Nebraska July 01, 2016
The Story Behind Nebraska’s Ghost Radio Station Will Leave You Scratching Your Head In Wonder
In a mystery worthy of the movies, a radio station operated from Omaha for years – but no one knew exactly where the signal was coming from or who was responsible for it. It had a loyal following, and the mystery was part of the appeal for some listeners. The FCC, on the other hand, was not quite as entertained.
Operating under the call letters KOMJ and the name "Magic 1490," this AM radio station played a commercial-free mix of easy listening tunes, mostly from the 1960s and '70s. There were no DJs or morning shows; there were no news breaks or anything else you would expect to hear from a radio station.
Every once in a while, a man's voice would identify the station as "the height of relaxation." Occasionally, an enthusiastic "fan" would proclaim their love for the station in a short voice clip. But other than those brief interruptions, it was all about the music.
The station had a loyal fan base who enjoyed the no-nonsense, commercial-free format of this mysterious station. They could even stream Magic 1490 AM online. But if they wanted to contact the station, well, that was much more difficult.
The FCC tried to find the station in 2013 to conduct a required inspection of their facility. The address they had on file for the radio station was a mailbox in Wyoming. The station's phone number went right to a voicemail for a group of radio stations in Arizona.
After some further detective work, the FCC tracked down a local attorney who represented the station. The attorney gave an address for the radio station which turned out to be the main studio for Journal Broadcasting Group in Omaha. The FCC investigator found that the station did not transmit from that address and never had.
It was eventually revealed that Journal Broadcasting Group had sold the station to Cochise Broadcasting in 2007. The company leased space in the Journal building but never actually operated from there. Cochise Broadcasting was fined $17,000 for failing to maintain a staffed physical studio with a public inspection file. The music, however, continued despite the legal issues.
Magic 1490 was, indeed, magical and mysterious while it lasted, but in 2014 it was sold to Walnut Radio, a local company who changed the station's identity to "Boomer 1490," an allusion to the baby boomer generation toward whom their music is geared. Visit the Magic 1490 website today and you'll just see the message above and, weirdly, a link to a webcam overlooking Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Is the cryptic "Thank you for being part of Magic 1490" a reference to the secretive nature of the station's previous identity?
And so the tale of Omaha’s “ghost station” ended as quietly as it began. 1490 AM continues to crank out music for its listeners, but it’s maybe just a bit less magical than when the station was shrouded in mystery.