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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Happy Birthday Channel 5!

Channel 5 won't make a big deal out of this, but I will: WLWT-TV turns 60 years old on Saturday. Happy Birthday!

The city's first TV station began commercial operation on Feb. 9, 1948, when experimental W8XCT became WLWT-TV (then Channel 4). Six days later, on Feb. 15, WLWT-TV celebrated "T Day," inaugurating the new "Mount Olympus" telecomunications studios beneath the new TV tower on Chickasaw Street in University Heights. (The aging historic building still owned by Channel 5 is slated for demolition soon.)

I'm told that Channel 5 newscasts will mention the birthday Saturday, but hold off making a big deal until April 19, the 60th anniversary of WLWT-TV becoming the first NBC affiliate, says Richard Dyer, Channel 5 president and general manager.

But I won' wait to celebrate Cincinnati’s TV pioneers. (WKRC-TV and WCPO-TV would not sign on until more than a year later.) By Feb. 9, 1948, Crosley Broadcasting already had many TV broadcasting achievements: the first variety show, Reds telecast, UC football game, and Harlem Globetrotters game.

Here's a list TV history list I've compiled over the years from interviews, publications and old WLWT press releases:

April, 1937: Crosley Radio Corp. starts experimental TV station, W8XCT, which becomes WLWT (Channel 4) in 1948.

April 26, 1939: Crosley demonstrates "modern television"’ for reporters on the roof of Carew Tower. A Crosley iconoscope camera was used in New York World's Fair TV demonstration.

June 4, 1946: W8XCT resumes broadcasts, which had been suspended in 1942 due to World War II.

Jan. 20, 1947: Construction permit issued by FCC for WLWT.

July 31, 1947: W8XCT broadcasts first regular program, a variety show, from Carew Tower studio.

Sept. 21, 1947: First Cincinnati Reds telecast on W8XCT from Crosley Field.

Oct. 11, 1947: First W8XCT football game, UC vs. Dayton from Nippert Stadium.

Nov. 30, 1947: First W8XCT professional basketball telecast from Music Hall, Harlem Globetrotters vs. New York Celtics.

Feb. 9, 1948: W8XCT becomes WLWT on first day of commercial operation. Before then, W8XCT was averaging 20 hours of broadcasting per week. That number steadily increased to 35 hours a week by the end of 1948.

If you were producing a 60th anniversary special for WLWT-TV, what would you include in the show other than Ruth Lyons, Paul Dixon and "Midwestern Hayride?" What favorite moments/personalities would you like to see again?

Help me compile a list.


at 2/08/2008 8:13 PM Anonymous Michael A. Banks said...

This is a good timeline, John. Glad you posted it. I'd certainly enjoy seeing Paul Dixon, Ruth Lyons, Midwestern Hayride in reprise.
--Mike Banks

at 2/08/2008 8:17 PM Blogger Brian said...

Two words: "Chicken Wedding!"

at 2/09/2008 1:15 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't forget Bob Braun

at 2/09/2008 8:24 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Channel 5. You have been a part of our family for decades. Many firsts at your t.v. station. My grandparents remember 9th and Elm fondly and all the live shows. We are WLWT viewers and will remain loyal no matter what!

at 2/09/2008 2:50 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gene Randall, Debby Banker Contardi, Norma Rashid, John Getter& Pat Weinstein Getter(John and I have a40th class reunion this year.)Rob Reider, Mary Ellen Tanner.... I am sure there are more.
from the neighborhood

at 2/10/2008 7:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering that the Cincinnati Historical Society has a ton of quad tapes of programming (as well as a few collectors and UC), how about filling some weekend air times instead of the infomercials which don't make much money. And air the Dixon shows in complete form, not the hacked versions from the late 80's.

at 2/11/2008 9:47 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

That late 70'/early 80's news team was a good one. Loaded with top-notch pros who knew how to deliver a story, unlike what we see today.

Tom Atkins/Steve Douglas anchors, Tom Kelly/Phil Samp sports.
Sands/Horstmeyer weather.

On the streets, Getter, Banker, Weinstein, Randall.

Tough to get ratings in those days too with Schottlekotte and Clooney on 9 and 12.

at 2/11/2008 12:32 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek said it would be like this.....

at 2/11/2008 9:33 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


at 2/12/2008 9:15 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 Should do a full investigative report on whether it's "Wendy" or "Windy."

at 2/12/2008 12:26 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Channel 5 used to be relevant?

at 2/13/2008 1:08 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

No other station in the region can stand up to WLWT Channel 5 for bringing in national celebrities, such as Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Andy Williams, Doris, the list would fill volumes of books. It was mainly during the 1950's through the 1970's and almost well into the 1980's. But it stopped when local television programs such as Bob Braun Show. But those were the days. Wish we had local shows like that again...or at least produced here.
Many of the current stars pass through town, but unless they appear on the news, we don't know about it. I worked there during the 1970's and 80's and met many of the national celebrities personally.

at 2/25/2008 4:14 PM Blogger John Getter said...

Thanks, John for the story. And, thanks to the folks who still remember Pat and me after all these years have passed. We had a great time at 5 with remarkable opportunities to work with some of the best broadcasters ever. Having grown up in Cincinnati, being on TV with the likes of Atkins, Douglas, Braun, Samp, Sands, Dixon and all those great musicians was truly a dream come true. As a Cub Scout, I toured 5 and met Tony Sands who signed a weather map and said he hoped I enjoyed the visit. As a young anchor I was privileged to toss to Tony for the weather report and found being there as an adult was even more enjoyable than the childhood visit.
Thanks again to the kind folks who remember our efforts then, and for my next trip home, please save me a seat at Skyline, Izzy's, Graeter's, Frisch's and....
John Getter

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