WCNB from Indiana
heard in Finland 6700 km away
What 4.6 watts can do
How I love my wife, what
else can I say. And the way my wife sounds... so
sweet. Only this time, the wife was actually WIFE,
a country station in Connersville, Indiana, simulcasting
on AM with call letters WCNB. However, it's not
the great country music, not even the fact that
this "Hitkicker 100" was coming all the
way from Indiana, but its amazingly low transmitter
power that gave me the most kicks. I had picked
up a station with mere 4.6 watts of power - at a
distance of 6742 kilometers (4189 miles).
in the United States is the time to catch real rarities
from there. Of course for daytimers, sunset - or
very rarely also sunrise - is the only possible
time to pick them up in Finland, but even for other
stations dusk and dawn are the moments to watch
for. Unfortunately, only very seldom are the propagation
conditions favorable already this early in the evening.
January 16th 1995 was one of those exceptional evenings.
At the time, it didn't look like
much of a success. Only a couple of the most common
North American stations were audible before 2300
UTC. On this LEM83 DXpedition to Lemmenjoki I had
kept a close watch for stations on 1570 and 1580
kHz, and once again I had a feeling that something
might emerge on 1580. There was no audio, but somehow
it sounded promising, so I left the recording on,
and was away for a few minutes - perhaps scanning
the fridge instead of the dial, I don't remember
When I returned to catch the
top of the hour station identifications, nothing
was heard on 1580 nor on any other interesting frequency.
So much for it, I thought, but decided to keep the
recording and check it later, because it is very
typical for stations to pop up for a short moment
at sunset. Later I identified stations like WSPD
(1370), WGVU (1480) and WENE (1430) along with some
The good old Whitewater
WIFE/WCNB in downtown
It was only later back at home
when I was listening through my tapes, when I found
out that I had caught less than a minute of audio
on 1580 kHz. There was a station identification
"... WIFE AM 1580 WCNB Connersville-Richmond",
followed by a spot or sponsor's announcement: "...
brought to you by the Whitewater Valley ... Pavilion".
The signal was relatively clear, but faded away
immediately after this. A brief visit indeed, but
for once, what a timing with the station
The calls didn't ring any bell,
but I did recognize Whitewater Valley. There are
probably several in the U.S., but I remembered canoeing
in what was called Little Whitewater River in Indiana,
close to the Ohio border, 15 years earlier - at
the age of 15. I searched for stations in the area
and found WIFE Connersville, Indiana, listed on
1580 kHz. Connersville is located in an area called
the Whitewater Valley, not surprisingly at the Whitewater
River in Fayette County, Eastern Indiana - not too
far from the tributary where I paddled for the first
Believing my eyes more than my
ears, I logged the station first as WIFE, but later
I found out that three months earlier the FM and
AM calls had been swapped in connection with a reshape
of the format. The bigger surprise was however yet
to come. The listed transmitter powers were suspiciously
low (250 watts daytime, 5 watts nighttime), and
I was hoping that the station would explain if this
really was the situation.
A friendly voice
from the Friendly Voice
On a May afternoon I received
a confirmation of reception from WIFE-WCNB Chief
Engineer Mike Peacock. And not just any confirmation,
but a nice
letter along with a long, fun and very informative
letter (16-minute MP3) followed by a recording
of their broadcast - and a t-shirt of the station!
Chief Engineer Mike Peacock
The station went on the air in
1948 as The Friendly Voice of the Whitewater
Valley - WCNB. Around 1980 they applied the
call letters WIFE for the AM station after another
station in Indianapolis with those calls had gone
out of business.
- We applied the WIFE call letters
simply because they're clever, the word wife. We
have a lot of fun with slogans that we run, says
Chief Engineer Mike Peacock in his recorded message.
The FCC assigned the calls, and the AM station remained
WIFE until 1994. Thereafter the calls have been
used on 100.3 MHz, a 30.000-watt 24-hour station,
identifying as The New Wife FM, Hot country and
then some, Hitkicker 100.
Peacock explained in detail the
FCC system of allocating licenses with different
transmitter powers. The AM used to be a daytime-only
station until late 1980's. Thanks to WCNB's present
post-sunset authority, I was able to pick them up
even after sunset. I heard the station at 2253-2254
UTC. As it was the middle of the month, the sunset
(which I estimated was at about 2246 UTC or 5:46
p.m. Eastern time) coincided with the time the station
was forced to drop power.
- When you picked us up, we were
on our nighttime reduced power. Because you picked
us up at 5:53 p.m. Eastern time, that means that
would have been about 8 minutes after we reduced
our power at 5:45 p.m. At night we reduce the power
to - I hope you're sitting down, you won't believe
this - at night we reduce our power to 4.6 watts.
You picked our station up, on your DX-expedition,
and we were only running 4.6 watts of power. Isn't
that amazing!, Peacock explained enthusiastically.
Peacock should know about transmitting
powers - he is not only an experienced chief engineer
but a ham operator and a shortwave listener!
Record low power
from U.S. to Europe
This was the first time - and
to my knowledge the only time - that WCNB has been
heard in Europe. And as far as I know, 4.6 watts
is the lowest power for an American station ever
heard across the Atlantic in Europe. However, a
1-watt signal from the U.K. has been heard in Newfoundland,
at a distance which is about half of that between
Indiana and Lapland.
It is hard to beat the power
of WCNB, but many other stations come close to such
lows. In Northern Europe there are basically two
options if you're aiming at stations with the lowest
possible power - which many DXers do. One is to
hunt the Canadian CBC relays, some of which are
40-watt stations. I have managed to get two with
regional programming, CBSI4 Labrador City NF (1240
kHz) and CBKC Fort Vermillion AB (1460 kHz). The
other option is to stay put on 1570 or 1580 kHz.
There are of course low-power stations also on local
and regional channels, but 1570 and especially 1580
are safer bets.
1570 opened out years ago after
CKLM vacated the frequency, and luckily CBJ on 1580
is also moving to FM. Most of the remaining stations
on both channels nowadays have licenses giving unlimited
time operation, but with a very restricted nighttime
power - precisely what makes these channels very
As an example of what can
be heard - here in Northern Europe - the following
tables demonstrate what I have netted on 1570 and
1580 kHz during my 22 years of DXing. Call letters
and powers reflect situation at the time of listening.
Clicking the QSL link will let you view some of
the verifications I have received - a word of warning,
the files are large.
In Lapland, the frequency of
1570 kHz is dominated by the Canadian CKMW Winkler
MB and the Mexican XERF, which I believe is not
the case in much of Western Europe. Therefore in
Western Europe 1570 should be a more rewarding frequency
than in Finland - provided that you can mount a
long beverage antenna, a prerequisite for catching
the real treats of the frequency.
On the other hand, 1580 kHz seems
to offer stations with even lower nighttime powers.
A couple of these merit a special note both because
of their low powers and because of their friendly
- KOKB - This one I picked
up on my first DXpedition to Lapland, broadcasting
a football game hosted by Steve Taylor, from a
local high-school. At nighttime they use variable
power levels, 50 watts on my lucky night. It was
the first time KOKB was heard in Europe, so the
reply by Station Manager William Stan Bivin was
overwhelmingly generous. He even had the entire
me a personal Christmas message on a cassette
(now a 4-minute MP3)!
- KNIM - Heard this one
with oldies music and several identifications
mentioning only their FM frequency of 97.1 MHz.
President Steve Mickelson must have realized how
cold it gets up here because he sent me a KNIM
jacket and four coffee mugs! Well, he does have
Norwegian heritage. He didn't say anything about
the transmitter power, so I have relied on information
in the AM Radio Log, which gives a nighttime power
of just 11 watts.
- KFQC - Finally
got this one verified from the former director
after about a dozen reports, faxes and phone calls
to various addresses. The reason for this unusually
persistent effort was their nighttime power of
only 7 watts, which for me is second only to WCNB,
as far as North American stations are concerned.
Unfortunately, the station has been off the air
for the past couple of years.
For me 1580 has been the most
productive frequency in scoring low-power stations
from North America. Unfortunately at the present
stage of the solar cycle it is tough to hear anything
on this frequency, let alone the low-power rarities.
For example during the 1999-2000 season I didn't
hear a single U.S. station on either 1570 or 1580
However, in the coming years
as solar indices will hopefully improve, you know
what frequency I will be hooked on. Although somehow
I believe nothing will ever be quite like my lovely
(published on February
28th 2000, last update on April 23rd 2002)