Radio-TV Broadcast History

First station[]

  • Date: ...August 1, 1922-November, 1922
  • Frequency:
    • 833 kHz (...August 1, 1922-November, 1922)
  • Location:
  • Owner of license:
    • Chronicle & News Publishing Co. (...August 1, 1922-November, 1922)

Second station[]

  • Date: October 1, 1954-March 15, 1988
  • Frequency:
    • 90.1 MHz (October 1, 1954-March 15, 1988)
  • Location:
  • Owner of license:
    • Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners (October 1, 1954-March 15, 1988)
  • Subsequent call letters: WFYI-FM


WIAN-FM was placed on the air by the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners October 1, 1954. The frequency was 90.1 FM, in the educational part of the FM band.The studio and transmitter were located at Shortridge High School located at 34th and North Meridian Streets. The transmitting antenna was on top of the high school. Its range was limited, because it was only 36 feet above average terrain. The station was a limited operation. It was a low power station and was only on the air for a few hours a day.

The station was operated by a small student staff and a faculty member. The station became an instructional tool for the Indianapolis Public Schools, and beamed educational programs about history, music and other subjects to the city schools. The shows were taped, and limited to about 15 minutes each. The programs ran during school hours, 8:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The station did stay on the air later on Fridays. The station would present special programs and high school sports.

The IPS schools were equipped with "FM Only" radios made by Sarkes-Tarzian, an electronics manufacturer in Bloomington, Indiana. This was certainly unique, since demand for FM was virtually non-existent in the mid-fifties and early sixties. A radio of this kind now would be a real collector's item. As an IPS student, I can recall reception problems with the station because of its low antenna height. The teacher usually had to do some engineering to get a decent signal.

In 1969, the school board decided to build a new studio for WIAN, and add studios for a new closed circuit television system which would telecast educational and information to school buildings. Some of the programs were aimed at students. Others were special "in-service" programs for faculty and staff. They could watch these shows in the schools, and not have to attend a meeting at a central facility. These new studios were built at 931 Fletcher Avenue. The building was called "The Center for Instructional Radio and Television", or "CIRT".

Part of the plan included moving the transmitter to the Fletcher Avenue facility. The station was now at 10,000 watts, and needed height to reach an ever increasing audience in the Indianapolis area. The transmitter room was located next to the main studio. A large window was covered with copper screening and there was a large copper transmission line feeding in through the drywall. The copper line would never be used and the screen was eventually cut down, because permission to place the transmitter on Fletcher Avenue was denied by the FCC. It has been a problem for all educational stations wanting antenna changes in cities which are also served by a television Channel 6. The educational part of the FM band is extremely close to the analog audio frequency for stations on Channel 6. There was always a chance Channel 6 audio would be affected by nearby FM stations. Being a large TV station in the market, WRTV had plenty of resources to prevent any educational FM antenna movements in Indianapolis. And it prevented WIAN from moving that small inadequate antenna from Shortridge High School until the mid-seventies. More on that later.

WIAN was becoming more than just an educational station by 1969, and was interested in joining the newly-formed National Public Radio Network. NPR would provide a whole new spectrum of programming, and expand WIAN's service to the community. But even with staff increases and new local programs, WIAN could not meet the NPR requirement for regular operating hours each week. What, indeed, could the station do to fill the extra time?

About the same time, the commercial classical music station in Indianapolis, WAIV, was sold to new owners. Dr. Norbert Neuss, a Lilly chemist and classical music supporter, joined with other like-minded individuals to form the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis. In an agreement with the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners, the Fine Arts Society provided classical music programming for the station. The classical records used by WAIV found a new home. Under the agreement, the listeners provided support for the classical programming. No tax monies were used. The Society began a weekday schedule of music from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., and on weekends from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Second Programme was very popular in the community, and helped WIAN achieve its NPR network affiliation. WIAN still did local programming on Friday nights. There were ballgames, and there was also a fine line-up of jazz programming.

WIAN continued to grow, and provide more special programming for Indianapolis. "All Things Considered" from NPR became a staple of the WIAN afternoon and early evening schedule. There were also other public affairs programs produced by the station, including a show that was very much ahead of its time. Feliciano Espinoza and Tulio Guldner hosted "La Voz Latina", a Spanish language program with news and music for the Central Indiana Hispanic community. Father Boniface Hardin and Sister Jane Edward of the Martin Center hosted "The Afro-American In Indiana". The show focused on Black History in Indiana.

Jazz programming on Friday night featured Art Van Allen with a show focusing on Dixieland jazz. Art is a clarinet player, and always opened the show with an ancient transcription of his jazz group playing Dixieland while he was a student at Butler University. Art was a radio pioneer at WIAN, and he saw the station grow from a small high school facility to a major radio operation in the Indianapolis area.

Other jazz hosts included Jeff Walker, who played modern jazz. Chuck Workman, an Indianapolis jazz icon, hosted "Journey Into Jazz". Donald Davidson, a historian with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had a program of big band and swing music.

As the closed circuit television became more popular in Indianapolis classrooms, the instructional shows on WIAN were used less. In the late seventies, WIAN dropped the instructional shows, and concentrated more on weekday jazz programs.It was also during this time that WIAN and WRTV were finally able to come to an agreement on moving the WIAN transmitter. The agreement allowed the WIAN antenna to be side-mounted on the WFYI-TV tower at just over 500 feet. This drastically improved signal strength in the metro area. WFYI's tower is adjacent to WRTV's antenna at 79th and Township Line Roads. The theory being that interference to Channel 6 audio would be diminished if WIAN was next door. It was also during this time that WIAN began stereo broadcasting. It was one of the last mono FM stations in Indianapolis.

Because of expanded WIAN programming, the Fine Arts Society found its "Second Programme" schedule reduced. The FAS opted to negotiate an agreement with the University of Indianapolis. The "Second Programme" moved to WICR, 88.7 FM where it continues to this day.

In the late eighties, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners began debating whether taxpayers should be subsidizing a radio station. The board ultimately approved the sale of WIAN to Metropolitan Indianapolis Public Broadcasting, which owns WFYI-TV, Channel 20. On March 15, 1988, WIAN became WFYI-FM.