave history.

General Electric started shortwave broadcasting in 1924 with Schenectady stations W2XAF and W2XAD. At the outset they relayed MW station WGY, but they eventually commenced foreign language programming to Europe and South America in 1931. In 1937 GE opened a station in Belmont, California - W6XBE, which eventually became KGEI. W2XAD became WGEA, and W2XAF became WGEO, both eventually being absorbed by the VOA. A 1944 card from the GE stations is shown at the top right.

Chicago station W9XF eventually carried NBC programming, as this 1937 card shows, but it started out as a shortwave frequency of the Great Lakes Broadcasting Co.'s medium wave station, WENR, putting out 5 kw on 6020 kHz. W9XF was intended to transmit WENP programming to foreign countries for rebroadcast by local stations. This, rather than direct broadcasting to overseas listeners, was the purpose behind much of the early shortwave broadcasting.

CBS was in the shortwave broadcast game long before 1944, the date of this card. W2XE, as it was first known, opened in 1928, carrying the medium wave programming of WABC. Power went from 250 watts to 10 kw in 1937. The station was "a good station to test on because of its consistent operation." By May 1942, CBS had an international broadcasting staff of 89 people.