|Burlington, New Jersey -
|City of license||Burlington, New Jersey|
|Channels||Analog: 48 (UHF)|
(off the air on August 30, 1983)
|Founded||July 1964 |
|First air date||September 1, 1965|
|Last air date||August 30, 1983|
|Call letters' meaning||W Kaiser Broadcasting System|
|Former affiliations||Independent (1965-1983)
ABC (secondary, 1975-1983)
NBC (secondary, 1976-1977)
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-TV) and two weeks before WPHL-TV (channel 17). The studios were located at 3201 South 26th Street in South Philadelphia, and its transmitter was on the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia. The station struggled at first, in part because it signed on only a year after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 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, retaining the top spot for almost a decade.
WKBS' 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-TV in Detroit, WKBG-TV in Boston and WKBF-TV in Cleveland. In addition, WKBS aired shows produced by other Kaiser stations, such as The Lou Gordon Program from WKBD. In a controversial 1972 episode, then-Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, frustrated with Gordon's line of questioning, walked out of the interview. In the mid-1970s, WKBS also aired ABC shows that WPVI-TV preempted in favor of local programming, and during the 1976-77 season, it aired NBC shows preempted by KYW-TV.
In 1973, Kaiser sold a minority interest in its operations to Field Communications, which owned WFLD-TV in Chicago. Four years later in 1977, Kaiser left the television business and sold its share of the 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.
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-TV in Washington, D.C., in 1969.
In the 1970s, WKBS-TV attempted to do a 10 p.m. newscast. Some say[who?] 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.
In 1982, a dispute over the operation of Field Communications between brothers Marshall Field V and Frederick W. Field resulted 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 the Philadelphia and Detroit outlets.
Finally, with no takers and facing a deadline to close down the company, Field announced on July 15, 1983, that it would shut down WKBS-TV at the end of August. All of channel 48's programming (except for shows provided by syndicator Viacom) and some production equipment were sold to WPHL-TV, while the station's broadcast license was returned to the FCC. On August 30, 1983, following the telecast of a college football game, WKBS-TV signed off for the final time. The sign-off sequence, usually a film of The Star-Spangled Banner, was instead replaced by a video of the employees saying farewell accompanied by Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
The sequence began with an editorial by the station's final general manager, Vincent F. Baressi:
- "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 State-Nebraska 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."
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 WUVP), based in Vineland, New Jersey. It had a decent lineup of programs, but never matched what had been offered on WKBS, and was also hampered by an inadequate signal.
Then, in the middle of 1985, former subscription television outlet WWSG-TV (channel 57) became a full-service independent and changed its calls to WGBS-TV. A short time later, WRBV was sold to the broadcasting arm of the Asbury Park Press, which changed its calls to WSJT. The station briefly waged a ratings battle with WGBS, but this was over before it even started due to WSJT's aforementioned 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 January 1984, just months after WKBS left the air, the FCC put channel 48's construction permit up for auction. Among those bidding on it were Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group; Dorothy Brunson, an African-American radio station owner from Baltimore; and Cornerstone Television, a Christian television network based in the Pittsburgh suburbs. After a two-year process, the auction ended with Brunson winning the permit. Cornerstone had, during the interim, purchased channel 48's transmitter, moved it to Altoona and used it to sign on a new station in 1985 on channel 47, ironically enough under the WKBS-TV call letters.
Brunson signed her station on as WGTW-TV 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. WKBS' license expired on June 1, 1984, thus according to FCC records, WGTW's construction permit was issued on July 14, 1988. 
- Pat Farnack (news anchor, late 1970s-1983, now midday anchor at WCBS radio in New York City)
- Doug Johnson (anchor, 1968–1969; later a reporter and anchor at WABC-TV in New York City; now retired)
- Hy Lit, legendary Philadelphia radio personality who hosted The Hy Lit Show
- Stu Nahan, played children's show host Captain Philadelphia and anchored sports highlight show; he later became a sports anchor at television stations in Los Angeles
- Jim Vance (reporter, 1968–1969; now anchor at WRC-TV, Washington, D.C.)
- Bill "Wee Willie" Webber (children's programming host, 1976–1979)
- Broadcast Pioneer's Website page describing the history of WKBS and the reason for going dark, with audio of Vincent Barresi's farewell speech
- "FCC approves Kaiser for UHF in New Jersey." Broadcasting, July 13, 1964, pg. 15: Grant issued to Kaiser Industries for Burlington station was originally for channel 41; FCC moved allocation to channel 48 prior to WKBS-TV's sign-on. 
- WKBS-TV/Kaiser Broadcasting advertisement. Broadcasting, July 19, 1965, pg. 15. 
- "New TV stations." Broadcasting, May 10, 1965, pg. 56. 
- Frank Rizzo appearance on The Lou Gordon Program, 1972. YouTube. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
- "Kaiser, Field put their U's together." Broadcasting, May 29, 1972, pg. 8. 
- "Kaiser-Field merger passes FCC muster." Broadcasting, May 14, 1973, pg. 34. 
- "FCC approves Field purchase, cites benefit to UHF medium." Broadcasting, June 27, 1977, pp. 29-30. 
- "Field to dismantle its Philadelphia station, WKBS-TV." Broadcasting, July 25, 1983, pg. 89. 
- "For the record." Broadcasting, January 16, 1984, pg. 147. 
- "For the record." Broadcasting, January 30, 1984, pg. 101: Burlington 48 Inc., applicant for facilities, was principally owned by Julian Sinclair Smith, founder of Sinclair Broadcast Group. 
- "Washington Watch: Burlington TV." Broadcasting, February 17, 1986, pp. 62-63.