WKBS-TV (Philadelphia)

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This article is about the defunct TV station in the Philadelphia market. For the current Channel 48, see WGTW-TV. For the current WKBS-TV in Altoona, Pennsylvania, see WKBS-TV.
Burlington, New Jersey
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
United States
City Burlington, New Jersey
Channels Analog: 48 (UHF)
Owner Kaiser Broadcasting
Field Communications
Founded July 1964[1]
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 (1975–1983)
NBC (1976–1977)
Facility ID 21425
(deleted) [14]
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile

WKBS-TV, UHF analog channel 48, was an independent television station licensed to Burlington, New Jersey, United States, which served the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania television market. The station broadcast from 1965 to 1983.


The station ID card for-then Kaiser-owned WKBS-TV in the early 1970s.

The station first signed on the air on September 1, 1965, and was originally owned by Kaiser Broadcasting.[2] 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). WKBS-TV's studios were located at 3201 South 26th Street in South Philadelphia, and its transmitter was located on the Roxborough tower farm in Philadelphia.[3] 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 syndicated 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.[4] In a controversial 1972 episode, then-Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, frustrated with Gordon's line of questioning, walked out of the interview.[5] In the mid-1970s, WKBS also aired ABC shows that WPVI-TV (channel 6) preempted in favor of local programming, and during the 1976-77 season, it aired NBC shows preempted by KYW-TV (channel 3, now a CBS owned-and-operated station).

In 1973, Kaiser sold a minority interest in its operations to Field Communications, which owned WFLD-TV in Chicago.[6][7] Programming on Channel 48 in the late 1960s included shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Munsters, Gilligan's Island, My Three Sons, Perry Mason, Felix The Cat, Casper, Marine Boy, Speed Racer, Dickory Doc, Our Gang, You Bet Your Life, and The Honeymooners. Most of these shows aired into the 1970s and were joined by shows like Star Trek, McHale's Navy, Get Smart, Van Der Valk, Avengers, The Merv Griffin Show, Yogi Bear/Huckleberry Hound, Jerry Lucas, Mighty Mouse, The Flintstones, The Brady Bunch, The Monkees, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show, and others. Until 1974, Channel 48 signed on daily between 10:00 a.m. and 12 noon and off the air by 1 a.m. Beginning in 1974, the station began signing on Sundays before 8:00 a.m. In the fall of 1974, Channel 48 began signing on weekdays at 7:00 a.m., resumed 10:30 a.m. sign ons winter of 1975, resumed 7:00 a.m. sign ons in the fall of 1975, and 8:00 a.m. sign ons weekdays until the fall of 1976. In the fall of 1976, the station began 6:30 a.m. sign ons during the week and off the air by 3:00 a.m., resumed 10:00 a.m. sign ons in the winter of 1977, returned to 6 a.m. sign on weekdays that fall only to cut back and sign on at 10 a.m. in the winter of 1978. Finally in the fall of 1978, Channel 48 began signing on at 6:00 a.m. for good daily and was off the air by at least 4:00 a.m. The station lost the Merv Griffin show in the fall of 1976 and replaced it with older movies. In 1976, Channel 48 began running preempted ABC shows not run on WPVI Channel 6 (which ABC bought outright after it merged with Capital Cities in 1985) such as The Edge Of Night and eventually weekday reruns of Love Boat.

In 1977, Kaiser left the television business and sold its share of the stations, including WKBS-TV, to Field.[8] 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 the late 1970s some older shows were retired and the station lost Star Trek to WPHL 17. Some others, namely Emergency!, Adam-12, and others kept running. The station picked up shows at this point such as The Odd Couple, I Love Lucy, Hancock's Half Hour, The Six Million Dollar Man, All In The Family, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye shorts, Bugs Bunny/Porky Pig cartoons made before 1941 and after 1948, Sanford & Son, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and others. They also telecast basketball games involving Philadelphia 76ers, of which WKBS served as home team until the station went off-air completely.

News operation[edit]

WKBS-TV operated a small news department during its early years, producing a newscast at the station's morning sign-on time, and providing news updates 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 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, apparently because the Philadelphia market was not ready for a prime-time 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 aired a news simulcast of CNN2 (now HLN) with local news inserts at 10 p.m. on weekdays. Marty Jacobs also hosted a public affairs program.


In 1982, a nasty 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.[9] By June 1983 three of Field's stations had already been sold, leaving the company with its Philadelphia and Detroit outlets. While the station was profitable, they had a very weak prime time schedule: they lost Philadelphia 76ers basketball to WPHL-TV (Channel 17) and failed to get the rights to stronger syndicated shows such as Three's Company. Instead, they aired shows like Mork and Mindy (which was popular during its network run but fell flat in syndication), BJ and the Bear, WKRP in Cincinnati, and mostly older movies from the 1930s and 1940s. (WKBS also secured the rights to Fantasy Island and One Day At A Time, which were scheduled to begin airing in the fall of 1983). While many larger broadcast groups were interested in the station, none were willing to pay Field's asking price. The Providence Journal (owners of WPHL-TV), offered to buy WKBS and sell Channel 17 to a religious broadcaster—the idea was to combine assets (with Channel 17 maybe keeping a few family dramas) with Channel 48 and make a strong station; still, they were unwilling to meet Field's asking price. WKBS employees tried to obtain financing to buy the station themselves but couldn't meet the asking price, either. Field even considered donating Channel 48 to Penn State University, where they would run the station as a commercial outlet. But Penn State backed out as well, fearing the station may not be profitable, putting the school in debt.

This left Field with WKBD 50 Detroit and Channel 48. Finally, with no acceptable takers for either station 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. Field held onto WKBD for a few more weeks before selling it to Cox Communications that fall (the sale was finally consummated in February 1984). Most of channel 48's programming (except for shows provided by syndication firm Viacom) and some production equipment were sold to WPHL-TV, while the station's broadcast license was returned to the FCC.[10] On August 30, 1983, following the telecast of the first Kickoff Classic college football game between Nebraska and defending national champion Penn State, 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:[11]


After channel 48 went off the air, the Philadelphia market was left with two independents. Channel 17 resurrected cartoons in the 6:30 to 9:00 a.m. weekday timeslot and in afternoons from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. Still, many shows were not airing in the market and Channel 17, while added children's shows and running comedy shows in the 11:30 to 2:30 slots weekdays there was still a hole in the market. The first station to make a serious attempt to replace WKBS as the market's third indie outlet was WRBV-TV (channel 65, now WUVP), based in Vineland, New Jersey in June 1985. A short time later, WRBV was sold to the broadcasting arm of the Asbury Park Press, which changed its calls to WSJT. It had a lineup of very old comedy shows and westerns and drama shows from the 1950s and 60's like The Donna Reed Show, Bachelor Father, Petticoat Junction, Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Love That Bob, December Bride, Gunsmoke, Naked City, among others, but never nearly matched what had been offered on WKBS, and was also hampered by an inadequate signal which leaned to the southeast.

Then, in October 1985, former subscription television outlet WWSG-TV (channel 57, now WPSG) became a full-service independent and changed its calls to WGBS-TV. WSJT briefly attempted to wage a ratings battle with WGBS, but this was over before it even started due to WSJT's aforementioned weak signal and the fact their shows were mostly older. Channel 57 had shows like I Love Lucy and All In The Family as well as cartoons and other shows newly in syndication. 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 independent outlets.

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 the 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.[12][13] After a two-year process, the auction ended with Brunson winning the permit.[14] 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 and was never renewed, thus according to FCC records, WGTW's construction permit was issued on July 14, 1988. [15][16]

Out of market cable carriage[edit]

In its final years, channel 48, along with rivals WPHL and WTAF, was carried on cable systems throughout the New York City market portion of Northern and Central New Jersey. When the announcement was made that the station was going dark, the systems began to gradually remove the station from their lineups.

On-air staff[edit]

Notable former on-air staff[edit]

  • Marty Jacobs, Mgr News/Public Affairs (1972 to the end) first Nationally run News For Children (Mini-News), award winning community affairs, became one of the first 12 hosts at the start of QVC.
  • Pat Farnack - part-time news anchor for 1980 attempt to create 10p newscast, now midday anchor at WCBS radio in New York). Her late husband was Dan Foley a staff announcer there.
  • Dan Foley - full-time staff announcer from 1965 sign on until the 1983 sign off. He pre-recorded most of the station's announcements, promotions, and voiceover work for local commercials. He hosted the film about Valley Forge which plays every open day at the Valley Forge National Park Battlefield. He died in 1999.
  • Doctor Don Rose - part-time staff announcer, known for his airshifts on WFIL. He hosted the children's block of weekday afternoon, morning, and Sunday morning cartoons. He also had pre-recorded announcements during the weekday transitional 5:00 p.m. hour. He also hosted the children's shows from the station's 1965 sign on until the station went dark in 1983.
  • 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 a sports highlight show (later became a sports anchor at television stations in Los Angeles; now deceased)
  • Jim Vance - reporter (1968–1969; now anchor at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.)
  • Bill "Wee Willie" Webber - children's programming host (1976–1979)


  1. ^ "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. [1]
  2. ^ WKBS-TV/Kaiser Broadcasting advertisement. Broadcasting, July 19, 1965, pg. 15. [2]
  3. ^ "New TV stations." Broadcasting, May 10, 1965, pg. 56
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ Frank Rizzo appearance on The Lou Gordon Program, 1972. YouTube. Retrieved 2013-03-07. [4]
  6. ^ "Kaiser, Field put their U's together." Broadcasting, May 29, 1972, pg. 8. [5]
  7. ^ "Kaiser-Field merger passes FCC muster." Broadcasting, May 14, 1973, pg. 34. [6]
  8. ^ "FCC approves Field purchase, cites benefit to UHF medium." Broadcasting, June 27, 1977, pp. 29-30. [7][8]
  9. ^ It Sounded Like Dallas, Not Chicago, as Two Half Brothers Broke Up the Field Family Empire, by Barbara Kleban Mills and Susan Deutsch. People Magazine, Vol. 20, No. 24, 12 December 1983. Retrieved on 3 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Field to dismantle its Philadelphia station, WKBS-TV." Broadcasting, July 25, 1983, pg. 89. [9]
  11. ^ [10]
  12. ^ "For the record." Broadcasting, January 16, 1984, pg. 147
  13. ^ "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. [11]
  14. ^ "Washington Watch: Burlington TV." Broadcasting, February 17, 1986, pp. 62-63. [12][13]

External links[edit]