On many websites telling the history of ABC's FM stations, there appears a prevalent myth that ABC had "screwed up" and accidentally requested WDAI for Chicago when it was intended for Detroit, with the WRIF call letters having originally been intended for Chicago. Unfortunately, it has only been in recent years that back issues of Broadcasting have become available for research purposes at David Gleason's American Radio History website, so the authors of those websites created a half-truth in the absence of access to documentation. So, using the archives now available, we are setting the record straight.
The September 21, 1970 issue of Broadcasting (shown at right) reported that ABC had requested the following call letter changes for its FM stations:
- KABC-FM Los Angeles: KLIA
- KGO-FM San Francisco: KSFX
- WLS-FM Chicago: WXAI
- WXYZ-FM Detroit: WDAI
- WABC-FM New York: WRIF
- KQV-FM Pittsburgh: WDVE
- KXYZ-FM Houston: KAUM
Only the San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Houston requests were honored by the FCC. The other markets encountered difficulty in receiving their requested calls; back in those days a licensee had to advise all other stations within its grade-B contour of the call letter request, and any of those stations could file an objection with the FCC and block the change. Although we'll never know for sure this many years after the fact, it seems likely that this was the reason that ABC had to go back and request different calls in those markets:
- KABC-FM Los Angeles: KLOS (reported April 12, 1971)
- WLS-FM Chicago: WDAI (reported March 8, 1971)
- WXYZ-FM Detroit: WRIF (reported November 23, 1970)
- WABC-FM New York: WPLJ (reported March 8, 1971)
So while it is true that ABC intended WDAI to be the Detroit FM call letters, they did not "screw up" as the myth has purported all these years; they ran into difficulty in the request process -- not only in Detroit but in three other markets as well -- and had to move the WDAI request from Detroit to Chicago, replacing it in Detroit with the WRIF request from New York. It's possible ABC intended this to be a temporary situation and had hoped to juggle the calls back to the intended stations at a later date, but for whatever reason that never happened.
As the late Paul Harvey would have said (but not on any of those FMs): Now you know the rest of the story.