KCBS (740 AM, "All News 740 KCBS") is an all-news radio station in San Francisco, California, that is a key West Coast flagship radio station of the CBS Radio Network and Westwood One. Its transmitter is located in Novato, California.
On December 9, 1921, Herrold received a commercial license under the callsign KQW. It was the 21st licensed radio station in the United States and the 11th in California. However, the "arc-phone" Herrold had been using for over a decade had to be scrapped. It would only work at wavelengths above 600 meters, and all radio stations were restricted to 360 meters (roughly the equivalent of 830 kHz). He quickly created a replacement, using a tube-like transmitter drawing power from San Jose's streetcar lines. However, he never recovered financially from the loss of his arcphone, and was forced to put the station on the market in 1925. After initially giving an option to a civic foundation, he sold it to the First Baptist Church of San Jose. Herrold stayed on as a technician for the station he'd created for a few years, but died in obscurity in 1947.
There is at least one authentic broadcast recording chronicling this early history. On November 10, 1945, KQW presented a special program called "The Story of KQW," commemorating Herrold's early broadcasts. It includes a brief recorded statement by Herrold, just before his 70th birthday. During the introduction to the program, a KQW announcer explains that the program was produced to mark the 25th anniversary of the broadcasting industry as well as the 36th anniversary of KQW. The announcer then goes on to say that KQW was the first radio station in the world to operate on a regular schedule. The major events in Herrold's work are then dramatized.
In 1926, station manager James Hart bought KQW's license and facilities, buying the station itself in 1930. Until 1942, it operated as a service of the Pacific Agricultural Foundation to farmers in the Central Valley. A series of power boosts brought the station to 5,000 watts by 1935. It was the San Jose affiliate of the Don Lee Broadcasting System from 1937 to 1941.
However, in 1942, CBS offered to move its San Francisco affiliation to KQW after KSFO-AM 560 turned down CBS' offer to buy the station. KQW jumped at this offer, having been without a source of network programming for over a year. CBS moved its affiliation to KQW later that year, with an option to buy the station outright. KQW moved to a lavish CBS-owned studio at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. For all intents and purposes, it became a San Francisco station, though it continued to be licensed in San Jose. An announcer remained at the transmitter to identify the station as "KQW, San Jose" every hour.
At the end of World War II, KQW found itself in a battle with KSFO for its longtime home on 740 kHz, the last Bay Area frequency that was authorized to operate at 50,000 watts. When CBS affiliated with KSFO in 1937, it cut a deal with KQW to swap frequencies with KSFO, which would then boost its power to 50,000 watts. The change was waiting FCC approval when World War II broke out. By 1945, however, KQW had become San Francisco's CBS affiliate, and CBS was obviously not about to give up the advantage of having the last 50,000-watt frequency in the Bay Area. While the FCC granted the frequency to KSFO, its owners, Associated Broadcasters, later decided to concentrate on plans for its new television station, KPIX-TV. Eventually, Associated Broadcasters traded 740 back to CBS in return for KPIX getting the CBS television affiliation for the Bay Area.
CBS exercised its option to buy KQW in 1949, changing the calls to KCBS. It also officially changed the city of license to San Francisco after seven years. In 1951, KCBS signed on with 50,000 watts for the first time from an elaborate multi-tower facility in Novato originally intended for KSFO. However, the station is a class B station, not a Class A (clear-channel).
In 1968, KCBS became one of the first all-news stations in the country. However, it already had a long history in news dating to World War II, when it was the center of CBS' news-gathering efforts in the Pacific Theater. KCBS is currently the eighth oldest fully licensed radio station in the United States, the third oldest in California (behind KWG in Stockton and sister station KNX in Los Angeles) and the oldest in the Bay Area.
Westinghouse Electric Corporation (which purchased KPIX-TV from Associated Broadcasters in 1954) bought CBS in 1995, bringing the Bay Area's oldest radio station and its oldest television station under common ownership. In May, 2006, KCBS and KPIX-TV moved their San Jose news bureau to the Fairmont Tower at 50 W. San Fernando St., the address of Charles Herrold's original broadcasts. Although CBS management was not aware of the history of the San Fernando St. address when the move was planned, they quickly recognized and embraced its significance when informed, giving long-overdue credit at the bureau's opening celebration to one of the inventors of broadcasting.
KCBS is noted for broadcasts every weekday morning with hall of famer, former Oakland Raiders coach, and sportscaster John Madden. The morning hosts and Madden talk about upcoming football games, life on the road in his traveling bus, and various anecdotes in Madden's and the hosts' lives. Sometimes former KCBS morning host and imaging voice Al Hart joins these conversations.
KCBS does traffic and weather on the 8's, sports updates at :15 and :45 past the hour, and business news at :25 and :55 past the hour. KCBS Cover Story airs weekly as an extended look at a major issue in the news, while In Depth is a weekly long-form interview program. In addition, KCBS simulcasts 60 Minutes and Face The Nation.
KCBS' signal can be heard clearly as far north as Sacramento and Hopland and as far south as Salinas on most days. Under the right conditions, its daytime signal reaches as far north as Redding and as far south as Santa Barbara. At night, with its 50,000 watts of power, the signal can be heard throughout California including Los Angeles and San Diego and it covers several western states such as Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
In 2008, the station began identifying itself on-air as "KCBS and KCBS-HD".