January 16, 1949…KNBH Television Signs On; Exclusive Photos
These two black and white photos are the only ones I know of that were taken on that first day of broadcasting, 66 years ago today.
The young lady in both is Peggy Lee, who I think was the mistress of ceremonies that night for the stations first live show, and first local variety program in Los Angeles called ‘On With The Show’.
At the time, she, along with Perry Como and Jo Stafford were rotating host of NBC Radio’s popular ‘Chesterfield Supper Club’.
The maiden broadcast was three hours and forty minutes of programming, which followed a 15-minute test-pattern-and-music session. Inauguration night launched with an eighteen-minute newsreel, ‘Review of 1948’. That was followed by the first live program, hosted by Lee. After that came ‘The Pickard Family’ featuring Dad and Mom Pickard and their four children singing familiar American songs.
The station now known as KNBC or NBC4, was one of seven VHF stations licensed for operation in the market. KNBH, which stood for National Broadcasting Hollywood, was one of three stations in the market representing a national broadcasting chain.
By October 1949, KNBH had extended its operating schedule from five to seven days a week, with approximately 26 hours of television programming each week. The station continued to make major technical advances and was the leading promoter of television as the premiere advertising medium. In October 1950, KNBH transmitted the first commercial telecast of a sports event, a Los Angeles Rams Football Game, via the Los Angeles/San Francisco inter-city MicroWave Relay.
KNBH again made history in April 1951 when the first telecast, originating in the East, was presented to West Coast viewers on the same day. The station broadcast General Douglas MacArthur’s speech before Congress less than five hours after it had been originated in Washington, D.C. I think this was achieved by recording a kinescope in St. Louis and flying it to LA.
In November 1962, the station relocated to the NBC Burbank facilities, its current location, and changed its call letters to KNBC.
When the station launched in 1949, Los Angeles was the fifth largest city in the United States, with only 80,000 television sets within 100 miles of the station’s Mount Wilson transmitter. Today, the LA market is the second largest in the country and Channel 4 is viewed in more than five million households, reaching 15 million viewers regularly.
Happy Birthday KNBC! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee