HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF TELEVISION IN TULSA, OKLAHOMA
From the work or such men as Newton, Galvani, Volta, Faraday, Edison, Hertz, and Nipkow, a wonderful means of communication has emerged. According to Webster's New International Dictionary, "Television is the vision or sight of objects at a distance as made possible by an apparatus reproducing an image of them by electrical or other means."1
Reproducing these images has resulted in fortunes for some men and ruin for others. Tulsa, like many of her sister cities throughout the United States, has witnessed the growth of this medium of communications since the late 1940's.
Television viewing began in Tulsa on October 15, 1949. Viewers observed for the first time in T'ulsa a television test signal transmitted by the Cameron Television Corporation on Channel Six. This test pattern was screened for 45 days while adjustments to transmitting equipment were being made. The first actual program picked up by television receivers in Tulsa was the KOTV presentation of a Chamber of Commerce luncheon from the Tulsa Club on November 30, 1949.2
Thus, Tulsa became one of the few cities in America to enjoy television. The early history of the country's ninetieth television station is also the history of a very dynamic woman. Late in 1947, Helen Alvarez was selling radio time for a Tulsa radio station. The station she worked for had just decided that the question of entering the television field was somewhat premature. Several months later it was reported that there soon would be a "freeze" placed on the granting of television licenses by the Federal Communications Commission.3
Miss Alvarez realized how important it would be to get a station in operation before the ban was imposed. Accordingly, she left her job with the radio station and began to talk "television" to anyone who would listen. One person who did listen was oilman, George Cameron. With Cameron supplying the necessary capital and Miss Alvarez the leg work, it was not long before the drearm of television in Tulsa became a reality.
The Commission, subsequently, granted the Cameron Television Corporation permission to telecast on Channel Six. Chief Engineer, George Jacobs, was given the task of. putting the station on the air in the shortest possible time. A truck warehouse was converted into a studlo, and by the autumn of 1949, Tulsans received their first television signal.4
Tulsa did not get another television station for almost five years. This was because in 1948 the Commission had realized that a frequency allocation plan had to be worked out. At that time, there were already 36 stations in 19 cities. However, when the ban was imposed, some 70 applications were outstanding. The Federal Communications Commission had allowed these 70 channel allocations, since they had been requested before the "freeze." Therefore, until April 14, 1952, these 106 stations had a virtual monopoly of television in the United States.5
One of these 106 stations, fortunately for Tulsa, was KOTV. Tulsans soon witnessed the best programming that five networks could devise. KOTV had a choice of programs from the Paramount Television Corporation, NBC, CBS, ABC, and the DuMont Network.6 Several developments of a technical nature such as the coaxial cable and a complex microwave relay system combined to further the popularity of television by making live coast-to-coast transmission possible. The coverage of the 1952 political campaign, for instance, did much to sell television, not only in Tulsa, but to the entire American public, At the year's end in 1952 it was announced that in that single year over 17 million sets were sold. This figure is made more noteworthy when it is recalled that no new stations went on the air until the latter part of that year.7
When the freeze finally ended, a veritable avalanche of applications was received by the Federal Communications Commission. Over 900 requests for channel allocations were received in the 90-day period immediately foliowing the issuance of the Commission's "Sixth Report and Order."8 The purpose of the freeze had been to set up an allocation system that would be operable: this object had been accomplished.
Almost immediately, several groups in Tulsa applied for channel allocations, Although:the ban was over, it was not until early in 1954 that a second television channel. was available to Tulsans. When the Commissign. published its long-awaited "Sixth Report and Order," a definite number of channels was assigned to each city in the United States. There were two categories of frequencies designated by the Order.9 The Very High Frequency Band would occupy channels two through thirteen, while the Ultra High Frequency Band would utilize channels fourteen through eighty-three.10
Tulsa was indeed fortunate in the number of allocations allowed by the Commission. These consisted of three VHF channels (two, six and eleven) and two UHF channels (seventeen and twenty-three). One of the VHF channels was reserved for educational purposes only.11
The first station to go on the air in Tulsa following the freeze was UHF Station KCEB. The fact that this new station was on a different wave-length did not deter some 100,000 set owners from purchasing the necessary equipment to receive the signal.12
When KCEB joined KOTV on the airwaves, the two stations divided the existing networks between them. The DuMont and NBC networks were utilized by the UHF entry, while KOTV continued using ABC and CBS.13 Thus, viewers in the Tulsa area were now afforded the opportunity of choosing their program fare from two sources.14
Soon after KCEB went on the air in March of 1954, several developments occurred in rapid succession, It was reported that Construction Permits were granted for every available channel that had been allocated to Tulsa.15 Central Plains Enterprises, which operated Radio Station KVOO, secured the privilege of telecasting on Channel Two.16 The frequency designated for educational use was granted to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.17 The remaining UHF allocation, Channel Seventeen, was also awarded a Construction Permit.18 In addition, neighboring Muskogee was promised a VHF station of its own when the Commission approved the application of KTVX which was owned by the Tulsa Broadcasting Company.19 All in all, the year 1954 was tantamount to a viewer's paradise in Tulsa. In December of 1954, KCEB, because of low revenues and loss of network aifiliations, went out of operation.20 The following April, the facility that had housed the KCEB operation was sold to the owners of Muskogee Station KTVX to be used as an auxiliary studio.21 Shortly after acquiring the Tulsa facility, the Tulsa Broadcasting Company, owner of KTVX, asked the Commission for permission to move to Tulsa and change its call letters. This request was granted, and by November, Tulsa could boast three VHF stations.22 Meanwhile, KCEB continued to hold its Construction Permit as did the other UHF hopeful, KSPG, Channel Seventeen.
Early in 1956, KOTV donated antenna space on its tower to the Tulsa ETV station so that KOED soon became the fourth VHF station on the Tulsa airwaves.23 Not much additional activity occured in Tulsa television until the mid-sixties. In May of 1964, the Commission assigned several new UHF allocations to Tulsa.24 This resulted in applications being made for these new frequencies. New UHF allocations included Channels Thirty-Five, Twenty-Nine, and Forty-One. Channel Thirty-Five was set aside for ETV use only. Two factions applied for Channel Twenty-Nine in 1966; both are presently awaiting a hearing to determine who will be awarded the frequency. Channel Forty-One was granted a Construction Permit in 1966, but this approval was recently reversed by the Commission as the permittee failed to show sufficient financial qualifications.25
As this report is being written, Tulsa is the possessor of four VHF stations, all of which are operating on a regular basis. There are also four UHF channels assigned to Tulsa, none of which is being utilized at this time.
2 Tulsa World, November 30, 1949.
3 Robert L. Hilliard, Understanding Television (New York: Hastings House, 1964), p.17.
4 Tulsa World, November 1, 1949.
5 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 22, 1952 (The freeze began on September 30, 1948 and ended on April 14, 1952.)
6 Interview with Robert Freeland, former Publicity Director of KOTV, March 8, 1967.
7 BroadcastingYearbook (Washington, D. C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc., 1952).
8 FCC 19th Annual Report, 1953, p. 93 (Less than 400 applications were approved.)
9 Giraud Chester, Garnet R. Garrison, and Edgar R. Willis, Television and Radio (New York: Appleton, Century, Crofts, 1963), p. 45.
10 Radio-Television Daily, October 8, 1963, reported that the FCC had taken Channel 37 from TV usage for a ten-year period and set it aside specifically for radioastronomical research.
11 Robert L. Hilliard, Understanding Television (New York: Hastings House, 1964), p. 19.
12 Interview with Howard Eden, Radio, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 6, 1967.
13 Interview with George Stevens, General Manager of KOTV, March 8, 1967.
14 Interview with Elfred Beck, KCEB, March 5, 1967.
15 Broadcastlng Yearbook (Washington, D. C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc., 1954).
16 Tulsa Tribune, June 10, 1954.
17 Letter from John W. Dunn, Director of Oklahoma ETV, March 15, 1967.
18 Tulsa World, August 8, 1954.
19 Tulsa World, April 14, 1954.
20 Interview with Elfred Beck of KCEB, March 22, 1967.
21 Broadcasting Magazine (Washington, D. C.: Broadcasting DPublications, Inc.,) December 10, 1954.
22 Interview with William Swanson, KTUL, March 10, 1967.
23 Tulsa Tribune, September 1, 1956.
24 Tulsa World, May 1, 1964.
25 Letter from Ben F. Waple, Secretary of the FCC, April 4, 1967.