|Burlington, New Jersey–|
|City||Burlington, New Jersey|
|Channels||Analog: 48 (UHF)|
|First air date||September 1, 1965 (54 Years ago)|
|Last air date||August 30, 1983 (35 Years Ago)|
|Call letters' meaning||W Kaiser Broadcasting System|
|Public license information:||
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 first signed on the air on September 1, 1965, and was originally 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). 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. 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. 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 (channel 6) preempted in favor of local programming, and during the 1976-77 season, it aired NBC shows preempted by KYW-TV (channel 3).
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 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. 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.
Beginning of the End
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. By June 1983 three of Field's stations had already been sold, leaving the company with its Philadelphia and Detroit outlets. While many larger broadcast groups were interested in the station, none were willing to pay Field's asking price. The Providence Journal Company, owners of WPHL-TV, offered to buy WKBS, sell WPHL's channel 17 broadcast license to a religious broadcaster and merge WPHL and WKBS' stronger programming under WKBS' license and channel allocation. However, Journal's offer was still well below Field's asking price. WKBS employees tried to obtain financing to buy the station themselves, but also could not meet the asking price.
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 in Detroit 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 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".
|“||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 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. This station 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. Within a few months, WGBS established itself as the third independent in Philadelphia. Despite financial problems within the station's ownership, WGBS gave WTAF-TV 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 a new channel 48 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. 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 originally shared the same city of license (Burlington; WGTW moved its license to Millville in 2017) and the same channel allocation as the old WKBS-TV, it operates under a separate license. WKBS' license expired on October 4, 1983 and was returned to the FCC, while WGTW's construction permit was issued on July 14, 1988.
Out of market cable carriage
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, as well as parts of the Baltimore and Harrisburg markets. When the announcement was made that the station was going dark, the systems began to gradually remove the station from their lineups.
Notable former on-air staff
- 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 once identifying the station as "WKBS...a service of Kaiser Broad-chasing".. 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; later anchored at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.; now deceased)
- Bill "Wee Willie" Webber - children's programming host (1976–1979)
- "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
- "Kaiser, Field put their U's together." Broadcasting, May 29, 1972, pg. 8. [permanent dead link]
- "Kaiser-Field merger passes FCC muster." Broadcasting, May 14, 1973, pg. 34. [permanent dead link]
- Frank Rizzo appearance on The Lou Gordon Program, 1972. YouTube. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
- "FCC approves Field purchase, cites benefit to UHF medium." Broadcasting, June 27, 1977, pp. 29-30. [permanent dead link][permanent dead link]
- 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.
- "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. 
- Schudel, Matt. "Jim Vance, Washington’s longest-serving local news anchor, is dead at 75". The Washington Post. July 22, 2017.