The Jacksonville Broadcasters Association was organized to honor the legacy of our region’s radio and television pioneers.
Our members represent journalism, engineering, on-air talent, production and technical staff, sales and management.
As broadcasters, we’re dedicated to building on a proud legacy to continue serving this community in this rapidly evolving industry.
Amid all the content coming at us from every direction and device, let’s take a moment to consider the humble beginnings of electronic mass communications in Jacksonville.
On Thanksgiving Day 1925, WJAX signed on 890 AM as the city’s first radio station. (Actually, three other radio stations launched in Jacksonville in the early 1920s, but they each went dark within two years.)
Those first stations began a century of rapid expansion of free, over-the-air broadcasting of news, information, music, sports, and other entertainment — a medium that attracted thousands of talented professionals over the years.
JBA is here to remember the accomplishments of those men and women and each new generation of broadcasters that evolves with the industry, using the latest technology to better serve our community on multiple platforms.
Jacksonville’s first radio station, WJAX, went on the air in 1925 from the City Water Works Department at Main and First Streets. The NBC affiliate was owned and operated by the city of Jacksonville. (Three stations actually preceded WJAX but could not maintain operations beyond a few months.)
Two years later, WMBR joined the airwaves with CBS programming. It took another 13 years for the next station to sign on: WJHP. It was owned by a local newspaper – The Metropolis – sand offered local programming augmented by the Mutual Radio Network.
In 1942, WPDQ introduced the Florida-American Radio Network to Northeast Florida.
A dozen years later, WAPE, called The Big Ape, set fire to the coastline from Florida to the Carolinas with a 50,000-watt signal and a music format called Top 40. (Remember that Tarzan-like ape scream at every break?)
Today there are scores of AM and FM stations in our coverage area broadcasting music, sports, talk, religious programming, and more.
Radio built its reputation and success upon the personalities of the men and women behind the mic. Their names became legends: Tommy Tucker, Ted Chapeau, Ed Bell, Marshall Rowland, Ken Knight, Virginia Atter, Greaseman, Willie Martin, Johnny Shaw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law, and the live bands led Toby Dowdy, Jimmy Strickland, Johnny Jelinick.
With looser FCC ownership rules and numerous mergers and consolidations over the last three decades, a dozen of Jacksonville’s 16+ full-power radio stations are now owned by just two corporations: Cox Media Group and iHeartMedia.
Television arrived in Jacksonville 28 years after Philo Farnsworth invented the first TV. In 1949, WMBR became only the second television station in Florida, broadcasting on channel 4 from a post-war Quonset hut by the south end of Main Street Bridge. It was a CBS and DuMont network affiliate. In 1958, the station changed its call letters to WJXT.
WJHP followed in 1953 on UHF channel 36 with NBC and ABC affiliations, but the station went dark four years later.
In 1957, WFGA lit up channel 12 as an NBC network affiliate and as America’s first TV station built from the ground up for color broadcasting. In 1974 new owners changed the call letters to WTLV. In the 1980s, it briefly affiliated with ABC before returning to NBC.
Community-owned WJCT-TV station signed on channel 7 in 1958. It transitioned from educational TV to becoming a member of PBS.
WJKS began transmitting on channel 17 in 1966. An ABC affiliate for most of the three decades, it is now a CW Network affiliate under the call letters WCWJ.
Channel 47 signed on in 1980 as WXAO, carrying a variety of Christian and family programming. Over the years it changed ownership, call letters, and formats a few times before affiliating with CBS in 2002 as WTEV. It would change names again – to WJAX – in 2014.
In 1981, WAWS lit up Channel 30 and would become a charter affiliate of the new Fox network five years later. It remains a Fox affiliate, changing its name to WFOX in 2014.
Channel 25 signed on in 1990 from Brunswick, the first Georgia broadcaster in the Jacksonville TV market. WPXC went on to become a WB affiliate, then ABC affiliate, in 1997 with an ownership and call letter change to WJXX.
After numerous ownership and affiliation changes in the Jacksonville television market over the last few decades, just three corporations own the six primary commercial stations in town and only one station is still affiliated with the same network that it carried 30 years ago.
Several low-power TV stations have joined Jacksonville airwaves in recent decades, as have secondary stations on each licensed frequency enabled by digital broadcasting.
The next technological change – NextGen TV – promises to delight cord-cutters and offer more revenue potential to local stations. This interactive, 4K over-the-air television will offer higher quality and even more options to owners of the newest generation of television receivers.
The Jacksonville Broadcasters Association Inc. is a non-profit corporation registered in the state of Florida.
The association is not affiliated with any current or past broadcasting or media company or entity.