When May 1953 rolls around, we’ll all have a new visitor to our homes, and a most welcome visitor, that’s certain. For next Spring our new television station will be on the air with a wealth of new programs we haven’t seen before in this area, bringing us top network stars and film stars and the best in sporting events.
The new TV station will be known as WTVI, the Signal Hill Broadcasting Corp. Its transmitter, one of the most powerful in the world, will be located high on the Illinois bluffs, just 6 ½ miles from downtown St. Louis. The station will be easily received by viewers located 50 and more miles around St. Louis in all directions.
Most of us didn’t think we’d have a new television station in St. Louis for at least a year, and best estimates were that it would be two years or even more. However, the Signal Hill Telecasting Corp. broke the bottleneck by the simple expedient of applying for a channel just across the Mississippi, on the highest ground around St. Louis. And since they were not tied up in a contest by other applicants for the same channel, they were able to bring us this early and most welcome grant of a new TV station.
WTVI will be on channel 54. This is in the ultra high frequency band that we’ve all been hearing so much about…That is why St. Louis and all the surrounding area for 50 and more miles in every direction is expectantly awaiting May, 1953, when one of the most powerful television stations in the world comes on the air [here]…
Besides having such tremendous power (220,000 watts) to bring us good television service, the new station is very advantageously located. The height of the television antenna is of utmost importance in bringing good pictures to the audience over a wide area. And WTVI’s antenna is located high on the Illinois bluffs, at the highest point of ground anywhere around St. Louis. Then the antenna itself will rise 600 feet above the tops of the bluff, completely dominating any structure in this great metropolitan area. By way of comparison, the tallest building in St. Louis, the Civil Courts Building, is 375 feet high. The Park Plaza Hotel is 310 feet high.
This is the biggest population center to be granted a TV station since the lifting of the freeze on TV stations by the Federal Communications Commission. The area of WTVI’s coverage encompasses over 2 ½ million people.
When the freeze was lifted there was a big rush by applicants to secure stations in the St. Louis area. Groups began contesting for the six channels which the FCC allocated to St. Louis. And best estimates as to when the contests would be resolved and another television station would get on the air here ran from a year to two years or more from this Spring. But one group of St. Louis radio and television men combining with a group of St. Louis businessmen, found a way to bring St. Louis another television station without the long wait.
In looking over the high ground at the western outskirts of Belleville as a possible transmitter site for their St. Louis television station, they became aware of the fact that there was a better way to go about getting their station on the air, and soon.
Instead of applying for one of the six stations allocated to St. Louis and then locating it on the East Side bluffs, as they first intended, they decided to apply for a channel which had been allocated to Belleville and located their station in the spot they had intended to from the beginning. By applying for the Belleville channel, which no one else seemed to be considering at the moment, they were uncontested and we granted their station right away.
The station will serve St. Louis and the entire surrounding area just as efficiently as if they had joined the long line in waiting for one of the six channels allocated to St. Louis. In fact, it will be more effective, not only because of getting on the air soon, but also because the terrain is perfect for the location of a TV station at that point on the Illinois bluffs.
WTVI, the Signal Hill Telecasting Corporation, was organized by Ben Wilson, John Hyatt and Ted Westcott, radio and television veterans, and by Paul Peltason and Harry Tennenbaum, St. Louis investment bankers. Ben Wilson and John Hyatt were KMOX account executives, and Ted Westcott is a producer-director for KSD-TV. Wilson has more than 22 years of radio and theater experience in many capacities. Hyatt has over 15 years experience in radio advertising sales and sales promotion. Ted Westcott has over 18 years in theater, radio and television, having been associated with WBKB, the pioneer television station in Chicago, with KMOX as producer of the popular “Land We Live In” series, with Gardner Advertising Agency, and with KSD-TV.
Westcott, who is vice-president in charge of programming of the new WTVI says that the station will carry a complete and well-rounded schedule of programs from network, supplemented by a fine list of sports programs and sporting events, a thorough news coverage, top film features and imaginative, entertaining local shows.
(Originally published in TV Review 12/20/1952).