WGN is a high-powered clear channel AM station (50,000 watts), which during nighttime hours is often audible over much of the USA, parts of Canada, and sometimes as far away as Australia and South America. The station also has a 24/7 Internet stream on its website, which carries the station's broadcast programming except for commercial breaks and Cubs games, when public service announcements, station promotions, host-read commercials and alternate programming, is played instead.
Early programming was noted for its creativity and innovation. It included live music, political debates, comedy routines, and some of radio's first broadcasts of sporting events, including the Indianapolis 500 automobile race, and a live broadcast of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial from Dayton, Tennessee. In 1926, WGN broadcast Sam & Henry, a daily serial with comic elements created and performed by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. After a dispute with the station in 1927, Gosden and Correll took the program's concept and announcer Bill Hay across town to WMAQ and created the first syndicated radio show in history, Amos 'n' Andy.
WGN was a founding member of the Mutual Broadcasting System.
In November 1958, WGN became the first radio station in Chicago to broadcast helicopter traffic reports featuring Police Officer Leonard Baldy. WGN is now mainly a news and talk radio station. WGN broadcasts news, weather, traffic and sports every hour. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo serve as the play-by-play team for all games of the Chicago Cubs, and the broadcasts are known as the Pat and Ron Show. WGN is also the radio home of Northwestern Wildcats football and basketball games. On April 30, 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks and WGN announced a partnership to broadcast games for the next three seasons.
Over many decades, WGN was a "full service" radio station. The station played small amounts of music during mornings and afternoons, moderate amounts of music on weekends during the day, had midday and evening talk shows, and sports among other features. The station's music was easy listening/MOR-based until the 1970s, when the music was more of an adult contemporary-type sound. The music played at the station was phased out during the 1980s, and by 1990, the station's lineup mainly consisted of talk shows.
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