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WKBS-TV was an independent television station licensed to Burlington, New Jerseymarker, which served the Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker area from 1965 to 1983. WKBS-TV had studio facilities located in South Philadelphia, and transmitter at the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia.

History

The station ID card for-then Kaiser-owned WKBS-TV in the early 1970s.
WKBS-TV began operations on September 1, 1965, owned by Kaiser Broadcasting. It was the second independent station in the Philadelphia market, having signed on almost six months after WIBF-TV (channel 29, later WTAF-TV and now WTXF-TVmarker) and two weeks before WPHL-TVmarker (channel 17). The studios were located at 3201 South 26th Street in South Philadelphia near a set of oil refineries. The station struggled at first, in part because it signed on only a year after the Federal Communications Commission required television manufacturers to include UHF tuning capability. However, WKBS was on stronger financial footing than WPHL and WIBF, and quickly established itself as the leading independent in Philadelphia. It retained the top spot for almost a decade.

WKBS's schedule was typical of most independent stations of the time, with a mix of off-network programs, children's programs, movies, and local-interest shows, including a dance show hosted by local radio personality Hy Lit, which also aired on at least three of Kaiser's other stations: WKBD-TVmarker in Detroitmarker, WKBG-TVmarker in Bostonmarker and WKBF-TV in Clevelandmarker. In addition, WKBS aired shows produced by other Kaiser stations, such as The Lou Gordon Program from WKBD. (In a controversial episode, Philadelphia's mayor Frank Rizzo walked out of an interview with Lou) Beginning in the mid-1970s, WKBS also aired ABC shows that WPVI-TVmarker preempted in favor of local programming, and during the 1976-77 season, it aired NBC shows preempted by KYW-TVmarker.

In 1972, Kaiser sold a minority interest to Field Communications, which owned WFLD-TVmarker in Chicagomarker. Five years later, in 1977, Kaiser left the television business and sold most of its television stations, including WKBS-TV, to Field. For most of the next few years, WKBS waged a spirited battle with WTAF for first place among the city's independents. However, by the early 1980s, WTAF was the entrenched top independent in Philadelphia.

In 1982, a nasty dispute over the operation of Field Communications erupted between brothers Marshall Field V and Frederick W. Field, resulteing in the liquidation of their company, including their broadcasting interests. By June 1983 three of Field's stations had already been sold, leaving Field with WKBD and WKBS. Field's asking prices for both stations were very high, considering their profitability, strong ratings, and the value of their programming rights. At WKBS, Field mulled over several offers, including donating the station to a local college and selling programming to other stations, as well as selling the station to a group of channel 48 employees. Another offer, which was seriously considered, would have resulted in WKBS being sold to the Providence Journal Company, the then-owner of WPHL-TV. The two stations' schedules would have been merged under the channel 48 license, call letters and channel location, while channel 17 would have been sold to a religious broadcaster. However, the Journal's offer was still far below the Field brothers' asking price. Furthermore, the Field brothers also had the option of liquidating the assets and closing down the station for a huge tax write-off.

Finally, with no takers and facing a deadline to close down the company, Field announced on July 15, 1983, that it would shut down channel 48. All of WKBS' programming (except for shows provided by syndicator Viacom) and some production equipment were sold to WPHL-TV, while the license was returned to the FCC. On August 30, 1983, following a college football game, a video of the employees saying farewell aired. This was followed by an editorial by Vincent F. Baressi, general manager of the station, and the sign-off film, usually played with the Star-Spangled Banner, was instead accompanied by Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".

This is what Baressi said in the final signoff: [303033]

"Tonight completes the last day of the broadcasting operations of WKBS-TV, channel 48, Field Communications Burlington/Philadelphia. On July 15, Field Communications announced that it would cease operation of the station and that the license to operate channel 48 would be returned to the Federal Communications Commission.


Channel 48 began its broadcast operations on September 1, 1965, under the ownership of Kaiser Broadcasting. Through those eighteen years of operation, we have endeavored to best serve all interests of the Delaware Valley. The commitment of all of our station's employees has been dedicated to you, our viewers. Over the years, we have presented all types of programs to the people of the Delaware Valley. Channel 48's efforts have been recognized by many broadcast professional awards, and more importantly, by our viewers. Channel 48 as an entity, and our employees as individual citizens, have been deeply involved in our community; we have been unselfish over the years by giving literally thousands of hours of personal time to make the Delaware Valley an even better place in which to live.


We hope you enjoyed tonight's Penn Statemarker-Nebraskamarker football game. I am sure you can appreciate that this is a sad day for all of us at channel 48. However, we take great pride in knowing that we have been of service to you over the past eighteen years. Since the announced closing of our operation, we have received numerous letters and phone calls of support. For that, we are most appreciative. We, the people of WKBS will all go forward in our new careers, and I can assure you that we will always have the people of the Delaware Valley in our hearts. Thank you, good night, and God bless you all."


News operation

WKBS-TV operated a small news department during its early years, producing a newscast at the morning sign-on time, and providing news updated during the course of the broadcast day. Among channel 48's first on-air reporters was Jim Vance, who started his television career with WKBS in 1968 before moving to WRC-TVmarker in Washington, D.C.marker, in 1969.

In the 1970s, WKBS-TV attempted to do a 10 p.m. newscast. Some say that this newscast was better than what WTAF/WTXF and WPHL would air years later. However, the experiment failed because the Philadelphia market was not ready for a primetime newscast. From the late 1970s until the station went dark, channel 48 would air news updates anchored by Pat Farnack. Starting in 1982, the station had a local inserted newscast with CNN Headline News at 10 p.m. on weekdays. Marty Jacobs also hosted a public affairs show.

The Dark Years

After channel 48 went off the air, the Philadelphia market was left with two independents. The first station to make a serious attempt to replace WKBS as the market's third indie was WRBV-TV (channel 65, now WUVPmarker), based in Vineland, New Jerseymarker. It had a decent lineup of programs, but never matched what had been offered on WKBS. It was also hampered by an inadequate signal.

Then, in the middle of 1985, former subscription television outlet WWSG-TV (channel 57marker) became a full-service independent and changed its calls to WGBS-TV. It briefly waged a ratings battle with WRBV, but this was over before it even started due to WRBV's weak signal. Within a few months, WGBS established itself as the third independent in Philadelphia. Despite financial problems within the station's ownership, WGBS gave channel 29 a serious challenge for the top spot among Philadelphia's indies.

In 1984, just months after WKBS left the air, the FCC put channel 48's license up for auction. Among those bidding on the license were Dorothy Brunson, an African-American woman who previously worked in radio; and Cornerstone Television, a Christian television network based in Pittsburghmarker. After a two-year process, the auction ended with Brunson winning the license. Cornerstone had, during the interim, purchased channel 48's transmitter, moved it to Altoonamarker, and used it to sign on a new station in 1985 on channel 47marker, ironically enough under the WKBS-TV call letters.

Brunson signed her station on as WGTW-TVmarker on August 15, 1992. The station carried on as an independent for more than a decade before being sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 2004. The two stations are not related; although WGTW shares the same city of license (Burlington) and the same channel allocation as the old WKBS-TV, it is not the same license. According to FCC records, WGTW's construction permit was issued on July 14, 1988.[303034]

Station Slogan

  • In Philadelphia, The Choice is Yours, on Channel 48 (1978-1983)


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