King Broadcasting Company

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King Broadcasting Company is a Seattle, Washington media conglomerate and a subsidiary of Tegna founded by Dorothy Bullitt. It began with one AM radio station and later an FM radio station, and grew to include a large group of broadcast television and radio stations, as well as a cable television network.


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.

Thus, 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, under Dorothy Bullitt's guidance, the station prospered.

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 is 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.

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.

Stimson Bullitt served as president until Payne took over in 1972, and Steven A. Clifford was named president of King Broadcasting in 1987.

Following Dorothy Bullitt's death, KING Broadcasting Company was sold to The Providence Journal newspaper in 1991, which was later sold to the Belo Corporation in 1997, which included King Broadcasting. 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 Multimedia and a forerunner of Combined Communications, Pacific and Southern Company, companies that were eventually absorbed into Gannett as well). 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.

Film production[edit]

King Broadcasting Company established a subsidiary, King Screen Productions, in 1966, to produce movies.[1] 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.[2] Although King Screen was closed in the early 1970s,[3] King Broadcasting continued to control the film's rights at the time of the 1990 release.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Weber, Bruce (1990-01-07). "Belatedly, the 'Plot Against Harry' Hatches". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Hendrickson, Paul (1990-03-10). "The Flop They're Flipping Over: 'Plot Against Harry' Director Michael Roemer & the Day Nobody Laughed". pp. D1.

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