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Can the same call letters be used by different stations?

John Bruce (jonthebru) at our discussion forum site asks: “Can call letters be used by other stations?”

“We are contemplating a change in call letters associated with a change in direction for a non commercial station. (Sorry, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag so I can’t share details at this time.) Is there any precedence for call letters to be shared across the country in a completely different area and ownership?

Obviously a new unused set would be the easiest but some used call letters would fit well, is it ever done?”

To which comes this reply from Beej6:

“You can’t use the exact call letters; however with permission from the primary callsign owner you could use their callsign on a different broadcast ‘service’. Our example is KGCE-LP, a new LPFM. I got permission graciously from KGCE-LD, a low power digital TV station to use the KGCE calls.

AM, FM, LP, TV, LD are all different broadcast services . . . “

Any other thoughts on this question? Comments welcome here, or post something on our forum.

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One Response to Can the same call letters be used by different stations?

  1. Michael Black March 24, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Yes, as mentioned, you can ask the licensee that owns the calls of a station you are looking for to use for an LPFM. However, I have not seen where an LPFM would be assigned the call signs in the same service (FM and LPFM). I have seen call letters shared as the example you cite with a TV. However, it is not as common to happen in FM and AM stations, unless the same licensee holds the calls. The FCC usually reserves the right for a licensee, once the call is assigned, to keep it for other services. So, the calls WXXI, which started as a TV, is also used as WXXI for an AM station, and WXXI-FM for an FM station. The other thing to keep in mind, with the exception of some historical calls, the Mississippi River dividing line rule still applies, with station west of the river starting with a K and to the east W.

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