Founding WWL: Louisiana's First Radio Station

WWL, Louisiana's first radio station, started broadcasting in 1922 as a means to raise funds for Loyola University. As a project of a Catholic University, WWL was bound by the rules of the Catholic Church, which forbid commercial practices. WWL found ways around this rule and proceeded to help furnish endowment funds for Loyola University.

Loyola University formed WWL in 1922 for the simple purpose of raising funds. Loyola needed to raise $1.5 million in order to construct six new campus buildings. The call letters, WWL, had no specific meaning to Loyola University, as they were randomly assigned.

On March 31st, 1922, WWL began the history of broadcasting in Louisiana with its debut at 10:52am. The initial broadcast was a speech given by Father Edward Cummings. Father Cummings devoted part of his speech toward explaining the purpose of the radio station, saying, “We are organizing the radio operators in the state to spread the story of Loyola’s needs. Will you lend your support to our campaign, both by radio and individual effort which will aid us in making Loyola University one of the greatest institutions of learning in the Southland?” Following the speech, WWL played a musical selection by Giuseppe Farate of Tulane’s Newcomb College Faculty, who played an original piano composition.

Loyola operated WWL as a commercial station, but soon faced issues regarding Canon 142 of the Catholic Church. Canon 142 states “Clerics are forbidden to engage personally or through another in business or to carry on commerce whether for their own benefit of for that of others.” WWL got around this due to the fact that religious magazines and newspapers were allowed to sell advertising in order to cover the costs of operation. By devoting the same amount of time to educational and religious programming and commercial programming, WWL was able to continue its operations.

However, WWL's main purpose after 1929 was to furnish endowment funds for Loyola University, which held its license. Loyola then formed WWL Development, which was a privately owned holding company run by local businessmen that operated WWL. WWL Development would then compensate Loyola for the revenue the station would bring in. One Loyola president described WWL Development as "a corporation of convenience which saves us Priest-Educators from dealing in the commercial world."



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