Boston’s WGBH Call Sign Makes a ‘Hill’ of a Lot of Sense
While perusing the internet, I learned a little something that the media geek in me never knew about until today: how Boston’s WGBH got its call letters.
WGBH is the call sign for both the public radio and public television stations in Boston, so I always assumed it stood for “Greater Boston” something-or-other.
It turns out, I was off by a few miles.
Call signs are often used as a branding tool. It could be an abbreviation of a longer name for the station, such as the late, great WBCN in Boston, which started life as a classical station known as the Boston Concert Network.
It can allude to a slogan, such as Chicago’s WGN, which stood for “World’s Greatest Newspaper,” as it was owned by the Chicago Tribune and that was the paper’s slogan.
It can also be related to its location, such as WNBH right here in the Whaling City, which broadcast from the New Bedford Hotel, or Fun 107’s WFHN, which, of course, broadcasts from Fairhaven.
It was the latter which led to the creation of the WGBH call sign, which came about as a reference to the radio and TV station’s original location for its broadcast transmitters: atop the Great Blue Hill in the Blue Hills range that runs through Randolph, Canton and Milton.
So WGBH actually stands for “Great Blue Hill.”
At 635 feet, it’s the tallest peak in the Blue Hills and the highest elevation in the Boston area, so it was a natural spot for WGBH to place its towers. In 1966, the TV transmitter was moved to Needham (where most other Boston stations have their transmitters) but the FM radio transmitter remains atop the hill to this day.