(Left to right) William McCarter, Production Manager of WHYY-TV; Beatrice Chernock, of Leidy Elementary School; Edna Green, of Girls High School; Joseph Pollock, of John Bartram Junior High School; Bess Barg, of the Board of Education's radio-TV staff; Edward Goldman, of South Philadelphia High School; Kathryn Bovaird, of the Board's radio-TV staff; and Zachary Bernstein, of Fels Junior High School
September 12, 1957
(Click on the photo to see a larger version)
On Monday, September 16, 1957, a new station signed on the air in Philadelphia. It was WHYY-TV. That station became the city's first UHF television station operating on Channel 35 and licensed to Philadelphia. Many people think of WHYY-TV as Channel 12 and licensed to Wilmington, Delaware. However, when they first signed on, the station operated on Channel 35. The next year, the commercial TV station, WVUE-TV, Channel 12 in Wilmington went off the air. Owners of the outlet, Storer Broadcasting (also owners of WIBG) turned the license back into the FCC. When they did they said, "No one can make a profit with a TV station unless affiliated with NBC, CBS or ABC." The station today as a commercial enterprise would be worth hundred of millions of dollars. Obviously, turning the license back to the government was not the smartest decision Storer Broadcasting ever made.
However, at one time, Channel 12 (WDEL-TV) was affiliated with NBC-TV and carried similar programs to Channel 3, WPTZ. However, when Steinman Broadcasting sold the broadcast property to Paul F. Harron (owner of WIBG at that time), the calls became WPFH and the NBC-TV affiliation was dropped. A historical footnote is that Paul Harron stayed in the business.
In 1965, TV comedian Jack Paar purchased a TV station in Maine. The outlet was WMTW-TV, Channel 8, licensed to Portland, Maine with its tower on NH's Mount Washington (92 miles away). Jack actually moved to New England to run the station. It was an ABC-TV affiliate and Paar decided to dump Thursday evening network fare to run "The Jack Paar Thursday Night Movie" which he hosted each week. Paar also owned WMTW-FM (remember that few listened to FM radio in the sixties). That station is now WHOM. A few years later, Paar sold the stations to Paul Harron. Another interesting note was that the original (in 1949) WDEL-TV operated on Channel 7, not 12. Two years later, the frequency was changed.
WHYY-TV then applied and eventually received the Channel 12 license. For about 10 years, WHYY actually had two stations. WHYY-TV, Channel 12 carried "National Educational Television" (NET) and later "Public Broadcasting Service" (PBS). Channel 35, now using the calls WUHY-TV operated on Channel 35 and supplied area schools with educational and classroom instruction, just like WHYY-TV used to do when it was on Channel 35. WHYY-FM, by the way, became WUHY-FM at the same time as the Channel 35 call letters changed. For a decade, WHYY operated both stations but eventually turned the Channel 35 license back into the government. Years later, Channel 35 came back to haunt that decision as WYBE, another Public Television station in the area. Though neither station claims the other to be competition, both stations do carry some of the same programming, mostly from APT, American Public Television, a sort of secondary PBS type network.
Broadcast Pioneers member John B. Roberts told us that he was a co-founder of WHYY-TV. When he attended the very first meeting, and he was the only one there with broadcast experience. All the rest were educators. Of course, at that time, WHYY-TV (channel 35) was carrying only instructional television programs and operated exclusively during school hours. When school closed for the summer, so did the station.
In the photo above, the "new" studio teachers received instruction from the station's Production Manager, Bill McCarter. They learned about lenses, cameras and television direction so that they would have an idea what broadcasting was all about. The picture was taken on September 12, 1957, a few days before the station signed on for the very first time. Their studio was located at 1622 Chestnut Street, in Center City Philadelphia, the old studios of WCAU-TV.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Text and research by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
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