A celebration of broadcast history in pictures and sounds
This blog featured an earlier post about WLBT-TV, Jackson, Miss., a station whose early history is stained by its ugly position on civil rights.
The owner had ties to the White Citizens’ Council and sold white supremacist literature in a bookstore located in the WLBT-TV lobby. The station also ran editorials and programs opposing integration and largely ignored the Civil Rights movement.
CBS reporter Randall Pinkston got his start as an anchor at WLBT in the early 1970s. He filed a report this weekend about the station’s initial refusal to allow civil rights activist Medgar Evers speak on the air and the backlash when it finally allowed Evers to talk. WLBT-TV later became the only TV station in the U.S. to have its license permanently revoked due to fairness violations.
Click here to watch this interesting story about WLBT’s interesting early days.
In 2012, staffers discovered new information about KFYO’s origin. The station had its roots in a 1923 Bentonville, Ark., radio station. The only known record of a radio station in those days was KFVX, circa 1925.
The station apparently disbanded and moved to Texarkana, Texas, as KFYO in 1926. The station moved to Breckenridge, Texas, and Abilene, Texas, before ending up in Lubbock in 1932.
Today, it’s a news/talk station owned by Townsquare Media.
The Griffin family, owners of KTUL-AM, Tulsa, were interested in TV as early as 1946. After a two-year study of TV’s chances of success in that area, the woman conducting the research, Helen Alvarez, urged the Griffins to apply for a TV license as quickly as possible. The Griffins thought it was too risky and decided to wait a year before applying. By that time, the FCC had frozen TV license applications.
Alvarez resigned and started looking for investors to get a station on the air immediately. She worked with Texas oilman Gorge Cameron and salesman John Hill to form Cameron Television Corporation, which applied for the Channel 6 license in Tulsa. The FCC granted the construction permit in 1948.
Cameron wanted the call letters KOTV, but a typo on the application read “KOVB.” The application had to be refiled and the FCC approved the change to KOTV. Alvarez negotiated the lease of an International Harvester dealership and repair shop and converted it into the nation’s then-largest TV studio. Alvarez spent a year convincing bank officers that a TV tower would be safe atop the National Bank of Tulsa Building. During the installation, a wrench fell and struck a woman passing below, killing her instantly.
A local radio executive spoke at a Tulsa Chamber of Commerce luncheon, saying anyone investing in KOTV or buying a TV set was “foolish.” But KOTV signed on the air in 1949 as Tulsa’s first TV station.
KOTV carried programming from CBS, ABC, NBC and DuMont. It also briefly carried some programs produced by the Paramount Television Network.
The first local program aired in November 1949. It was a live Tulsa Chamber of Commerce meeting, featuring some of KOTV’s earliest critics. Other local programming included a long-running cooking show called “Lookin’ at Cookin’” and a Sunday morning program called “Lewish Meyer’s Bookshelf,” which featured the author and critic reviewing books.
Cameron sold KOTV to another Texas oilman, Jack Wrather, in 1952. Wrather knew little about TV and persuaded Helen Alvarez to stay on as KOTV’s general manager. He made her a full partner in the Wrather-Alvarez Television Corporation, which later became General Television Corporation.
The airwaves became more competitive in 1954. KCEB-TV signed on Channel 23 as an NBC/DuMont affiliate. NBC was worried about the troubles facing UHF stations and made a secret pact with KOTV to allow the station to air the most popular NBC programs. KVOO-TV, Channel 2, signed on a few months later, taking the full-time NBC affiliation. KCEB moved to ABC, which also allowed KOTV to air the most popular ABC programs.
The Griffin family, who hesitated to apply for a TV license, finally got on the air in 1954 with KTVX, Channel 8 (today’s KTUL-TV). KTVX took the ABC affiliation from KCEB. Channel 23 went out of business by the end of the year.
KOTV was left as Tulsa’s CBS affiliate. General Television sold KOTV to Whitney Corporation (later Corinthian Broadcasting) in 1957. Corinthian merged with Dun & Bradstreet in 1971. Belo bought KOTV in 1983 and Oklahoma City’s Griffin Communications, original owners of KTVX (KTUL), bought the station in 2000. Griffin owns Oklahoma City CBS affilate KWTV, making it a sister station with KOTV.
Today, KOTV’s “The News on 6” is Tulsa’s top-rated news operation.
Here are some historic video clips from KOTV. This is a collection of clips from a program called “Tulsa Afternoon,” which aired during 1983 and 1984:
This is a look at the opening of “Eyewitness News” in 1985:
Here are some 1989 severe weather updates:
In 1987, KOTV changed its newscast title to “The News on 6.” Here’s a sample from 1991:
Hubert Schlafly built the first teleprompter in 1950. The script was printed on a paper scroll positioned near the camera. An operator advanced the scroll as the performer read. Schlafly, along with Irving Berlin Kahn and actor Fred Barton, Jr., who suggested the idea initially, formed TelePrompTer Corporation.
Producer and writer Jess Oppenheimer, who created “I Love Lucy,” created the first prompter using a glass in front of the camera lens to reflect the script. This allowed readers to look directly into the camera. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used the innovation first in 1953 to read commercials.
Today, the reflective glass concept is the primary design for teleprompters. Modern teleprompters use a video monitor to display the text reflected on the glass.
This is a two-page spread from a 1947 Broadcasting & Telecasting magazine about WWL, New Orleans. Click on it for a larger image.
After receiving permission from the Vatican, the Jesuits at Loyola University started WWL on March 31, 1922, with a piano recital and a three-minute request to listeners to support construction of a new classroom building on campus. The advertisement above says the 10-watt transmitter was “made from $400 worth of spare parts from a Goverment War Surplus Ship. The studio audience — 20 Loyola students —- gave a spontaneous cheer at [the] conclusion of [the] historic broadcast.”
The advertisement also claims other firsts. For instance, the 1922 broadcast of a recording of John McCormack singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” is claimed as the first music broadcast in the South.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s has a great site called “Making Waves: Louisiana’s Radio Story.” It says WWL carried a popular variety program in its early years called “Dawnbusters.” Pinky Vidacovich hosted the program, which included music, comedy and an orchestra featuring Al “Jumbo” Hirt.
Over the years, WWL moved to different positions on the dial and steadily increased its power. In 1938, WWL boosted its signal to 50,000 watts, sending the sounds of New Orleans across much of North America.
WWL became a CBS affiliate in 1935. During World War II, Loyola University offered WWL’s facilities to train soldiers in radio operations. The station also produced wartime radio programs. WWL again allowed the government to use its facilities in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
After the war, Loyola took a stab at FM radio. The advertisement also alludes to WWLH-FM starting operations in 1946. Very few people had FM receivers and early FM broadcasts were considered largely experimental. According to a post at Radiodiscussions.com, WWLH-FM signed on 100.3 FM and went off the air in 1953.
Another FM station, WWL-FM, signed on in 1970 at 101.9 FM, carrying beautiful music before switching to Top 40 in 1976. It switched back to beautiful music before adopting its current adult contemporary format in 1980 with the call letters WAJY. It adopted its current WLMG call letters in 1987.
Loyola signed on WWL-TV in 1957, also as a CBS affiliate.
WWL-AM avoided the turn toward rock in the 1950s and became well known in the region for its broadcasts of local Dixieland jazz bands and big band music. The Leon Kelner Orchestra was popular for its broadcasts from the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blue Room. The broadcasts were heard far and wide over WWL’s 50,000-watt signal. The LPB radio history site says comment cards were received from as far away as Finland.
In 1971, the station started a long-running overnight country music show targeted at long-haul truck drivers called “The Road Gang.”
WWL carried a middle-of-the-road/full-service format through the 1970s, gradually evolving toward news/talk in the 1980s. Here’s a 1986 TV advertisement for WWL “News Radio 87”:
Loyola sold the WWL stations to separate companies in 1989. WWL-AM and WLMG-FM are owned by Entercom. WWL-TV is owned by Belo.
WWL-AM played a major role during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was one of the few stations that stayed on the air. The hurricane blew out the studio’s windows and announcer Garland Robinette continued broadcasting from a closet during the storm.
WWL took the lead in the aftermath, hosting coverage over a consortium of local broadcasters called “The United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans.” Mostly WWL staff appeared on the network, which was a partnership between rivals Entercom and Clear Channel Communications.
The following year, WWL’s news, talk and sports programming returned to the FM band. WTKL-FM’s oldies format was replaced with a simulcast of WWL’s programming. In April 2006, the WTKL became WWL-FM.
WXAX, Dayton, Ohio, signed on in 1921 with only 5 watts of power. It became WDBS (“Dayton Broadcasting Service”). In 1926, it became WSMK, named for station founder Stanley M. Krohn.
Charles Sawyer bought the station in 1939, renaming it WING after Dayton’s aviation history.
In the 1940s and 1950s, WING focused on being a pop music station. Under the ownership of Air Trails Broadcasting (later Great Trails Broadcasting), WING flipped to Top 40 in the 1960s and became a legendary station in Dayton. Like many stations in the early days of Top 40 radio, it was a personality-driven format (the announcers were knowing as WING’s “Lively Guys”) with a tight playlist and a robust local news department.
As FM listenership grew in the 1970s, WING moved toward a softer adult contemporary format as “Adult Radio 1410.” It evolved toward oldies in the 1980s. Here’s a 1982 WING aircheck:
Today, WING is a sports-talk station, owned by Main Line Broadcasting.
This week on “The Faded Signals Podcast,” we’re exploring the history of local children’s TV programs.
Click the picture to buy Hollis’ book on Amazon.com.
Tim Hollis, a pop culture historian, wrote the book on the topic. ”Hi There, Boys and Girls! America’s Local Children’s TV Programs” is a comprehensive guide to every known local TV kiddie show. Hollis researched and wrote market-by-market descriptions of the early children’s programming on local TV stations.
It’s a remarkable book, and Hollis talked with me about the roots of children’s TV shows, how they thrived in the 1950s and 1960s, why they’re gone today and the one thing he believes is their lasting legacy.
He retired from WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C., several years ago, but Lee Kinard still might be the most recognizable TV personality in central North Carolina.
Next time on “The Faded Signals Podcast,” Kinard talks about his career, how the civil rights movement pushed local TV news into prominence, how he created the nation’s longest-running local morning show and about the “second act” in his life.
KGU became Hawaii’s first commercial radio station when it signed on from Honolulu in 1922.
In 1935, Captain Ed Musick and Fred Noonan used the KGU signal as a homing beacon during their survey flights of the Pacific Ocean. Japanese invaders used the KGU signal in 1941 to lead them to Pearl Harbor. Here’s a report from KGU Radio about the Pearl Harbor attack, broadcast live over NBC on December 7, 1941:
It’s hard to find much about KGU’s history. We know KGU became Hawaii’s NBC affiliate in 1941. At some point, it moved toward a middle-of-the-road format. It became a news/talk station in 1982. The station flipped to sports in 1998.
KTHS signed on from Hot Springs, Ark., in 1924. Its studios were located at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs. The station’s longwire antenna was strung between two towers on the roof.
Once the Arlington opened for guests in 1925, KTHS’ programming consisted largely of of live big band music from the ballrooms, which were wired for broadcasts.
In the early days, KTHS had to share its frequency (800 kHz) with KFRU in Bristow, Oklahoma. It moved to 600 kHz in 1928, which it shared with Fort Worth, Texas, station WBAP.
The hotel gave KTHS to the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce in 1928. In 1929, KTHS became an NBC Blue affiliate.
According to an article on “The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture” website, the comedy team of “Lum and Abner” performed over KTHS for a flood relief benefit. That performance brought them to national prominence and launched their network radio careers.
KTHS briefly became a Mutual affiliate in 1938. The station was affiliate with NBC Blue when it became ABC in the mid 1940s. KTHS’ owner, The Shreveport Times newspaper, wanted to move to the station to 550 kHz and upgrade to a 50,000-watt clear channel signal, but the FCC denied the application in 1950.
In 1951, KTHS moved from Hot Springs to Little Rock. By 1953, KTHS was allowed to boost its signal to 50,000 watts. It switched to a CBS affiliation.
A sister TV station, KTHV, Channel 11, signed on in 1955.
LIN Broadcasting bought KTHS in 1962 and changed the call letters to KAAY. It became a dominant, full-service Top 40 station under LIN’s ownership, with its powerful signal carrying KAAY programming all over North America. Here’s a sample of KAAY in 1968:
In the late 1960s, KAAY made a name for itself by dropping the Top 40 format at 11 p.m. each evening and carrying underground rock music on a show called “Beaker Street with Clyde Clifford.” Here’s a sample of the show:
KAAY moved toward adult contemporary and some country music by the 1980s. It later targeted baby boomers and evolved to an oldies-oriented sound. The station dropped music at night for religious programming.
KAAY abandoned music in the mid-1980s and became one of the nation’s most powerful AM Christian stations. It carries a schedule of brokered religious programming. Cumulus Media now owns the station.
KTHV-TV did a feature in 2005 about the history of KAAY Radio. Here is Part 1.