KKHI 1550 Transmitter Site
KKHI, broadcasting on 1550 kHz., was the descendant of the San Mateo radio station KSMO, which first went on the air on March 17, 1947. The station became KEAR in 1952, and increased its power from 1,000 watts to 10,000 watts in 1953 from its transmitting plant along the Bayshore Highway in Belmont (pictured above around 1976; see below on this page for a more recent aerial view).
Unable to reach profitability with a format of classical music, KEAR was leased to Bartell Broadcasters in May 1956, with the intention to convert the station to a popular music format as KACE; the lease fell through, and Bartell later purchased KYA/1260. After having its studios padlocked by the IRS, KEAR’s owners sold the station in 1956, at which time it became KOBY, airing the first Top 40 rock’n’roll music format in the Bay Area.
In 1960, KOBY switched to a “good music” format, and was sold again to new owners who had its call letters changed to KQBY (with the “Q” standing for “Quality”). Again facing financial distress, KQBY went off the air in July 1961 before finding new owners and resuming broadcasts as KKHI in November of that year.
KKHI began broadcasting classical music again in 1964, a tradition it continued until May 30, 1994, when the station became the property of Group W Radio, a subsidiary of Westinghouse Broadcasting. On that date, KKHI became KPIX, sister station to KPIX-TV (Channel 5), and began airing a news and talk format (with jazz music on weekends) dubbed “The Express,” which lasted until later that year.
In 1995, Westinghouse merged with CBS, Inc., and on July 1, 1997, KPIX/1550 became KYCY, simulcasting the “Young Country” music format of co-owned KYCY-FM. In September 1999, KYCY/1550 began airing a schedule of syndicated talk programs. In Spring 2005, the station launched an “All Podcasting” format — the first of its kind anywhere — playing pre-recorded short programs submitted by podcasters around the world. While retaining the KYCY call letters, the station began identifying itself as “K-You Radio.”
On January 1, 2009, KYCY became the latest incarnation of KFRC, as the call letters returned to the AM dial (where they last appeared in 2005 at 610 AM) along with the syndicated “True Oldies Channel” programming hosted by legendary disc jockey Michael Scott Shannon.
The station currently holds a construction permit that will allow it to abandon the Belmont transmitter facility and move to a new site near Milpitas, along with increasing its power to 50,000 watts during daytime hours and 40,000 watts at night. The proposed move, originally approved by the FCC in 1998, has met with opposition from civic groups in the Southbay that have delayed the plan from being completed.
ABOVE: An aerial view of the 1550 AM transmitter site in Belmont as it appeared in
late 2008. The transmitter building is the grayish square in the lower center of the
photo; the two objects near it are billboards. The three transmitter towers are at
the right-center portion of the photograph. (From Google Maps)