The History of KUAM - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

The History of KUAM

Posted: Updated:
1952 - Harry S. Engel, owner-manager of radio station KVEN in Ventura, California, was taking a "red-eye" flight when he read a magazine article about the post-war years of Guam. By the time he had landed, he had formulated the idea of opening the first commercial radio station west of Hawaii.

1953-54 - Engel coordinated the early planning of KUAM. His efforts were largely based from Guam, Hawaii, and California. Extensive surveys, land-planning, and reports were prepared, some notable ones of which included:

The problems of broadcasting from atop a coral-based island
"(Guam) has for the most part a thin layer of soil in its lowlands. We have found that although there is constant moisture in the land that coral is a poor susbstance for a ground. Blank spots result in transmission and it is attributable to the ground system under our towers."

How many people on Guam owned radios at the time
(a survey, broken down by village, showed that between 35-55% of the people did have radios)

Finding an appropriate site to build a broadcast studio and antenna
Mount Santa Rosa, Adelup Point, Nimitz Beach, and Mount LamLam were all considered as prime locations at one point - finally, a decision was made to set up shop at a point just off Route 4 in Chalan Pago/Ordot

Business conditions on Guam
"To submit a photograph of the business areas would be impracticle (sic) because, as known in the States, they are non-existant. Tamuning has a line of stores on Marine Drive similar to a small town in the States but even they sit one behind the other and in a very erratic line down the road."
"...a period of one year be anticipated for clearance of abstacles (sic) on this end. You will not be dealing with statesiders but with Guamanians and the process is considerably slower. Also the Government here is in its embryonic stage and cannot support you as readily as agencies in the states."
"The golden day of easy money is gone in the Pacific and in Guam in particular. The advent of taxes in this area destroyed all possibilities of accumulating quick money. This, plus the unrest fostered by the presence of the military in the controversy over civilian rule, has discouraged a great deal of American capital and money as a result is tight.
"Being venturesome by nature it may sound strange for me to be throwing such negativisms up for your consideration. But you requested that I treat this as though it was my station and all of these facts and the accompanying attitudes are of paramount importance.
"Now, in spite of all these hazards, a radio station can, and will be built in Guam. But it will be built by a group who see all of the pitfalls and obstacles and still, in spite of everything, go ahead and get the job done. It will take money, time, and an unholy amount of patience. BUT IT CAN BE DONE!!!"

January 23rd, 1954 Broadcasting/Telecasting Magazine - "NBC SIGNS KUAM...Signing of affiliation agreement, said to be only privately-owned commercial station on Guam, announced Friday by NBC. Station is on 610 kc with 1 kw and is managed by its owner, Harry Engle (sic). It serves more than 70,000 civilians and approximately 15,000 U.S. Military on Guam and is also heard on Saipan and Tinian, according to NBC , which said only other broadcast service in that area is Armed Forces Network.

February 1st, 1954 - Time Magazine publishes a story on the advent of KUAM. The article contains "several factual inaccuracies and misquotations", which had Radio Guam President Harry Engel shaking his head:

"In addition to misquotations on various types of Guam including bakeries, department stores and midwives, and the procedure for securing authorization to establish a station from Federal Communications Commission, Time overlooked Mr. Engel's reference to the Guam Daily News. Time also incorrectly referred to the branches of the Armed Services on Guam, and somehow got the impression one of the major functions of the radio station will be to teach people how to farm, a function which is already carried on by a department of the government of Guam. Engel had stated when interviewed that he hoped the radio station would become a real medium of public service to the people of Guam, using dissemination of farming information as one example."

March 14th, 1954 - At 5:55 pm, the Armed Force Radio Services (which had been broadcasting in the Guam operational area for almost ten years) signed off the air permanently. 5 minutes later, KUAM signed on the air. KUAM originally started as a lone AM station at 610 on the dial (it still exists there today, along with our other three stations). It was a member of the NBC radio affiliate family. Our first day on the air offered up congratulatory messages from local politicos and notables, as well as specially-produced messages from NBC radio stars of the day.

At its inception, KUAM was handled by Adam Young International, with offices in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. KUAM operated daily from 6 AM to Midnight, with a mix of network affiliate shows and local programs in English, Chamorro, and Tagalog. News was teletyped to the station from both the AP and UPI via RCA.

Our very first advertising rate booklet survives to this day. In 1954, one hour of advertising time cost clients at most a whopping $100. Or they could spring for a 15-second commercial announcement for as low as 3 dollars.

Two of KUAM's first-day employees are notable:


22-year old Announcer/Engineer Wally George would become nationally notorious in the 1980's as host of the syndicated "Hot Seat" program, an agressive talk show popular amongst college males, broadcast from KDOC in San Diego. George is also the father of film actress Rebecca de Mornay. Interesting notes: Rebecca de Mornay has publicly stated that she wants nothing to do with her father. Also, George himself has denied any link with Guam or KUAM (although historical documents would prove otherwise).


Receptionist Madeliene Zeien Bordallo would later become a popular personality on KUAM; hosting the television program "Woman's World"; and as night radio hostess "Sirena", who would develop a strong "mystery woman" following, generating many a letter from lonely military males. Madeliene's husband, Ricardo Bordallo served as the island's Governor for two terms in the 70's and 80's, and Madeliene herself became a Senator. Following Governor Bordallo's death in 1990, Madeliene successfully sought higher office with running mate Carl Guiterrez, and today serves as the Lieutenant Governor of Guam.

March 14, 1956 Associated Press Teletype News Report - Dateline Honolulu - Two radio men met in Honolulu today to mark the second anniversary of radio station KUAM on Guam.

They came from opposite directions.

"We decided it was easier to meet halfway," said Harry Engel, owner of the station.

He huddled here with Dick McGuire, resident manager of KUAM. Both men talked the staff of the station to congratulate them on the first two years of operation.

Engel has applied for rights to add television to KUAM's activities. He has already been granted a channel and his application to begin television broadcasting is waiting Washington approval.

Engel and McGuire will be here until Friday. Then Engel returns to Los Angeles and McGuire goes back to Guam.

March 21, 1956

Letter from Brigadier General Nils O. Ohman
Commander USAF, Andersen Air Force Bace
To Mr. Richard McGuire (sic), Resident Manager
Radio Station KUAM Agana, Guam
Dear Mr. McGuire,

As you know, I have been extremely interested in obtaining television service for the Island of Guam as a source of recreation and information for the military personnel and their families who are ordered to duty here. Your recent announcement that radio station KUAM is contemplating a commercial television station is good news not only for the natives of Guam but for our military personnel and their families as well.

Many Air Force families already have their television sets on the Island and, therefore, are very interested in the progress of your station. I believe it will be mutually beneficial both to KUAM and to the Air Force to keep these people well-informed about television as is possible. To that end, I would like to publicize the proposed station in our weekly base newspaper, and I am enclosing several questions which have been raised by personnel of the base. If you will answer these questions, at your convenience, we will use the answers as a basis for a front-page story in our paper.

On behalf of all the Air Force personnel on the Island, I wish to congratulate you on your decision to establish a television station and to offer our wishes for a most successful operation. If I, or any of the members of my command, can be of assistance to you in conjunction with this project, please do not hesitate to call on us.

Sincerely, Nils O. Ohman, Brigadier General, USAF, Commander

QUESTIONS (and their answers from Harry Engel)

How soon do you expect to begin actual television operations on Guam? Sometime between September 1st and December 31st, 1956
Will your television station be built at the same site as your radio station in Ordot? Yes.
Will the station's signal be of sufficient power to insure adequate reception by Air Force personnel residing on Andersen Air Force Base and at the various outlying housing areas, including Northwest, Agafa Gumas, Marbo, Harmon Village, and Cliffline? According to our projected engineering, our signal strength will be more than adequate to cover the Island. However, due to terrain, certain areas may have to use higher antennas than others.
What video channel will be used by your station? Channel 8.
What hours of the day will the station operate? Tentative plans call for a three to five hour day in the evening.
Will your television station be affiliated with any national television network? If so, which one? Yes. We are negotiating with the networks and an agreement has not yet been finalized.
What percentage of your total programming will be devoted to filmed productions? The majority. However, actual percentages have not yet been determined.
Will these filmed programs be flown to Guam in order to insure their timeliness? Certain programs will be flown to Guam to insure timeliness. Others, where time is not of the essence, will come surface.

July 16, 1956 Broadcasting/Telecasting Magazine - "AUGUST 5 TARGET DATE SET BY KUAM-TV AGANA, GUAM - KUAM-TV Agana, Guam has set an Aug.5 target date with work progressing at the present stations's physical facilities. Harry Engel has been named KUAM-TV president. Other executives include H. Richard Maguire, resident manager; Donald G. Brown, operations manager, and James O. Long.

"The ch. 8 outlet will be an NBC affiliate with Adam Young Television Corp. as representative and a highest one-time hourly rate of $120."

August 5th, 1956- KUAM TV signs on the air. Its network show content consists of shows from all national networks, taped in the mainland, shipped here, and viewed several weeks, even months later. It also broadcasts a variety of local shows live. Although its primary signal is on VHF channel 8, the absence of other stations also causes it to be viewed very clearly on many other channels as well. An advertising rate pamphlet from as late as the mid-70's lists KUAM as officially appearing on channels 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13...and so on.

The advent of television on Guam had a varied and decisive influence on the culture. Peyton Place became the favorite soap-opera fix for many years. Students learning English watched Password faithfully. Village children immersed themselves in the Old West craze that was making the rounds stateside. Many a child was seen riding tangantangan horses and shouting "Hallicop! Hallicop!". This word resulted as a misunderstanding of the saying used often on Gunsmoke and Bonanza - "Giddyup!"

Network television shows were air-mailed to Guam, and normally aired here about a month after they left the states. Often the station had to fill space for late-arriving programs, usually with educational, business, or military films. At the time, and for several years after, KUAM couldn't afford the additional expense of daytime programming.

1964 - Two enterprising mainlanders, H. Scott Kilgore and Sam Rubin, form the Pacific Broadcasting Corporation and buy Radio Guam.

September 1st, 1966 - A third KUAM outlet is introduced, this time on the FM dial. At 93.9 FM, it is called simply FM94, and broadcasts automated beautiful music.

1970 - KUAM TV begins broadcasting in color.

1979 - A major format change becomes local controversy: FM94's automated beautiful music station gives way to 94 Rock, with live DJ's.

April 1989 - KUAM 610 changes its name to 610 Estasion Minagof and becomes the first and only all-Chamorro station. The format will last for 6 years.

Special thanks to Mr. Fred Nelson for compiling and maintaining this history over the years.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000-2009, WorldNow and KUAM. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.