Select Page

Sponsored by the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation, and awarded annually to graduate students with a demonstrated research interest in broadcast history.

2017 Recipient: Kevin Curran, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oklahoma
Dissertation: Transnational Radio in North America

Kevin Curran’s broadcasting career started while still in high school on Long Island, NY.  After graduating from Fordham University, he moved into a full-time news position at WHLI/WKJY Radio in Hempstead, NY.  His work as a news reporter and producer carried him to WHN Radio in New York, the Imus in the Morning program on WFAN Radio in New York, and the Mutual Broadcasting System and NBC Radio Network in Washington and New York.  He then switched roles, eventually becoming sales manager at WGRQ Radio in Fredericksburg, VA, then operations manager at KGME/KEDJ/KHOT Radio in Phoenix.

Moving into television, he has been an assignment editor in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson and Oklahoma City as well as a producer at Inside Edition.

Outside the studio, Kevin has been the Cactus League engineer for the Oakland Athletics radio network for many years.  He has also been the play-by-play engineer for the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.

After earning an MBA from Arizona State’s WP Carey School of Business, Kevin became an adjunct instructor of business and journalism at two Arizona community colleges and Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School.

He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  He will be an assistant professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas in Fall 2017.

DISSERTATION ABSTRACT: Transnational Radio in North America

There was a time when immigrants got on a ship bound for a new home, knowing they would likely never return.  The exchange of postal letters, perhaps with the occasional check, and copies of imported newspapers were the only methods of communication between their old and new lives.  Contract that with today, when modern technology has given the world Skype, affordable jet travel, and a host of international support services.  It is now possible to be transnational: physically present in one country and virtually present another, switching between nations on a regular basis.

Radio broadcasting has facilitated transnationalism for more than 80 years.  The storied history of transnational radio in North America begins with a doctor, middle-aged men and a herd of goats. Dr. John Brinkley of Milford, Kansas, claimed that his surgery to transplant goat glands could reinvigorate men with reproductive issues.  In 1923, Brinkley built a radio station to promote his operations. When the heat from medical authorities challenging his surgeries reached a critical point, Brinkley moved to Texas.  He built what became a million-watt radio station on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande that would advertise his re-located hospital to an audience throughout the central United States. Brinkley was followed by others who used high-powered Mexican stations to promote medical products or services that had been ruled improper by U.S. authorities.  They also promoted Mexico has a country to visit and in which to invest.

In later years, these “border blaster” Mexican stations became the home of rock and roll for teens in the American Midwest.

At the height of Top 40 radio, it was a station in Canada that spun the hits to large audiences in Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland.  The influence of CKLW on the music industry in its heyday cannot be overstated.  It is a great historical irony that the same regulators who refused to listen CKLW’s pleas and killed its format later changed the rules for stations in the Windsor-Detroit market.

There is also a long history of cross-border stations in San Diego and Tijuana.  Today, they can broadcast in English from studios in the United States with only the transmitter south of the border.  Under the Brinkley Rule, stations had to pre-record programs and deliver them to studios in Mexico, or have the American announcers travel to Mexican sites.

The United States, Canada, and Mexico each have their own broadcast regulatory agency.  However, the U.S. FCC has asserted jurisdiction over operators of Mexican-licensed stations while Canada’s CRTC has claimed jurisdiction over U.S.-licensed stations that attempted to attract a South Asian audience in Vancouver. Regardless of their studio location or language, Mexican authorities require certain programs on every station in the country.

This dissertation begins with a review of the colorful stories of stations along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.  It concludes with a look at the current situation in four cross-border markets.  It will be shown that cross-border radio has sometimes facilitated transnational culture and sometimes been done for purely economic reasons.