REC's Broadcast Query Tool (fccdata.org) uses a raw data feed from the Federal Communications Commission's Consolidated Data Base System (CDBS). CDBS was deployed at the FCC in 1999 as a replacement to the former Broadcast Application Processing System (BAPS). BAPS was deployed in 1978. Prior to BAPS, all broadcast license records were typed on 3 x 5 index cards and kept in a card catalog. These cards maintained a basic history of the station including every application that was placed and their outcome. When the FCC moved their offices to the Portals in 1999, the 3 x 5 cards were transferred to microfilm and eventually destroyed. The FCC has made the History Cards accessible to the general public.
CDBS is a modern system that contained a lot of new functionality and much more flexibility. During the CDBS era, electronic filing and the ability for broadcasters and potential broadcasters to interface directly with the CDBS system was possible. CDBS has also maintained a comprehensive database of both current station engineering and legal information as well as non-current (archive) data. When the FCC performed the conversion from BAPS to CDBS, only "current" data as of 1999 was carried over. There was no detailed archived data (facility data that no longer applied due to subsequent application activity). The BAPS to CDBS conversion moved over basic information about a broadcast application but it did not include the engineering details if the record was not "current" at the time of conversion.
This made CDBS a fantastic source for tracing a station's history back to 1999 but data from prior to 1999 was incomplete and history data prior to 1978 was almost non-existent. (Although many AM stations are still running on their facilities authorized during the History Card era.)
The REC Radio History Project comprises of several initatives with the overall goal of placing into REC's Broadcast Query Tool (fccdata.org) as much historical engineering related information to give the full picture of the history of a broadcast facility from the beginning of radio. This has been made more of a reality with the recent availability of scanned data from the FCC's pre-1980 broadcast history cards. That data goes back as early as 1927 when the Federal Radio Commission was created. Additional data sources bring us back to KDKA, WRR, WJZ, WBZ and the other pioneer stations circa 1921.
History Card Preservation Project
Status: AM only - market 1 most stations. In markets 2 to 7, K call markets completed, W call markets include most stations. Markets 8 & 9, stations with history cards with legacy calls beginning with WA-WI.
The most time consuming part of this project is the History Card Preservation Project. Data from the FCC History Cards is manually typed into four different Excel spreadsheets which are then converted to comma delimited files and then uploaded into four dedicated tables in the REC database which are used for historical data.
The REC Radio History Project records all applications that involve technical changes to the facility as well as legal changes such as transfers and assignments as well as call sign and frequency history. We have also been including some of the more interesting requests for Special Temporary Authority such as KFI's request to carry communication from Amelia Earhart as she flies from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Some items such as renewals and information about auxiliiary facilities are not recorded. We also note that the BAPS did not hold much information on transfers and assignments. For example, our enhanced record for KHJ shows when General Tire (RKO General) owned the station but then it jumps to the Liberman sale to IHR. We will be working on future enhancements to fccdata.org to try to reconstruct these ownership transfers.
This is a time-available project as it is very time consuming. It can take anywhere from a half hour to over 3 hours per station based on when it was started. For example a 1920s era station may take up to 4 times as long compared to a 1950s era station, especially if the station started as a daytime only station.
It is also important to note that while broadcast applicants were required to put the geographic coordinates on their applications, this information was rarely carried over to the History Cards (this practice did not start until the mid-70s). Instead, a description of the location for the transmitter was given. Sometimes, these were street address. However, sometimes there were only street names or even less descriptive (3.5 miles SE of Podunk). Also, applications could be filed without a site specified and the grant would be contingent on finding an authorized site. Therefore, the coordinates used in REC History Card data is our best estimate especially since street names have changed over the years. We will do our best to note that a location is approximate on the first record we use the location in question.
This project also includes the manual archiving of Assign License/Transfer Control (ALTC) applications filed during the BAPS era so that they show up in the "From/To" fielded format similar to how fccdata.org displays CDBS ALTC records. The assignment (sale) of stations over the years is a very important part of the history of radio.
If an interested party is seriously interested in taking the time to add this data to our database, please contact REC and we will give you the instructions for filing out the tables so they can be submitted to REC.
Records that have been enhanced with History Card data carry a large brown REC Radio History Project banner graphic at the top of the screen. They can also be seen the Dialscape (list of stations by city) by a red H next to the frequency.
For a list of stations already archived, CLICK HERE!
At this time, the FCC has completed all AM "K" call sign stations as well as the "W" stations from WA through WT. This is a "as-time-permits" project with no budget assigned to it. The FCC does not know if/when this project will ever be completed or if it will ever move forward to FM.
BAPS File Recovery Project
Public Notice Comment Recovery Project
Public Notice Comment Engineering File Project
Radio Service Bulletin Digitization Project
Status: Basic data set as well as the linking to nearly 400 CDBS facilities has been completed. The data is now live at FCCdata.org. We are in the process of looking for typos and once we clear that, we will be working towards making open source data available.
Starting in 1915, the Bureau of Navigation of the US Department of Commerce and eventually the Federal Radio Commission published the Radio Service Bulletin on a monthly basis (except during World War I) which was a publication mainly for radio operators and amateurs which gave information on new coastal and ship stations along with other land stations. Eventually, the RSB would also include broadcast stations. REC has digitzed data from 134 different issues of the Radio Service Bulletin starting with the creation of KDKA as a non-broadcast station in late 1920 until mid-1932. A total of 1,786 facilities have been documented of which, over 650 were still in operation at the end of the data run (but not necessarily by the time when computers came along in 1978). The quality of the data is not perfect and there were many typographical errors in the original bulletins that had to be investigated and corrected. Some changes were never published in the RSB so we had to go to alternate sources such as history cards and third parties in order to create as much of a history as possible. Once completed, RSB data for hundreds of heritage AM stations as well as former call sign data for all 1700+ facilities will be available through FCCdata.org. We plan to put in features to view deleted facilities and we plan to make the basic RSB data available to other radio historians under a Creative Commons license.
Station records with RSB data will be indicated by a large green banner under the facility information. To access the data, click on the "Historical Grid View" link. Facilities with RSB data will be identified on the dialscape (list of stations by frequency in a particular community) by looking for a green H after the call sign. RSB information also appears in the call sign history.
How you can get involved in the project
Adding data to the project involves accessing the history cards from the FCC website and then recording the data from the cards in a specific format in either Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc and then transferring the data to REC through a CSV (comma delimited) file. This data is then imported into the database so it can be displayed in fccdata.org. This process has been updated and is now done through a smart user interface.
At this time, the Project is only working on AM stations (for history card data). We do not believe that the FCC has released any history cards for FM stations. REC is moving forward on FM and TV history from 1978 forward.
We would like to find people who have an interest in a particular metro market and work on the AM stations in that market. Not only would this help others who wish to research these stations but it is an excellent learning experience in the history of broadcast radio in your area.
We are also looking for anyone who just happens to have an old floppy or other media with a FCC database (BAPS) download from the FCC's FTP site or from the website. We are particularly interested in finding anything from before 1995.
Serious requests for participation in the project can be directed using the Contact REC Networks link on the REC website. We estimate that it takes approximately 2 hours per station to compile the data (some stations, such as those started in the 1920s or 1930s and especially if they were daytime only stations may take much longer).