King Broadcasting Company

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King Broadcasting Company
IndustryBroadcast television, Broadcast radio
FateAssets split up; name used by Tegna for license holding
Founded1946; 73 years ago (1946)
FounderDorothy Bullitt
DefunctFebruary 25, 1992; 27 years ago (1992-02-25) (as independent company)
Area served
Western United States
Key people
OwnerBullitt family (until 1992)
ParentTegna Inc.

King Broadcasting Company was a former media conglomerate founded in 1946 by Dorothy Bullitt and owned by the Bullitt family until it was sold to The Providence Journal in 1991. It is currently a subsidiary of Tegna as the licensee for its remaining stations. It began with one AM radio station and later an FM radio station, and it grew to include a large group of broadcast television and radio stations as well as a cable television network.


King Broadcasting Company headquarters and KING-TV studios in South Lake Union, 2013. It was the headquarters from the company's inception in 1946 to 2016, when KING-TV moved south to SoDo; it was demolished later that year.

In 1946, Dorothy Bullitt purchased Seattle radio station KEVR-AM, 1090. KEVR had no network affiliation and relied entirely on syndicated programming from service providers such as World Transcription Service, MacGregor Transcription Service, and Fredrick W. Ziv Productions. Due to this, KEVR aired programs such as Boston Blackie, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, and Calling All Cars, programs the big network radio stations did not have. As a result, KEVR offered independent listening choices that maintained a rather large listening audience, the cost, of which, was supported by commercial advertising sponsors. Although not having a network was a tough proposition, the station prospered under Dorothy Bullitt's guidance.

In the early days, the Ziv Company also furnished syndicated television programming to KING-TV, such as Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford, and Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges.

Bullitt's radio station later raised its output power to 50,000 watts, the maximum allowed in the United States.

Also in 1947, Bullitt purchased call letters from a fishing boat and changed KEVR to KING.

In 1948, Dorothy Bullitt constructed KING-FM at 98.1 to air classical music, her favorite. In 1949, she purchased KRSC-TV, Channel 5, for $375,000. The call letters of the television station were also changed to KING-TV.

When KRSC-TV first went on the air Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1948 under other ownership, it was the only television station west of Minneapolis and north of San Francisco. At that time, many considered television a fad and passing fancy. Consequently, making a go of a television station during this time period was a daunting effort.

On 30 September 1948, the Federal Communications Commission announced a "freeze" on the granting of new television licenses (those already authorized were allowed to begin or continue operations). The Commission had already granted over 100 licenses and was inundated with hundreds of additional applications. Unable to resolve several important interference, allocation and other technical questions because of this rush, the FCC believed that the freeze would allow it to hold hearings and study the issues, leading to something of a "master blueprint" for television in the United States. With the 14 April 1952 issuance of the Commission's 6th Report and Order, the freeze was finally lifted.

Therefore, from November 25, 1948 to December 10, 1953 when KOMO-TV came on the air, KING-TV was the only television station in Seattle, which allowed it to develop a progressive program, sales, and engineering infrastructure. Any stations, coming on the air in Seattle following the 1952 freeze lift, would have the task of developing their own methods. Therefore, KING-TV was ahead of the game when KOMO-TV began operations.

In the beginning, the station had only a few programs to televise. KING-TV's broadcast day began in late afternoon and finished by 10 p.m. each evening.

KING-TV became an NBC affiliate in 1959 after switching networks with rival KOMO-TV.

KING was the first local station in the United States to purchase a two-inch, quad, video tape machine from the Ampex Corporation at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in 1956. The machine was delivered and put into operation in November 1957.

Soon after buying Channel 5, Bullitt mandated what was one of the first local news operations in the country. She then helped shape it into a news unit that earned a national reputation for innovation and public service. KING-TV also excelled in producing local non-news programming.

"She had a very strong hand in determining policy. However, people called her the 'velvet steam roller,' which was a complimentary term meaning that she always used a kind, gentle hand when dealing with everyone. When Dorothy Bullitt made a suggestion, it was always interpreted as an order. I have never known anyone who had such a handle on what her employees, and the community in general, wanted and needed as Dorothy Bullitt," said Ancil Payne, who joined King Broadcasting in 1960 as an assistant to the vice president of the business division and retired in 1987 as president of the company.

Also in the 1970s, the company expanded, under the leadership of Edward Hewson, into the cable television arena with the formation of King Videocable, which eventually expanded from its' Northwestern base to serve around 500,000 customers from the West and into the Midwest.

Dorothy Bullitt remained president of the company until 1961 when she was succeeded by her son, Stimson Bullitt. She served as chairwoman of the board until 1967 and remained active until her death in 1989.

In 1972, Dorothy Bullitt's daughters assumed positions with the company's board of directors. Priscilla "Patsy" Collins took charge of the board, and Harriet Stimson Bullitt became head of the board's executive committee. Payne also became president of the company that year, taking over for Stimson Bullitt, and would hold that position until Steven A. Clifford was named president in 1987.

Following Dorothy Bullitt's death, the Bullitt family decided to solely focus on environmental philanthropy with the Bullitt Foundation;[1] as a result, the company was broken up and its assets were sold off in 1991.[2] On March 2 of that year, Bullitt's daughters announced that they would sell the television assets and the King Broadcasting name to The Providence Journal newspaper; the sale was completed the following year on February 25.[2][3][4] Meanwhile, the remaining radio stations were sold to various companies; the Seattle radio stations were sold to Classic Radio, Inc., which the Bullitt family retained control over until 1994[3][5]. The mobile television company was spun off to its own management.[5] The company's cable television systems were included in the sale to the Providence Journal Company and were integrated into their own cable holdings; these holdings were sold in 1995 and have since been absorbed into Comcast.

The King Broadcasting stations were later acquired by the Belo Corporation in 1997 with its purchase of The Providence Journal. Belo itself was acquired by the Gannett Company in 2013. Gannett's print and broadcast assets were split into two companies in 2015, with King Broadcasting following the broadcast assets into the newly created Tegna Inc.

The King Broadcasting name lives on as a holding company within Tegna's corporate structure (as is also the case with other companies absorbed into Gannett such as Multimedia and a forerunner of Combined Communications, Pacific and Southern Company). It is still the licensee for the former King Broadcasting television stations, except KHNL, which Belo sold to Raycom Media in 1999, and (for a short while) KGW, which was spun off to Sander Media as part of the Belo acquisition due to Gannett's ownership of the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem, Ore. Gannett operated KGW through a shared services agreement, an arrangement that was inherited by Tegna. However, KGW was reunited with its King Broadcasting stablemates when Tegna fully acquired the Sander-held stations in December 2015.


Stations are organized alphabetically by state and city of license.


  • (**) - Indicates a station built and signed-on by King Broadcasting.
  • (^^) - KGW was owned by Sander Media from 2013-2015 and is still the licensee for the station despite Tegna reacquiring it in 2015.

Current television stations (owned by Tegna)[edit]

City of license / Market Station Channel TV (RF) Owned since Primary affiliation
Boise KTVB 7 (7) 1979 NBC
Portland, Oregon KGW ** ^^ 8 (8) 1956 NBC
SeattleTacoma KING-TV 5 (48) 1949 NBC
Spokane KREM 2 (20) 1957 CBS

Former television stations[edit]

City of license / Market Station Channel TV (RF) Years owned Current ownership status
Honolulu KHNL 13 (35) 1986–1999 NBC affiliate owned by Gray Television

Former radio stations[edit]

AM Station FM Station
City of license / Market Station Years owned Current ownership status
San Francisco KSFO 560 1984[6]–1991 Owned by Cumulus Media
KYA-FM 93.3 1983[7]–1991 KRZZ, owned by Spanish Broadcasting System
Portland, Oregon KGW 620 1953–1991 KPOJ, owned by iHeartMedia
KINK 101.9 ** 1968–1991 Owned by Alpha Media
Seattle–Tacoma KING 1090 1947–1991 KFNQ, owned by iHeartMedia
(brand extension of KJR)
KING-FM 98.1 ** 1947–1991 Owned by Classic Radio, Inc.
(listener-supported public radio station)
Spokane KREM 970 1957–1984 KTTO, owned by Sacred Heart Radio, Inc.
KREM-FM 92.9 1957–1984 KZZU-FM, owned by Morgan Murphy Media

Film production[edit]

King Broadcasting Company established a subsidiary, King Screen Productions, in 1966, to produce movies.[8] The company financed Michael Roemer's film The Plot Against Harry, which became famous for having been completed in 1970 but not securing a commercial release until 1990.[9] Although King Screen was closed in the early 1970s,[10] King Broadcasting continued to control the film's rights at the time of the 1990 release.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keene, Linda (1990-08-21). "Business | Bullitt Family To Sell King Broadcasting -- Sisters To Devote Wealth To Environment | Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  2. ^ a b Times, Special to The New York (1991-03-02). "COMPANY NEWS; King Broadcasting's TV Asset Sale". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Chuck (1994-09-09). "Entertainment & the Arts | Why The Sudden Change Regarding King-Am Radio? | Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  4. ^ "Providence Journal buys King broadcasting". Kitsap Sun. 1992-02-25. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  5. ^ a b "King Broadcasting Co. sells to San Francisco-area stations". Kitsap Sun. 1991-10-29. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  6. ^ "560 KSFO Personality Intros (1984)". Bay Area Radio Museum. 2018-08-30. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  7. ^ "KYA". Bay Area Radio Museum. 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  8. ^ Corr, O. Casey (1996). King: The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-295-97584-9.
  9. ^ Weber, Bruce (1990-01-07). "Belatedly, the 'Plot Against Harry' Hatches". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  10. ^ Corr, O. Casey (1996). King: The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-295-97584-9.
  11. ^ Hendrickson, Paul (1990-03-10). "The Flop They're Flipping Over: 'Plot Against Harry' Director Michael Roemer & the Day Nobody Laughed". pp. D1.

External links[edit]