If there is any such thing as a flashpoint in this the relationship between the Brennan and Benns families, 1947 would be the year. WVOK had just been built and was on the air, Cyril M. Brennan, Billy Benns and Maria Skinner had just been granted a construction permit for a new radio station in Miami (WFEC). Cyril G was discharged from the army and Dan was graduating from high school.
Most importantly, for this history, on July 28, 1947, Bill Brennan tendered an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a new AM radio station to operate in Jacksonville, Florida.
The application tendered on that July day was a far-cry from the “flame-thrower” signal which would eventually be known as WAPE. It was a modest request for a “standard station” (AM) in Jacksonville, Florida to operate on 690 kc, with a power of 5,000 watts, daytime only. The original transmitter site for the station was not the well-know tract in Orange Park, but land on the west side of Jacksonville in the general vicinity north of Stone Mountain Industrial Park and west of the Dinsmore area. From this site, the proposed station would provide a “city grade” signal to all of Jacksonville, and most of Duval County. Jacksonville would not become a consolidated city-county entity until 1968.
It was common practice for the perspective owners of new stations to understate the full signal intent for their stations. This was as to not attract too much attention from other broadcasters or competing applications. All of the Brennan/Benns stations signed on with healthy signals of 10,000 watts or more. Those power levels coupled with desirable lower positions on the AM dial all but guaranteed market-dominant coverage. While the 5,000 watt application was tendered, it is safe to assume that an upgraded application was not far behind.
The process of applying for a broadcast license in the 1940’s required quite a few steps. Many of these procedures required the applicant to essentially “show their hand” in what they had planned. First, the perspective broadcaster would have to apply for a permit to build a station, appropriately known as a “CP” – construction permit.
A broadcast application was a lengthy process of FCC forms, engineering studies and community ascertainment. The latter was to identify any community issues which might exist, and then explain how the perspective licensee would address those issues. The FCC took very seriously the licensees obligation to broadcast for the “public interest convenience and necessity.” Still lacking the guarantee of a permit, it would still be up to the applicant to secure the land on which to build a tower. With many AM stations, these tower sites could take up acres. For instance, the WAPE Baldwin nighttime sight would require nearly 80 acres to accommodate the proper spacing for all six towers!
After all of the work and due diligence required to assemble the application, it was tendered for filing with the FCC. At this point, the Commission would review the application and supporting documents to insure that they all adhered to FCC guidelines. Once past this review, the FCC would then accept the application for filing.
A part of this process was also giving public notice about the applicant’s intentions to build a station. The “Public Notice” period involved the running of a legal ad in the local “newspaper of record”, usually the largest circulation daily which covered the proposed city of license. The notice period would cover about two weeks. In the notice, the intent of the perspective licensee was spelled out, along with the address of the public file. The public file contained an actual copy of the application – all information about the applicants, the transmitter site, financial and engineering data. This often alerted other area broadcasters to potential new competition in their market.
The general public is by and large isolated from the government process of licensing a radio station, so to the layperson, WAPE simply went on the air in 1958. In reality the process of bringing the station to air was a twelve-year journey for the Brennan’s. They would navigate competing applications for the frequency, the objections of broadcasters in Jacksonville, the negotiation of an international treaty, the Cuban government and of course the Federal Communications Commission.
After an initial review, the FCC accepted Bill Brennan’s application for a new station on August 4, 1947. But others also had their sights set on the 690 frequency. The stage had been set for an initial three-way battle.
This was the only AM station in which full ownership resided with the Brennan family. Brennan Broadcasting went through several forms before the license for WAPE-AM Jacksonville was issued. Its roots are in a 1947 sole-proprietorship owned by William Brennan. That soon changed to a partnership between William Brennan (85%), Cyril G. Brennan (5%), Daniel M. Brennan (5%) – all brothers – and James F. Brennan (5%) – a cousin – and known as Brennan Broadcasting. The formal incorporation of Brennan Broadcasting would not occur until June of 1959.