Call letters

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All terrestrial TV stations are identified by the country's frequency spectrum regulation body by their call letters. Call letters begin with a certain letter, or letters, assigned for each country, and are then followed by any letters. Unlike station frequencies, which require a construction permit, call letters can be changed from city to city, as they are assigned by frequencies. Call letters can be split up among TV, AM and FM mediums, but will in-turn receive a suffix, such as WFLA-TV or WWVA-FM. AM radio stations never take the suffix. For example, WSB is spread among an FM station (WSB-FM), a TV station (WSB-TV), and an AM station (WSB).

Other terms for this are call sign or abbreviated call.

North America

In the United States, station calls west of the Mississippi River begin with a K, and east of the Mississippi begin with a W. The FCC requires 4 letters to be used for full power station calls. Until the 1930s, stations could choose between three or four call letters, and the Mississippi River rule did not apply. Because of this, there are several W stations in the west (WOAI, WYUV, WFAA), and three K stations in the east (KDKA, KYW, KQX). Low power stations like boosters and translators can have up to 6 characters in their calls, but still only up to four letters (K51OF, W55BM).

In Canada, privately owned stations can begin with the letters CF-CK. The CB letters are reserved for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation stations, and the VO letters are reserved for Newfoundland.

In Mexico, the only letters used are XE and XH. Because of this, the station calls can have up to 6 letters (eg: XESURF, XHMORE).

Call letter suffixes

Call letter suffixes are applied when a station's calls are not exclusive to its frequency. Calls can be shared among multiple broadcast media. The exception is when calls are shared among full power analog (TV) and digital (DT) broadcasts, where the standalone 4 letters can be applied to both, except for digital subchannels, in which a number is applied to the DT suffix.

  • TV - Full power analog television broadcast.
  • DT - Full power digital television broadcast. Subchannels receive a succeeding number, such as DT2 or DT3.
  • TDT - Full power digital television broadcast, used for Mexican stations (such as XETV-TDT).
  • DS - Temporary full power digital television broadcast.
  • CA - Class A analog television broadcast.
  • DC - Class A digital television broadcast.
  • LP - Low power analog television broadcast.
  • TX - Low power analog television translator.
  • DL - Low power digital television broadcast.
  • LD - Low power digital television broadcast.

See also