Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: April 22, 2019

Ohio State President William Oxley Thompson poses in the WEAO radio studios in 1929.

Ohio State President William Oxley Thompson poses in the WEAO radio studios in 1929.

Though Ohio State had an experimental radio station (8XI) on-the-air starting in 1920, the “official” kickoff to regular radio programming came with some pomp and circumstance on April 24, 1922.

At 8 p.m. that night, OSU President William Oxley Thompson dramatically announced that the first radio program in Columbus was “being broadcast from The Ohio State University.” Of course, the experimental OSU station had been broadcasting on and off for two years, so the timing of the program causes one to speculate. 

Five days after the Thompson announcement, the first federal radio license to a non-experimental station went to WBAV (now WTVN) and two weeks later, WCAH (now WBNS) received it official notification. Ohio State didn’t actually receive its WEAO (later WOSU) call letters until June 3, 1922.

President Thompson certainly can claim Ohio State had the first station on the air, since the university was one of a handful of leaders to experiment with radio signals years before, but his announcement seemed timed to claim a “first” though the university wouldn’t receive its official “calls” before the commercial folks. In any case, it was good public relations and Thompson posed nicely in front of the microphone. 

By the way, the WEAO call letters were changed in 1933 to WOSU.