Citation
Rocky Mountain Air : Denver's Channel 9, 1952-1996

Material Information

Title:
Rocky Mountain Air : Denver's Channel 9, 1952-1996
Creator:
Ryan, Tim
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of History, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
History
Committee Members:
Foster, Mark S.
Noel, Thomas J.
Fell, James E. Jr.

Notes

Abstract:
If something has to be around for a thousand years to be the subject of history, television does not qualify. Yet the American television business has changed enough since it started 50 years ago that it seems appropriate to examine the topic. This wo rk deals specifically with one television station: Channel 9 in Denver . It examines the evolution of the station, and the broadcasting business, both in the context of Colorado broadcasting and the entire industry, from 1952 to 1996 . Channel 9 started with crude equipment, limited programming and an almost nonexistent local news presence and became a sophisticated business with a broad impact on Denver and Colorado . This thesis also looks toward the future for Channel 9 and t elevision in general, to see what might lie in store for t he next 50 years.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
ROCKY MOUNTAIN AIR:
DENVER'S CHANNEL 9, 1952-1996
by
Tim Ryan
B.J., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1985
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History
1997


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Tim Ryan
has been approved
by
Date


Ryan, Tim (M.A., History)
Rocky Mountain Air: Denver's Channel 9, 1952-1996 Thesis directed by Professor Mark S. Foster
ABSTRACT
If something has to be around for a thousand years to be the subject of history, television does not qualify. Yet the American television business has changed enough since it started 50 years ago that it seems appropriate to examine the topic.
This work deals specifically with one television station: Channel 9 in Denver. It examines the evolution of the station, and the broadcasting business, both in the context of Colorado broadcasting and the entire industry, from 1952 to 1996. Channel 9 started with crude equipment, limited programming and an almost nonexistent local news presence and became a sophisticated business with a broad impact on Denver and Colorado. This thesis also looks toward the future for
iii


Channel 9 and television in general, to see what might lie in store for the next 50 years.
This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Si
Mark S. Foster
iv


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. IN THE BEGINNING...................... 1
THE 1950s
2. ADOLESCENCE.......................... 71
THE 1960s
3. TOWARD THE TOP....................... 95
THE 1970s
4. NEWS WAR............................ 125
THE 1980s
5. THE SWITCH AND BEYOND.............. 158
THE 1990s
6. REFLECTIONS OF A TELEVISION CHILD.. 182
BIBLIOGRAPHY................................. 188
v


CHAPTER 1
IN THE BEGINNING THE 1950s
"A television show has been thought of like a Kleenex. You use it for the eyes, and then you throw it away. Nobody knew television was going to be so big.""
Charles Kuralt, CBS News
If the people there at the beginning were superstitious, Channel 9 might never have gone on the air. After all, an airline losing the most important piece of equipment necessary to operate a television station is anything but a good sign.
But that is exactly what happened to Channel 9's transmitter in the fall of 1952. Somehow, when United Airlines shipped the RCA transmitter from Philadelphia, someone forgot to unload it in Denver, and it wound up in 1
1 "When TV Was Young," CBS-TV, April 28, 1977.
1


San Francisco. "Now how you do that, I'm not sure I know,"2 * Channel 9 engineer Jim Butts later remembered.
Another engineer named Carl Bliesner remembered how Channel 9's first general manager, Joe Herold, took the news. "Joe Herold said he often wondered why he didn't have any hair, and he said that was one reason. We could have been on the air earlier, maybe a week earlier."'
But as it turned out, Channel 9 was "born" on Sunday, October 12, 1952. It has been broadcasting every day since, although what fills the Rocky Mountain airwaves today is much different than it was in 1952.
Channel 9 was Denver's second television station. Channel 2, at that time known as KFEL-TV, began continuous broadcasting on July 21, 1952. Channels 4 and 7 both followed 2 and 9 on the air in 1953. Other stations (6, 12, 20 and 31) followed in later years. Denver was one of the last large American cities to get television, the result of a government freeze on granting
2 Jim Butts in Ron Mitchell's, "Channel 9 40th Anniversary series," KUSA-TV, April 20, 1992.
'Ibid, Carl Bliesner.
2


licenses to people who wanted to start television stations.4
But long before TV finally did arrive in Denver, the field of modern communications was slowly transforming the world from a collection of disconnected and isolated pockets of people to what we know today as "the global community." Television was a key element in this transformation, and many people considered it nothing short of a modern miracle. "In terms of technology alone, the ability to transmit and receive pictures and sound is among the greatest human achievements of the century."3 Actually, the origins of television go back to Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876. The transmission of sound through telephone cables evolved into being able to send sound through the air, without any cables, by way of something called radio. A young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi is generally
4 The freeze by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lasted from 1949 to 1952. Although it will be dealt with in detail later, the reason the FCC gave for the freeze was in order to determine how to allocate the growing number of channel positions properly.
: J. Fred McDonald, One Nation Under Television, (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1990), 5.
3


credited with inventing wireless radio transmission. By 1900 there were companies bearing his name in both Great Britain and America. Although the first applications of the new technology were for either military or transportation needs, radio soon became a significant commercial enterprise, foreshadowing the huge broadcasting industry that exists today.
On November 21, 1920, KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh began the country's first commercial radio broadcast. In Denver, KLZ became the city's first radio station in 1922, KFEL followed in 1923 and KOA, also known as the Rocky Mountain Broadcasting Station, started playing band music and speeches on December 15, 1924. That same year KLZ made history by broadcasting the first football game Colorado listeners had ever heard. The two teams were the University of Denver and the University of Colorado.6 By the 1950s, the owners of all three radio stations would be involved in the new television phenomenon.
Unlike the telephone (Bell) and electricity (Edison), the invention of television cannot be credited
6 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver, Mining Camp to Metropolis, (Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1990), 160-61.
4


to just one person. Instead, a series of inventors, working either together or in competition, finally developed the technology that made television possible.
In 1884 German inventor Paul Nipkow came up with something called the "Nipkow disc" which held early promise when it came to transmitting pictures. Among the other early names in the race to get television going were Ernst F.W. Alexanderson from Sweden, who advanced the Nipkow disk at General Electric in the 1920s; radio pioneer Lee de Forest, who patented the "Audion" voice transmission tube in 1907; C.F. Jenkins, who helped develop the motion picture projector in the 1890s and demonstrated a television version in 1925; Philo T. Farnsworth, who presented a public demonstration of all-electronic TV in 1928, and engineer Edwin Armstrong, who later became locked in a bitter legal struggle with RCA over patent infringement.
But the name perhaps most associated with the invention of television was a Russian-born engineer and inventor named Vladimir K. Zworkin, who became known as "the Father of Television." In a recent biography, author Albert Abramson reflected on how Zworkin viewed
5


his position in the history of the medium. "Publicly he professed to be bothered by the title, since he was only too painfully aware that television had come about through the efforts of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of individuals who had slowly and methodically put the pieces together to create the most powerful communications medium in the world. Secretly, however, he cherished that name." Whether television itself is something to cherish or condemn has been the subject of debate since its invention.
Zworkin's work advanced television technology to the point that one research scientist predicted in 1925 that all U.S. households would have TV sets by 1930. That was more than a little optimistic, but the nation would see a day when almost all households in the U.S. would have a television set. As author Ken Auletta wrote in 1991, "Television has become a basic American utility, like water or electricity."6 * 8
' Albert Abramson, Zworkin, Pioneer of Television, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 1.
8 Ken Auletta, Three Blind Mice, (New York: Random House, 1991), 3.
6


Zworkin himself likely gave little thought to the implications of what he was inventing. He was an engineer who focused on television's technical challenges and left the business of how to use the technology to others. But there is no denying that Zworkin contributed two crucial pieces to the puzzle that would eventually make up television. He invented something called an iconoscope, which amounted to the first practical camera tube that would allow programs to be broadcast, as well as the kinescope, the picture tube that went inside millions of television sets so that viewers at home could actually receive what broadcasters sent.
Zworkin did all this work, not in his native Russia, but rather in the laboratories of huge American corporations that were rushing to take advantage of the new technology. In the early 1920s, Zworkin worked for Westinghouse. By the late 1920s, he was working for the company that would become the driving force in the television industry: RCA, or the Radio Corporation of America.
RCA was such an important factor in television largely because of another prominent figure in
7


broadcasting who, unlike Vladimir Zworkin, did take an interest not only in the technology of television, but what could be done with it. His name was David Sarnoff. "The General," as he became known, had a fierce determination to make RCA the leader when it came to this emerging technology. RCA was actually the creation of a number of other corporations, including AT&T, General Electric and Westinghouse, the latter two broadcasting giants then and now. It also swallowed the company that had been known as American Marconi.
By 1932, RCA was an independent company, and it operated its own network, the National Broadcasting Company or NBC. G.E., Westinghouse and RCA had established NBC in 1926. At the time a "network" was relevant only when it came to radio. But Sarnoff had a vision of RCA and NBC playing a central role in the emergence of television. As author Eric Barnouw points out, "It became his central concern."9 Now on their own, Sarnoff and RCA began to focus on what he believed to be the inevitable wide-scale introduction of television into
9 Eric Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 72.
8


American life. It was also during this decade that crucial decisions were made about how television would operate once it became a practical reality.
The United States government always had a significant interest in the business of broadcasting. In fact, when radio was still a new invention and before broadcast stations even existed, the U.S. Navy proposed that radio be the exclusive property of the Navy. That proposal died in Congress, but Navy brass set in motion the creation of RCA (using the framework of American Marconi), so that if radio were not to be government-owned, it would at least be "a private monopoly in congenial hands."10
The birth of RCA is particularly ironic given the current level of distrust that exists between broadcasters and the government, but at the time it seemed like the best way for the military to keep at least some degree of control over this emerging technology. In 1927, Congress established the Federal Radio Commission to regulate the fast growing industry.
In 1934 the FRC became the FCC, or the Federal
Ibid, 21.
9


Communications Commission, which still oversees broadcasters today.
One of the most important early decisions about the regulation of broadcasting was simple: The airwaves belong to the public. And stations are required to serve the "public interest, convenience, and necessity."11 Therefore, the FCC, as the people's agent, has the responsibility to decide who should operate a television station and who should not. This was both a political and a technical issue, since it was clear from the beginning that there were only so many channels to go around. As George Comstock describes the government argument, not regulating television "would do the public a disservice by cluttering the airwaves with conflicting signals from outlets with the barest resources to provide quality service. The limitation of licenses to a few channels that will not interfere with one another means that those who do obtain the privilege to broadcast are almost certain to make a profit. The privilege granted, then, is economic."12 As we will see later when it comes
George Comstock, Television in America, (Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1991), 3.
12 Ibid, 4 .
10


to the development of Channel 9, the granting of a television license was indeed an enormous economic privilege.
The development of local stations and their relationship with the networks were fundamental aspects of broadcasting almost from the beginning. In the case of both radio and television, the way they were distributed to the public relied on equipment that transmitted the signal to an area surrounding the transmitter. This would require stations in virtually every part of the country, and that would require more resources than any of the networks (NBC, and later CBS and ABC) had at their disposal. The FCC also limited the number of stations any network could own and operate, forcing the diversification of station ownership.
As the country neared the end of the 1930s, it seemed television was on the verge of becoming a reality. Sarnoff and RCA demonstrated the technology at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Three networks: NBC, CBS and DuMont, were beginning to broadcast. By 1940 more than twenty stations were on the air across the country, although the programming was crude and limited.
11


But World War II would slow down the development and distribution of television for almost a decade. First of all, key figures like David Sarnoff became involved in the war effort. Sarnoff was with allied troops when they liberated Paris, and earned the rank of Brigadier General, which resulted in his nickname of "the General." But the most significant reason for the delay in bringing television into American homes was the more urgent need for the manufacture of weapons. The manufacture of television sets stopped in 1942 and did not resume until after the war. During World War II, as Barnouw suggests, "Television was virtually forgotten."13
It might have been forgotten by the masses, but for broadcasters like David Sarnoff, World War II was only a distraction. When it was over, Sarnoff went back to work to take television into America's homes. There was also a list of circumstances that made television likely to move rapidly into the spotlight:
♦ Electronic assembly lines for making military equipment could now be turned to making something else.
13 Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, 92 .
12


♦ Consumers had saved money during the war because of uncertainty about how long shortages and rationing would last; so they were ready to invest in the necessary hardware.
♦ Companies needed a new advertising medium to sell their peacetime products.14
In 1945, the FCC again started issuing licenses to local television stations. By July 1946 it had issued 24 new licenses, bringing the total number of stations in the country to nearly 50. At about the same time, RCA began selling black and white television sets to the public. America was entering the final stages of its pre-television history.
Things were beginning to heat up in Denver as well. In April 1948, three KOA Radio engineers spent $1,000 of their own money to complete Denver's first video test.15 A year later, the Rocky Mountain News proclaimed that, "Television Makes Its Denver Debut" when those same
14 Ibid, 99.
" "3 KOA engineers complete first city video test," The Denver Post, April, 11, 1948, 3.
13


engineers conducted an experimental 40 minute broadcast consisting of piano and organ music and a puppet show.*6
More than two years later, eight people in Denver watched President Harry S Truman deliver a speech about the Japanese peace treaty in San Francisco. The picture and sound came over a system of microwave towers constructed across the country by telephone company AT&T. Most of the handful of people watching were Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company employees. Although it was dark at 7:00 p.m. in Denver that day in September 1951, the live broadcast showed a daylight scene in San Francisco.*
KFEL Radio helped bring the 1951 World Series to Denver with a closed circuit feed. In November of that year, you could pay $2.40 for a ticket to the Broadway Theater to watch the Colorado Buffaloes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers play football. A huge crowd gathered at * 17
Leo Zuckerman, "Television Makes Its Denver Debut," Rocky Mountain News, May 23, 1949, 1. This article identifies four engineers responsible for the experiment: C.M. Eining, Stanley Neal, K.N. Raymond and A.C. McClellan.
17 Gene Lindberg, "Truman Treaty Talk Seen by 8 On Denver TV," The Denver Post, September 5, 1951, 34.
14


Mammoth Gardens in Denver to watch the Rose Bowl on New
Year's Day, 1952. The Denver Post warned Coloradans that "Video Here to Stay But It Won't Be Free."16
Even though people in Colorado were clamoring for television, a TV executive and former University of Denver student warned them that the new craze was not without its negative side effects. "Television has a revolutionary effect," Malcolm Boyd told the Rocky Mountain News. "It turns home life and habits upside down. It makes discipline of children very difficult. Some communities have seen teachers give up assigning homework because they can't compete with TV. Parents have to go next door to watch their favorite television show because the youngsters have taken over the set."* 19 Boyd was just touching the tip of the iceberg when it came to the potential impact of television on American society. But his warning apparently did very little to
18 "Video Here to Stay But It Won't Be Free," The Denver Post, October 12, 1951, 1.
"Malcolm Boyd, quoted by Sam Lusky in, "Denver Can
Find TV Nuisance, Visitor Warns," Rocky Mountain News, March 22, 1951, 15.
15


dampen the enthusiasm of people in Denver and Colorado who had been waiting for television to arrive.
The reason Colorado viewers were left without television for so long was an FCC decision in 1949 to stop granting licenses. The FCC claimed this was in order to "examine more carefully how the spectrum space should be allocated."'10 In other words, deciding where to put all the potential stations on the dial and how many channels each city or "market" should get. Broadcasters and the FCC had been arguing about how far apart stations using the same channel had to be. If stations in Denver and Colorado Springs, for instance, shared Channel 9, they would interfere with each other. Because of a disagreement over the distance, the FCC had licensed stations on the same channel that were too close to each other, which caused interference and prompted the FCC to freeze granting licenses while it figured out how to proceed. This left Colorado and 13 other states without television.
That is why the freeze started, but it does not explain why it lasted so long. Communications scholar 20
20 Comstock, Television in America, 15.
16


Brian Winston says "a competent radio engineer with a good map could have solved this problem in something less than the 43 months it took the FCC.""1 Winston claims the FCC's real reason for freezing licenses was to allow the networks to establish control over broadcasting in America, since the freeze "worked to suppress television as an area of exploitation for new interests" and allowed NBC and CBS, the two dominant radio networks, to simply take control of television before anyone else could."2 ABC barely survived and by 1955, DuMont was dead.
Whether or not this is what the FCC intended, it was certainly the outcome. The relatively brief history of television is dominated by the power of a few networks, although in recent years it has begun to weaken considerably.
In spite of the freeze, television continued to spread across the country as individuals or companies who got their licenses before 1949 started broadcasting. Broadcast legends were also making national names for themselves. Edward R. Murrow and a producer named Fred * 22
Brian Winston, Misunderstanding Media, (Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard University Press, 1986), 77.
22 Ibid, 80.
17


Friendly launched a show on CBS called "See It Now" in November 1951. The first broadcast showed a split screen with live pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on one side and the Brooklyn Bridge on the other. Establishing the video line from California to New York cost $3,000, but Murrow's words made the event sound historic. "We for our part are considerably impressed. For the first time, man has been able to sit at home and look at two oceans at the same time. We're impressed with the importance of this medium. We shall hope to learn to use and not to abuse it."‘J
By the time the freeze ended in 1952, there were more than 100 TV stations on the air in 60 markets, and 15 million Americans had television sets. Denver was now one of the last large cities without television, and its residents were keenly aware of that fact, given the pace of the area's growth. "World War II triggered a tremendous transformation in Denver. Massive federal spending, an influx of newcomers, and a pent-up demand for new cars and new housing unavailable during the war 23
23 "See It Now," CBS-TV, November 1951. (As shown in, "Denver TV Then and Now," KBTV, August 20, 1981.)
18


led to a boom that changed a drowsy provincial city into a sprawling metropolis."24 The Denver metropolitan area's population rose from 384,372 in 1940 to 563,832 in 1950. The decade of the 1950s would see the population grow again by more than 350,000. Denver was a hot spot, but it did not have this hot new technology, and that fact frustrated both those trying to get TV licenses and people at home who could not enjoy what their friends and relatives in other parts of the country were talking about. A January 28, 1952, Denver Post headline read: "Write Your Congressman, Denverites Want TV—Now."25
While groups of owners fought to be Denver's first station, TV manufacturers were already pushing their sets as the best. Majestic, Sylvania, Hoffman, Philco, Motorola, Emerson, and Bendix all bombarded potential customers with the advantages of buying their product. Hoffman offered an "Easy-Vision Golden Lens" to protect the eyes while Majestic had a rectangular "sight saver" picture tube and "eagle-eye tuning."26 A full page ad by
â– 4 Leonard and Noel, Denver, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 235.
25 Gene Lindberg, "Write Your Congressman, Denverites
Want TV--Now," The Denver Post, January 28, 1952, 23.
19


Packard-Bell in The Denver Post on October 6, 1952, just
days before Channel 9 began broadcasting, urged consumers to "Take Action" and buy a television in time for that Saturday's football game between Michigan State and Texas A & M on Channel 2. The ad offered a model 2721 with a 21 inch screen and 27 tubes for $419.95.27
As for the networks, NBC and CBS dominated. During the freeze years the two networks had affiliates in eighty percent of the more than sixty markets with television.28 But there were also two other networks struggling for survival. For many years, RCA actually operated two NBC networks. One was the NBC "red" network, the other the NBC "blue" network. In 1943, RCA sold the "blue" network to Lifesaver king Edward J. Noble for eight million dollars. It became the American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, which would be affiliated with Denver's Channel 9 for the first forty-three years of the station's existence. The final player in the network chess match was the DuMont network, which * 26
“6Mike Tucker, "Remember When," Behind Bench 9 newsletter, April 1, 1988.
“Advertisement, The Denver Post, October 6, 1952.
26 Comstock, Television in America, 15.
20


Denver's Channel 2 chose as its partner. As it turned out, DuMont went out of business in 1955 and left Channel 2 as an independent station for all but the first few years of its life.
But all this was still unknown to the men who were waiting to launch television in Denver, including the group of investors who would eventually put Channel 9 on the air. Their primary concern was still simply getting a license to operate. In April 1952, the FCC finally lifted the freeze on granting new television licenses. There were 11 applications for the six available commercial channels in Denver, including an application from the Colorado Television Corp. for Channel 9.
Colorado Television Corp. actually started in the spring of 1951 when KVOD Radio owners W.D. Pyle and T.C. Ekrem decided they would try this new thing called television. In the span of a year, fourteen other investors joined Ekrem and Pyle in backing the Channel 9 project, including advertising agency executive Max Goldberg, who many would call the "father of Channel 9."
By 1952, Max Goldberg was already an experienced â– media professional. He had started by selling newspapers
21


as a child on the streets of Denver to help support his
family after his father died in the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918.29 By 1936 Goldberg had started his own advertising agency in Denver, and began appearing on the radio as well as writing for The Denver Post. But television became Goldberg's passion in 1952, and if it were not for his determination, Channel 9 might never have existed. "He wasn't a technician. But he was still interested in the business of keeping the show on the road,"30 his widow, Miriam, says.
A 1950s salesman at Channel 9 named Bob Brown backs up that view of Max Goldberg. "He was the one who put the group together, but he had no knowledge of the inner workings of the business."31 Still, Goldberg is an important figure in the station's history for two reasons. First, he worked to bring all the investors together, who put up the roughly one million dollars it took to get the station off the ground.'2 Second, and
29 Miriam Goldberg, Interview by the author, November 10, 1996.
30 Ibid.
31 Bob Brown, Interview by the author, November 10, 1996.
22


most important, was Goldberg's role in working with the FCC to get Channel 9's license. This is where Goldberg's connections were so important.
As his widow, Miriam Goldberg, remembers it, Max did not contribute as much money to the project as the other investors. Instead, "He made the contacts and did the legwork."* 33 One of his most important contacts was a Colorado politician named Ed Johnson, widely known simply as "Big Ed." Johnson was a popular, if not tolerant politician, who once criticized then Gov. Ralph Carr for welcoming and defending Japanese-Americans in Colorado during World War II. Johnson said Carr did not recognize that "the normal human reaction of our own people is hostility toward these brown men."34 If Johnson made such a statement today, it would likely prevent him from being
'"According to the June 26, 1992, edition of the Intermountain Jewish News, those investors included:
Edward Hirschfeld, former Colorado Attorney General Gail Ireland, Garden Farm Dairy president John McEwen, Aksel Nielson, Joseph Sunshine, Joseph Dyer, Harry Goldberg, Robert Galbasin, Maurice Robineau, W.J. Robinson, Stephen Russell, Charles C. Winocur, Jack Harris and KVOD Radio owners W.D. Pyle and T.C. Ekrem.
33 Goldberg interview.
'4 Colorado State Federation of Labor, Official Colorado Victory Edition 1942 Yearbook, 21.
23


elected to anything, but he later defeated Carr in the 1946 U.S. senate race. After serving several terms as governor and a U.S. senator, Johnson was arguably the most powerful politician in Colorado from the 1930s through the 1950s. This gave him enormous influence in both Colorado and Washington.
Max Goldberg, with his advertising expertise, helped Johnson with many of his campaigns. In 1952, Sen. Ed Johnson introduced Goldberg to "people" in Washington to make the case for granting a license for Colorado Television Corp. to operate Channel 9. Well before that, Johnson was deeply involved in television issues in Washington. In 1951 he urged the FCC to make Channel 9 a commercial channel, instead of designating it as the Boulder educational station. Johnson won that battle, although he also wanted Channel 6 in Denver designated as commercial, while the FCC eventually established it as the Denver Public Schools' TV station.
Goldberg made many trips back and forth between Denver and Washington. Miriam remembers what those trips were like for Max. "That was hard, tough. Ups, downs. Felt excited one minute and then got disappointed the
24


next minute," she says. "No faxes, no modern day stuff. There were many, many meetings and he was obliged, and should have been, to report to the group of investors."'55
The efforts paid off. In the summer of 1952, the Colorado Television Corp. had a license from the FCC to broadcast a station named KVOD-TV on Channel 9. KFEL-TV Channel 2 and the Empire Coil Company's Channel 26 also got licenses at the same time. Empire Coil at one point competed with Colorado Television Corp. for the Channel 9 slot, but later gave up and applied for Channel 26, which never went on the air.
When the licenses finally allowed stations to begin broadcasting, Channel 2 was ready. KFEL-TV flashed a test pattern to Denver viewers on July 18, then went on the air on July 21, 1952, the beginning of Denver's television age. State officials "gleefully predicted that television held an implied promise of the greatest tax bonanza for city and state agencies since the sales tax windfall.''56 35 36 *
35 Goldberg interview.
36 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly, July 11-17,
1953, 9.
25


Now that a TV station was actually broadcasting,
consumers were finally willing to invest in the new technology. Denver newspapers chronicled the growing number of TV sets in the area.
♦ July 1952: 4,000
♦ August 1952: 8,500
♦ October 1952: 21,735
♦ November 1952: 40, 00037
And thousands more were pouring into stores as the TV craze took hold. For a time in 1952 and 1953, the City of Denver warned its residents they would have to pay for a building permit in order to install the antennas necessary to get adequate TV reception. After much opposition and what appeared to be open defiance of the permit requirement, Denver apparently backed down.'9 *
Lee Trainor, "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days," Rocky Mountain News, July 22, 1952, 5. Dan Partner, "Survey Shows TV Sales Gaining In Denver After Short Slump," The Denver Post, August 17, 1952, 22A. "Poll Reveals 21,735 Video Sets in City," The Denver Post, October 9, 1952, 43. Earl Wennergren, "Latest Television Tally Places 40,000 Sets in Denver Area Homes," Rocky Mountain News, November 11, 1952, 45.
<8 Cherie de la Garza, "Television Invades 1952/53 Denver: Origins of the Video Revolution," (M.A. thesis, University of Colorado at Denver, 1995), 83-88.
26


Since it was the only station on the air in Denver, Channel 2 could choose programming from all four networks operating at the time: ABC, NBC, CBS and DuMont. When Channel 9 came on the air, it began broadcasting ABC and CBS programming, while Channel 2 continued to use DuMont and NBC. Then, Channel 7 took the CBS affiliation and Channel 4 became the NBC station while Channel 9 stayed with ABC. Channels 4, 7 and 9 kept these same network affiliations until "the big switch" of 1995 when all the stations changed networks. Why Channel 2 chose to form a partnership with the ill-fated DuMont network is still somewhat of a mystery, although some indications point to a belief by the station's founder, Gene O'Fallon, that he could simply make it on his own. "Gene was a rugged individualist," former Channel 2 engineer and producer Duncan Ross told the Rocky Mountain News. He "felt he could make the grade without affiliating with a network. "39
O'Fallon was a Denver broadcasting veteran who made KFEL the city's first radio station in 1922. His son
39 Duncan Ross, quoted by Walter Saunders in, "TV beginning at Channel 2 remembered after 25 years," Rocky Mountain News, July 18, 1977, 51.
27


Marty told the Rocky Mountain News in 1982 that, "Those
stories about Gene O'Fallon ignoring a chance to become affiliated with CBS and NBC aren't quite true... Dad was an independent cuss. And if he were alive today, he would probably go along with stories about his independence and his desire to work that way as a broadcaster. But while he could be a hard-headed broadcaster, he certainly was not stupid."40 Marty O'Fallon attributes his father's decision to affiliate with DuMont to the fact that Channel 7 executives had connections with CBS while one of Channel 4's first owners was entertainer Bob Hope, who was a fixture on NBC. At the time, choosing between ABC and DuMont as the network most likely to survive would have been a toss up. In any case, Channel 2 has been an independent station since DuMont went out of business in 1955. The Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, bought Channel 2 in 1966.41
40 Marty O'Fallon, quoted by Walter Saunders in, "TV nostalgia abounds," Rocky Mountain News, July 21, 1982, 68.
41 Channel 2 has also had more call letters than any station in Denver: KFEL, KTVR, KTCO and finally KWGN, for "World's Greatest Newspaper," the slogan for the Chicago Tribune.
28


While Channel 2 introduced television to Denver and
proved that this new invention Coloradans had heard so much about for so many years was the real thing, Channel 9's people worked furiously to get in the game. Just before Channel 2 went on the air, Channel 9 engineers predicted they could be on the air in two weeks. To back up the promise, station officials announced financial figures of $394,000 for construction costs, $445,000 for operational costs, and an estimated revenue of $400,000 for its first year of operation.42 That prediction really was too optimistic, as construction delays and technical problems pushed back the first broadcast until mid-October.
Next the station began to build its staff. The investors chose Joe Herold to be KVOD-TV's station manager. Herold had an engineering background, having started at WOW-Radio in Omaha in 1930, where he worked until moving to Cuba and South America. In 1950, Herold was a television consultant for. Union Radio and Television in Havana. In 1951 he worked for Radio Televisiao in Brazil, then spent eight months as a TV
42 Mike Tucker, "Remember When, " Behind Bench Nine newsletter, March 18, 1988.
29


planning consultant for RCA before coming to work for Channel 9.
At about the same time, Jerry Lee became the station's commercial manager, which would roughly translate to a modern sales manager. Lee had network experience with NBC and CBS as a producer and announcer. He started the station's sales efforts with two other salesmen besides himself. One of those salesmen was Bob Brown.
"I believed in television when I was in radio. I never doubted for a second that television was going to be the medium it is today, "43 Brown says. He also remembers that "we were always looked at as kind of the poor station in the market from a money standpoint."44
But that outlook would come along later when other competitors joined 2 and 9 on the Denver TV battlefield. In 1952, Channel 9 was just interested in getting on the air in the first place, and that is where the work of a number of key engineers came into play. Because of his technical background, and because in the beginning
43 Brown interview.
44 Ibid.
30


television was primarily a technical challenge instead of a marketing opportunity, Joe Herold served both as station manager and chief engineer. He directed the efforts of a number of other men, including Jim Butts, George Barron and Carl Bliesner.
As studio manager, Butts was "in charge of maintenance, anything technical."45 He remembers distinctly how United Airlines sent Channel 9's first transmitter to San Francisco by mistake. Barron was Herold's assistant chief engineer, who remembers how exciting television was in the beginning. "It was the big thing. Pictures through the air,"46 he says.
But perhaps the most unusual engineering job, both in 1952 and during the history of the station, belonged to Carl Bliesner. He is the man who installed a 75 foot tall antenna along with the station's first transmitter on Lookout Mountain in the fall of 1952, and cared for it and its successors like a father would his children until he retired in the mid 1970s.
45 Jim Butts, Interview by the author, November 9,
1996.
46 George Barron, Interview by the author, November 9, 1996.
31


Before coming to work for Channel 9, Bliesner worked at a radio station in Kansas for 20 years. When TV came along, he went to a school in Kansas City to learn about it, and decided that was his future. "I didn't think it (radio) would last as long as it did,"47 48 * he says.
So, with a handful of employees, an FCC license and a belief in this relatively new technology, Channel 9 moved into the Zook Building near Colfax and Speer and got ready to be a television station. On September 12,
1952, the FCC agreed to change Channel 9's call letters from KVOD-TV to KBTV-TV. The "B" stood for "better" television.
Between October 2 and October 8, Channel 9 began experimental broadcasts and got reports of good reception from Colorado Springs to Granby to Cheyenne, Wyoming.40 Then, at 3:00 p.m. on October 12, 1952, KBTV sent out a test pattern. From that point on Channel 9 started broadcasting a mixture of ABC and CBS programs, local news and other programming from 2:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
47 Carl Bliesner, Interview by the author, November 9, 1996.
48 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly, July 11-17,
1953, 39.
32


each day. Page five of the Rocky Mountain News the next
day included the following two headlines: "Gen. Eisenhower Prepares For Windup of Campaign," and "TV Reception from station KBTV lauded."49 That page of the newspaper foreshadowed the strange marriage between television and politics that would come along later.
That first day on Channel 9 included the following lineup: 2:30 p.m., "Quiz Kids" (CBS); 3:00 P.M., "Super
Circus" (ABC); 3:30 p.m. "Super Circus" (ABC); 5:00 p.m., "You Asked for it" (ABC); 5:30 p.m., "Jack Benny;"3U 6:00 p.m., "Variety Films," 7:00 p.m., "Fred Waring" (CBS); 7:30 p.m., "Break the Bank" (CBS); 8:00 p.m., "The Web" (CBS); 8:30 p.m., "What's My Line" (CBS), 9:00 p.m, "Film;" 9:15 p.m., "Hour of Decision" (ABC); 9:30 p.m., "The Big Picture;" 10:00 p.m. "Walter Winchell" (ABC); and finally at 10:15 p.m., the feature film "Topper," starring Roland Young and Constance Bennett.51 The station signed off at 11:30 p.m.
49 The Denver Post, October 6, 1952, 5.
50 This was added to the lineup just hours before airtime. "TV Reception from station KBTV lauded," Rocky Mountain News, October 13, 1952, 5.
51 TV listings, Rocky Mountain News, October 12, 1952.
33


Although Channel 9 stayed in the Zook Building for less than a year, those who were at the station when it began broadcasting have very distinct memories of the location, mostly because of another tenant the building had. After all, having a worm farm in the basement is not easy to forget.
"The joke they used to tell each other was that they were the only TV station in the country written up in Field and Stream, Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell later said in a series of reports on the station's 40th anniversary. The worms were grown in the basement of the building for use as fishing bait.
"I never saw it, but I was told it was down there," assistant chief engineer George Barron says. "You'd walk around the projection room and the floor would bounce and the picture would go up and down."33 Barron might not have seen the worm farm, but program director Jim Butts experienced it firsthand.
"I was sitting at home one night... And I noticed the picture all of the sudden sway side to side. Now * 53
Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992.
53 Barron interview.
34


there ain't no way that can happen, but it did. I said, now wait a minute, that can't happen."34 So Butts and commercial manager Jerry Lee went to investigate. Butts' office was in the projection room, which had "everything you needed to be on the air."33 The movement of the floor of the projection room was causing the picture to sway, but what was causing the floor to move? When Butts and Lee went down to the basement, they discovered that "we were slowly sinking into the worms. The whole slab was sinking... We had to get some four by four boards to save it."* 55 56
The smell was also a bit of a distraction for Channel 9's first group of employees, and it was clear the Zook Building was not big enough to handle the station's long-term needs, so Channel 9's owners started looking for a new home. They found it in the form of the Lowen-Thomson Packard dealership at 1089 Bannock Street, built in January 1932.57 A phone book advertisement
34 Butts interview.
55 Ibid.
56 Ibid.
5 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 23, 1992.
35


called it the "Largest Packard Dealer in Rocky Mountain Region." Before that it was a leather tannery.58 KBTV's board of directors agreed to buy the 30,000 square foot building in November 1952.
The old Packard dealership would be Channel 9's home for nearly 40 years. By the time the station moved to a new building in 1992, most employees considered the old building cramped and behind the times. But in 1953, moving to 1089 Bannock was a big deal. In fact, the cover of the July 11-17, 1953, edition of TV and Radio Weekly says "Salute to KBTV." Inside, the headline proclaims, "All is Fine At Channel 9."59
The staff was expanding and the owners invested in a new transmitter to replace the old low-power equipment that had been in use less than a year. The new transmitter was the latest in RCA technology, which would allow Channel 9 to use up to 240,000 watts, making it "one of the most powerful television stations in the nation. "60
'8 Thea Rock, "KUSA targets February, '92 debut of new headquarters," NATAS Monthly, January 1990, 5.
59 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly, July 11-17, 1953, 4.
36


Transmitter supervisor Carl Bliesner remembers that even though the new equipment was a big improvement over the little 2,000 watt transmitter that first got the station on the air, it was far from perfect. "We could get it on, but the instruction book came to us about a year later, "60 61 Bliesner said. For one thing, it was not built for the elevation of Lookout Mountain. A transmitter needs fans, or "blowers" to keep it cool enough to operate effectively. "We couldn't get enough air to keep the thing cool... It would just shut down,"62 Bliesner says. "Somebody had to be on duty the entire time we were on the air."
For more than 20 years, that someone was Carl Bliesner. In the beginning, one of the biggest problems was simply getting to the transmitter on Lookout Mountain when the weather got bad. So, like any good engineer, Bliesner came up with a solution. He had a house built next to the transmitter and moved his family there, so he could always get to work.
60 Ibid, 39.
61 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992.
02 Bliesner interview.
37


It was a unique job at the television station, because he only occasionally went into Denver to the station itself. In fact, he remembers why he did not visit the station much after his retirement. "I sort of avoided going down there after I retired. Because people would say, 'Who in the hell is that?'"63
Bliesner's solution to the cooling problem was bigger blowers that could keep the transmitter cool at more than a mile high. Over time, transmitter problems became less common and after Bliesner retired, the station stopped the practice of having someone on duty at the transmitter all the time. Channel 9 was not the only Denver station to have technical problems. Wind knocked down the Channel 4 tower at least twice in the 1950s, once causing the station to go off the air for five hours before engineers could repair it.64 While Bliesner was trying to keep Channel 9's transmitter cool, those who worked at 1089 Bannock had the same problem themselves. There was no air conditioning in the building from 1953 to 1958.
Bill Jones, "High Winds Hurl TV Tower from
Mountain," Rocky Mountain News, March 11, 1955, 11.
38


Meanwhile, there was the matter of what was actually on Channel 9. When the station moved to 1089 Bannock, it was still one of only two Denver TV stations broadcasting, so Channel 9 and Channel 2 had their choice of what network programming to use. In fact, they would occasionally choose to run the same shows at the same time, which was a very short-lived practice.
The television listings for July 1953 showed that Channel 9 would start its broadcast day at either 11:00 or 11:30 a.m., sometimes with nothing more than a test pattern. Fred Arthur, who worked as a booth announcer at Channel 9 in the late 1950s, remembers that one of his jobs was simply to read the list of programs that would air that day, shortly after the station signed on.65 He made two dollars an hour, and got $3.50 for doing an on-camera commercial.
On Wednesday, July 15, Channel 9 aired a CBS show called "House Party" with Art Linkletter at 11:30 a.m., then an NBC quiz show called "Big Payoff" at noon. The first local newscast of the day was at 12:30 p.m., and featured Channel 9's only news person, a former KFEL 63
63 Fred Arthur, Interview by the author, November 17, 1996.
39


Radio personality named Bill Michaelson. This lasted for fifteen minutes, followed by a weather report from Vince Monforte for ten minutes and a short grain and livestock market report until 1:00 o'clock.
"Kaffee Klatsch" was a fifteen minute interview show with Hal Taft that came on at 2:00 o'clock. Fifteen minute programs were common during the early days of television, but gradually gave way to standard 30 minute or hour-long shows.
A few of television's first soap operas appeared in the afternoon. "Search for Tomorrow" and "Love of Life" were on each weekday at 3:45 p.m. and 4:00 o'clock. The afternoon news consisted of a ten minute report from Bill Michaelson at 5:45 p.m., followed by sports with Hal Davis at 5:55 p.m. Today Channel 9 has two hours of news in the afternoon.
At 10:00 o'clock, Bill Michaelson was back on the air for a fifteen minute newscast followed once again by Vince Monforte's weather report at 10:15, then some kind of sports report that varied from a horse racing show to filmed sports highlights to something called "Leo
40


Brunetti Sings," which presumably had nothing at all to do with sports.
"Movies Till Midnight" was a regular feature on Channel 9, but would come on anywhere from 10:20 p.m. to 10:35, depending on what kind of sports or singing show was scheduled. That week in July 1953, the movies included, "Give Me The Story," "Crashing Thru Danger," "Turn of the Tide," "Waltz Time," and "Hearts of Humanity." Today, these titles do not particularly spring to mind as classics. The station would sign off at midnight every day.
Although Channel 9 did not have much news on the air in the 1950s, there was plenty of live local programming. Once a month, the station aired a program called "Your Lease on Life, " about medical problems faced by "average families." Channel 9 engineer Mike Tucker remembers being part of a live remote at a hospital during one show, when one of the cameramen fainted as doctors were getting ready to perform a cesarean section. "The medical team that was going to perform the operation had to stop what they were doing and revive the cameraman.
The live insert was delayed until the cameraman was able
41


to regain his composure and return to his camera. Twenty-one minutes later the segment was televised without a hitch!"00
As for the news, Bill Michaelson remembers that there was not much involved in preparing it each day. "Since it was a rip-and-read operation, news was still primarily radio. And really what we were doing was just a guy reading the radio news, "66 67 he told Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell in 1992. "Rip and read" meant simply ripping wire copy off the teletype machine and reading it on the air. Channel 9 salesman Bob Brown remembers that, "We were doing local news, but we weren't doing a whole lot of it. Our whole attitude at that time was just programming and just trying to stay alive."68
In TV and Radio Weekly a picture of Michaelson shows a King Soopers grocery store sign on the set. In the early days of TV news, it was common for newscasters to read some stories, then promptly do a live commercial for a product. Channel 7 sportscaster Starr Yellend, who
66 Mike Tucker, "Remember When, " Behind Bench 9 newsletter, May 26, 1989.
67 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992.
68 Brown interview.
42


became one of the most prominent television personalities in Denver, remembers getting 50 cents for doing a Supreme Bakers commercial, his very first commercial fee."
Max Goldberg had a show on Channel 9 from 1953 to 1958 called "On the Spot," where he would interview various newsmakers on Thursday evening. When Goldberg left Channel 9, "On the Spot" moved to Channel 7. He interviewed people who were among the most prominent of their day, including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Adlai Stephenson. "He addressed sensitive issues,"0 his wife Miriam said. "It wasn't for sensationalism."
The foundation of commercial television has always been the idea that if enough people watch a program, you could sell advertising time during that program, and make money. That fact means that, at least generally, if television stations and networks want to make more money, they have to get more people to watch. Only the most popular programs survive, so producers make shows that will appeal to the largest possible audience. Some
03 "Denver Television, Then and Now," KBTV, 1981.
0 Goldberg interview.
43


critics, like author J. Fred MacDonald, think this is a bad thing. "Network TV failed the nation because of its fixation on popularity... The networks never allowed to television to be all it might have been." 1 MacDonald is entitled to his opinion, but attracting a mass audience and being successful in broadcasting are impossible to separate.
Bob Brown remembers that not everyone bought into the the TV business right away. "I called on one fellow and he said to me one day, 'You know, television is a passing fad.' And I looked at him like he had bad sense.",2 Brown was right. It might be a fad, but television was far from passing. Brown remembers suggesting to general manager Joe Herold that they should try to sell advertising based on rating points. Although audience measurement was a crude science at the time, they gave it a try, but the success of that strategy was limited. For one thing, there were not enough TV sets in the early years to make ratings important. Although he * 72
1 J. Fred MacDonald, One Nation Under Television, (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1990), 125.
72 Brown interview.
44


is not personally responsible for the widespread use of ratings to determine advertising rates, Bob Brown certainly offered Joe Herold a glimpse into the future. Today rating points are the primary means used to determine the value of commercial time. "We used to be able to carry our first ratings books around in our coat pockets, and now you'd get a hernia if you tried to pick one up," 3 Brown says. He might be exaggerating a little, but there is no question that audience measurement is more sophisticated and detailed today than it was then.
The ratings business is a surprisingly small field. Author Hugh M. Beville, Jr. says, "Probably few fields of commercial activity owe their development to such a small coterie of individuals as does broadcast audience measurement." 4 Only seven companies have ever measured the audiences of local TV stations. From the 1960s through the 1980s there were just two. Today there is one, the A.C. Nielsen Company. Although there is little competition in the audience measurement business, there
73 Ibid.
74 Hugh M. Beville, Jr., Audience Ratings: Radio, Television and Cable, (Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988), 23.
45


is no question about how important it is. As Beville says, "Ratings with their feedback element are the nerve system that largely controls what is broadcast."0
In 1939, NBC offered to mail a weekly program schedule to any viewer who wanted it. The postcard had boxes on it for viewers to check which programs they watched, as well as a space for comments or suggestions. 6 This represented the first attempt at measuring audience size. C.E. Hooper, who pioneered radio ratings, offered a television ratings service from 1947 until he died in
1954. In 1955, the American Research Bureau bought Hooper's company and combined it with its own ratings service. ARB changed its name to Arbitron in 1973 because company president Ted Shaker thought American Research Bureau sounded too much like a government agency. Arbitron was one of two companies that measured local audience ratings until it quit the television ratings business to focus on radio in 1993. November 75 76 77
75 Ibid, xi.
76 Ibid, 62 .
77 Ibid, 68 .
46


1993, was the last Arbitron ratings book for Denver. The other company was founded by a man named A.C. Nielsen.
Nielsen convinced C.E. Hooper to sell him Hooper's network TV ratings service in 1950. In 1961, Nielsen's only competitor in the network audience measurement business, Trendex, stopped its service, leaving Nielsen as the only choice for rating nationwide audiences.
Since Arbitron quit the local TV business in 1993,
Nielsen now has a monopoly on basic TV audience measurement for both the networks and local stations. 9 The methodology used by audience measurement companies is an imperfect science. Beville says,
"Ratings by their very nature are estimates and are therefore subject to errors and variations of all types." 9 Ratings services have used telephone surveys, personal interviews and direct mail questionnaires to find out who is watching what when. But the methodology that has survived and remains in use today falls into two categories: The "diary" and the "meter."
9 Since the beginning of TV, there have been a handful of other companies that measured local TV ratings.
Beville lists them as: Videodex, Tele-Pulse, Telerad System, TPI Ratings and Sindlinger.
"Beville, Audience Ratings, 83.
47


The diary requires viewers to fill out each day what program they are watching and who in the household is watching it. The meter records only what station the TV set is tuned to at a particular time. The meter also allows for instant tabulation of basic ratings information, but only the diary is able to measure demographic information about the viewer's age and sex. Nielsen uses another device called the "peoplemeter" which is able to calculate demographic information, but it is used largely for network audience measurement, and is not in use in Denver.80
Because measuring the entire audience, through either diaries or meters, would be impossible, Nielsen "sweeps" only a sampling of each market. In the November 1996, ratings period, for instance, Nielsen tabulated the results from 365 meters and 11 hundred diaries. This "sample" is only a tiny fraction of the market, which has 1.185 million households. Each household averages two to three people.81 Although Nielsen used meters to measure
90 Laura Perry, A.C. Nielsen Co. account executive, Interview by the author, January 9, 1997.
81 Nielsen "In-Tab Tracking Report," November 1996, Also, Perry interview, January 8, 1997.
48


local ratings in New York City as early as 1959, Denver did not get them until 1985. These numbers soon became referred to as "overnights." In a sense, they represent an instant report card on the success or failure of a particular program, at least as far as ratings are concerned. Nielsen notifies stations well in advance about when their audiences will be measured, but never tells them who is doing the measuring. In other words, stations are not supposed to know who has a diary or a meter. If they did, the urge to influence the small sample of viewers might lead to unethical and even illegal behavior.
During the years when both Arbitron and Nielsen provided local ratings, TV sales and promotion people had the luxury of choosing the report that cast them in the best light, promoting those ratings, and ignoring the other, less favorable report.
Back in Denver in 1953, the concept of ratings relative to the competition was about to become a lot more important. In July, Channel 9 began broadcasting from a new building, with a new transmitter and an aggressive publicity campaign. By the end of the year,
49


there were two more stations on the air that would make up the core of Denver broadcasting from that point forward.
The group that owned and operated KLZ Radio, Aladdin Broadcasting, got a license to operate a TV station on Channel 7. On November 1, 1953, Channel 7 went on the air from 131 Speer Boulevard in Denver, in a building close to where Channel 7 stands today. Some of the key people involved in Channel 7 included Aladdin president Hugh B. Terry, who ran the station from the time it went on the air until 1975, John Elroy McCaw of Centralia, Washington, Theodore R. Gamble of Portland, Oregon, and Aladdin chairman Harry A. Huffman, a former executive for Fox-Intermountain Theaters.82
Then, Metropolitan Television Co., with backing from businessman William Grant, Denver Mayor Quigg Newton and NBC star Bob Hope, started broadcasting KOA-TV on Channel 4. Others involved in organizing the station included Richard M. Davis, Gifford Phillips, Morrison Shafroth, John Wolfberg and Harris P. Wolfberg.83 The Wolfbergs 52
52 "Denver TV Opens Bid for Outlet, " The Denver Post, October 9, 1952, 43.
°3 "Mayor, 6 Others Form New Television Firm," Rocky
50


operated a number of movie theaters and drive-ins in Denver. Before long, however, they left Metropolitan Television and launched their own effort to get a license for Channel 7 and operate a "prestige station" which would set aside 20 percent of its programming for non-commercial purposes. This company, called Denver Television, eventually lost the fight for Channel 7 to Aladdin Broadcasting. Metropolitan Television had to compete with KMYR Radio for Channel 4's license, and won that prize after a lengthy and bitter battle before the FCC.84 Many involved in Metropolitan Television's efforts to get Channel 4 believed that Sen. Ed Johnson backed KMYR's group, but Mayor Newton and Bob Hope prevailed, even against the political power of "Bid Ed."95
Former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who also won the Republican nomination for president but lost in a landslide to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, was actually the first person in Colorado to apply for a * 65
Mountain News, January 9, 1949, 5. The Grants, Newtons and Shafroths were all prominent families in the history of politics and business in Denver.
54 de la Garza, "Television Invades," 57-61.
65 Ibid, 117-119.
51


television license in 1948.86 But by the time the freeze ended, Landon's effort failed and he stayed with the broadcasting business in his native Kansas.
The first program on Channel 4 appeared at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1953. The program consisted largely of pictures of the Virgin Mary and the bible,87 but Channel 4 was on the air, and there was now a four way fight for Denver TV viewers. Except for an education station on Channel 6 which began broadcasting on January 30, 1956, the four Denver commercial stations had the market to themselves until the 1980s.
The number of people with television sets able to watch those four stations was simply exploding. In 1949, only 6% of U.S. homes had television. By 1956, 76% did.53 In Denver and across the country, the television
86 Cherie de la Garza, "Television Comes to Denver," University of Colorado at Denver Historical Studies Journal, Spring, 1994, 4.
e' "KOA-TV, 4th Denver station, goes on air," The Denver Post, December 25, 1953, 27.
58 John E. O'Conner, ed., American History/American Television: Interpreting the Video Past, (New York:
Frederick Unger publishing, 1983), 25.
52


set was on its way to becoming as common a household appliance as a stove or a telephone.
But in Denver, whether it was the competition, or the tremendous start-up costs or simply uncertainty about the future of television, Channel 9's investors became increasingly nervous about their money. They were reportedly losing $25,000 a month, with no relief in sight.89 So in February 1955, the original 16 investors sold Channel 9 to a man named John Mullins for $900,000.50 He had a partner in the venture named Frank Leu, who stayed with Mullins for less than a year. The sale price was less than the one million dollars it took to get the station on the air in the first place. Of all the investors, only Max Goldberg resisted selling the station. "Max was really upset over that," Bob Brown remembers. "He never did get over it. He didn't want to sell. He saw the potential, the survival of television and the future of television."91 But at the time, it was only potential, and Goldberg could not convince the other
89 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 21, 1992.
90 "Owners of KBTV Buy Webb and Knapp's Share," Rocky Mountain News, August 9, 1961, 5.
91 Brown interview.
53


men on KBTV's board of directors to stick with it. John
Mullins was now in charge.
Mullins grew up in Oklahoma. His first big business venture was buying the Crystal City amusement park in Tulsa in 1938. Ten years later, Mullins invested in KPHO-TV in Phoenix and eventually bought the entire station before selling it 1952, reportedly for three times as much as he paid for it. By 1955, he was ready to get back into television, so he moved to Colorado, bought Channel 9 and tried to make as big a mark as possible on the Denver community.
Mullins went to school in Oklahoma with two prominent men. One was Paul Harvey, who would become one of the most popular radio newsmen in history. The other was evangelist Oral Roberts, who helped Mullins finance his purchase of Channel 9.
In December 1955, a New York investor named William Zeckendorf bought Frank Leu's 50% share in Channel 9. Zeckendorf also owned property in downtown Denver called Zeckendorf Plaza, which replaced the old Courthouse Square and took up two blocks at 16th and Court Place.
He built Denver's first skyscraper, the Mile High Center
54


at 17th and Broadway, which is now part of the Norwest Bank Center.
For a time, Mullins and Zeckendorf planned to move Channel 9 from 1089 Bannock to the Hilton Hotel92 in Zeckendorf Plaza. In fact, Ron Mitchell says there are springs under the Hilton's ballroom, because it was to have been Channel 9's studio, and needed the enormous springs to keep the cameras level. When Zeckendorf sold Zeckendorf Plaza, the two men abandoned the idea of moving the station.
Even though Zeckendorf owned half of Channel 9, Mullins essentially ran the station. Finally, in 1961, Zeckendorf sold his share of Channel 9 to Mullins for a reported $2.4 million. Mullins ran the station until he died in 1969.
Mullins was a colorful character who impressed different people in different ways. To some, he was a brilliant businessman and a "nice guy." To others, he was almost obsessive about his place in Denver society and went to great lengths to make himself prominent.
92 The Hilton Hotel later became the Radisson, and finally the Adam's Mark.
55


"John Mullins was a social climber, "93 Jim Butts remembered.
Clark Secrest, who worked in the Channel 9 news department for less than two years in the early 1960s, remembers what Mullins would do when Walt Disney came to Denver. "Every time he (Disney) came to town, he would dress Charley the janitor up in a chauffeur's uniform and go out to Stapleton and get Disney." After driving to Mullins' home in the Polo Grounds, "they would walk up to the front door and Charley would run around to the back door and change into a chef's uniform and meet 'em at the door. "94
Being in the company of stars and politicians was important to Mullins. He entertained people like Vice President Hubert Humphrey at his home. Mullins also established a "walk of fame" on the sidewalk in front of 1089 Bannock where Hollywood stars would either put footprints in wet cement or sign their names. Among the
93 Butts interview.
94 Clark Secrest, Interview by the author, November 9, 1996.
56


actors on the walk of fame were Jane Mansfield, Chuck Conners, Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston and Jerry Lewis.95
Clark Secrest also remembers that Mullins could be tough to work for. "He struck fear into the hearts of everybody who worked there... There were two things he could not stand to see when he walked into the station.
He couldn't stand to see an empty pop bottle on a desk and he couldn't stand to see a coat thrown over the back of a chair. And everybody knew that if he saw either of these those two things, he would just go into a fury, so we just didn't do it."96 97 Fred Arthur says Mullins was pompous. "I remember lining up for our Thanksgiving turkeys one time, the company Christmas present. I felt like I was at the Denver Rescue Mission.
Joe Franzgrote, who would eventually become Channel 9's general manager in 1989, started out as a salesman in the 1960s. One day he arranged a meeting with a May D and F department store executive about the possibility of advertising on Channel 9. Franzgrote thought that
95 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992.
96 Secrest interview.
97 Arthur interview.
57


Mullins was out of town, so when the receptionist said someone had parked under a canopy next to the station, where Mullins himself usually parked, and the car needed to be moved, Franzgrote asked the May D and F man to go move his car. It occurred to Franzgrote too late that perhaps Mullins was not out of town after all, and by the time he got to them, Mullins had verbally assaulted the poor man so severely for parking in his spot that it took years for the station to get any more business with May D and F.98
Jim Butts says he knew when he was in trouble with Mullins anytime the owner called him "Mr. Butts." One of those times happened because of an annual broadcast of the Central City Opera. Butts says Mullins started broadcasting the opera's opening night in about 1956. It was a live broadcast, including the Central City mayor and other dignitaries. According to Butts, it was "deadly dull."
Then Channel 9 got a new production truck that allowed them to videotape events and play them back later. One year, they used it for the Central City Opera
98 Joe Franzgrote, Interview by the author, November 17, 1996.
58


broadcast, hoping it would make the show a little more exciting. So they recorded it on a Saturday, brought the tape back to Denver and stayed up all night editing it for 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Butts says the fancy new truck and all the editing did not help much. "It was still a pretty deadly dull show.”99
Now normally, Mullins would not have even seen the broadcast, since he always attended the opera's opening. But this time, he got to watch the show because it was tape delayed. The next time Mullins saw Jim Butts, "He told me, 'If I ever have another show like that on my television station, you'll be fired.'"100
Butts says Mullins rarely had practical suggestions about how to make television better, he just wanted the people who worked for him to do it. "Mullins used to have the saying that he didn't know how to make an apple pie, but he sure as hell knew whether it was a good one or not."101
99 Butts interview.
100 Ibid.
101 Jim Butts in Mitchell's "Anniversary series," April 21, 1992.
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According to Clark Secrest, Mullins was also eccentric. He tells the story of Mullins and his wife, on vacation in Italy, when they passed by a large, beautiful marble fountain. "He said, 'I want that taken apart and shipped to Denver for my office' ... So they took the fountain apart and shipped it to Denver. They had to tear out a wall to put it in there. It went on for weeks. Then he took a look at it and said, 'I don't like it. Get it out of here.'"102
Mullins' office is legendary. "It was like a movie set,"103 Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell says. His desk sat on a pedestal so anyone talking to Mullins would have to look up at him. The office was filled with "the most outlandish group of paintings and artifacts from the world... They didn't match at all."
Mitchell says that once, during union negotiations, Mullins would walk around the office with a popgun, shooting at various objects. It is not clear what effect, if any, this tactic had on the negotiations or even what Mullins intended by it. In spite of these
102
Secrest interview.
103 Mitchell interview.
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eccentricities, Bob Brown, who became Channel 9's general sales manager under Mullins' ownership, has a kinder recollection of the man. "John Mullins was one of the nicest men I ever knew," he says. "He was a non-broadcaster. His broadcasting knowledge was not past the point of looking in like a stockholder would. Now he was at the station every day. He could understand things. But he was of the nature of, where's my money going? And I think the guy always did a very good job. "104
Whatever his personal eccentricities, or inconsistencies when it came to dealing with people, John Mullins was apparently a very good businessman. Channel 9 grew and prospered under his ownership. One thing that Mullins did not believe in, was spending money on a news department. His competition in Denver had a different view.
It is ironic that Channel 7 dominated local news in Denver almost from the time it went on the air until 1976, since Channel 7 has usually been either the second or third rated station ever since then. But in the early
104 Brown interview.
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days, some key personalities helped Channel 7 establish itself as the most-watched station in Denver, one of whom later played a key role when Channel 9 moved to the top.
KLZ Radio hired a young man from Texas named Carl Akers in June 1948, just after he graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Akers made $55 a week to do radio news. Hugh Terry, a longtime manager for KLZ Radio and TV, remembers that, "We took Ed's (Missouri professor Ed Lambert's) recommendation for Carl without an interview or an audition.''105 When asked if Akers was an overnight success, Terry responded,
"Well, it would have been a long night."106
Akers may not have set Denver on fire right away, but his longevity and popularity as a newscaster is unrivaled, even today. He started doing television when Channel 7 went on the air in 1953, even though Hugh Terry claims Akers did not like the medium. Akers would eventually anchor more than 22,000 newscasts. In the 1950s, he established Channel 7 as the most watched and
105 Hugh Terry, "Carl Akers 25th Anniversary," KB TV, 1973.
106
Ibid.
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most trusted news station in Denver. TV Review put Akers
on the cover of its September 2-8, 1961, issue with the headline, "Denver's Top Newscaster."1"7
A research project conducted for Channel 7 by Frank N. Magid Associates in about 1960 backs up that claim.
The Magid report showed that 34.8% of all Denver viewers considered Akers their "favorite local television newscaster."108 The next closest name was Channel 7's John Rayburn, who worked for both Channel 4 and Channel 7 before coming to Channel 9 in 1971, and at the time of the Magid report, Rayburn registered with only 7.5%.
In fact, the top six names viewers in Denver listed as their favorites all worked at Channel 7. Newscasters from Channels 2, 4 and 9 combined added up to only 7.9% of the audience.109 This was an early indication of the importance of the personalities and perceived talent of television newscasters. Stations lived and died with
107 "Denver's Top Newscaster," TV Review, September 2-8, 1961, 6.
108 Frank N. Magid Associates. The Role of Television in the Denver Metropolitan Area: Study in Depth,
approximately 1960, 25.
109 Ibid, 25.
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Even
their.anchors, known today simply as "talent." then, the people who owned and operated television stations realized that one of the keys to success was in finding the "right" talent and managing it properly.
When Akers and Rayburn worked at competing stations in the late 1950s, Akers sent Rayburn a box with a chess piece in it, with a note inside that read, "'I don't know about you, but I feel like a pawn.'"110 To a certain extent at least, being a pawn is an occupational hazard of being in front of the camera. For his part, Rayburn boasts that, "One of my major contributions to the business was not anything to do with talent or abilities, but I had an innate ability to needle the brass. And that was good for their character."111 In spite of their status as rivals, early Denver broadcasters got along pretty well. "We've never really fought among ourselves," Akers said. "But we did fight with the newspaper people in the early days. Because they thought we were interlopers, Johnny-come-lately and so forth."112
110 John Rayburn, Interview by the author, November 11, 1996.
111 Ibid.
112 Carl Akers, "Denver TV Then and Now," KBTV, August
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Not surprisingly, the popularity of Channel 7's newscasters made the station the most popular one to watch in Denver. Channel 7 was the favorite news station for 47.8% of viewers, more than all other stations combined. Channel 4 scored 24%, Channel 9 scored 10.8%, Channel 2 registered with 3.5%. Almost 13% of those surveyed either did not know which station was their favorite or did not answer the question.113
Nearly half of those surveyed for the Magid report said Channel 7 was their preferred station for weather information.114 And, in what is perhaps the most innovative way to measure the popularity of a television station, 46.7% of those surveyed responded with Channel 7 when asked: "If all but one channel were to go out of order in your set (or sets), which one would you want to remain in working order?"115 Magid, which was of course paid by Channel 7 to do the report in the first place, reported that, "The unusually high regard held by viewers
20, 1981.
113 Magid report, 22.
114 Ibid, 21.
115 Ibid, 41.
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for KLZ-TV dramatically reflects its ability to meet the viewers' demands for consistently superior television in all phases of programming and community affairs. "ii6
Channel 7 no doubt had a distinct advantage over its competition because of the station's ownership. Unlike Channels 2, 4 and 9, Channel 7 was owned by a big company from 1954 forward, when Time-Life Broadcasting bought the station from Aladdin Broadcasting, the group of local people who put the station on the air in the first place. The Tribune Company bought Channel 2 in 1966; General Electric bought Channel 4 in 1968; and Combined Communications bought Channel 9 in 1971. But before that Channel 7's competition did not have the resources to compete on the same level with a company the size of Time-Life. Channel 7 general manager Hugh Terry ran the station for most of that time and earned a reputation as an excellent broadcaster who "had little trouble keeping company (Time-Life) bureaucrats away from his station."* *1 Channel 7, then, had two key ingredients for success: An
116 Ibid.
*17 Dusty Saunders, "Denver's TV news war," Rocky Mountain News, December 2, 1990, 132.
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owner with deep pockets and a strong, protective local management.
Much like today, having a strong network partner was also important with regard to Channel 7's success. Although NBC was certainly a powerful network in the 1940s and 1950s, CBS programming, particularly news shows like Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now" captured the attention of Denver television viewers. Channel 9, in addition to an almost non-existent news department, was connected with the weakest of the three networks, ABC, which at that time was still struggling just to survive.
Channel 7 sportscaster Starr Yelland remembers when he thinks Channel 7 took the lead in Denver. In 1957, a man named John Gilbert Graham planted a bomb on board a United Airlines plane in order to kill his mother, who was on board, and collect money from her life insurance policy. The plane crashed near Longmont, and Channel 7's news team sprang into action.
In those days, there were no "live trucks" or helicopters. The only way to get the story was to go get it and bring it back. Yelland remembers that a photographer named Jim Bennett (who would later become
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Channel 7's news director) got a camera, went to the scene, shot film of the crash and drove it back to the station. Yelland recounted what happened next in a conversation with Carl Akers for a 1981 television show called "Denver TV, Then and Now."
"We all waited in the newsroom. You (Akers) were on the air live and while you were on the air live, somebody said, 'Bennett's within the city limits, he's coming...' And about 10:38, Bennett walked in with these wet pictures and he held 'em up, they were dripping and he held 'em up and said, Carl this is what it is up there and that was the night that Channel 7 came of age.118 Yellend remembers the feeling people who worked at Channel 7 had about being number one. "We were number one for twenty-two years. And we were proud of that."119
At the time, Channel 9 barely had a news department, and it was the same "rip and read" operation that existed when the station first signed on the air. In the context of today's newsgathering resources, being faced with a
118 Starr Yelland, "Denver TV, Then and Now, " KB TV, 1981.
119 Ibid.
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story of that magnitude with a one-person news department is mind-boggling.
Channel 7 was winning in the early decades of Denver's news war, but that would not last forever.
After Channel 4 came on the air in December 1953, all four stations settled in with their own network partner. Channel 7 went with CBS, Channel 4 with NBC, Channel 2 with DuMont, and Channel 9 signed up with ABC, the youngest and least powerful of what would become the "big three" networks.
In About Television, author Martin Mayer says, "Network affiliation has been the fundament of profits in television."120 These words were true when Mayer wrote them in 1972 and they are true today, for the same reasons. First of all, even today, the major broadcast networks still distribute the most popular programming on television, from major sporting events to weekly dramas and comedies. Therefore, the advertising time on network affiliates is naturally worth more money because more people are watching. Also, independent stations have to pay for virtually all the programming they need to fill
120 Martin Mayer, About Television, (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 279.
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their schedules, while the networks actually pay the local stations to air network programming. This "network compensation" is a relatively small amount of money compared to revenue from commercial advertising time, but it is still money a station has coming in instead of going out. It is certainly true that network affiliation would play a tremendous role for Channel 9 when it finally became the number one station in Denver in 1976, and then again when all Denver network affiliates switched networks in 1995.
In the late 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was finishing his second term as president, the country was at peace, and Channel 9 owner John Mullins was thinking less about being number one, and more about his primary concern: Making money.
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CHAPTER 2
ADOLESCENCE THE 1960s
"It seems to me that television is: The literature of the illiterate, the culture of the lowbrow, the wealth of the poor, the privilege of the underprivileged, and the exclusive club of the excluded masses.""1
Lee Loevinger, FCC Commissioner, 1966
On Wednesday, September 6, 1961, Channel 9's broadcast day started at 8:00 a.m. with an episode of "Abbott and Costello" and ended at midnight after a "Star Theatre" movie called "Blaze of Noon" starring William Holden.In between, there were local newscasts at 9:00 a.m. (30 minutes), noon (15 minutes), 5:45 p.m. (again 15 minutes) and 10:00 p.m. (ten minutes, with a five minute
--1 FCC Commissioner Lee Loevinger, quoted by Martin Mayer in, About Television, (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 382.
^ TV Review, September 2-8, 1961.
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weather report), for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes of news and weather a day.
Other local programming found its place on Channel 9's schedule. A thirty minute children's show called "Sheriff Scotty" with Ed Scott came on at 4:45 p.m.
Except for newscasts, the show was the longest running local television show in Denver history. It started out on Channel 7 when that station started broadcasting in November 1953, and then moved to Channel 9 in 1957. When Sheriff Scotty offered memberships in his "posse," 28,000 kids responded in the first month alone. He called his shows "posse meetings" and required kids to "mind their parents, uphold the law and attend posse meetings."123
Channel 7, still by far the most popular station in Denver, had about the same local news time as Channel 9, except that there was a regular half hour of news, weather and sports at 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. Although Carl Akers joked that his job at Channel 7 was still "temporary," even after eight years on the job, a TV Review writer said, "You can bet Perry Mason's briefcase
123 David Freed, "Graduates of an innocent age," Rocky Mountain News, July 11, 1982, 30.
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that KLZ-TV hasn't the slightest idea of replacing King Carl. "124
The article went on to quote an unnamed manager at an unnamed rival station. "The sonovagun is fabulous... Of all the personalities in Denver, Akers would be the one I'd want if I owned my own station. For my dough, he's the best in the business--nationally or local."125 We do not know whether that admirer worked for Channel 9 or not, but the comments would prove to be prophetic before the 1960s were over.
John Mullins, the businessman who bought Channel 9 in 1955, ran into a bit of a problem in the early 1960s. Many people who worked at Channel 9 at the time believe the FCC actually threatened Channel 9's license unless he got more serious about a news department. How serious was the threat? And did it exist at all? The answers likely died along with John Mullins in 1969, but there is no denying that its license is the single most important asset a television station has. So Channel 9 expanded.
124 Denver's Top Newscaster," TV Review, September 2-8, 1961, 6.
125 Ibid.
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Clark Secrest joined Channel 9 in January 1961. He remembers that the newly expanded news department now included himself, news director and anchor Art Smith, George Stratton, Pete Richardson and Steve Katy. This was tiny by today's standards but in the context of what Channel 9 had before, at least it was something.
The first newsroom was in an unfinished part of the building on the second floor at 1089 Bannock. The floors were still concrete. They hung drapes made of burlap to partition off an area and call it a newsroom. There was a teletype ticker that supplied wire reports from the Associated Press and United Press (later United Press International or UPI).
This is also when Channel 9 first started routinely gathering news in the field by shooting film. According to Secrest, they had one hand held film camera with a one hundred foot load of 16 millimeter film. One hundred feet of film amounted to just a few minutes worth, so Secrest says, "If you couldn't do a story with one hundred feet, you were pretty much screwed."126 The news department did not have a vehicle, so when they needed to
126 Secrest interview.
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drive to a story, they would borrow an old station wagon from the production department.
Shooting news on film has implications that made newsgathering much different in those days than it is today. First of all, shooting film means you have to get it developed, which takes time. When photographers shoot stories on videotape, it is available the moment the photographer is done shooting. But in 1961, when Clark Secrest shot a story on his one hundred feet of film, he would go to a processing lab called United Film at 10th and Acoma, along with photographers from all the other stations. None of the stations, even Channel 7, had a film processor. As Secrest remembers it, there was an informal arrangement among all the competing news photographers when they gathered to get the film processed each afternoon. "If you missed something, one of your buddies from the other stations would take care of you."li7 Today's competition would make such an arrangement difficult, if not impossible.
The early days of Channel 9 news were crude and chaotic. "We really didn't know what we were doing,"
‘2’’ Ibid.
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Secrest says. Secrest and his fellow employees at Channel 9 were not the only ones. The entire industry was trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.
In 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy appointed a young lawyer named Newton Minow as chairman of the FCC. That year, Minow gave a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, the foremost television and radio organization in the country. It is a speech that still echoes today. Minow recognized that television can be very good.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse.
I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland (italics added). You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials--many screaming, cajoling and offending... Is there one person is this room who claims that broadcasting can't do better?... Gentlemen, your trust accounting with your beneficiaries is overdue. Never have so few owed so much to so many... I understand that many people feel that in the past licenses were often renewed pro forma. 1 say to you now: renewal will not be pro forma in the
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future. There is nothing permanent or sacred about a broadcast license."'8
There was no wholesale license revocation following Minow's ominous speech in 1961. For his part, the FCC chairman worked to strengthen non-commercial television by encouraging new public stations in major cities. KRMA-TV in Denver was already established by the Denver School Board in 1956 on Channel 6, then giving Denver five television stations.* 129
The networks responded to the apparent government menace by programming a wider variety of shows, some that could qualify as "good" television, like "Exploring" and "Discovery." A drama called "The Defenders" found its way into the 1961-62 season with thoughtful examination of current issues. The 1960s are in a sense television's most important decade, not because of the way television did what it did, but because of events that thrust the medium far more deeply into American culture.
John Kennedy is responsible for two of those events. His September 26, 1960, debate with Richard Nixon
i2e Newton Minow, quoted by Barnouw in, Tube of Plenty, 300.
129 Jack Gaskie, "Denver ETV Makes Quiet Debut, " Rocky Mountain News, January 31, 1956, 6.
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demonstrated the influence of television in the modern political process. As Barnouw suggests, it had much less to do with what Kennedy and Nixon said during the debate, but rather how they said it, and even more importantly what the two men looked like when they were not talking. "A glimpse of the listening Kennedy showed him attentive, alert, with a suggestion of a smile on his lips. A Nixon glimpse showed him haggard; the lines on his face seemed like gashes and gave a fearful look. Toward the end, perspiration streaked the Lazy-Shave. "13° Lazy-Shave was a product used to make a man's face look more clean-shaven.
The impact of that first televised debate has been itself debated for many years. But Barnouw points out that after the debate, larger crowds gathered at Kennedy campaign appearances, and that polls indicated an impact with previously undecided voters. Barnouw calls it a "victory psychology."131
Whatever the specific impact of that particular event, it certainly marked a change in the way American
‘2Q Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, 273-274.
131 Ibid, 274.
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politicians, particularly presidential candidates, approached running for office. Appearance became more important. "Sound bites," or short, memorable clips of speeches or news conferences, became more important. Was this good or bad for democracy? There are critics on both sides. Some believe television "glorified traits having no relationship to the presidency" while others think the "public ordeal of the debates" demonstrated "a relevance to leadership in an age of instant crisis and instant communication."132
But it was another Kennedy event that thrust television into the spotlight of American life, where it remains today. After a narrow victory in the 1960 election, aided perhaps by his televised debate with Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy served as president for less than three years when, on November 22, 1963, he was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas. What followed is what Barnouw describes as "the most moving spectacular ever broadcast."133
132 Ibid, 275.
133 Ibid, 331.
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Television viewers in Denver and across the country gathered around television sets to watch the drama unfold. First there were scenes of the chaos in Dallas; conflicting reports about the president's condition; finally, news of his death at Parkland Hospital. Then the body was taken to Washington for a televised funeral procession, while back in Dallas, NBC cameras were showing live pictures of suspect Lee Harvey Oswald's transfer from the city jail to the county jail when Jack Ruby appeared suddenly, then shot and killed Oswald. Again, all this was live on television, the first live murder ever broadcast.
Television itself may have contributed to that chapter of the story, since Dallas police decided against a secret night transfer of Oswald, instead moving him at noon on a Sunday so all the cameras could record the event. Barnouw suggests that "police were not merely cooperative, but apparently eager to surrender to television requests and whims."134 Within an hour of Kennedy's assassination, approximately 80% of all television sets in the country were on, and there was
134 Ibid, 333.
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very little to see but the developing story. Television had proven to be a sort of instant community meeting for the country in a time of crisis.
Many other events in the 1960s influenced, and were influenced by, television. Vietnam was not just a war, it was a "living room war," where the people back home saw firsthand, in their living rooms, how horrible war could be thanks to filmed footage of the fighting. Television coverage of Vietnam is either credited for bringing the war to a faster conclusion, or criticized for contributing to a weakening of domestic support, causing the U.S. to "lose" its first war ever.
Even before that, the country experienced the fear of global holocaust with the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. At 5:00 p.m. Denver time on October 22, 1962, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about missiles the Soviet Union had placed just ninety miles from Florida on the island nation of Cuba. Denver and the nation watched as the standoff seemed to reach a point of no return, then cooled down and finally evaporated.
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The 1968 riots at the Democratic National Convention
in Chicago, and Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon in July 1969, demonstrated the extreme ends of the scale when it came to the tragedy and triumph television brought to daily American life. Viewers saw many of these images on newly expanded 30 minute network news broadcasts each evening, starting in 1963. Before that, network news had been only 15 minutes a day, if that. But now television news was serious business, and began to have a serious impact on the country.
Technology was advancing as well. One of the reasons the networks decided to expand their evening newscasts was the launch of the Telstar I communications satellite in July 1962. Now, instead of depending on clumsy and crowded phone lines or a series of microwave towers to transmit programming, the networks suddenly had another option that would one day become the primary means of distributing programming around the world.
In addition to sending movies and situation comedies to their affiliates, satellite technology allowed networks to, in theory at least, cover a story anywhere in the world, as long as they could get a satellite dish
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there. Twenty more years would pass before large numbers of local stations took advantage of the technology, but the networks began to use it as soon as it was available.
The "Early Bird" communications satellite went into orbit in 1965. That year, CBS used it to conduct a "global roundtable" with Walter Cronkite moderating a discussion including former President Dwight D.
Eisenhower and British World War II hero, Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery. On the air, CBS proudly labeled Montgomery's feed from London, "VIA EARLY BIRD."^:
But perhaps the most significant technological development of the 1960s for local stations like Channel 9 was color TV. Since the beginning, the art of television had only partially imitated life, since the images seen on TV screens were black and white.
Like almost everything else connected with television, there were two issues when it came to color. One was figuring out how to broadcast in color; the other was in inventing, marketing and getting consumers to buy the TVs necessary to watch color TV. If they were lucky enough to own a color TV set, Denver viewers could have
135 Ibid, 312.
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seen a color program as early as New Year's Day, 1954, when Channel 4 broadcast the Tournament of Roses Parade in color.'36 But the quality of early color television was marginal, and widespread use of the technique was still years away.
In the early 1960s, Clark Secrest remembers walking into the control room and seeing big wooden boxes sitting all over the place. When he asked one of the engineers what was going on, he responded, "'That's color equipment.'" Secrest was surprised. "But there are no color television sets!" he said. "'But there will be,'" the engineer responded. "'And Mullins wants to be ready. ' "136 137
Television technicians had been working on color TV since television was invented. It would have been possible to convert the industry to color in the 1950s, but the cost of producing and transmitting programming in color, and the cost of buying sets that could receive color programming, delayed its widespread use. So the
136 Gene Lindberg, "Denverites see First Color TV Program," The Denver Post, January 1, 1954, 13.
137 Secrest interview.
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1960s became "the decade of color."138 In 1960, less than 1% of all households had color TV sets. By 1969, the figure was more than 30%. By 1979, it was about 80%.139
For obvious reasons, color TV had enormous implications for the viewer. There were even some potential not-so-obvious effects. When TV news crews switched to using color film on news stories in 1965-66, it affected coverage of the Vietnam War. "Mud and blood were indistinguishable in black and white; in color, blood was blood."140 It is unlikely that John Mullins and his team at Channel 9 gave much thought to ramifications like that. Color was better, and that was that.
The 1960s saw a gradual rise in the fortunes of Channel 9. First, longtime Channel 7 newscaster Carl Akers quit his job in September 1966, after 18 years with KLZ Radio and TV. When asked years later to explain why, Akers responded that, "I just got tired. Just got physically and mentally beat, so I quit for a year and half.1,141
138 Comstock, Television in America, 37.
139 Ibid.
140 Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, 401.
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At the time, Akers planned to research and write about Colorado history with his wife, which he did. But he also told The Denver Post when he resigned that, "This is not to say that I won't be back in television."141 142 After his brief hiatus from broadcasting, Channel 9 general manager A1 Flanagan (a significant figure himself in the history of the station), convinced Akers to come to work at Channel 9 doing documentaries. It was an association that would last for 20 years and help propel the station to first place in the Denver market.
Cecil Walker, who came to Channel 9 in 1969 as the station's business manager after working for Mullins Outdoor Advertising for four years, remembers what it meant for the station to have Akers on board. "It made a difference simply because the minute that Carl Akers decided to come to Channel 9, he made a statement that Channel 9 was committed to doing news."143 Although he started out just doing documentaries, Akers soon went back on the air as an anchor. In 1969, he also became
141 "This is Carl Akers," KUSA-TV, 1987.
142 Carl Akers, quoted in, "Carl Akers Resigns TV Post, " The Denver Post, August 31, 1966, 2.
143 Cecil Walker in, "This is Carl Akers."
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KBTV's news director. He later remembered his reign as news director as "the worst nine years of my life."144 In 1974, Akers once again gave up the anchor desk, saying he was "burnt out."145 He spent 12 more years at the station in management and doing commentaries before he retired.
What made Carl Akers so valuable? He did not possess "TV star" looks. In fact, when he retired from Channel 9 in 1986, he said, "If those TV consultants were around in my early TV years, I probably wouldn't have gotten a job as a janitor, let alone a news anchor."146 But his long career on Channel 7 established him as a credible newscaster to Denver viewers. Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell, who grew up watching Akers as a child in Denver remembers working next to him as a young reporter in the early 1970s. "I was in awe of him, always," Mitchell says. "It never went away. Because I saw him on television beginning in about 1954 or
*44 Ibid, quoted by Ed Sardella.
145 Walter Saunders, "Akers to give up news anchorman spot," Rocky Mountain News, August 7, 1974, 40.
146 Carl Akers, quoted by Dusty Saunders in, "'Ultra-slick' just wasn't Carl Akers' style," Rocky Mountain News, December 21, 1986, 23.
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whenever. And all of my growing up, you know, it was Carl Akers. I told him that once and he was genuinely offended because he wasn't interested in hearing how old he was. ""4
But there was more to it than that. Cecil Walker tried to identify it. "He walks in front of the television camera and he communicates. And he's Carl Akers. He's not a different individual... He's left a very definite mark among other broadcasters, because the one thing they all recognize is that he can walk through that television tube, that television set, into someone's home. "14S
A1 Flanagan said, "I've never heard Carl Akers ever read a bad line, even if it was written by somebody other than him.""49 And when it came to writing for television, there were not many better than Carl Akers. John Conners worked with Akers at Channel 7. "Carl can say more in twenty five words," Conners said, "than the wire services can say in fifty or sixty, if you know what I mean.""" * 148 149
"4 Mitchell interview.
148 Cecil Walker in, "This is Carl Akers."
149 Ibid, A1 Flanagan.
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The audience, which seemed to respond to Akers throughout his career no matter which station he worked for, certainly did seem to understand what Conners meant.
Akers was a journalist. He took his responsibility seriously. "If only one individual tuned in that night, it was my responsibility to tell him, to the best of my ability, what the hell was going on."131 And he was uncomfortable doing news in a medium that demanded so much show business. Still, whether he admitted it or not, Akers was a showman himself. "There is a bit of showmanship there, a little extra something that comes through,"150 151 152 Ron Mitchell says. Akers would end his newscasts and commentaries with a phrase borrowed from the way newspaper reporters ended their stories by saying, "That's 30, this is Carl Akers."
John Rayburn, who spent most of the 1970s anchoring Channel 9 newscasts, says "Carl Akers used to insist that he was not a performer. But we were a little of both." Much like John Conners, Rayburn identified writing and
150 Ibid, John Conners.
151 Ibid, Carl Akers.
152 Ibid, Ron Mitchell.
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copy editing as the abilities that made Carl Akers stand out for so long. "He was the best editor I've ever seen,"153 Rayburn says.
Ed Sardella joined Channel 9 in 1974 as a sportscaster and would later become the station's most popular and prominent newscaster. Sardella describes Akers as "the ultimate country boy. I think he epitomized probably what Denver was like and what the media was like, really in the early, infancy days. He was very down to earth."154 Sardella remembers hearing the story that Akers never owned a tie. "He had two clip-on ties and he had an old coat rack in his office. And those clip-on ties sat on that coat rack so that he never walked out of the building with a tie on."
Akers also never really grasped all of the technical aspects of television news, even after doing it for twenty years. Sardella remembers working with Akers when the station still used film in its newscasts. "And you had to put the film on a reel in the order you were going
153 Rayburn interview.
154 Ed Sardella, Interview by the author, November 16, 1996.
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to play it," Sardella says. "Carl never understood that... So he'd pick up the phone and tell the frustrated director, 'Stay with me, I'm going to change the order a little bit.' Never taking into account that you couldn't change the order of the films."135
And, Sardella says, Akers was old fashioned. "He was very old fashioned. He was very committed to content. Did not buy into the cosmetic, production, audience oriented kinds of changes."155 156 He might have frustrated directors, but Carl Akers was always popular with Denver's television viewers. When asked to explain this popularity himself, Akers said, "If you like people, and you enjoy talking with them, that comes across on television. And I think maybe that is part of the reason that I've stayed around so long."157 Akers lived only seven years after his final retirement from the news business. He died at the age of 71 on January 7, 1993. Sardella sums up Akers contribution to television news: "During his career, he has left vivid impressions on
155 Ibid.
156 Ibid.
137 "This is Carl Akers."
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management and his co-workers. They said he was bullheaded, which he was, and they said he always liked to do things his own way, which he did. But they respect Carl as a man, and they admire his talent."158
About a week after Carl Akers died, Channel 9 lost another on-air legend whose personality was as exuberant as Akers' was reserved. Meteorologist Leon "Stormy" Rottman joined KBTV in 1968, the same year Carl Akers came out of retirement. Rottman was a long-time Air Force meteorologist who admitted that predicting the weather was a tricky business. "I want to keep my mouth shut, " he once told The Denver Post, "but the public wants to know, and I've got to try to tell them."159 Stormy, whose nickname fit his chosen profession perfectly, told them for 19 years before he retired in 1988. Ed Sardella said the computerized changes in TV weather technology were "very traumatic" for Rottman.160 Even so, those who worked with him at Channel 9
158 Ibid, Ed Sardella.
159 Stormy Rottman, quoted by Joanne Ostrow in, "Denver TV's Stormy Rottman is dead at age 74," The Denver Post, January 16, 1993, 2B.
160 Ibid, Ed Sardella.
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remembered Stormy as a bright personality who was no doubt a factor in the station's ratings rise of the 1970s.
But when Akers and Rottman came to work for Channel 9 in 1968, all of that was still in the future. Channel 9 was still in third place, still far behind Channel 7. There were, however, positive signs. The most popular and talented newscaster in Denver was now working at Channel 9. A1 Flanagan, who went on to establish a reputation as one of the best broadcasters in the country, was running the station. And the ABC network had gone from an organization simply trying to survive to competing effectively with CBS and NBC.
As the 1960s drew to a close, another development would prove to be perhaps the most significant event since the station signed on. In August 1969, John Mullins died, leaving Channel 9 and a growing mini media empire behind. Besides KBTV, Mullins owned KBTR Radio, KARK-TV and KAK Radio in Little Rock as well as other, smaller companies that handled everything from outdoor advertising to electric signs to film production. There
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was no immediate decision by the Mullins family about what to do with these businesses.
So as the decade of the 1970s began, Richard Nixon was president, the United States was trying to find a way out of Vietnam and Channel 9 saw both uncertainty and opportunity. If the 1960s were the most important decade for the development of the television industry, the 1970s would prove to be the most important years yet for Channel 9.
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CHAPTER 3
TOWARD THE TOP THE 1970s
"In a very real sense, television is American
culture. "161
John E. O'Conner
Much like the actor who works in obscurity for years before becoming a success, Channel 9 rose to the top of the Denver television market gradually during the course of the 1970s. The station's success was the-result of many factors, undoubtedly beginning with the change of ownership that happened in 1971.
After John Mullins died in 1969, his family decided not to keep the business. So, on Monday, April 7, 1971, the Mullins estate announced an agreement to sell KBTV and the rest of the Mullins media collection to a company
â– 'â– John E. O'Conner, ed., American History/American Television: Interpreting the Video Past, (New York:
Frederick Unger Publishing, 1983), introduction.
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Full Text

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN AIR: DENVER'S CHANNEL 9 , 1952-1996 by Tim Ryan B.J., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1985 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree o f Master of Arts History 1997

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This thesis for the Master o f Arts degree by Tim Ryan has been approved by Thomas J . el

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Ryan, Tim (M.A., History) Rocky Mountain Air: Denver's Channel 9, 1952-1996 Thesis directed by Professor Mark S . Foster ABSTRACT If something has to be around for a thousand years to be the subject of history, television does not qualify. Yet the American television business has changed enough since it started 50 years ago that it seems appropriate to examine the topic. This work deals specifically with one television station: Channel 9 in Denver. It examines the evolution of the station, and the broadcasting business, both in the context of Colorado broadcasting and the entire industry, from 1952 to 1996. Channel 9 started with crude equipment, limited programming and an almost nonexistent local news presence and became a sophisticated business with a broad impact on Denver and Colorado. This thesis also looks toward the future for iii

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Channel 9 and television in general, to see what might lie in store for the next 50 years. This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Sign Mark S. i v

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 1 . IN THE BEGINNING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 THE 1950s 2 . ADOLESCENCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 1 THE 1960s 3 . TOWARD THE TOP. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 THE 1970s 4 . NEWS WAR ........................... 125 THE 1980s 5 . THE SWITCH AND BEYOND .............. 158 THE 1990s 6 . REFLECTIONS O F A TELEVISION CHILD . . 1 82 BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 8 v

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CHAPTER 1 IN THE BEGINNING THE 1950s "A television show has been thought o f like a Kleenex. You use it for the eyes, and then you throw it away. Nobody knew televisio n was going to be so big."1 Charles Kuralt, CBS News If the people there at the beginning were superstitious, Channel 9 might never have gone o n the air. After all, an airline losing the most important piece o f equipment necessary to operate a television station is anything but a good sign. But that is exactly what happened to Channel 9's transmitter in the fall o f 1952. Somehow, when United Airlines shipped the RCA transmitter from Philadelphia, someone forgot to unload it in Denver, and it wound up in 1 "When TV Was Young," CBS-TV , April 28 , 1977 . 1

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San Francisco. "Now how you do that, I'm not sure I know,"2 Channel 9 engineer Jim Butts later remembered. Another engineer named Carl Bliesner remembered how Channel 9's first general manager, Joe Herold, took the news. "Joe Herold said he often wondered why he didn't have any hair, and he said that was one reason. W e could have been o n the air earlier, maybe a week earlier."3 But as it turned out, Channel 9 was "born" o n Sunday, October 12, 1952. I t has been broadcasting every day since, although what fills the Rocky Mountain airwaves today is much different than it was in 1952. Channel 9 was Denver's second television station. Channel 2 , at that time known as KFEL-TV, began continuous broadcasting on July 21, 1952. Channels 4 and 7 both followed 2 and 9 on the air in 1953. Other stations (6, 12, 20 and 31) followed in later years. Denver was one of the last large American cities to get television, the result of a government freeze on granting 2 Jim Butts i n Ron Mitchell's, " Channel 9 40th Anniversary series," KUSA-TV, April 20, 1992. 3 Ibid, Carl Bliesner. 2

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licenses to people who wanted to start television stations.4 But long before TV finally did arrive in Denver, the field of modern communications was slowly transforming the world from a collection of disconnected and isolated pockets of people to what we know today as "the global community." Television was a key element in this transformation, and many people considered it nothing short of a modern miracle. "In terms of technology alone, the ability to transmit and receive pictures and sound is among the greatest human achievements of the century."5 Actually, the origins of television go back to Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876. The transmission of sound through telephone cables evolved into being able to send sound through the air, without any cables, by way of something called radio. A young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi is generally 4 The freeze by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lasted from 1949 to 1952. Although it will be dealt with in detail later, the reason the FCC gave for the freeze was in order to determine how to allocate the growing number of channel positions properly. : J . Fred McDonald, One Nation Under Television, (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1990), 5 . 3

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credited with inventing wireless radio transmission. By 1900 there were companies bearing his name in both Great Britain and America. Although the first applications of the new technology were for either military o r transportation needs, radio soon became a significant commercial enterprise, foreshadowing the huge broadcasting industry that exists today. On November 21 , 1920, KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh began the country's first commercial radio broadcast. In Denver, KLZ became the city' s first radio station in 1922, KFEL followed in 1923 and KOA, also known as the Rocky Mountain Broadcasting Station, started playing band music and speeches o n December 15, 1924. That same year KLZ made histor y by broadcasting the first football game Colorado listeners had ever heard . The two teams were the University of Denver and the University of Colorado.6 By the 1950s, the owners of all three radio stations would be involved in the new television phenomenon. Unlikethe telephone (Bell) and electricity (Edison) , the invention of television cannot be credited 6 Stephen J . Leonard and Thomas J . Noel, Denver, Mining Camp to Metropolis, (Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1990), 160-61. 4

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to just one person. Instead, a series of inventors, working either together o r in competition, finally developed the technology that made television possible. In 1884 German inventor Paul Nipkow came up with something called the "Nipkow disc" which held early promise when it came to transmitting pictures. Among the other early names in the race to get television going were Ernst F.W. Alexanderson from Sweden, who advanced the Nipkow disk at General Electric in the 1 920s; radio pioneer Lee de Forest, who patented the "Audion" voice transmission tube in 1907; C.F. Jenkins, who helped develop the motio n picture projector in the 1890s and demonstrated a television version in 1925; Philo T . Farnsworth, who presented a public demonstration of all-electronic TV in 1928, and engineer Edwin Armstrong, who later became locked in a bitter legal struggle with RCA over patent infringement. But the name perhaps most associated with the invention o f television was a Russian-born engineer and inventor named Vladimir K . Zworkin, who became known as "the Father of Television." In a recent biography, author Albert Abramson reflected o n how Zworkin viewed 5

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his position in the history of the medium. "Publicly he professed to be bothered by the title, since he was only too painfully aware that television had come about through the efforts of dozens, perhaps hundreds, o f individuals who had slowly and methodically put the pieces together to create the most powerful communications medium in the world. Secretly, however, he cherished that name."7 Whether television itself is something to cherish o r condemn has been the subject of debate since its invention. Zworkin's work advanced television technology to the point that one research scientist predicted in 1925 that all U.S. households would have TV sets by 1930. That was more than a little optimistic, but the nation would see a day when almost all households in the U . S . would have a television set. As author Ken Auletta wrote in 1991, "Television has become a basic American utility, like water or electricity."8 7 Albert Abramson, Zworkin, Pioneer of Television, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 1. 8Ken Auletta, Three Blind Mice, House, 1991), 3. 6 (New York: Random

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Zworkin himself likely gave little thought to the implications of what he was inventing. He was an engineer who focused on television's technical challenges and left the business of how to use the technology to others. But there is no denying that Zworkin contributed two crucial pieces to the puzzle that would eventually make up television. He invented something called an iconoscope, which amounted to the first practical camera tube that would allow programs to be broadcast, as well as the kinescope, the picture tube that went inside millions of television sets so that viewers at home could actually receive what broadcasters sent. Zworkin did all this work, not in his native Russia, but rather in the laboratories of huge American corporations that were rushing to take advantage of the new technology. In the early 1920s, Zworkin worked for Westinghouse. By the late 1920s, he was working for the company that would become the driving force in the television industry: RCA, or the Radio Corporation of America. RCA was such an important factor in television largely because of another prominent figure in 7

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broadcasting who, unlike Vladimir Zworkin, did take an interest not only in the technology of television, but what could be done with it. His name was David Sarnoff. "The General," as he became known, had a fierce d etermination to make RCA the leader when it came to this emerging technology. RCA was actually the creation of a number of other corporations, including AT&T, General Electric and Westinghouse, the latter two broadcasting giants then and now. It also swallowed the company that had been known as American Marconi. By 1932, RCA was an independent company, and it operated its own network, the National Broadcasting Company or NBC. G.E., Westinghouse and RCA had established NBC in 1926. At the time a "network" was relevant only when it came to radio. But Sarnoff had a vision of RCA and NBC playing a central role in the emergence of television. As author Eric Barnouw points out, "It became his central concern."9 Now on their o wn, Sarnoff and RCA began to focus on what he believed to be the inevitable wide-scale introduction of television into 9Eric Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 72. 8

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American life. It was also during this decade that crucial decisions were made about how television would operate once it became a practical reality. The United States government always had a significant interest in the business of broadcasting. In fact, when radio was still a new invention and before broadcast stations even existed, the U . S . Navy proposed that radio be the exclusive property of the Navy. That proposal died in Congress, but Navy brass set in motion the creation of RCA (using the framework of American Marconi) , so that if radio were not to be government-owned, it would at least be "a private monopoly in congenial hands. "1 0 The birth o f RCA is particularly ironic given the current level o f distrust that exists between broadcasters and the government, but at the time it seemed like the best way for the military to keep at least some degree o f control over this emerging technology. In 1927, Congress established the Federal Radio Commission to regulate the fast growing industry. In 1934 the FRC became the FCC, o r the Federal 10 Ibid, 21. 9

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Communications Commission, which still oversees broadcasters today. One of the most important early decisions about the regulation of broadcasting was simple: The airwaves belong to the public. And stations are required to serve the "public interest, convenience, and necessity."11 Therefore, the FCC, as the people's agent, has the responsibility to decide who should operate a television station and who should not. This was both a political and a technical issue, since it was clear from the beginning that there were only so many channels to go around. As George Comstock describes the government argument, not regulating television "would do the public a disservice by cluttering the airwaves with conflicting signals from outlets with the barest resources to provide quality service. The limitation o f licenses to a few channels that will not interfere with one another means that those who do obtain the privilege to broadcast are almost certain to make a profit. The privilege granted, then, is economic."12 As we will see later when it comes : 1 George Comstock, Television in America, Park : Sage Publications, 1991), 3 . : 2 Ibid, 4 . 10 (Newbury

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to the development of Channel 9 , the granting of a television license was indeed an enormous economic privilege. The development of local stations and their relationship with the networks were fundamental aspects of broadcasting almost from the beginning. In the case of both radio and television, the way they were distributed to the public relied on equipment that transmitted the signal to an area surrounding the transmitter. This would require stations in virtually every part of the country, and that would require more resources than any of the networks (NBC, and later CBS and ABC) had at their disposal. The FCC also limited the number of stations any network could own and operate, forcing the diversification of station ownership. As the country neared the end of the 1930s, it seemed television was on the verge of becoming a reality. Sarnoff and RCA demonstrated the technology at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Three networks: NBC, CBS and DuMont, were beginning to broadcast. By 1940 more than twenty stations were on the air across the countr y , although the programming was crude and limited. 11

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But World War II would slow down the development and distribution of television for almost a decade. First of all, key figures like David Sarnoff became involved in the war effort. Sarnoff was with allied troops when they liberated Paris, and earned the rank of Brigadier General, which resulted in his nickname of "the General." But the most significant reason for the delay in bringing television into American homes was the more urgent need for the manufacture of weapons. The manufacture o f television sets stopped in 1942 and did not resume until after the war. During World War II, as Barnouw suggests, "Television was virtually forgotten."13 It might have been forgotten by the masses, but for broadcasters like David Sarnoff, World War I I was only a distraction. Whe n it was over, Sarnoff went back to work to take television into America's homes. There was also a list of circumstances that made television likely to move rapidly into the spotlight: • Electronic assembly lines for making military equipment could now be turned to making something else. 13Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, 92 . 12

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• Consumers had saved money during the war because of uncertainty about how long shortages and rationing would last; so they were ready to invest in the necessary hardware. • Companies needed a new advertising medium to sell their peacetime products.14 In 1945, the FCC again started issuing licenses to local television stations. By July 1946 it had issued 24 new licenses, bringing the total number of stations in the country to nearly 50. At about the same time, RCA began selling black and white television sets to the public. America was entering the final stages of its pre-television history. Things were beginning to heat up in Denver as well. In April 1948, three KOA Radio engineers spent $1 ,000 of their own money to complete Denver' s first video test.15 A year later, the Rocky Mountain News proclaimed that, "Television Makes Its Denver Debut" when those same 14 Ibid, 99. 15 "3 KOA engineers complete first city video test," The Denver Post, April, 11, 1948, 3 . 13

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engineers conducted an experimental 40 minute broadcast consisting of piano and organ music and a puppet show.16 More than two years later, eight people in Denver watched President Harry S Truman deliver a speech about the Japanese peace treaty in San Francisco. The picture and sound came over a system of microwave towers constructed across the country by telephone company AT&T. Most of the handful o f people watching were Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company employees. Although it was dark at 7 :00 p . m . in Denver that day i n September 1951, the live broadcast showed a daylight scene in San Francisco. 17 KFEL Radio helped bring the 1951 World Series to Denver with a closed circuit feed. In November o f that year, you could pay $2.40 for a ticket to the Broadway Theater to watch the Colorado Buffaloes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers play football. A huge crowd gathered at 16 Leo Zuckerman, "Television Makes Its Denver Debut," Rocky M ountain News , May 23, 1949, 1. This article identifies four engineers responsible for the experiment: C . M . Eining, Stanley Neal, K . N. Raymond and A . C . McClellan. 17 Gene Lindberg, "Truman Treaty Talk Seen by 8 O n Denver TV, " The Denver Post, September 5, 1951, 3 4 . 14

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Mammoth Gardens in Denver to watch the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, 1952. The Denver P ost warned Coloradans that "Video Here to Stay But It Won It Be Free. "18 Even though people in Colorado were clamoring f o r television, a TV executive and former University of Denver student warned them that the new craze was not without its negative side effects. "Television has a revolutionary effect," Malcolm Boyd told the Rocky Mountain News. "It turns home life and habits upside down . I t makes discipline o f children very difficult. Some communities have seen teachers give up assigning homework because they can't compete with TV. Parents have to go next door to watch their favorite television show because the youngsters have taken over the set. "19 Boyd was just touching the tip of the iceberg when it came to the potential impact o f television on American society. But his warning apparently did very little to 18 "Video Here to Stay But It Won't Be Free," The Denver Post, October 12, 1951, 1 . : 9Malcolm Boyd, quoted by Sam Lusky in, "Denver Can Find TV Nuisance, Visitor Warns," Rocky Mountain News , March 22, 1951, 15. 15

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dampen the enthusiasm of people in Denver and Colorado who had been waiting for television to arrive. The reason Colorado viewers were left without television for so long was an FCC decision in 1949 to stop granting licenses. The FCC claimed this was in order to "examine more carefully how the spectrum space should be allocated."20 In other words, deciding where to put all the potential stations on the dial and how many channels each city or "market" should get. Broadcasters a n d the FCC had been arguing about how far apart stations using the same channel had to be. If stations in Denver and Colorado Springs, for instance, shared Channel 9 , they would interfere with each other. Because of a disagreement over the distance, the FCC had licensed stations o n the same channel that were too close to each other, which caused interference and prompted the FCC to freeze granting licenses while it figured out how to proceed. This left Colorado and 13 other states without television. That is why the freeze started, but it does not explain why it lasted so long. Communications scholar 2Comstock, Television in America, 15. 16

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Brian Winston says " a competent radio engineer with a good map could have solved this problem in something less than the 43 months it took the FCC."2 1 Winston claims the FCC's real reason for freezing licenses was to allow the networks to establish control over broadcasting in America, since the freeze "worked to suppress television as an area of exploitation for new interests" and allowed NBC and CBS, the two dominant radio networks, t o simply take control o f television before anyone else could.22 ABC barely survived and by 1955, DuMont was dead. Whether or not this is what the FCC intended, it was certainly the outcome. The relatively brief history of television is dominated by the power of a few networks, although in recent years i t has begun to weaken considerably. In spite o f the freeze, television continued to spread across the country as individuals o r companies who got their licenses before 1949 started broadcasting. Broadcast legends were also making national names for themselves. Edward R. Murrow and a producer named Fred 2 1 Brian Winston, Misunderstanding Media, (Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard University Press, 1986), 7 7 . 22 Ibid, 80. 1 7

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Friendly launched a show on CBS called "See It Now" in November 1951. The first broadcast showed a split screen with live pictures of the Golden G ate Bridge in San Francisco on one side and the Brooklyn Bridge on the other. Establishing the video line from California to New Yor k cost $3,000, but Murrow' s words made the event sound historic. "We for our part are considerably impressed. For the first time, man has been able to sit at home and look at two oceans at the same time. We're impressed with the importance of this medium. We shall hope to learn to use and not to abuse it."23 By the time the freeze ended in 1952, there were more than 100 TV stations on the air in 60 markets, and 15 million Americans had television sets. Denver was now one of the last large cities without television, and its residents were keenly aware of that fact, given the pace of the area' s growth. "World War II triggered a tremendous transformation in Denver. M assive federal spending, an influx of newcomers, and a pent-up demand for new cars and new housing unavailable during the war 2 3 "See It Now," CBS-TV, November 1951. "Denver TV Then and Now, " KBTV, August 20, 18 (As shown in, 1981.)

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led to a boom that changed a drowsy provincial city into a sprawling metropolis."2 4 The Denver metropolitan area's population rose from 384,372 in 1940 to 563,832 in 1950. The decade of the 1950s would see the population grow again by more than 350,000. Denver was a hot spot, but it did not have this hot new technology, and that fact frustrated both those trying to get TV licenses and people at home who could not enjoy what their friends and relatives in other parts o f the country were talking about. A January 28, 1952, Denver Post headline read: "Write Your Congressman, Denverites Want TV--Now."25 While groups of owners fought to be Denver's first station, TV manufacturers were already pushing their sets as the best. Majestic, Sylvania, Hoffman, Philco, Motorola, Emerson, and Bendix all bombarded potential customers with the advantages of buying their product. Hoffman offered an "Easy-Vision Golden Lens" to protect the eyes while Majestic had a rectangular "sight saver" picture tube and "eagle-eye tuning."26 A full page ad by 2 4 Leonard and Noel, Denver, Mining C amp to Metropolis, 235. 25 Gene Lindberg, "Write Your Congressman, Denverites Want TV-Now," The Denver Post, Januar y 28, 1952, 2 3 . 19

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Packard-Bell in The Denver Post on October 6 , 1952, just days before Channel 9 began broadcasting, urged consumers to "Take Action" and buy a television in time for that Saturday's football game between Michigan State and Texas A & M on Channel 2 . The ad offered a model 2721 with a 21 inch screen and 27 tubes for $419.95.27 As for the networks, NBC and CBS dominated. During the freeze years the two networks had affiliates in eighty percent of the more than sixty markets with television.28 But there were also two other networks struggling for survival. For many years, RCA actually operated two NBC networks. One was the NBC "red" network, the other the NBC "blue" network. In 1943, RCA sold the "blue" network to Lifesaver king Edward J . Noble for eight million dollars. It became the American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, which would be affiliated with Denver's Channel 9 for the first forty-three years of the station' s existence. The final player in the network chess match was the DuMont network, which 2 6Mike Tucker, "Remember When," Behind Bench 9 newsletter, April 1 , 1988. 27 Advertisement, The Denver Post, October 6, 1952. 28 Comstock, Television in America, 1 5 . 2 0

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Denver's Channel 2 chose as its partner. As it turned out, DuMont went out of business in 1955 and left Channel 2 as an independent station for all but the first few years of its life. But all this was still unknown to the men who were waiting to launch television in Denver, including the group of investors who would eventually put Channel 9 on the air. Their primary concern was still simply getting a license to operate. In April 1952, the FCC finally lifted the freeze on granting new television licenses. There were 11 applications for the six available comme:r-cial channels in Denver, including an application from the Colorado Television Corp. for Channel 9 . Colorado Television Corp. actually started i n the spring of 1951 when KVOD Radio owners W . D . Pyle and T.C. Ekrem decided they would try this new thing called television. In the span of a year, fourteen other investors joined Ekrem and Pyle in backing the Channel 9 project, including advertising agency executive Max Goldberg, who many would call the "father o f Channel 9." By 1952, Max Goldberg was already an experienced professional. He had started by selling newspapers 2 1

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as a child on the streets of Denver to help support his family after his father died in the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918.29 By 1936 Goldberg had started his o wn advertising agency in Denver, and began appearing o n the radio as well as writing for The Denver Post. But television became Goldberg' s passion in 1952, and if it were not for his determination, Channel 9 might never have existed. "He wasn't a technician. But he was still interested in the business of keeping the show on the road, "30 his widow, Miriam, says. A 1950s salesman at Channel 9 named Bob Brown b acks up that view of Max Goldberg. " He was the one who put the group together, but he had no knowledge of the inner workings of the business. "31 Still, Goldberg is an important figure in the station' s history for two reasons. First, h e worked to bring all the investors together, who put up the roughly one million dollars it took to get the station off the ground.32 Second, and 29Miriam Goldberg, Interview by the author, November 10, 1996. 30 Ibid. 3 1 Bob Brown, Interview by the author, November 1 0 , 1996. 22

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most important, was Goldberg' s role in working with the FCC to get Channel 9 ' s license. This is where Goldberg's connections were so important. As his widow, Miriam Goldberg, remembers it, Max did not contribute as much money to the project as the other investors. Instead, "He made the contacts and did the legwork. "33 One o f his most important contacts was a Colorado politician named Ed Johnson, widely known simply as "Big E d . " Johnso n was a popular, i f not tolerant politician, who once criticized then Gov. Ralph Carr for welcoming and defending Japanese-Americans in Colorado during World War II. Johnson said Carr did not recognize that " the normal human reaction of our own people i s hostility toward these b r own men."3 4 If Johnson made such a statement today, it would likely prevent him from being 32According to the June 26, 1992, edition o f the Intermountain Jewish News , those investors included: Edward Hirschfeld, former Colorado Attorney General Gail Ireland, Garden Farm Dairy president John McEwen, Aksel Nielson, Joseph Sunshine, Joseph Dyer, Harry Goldberg, Robert Galbasin, Maurice Robineau, W.J. Robinson, Stephen Russell, Charles C . Winocur, Jack Harris and KVOD Radio owners W.D. Pyle and T.C. Ekrem. 33 Goldberg interview. 3 4 Colorado State Federation of Labor, Official Colorado Victory Edition 1942 Yearbook, 21. 2 3

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elected to anything, but he later defeated Carr in the 1946 U . S . senate race. After serving several terms as governor and a U .S. senator, Johnson was arguably the most powerful politician in Colorado from the 1930s through the 1950s. This gave him enormous influence in both Colorado and Washington. Max Goldberg, with his advertising expertise, helped Johnson with many o f his campaigns. In 1952, Sen. Ed Johnson introduced Goldberg to "people" in Washington to make the case for granting a license for Colorado Television Corp. to operate Channel 9. Well before that, Johnson was deeply involved in television issues in Washington. In 1951 he urged the FCC to make Channel 9 a commercial channel, instead of designating it as the Boulder educational station. Johnson won that battle, although he also wanted Channel 6 in Denver designated as commercial, while the FCC eventually established it as the Denver Public Schools' TV station. Goldberg made many trips back and forth between Denver and Washington. Miriam remembers what those trips were like for Max . "That was hard, tough. Ups, downs. Felt excited one minute and then got disappointed the 24

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next minute," she says. "No faxes, no modern day stuff. There were many, many meetings and he was obliged, and should have been, to report to the group of investors. "35 The efforts paid off. In the summer of 1952, the Colorado Television Corp. had a license from the FCC to broadcast a station named KVOD-TV on Channel 9 . KFEL-TV Channel 2 and the Empire Coil Company' s Channel 26 also got licenses at the same time. Empire Coil at one point competed with Colorado Television Corp. for the Channel 9 slot, but later gave up and applied for Channel 26, which never went on the air. When the licenses finally allowed stations to begin broadcasting, Channel 2 was ready. KFEL-TV flashed a test pattern to Denver viewers on July 18, then went on the air on July 21 , 1952, the beginning of Denver's television age. State officials "gleefully predicted that television held an implied promise of the greatest tax bonanza for city and state agencies since the sales tax windfall. "3 6 3 5 Goldberg interview. 3 6 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly , July 11-17, 1953, 9 . 2 5

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Now that a TV station was actually broadcasting, consumers were finally willing to invest in the new technology. Denver newspapers chronicled the growing number of TV sets in the area. • July 1952: • August 1952: • October 1952: • November 1952: 4,000 8,500 21 ,735 40 ,00037 And thousands more were pouring into stores as the TV craze took hold. For a time in 1952 and 1953, the City of Denver warned its residents they would have to pay for a building permit in order to install the antennas necessary to get adequate TV reception. After much opposition and what appeared to be open defiance of the permit requirement, Denver apparently backed down.3 8 37 Lee Trainor, "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days," Rocky Mountain News , July 22, 1952, 5 . Dan Partner, "Survey Shows TV Sales Gaining In Denver After Short Slump," The Denver Post, August 17, 1952, 22A . "Poll Reveals 21 ,735 Video Sets in City," The Denver Post, October 9 , 1952, 43 . Earl Wennergren, "Latest Television Tally Places 40 ,000 Sets in Denver Area Homes," Rocky Mountain News , November 11, 1952, 45 . 3 8 Cherie de la Garza, "Television Invades 1952/ 53 Denver: Origins of the Video Revolution," ( M .A. thesis, University of Colorado at Denver, 1995), 83 88 . 26

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Since it was the only station o n the air i n Denver, Channel 2 could choose programming from all four networks operating at the time: ABC, N BC, CBS and DuMont. When Channel 9 came on the air, it began broadcasting ABC and CBS programming, while Ch a nnel 2 continued to use DuMont and NBC. Then, Channel 7 took the CBS affiliation and Channel 4 became the NBC station while Channel 9 stayed with ABC. Channels 4 , 7 and 9 kept these same network affiliations until "the big switch" of 1995 when all the stations changed networks. Why Channel 2 chose to form a partnership with the ill-fated DuMont network is still somewhat o f a mystery, although some indications point to a belief by the station's founder, Gene O'Fallon, that he could simply make it o n his own. " Gene was a rugged individualist," former Ch annel 2 engineer and producer Dun can Ross told the Rocky Mountain News . H e "felt he could make the grade without affiliating with a network . "39 O 'Fallon was a Denver broadcasting veteran who made KFEL the city's first radio station in 1922. His son 9Duncan Ross, quoted by Walter Saunders in, "TV beginning at Channel 2 remembered after 25 years," Rocky Mountain News , July 18, 1977, 51 . 27

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Marty told the Rocky Mountain News in 1982 that, "Those stories about Gene O'Fallon ignoring a chance to become affiliated with CBS and NBC aren't quite true ... Dad was an independent cuss. And if he were alive today, he would probably go along with stories about his independence and his desire to work that way as a broadcaster. But while he could be a hard-headed broadcaster, he certainly was not stupid."4 0 Marty O 'Fallon attributes his father's decision to affiliate with DuMont to the fact that Channel 7 executives had connections with CBS while one of Channel 4 ' s first owners was entertainer Bob Hope, who was a fixture on NBC. At the time, choosing between ABC and DuMont as the network most likely to survive would have been a toss up. In any case, Channel 2 has been an independent station since DuMont went out of business in 1955. The Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, bought Channel 2 in 1966.4 1 4 0Marty O 'Fallon, quoted by Walter Saunders in, "TV nostalgia abounds," Rocky Mountain News , July 21, 1982, 68 . 41 Channel 2 has also had more call letters than any station in Denver: KFEL , KTVR, KTCO and finally KWGN, for "World' s Greatest Newspaper," the slogan for the Chicago Tribune. 28

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While Channel 2 introduced television to Denver and proved that this new invention Coloradans had heard so much about for so many years was the real thing, Channel 9 ' s people worked furiously to get in the game. Just before Channel 2 went on the air, Channel 9 engineers predicted they could be on the air i n two weeks. To back up the promise, station officials announced financia l figures o f $394,000 for construction costs, $445,000 for operational costs, and an estimated revenue o f $400,000 for its first year o f operation.42 That prediction really was too optimistic, as construction delays and technical problems pushed back the first b r oadcast until mid-October. Next the station began to build its staff. The investors chose Joe Herold to be KVOD-TV' s station manager. Herold had an engineering background, having started at WOW-Radio in Omaha in 1930, where he worked until moving to Cuba and South America. I n 1950, Herold was a television consultant for. Union Radio and Television in Havana. In 1951 he worked for Radio Televisiao in Brazil, then spent eight months as a TV 42Mike Tucker, " Re member When," Behind Bench Nine newsletter, March 18, 1988. 29

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planning consultant for RCA before coming to work for Channel 9 . At about the same time, Jerr y Lee became the station's commercial manager, which would roughly translate to a modern sales manager. Lee had network experience with NBC and CBS as a producer and announcer. He started the station' s sales efforts with two other salesmen besides himself. One o f those salesmen was Bob Brown. "I believed in television when I was in radio . I never doubted for a second that television wa s going to be the medium it is today,"43 Brown says. He also remembers that "we were always looked at as kind o f the poor station in the market from a money standpoint. "44 But that outlook w ould come along later when other competitors joined 2 and 9 o n the Denver TV battlefield. In 1952, Channel 9 just interested in getting o n the air in the first place, and that is where the work o f a number of key engineers came into play. Because of his technical background, and because in the beginning 43Brown interview. 4 4 Ibid. 30

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television was primarily a technical challenge instead of a marketing opportunity , Joe Herold served both as station manager and chief engineer. He directed the efforts of a number of other men, including Jim Butts, George Barron and Carl Bliesner. As studio manager, Butts was "in charge of maintenance, anything technical. "4 5 He remembers distinctly how United Airlines sent Channel 9's first transmitter to San Francisco by mistake. Barron was Herold's assistant chief engineer, who remembers how exciting television was in the beginning. "It was the big thing. Pictures through the air,"46 he says. But perhaps the most unusual engineering job, both in 1952 and during the history of the station, belonged to Carl Bliesner. He is the man who installed a 7 5 foot tall antenna along with the station's first transmitter on Lookout Mountain in the fall of 1952, and cared for it and its successors like a father would his children until he retired in the mid 1970s. 45 Jim Butts, Interview by the author, November 9 , 1996. 46 George Barron, Interview by the author, November 9, 1996. 3 1

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Before coming to work for Ch annel 9 , Bliesner worked at a radio station in Kansas for 20 years. When TV came along, he we n t to a school in Kansas City to learn about it, and decided that was his future. "I didn't think it (radio) would last a s long as it did,"n he says. So, with a handful of employees, an FCC license and a belief in this relatively new technology, Channel 9 moved into the Zook Building near Colfax and Speer and got ready to be a television station. On September 12, 1952, the FCC agreed to change Channel 9 ' s call letters from KVOD-TV to KBTV-TV . The " B " stood for "better" television. Between October 2 and October 8 , Channel 9 began experimental broadcasts and got reports of good reception from Colorado Springs to Granby to Cheyenne, Wyoming.48 Then, at 3 :00 p . m . o n October 12, 1952, KBTV sent out a test pattern. From that point on Channel 9 started broadcasting a mixture of ABC and CBS programs, local news and other programming f rom 2:30p. m . to 11:15 p.m. 47 Carl Bliesner, 1996. Interview by the author, November 9 , 48 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly, July 11-17, 1953, 39. 32

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each day. Page five of the Rocky Mountain News the next day included the following two headlines: "Gen. Eisenhower Prepares For Windup of Campaign," and "TV Receptio n from station KBTV lauded."4 9 That page of the newspaper foreshadowed the strange marriage between television and politics that would come along later. That first day on Channel 9 included the following lineup : 2:30p. m., " Quiz Kids" ( CBS) ; 3 :00P. M . , "Super Circus" ( ABC); 3 :30p. m . "Super Circus" (ABC) ; 5 :00p.m., " You Asked for it" (ABC) ; 5:30p. m. , "Jack Benny;"50 6:00 p . m., "Variety Films," 7 : 00p. m . , "Fred Waring" (CBS) ; 7:30p.m. , "Break the Bank" (CBS) ; 8 :00p. m . , "The Web" (CBS) ; 8 :30p.m . , "What' s My Line" (CBS) , 9 :00p. m , "Film;" 9 :15p. m . , "Hour of Decision" (ABC) ; 9 :30p. m., "The Big Picture;" 10: 00 p.m. "Walter Winchell" (ABC); and finally at 10:15 p . m . , the feature film " T opper," starring Roland Young and Constance Bennett.51 The station signed off at 11:30 p . m . 4 9The Denver Post, October 6 , 1952, 5 . 50This was added to the lineup just hours before airtime. "TV Reception from station KBT V lauded," Rocky Mountain News , October 13, 1952, 5 . 51 TV listings, Rocky Mountain News , October 12 , 1952. 33

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Although Channel 9 stayed in the Zook Building for less than a year, those who were at the station when it began broadcasting have very distinct memories of the location, mostly because o f another tenant the building had. After all, having a worm farm in the basement is not easy to forget. "The joke they used to tell each other was that they were the only TV station in the countr y written up in Field and Stream,"52 Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell later said in a series of reports on the station's 40th anniversary. The worms were grown in the basement of the building for use as fishing bait. " I never saw it, but I was told it was down there," assistant chief engineer George Barro n says. " You'd walk around the projection room and the floor would bounce and the picture would go up and down."53 Barron might not have seen the worm farm, but program director Jim Butts experienced it firsthand. "I was sitting at home one night ... And I noticed the picture all of the sudden sway side to side. Now 52Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992. 53Barron interview. 34

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there ain' t no way that can happen, but it did. I said, now wait a minute, that can' t So Butts and commercial manager Jerry Lee went to investigate. Butts' office was in the projection room, which had you needed to be on the The movement of the floor of the projection room was causing the picture to sway, but what was causing the floor to move? When Butts and Lee went down to the basement, they discovered that were slowly sinking into the worms. The whole slab was sinking ... We had to get some four by four boards to save it. The smell was also a bit of a distraction for Channel 9's first group of employees, and it was clear the Zook Building was not big enough to handle the station's long-term needs, so Channel 9 ' s owners started looking for a new home. They found it in the form of the Lowen-Thomson Packard dealership at 1089 Bannock Street, built in January 1932.57 A phone book advertisement 5 4 Butts interview. 55 Ibid. 06 Ibid. " 7 Mitchell, April 23, 1992. 35

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called it the "Largest Packard Dealer in Rocky Mountain Region." Before that it was a leather tannery.5 8 KBTV's board of directors agreed to buy the 30,000 square foot building in November 1952. The old Packard dealership would be Channel 9's home for nearly 40 years. By the time the station moved to a n ew building in 1992, most employees considered the old building cramped and behind the times . But in 1953, moving to 1089 Bannock was a big deal. In fact, the cover of the July 11-17, 1953, edition of TV and Radio Weekly says "Salute to KBTV." Inside, the headline proclaims, "All i s Fine At Channel 9 . "59 The staff was expanding and the owners invested in a new transmitter to replace the old low-power equipment that had been in use less than a year. The new transmitter was the latest in RCA technology, which would allow Channel 9 to use up to 240,000 watts, making it "one of the most powerful television stations in the nation. "60 5 8 Thea Rock, "KUSA targets February, '92 debut o f new headquarters," NATAS Monthly, January 1990, 5 . 59 "Salute to KBTV," TV and Radio Weekly , July 11-17, 1953, 4. 36

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Transmitter superviso r Carl Bliesner remembers that even though the new equipment was a big improvement over the little 2 ,000 watt transmitter that first got the station o n the air, it was far from perfect. "We could get it on, but the instruction book came to us about a year later, "6 1 Bliesner said. For one thing, it wa s not built for the elevation of Lookout Mountain. A transmitter needs fans, o r "blowers" to keep it cool enough to operate effectively . "We couldn't get enough air to k e e p the thing cool ... It would just shut down, "62 Bliesner says. "Somebody had to be o n duty the entire time we were on the air." For more than 20 years, that someone was Carl Bliesner. I n the beginning, one of the biggest problems was simply getting to the transmitter on Lookout Mountain when the weather got bad. So, like any good engineer, Bliesner came up with a solution. He had a house built next to the transmitter and moved his family there , so he could always get to work. 60 Ibid, 39. 61 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992. 62 Bliesner interview. 37

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It was a unique job at the television station, because he only occasionally went into Denver to the station itself. In fact, he remembers why he did not visit the station much after his retirement. " I sort of avoided going down there after I retired. Because people would say, 'Who in the hell is that?'"63 Bliesner's solution to the cooling problem was bigger blowers that could keep the transmitter cool at more than a mile high. Over time, transmitter problems became less common and after Bliesner retired, the station stopped the practice of having someone on duty at the transmitter all the time. Channel 9 was not the only Denver station to have technical problems. Wind knocked down the Channel 4 tower at least twice in the 1950s, once causing the station to go off the air for five hours before engineers could repair it.64 While Bliesner was trying to keep Channel 9 ' s transmitter cool, those who worked at 1089 Bannock had the same problem themselves. There was no air conditioning in the building from 1953 to 1958. 63 Ibid. 64 Bill Jones, "High Winds Hurl TV Tower from Mountain," Rocky Mountain News , March 11, 1955, 11. 38

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Meanwhile, there was the matter of what was actually on Channel 9 . When the station moved to 1089 Bannock, it was still one o f only two Denver TV stations broadcasting, so Channel 9 and Channel 2 had their choice of what network programming to use. In fact, they would occasionally choose to run the same shows at the same time, which was a very short-lived practice. The television listings for July 1953 showed that Channel 9 would start its broadcast day at either 11:00 o r 11:30 a . m., sometimes with nothing more than a test p attern. Fred Arthur, who worked as a booth announcer at Channel 9 in the late 1950s, remembers that one of his jobs was simply to read the list of programs that would air that day, shortly after the station signed He made two dollars an hour, and got $3.50 for doing an on-camera commercial. On Wednesday, July 15, Channel 9 aired a CBS show called with Art Linkletter at 11:30 a . m . , then an NBC quiz show called at noon. The first local newscast o f the day was at 12:30 p.m., and featured Channel 9's only news person, a former KFEL 55 Fred Arthur, Interview by the author, November 17, 1996. 39

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Radio personality named Bill Michaelson. This lasted for fifteen minutes, followed by a weather report from Vince Monforte for ten minutes and a short grain and livestock market report until 1:00 o 'clock. "Kaffee Klatsch" was a fifteen minute interview show with Hal Taft that cam e on at 2:00 o 'clock. Fifteen minute programs were common during the early days of television, but gradually gave way to standard 3 0 minute or hour-long shows. A few of television's first soap operas appeared in t h e afternoon. "Search for Tomorrow" and "Love of Life" were on each weekday at 3:45 p . m . and 4:00 o'clock. The afternoon news consisted of a ten minute report from Bill Michaelson at 5:45p.m. , followed by sports with Hal Davis at 5 : 55p.m. Today Channel 9 has two hours o f news in the afternoon. At 1 0 : 0 0 o'clock, Bill Michaelson was back on the air for a fifteen minute newscast followed once again by Vince Monforte's weather report at 1 0:15, then some kind of sports report that varied from a horse racing show to filmed sports highlights to something called "Leo 40

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Brunetti Sings," which presumably had nothing at all to do with sports. "Movies Till Midnight" was a regular feature on Channel 9 , but would come on anywhere from 10:20 p.m. to 10:35, depending on what kind of sports or singing show was scheduled. That week in July 1953, the movies included, "Give Me The Story," "Crashing Thru Danger," "Turn of the Tide," "Waltz Time," and "Hearts of Humanity." Today, these titles do not particularly spring to mind as classics. The station would sign off at midnight every day. Although Channel 9 did not have much news on the air in the 1950s, there was plenty of live local programming. Once a month, the station aired a program called "Your Lease on Life," about medical problems faced by "average families." Channel 9 engineer Mike Tucker remembers being part of a live remote at a hospital during one show, when one o f the cameramen fainted as doctors were getting ready to perform a cesarean section. "The medical team that wa s going to perform the operation had to stop what they were doing and revive the cameraman. The live insert wa s delayed until the cameraman was able 41

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to regain his composure and return to his camera. Twenty-one minutes later the segment was televised without a hitch! "66 As for the news, Bill Michaelson remembers that there was not much involved in preparing it each day. "Since it was a rip-and-read operation, news was still primarily radio. And really what we were doing was just a guy reading the radio news, "67 he told Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell in 1992. "Rip and read" meant simply ripping wire cop y off the teletype machine and reading it on the air. Channel 9 salesman Bob Brown remembers that, "We were doing local news, but we weren' t doing a whole lot of it. Our whole attitude at that time was just programming and just trying to stay alive. "68 In TV and Radio Weekly a picture of Michaelson shows a King Soopers grocery store sign on the set. In the early days of TV news, it was common for newscasters to read some stories, then promptly do a live commercial for a product. Channel 7 sportscaster Starr Yellend, who 6 6Mike Tucker, "Remember When," Behind Bench 9 newsletter, May 26, 1989. 67 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992. 68 Brown interview. 42

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became one of the most prominent television personalities in Denver, remembers getting 50 cents for doing a Supreme Bakers commercial, his very first commercial fee.69 Max Goldberg had a show on Channel 9 from 1953 to 1958 called " On the Spot," where he would interview various newsmakers on Thursday evening. When Goldberg left Channel 9, " O n the Spot'' moved to Channel 7 . He interviewed people who were among the most prominent of their day, including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Adlai Stephenson. " He addressed sensitive issues,"70 his wife Miriam said. "It wasn't for sensationalism." The foundation of commercial television has always been the idea that if enough people watch a program, you could sell advertising time during that program, and make money. That fact means that, at least generally, if television stations and networks want to make more money, they have to get more people to watch. Only the most popular programs survive, so producers make shows that will appeal to the largest possible audience. Some 69 "Denver Television, Then and Now," KBTV, 1981. 70Goldberg interview. 43

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critics, like author J . Fred MacDonald, think this is a bad thing. "Network TV failed the nation because o f its fixation o n popularity ... The networks never allowed to television to be all it might have been."7 1 M acDonald is entitled to his opinion, but attracting a mass audience and being successful in broadcasting are impossible to s eparate. Bob Brown remembers that not everyone bought into the the TV business right away. " I called on one fellow a n d he said to me one day, 1 You know , television is a p assing fad. 1 And I looked at him like he had bad sense. "72 Brown wa s right. It might be a fad, but t elevision was far from passing. Brown remembers s uggesting to general manager Joe Herold tha t they should try to sell advertising based o n rating points. Although audience measurement was a crude science at the time, they gave it a try, but the success of that strategy was limited. Fo r one thing, there were not enough TV sets i n the early years to make ratings important. Although he 7 1 J . Fred MacD onald, One Nation Under Television, (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1990) , 125. 72Brown interview. 4 4

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is not personally responsible for the widespread use of ratings to determine advertising rates, Bob Brown certainly offered Joe Herold a glimpse into the future. Today rating points are the primary means used to determine the value of commercial time. "We used to be able to carr y our first ratings books around in our coat pockets, and now you'd get a hernia if you tried to pick one up,"73 Brown says. He might be exaggerating a little, but there is no question that audience measurement is more sophisticated and detailed today than it was then. The ratings business is a surprisingly small field. Author Hugh M . Beville, Jr. says, "Probably few fields of commercial activity owe their development to such a small coterie of individuals as does broadcast audience measurement. "7 4 Only seven companies have ever measured the audiences of local TV stations. From the 1960s through the 1980s there were just two. Today there is one, the A .C. Nielsen Company. Although there is little competition in the audience measurement business, there 73 Ibid. 74 Hugh M . Beville, Jr., Audience Ratings: Radio, Television and Cable, (Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988), 23. 45

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is no question about how important it is. A s Beville says, "Ratings with their feedback element are the nerve system that largely controls what is In 1939, NBC offered to mail a weekly program schedule to any viewer who wa nted it. The postcard had boxes on it for viewers to check which programs they w atched, as well as a space for comments or suggestions.76 This represented the first attempt at measuring audience size. C . E . Hooper, who pioneered radio ratings, offered a television ratings service from 1947 until h e died in 1954. I n 1955, the American Research Bureau bought Hooper's company and combined it with its own ratings service. ARB changed its name to Arbitron in 1973 because company president Ted Shaker thought American Research Bureau sounded too much like a government agency .77 Arbitron was one of two companies that measured local audience ratings until it quit the television ratings business to focus on radio in 1993. November 75 Ibid, xi. 7 6 Ibid, 62 . 77 Ibid, 68 . 46

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1993, was the last Arbitron ratings book for Denver. Th e other company was founded by a man named A.C. Nielsen. Nielsen convinced C.E. Hooper to sell him Hooper's network TV ratings service in 1950. In 1961, Nielsen's only competitor in the network audience measurement business, Trendex, stopped its service, leaving Nielsen as the only choice for rating nationwide audiences. Since Arbitron quit the local TV business in 1993, Nielsen now has a monopoly on basic TV audience measurement for both the networks and local stations.'9 The methodology used by audience measurement companies is an imperfect science. Beville says, "Ratings by their very nature are estimates and are therefore subject to errors and variations of all types. "7 9 Ratings services have used telephone surveys, personal interviews and direct mail questionnaires to find out who is watching what when. But the methodology that has survived and remains in use today falls into two categories: The "diary" and the "meter. " ' s Since the beginning of TV, there have been a handful of other companies that measured local TV ratings. Beville lists them as: Videodex, Tele-Pulse, Telerad System, TPI Ratings and Sindlinger. "'Beville, Audience Ratings, 83. 47

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The diary requires viewers to fill out each day what program they are watching and who in the household is watching it. Th e meter records only what station the TV set is tuned to at a particular time. The meter also allows for instant tabulation of basic ratings information, but only the diary is able to measure demographic information about the viewer's age and sex. Nielsen uses another device called the "peoplemeter" which is able to calculate demographic information, but it is used largely for network audience measurement, and is not in use in Denver. 80 Because measuring the entire audience, through either diaries or meters, would be impossible, Nielsen "sweeps" only a sampling of each market. In the November 1996, ratings period, for instance, Nielsen tabulated the results from 365 meters and 11 hundred diaries. This "sample" is only a tiny fraction of the market, which has 1.185 million households. Each household averages two to three people.81 Although Nielsen used meters to measure 80 Laura Perry, A.C. Nielsen Co. account executive, Interview by the author, January 9 , 1997. 81 Nielsen "In-Tab Tracking Report," November 1996, Also, Perry interview, January 8 , 1997. 48

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local ratings in N ew York Cit y a s early as 1959, Denver did not get them until 1985. These numbers soon became referred to as " overnights." In a sense, they represent an instant report card on the success or failure o f a particular program, at least as far as ratings are concerned. Nielsen notifies stations well i n advance about whe n their audiences will be measured, but never tells them who is doing the measuring. In other words, stations are not supposed to know who has a diary o r a meter. If they did, the urge to influence the small sample of viewers might lead to unethical and even illegal behavior. During the years when both Arbitron and Nielsen provided local ratings, TV sales and promotion people had the luxury o f choosing the report that cast them in the best light, promoting those ratings, and ignoring the other, less favorable report. Back in Denver in 1953, the concept o f ratings relative to the competition was about to become a lot more important. I n July, Channel 9 began broadcasting from a n ew building, with a n ew transmitter and an aggressive publicity campaign. By the end of the year, 4 9

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there were two more stations on the air that would make up the core of Denver broadcasting from that point forward. The group that owned and operated KLZ Radio, Aladdin Broadcasting, got a license to operate a TV station on Channel 7. On November 1, 1953, Channel 7 went o n the air from 131 Speer Boulevard in Denver, i n a building close t o where Channel 7 stands t oday. Some of the key people involved in Channel 7 included Aladdin president H ugh B . Terry, who ran the station from the time it went on the air until 1975, John Elroy McCa w of Centralia, Washington, Theodore R . Gamble of Portland, Oregon, and Aladdin chairman Harry A . Huffman, a former executiv e for Fox-Intermountain Theaters. 82 Then, Metropolitan Television Co., with backing from businessman William Grant, Denver Mayor Quigg Newto n and NBC star Bob Hope, started broadcasting KOA-TV on Channel 4 . Others involved in organizing the station included Richard M . Davis, Gifford Phillips, Morrison Shafroth, John Wolfberg and Harris P . Wolfberg.83 The Wolfbergs 82 "Denver TV Opens Bid for Outlet," The Denver Post, October 9, 1952, 43. 83 "Mayor, 6 Others Form New Television Firm, " Roc k y 50

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operated a number of movie theaters and drive-ins in Denver. Before long, however, they left Metropolitan Television and launched their own effort to get a license for Channel 7 and operate a "prestige station" which would set aside 20 percent of its p rogramming for non-commercial purposes. This company, called Denver Television, eventually lost the fight for Channel 7 to Aladdin Broadcasting. Metropolitan Television had to compete with KMYR Radio for Channel 4 ' s license, and won that prize after a lengthy and bitter battle before the FCC.84 M any involved in Metropolitan Television' s efforts to get Channel 4 believed that Sen. Ed Johnson backed KMYR' s group, but Mayor Newton and Bob Hope prevailed, even against the political power of "Bid Ed."85 Former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who also won the Republican nomination for president but lost in a landslide to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, was actually the first person in Colorado to apply for a Mountain News, January 9, 1949, 5 . The Grants, Newtons and Shafroths were all prominent families in the history o f politics and business i n Denver. 8 4 de la Garza, "Television Invades," 57 61 . 85 Ibid, 117-119. 51

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television license in 1948.86 But by the time the freeze ended, Landon's effort failed and he stayed with the broadcasting business in his native Kansas. The first program on Channel 4 appeared at 6:30p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1953. The p rogram consisted largely of pictures of the Virgin Mary and the bible,87 but Channel 4 was o n the air, and there was now a four way fight for Denver TV viewers. Except for an education station on Channel 6 which began broadcasting on January 30, 1956, the four Denver commercial stations had the market to themselves until the 1980s. The number of people with television sets able to watch those four stations was simply exploding. In 1949, only 6% of U . S . homes had television. By 1956, 76% did.68 In Denver and across the country , the television 86Cherie de la Garza, "Television Comes to Denver," University of Colorado at Denver Historical Studies Journal, Spring, 1994, 4 . 87 "KOA-TV, 4th Denver station, goes on air," The Denver Post, December 25, 1953, 27. 88 John E . O 'Conner, ed., American History/American Television: Interpreting the Video Past, ( New York: Frederick Unger publishing, 1983), 2 5 . 52

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set was on its way to becoming as common a household appliance as a stove or a telephone. But in Denver, whether it was the competition, o r the tremendous start-up costs or simply uncertainty about the future of television, Channel 9 ' s investors became increasingly nervous about their money. They were reportedly losing $25,000 a month, with no relief in sight.89 So in February 1955, the original 16 investors sold Channel 9 to a man named John Mullins for $900,000.90 He had a partner in the venture named Frank Leu, who stayed with Mullins for less than a year. The sale price was less than the one million dollars it took to get the station o n the air in the first place. Of all the investors, only Max Goldberg resisted selling the station. "Max was really upset over that," Bob Brown remembers. "He never did get over it. He didn' t want to sell. He saw the potential, the survival of television and the future of television. "91 But at the time, it was only potential, and Goldberg could not convince the other 8 9 Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 21, 1992. 90 "Owners of KBTV Buy Webb and Knapp' s Share," Rocky Mountain News, August 9 , 1961, 5 . 91 Brown interview. 53

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men on KBTV's board of directors to stick with it. John Mullins was now in charge. Mullins grew up in Oklahoma. His first big business venture was buying the Crystal City amusement park in Tulsa in 1938. Ten years later, Mullins invested in KPHO-TV in Phoenix and eventually bought the entire station before selling it 1952, reportedly for three times as much as he paid for it. By 1955, he was ready to get back into television, so he moved to Colorado, bought Channel 9 and tried to make as big a mark as possible on the Denver community. Mullins went to school in Oklahoma with two prominent men. One was Paul Harvey, who would become one o f the most popular radio newsmen in history. The other was evangelist Oral Roberts, who helped Mullins finance his purchase of Channel 9. In December 1955, a New York investor named William Zeckendorf bought Frank Leu's 50% share in Channel 9 . Zeckendorf also owned property in downtown Denver called Zeckendorf Plaza, which replaced the old Courthouse Square and took up two blocks at 16th and Court Place. He built Denver's first skyscraper, the Mile High Center 54

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at 17th and Broadway, which is now part of the Norwest Bank Center. For a time, Mullins and Zeckendorf planned to move Channel 9 from 1089 Bannock to the Hilton Hotel92 i n Zeckendorf Plaza. In fact, Ro n Mitchell says there are springs under the Hilton's ballroom, because it was to have been Channel 9's studio, and needed the enormous springs to keep the cameras level. When Zeckendorf sold Zeckendorf Plaza, the two men abandoned the idea o f moving the station. Even though Zeckendorf owned half of Channel 9 , Mullins essentially ran the station. Finally, in 1961, Zeckendorf sold his share of Channel 9 to Mullins for a reported $2.4 million. Mullins ran the station until he died in 1969. Mullins was a colorful character who impressed different people in different ways. To some, he was a brilliant businessman and a "nice guy." To others, he was almost obsessive about his place in Denver society and went to great lengths to make himself prominent. 92 The Hilton Hotel later became the Radisson, and finally the Adam's Mark. 55

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"John Mullins was a social climber, "93 Jim Butts remembered. Clark Secrest, who worked in the Channel 9 news department for less than two years in the early 1960s, remembers what Mullins would do when Walt Disney came to Denver. "Every time he (Disney) came to town, he would dress Charley the janitor up in a chauffeur's uniform and go out t o S tapleton and get Disney." After driving to Mullins' h ome in the Polo Grounds, "they would walk up to the front door and Charley would run around to the back door and change into a chef's uniform and meet ' em at the door. "9 4 Being i n the company of stars and politicians was important to Mullins. He entertained people like Vice President Hubert Humphrey at his home. Mullins also e stablished a " walk o f fame" o n the sidewalk in front o f 1089 Banno c k where Hollywood stars would either put footprints i n wet cement o r sign their names. Among the 93 Butts interview. 9 4 Clark Secrest, Interview by the autho r , November 9, 1996. 56

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actors on the walk of fame were Jane Mansfield, Chuck Conners, Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston and Jerry Lewis.95 Clark Secrest also remembers that Mu+lins could be tough to work for. "He struck fear into the hearts of everybody who worked there ... There were two things he could not stand to see when he walked into the station. He couldn't stand to see an empty pop bottle on a desk and he couldn' t stand to see a coat thrown over the back of a chair. And everybody knew that if he saw either of these those two things, he would just go into a fury, so we just didn't do it."9 6 Fred Arthur says Mullins was pompous. "I remember lining up for our Thanksgiving turkeys one time, the company Christmas present. like I was at the Denver Rescue Mission. "97 I felt Joe Franzgrote, who would eventually become Channel 9's general manager in 1989, started out as a salesman in the 1960s. One day he arranged a meeting with a May D and F department store executive about the possibility of advertising on Channel 9 . Franzgrote thought that 95Mitchell, "Anniversary series," April 20, 1992. 96 Secrest interview. 97 Arthur interview. 57

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Mullins was out of town, so when the receptionist said someone had parked under a canopy next to the station, where Mullins himself usually parked, and the car needed to be moved, Franzgrote asked the May D and F man to go move his car. It occurred to Franzgrote too late that perhaps Mullins was not out of town after all, and by the time he got to them, Mullins had verbally assaulted the poor man so severely for parking in his spot that i t took years for the station to get any more business with May D and F. 98 Jim Butts says he knew when he was in trouble with Mullins anytime the owner called him "Mr. Butts. " One of those times happened because of an annual broadcast of the Central City Opera. Butts says Mullins started broadcasting the opera' s opening night in about 1956. It was a live broadcast, including the Central City mayor and other dignitaries. According to Butts, it was "deadly dull. " Then Channel 9 got a new production truck that allowed them to videotape events and play them back later. One year, they used it for the Central C ity Opera 9 8 Joe Franzgrote, Interview by the author, November 17, 1996. 58

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broadcast, hoping it would make the show a little more exciting. So they recorded it on a Saturday, brought the tape back to Denver and stayed up all night editing it for 6:00p.m. on Sunday. Butts says the fancy new truck and all the editing did not help much. "It was still a pretty deadly dull show. "99 Now normally, Mullins would not have even seen the broadcast, since he always attended the opera's opening. But this time, he got to watch the show because it was tape delayed. The next time Mullins saw Jim Butts, "He told me, 'If I ever have another show like that on my teleViSiOn StatiOn, YOU I 11 be fired • 1 rr lOO Butts says Mullins rarely had practical suggestions about how to make television better, he just wanted the people who worked for him to do it. "Mullins used to have the saying that he didn' t know how to make an apple pie, but he sure as hell knew whether it was a good one Or not • rr l O l 9 9Butts interview. :oo Ibid. 101 Jim Butts in Mitchell's "Anniversary series," April 21, 1992. 59

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According t o Clark Secrest, Mullins was also eccentric. He tells the story o f Mullins and his wife, on vacation in Italy, when they passed b y a large, beautiful marble fountain. "He said, 'I want that taken apart and shipped to Denver for my office' ... So they took the f ountain apart and shipped it to Denver. They h a d to tear out a wall to put it in there. It went o n for weeks. Then h e t ook a look at i t and said, 'I don' t like it. Get it out o f here. '"102 Mullins' office is legendary . "It was like a movie set, "103 Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell says. His desk sat o n a pedestal so anyone talking to Mullins would have to look up at him. The office was filled with "the most outlandish group o f paintings and artifacts from the world ... They didn' t match at all." Mitchel l says that once, during union negotiations, Mullins wou l d walk around the office with a popgun, shooting a t various objects. It is not clear what effect, if any, this tactic had o n the negotiations o r even what Mullins intended by it. Secrest interview. 103 Mitchell interview. 60 I n spite o f these

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eccentricities, Bob Brown, who became Channel 9 ' s general sales manager under Mullins' ownership, has a kinder recollection of the man. "John Mullins was one of the nicest men I ever knew , " he says. "He was a n o n b roadcaster. His broadcasting knowledge was not pas t the point of looking in like a stockholder would. Now he was at the station every day. He could understand things. But he was of the nature of, where's my money going? And I think the guy always did a very good job. "to4 Whatever his personal eccentricities, or inconsistencies when it came to dealing with people, John Mullin s was apparently a ver y good businessman. Channel 9 grew and prospered under his ownership. One thing that Mullins did not believe in, was spending money on a news department. His competition in Denver had a different view. It is ironic that Channel 7 dominated local news in Denver almost from the time it went o n the air until 1976, since Channel 7 has usually been either the second or third rated station ever since then. But in the early 104 Brown interview. 61

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days, some key personalities helped Channel 7 establish itself as the most-watched station in Denver, one o f whom later played a key role when Channel 9 moved to the top. KLZ Radio hired a young man from Texas named Carl Akers in June 1948, just after he graduated from the University o f Missouri School of Journalism. Akers made $55 a week to do radio news. Hugh Terry, a longtime manager for KLZ Radio and TV, remembers that, "We took Ed' s (Missouri professor Ed Lambert's) recommendation for Carl without an interview or an audition. "105 When asked if Ak ers was an overnight success, Terry responded, "Well, it would have been a long night. "106 Akers may not have set Denver on fire right away, but his longevity and popularity as a newscaster is unrivaled, ev en today. He started doing television when Channel 7 went on the air in 1953, even though Hugh Terry claims Akers did not like the medium. Akers would eventually anchor more than 22,000 newscasts. In the 1950s, he established Channel 7 as the most watched and 105 Hugh Terry, "Carl Akers 25th Anniversary," KBTV, 1973. 106 Ibid. 62

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most trusted news station in Denver. TV Review put Akers on the cover of its September 2 -8, 1961, issue with the headline, "Denver I s Top Newscaster. "107 A research project conducted for Channel 7 by Frank N . Magid Associates in about 1960 backs up that claim . The Magid report showed that 34.8% of all Denver viewers considered Akers their "favorite local television newscaster. "108 The next closest name was Channel 7 1 s John Rayburn, who worked for both Channel 4 a n d Channel 7 b efore coming to Channel 9 in 1971, and at the time of t h e M agid report, Rayburn registered w ith o nly 7 .5%. In fact, the top six names viewers in De nver listed as their favorites all worked at Ch annel 7. Newscasters from Channels 2, 4 and 9 combined added up to only 7 .9% of the audience. 109 This was an early indication of the importance of the personalities and perceived talent o f television newscasters. Stations lived and died with 1 0 7 "Denver 1 s Top Newscaster, " TV Review, September 2-8, 1961, 6 . c o s F rank N . Magid Associates. The Role of Television in the Denver Metropolitan Area: Study in Depth, approximately 1960, 25. :og Ibid, 2 5 . 63

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their-anchors, know n today simply as "talent." Even then, the people who owned and operated television stations realized that one of the keys to success was in finding the "right" talent and managing it properly. When Akers and Rayburn worked at competing stations in the late 1950s, Akers sent Rayburn a box with a chess piece in it, with a note inside that read, "'I don't know about you, but I feel like a pawn. '"110 To a certain extent at least, being a pawn is an occupational hazard of being in front of the camera . For his part, Rayburn boasts that, " One of my major contributions to the business was not anything to do with talent o r abilities, but I had an innate ability to needle the brass. And that was good for their character."111 In spite of their status as rivals, early Denver broadcasters got along pretty well. "We've never really fought among ourselves," Akers said. "But we did fight with the newspaper people in the early days. Because they thought we were interlopers, Johnny -come-lately and so forth."112 110 John Rayburn, Interview by the author, November 11, 1996. 111 Ibid. 112 Carl Akers, "Denver TV Then and Now," KBTV, August 6 4

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Not surprisingly, the popularity of Channel 7 ' s newscasters made the station the most popular one to watch in Denver. Channel 7 was the favorite news station for 47.8% of viewers, more than all other stations combined. Channel 4 scored 24%, Channel 9 scored 10.8%, Channel 2 registered with 3 .5%. Almost 13% of those surveyed either did not know which station was their favorite or did not answer the question. 1 l 3 Nearly half of those surveyed for the Magid report said Channel 7 was their preferred station f o r weather information. 114 And, in what is perhaps the most innovative way to measure the popularity of a television station, 46.7% of those surveyed responded with Channel 7 when asked: "If all but one channel were to go out of order in your set (or sets), which one would you want to remain in working order ? "ns Magid, which wa s o f course paid by Channel 7 to do the report in the first place, reported that, "The unusually high regard held by viewers 20, 1981. 113Magid report, 22. 114 Ibid, 2 1 . 115 Ibid , 41 . 65

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for KLZ-TV dramatically reflects its ability to meet the viewers' demands for consistently superior television in all phases of programming and community affairs. "116 Channel 7 no doubt had a distinct advantage over its competition because of the station' s ow nership. Unlike Channels 2 , 4 and 9 , Channel 7 was owned by a big company from 1954 forward, when Time-Life Broadcasting bought the station from Aladdin Broadcasting, the group of local people who put the station on the air in the first place. The Tribune Company bought Channel 2 in 1966; General Electric bought Channel 4 in 1968; and Combined Communications bought Channel 9 in 1971. But before that Channel 7 ' s competition did not have the resources to compete on the same level with a company the size of Time-Life. Channel 7 general manager Hugh Terry ran the station for most o f that time and earned a reputation as an excellent broadcaster who "had little trouble keeping company (Time-Life) bureaucrats away from his station."117 Channel 7, then, had two key ingredients for success: An 116 Ibid. 17 Dusty Saunders, "Denver' s TV news war," Rocky Mountain News, December 2 , 1990, 132. 66

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owner with deep pockets and a strong, protective local management. Much like today, having a strong network partner was also important with regard to Channel 7 ' s success. Although NBC was certainly a powerful network in the 1940s and 1950s, CBS programming, particularly news shows like Edward R . Murrow' s "See It Now" captured the attention of Denver television viewers. Channel 9 , in addition to an almost non-existent news department, was connected with the weakest of the three networks, ABC, which at that time was still struggling just to survive. Channel 7 sportscaster Starr Yelland remembers when he thinks Channel 7 took the lead in Denver. In 1957, a man named John Gilbert Graham planted a bomb on board a United Airlines plane in order t o kill his mother, who was o n board, and collect money from her life insurance policy. The plane crashed near Longmont, and Channel 7 ' s n e ws team sprang into action. In those days, there were no "live trucks" o r helicopters. The only way to get the story was to go get i t and bring it back. Yelland remembers that a photographer named Jim Bennett ( who would later become 67

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Channel 7's news director) got a camera, went to the scene, shot film of the crash and drove it back to the station. Yelland recounted what happened next in a conversation with Carl Akers for a 1981 television show called "Denver TV, Then and Now." "We all waited in the newsroom. You (Akers) were on the air live and while you were on the air live, somebody said, 'Bennett' s within the city limits, he's coming ... ' And about 10: 38 , Bennett walked in with these wet pictures and he held ' em up, they were dripping and he held 'em up and said, Carl this is what it is up there and that was the night that Channel 7 came o f age. 18 Yellend remembers the feeling people who worked at Channel 7 had about being number one. "We were number one for twenty-two years. And we were p roud of that."119 At the time, Channel 9 barely had a news department, and it was the same "rip and read" operation that existed when the station first signed on the air. In the context of today's newsgathering resources, being faced with a 11 8 Starr Yelland, " Denver TV, Then and Now, " KBTV, 1981. 119 Ibid. 68

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story of that magnitude with a one-person news department is mind-boggling. Channel 7 was winning in the early decades of Denver's news war, but that would not last forever. After Channel 4 carne on the air in December 1953, all four stations settled in with their own network partner. Channel 7 went with CBS, Channel 4 with NBC, Channel 2 with DuMont, and Channel 9 signed up with ABC, the youngest and least powerful of what would become the "big three" networks. In About Television, author Martin Mayer says, "Network affiliation has been the fundament of profits in television. "120 These words were true when Mayer wrote them in 1972 and they are true today, for the same reasons. First o f all, even t oday, the major broadcast networks still distribute the most popular programming on television, from major sporting events to weekly dramas and comedies. Therefore, the advertising time o n network affiliates is naturally worth more money because more people are watching. Also, independent stations have to pay for virtually all the programming they need to fill 120 Martin Mayer, About Television, (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 279. 6 9

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their schedules, while the networks actually pay the local stations to air network programming. This " network compensation" is a relatively small amount of money compared to revenue from commercial advertising time, but it is still money a station has coming in instead of going out. It is certainly true that network affiliation would play a tremendous role for Channel 9 when it finally became the number one station in Denver in 1976, and then again when all Denver network affiliates switched networks in 1995. In the late 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was finishing his second term as president, the country was at peace, and Channel 9 owner John Mullins was thinking less about being number one, and more about his primary concern: Making money. 70

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CHAPTER 2 ADOLESCENCE THE 1960s "It seems t o me that television is: The literature of the illiterate, the culture of the lowbr ow , the wealth of the poor, the privilege of the underprivileged, and the exclusive club of the excluded m asses. "1 2 1 Lee Loevinger, FCC Commissioner, 1966 On Wednesday, September 6 , 1961, Ch annel 9 ' s broadcast day started at 8 : 0 0 a . m . with an episode o f "Abbott and Costello" a n d ended at midnight after a "Star Theatr e " movie called "Blaze of Noon" starring William Holden. 122 In between, there we r e loca l newscasts at 9 : 00 a . m . (30 minutes), noon (15 minutes ) , 5 :45p.m. (again 15 minutes) and 10:00 p . m . ( ten minutes, with a five minute 121 FCC Commissioner Lee Lo evinger, quoted by M artin M ayer in, About Television, (New York: Harper and Row , 1972), 382. 122TV Review, September 2 8 , 1961. 71

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weather report), for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes of news and weather a day. Other local programming found its place on Channel 9 ' s schedule. A thirty minute children's show called "Sheriff Scotty" with Ed Scott c ame on at 4:45p. m. Except for newscasts, the show was the longest running local television show in Denver history. It started out o n Channel 7 when that station started broadcasting in November 1953, and then moved to Channel 9 i n 1957. When Sheriff Scotty offered memberships in his "posse," 28,000 kids responded in the first month alone. He called his shows "posse meetings" and required kids to "mind their parents, uphold the law and attend posse meetings. "1 23 Channel 7, still by far the most popular station in Denver, had about the same local news time as Channel 9 , except that there was a regular half hour of news, weather and sports at 5:00 and 10: 00 p . m. Although Carl Akers joked that his job at Channel 7 was still "temporary," even after eight years o n the job, a T V Review writer said, " You can bet Perry Mason's briefcase 123 D avid Freed, "Graduates of an innocent age," Rocky Mountain News, July 11, 1982, 30. 72

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that KLZ-TV hasn't the slightest idea of replacing King Carl. n124 The article went o n to quote an unnamed manager at an unnamed rival station. "The sonovagun is fabulous ... O f all the personalities in Denver, Akers would be the one I'd want if I owned my o wn station. Fo r my dough, he I S the beSt in the bUSiness-nationally Or lOCal. "125 We do not know whether that admirer worked for Channel 9 o r not, but the comments would prove to be prophetic before the 1960s were over. John Mullins, the businessman who bought Channel 9 in 1955, ran into a bit of a problem in the early 1960s. Many people who worked at Channel 9 at the time believe the FCC actually threatened Channel 9's license unless he got more serious about a news department . How serious was the threat? And did it exist at all? Th e answers likely died along with John Mullins in 1969, but there is no denying that its license i s the single most important asset a television station has. So Channel 9 expanded. 12 4 Denver's To p Newscaster," TV Review, September 2 8 , 1961, 6 . 125 Ibid. 73

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Clark Secrest joined Channel 9 in January 1961. He remembers that the n ewly expanded news department now included himself, news director and anchor Art Smith, George Stratton, Pete Richardson and Steve Katy . This was tiny by today' s standards but in the context of what Channel 9 had before, at least it was something. The first newsroom wa s in an unfinished part of the building on the second floor at 1089 Bannock. The floors were still concrete. They hung drapes made o f burlap to partition off an area and call it a newsroom . There was a teletype ticker that supplied wire reports from the Associated Press and United Press (later United Press International or UPI ) . This i s also when Channel 9 first started routinely gathering news in the field by shooting film. According to Secrest, they had one hand held film camera with a one hundred foot load of 16 millimeter film. One hundred feet of film amounted to just a few minutes worth, so Secrest says, "If you couldn't do a story with one hundred feet, you were pretty much screwed. "126 Th e news department did not have a vehicle, so when the y need ed to 126 Secrest interview. 74

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drive to a story, they would borrow an old station wagon from the production department. Shooting news on film has implications that made newsgathering much different in those days than it is today. First of all, shooting film means you have to get it developed, which takes time. When photographers shoot stories on videotape, it is available the moment the photographer is done shooting. But in 1961, when Clark Secrest shot a story o n his one hundred feet of film, he would go to a processing lab called United Film at l Oth and Acoma, along with photographers from all the other stations. None of the stations, even Channel 7 , had a film processor. As Secrest remembers it, there was an informal arrangement among all the competing news photographers when they gathered to get the film processed each afternoon. "If you missed something, one of your buddies from the other stations would take care of you. "127 Today' s competition would make such an arrangement difficult, if not impossible. The early days of Channel 9 news were crude and chaotic. "We really didn't know what we were doing," Ibid. 7 5

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Secrest says. Secrest and his fellow employees at Channel 9 were not the only ones. The entire industry was trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. In 1961, newly elected President John F . Kennedy appointed a young lawyer named Newton Minow as chairman of the FCC. That year, Minow gave a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, the foremost television and radio organization in the country. It is a speech that still echoes today. Minow recognized that television can be very good. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet o r rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland (italics added). You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials--many screaming, cajoling and offending ... Is there one person is this room who claims that broadcasting can' t do better? ... Gentlemen, your trust accounting with your beneficiaries is overdue. Never have so few owed so much to so many ... I understand that many people feel that in the past licenses were often renewed pro forma. I say to you now : renewal will not be pro forma in the 76

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future. There is nothing permanent or sacred about a broadcast license. 128 There was no wholesale license revocation following Minow' s ominous speech in 1961. For his part, the FCC chairman worked to strengthen non-commercial television by encouraging new public stations in major cities. KRMA-TV in Denver was already established by the Denver School Board in 1956 on Channel 6 , then giving Denver five television stations. 129 The networks responded to the apparent government menace by programming a wider variety of shows, some that could qualify as "good" television, like "Exploring" and "Discovery." A drama called "The Defenders" found its way into the 196162 season with thoughtful examination of current issues. Th e 1960s are in a sense television' s most important decade, not because of the way television did what it did, but because of events that thrust the medium far more deeply into American culture. John Kennedy is responsible for two o f those events. His September 26, 1960, debate with Richard Nixon 12 8Newton Minow, quoted by Barnouw in, Tube of Plenty, 300. 1 2 9 Jack Gaskie, "Denver ETV Makes Quiet Deb ut," Rocky Mountain News , January 31, 1956, 6 . 77

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demonstrated the influence of television in the modern political process. As Barnouw suggests, it had much less to do with what Kennedy and Nixon said during the debate, but rather how they said it, and even more importantly what the two men looked like when they were not talking. " A glimpse of the listening Kennedy showed him attentive, alert, with a suggestion of a smile on his lips. A Nixon glimpse showed him haggard; the lines on his face seemed like gashes and gave a fearful look. Toward the end, perspiration streaked the Lazy-Shave."130 Lazy-Shave was a product used to make a man' s face look more clean-shaven. The impact of that first televised debate has been itself debated for many years. But Barnouw points out that after the debate, larger crowds gathered at Kennedy campaign appearances, and that polls indicated an impact with previously undecided voters. Barnouw calls it a "victory psychology. "131 Whatever the specific impact of that particular event, it certainly marked a change in the way American 130Barnouw, Tube o f Plenty, 273-274. 131 Ibid, 274. 78

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politicians, particularly presidential candidates, approached running for office. Appearance became more important. "Sound bites," or short, memorable clips of speeches o r news conferences, became more important. Was this good or bad for democracy? There are critics on both sides. Some believe television "glorified traits having no relationship to the presidency" while others think the "public ordeal o f the debates" demonstrated "a relevance to leadership in an age o f instant crisis and instant communication. "132 But it was another Kennedy event that thrust television into the spotlight o f American life, where it remains today. After a narrow victory in the 1960 election, aided perhaps by his televised debate with Richard Nixon, John F . Kennedy served as president for less than three years when, on November 22, 1963, h e was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas. What followed is what Barnouw describes as "the most moving spectacular ever broadcast."133 132 Ibid, 275. : 3 3 Ibid, 331. 79

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Television viewers in Denver and across the country gathered around television sets to watch the drama unfold. First there were scenes of the chaos in Dallas; conflicting reports about the president's condition; finally, news of his death at Parkland Hospital. Then the body was taken to Washington for a televised funeral procession, while back in Dallas, NBC cameras were showing l ive pictures o f suspect Lee Harvey Oswald's transfer from the city jail to the county jail when Jack Ruby appeared suddenly, then shot and killed Oswald. Again, all this was live on television, the first live murder ever broadcast. Television itself may have contributed to that chapter o f the story, since Dallas police decided against a secret nigh t transfer o f Oswald, instead mov ing him at noon on a Sunday so all the cameras could record the event. Barnouw suggests that "police were not merely cooperative, but apparently eager to surrender to television requests and whims. "1 3 4 Within an hour o f Kennedy's assassinatio n , approximately 80 % o f all television sets in the country were on, and there was 3 4 Ibid, 3 33. 8 0

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very little to see but the developing story. Television had proven to be a sort of instant community meeting for the country in a time of crisis. Many other events in the 1960s influenced, and were influenced by, television. Vietnam was not just a war, it was a living room war, where the people back home saw firsthand, in their living rooms, how horrible war could be thanks to filmed footage of the fighting. Television coverage o f Vietnam is either credited for bringing the war to a faster conclusion, o r criticized for contributing to a weakening of domestic support, causing the U . S . to ''lose its first war ever. Even before that, the country experienced the fear of global holocaust with the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. At 5:00 p . m . Denver time on October 22, 1962, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about missiles the Soviet Union had placed just ninety miles from Florida on the island nation of Cuba. Denver and the nation watched as the standoff seemed to reach a point of no return, then cooled down and finally evaporated. 81

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The 1968 riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and Neil Armstrong' s walk o n the moon in July 1969, demonstrated the extreme ends o f the scale when it came to the tragedy and triumph television brought to daily American life. Viewers saw many of these images on newly expanded 30 minute network news broadcasts each evening, starting in 1963. Before that, network news had been only 15 minutes a day, if that. But now television news was serious business, and began to have a serious impact on the country. Technology was advancing as well. One of the reasons the networks decided to expand their evening newscasts was the launch o f the Telstar I communications satellite in July 1962. Now, instead o f depending on clumsy and crowded phone lines or a series o f microwave towers to transmit programming , the networks suddenly had another optio n that would one day become the primary means of distributing programming around the world . In addition to sending movies and situation comedies to their affiliates, satellite technology allowed networks to, in theory at least, cover a story anywhere i n the world, as long as they could get a satellite dish 82

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there. Twenty more years would pass before large numbers o f local stations took advantage of the technology, but the networks began to use it as soon as it was available. The "Early Bird" communications satellite went into orbit in 1965. That year, CBS used it to con duct a "globa l roundtable" with Walter Cronkite moderating a discussion including former President Dwight D . Eisenhower and British World War II hero, Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery. O n the air, CBS proudly labeled Montgomery' s feed from London, " VIA EARLY BIRD."135 But perhaps the most significant technological development o f the 1960s for local stations like Channel 9 was color TV. Since the beginning, the art of television had only partially imitated life, since the images seen o n TV screens were black and white. Like almost everything else connected with television, there were two issues when it came to color. One was figuring out how to b r o adcast i n color; the other was in inventing , marketing and getting consumers to buy the TVs necessary to watch col o r TV. If they were lucky enough to own a color TV set , Denver viewers could have 135 Ibid, 312. 8 3

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seen a color program as early as New Year's Day, 1954, when Channel 4 broadcast the Tournament of Roses Parade in color. But the quality of early color television was marginal, and widespread use o f the technique was still years away. In the early 1960s, Clark Secrest remembers walking into the control room and seeing big wooden boxes sitting all over the place. When he asked one o f the engineers what was going on, h e responded, "'That's color equipment.'" Secrest was surprised. "But there are no color television sets!" he said. "'But there will be,'" the engineer responded. "'And Mullins wants to be ready. '"13' Television technicians had been working o n color TV since television was invented. It would have been possible to convert the industry to color in the 1950s, but the cost o f producing and transmitting programming in color, and the cost of buying sets that could receive color programming, delayed its widespread use. So the 136Gene Lindberg, " Denverites see First Color TV Program," Th e Denver Post, January 1 , 1954, 13. 137 Secrest interview. 84

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1960s became "the decade of color. "138 In 1960, less than 1% o f all households had color TV sets. By 1969, the figure was more than 30%. By 1979, it was about 80%.139 For obvious reasons, color TV had enormous implications for the viewer. There were even some potential not-so-obvious effects. When TV news crews switched to using color film on news stories in 1965-66, i t affected coverage of the Vietnam War. "Mud and blood were indistinguishable in black and white ; in color, blood was blood."14 0 It is unlikely that John Mullins and his team at Channel 9 gave much thought to ramifications like that. Color was better, and that wa s that. The 1960s saw a gradual rise in the fortunes of Channel 9 . First, longtime Channel 7 newscaster Carl Akers quit his j o b in September 1966, after 18 years with KLZ Radio and TV. When asked years later t o explain why, Akers responded that, "I just got tired. Just got physically and mentally beat, so I quit for a year and half. rrl41 138 Comstock, Television in America, 3 7 . 139 Ibid. 140Barnouw , Tube o f Plenty, 401. 8 5

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At the time, Akers planned to research and write about Colorado history with his wife, which he did. But he also told The Denver Post when he resigned that, "This is not to say that I won ' t be back in television. "1 4 2 After his brief hiatus from broadcasting, Channel 9 general manager Al Flanagan (a significant figure himself i n the history of the station) , convinced Akers to come to work at Channel 9 doing documentaries. It was an association that would last for 20 years and help propel the station to first place in the Denver market. Cecil Walker, who came to Channel 9 in 1969 as the station's business manager after working for Mullins Outdoor Advertising for four years, remembers what it meant for the station to have Akers on board. "It made a difference simply because the minute that Carl Akers decided to come to Channel 9 , he made a statement that Channel 9 was committed to doing news."143 Although he started out just doing documentaries, Akers soon went back on the air as an anchor. In 1969, he also became 1 41 "This is Ca r l Akers," KUSA-TV, 1987. 142 Carl Akers, quoted in, "Carl Akers Resigns TV Post," The Denver Post, August 31, 1966, 2 . 143 Cecil Walker in, "This is Carl Akers." 86

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KBTV' s news director. He later remembered his reign as news director as "the worst nine years of my life."144 In 1974, Ak ers once again gave up the anchor desk, saying he was "burnt out."145 He spent 12 more years at the station in management and doing commentaries before he retired. What made Carl Akers so valuable? He did not possess "TV star" looks. In fact, when he retired from Channel 9 in 1986, h e said, "If those TV consultants we r e around in my early TV years, I probably wouldn' t have gotten a job as a janitor, let alone a news anchor."146 But his long career on Channel 7 established him as a credible newscaster to Denver viewers. Ch annel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell, who grew up watching Akers as a child in Denver remembers working next to him as a young reporter in the early 1970s. " I was in awe o f him, always," Mitchell says. "It never went aw a y . Because I saw him on television beginning in about 1954 or 1 44 Ibid, quoted by Ed Sardella. 45 Walter Saunders, "Akers to give up news anchorman spot," Rocky Mountain News, August 7 , 1974, 40. 146 Car 1 Akers, quoted by Dusty Saunders in, "'Ultra-slick' just wasn' t Carl Akers' style," Rocky Mountain News, December 21 , 1986, 23. 8 7

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whenever. And all o f my growing up, you know , it was Carl Akers. I told him that once and he was genuinely offended because he wasn' t interested in hearing how old he was."147 But there wAs more to it than that. Cecil Walker tried to identify it. "He walks in front of the television camera and he communicates. And he' s Carl Akers. He' s not a different individual . . . He ' s left a very definite mark among other broadcasters, because the one thing they all recognize is that he can walk through that television tube, that television set, into someone' s home . rrl48 Al Flanagan said, " I 've never heard Carl Akers ever read a bad line, even i f it was written by somebody other than him ... And when it came to writing for television, there were not many better than Carl Akers. John Conners worked with Akers at Channel 7. "Carl can say more in twenty five words," Conners said, "than the wire services can say in fifty o r sixty, if you know what I mean. "150 147Mitchell interview. 148 Cecil Walker in, "This is Carl Akers." 149 Ibid, Al Flanagan. 88

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The audience, which seemed to respond to Akers throughout his career no matter which station he worked for, certainly did seem to understand what Conners meant. Akers was a journalist. He took his responsibility seriously. "If only one individual tuned in that night, it was my responsibility to tell him, to the best of my ability, what the hell was going on. "15l And he was uncomfortable doing news in a medium that demanded so much show business. Still, whether he admitted it or not, Akers was a showman himself. "There is a bit of showmanship there, a little extra something that comes through, "152 Ron Mitchell says. Akers would end his newscasts and commentaries with a phrase borrowed from the way newspaper reporters ended their stories by saying, "That's 30, this is Carl Akers." John Rayburn, who spent most o f the 1970s anchoring Channel 9 newscasts, says "Carl Akers used to insist that he was not a performer. But we were a little of both." Much like John Conners, Rayburn identified writing and 1 50 Ibid, John Conners. 1 51 Ibid, Ca r 1 Akers. 152 Ibid, Ron Mitchell. 8 9

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copy editing as the abilities that made Carl Akers stand out for so long. "He wa s the best editor I 've ever seen, "153 Rayburn says. Ed Sardella joined Channel 9 in 1974 as a sportscaster and would later become the station's most popular and prominent newscaster. Sardella describes Akers as "the ultimate country boy. I think he epitomized probably what Denver was like and what the media was like, really in the early , infancy days. He wa s very down to earth. "154 Sardella remembers hearing the story that Akers never owned a tie. "He had two clip-on ties and he had an old coat rack in his office. And those clip-on ties sat o n that coat rack so that he never walked out o f the building with a tie on." Akers also never really grasped all of the technical aspects of television news, even after doing it for twenty years. Sardella remembers working with Akers when the station still used film in its newscasts. "And you had to put the film on a reel in the order you were going 153 Rayburn interview. 154 Ed Sardella, Interview by the author, November 16, 1996. 90

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to play it," Sardella says. "Carl never understood that ... So he'd pick up the phone and tell the frustrated director, 'Stay with me, I'm going to change the order a little bit.' Never taking into account that you couldn't change the order of the films. "155 And, Sardella says, Akers was old fashioned. "He was very old fashioned. He was very committed to content. Did not buy into the cosmetic, production, audience oriented kinds of changes. "156 He might have frustrated directors, but Carl Akers was always popular with Denver's television viewers. When asked to explain this popularity himself, Akers said, "If you like people, and you enjoy talking with them, that comes across on television. And I think maybe that is part of the reason that I've stayed around so long."157 Akers lived only seven year s after his final retirement from the news business. He died at the age of 71 on January 7, 1993. Sardella sums up Akers contribution to television news: " During his career, he has left vivid impressions on ::s Ibid. :s6 Ibid. :s: "This is Carl Akers." 91

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management and his co-workers. They said he was bullheaded, which he was, and they said he always liked to do things his own way, which he did. But they respect Carl as a man, and they admire his talent. "158 About a week after Carl Akers died, Channel 9 lost another on-air legend whose personality was as exuberant as Akers' was reserved. Meteorologist Leon "Stormy" Rottman joined KBTV in 1968, the same year Carl Akers came out o f retirement. Rottman was a long-time Air Force meteorologist who admitted that predicting the weather was a tricky business. "I want to keep my mouth shut," he once told The Denver Post, "but the public wants to know, and I've got to try to tell them. "159 Stormy, whose nickname fit his chosen profession perfectly , told them for 1 9 years before he retired in 1988. Ed Sardella said the computerized changes in TV weather technology were " very traumatic" for Rottman.160 Even so, those who worked with him at Channel 9 158 Ibid, Ed Sardella. 159 Stormy Rottman, quoted by J oanne Ostro w in, " Denver TV's Stormy Rottman is dead at age 74," The Denver Post, January 16, 1993, 2 B . 160 Ibid, Ed Sardella. 92

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remembered Stormy as a bright personality who was no doubt a factor in the station's ratings rise of the 1970s. But when Akers and Rottman came to work for Channel 9 in 1968, all of that was still in the future. Channel 9 was still in third place, still far behind Channel 7. There were, however, positive signs. The most popular and talented newscaster in Denver was now working at Channel 9 . Al Flanagan, who went on to establish a reputation as one of the best broadcasters in the country, was running the station. And the ABC network had gone from an organization simply trying to survive to competing effectively with CBS and NBC. As the 1960s drew to a close, another development would prove to be perhaps the most significant event since the station signed on. In August 1969, John Mullins died, leaving Channel 9 and a growing mini media empire behind. Besides KBTV, Mullins owned KBTR Radio, KARK-TV and KAK Radio in Little Rock as well as other, smaller companies that handled everything from outdoor advertising to electric signs to film production. There 93

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was no immediate decision by the Mullins family about what to do with these businesses. So as the decade of the 1970s began, Richard Nixon was president, the United States was trying to find a way out of Vietnam and Channel 9 saw both uncertainty and opportunity. If the 1960s were the mos t important decade for the development of the television industry, the 1970s would prove to be the most important years yet for Channel 9. 94

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CHAPTER 3 TOWARD THE TOP THE 1970s "In a very real sense, television is American c ulture. "161 John E . O ' Co nner Much like the actor who works in obscurity for years before becoming a success, Channel 9 rose to the top of the Denver television ma rket gradually during the course of the 1970s. The station' s success was the-result o f many factors, undoubtedly beginning with the change of ownership that happened in 1971. After John Mullins died in 1969, his family decided not to keep the business. So, o n Monday, April 7 , 1971 , the Mullins estate announced an agreement to sell KBTV and the rest o f the Mullins media collection to a company :'il John E . O'Conner, ed. , American History/American Television: Interpreting the Video Past, ( New Yor k : Frederick Unger Publishing, 1983), introduction. 95

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called Combined Communications Corporation of Phoenix. Channel 9 was the last Denver television station to go from local ownership to being part of a larger company. In 1964, local investors had bought the shares Bob Hope and his California associates owned in Channel 4 for $6. 3 million162 before selling the station to General Electric in 1968. Time-Life, which had owned Channel 7 since 1954, agreed in 1971 to sell KLZ-TV and four other TV stations to McGraw -Hill for $69. 3 million. 163 Ironically, Combined Communications offered to buy the Time-Life stations in 1970, but the deal fell through.1 64 In 1972 McGraw -Hill changed Channel 71s call letters from KLZ to KMGH to reflect the new company 1 s name. 165 Channel 91s new owner, " CCC, " was already in the television business, with stations in Phoenix and Oklahoma City. Including its station in Little Rock, 162 "Local Group Buys KOA stock," Rocky Mountain News , September 10, 1964, 14. 163 "Agreement reached on KLZ-TV sale," The Denver Post, March 9 , 1971, 21. 164 "KLZ among units in media sale talks," The Denver Post, October 16, 1970, 36. 165 " KLZ-TV Renamed: It 1 s Now KMGH-TV, " The Denver Post, June 2, 1972. 90. 96

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Combined C ommunications now had a "group" o f four stations in f our states. This kind o f ownership was a trend that soon set the standard f o r the television industry, and resulted in the wholesale expansion o f stations across the country . In Denver, the changes were not immediate o r dramatic. The company had to sell KBTR Radio because FCC rules did not allow the same company to own a TV statio n and a radio statio n in the s ame market. John Rayburn, who joined Channel 9 just before Combined C ommunications bought the station, remembers one benefit of selling the radio station. The Channel 9 news department had t o share the basement o f 1089 Bannock with the radio station. "We were elbow to elbow for all intent s and purposes, "166 Rayburn says. After the radio statio n moved out, the n ew owners remodeled the newsroom, while the news department kept working. "They used these guns to fire into the concrete," Rayburn says. "And I had the happy knack o f being able to shut out things I didn' t want to hear." For Rayburn's sake, it is a good thing he could shut out 166 John Rayburn , Interview b y the autho r , November 1 1 , 1996. 9 7

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the noise. Working in a newsroom can be noisy enough without what sounds like a gunshot going off every once in a while. Perhaps as important as the change of ownership in 1971 was the group of people who were becoming the nucleus of the station' s push to the top. Al Flanagan was Channel 9 ' s general manager for most of the 1960s and 1970s , and added to that position the title o f president o f the Combined Communications broadcast division. In an advertisement for Eastman Kodak Company in 1978, Flanagan summed up his philosophy: " I f you have the people and they have the tools they need, and the pride and guts it takes, the rest is just plain hard work--to produce the news and information programs that give you 'localism'-a reputation for being a real part of your community. "1 6 7 Channel 9 anchor Ed Sardella says Flanagan's strength was in his commitment to excel. "It takes a special kind of person to excel. And Flanagan did it ... by threat and intimidation ... He was a screamer and a pounder. "168 Sardella admits that Flanagan did not know 167 "Flanagan," Eastman Kodak Company advertisement, 1978. 1 68 Sardella interview. 98

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much about news, but thought he knew what was important. Mike Landess, who replaced John R ayburn as Sardella' s co-ancho r in 1978, decided he would find out what Flanagan t hought of his performance after a few months o n the job. "Landess went up to Flanagan' s office and said, 'How am I doing?' And he (Flanagan) was said to have said, ' Just wear your 9 pin. '"169 Another key manager during these years was Charles Leasure, who joined Ch annel 9 as program director in 1969, then became station manager in 1973 and general manager in 1976 when Flanagan became a Combined Communications executive. Like Flanagan, Leasure wa s fanatic about being the best station in the market. According to Joe Franzgrote, "We always gave Charlie a lot o f credit for taking us up to another level and helping us understand that being first rate about ever ything was important. "170 Meanwhile, in the basement at 1089 Bannock, the news department grew as Channel 9 worked harder to challenge the 20 year dominance of Channel 7 . A young man named 169 Ibid. 17 Franzgrote interview . 99

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Roger Ogden, who started working at KBTR Radio in 1967, rose through the ranks during the 1970s to become Channel 9's "managing news director," although Carl Akers still held the title of news director for much of that time. Ogden would have a profound impact on the station, both during the time h e spent at Channel 9, and later as general manager of Channel 4 during the 1980s and 1990s. While Ogden was at Channel 9, reporter Ron Mitchell remembers him as a leader in the newsroom whose most important quality was an ability to solve problems. "Roger assumed leadership roles. If there was something happening that there was no leader for, there he was! He just soaked those things right up and thrived on them ... Every now and then someone just hits you over the head as being very special."171 "The main thing that Roger brought is that he let you k now he was watching,"112 says Sardella. Ron Mitchell remembers how well Channel 9 did covering the crash of the plane carrying the Wichita State University football team in Grand County in 1969. By then Roger Ogden was on 171Mitchell interview. 172 Sardella interview. 100

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the Channel 9 assignment desk. "Roger was just a genius at the assignment desk ... You asked Roger a question, and it was like a light bulb went on. In one sentence or two (from Ogden) and you knew what to do. "173 Ogden was also fiercely competitive. In 1981, he told Denver Magazine writer Joe Popper that, "In earlier days, I found it almost impossible to socialize with my competitors because I felt so strongly about winning that it became a personal thing. Now I'm a bit more mello w. I can socialize with them and then plot to beat their brains out."l74 For Ogden, the key development that spurred Channel 9's success was the recognition by station management that the news department could actually make money. "Al Flanagan was a visionary to the extent that h e saw that local news could be a profit center, if we developed strong product with a commanding local presence."175 Joe 173 Mitchell interview. 174 Roger Ogden, quoted by Joe Popper in, " Denver's TV News Teams: Selling Souls for a Thirty Share," Denver Magazine, November 1981, 43. 175 Roger Ogden, Interview by the author, November 18, 1996. 101

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Franzgote says eventually "it was generally accepted that the statio n that led in news led in money. "176 So to achieve that result, Channel 9 worked to create that "commanding local presence" with a combinatio n of on-air talent, aggressive marketing and a commitment to news photography that earned KBTV' s photographers a reputation as being among the best in the country. When the decade began, Channel 7 was still the clear leader when it came to ratings. The most appropriate newscast to use for the purposes o f comparison is the 10:00 p.m. broadcast, since that is when the largest number o f viewers are available to watch news in Denver. In the February 1972 ratings period, Channel 7 ' s 10:00 p . m . newscast Monday through Friday averaged an 18 rating. That means that o f all the people in the Denver market who had a television set, 18% of them were tuned to Channel 7 at 10:00 p . m . Channel 4 was far behind with 11%, and Channel 9 just behind that with 10%.177 176 Franzgrote interview. 17 7Nielsen Station Index, A . C . Nielsen Co., February-March 1972, 6 . 102

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A Denver Post headline that year proclaimed that, "Channel 7 News Chief Feels Pride in Station Spurs Viewer Rating. "178 Gradually, however, that began to change, year by year. Finally, in February 1976, Channel 9 won a 10: 00 p . m . newscast for the first time in the station' s history. That ratings period was a turning point for the television station. While a gradual increase in popularity of the station's newscasters made a big difference for Channel 9 , the station also benefited from the ABC network, which for years had been a competitive weakness. Now ABC wa s on its way to becoming the top-rated network in the country, and of particular importance in February 1976 was ABC' s broadcast o f the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck , Austria. Among the highlights was a gold medal for American figure skating star Dorothy Hamill. The audience loved the Olympics, loved ABC' s coverage, and appeared suddenly to love Channel 9 as well. "We always felt our news p roduct was better than the competition. But we didn' t have the sampling, "179 : 7 8 Barbara HaddadRyan, " Channel 7 News Chief Feels Pride in Station Spurs Viewer Rating," The Denver Post Roundup, August 2 7 , 1972, 2 3 . 103

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Franzgrote says. Channel 9 got the sampling in February 1976. In other words, because of the popularity of the Olympics, a large number o f viewers watched Channel 9's 10:00 p . m. newscast who otherwise would never have seen it. This time, Channel 9 won the 10:00 p.m. ratings with 18% of the audience, followed by Channel 7 with 16% and Channel 4 with 11%.1 8 0 Because ratings measure the number of households who have TV sets which are actually watching a particular station at a given time, they never add up to 100% of the audience. The following chart shows the 10:00 p . m. news rating trend during the February rating periods from 1971 to 1980.181 179 Franzgrote interview. 1 8 0 Nielsen Station Index, February 1976, 20. 181 Household ratings, February o r February-March ratings period, Denver Designated Market Area (DMA), Monday through Friday 10:00 p . m . to 10:30 p . m . daypart summary, Nielsen Station Index, 1971-1980. 104

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Table 3.1 DENVER FEBRUARY LATE NEWS RATINGS , 1971-1980 25 20 15 • Ch.7 D Ch. 9 10 Ch.4 5 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 This comparison clearly shows a gradual decline in Channel 7's ratings, compared with a gradual increase for Channel 9 , while Channel 4 stayed at roughly the same level throughout the decade. It also highlights the significance of the February 1976 rating period. "It wasn't a shock that we won," says Roger Ogden. "We got a giant assist out of the Winter Olympics. "182 The challenge would be to keep that audience when the 182 Ogden interview. 105

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Olympics were over, which the station did for nearly 15 years before Channel 4 grabbed the top rating in the early 1990s. Although the February 1976 ratings victory might not have been a "shock" to those in the Channel 9 news department, it was a significant event. Shortly afterwards, Channel 9 promoted Carl Akers to vice president o f news, which Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal reported was " a direct result of this station's latest high Nielsen rating, which placed KBTV on the top of the heap in news viewing for the region. ,,1 e3 Many key figures during this era remember the milestone in different ways. Co-anchor John Rayburn remembers the 1970s as a decade o f growing pride in what Channel 9 produced. "Sure we were proud," he says. "We had a hell o f a staff ... There were good people. And that feeling gradually seeped through all the walls and all the departmentS. "184 Even though Ed Sardella admits that the February 1976 rating book "made" him as a news anchor, it was not 183 Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal, April 7 , 197 6, 6 . 184 Rayburn interview. 1 0 6

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all good news. "It was a time of great change and you might think that it was a euphoric time for us but it really wasn' t . Because it was a classic struggle of the old school. The journalism-oriented people being phased out and the new modern-thinking, production-oriented, audience-attraction people were starting to come in. "185 The technology and the tone of local news in Denver, and across the country, were changing too. Before that, TV newscasts were considered "slower" and less "snappy" by today's standards. For years, the newscasters chose the stories that would air and decided what order they would go in. newscasts. In other words, they "produced" the But in the mid 1970s a young Channel 9 director named Brian Norcross was standing over Ed Sardella's shoulder giving him advice about what stories should go where. Generally, a director is someone who integrates all the elements of a newscast, like live camera shots, film or videotape, and graphics. So when Norcross began making suggestions about the content of the newscast, css Sardella interview. 107

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Sardella remembers saying, "'Screw it. Do it yourself.' And he did." 1 8 6 So Norcross became a producer, and began what Ron Mitchell calls the "Norcrossian Theory of Broadcasting, "187 also known as the "machine gun approach ... Nothing more than 18 seconds." While not all stories today are 18 seconds long, the idea of "high story count" and newscasts that "move" is now a common practice in the industry. The concept spread through markets around the country during the 1970s, although it is difficult to isolate its origins or argue that Brian Norcross and Channel 9 somehow set the wheels in motion nationnwide. The question for many people both inside and outside the television business is this: Is the "machine-gun" approach better or worse? It is something Ron Mitchell thinks about often. " I have always said I hope there are sociologists watching this who can tell us somewhere down the road how it affected our society. Because we're shaping that society. We feel this is what people want. 186 Ibid. 187 Mitchell interview. 108

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We give this to them and they accept it and they expect it • II 188 They also, at least according to the conventional wisdom in broadcasting today, want newscasters who come across as "real people" as well. Efforts to make news, weather and sports anchors seem friendly and warm in addition to being intelligent and credible has led to the evolution of something critics call "happy talk," or conversations among anchors during a newscast regarding the stories they are reporting or what the weather is like that day. Another effect of this approach is to make newscasts seem less formal and allow viewers to collect their thoughts at certain points during the newscast. In 1981, Rocky Mountain Magazine writer Joseph Seldner dubbed these TV news practices "The Slickness Syndrome. "189 This did not happen without some resistance. In 1976, at the same time Channel 9 was on the verge of winning its first 10:00 p.m. news battle, The Denver Post 188 Ibid. 189 Joseph Seldner, "The Slickness Syndrome," Rocky Mountain Magazine, September/October 1981, C2. 109

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quoted Channel 4 news director Terry Simmerly as saying, "Happy talk is pure nonsense. I won't have it."190 Whether for better or worse, Simmerly lost that battle. As for Brian Norcross, he made a somewhat rare career change from being behind the scenes to being in front of the camera. Today he is a TV meteorologist in Miami. The mid-1970s also witnessed two advances in the application of technology that would forever change the way local news stations gathered and distributed their news, and they came at about the same time. First, stations went from shooting news primarily on film to primarily, then completely, on videotape. Now there was no delay after a story was shot, you simply popped the tape in a machine and started editing, with no processing time. According to former Channel 9 chief engineer Herb Schubarth, Al Flanagan made sure the station got the equipment it needed. "After he came on board, Channel 9 was generally first i n all the new technology. We always got what we needed to be in the forefront with technology. "191 Denver Magazine writer Joe Popper 190 Terry Simmerly, quoted by Barbara Haddad-Ryan in, "Innovative Features to Make News on 4's Renamed Reports," The Denver Post Roundup, February 1 , 1976, 29. 110

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summarized Channel 9's strategy when it came to newsgathering "toys." "The top executives at Gannett (which bought Channel 9 in 1978) saw the future and made it work. They didn't pour millions of dollars into technology just to have toys to play with, and they didn't plan and scheme to be first with the most just for the fun of it. They did it because they came to understand that it was the route to the top. "192 It might seem, in retrospect, that everyone would have greeted this change with great rejoicing. In fact, many of the photographers of the time strongly resisted the move toward videotape. "I remember when the first RCA TK-76 camera came into the newsroom in 1976, "193 Roger Ogden says. "Virtually to a person the photographers and editors were very skeptical. 'How can you possibly get the quality out of tape that you get out of film?'" But the faster, more efficient video format was essentially a 191 Herb Schubarth, Interview by the author, November 9, 1996. 192 Joe Popper, "Denver's TV News Teams: Selling Souls for a Thirty Share," Denver Magazine, November 1981, 44. 1 93 Ogden interview. The RCA TK-76 was the first " eng" or "electronic news gathering" camera developed for widespread use by local stations. 111

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death sentence for the use of film by local television stations. After several years of using both film and videotape, Channel 9 eventually switched to using nothing but videotape. The other major technological leap in the 1970s was the widespread use of "live" reporting. Doing a live or "remote" shot was nothing new. Edward R. Murrow demonstrated it in 1951 with those live pictures of the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges. Channel 9 in the 1950s did live telecasts of everything from the Central City Opera to the Frontier Days rodeo in Cheyenne. But making a remote happen was a complicated and time-consuming process. The equipment necessary to do it was huge and heavy and required large numbers of technical people. Covering a breaking news story with a live report was unthinkable, until the advent of mobile microwave trucks. In the mid-1970s, Channel 9 chief engineer Herb Schubarth actually built the station's first "live" truck in the driveway of his home in Northglenn, Colorado. He built it there because he did not want his competitors at the other stations to know what he was doing. That first truck, designated "3040," hit the road in June 1975. 112

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Channel 7, which at this point also still led in the Denver news ratings, had a mobile live truck before Channel 9. Microwave live technology works something like this. The truck goes wherever the news department wants to do a live shot, and then raises an antenna, or "mast." The engineer operating the truck then adjusts the direction of the mast toward a "receive" site that picks up the microwave signal, and transmits it to the station, which then "integrates" the signal into the newscast or other live programming. That sounds simple but it depends on a lot of variables. First, there has to be a clear path between the microwave mast and the receive site. If trees, buildings or, in the case of Colorado, mountains, are in the way, the shot will not work. There is also the strength of the microwave transmitter on the truck, which can send a signal only so far, regardless of whether there is a clear path to the receive site. In the early days, Channel 9 had only one receive site. So choices for live locations were limited, and so was the usefulness of live technology when it came to 113

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doing news. Today, Channel 9 has six such receive sites from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, leading to the frequent use of live news reporting every day. The reason videotape and live technology went hand in hand was that without videotape, live trucks were useful only if news happened right there on the spot, in front of the camera, while the live shot was happening. Obviously, this does not happen very often. So once videotape technology progressed to the point where a camera and videotape recorder were easily portable, it made the use of a live truck more meaningful. Now crews could shoot video of an event and feed it back from the live truck. For television stations, technology also became something to brag about. Each new device spawned an intense wave of promotion. Here is how Channel 9 promoted its new live truck technology of the mid-1970s, then known as "Action-Cam." "From the time it leaves the scene to the time it reaches you--less than one-thousandth of a second--Live!" 194 Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell remembers that the station would do live 194 KBTV promotion, mid 1970s, aired in Ron Mitchell's "Anniversary series," April 22, 1992. 114

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station breaks every hour during the day, from a different location, just to demonstrate that it was possible. Channel 7 billed its mobile live technology as II Insta-Cam. "195 Although both stations long ago dropped these labels, to this day Channel 9 engineers who operate the station's microwave trucks are known as "A-Cam" engineers. Promoting this new technology, which was expensive as well as exciting for those using it, seemed like the natural thing to do. And live technology was just the first in a long list of innovations that provided promotional opportunities. Commercials describing the importance of advanced weather radar, helicopters and satellite trucks bombarded Denver's viewers with messages about why hardware was a reason to watch. Over time, audiences became less enchanted with these "bells and whistles" and came to expect that stations would provide them, so they became less of a promotional tool. Which is not to say that stations have stopped promoting themselves to the audience. "Image" is a key 195 Mitch Geller, "Insta-Cam, " Denver Magazine, January 1977, 48. 115

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word in the television business, and Channel 9's news image went through many changes since the station signed on. First it was known simply as "Channel 9 News," then it was the almost military sounding "Channel 9 News Force One," and finally, in the mid-1970s it changed to what it is today: 9News. That "brand" now permeates virtually everything the station does, both on the air and in the community . It is common to see Channel 9 employees wearing red, white and blue jackets with "9News" prominently displayed on them, a practice inspired by the yellow sportscoats worn by ABC Sports commentators in the 197 Os. 196 After winning the February 1976 ratings period, Channel 9 gradually increased its audience size even more until it was one of the most dominant ratings leader of any station in the country. In November 1980, Channel 9 had 25% of the 10:00 p.m. news audience, compared to 12% for Channel 7 and just 7 % for Channel 4.197 To drive home the image of leadership, Channel 9 began the practice of showing taped images of people in the community holding 196 Franzgrote interview. 197 Nielsen Station Index, November 1980, 4. 116

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up a "number one" sign with their index fingers. Channel 4 started a similar practice in the 1980s, except those shown in the tape were giving a "thumbs up." Channel 9 promotion manager Stephanie Ericson called it ''a blatant rip-off"198 of the Channel 9 tradition. It is important to remember, however, that almost all ideas in the television business, no matter how great or small, will eventually be copied, imitated or simply recycled. Another way to measure audience size is the "share" of audience, or the percentage of people who actually have their TV sets on who are watching a particular station. In November 1980, the 10:00 p.m. news ratings showed Channel 9 with a 52 share, meaning that more than half of the viewers in the Denver market watching television at 10:00 p.m. were watching Channel 9. This is a figure unheard of in recent Denver television history because of more intense competition. Naturally, these ratings made Channel 9's advertising time more valuable. Cindy Velasquez started 198 Stephanie Ericson, quoted by Ed Pendleton in, "Radio-TV Logos: Powerful Weapons for Ratings Strategy in Denver's Hot, Ferocious Campaign," Denver Business World, December 28, 1981, 20. 117

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selling time on Channel 9 in 1978, and remembers what it was like. "At that time the station was raising rates to levels that had never been sold at before, "199 she says. "When you had a 40 or a 50 share, you were a pretty hot i tern." It was also a time of rapid expansion for local stations, especially Channel 9. "The revenues in Denver were just doubling and quadrupling," Velasquez says. "We didn't even do budgets in those days. I t was, 'Oh, what do you think w e can bill this month?' Every month was a new high in revenue. Even if you spent more, you made more. As often happens with rapid growth, i t was kind of out of control. "200 For Velasquez, those days were both exciting and frightening. Even i n 1978, being a woman and simply having a job at a television station was unusual. What was that like? "Honestly, pretty much as though you were running uphill," Velasquez says. About a year and a half after she started at Channel 9, Velasquez became 199 Cindy Velasquez, Interview by the author, November 20, 1996. 200 Ibid. 118

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pregnant. "I was scared to death to tell the sales manager that I was pregnant, because I was afraid I would lose my job ... It was really not comfortable for the duration of the pregnancy. They kept saying, 'You're not going to come back,' or, 'You're just saying that so you can get insurance,' and, 'You're going to want to be a mom, and you're not coming back.' I mean it was brutal. "201 The history of women at Channel 9, which Velasquez believes generally mirrors that of other television stations as well as other businesses, has been a gradual evolution from obscurity to real power. In 1997 Channel 9's station manager, news director, programming director, promotions manager, business manager, human resources director and its vice president for community affairs are all women. That is a stark contrast to the past. The September 9-15, 1961, issue of TV Review features an article headlined "Young, Pretty and Weather-wise, "202 about two Channel 9 "Weathergirls" named 201 Ibid. 202M. Thomas Murray, "Young, Pretty and Weather-wise," TV Review, September 9-15, 1961, 6 . 119

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Peggy Sawyer and Arlyne Lampshire. "Perky Peggy" was the first of the two to do weather reports, before she took a "stork sabbatical" in 1958. Before that, a woman named Jill Ferris did the weather on Channel 9 from 1954 to 1957, as well as hosting cooking and interview shows. The TV Review article reflects the prevailing attitude of the time about women in the workplace. "What's it like to be young, pretty, happily married, a mother--and yet have enough energy to actually seek more work? ... If you were as pretty and talented as Arlene Lampshire and Peggy Sawyer, you'd probably love the chance to display your talents visually on the magic tube. "203 As further explanation for why they chose to have careers, the article explains that "Arlene's husband urged her to take a course in modeling 'only because I wanted to do something!' Morganti's School o f Charm taught her the basics, and she began a teaching career which enabled her to acquire the poise and voice necessary to be a tv hostess. "204 203 Ibid. 2 04 Ibid, 7. 120

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Being a "tv hostess" was about the most a woman could expect in Denver broadcasting for the first 25 years. Almost all the newscasters and station managers were men. In 1972, Reynelda Muse at Channel 4 was the only news anchorwoman in Denver. The fact that she is African-American makes the timing of her entry into the television news business even more remarkable. But Muse was a lonely figure during the 1970s and the lack of women in Col orado broadcasting did not go unnoticed. In 1977, the FCC delayed license renewals for ten radio and television stations in Colorado when the National Organization for Women , o r NOW, complained about their employment practices. 205 Until the late 1970s, all the key figures in the history of Ch annel 9 , and the vast majority o f those in the broadcasting business nationwide, were white men. Then, something began to happen at the networks and local stations. "Broadcasting figured out somewhere in the 70s that the female audience was at least as sizable as the male audience so then it became OK to put women o n TV," 205 Linda Cayton, "FCC holding ten licenses in limbo," Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal, Jul y 27, 1977, 1. 121

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Velasquez says. "Curiously, all the broadcast properties began to put women o n the air. While they were putting women on TV, there weren' t really women in management roles, in producing news o r in running television stations. "206 That would happen later, partly because of anothe r change in o w nership for Channel 9. Combined Communications was getting bigger. By 1977, it operated seven television stations, eight radio stations and a newspaper. In 1976, t h e company reported revenues of $211.5 millio n . CCC President Karl Eller told Business Week mag azine (ironically, a McGr aw -Hill publication) in 1977 that, "We see long-term growth in the m edia business. . . It' s a p rofitable business. "2 0 7 A year later Combined Communications merged with the Gannett Co . to create what has become one o f the largest media companies in the world and givin g Channel 9 an even larger owner, with more resources than ever before. A "company profile" memo dated October 7 , 1996, presents Gannett' s current makeup. 206 Velasquez interview. 207 Karl Eller, quoted in, "The rapid rise o f a media giant," Business Week, April 4, 1977, 3 1 . 122

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• Operates in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Guam , the Virgin Islands and four foreign countries. • Operates 92 daily newspapers with circulation exceeding 6 . 6 million, including USA Today, with a circulation o f two million. • Operates 15 television stations, 1 1 radio stations:oe and several cable television systems as well as an entertainment programming unit. • Has 38,600 employees with 1995 operating revenues o f $4 billion.20 9 Gannett has also made the recruitment and promotion o f both women and minorities a priority. Cindy Velasquez says, " I don't even think i t (promoting women at Channel 9 ) became a conversation topic until Gannett bought this station. That' s a real big focus with Gannett. "2 1 0 Even o n the air, Channel 9 was one of the few stations in the country that still had two male anchors for its major newscast at 1 0 :00 p . m . Then, after 14 208 The number of Gannett radio and television stations changes frequently, mostly because o f the acquisition o f new stations. 20 9Gannett Company Profile m em o , October 7 , 1996. cc.o Ibid. 123

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years of co-anchoring with Ed Sardella, Mike Landess went to the Gannett station in Atlanta in 1993 and Adele Arakawa became Channel 9 ' s first high profile female co-anchor. Arakawa, an Asian-American journalist, is another example of how Denver broadcasting has changed. In the beginning "the subject of minority representation o n television was not questioned or considered and then dismissed; it quite simply just never c ame up. "211 By the 1990s, Channel 9 ' s owners and managers considered it a crucial factor in building a healthy audience and a healthy business. As the 1970s drew to a close, America was paralyzed by the Iran hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan was defeating Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Ted Koppel was establishing Nightline as a late-night news fixture and Channel 9 was flying high. But some of the most serious challenges in the station' s history were just around the corner. 211 de la Garza, "Television Invades," 161. 124

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CHAPTER 4 NEWS WAR THE 1980s "No matter how big a hit you are on television, it I S temporary • "2 1 2 George Schlatter, TV producer "Competition is good. "213 Cindy Velasquez, Channel 9 station manager If competition is good, the 1980s in Denver were great. They did not start out that way. In 1981, Channel 9 was continuing to win most newscasts, including the important 1 0 : 00 p . m. slot. Ed Sardella and Mike Landess were established as the "team to watch" on Denver television. 2 12 George Schlatter, quoted by Michael Winship in, Television, (New York: Random House, 1988), 194. 213 Velasquez interview. 125

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Cindy Velasquez, who was on her way to sales management at Channel 9 , describes her recollection of what the station' s product wa s like in those years. "From 1976 to the mid-1980s, it was kind of like this wild adolescent, very strong and growing and kind of winning, but boastful, and maybe even bordered on a little arrogant at times. It was exciting to be so strong, but at the same time, as that life cycle progressed and we got into a little bit more maturity, if you will, that arrogance really hurt us. There was some complacency . There wa s some denial."214 If there was complacency and denial, it was directed toward a suddenl y vigorous competitor in the Denver television market, Channel 4 . And the man who turned Channel 4 into such an effective competitor was well-known at KBTV. General Electric, which had owned KOA-TV since 1968, decided it was time to get serious about competing in Denver. And when the company looked for a general manager to lead the effort, it went to 1089 Bannock and found Roger Ogden. At the time, Ogden was Channel 9 ' s news director, but he wanted to be more than that, and 214 Ibid. 126

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was not likel y to get it at KBTV anytime soon. So when G . E . called, Ogden listened , and thought about h i s decision for about three months. Would he stay at Channel 9 , where he had worked for more than a decade (with a brief trip to Louisville, Kentucky, as the news director o f the Gannett-owned station there), o r would he g o "across the street" to Channel 4 for a more powerful job , but at a station that was at the bottom of the market? G.E. negotiated intensively with Ogden for six weeks before convincing him to take the job . "The decision really wasn' t all tha t difficult once I really realized that General Electric was committed to putting resources into the television station," Ogden says. "Most news directors would want to be general managers." So on September 14, 1981, Ogden submitted his resignatio n to Channel 9 , changed channels, and changed the direction of Denver television. He started by taking two of Channel 9 ' s top newsroom managers, John Haralson and Marv Rockford, with him to Channel 4 , which infuriated Channel 9 ' s station management, and set the tone for a vigorous, and at times 215 Ogden interview. 127

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bitter battle between the two stations for dominance i n Denver's news ratings. "If there was one thing I would have done differently," Ogden says, " I wouldn' t have taken two guys with me, at least not at the same time." After that, "raiding" the competition for talent, either in management, producing, photography or on-air personnel became almost standard procedure in Denver. In June 1990, Channel 9 hired away Channel 4 sportscaster Ron Zappolo for a contract reported at $300,000 a year.216 Later that year Channel 9 also hired Channel 4 ' s assistant news director, Dave Lougee, as its news director. But back in November 1981, Roger Ogden and his new team at Channel 4 were just thinking about catching Channel 9 . KBTV was in first place with a 22 rating and a 48 share of the 10:00 p . m. news audience, while KOA-TV had a 7 rating and a 16 share. 217 " You focus on just getting the statio n halfway competitive," Ogden says about his initial strategy. "You didn' t worry about being 216 Dusty Saunders, "Channel 9 lures Ron Zappolo," Rocky Mountain News, June 6 , 1990, 6 9 . 2 1 7 Nielsen Station Index, November 1981, 2 4 . 128

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omnipresent in news. "218 But it did not take long for Ogden to start worrying about how he would take Channel 4 to the top. Within five years, Channel 4 was challenging Channel 9 for leadership with an aggressive new programming philosophy. In 1983, General Electric sold KOA Radio and changed Channel 4 ' s call letters to KCNC-TV , which stood for "Colorado's News Channel." Channel 9 changed its call letters from KBTV to KUSA on April 16, 1984, in spite of a challenge from the USA Networ k , which charged copyright infringement. 219 At Channel 4 , Roger Ogden' s goal was to fill the station' s broadcast day only with the NBC network and local news programming. The station eventually built up to seven hours of news or other live local programming a day, about twice as much as either of the other two Denver network affiliates. At its peak in the early 1990s, you could watch newscasts o n Channel 4 at 5 :30a.m., 6:00a.m., 9 : 00 a.m., a local magazine show called "Colorado Today" at 10: 00 a.m., and more newscasts at noon, 4 : 00p.m., 5 : 00 218 Ogden interview. 219 Mark Thomas, "Court O Ks KUSA for Channel 9 , " Rocky Mountain News , March 31, 1984, 11. 129

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p .m., 6:30p. m . and 10:00 p.m. The strategy was designed to convince viewers in Colorado that if anything happened, you could find out about it by watching Channel 4 . This gave KCNC the distinction of airing as much or more live local programming as any other TV station in the country. Almost from the beginning Ogden and Channel 4 focused on weather forecasting and coverage as a key element of success. "It wasn't born of a lot of research," Ogden says. " You always apply a what-are-they-talking-about test... It was also ripe for development because there wa s a 'gadget a month' coming along. That was a low-hanging fruit. That was pretty simple from my perspective. "22 Channel 9 eventually responded t o Channel 4 ' s emphasis on weather until both stations were pouring significant amounts of money, attention and air-time into the subject. The type and amount of weather coverage has sparked great debate in Denver, both among those who make television and those who watch it. Denver Business magazine columnist James B . Meadow asked the question in 1987, "Is Denver' s TV 220 Ogden interview. 130

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weather business overblown?"221 Meadow thought so, saying, "Frankly, I'm pretty overdosed on meteorological data. Color radar, satellite photos, computerized technology --are we entering the realm of overkill, or what?"222 While many within the TV news business share Meadow's opinion, the numbers of viewers who tune to local news goes up substantially whenever there is bad weather, whether it is a snow storm, heavy rains or a tornado. On November 23, 1992, the Monday before Thanksgiving, a major snowstorm hit Colorado. The ratings for that day saw an enormous increase. Fo r instance, Channel 4 registered a 20 rating for its 4:00 p.m. hour-long newscast, while it averaged only a 12 rating for the entire month. At 5 : 00p. m., Channel 4 had a 24 rating compared to a 15 rating for the month, Channel 9 got a 16 rating compared to a 10 rating average and Channel 7 had a 15 rating compared to a 12 rating average. 223 O n days when the weather changes are 22 1 James B . Mea dow , "Weathering Heights: Is Denver TV' s weather business overblown ? " Denver Business, April 1987, 58 . 222 Ibid. 131

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significant but not as dramatic, ratings repeatedly show audience increases, demonstrating that people who would not otherwise watch a newscast turn one on w hen the weather is bad. Audience research also confirms that we ather is consistently the top reason people watch local TV news. With that information in mind, it would seem difficult to spend too much time on weather in a newscast. While he was working to establish Channel 4 as Colorado' s weather station, Roger Ogden went looking for personalities to combine with this new programming approach, and h e did not have to leave Denver. In 1982, Ch annel 4 hired three men from Channel 7 who helped increase the station' s popularity dramatically. One was a veteran new s anchor named Bob Palmer, who worked for Channel 4 i n the 1950s and 1960s before moving to Channel 7 . The other two were weathercasters Ed Greene and Larry Green, who made Channel 4 the station to watch for weather coverage. " I couldn ' t believe they were available," Ogden says of Palmer and Green. "That was a major mistake by the 223Nielsen Station Index, November 1992, 78. 132

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station and the owners (McGraw-Hill Broadcasting) . Channel 7 was slipping in spite of them, not because of them. "224 Channels 7 and 9 were both slipping, and Channel 4 was getting the benefit of the slide. In 1984, the Rocky Mountain News asked this question about Channel 9: " Ca n the No. 1 team keep its magic after 7 years? "225 By February 1986, Channel 4 was essentially tied with Channel 9 at 10 p . m . with a n 18 rating and a 32 share , 226 although Channel 9 continued to hold a lead in decimal points until November 1990, wh e n Channel 4 handed Channel 9 its first 10:00 p . m . ratings loss since November 1975 by three tenths of a rating point.227 The following chart illustrates February ratings during the 1980s.228 224 Roger Ogden, quoted by Dusty Saunders in, "London awaits, but Ogden leaving roots in Denver," Rocky Mountain New s , August 6 , 1995, 105A . 225 Joe Garner, "Can the No. 1 team keep its magic after 7 years?" Rocky Mountain News, March 11, 1984, 18M . 226 Nielsen Station Index, February 1986, 30-32. 227 Dusty Saunders, " Denver' s TV news war, " Rocky Mountain News, December 2 , 1990, 132. 228 Household ratings, February or FebruaryMarch ratings period, Denver Designated Market Area (DMA), 133

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Table 4 . 1 DENVER FEBRUARY LATE NEWS RATINGS, 1981-1990 8 1 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 The most striking characteristic of this chart is the enormous disparity between the ratings for Channel 9 and its two competitors in the early 1980s. By the middle o f the decade, however, Channel 4 was challenging Channel 9 ' s dominance. Between 1986 and 1990, the largest margin of victory for Channel 9 came in February 1988, when the station once again enjoyed the benefit o f Monday through Friday 10: 00 p . m. to 10:30 p.m. daypart summa ry, Nielsen Station Index, 1981 -1990. 134

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ABC' s coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta. Over the years, audience measurement was becoming more and more sophisticated. In the beginning, stations and advertisers paid attention only to the total number of households watching a particular program. Those figures are commonly referred to as "household" ratings. But eventually audience measurement evolved until the key word became demographics. The age and sex of the viewer became more important. You nger viewers, say from age 18 to 49 or 25 to 54, we r e considered more valuable because those who buy commercial time think younger viewers will spend more money on their products. Business people who buy commercials believed this because older viewers are likely "set in their ways" when it comes to what brand o f laundry detergent they use o r what make and model of car they drive, as well as the fact that they often live on fixed incomes that do not allow very much discretionary spending. 229 Therefore, the station with the youngest demographics can typically 229Mark Cornetta and Flynn Rivenbark, Channel 9 sales managers, Interview by the author, January 7, 1997. 135

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charge higher rates for its commercial time and make a greater profit. The amount of money stations charge for commercial time has increased dramatically over the years. In the early 1970s, Channel 9 charged an advertiser between $100 and $150 for a 30 second commercial during the 10:00 p . m . news.230 In 1996, the cost of the same 30 second commercial averaged about $2 ,000/31 o r up to 20 times as much as it wa s 25 years ago. Demographics do not end with age. Advertisers who market a product to women want to know what programs attract the highest female audience. Bob Brown, who went from being in sales and sales management at Channel 9 in the 1950s and 1960s before going on to be a station manager in Arkansas and Arizona, sums up what became the conventional wisdom that demographics are the key to success in television. "If you've got the right demographics and the right people, you 've got a winner. But if you don't have those things, you can be number one in the market and still be last. "232 23 Franzgrote interview, January 9 , 1997. 231 Cornetta interview. 136

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Although looking at a table of demographic information for the first time can seem extremely detailed, and even confusing, it is simple compared to an even more sophisticated type of audience measurement that is gaining some acceptance. A company called Scarborough Research uses a detailed questionnaire to measure the audiences of local television stations in the context of something called "VALS," which stands for " values and lifestyles." This answers the criticism of demographic measurement that it does not provide enough information about exactly who is watching. Channel 9 sales manager Mark Cornetta says, "Demographics just don' t cut it anymore. "233 For instance, if an advertiser wants to reach the people most likely to buy his o r her product, does the age and sex of the viewer provide enough information to find them? Scarborough's answer to that question i s no. The " V ALS" system asserts that consumers fall into eight categories or "typologies" : Fulfilleds, believers, achievers, strivers, experiencers, makers, actualizers 232 Brown interview. 2 33 Cornetta interview. 137

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and strugglers. Scarborough's research promises to tell stations and advertisers who the viewers o f a particular program really are by fitting them into one of these eight categories. "Believers," for instance, "are conservative and conventional with regard to traditions, families, community and country," while "experiencers" are people who "have an abundance of resources. They are full of life, enthusiastic, energetic, impulsive, young and rebellious ... They seek thrills, excitement, variety and new or unusual experiences."234 Scarborough believes that if companies use this information to dictate how to advertise their products, they can more effectively reach the people most likely to buy them. Although many stations, including Channel 9 , currently use "VIV_;S," Nielsen demographic research is still overwhelmingly the most common tool used to set the rates for commercial time. Nielsen account executive Laura Perry says Scarborough' s research falls into the "qualitative" category, me aning it provides some insight into the buying habits of consumers, but does not carry the same weight as "quantitative" research like Nielsen 234 Scarborough Research Corp. promotional video, 1996. 138

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demographics, which at least theoretically reflect what the entire audience is watching. 235 In spite of the sophistication of demographics, and "VALS," simple household ratings do have relevance, if only for their promotional value. A television station's public promotion of its strength in a market and newspaper headlines regarding whether a station "won" or "lost" a ratings period stem from household figures, not demographics. Also, because electronic meters can provide stations with household ratings by the next morning, they still influence to some degree the perceptions and decisions of television managers about programming decisions and strategies. Because of the intense competition and sophisticated measurement, all three Denver network affiliates, like most stations around the country, began working hard t o "drive" viewers to newscasts during the ratings months of February, May, November, and to a much lesser extent, July. The networks provide their newest, most popular programming during those months so the audience levels tend to be at their highest levels. 235 Perry interview. 139

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"Sweeps"236 or "the book" began dominating the thoughts o f station managers and their news departments. These ratings periods are so important because advertising agencies and companies that advertise use ratings information to determine how much to pay for commercial time. The higher ratings a local station has, the more profit it can make. Competition during rating periods has contributed to much of the criticism that television news is either too sensational or too shallow, and tries to reach the "lowest common denominator" by doing whatever it takes to get people to watch, even for one night. Ed Sardella believes that, at least in this instance, competition can actually be a bad thing. "We have gone even further toward the side of the pendulum toward competing for the sake of competing. And the attention to content and to what we're saying, what's important and so on has, in my opinion, gone to the extreme. Very competition oriented, not necessarily journalism-oriented o r content-oriented. "237 2 3 6 The word " sweeps" derives from the practice of "sweeping," o r measuring the audience several times a year. 140

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Roger Ogden, ev en though he led Channel 4 to ratings success, dislikes the rating period system, calling it a "screwy process that you go through where you force people to do unnatural things. "238 For many years, Ogden has argued that the A . C . Nielsen Company should measure television audiences year-round, but a change does not appear imm inent. So it has been the practice of stations for many years, which c ame into its o wn in the 1980s, to devote considerable time and energy to producing " promotable" stories that might get more people to watch. The topics have run the gamut, from investigative stories about prostitution and city workers who were not working, to interviews and profiles of local celebrities. In the 1980s, Channel 9 investigative reporters Paula Woodward and War d Lucas built reputations for delivering stories that would " get people talking." At the s ame time, Channel 4 was working hard to out-perform Channel 9 in this category. One such " sweeps project" in May 1990 demonstrated the dangers involved in 237 Sardella interview. 238 Ogden interview. 141

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the ratings game. Channel 4 reporter Wendy Bergen aired a story that month about pit bull fighting in the Denver metro area. As it turned out, she had represented some of the video in the story as being "home video'' sent in by an anonymous source, when it fact it was video taken by Channel 4 photographers at a pit bull fight staged only for the station's cameras. Since merely attending a pit bull fight is illegal, several station employees, including Bergen, were charged with crimes, and four months after the story aired, Bergen quit the station.239 The incident did some damage to Channel 4's reputation, but television viewers often have short memories, and a few years later the station would win the ratings in every single newscast, including 10:00 p.m. Newspaper journalists wrote extensively about the Bergen case. Many believed it to be an example of what is wrong with television, with its dependence o n visuals and the ever-present pressure to produce ratings. Newspapers and television have had a somewhat uneasy relationship. When television first started, newspapers 239 Joanne Ostrow, "Bergen quits Channel 4 amid pit bull investigation," The Denver Post, September 14, 1990 , lB. 142

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had a "double-edged pen; they could both report o n the medium and print advertisements for it. "240 Today, newspapers, television and radio all routinely advertise for each other. While most surveys show that the majority o f Americans get their news and information from television instead o f newspapers, there is no clear evidence suggesting that television has caused any newspapers to go out o f business. This is not to say that newspaper circulation relative to the population has not decreased,241 or that newspapers have not gone out of business. In 1982 alone, 28 newspapers stopped publishing. 242 But in spite of a belief on the part of many newspaper people that television news watching contributes to a decline in newspaper readership, this is not the case.243 Predictions that television would kill the radio business proved quite wrong as well. Each 2 40 de la Garza, "Television Invades," 73. 2 41Newspaper circulation compared to the population declined from 1 .32 newspapers per household in 1930 to . 84 per household in 1977. David A . Patten, Newspapers and New Media, (White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications, 1986), 1. 242 Ibid, 2 . 243 Ibid, 5 . 14 3

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medium found its ow n place in the communications spectrum. As author David A . Patten suggests, "Usually , an accomodation is reached between the old and the new, with each medium concentrating on what it does best relative to the other media in the overall communications environment. "244 Channel 4 was not the only Denver station to have a painful experience in the late 1980s. On October 19, 1988, Channel 9's helicopter, "Sky9," was covering a plane crash in western Douglas County when the aircraft got tangled in power lines during a snowstorm and crashed, killing pilot Leo Galanis and chief photographer Brian Hostetler. It was the fourth time in nine years that a Channel 9 helicopter had either crashed or made a hard landing, although it was the first time anyone died. Helicopters had become a common newsgathering tool in Denver since their introduction to the market in the late 1970s, both for providing aerial pictures of news events like fires and floods, as well as just getting to a news story faster than you could on the ground. Channel 9 was the first to use a helicopter for 244 Ibid, 6 . 144

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newsgathering, followed by Channel 7 and finally Channel 4 . In 1979 Channels 7 and 9 battled publicly about whose helicopter could fly faster. Channel 9 billed its helicopter as, "First In the Air-Firs t On the Scene," while Channel 7 proclaimed "Sky Cam 7 " as, "Colorado' s Fastest TV Helicopter. "2 4 5 The aircraft proved to b e dangerous mor e than once in the 1980s. On December 7 , 1982, Channel 4 pilot Karen Key and mechanic Larry Zane were killed when their helicopter crashed in a snowstorm near Larkspur. Another technology that found its way into the local television arsenal in the 1980s was the satellite truck. Microwave live trucks were always limited by geography. In other words, if something was in between the truck and the receiver, o r if you got so far away that the microwave signal simply could not reach the receiver, you could not do a live report. But satellite trucks were different. At least in theory, you could take a satellite truck anywhere and do a shot, because the operato r used a satellite dish on the truck to send a signal to a satellite orbiting the earth, 2 45 Clark Secrest, "War! 'Copters Battle in Denver Skies," The Denver Post Roundup, December 9 , 1979, 39. 145

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which then sent the same signal to a satellite dish at the station. Sending the signal from the truck is called an "uplink" while receiving it at the station is a "downlink." Again, the technology had existed for years, but making it mobile, practical and cost-effective for local stations took time. In May 1982, Channel 9 did its first satellite remotes and a few years later bought its own satellite truck, naming it "Skylink. " Reporter John Nickel , photographer Dan Wood and engineer Stan Armstrong traveled with Skylink after Channel 9 took delivery of it in Atlanta, and did a series of stories as the big truc k made its away across the country to Denver . Nickel and Wood did stories in places like De nver, Tennessee, and Denver, Arkansas, just to show how the satellite truck worked. A reporter for the Springfield, Missour i , Leader-Press described the truck as, "Resembling a recreational vehicle re-done by NASA . "246 Nickel told the same reporter, " W e had one lady who thought w e were from 246 Mike Penprase, "High t ech takes Denver to Denver in a wink," Springfield, Missouri, Leader-Press, May 31, 1985, lD. 146

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outer space ... We told her that's where we were going to put her, or at least her picture. "247 Channel 9 also established news bureaus in the 1980s; in Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Fort Collins, adding to a bureau that already existed in Glenwood Springs. Two of the new bureaus, in Colorado Springs and Boulder, would eventually close because of the cost, but the temporary expansion was a sign o f how fierce the competition wa s among Denver stations. Being the "community station" was also an important battleground in the newly competitive landscape. Channel 9 responded in the 1980s with projects like the 9Health Fair, which offered low cost health screenings to the public, and the 9Cares/Colorado Shares food and clothing drive. All in all, though, the 1980s were difficult times for Channel 9. The ratings were slipping; the Sky9 tragedy affected nearly everyone at the station; the Denver market was "cooling off" after years of unprecedented growth, which forced budgets to tighten. Part o f this was due to an economic downtown in Denver in 247 Ibid, John Nickel quote, 2D. 147

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the mid-1980s, which most people attribute to the oil bust of the time but which might have had as much to do with trouble in Denver's growing electronics and computer industries.248 If it was not the worst of times, it was at least true that Channel 9 had seen better days. To some extent, all the local stations in Denver and across the country were going through the same thing, because the broadcasting business was changing. What used to be a simple, limited service wa s now expanding far beyond its original scope. When John Hinckley tried I to kill President Reagan in March ABC decided to stay on all night with news about the president's condition, so Channel 9 broadcast for 24 hours, and never stopped. When the news about President Reagan subsided, Channel 9 would broadcast re-runs of "Lavern and Shirley" or "Happy Days" at 4 :00 a.m., but something was always on. Ever since then, the station has been a 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation, as are most major market stations in the country. From sign-on until the late 1970s, just a handful o f choices confronted viewers in Denver. They could watch 2 48 Leonard and Noel, Denver, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 424. 148

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2 , 4 , 6 , 7 or 9 , and that was about it. But the number of choices got gradually larger until it bordered on the "500 channel" universe. In addition to other stations signing on in Denver (public TV station KBDI , Channel 12, in 1980; independent station KDVR, Channel 31 , in 1983, which affiliated with the new Fox network in the late 1980s; and independent station KTVD, Channel 20, in 1988), the new competition can be summed up largely in one word: Cable. In 1956, a 32 year old Texas cattleman named Bob Magness sold his cattle and mortgaged his ranch to get into the cable TV business. " I figured out a guy could make a lot of money if he could get five bucks a month from a lot of people, "249 his friend Car l Williams remembered Magness saying. Originally, cable TV was supposed to provide television service to people in rural areas who otherwise would never get it. Using either microwave o r satellite technology, the cable company would take in many different programming sources and then re-distribute them 249 Stephen Keating, "Cable pioneer dies," The Denver Post, November 17, 1996, 14A. 149

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using cable lines to your house, for a monthly subscription fee. Rural customers were exactly who Magness was serving when he started his first system in Memphis, Texas, in 1956. In 1958, Magness brought television from Salt Lake City to Montana via microwave, then distributed it to viewers by cable. In 1965, Magness moved to Denver and brought two companies with him that would eventually become Telecommunications, Inc., o r TCI , the largest cable company in the world. In spite of the enormous success TCI would someday see, "it was in perpetual danger of failure. "250 As long as "free" television from broadcast stations existed and provided a diverse product, cable was a risky business. But in the 1980s, cable expanded in big cities like Denver as a means to provide viewers with an ever-growing number of programming sources. In 1975, if you wanted to watch national news, you had to watch a local network affiliate. But in 1985, CNN was there, 24 hours a day, every day o f the Sports networks like ESPN sprang up, so the dominance of networks and their affiliates 250 Ibid. 150

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when it came to providing sports o n television diminished. Movie channels like HBO allowed viewers, for an additional monthly fee, to see movies just a few months after they were gone from theaters, without commercials. services, which could be accessed only through the cable company, offered everything from movies to boxing matches, but consumers had to pay each time they used the service. Ironically, KBTV in 1957 considered starting a television for certain programs not available from the networks.251 In the end, however, Channel 9 and other broadcasters left this approach to others. For the 1979-80 television season, the networks had a 56. 5 rating/90 share of the television audience. In other words, 90% of people who watched television that year watched the networks. Less than ten years later, in the 1988-89 season, the figures had dropped to a 41 . 5 rating/ 67 share. 252 The figures have continued to fall since then, although not at such a drastic rate. In 25 1 Takes Step Toward Pay Rocky Mountain News , September 25, 1957, 43. 252 MacDonald, One Nation Under Television, 224. 151

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addition to other television choices, many people may be simply choosing not to watch anything. "Contemporary youth, so mobile and independent and affluent, may be finding TV irrelevant to their interests. "253 Meanwhile, other technology became available to the mass audience that changed the way people watch television. Video cassette recorders, commonly known as VCRs , gained widespread acceptance as a necessary appliance in the home. In 1982, only 4% of all U . S . homes had VCRs, which at that time cost an average of $900 each, but by 1988, with the average cost declining to about $400/54 60% did. 2 55 Now you did not have to be home to watch a television show that was scheduled for a certain time, just program the VCR to record it for you. And if you do not like to watch commercials, ther e is always the fast forward button. Plus, in addition to those cable movie channels, you could just run down to a local video store, choose the movie you wanted to see and pop it in. It was a new world in television, and it was more than a little 253 Ibid, 260. 25 4 Comstock, Television in America, 4 6 . 255 Mac Donald, One Nation Under Television, 219. 152

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frightening for those in the business who were used to the old one. Suddenly, the slices of the audience pie became smaller. Year by year, a little bit at a time, the networks and their local affiliates saw their ratings shrink as people chose to watch "MTV" or "The Disney Channel" instead of broadcast stations. "There's no doubt that it' s hurt, "256 says Channel 9 general manager Joe Franzgrote, who thinks broadcast stations should have fought cable by banning cable advertising on over the air stations. "I still think it was an enormous mistake to let the cable industry build itself on our bones." In 1992 Congress passed the Cable Act, which gave broadcast stations the right to demand payment from cable companies for airing their signals. It presented stations like Channel 9 with a dilemma. Here was a potential new revenue source, but if broadcasters refused to allow cable companies to air their signals without payment, this would naturally result in smaller audiences for the broadcasters, which in turn would affect the stations' major revenue source: Sales o f commercial air 256 Franzgrote interview. 153

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time. In the end, Channel 9 and most stations across the country signed agreements with the cable companies that did not include substantial payment from the cable companies to the broadcasters. 257 Since less viewership now belongs to broadcast stations, they and the networks do not control the industry to the same degree they used to. " You really can' t be the big dog anymore, "2 58 says Cindy Velasquez. "Back in the heyday, there was a sense that 'we were it' and the y had to have us." But then the playing field became m uch more crowde d , a n d stations like Channel 9 had to learn to be "service-minded and service-oriented." That was a difficult transition, since Channel 9 had been used to deciding what to give viewers without trying to find out what they wanted o r needed. " I don' t remember ever talking about, well wha t do viewers want," Velasquez says. "It' s very different now. They don' t have to have US. n259 2 57 Joe Estrella, "14 broadcasters sign agreement with TCI," Rocky Mountain News , June 18, 1993, 55A . 258 Velasquez interview. 259 Ibid. 154

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But if cable has hurt local stations, it failed to kill them and the networks, as many predicted. In fact, some boldly suggested that by the end of the 1980s, the networks would be gone, everyone in the country would have 100 channels to watch, and individual homes would program their own schedule to fit their needs or tastes. :60 One Denver cable manager made a chilling prediction in 1983: By the mid-1990s, cable systems would carry the national networks without needing to carry local affiliates, leaving stations like Channels 4, 7 and 9 to operate as independents. 261 Instead, the end of the 1980s saw only half o f the country's homes with cable, instead of the 90% predicted by those who envisioned a "wired nation." As author George Comstock points out, "Broadcast entertainment, sports, and news is what most people have come to expect from television, and for many, cable has not delivered anything that is thought to be better o r worth the added expense. "2 62 26 Comstock, Television in America, 38. 261 Steve Marsh, "Cable TV Puts Fear In Som e Hearts, " Up the Creek, February 18, 1983, 1 . 2 62 Comstock, Television in America, 43. 155

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From a business perspective, local stations have survived because, according to Cindy Velasquez, Broadcasting is still the best bargain for the buck. You can, with a 10:00 o 'clock news, reach 300,000 homes with a message, and it sells product. That's what has kept us alive: We move cars, we move refrigerators.2 63 That can be an uncomfortable notion for those who work in the news business, but it is true. The reason commercial television exists is to sell products. Some critics wonder if that will last forever. The foundation of modern broadcasting has been the faith of advertisers that the enormous sums they spend on commercials are necessary to reach large audiences to sell products and services. If this belief is ever shattered, and there are serious re-evaluations of advertising effectiveness, the result would put in jeopardy all commercial television. 2 64 As of today, however, that belief appears to be as strong as ever. Channel 9 general sales manager Mark Cornetta says, TV 263 Velasquez interview. 2 64 MacDonald, On e Nation Under Television, 260. 156

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works because it reaches a lot of people and it reaches them overnight. "265 As Channel 9 approached the last decade of the twentieth century, George Bush was in the middle of his only term as president, the United States was about to go to war in the Persian Gulf and Channel 9 , faced with an aggressive local competitor a n d a diminishing audience, was at a crossroads. 265 Cornetta interview. 157

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CHAPTER 5 THE SWITCH AND BEYOND THE 1990s "There is simply no question that television has answered the most desperate of human needs, the need for escape from boredom, escape from self." Author Martin Mayer:66 Television is a lot like Colorado' s weather: If you do not like it, just wait a little while and it will change. Whether that change is for the better or not is another question. The years from 1991-1996 have seen dramatic events for Channel 9 and Denver television viewers. Some of those events were devastating. O n February 12, 1992, a new Sky9 helicopter crashed into Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins, killing two passengers who wer e not Channel 9 employees and causing a serious brain injury to 266 Martin Mayer, About Television, (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1972), 389. 158

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pilot Peter Peelgrane. H e died a few years later. This was the fifth crash in the station's history and the second fatal incident involving Sky9 in just four years. The station decided to get another helicopter, but when it crashed on Pike's Peak in August 1994, causing minor injuries to those o n board, Channel 9 suspended its helicopter program indefinitely. As if to illustrate the volatile nature of the broadcasting business, just two months after the 1992 crash, Channel 9 celebrated one of the biggest changes in its history. It was obvious almost from the time the station moved into 1089 Bannock that it would be only a temporary home. As early as the 1950s, owners John Mullins and William Zeckendorf toyed with the idea of moving Channel 9 into a downtown hotel. In the early 1970s, when Colorado was courting the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, ABC considered building a broadcast facility for use during the games that would then become Channel 9 ' s new building. However, a number of forces combined to prompt Colorado voters to reject further funding o f the games in the November 1972, election. The 1976 Olympics went instead to Innsbruck, Austria. Although many people 159

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remember the opposition of then Colorado State Representative Richard Lamm, the defeat o f the games "depended upon a delicate balance of a number of highly volatile f orces," according to historian MarkS. Foster. At the top of the list were Olympic supporters, who "had only themselves to blame; their incessan t blunders were clearly the most critical factor influencing the defeat of the games--more important even than the highly effective campaign waged by their opponents. "2 67 In any case, there was no ABC Olympic broadcast facility in Colorado, and therefor e no new hom e for Channel 9 . But by the early 1980s, Gannett agreed to let Channel 9 design and build a brand new station, and in 1989 statio n management chose the location: A lot at Speer and Logan which was at the time the site of a National Guard armory. That building was demolished, a new TV station built, and o n April 2 4 , 1992, KUSA moved in. Both economic and technical factors drove the decision to move. " B asically it was decided tha t you 'll ? 67 -Mark S . Foster, "Colorado' s Defeat o f the 1976 Winter Olympics," Colorado Magazine (Spring 1976) : 164. 160

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spend millions o f dollars re-doing the building and you'll wind up with a re-done building," says Joe Franzgrote. "It still wouldn' t have had the capability of the building we wound up with. "2 68 Colleen Brown, who was vice president and station manager when Channel 9 chose its new location and began working on the plans, said, " Our present facility can aptly generate a signal, but we 've run out of space. "2 6 9 The building at 500 Speer is 114,000 square feet, nearly four times as large as the 30 thousand square feet car dealership Channel 9 moved into back in 1953. The new building had an enormous impact on Channel 9's employees. "It was a big deal from a prestige or a self-esteem point o f view because we were moving into the new facility and we we r e advancing ... to the top of the heap, " says Ed Sardella. 270 While some were sad to leave 1089 Bannock for 500 Speer, Joe Franzgrote was not one of them. "I was more 2 68 Franzgrote interview, November 17, 1996. 269 Colleen Brown, quoted by Thea Rock in, "KUSA targets February, ' 9 2 debut o f new headquarters," NATAS Monthly, January 1990, 5 . 270 Sardella interview. 161

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than happy to get out of the old facility and get into a new one," he says. building) clean. "271 "We couldn' t even keep (the old There was no question the new building was going to be different. The newsroom, instead of being in the basement, with no windows and desks seemingly piled on top of each other, was now a huge, open space with windows lining almost half the room. The ceiling was a little taller than the old one, too. " I used to joke that we couldn't hire anybody taller than five-ten or they' d bum p their head on the ceiling in the newsroom, "272 Franzgrote says. And unlike the building at 1089 Bannock, which wa s surrounded only by streets, parking lots or other buildings, there was actually green grass at the new location. Landscapers laid 60 thousand square feet o f sod.273 As the station' s general manager, Franzgrote oversaw the design of the new building. "I told them (the architects) that I want a building that will look as good 271 Franzgrote interview. 272 Ibid. 273 "KUSA move story, " KUSA-TV , April 21, 1992. 162

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20-30 years from now as it does today. "2 74 Those architects were from Rees Associates, Incorporated, in Oklahoma City, and they designed a building to blend in to the neighborhood. Rees corporate director of design William Howell said, "The building has been carefully thought out, not only addressing the function of television, but also its compatibility and role within the community. "2 7 5 Channel 9 did not overlook the move as a p romotional opportunity either, no doubt leading Denver viewers to believe that the station' s move was in the sam e category as the destruction of the Berlin Wall. This fact did not escape Denver' s television critics. "No other line of business gets this sort of treatment when it unplugs the phones in one building and hauls them and the file cabinets someplace else. "276 Public TV station KRMA-TV, Channel 6 , moved in to the building at 1089 Bannock when Channel 9 moved out after nearly 39 years. Current and '-7 4 Franzgrote interview. 275 William Howell, quoted by Thea Rock in, "KUSA targets February, '92 debut of new headquarters," NATAS Monthly, January 1990, 5 . ,-6 ' Joanne Ostrow, "Channel 9's move to new offices gets hot news treatment," The Denver Post, April 24, 1992, 1E . 163

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former Channel 9 employees left with many memories o f the old place, both good and bad. "If these walls could talk," anchor Ed Sardella joked o n moving day, " I would want to get a gag of some sort a s quickly as possible and jam it into the mouth of the wall, because I don't want these walls to talk. "277 As Channel 9 ' s roughly 200 employees settled into their new "home at work," the station faced the challenges of the 1990s . There were many. Continu ing a trend that began in the early 80s, Channel 4 ' s ratings kept rising, finally overtaking Channel 9 in every newscast for several ratings periods in 1994 and 1995. The following chart shows the 10: 00 p . m. February ratings for the past five years.278 277 Ed Sardella, "KUSA move story," KUSA-TV, April 24, 1992 . 278 Household ratings, February ratings period, Denver Designated Market Area (DMA), Mond a y through Friday 10: 00 p . m . to 1 0 :30 p . m . daypart s ummar y , Nielsen Station Index, 1991-1996. 164

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TABLE 5 . 1 DENVER FEBRUARY LATE NEWS RATINGS , 1991-1996 18 r1 6 14 --1 2 1 0 Ch. 7 C h . 9 8 lt-i I Ch.4 6 l-i f ,, 4 2 '---L9 1 92 93 94 9 5 96 With the exception of February 1994, when Channel 7 won its first 10:00 p . m. ratings victor y since 1975, (thanks in part to CBS coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in Lilleha mmer , Norway) the 1990s have bee n characterized by a generally close race between Channels 4 and 9 . Although it seemed for a time that C h annel 4 was g aining a lead and widening it, wheels were beginning 165

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to turn far away from Denver that would lead to the most dramatic change yet for the city' s network affiliates. It all started when Rupert Murdoch' s Fox network, struggling to break the dominance of the other networks, began aggressively seeking affiliates in major markets all over the country. Fox won a contract to broadcast NFC football games, which CBS had done for decades, in 1993. Then in 1994, Fox negotiated a deal with New World Communications to switch twelve New World stations to Fox. 279 The network that lost the largest number of affiliates wa s CBS, so in an attempt to keep other stations from defecting, CBS made a deal with Westinghouse to make all Westinghouse stations CBS affiliates. Later, Westinghouse bought CBS altogether. The domino affect of these changes found its way to the Philadelphia market, where CBS owned a station, and where Westinghouse owned the NBC affiliate. This meant that NBC was faced with the impossible prospect of not having an affiliate in Philadelphia, one of the largest markets in the country, while CBS would have two o f them. 279 Karla Winfrey, Swap KUSA-TV, October 21, 1994. 166

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So the two networks started talking about a deal. Here is what they eventually agreed to: CBS would give NBC its station in Philadelphia in exchange for NBC stations in Salt Lake City and Denver and a better channel position in Miami. A few corporate board meetings would change the television landscape in Denver forever. General Electric bought RCA, which owned NBC, in 1986, so the NBC station that made up a key part o f this television trade was KCNC-TV, Ch annel 4, in Denver . The prospect of a change in ownership is among the most unnerving of all the things that can happen to a television station. So when Denver newspapers began writing about this potential trade, most observers agreed that it was bad news for Channel 4 . But what was not clear at the time was just how much this would change the entire market. Initially, the speculation was that Channels 4 and 7 would simply swap affiliations. Since Channel 4 was to become a CBS-owned station, that would leave Channel 7 without a network, and it would naturally pick up NBC. People at Channel 9 assumed that the station would stick 167

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with its ABC affiliation and benefit from the confusion in the rest of the market. But on October 21, 1994, a Channel 4 engineer called his counterpart at Channel 9 to report that Channel 7 was to become the new ABC affiliate in Denver. That word of mouth proved to be true. Channel 7's owner, McGraw-Hill, had negotiated an agreement to make Channel 7 an ABC affiliate for ten years. Suddenly something that was part of Channel 9 for 42 years was gone. But worse than that, there was no immediate word on what would happen next. In other words, would Channel 9 now become the new NBC affiliate or not? All Channel 9 management said on the day Channel 7 announced its deal with ABC was that Channel 9, too, had signed an affiliation agreement, but could not talk about it at the time. What had happened, although only a handful of station employees knew it then, was that the agreement between McGraw-Hill and ABC had indeed caught Channel 9 owner Gannett off guard. However, within a matter of hours, Gannett had negotiated an agreement for Channel 9 to become the new NBC affiliate. Exactly one month later, on November 21, 1994, Gannett made that 168

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information public. So the new landscape was now complete: Channel 4 would go from NBC to CBS, Channel 7 would go from CBS to ABC, and Channel 9 would go from ABC to NBC. And all of this would happen at exactly the same time. The implications were significant for those who worked at all the stations as well as Denver's television viewers. The audience would have to get used to a new scramble of channel numbers and network affiliations. "60 Minutes" used to be on Channel 7 , now it would be on Channel 4. " Home Improvement" used to be on Ch annel 9 , now it would be on Channel 7. "ER " was on Channel 4 now, but soon it would be on Channel 9 . After a little bit of adjusting and checking the TV listings in the newspaper, though, viewers would get the hang o f it. Less certain would be the impact on the stations and how they operated. Channel 4 appeared most likely to be affected by what became known as "the switch" because i t was not only changing networ k affiliations, but it was changing owners. Gannett still owned Channel 9 and McGraw-Hill still owned Channel 7 , but Channel 4 would go from being 169

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an NBC owned and operated station to a CBS/Westinghouse " 0 and 0." When these changes were announced in November 1994, CBS had fallen on hard times. It had lost football to Fox a year earlier. The network's prime time entertainment shows regularly finished in third place behind ABC and NBC. And both CBS and Westinghouse had reputations for being extremely cost conscious. This left KCNC general manager Roger Ogden with a decision to make. After 14 years at Channel 4 , Ogden had built "Colorado' s News Channel" into an operation that was essentially the top rated station in Denver. But Ogden had also built strong ties with NBC. A t first, Ogden decided to stay with Channel 4 , even under CBS/Westinghouse ownership. But then a position as president and general manager of the NBC Super Channel in Europe opened up, and NBC president Bob Wright persuaded Ogden that he "ought to think about this London opportunity . "280 Ogden did think about it, and decided to go. 280 Bill Husted, "Tea Time with Roger Ogden," Rocky Mountain News, April 7 , 1996, 2D. 170

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"It was a difficult decision for me because I 've always resisted leaving Denver," Ogden said. "But the career opportunities and the cultural advantages of living there really appeal to me."281 The NBC Super Channel provides programming, largely through cable distribution, to countries t hroughout Europe i n English, Dutch and German. Ogden' s departure left Channel 4 without the man who brought it from nowhere to number one, but m any at the station still thought the legacy he left behind would s ustain Channel 4 , eve n withou t Ogden in charge or NBC as a network partner. "We're prepared to show that we don' t need NBC. With our local operation, we can stay No. 1 , regardless of the network affiliation."2 8 2 Ogden left for London on August 7 , 1995, more than a month before the switch, and after a 30 year career in Denver broadcasting. He made an impression. KCNC anchor Bob Palmer said, "I've never met anyone who was such a good television new s executive. He intuitively know s what 281 Roger Ogden, quoted by D usty Saunders in, "With Roger Ogden's departure, Denver's loss is London's gain," Rocky Mountain Ne ws , June 16, 1995, 44D . :sz Ibid, anonymous Channel 4 source. 171

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people want to see on TV, what a station has to do to ingratiate itself, to popularize itself with the public, to make itself part of the life o f a community. He's a smart cookie. "283 Ogden was not the only person who left Channel 4 when it became a CBS station. Weathercaster Ed Greene, who Roger Ogden hired from Channel 7 in 1982, decided to take an offer from Channel 9 worth a reported $300,000 a year. 284 Greene said one of his reasons for leaving Channel 4 was the cancellation of a 10:00 a.m. broadcast called "Colorado Today" that Greene co-hosted. Meanwhile, people at Channel 7, which by now had been the number three station in Denver for almost 20 years, were optimistic about the impending switch. It meant having the ABC network, which the previous season was much stronger than CBS, and that meant the prospect of more popular "lead-in" programming for the station' s 10: 00 p.m. news. "The hope at Channel 7 is that the 283 Bob Palmer, quoted by Joanne Ostrow in, "NBC makes Europe Roger Ogden's oyster as KCNC chief lands job at Super Channel," The Denver Post, June 16, 1995, 17A. :s4 Joanne Ostrow, "Ed Greene to move from KCNC-TV to KUSA Channel 9," The Denver Post, August 1, 1995, 4B. 172

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switch to ABC -and the addition of Nightline at 10:35 p . m . -will be the catalysts needed to draw audiences in this important time period. "285 Meanwhile, Channel 9 ' s staff had reason to be optimistic as well, since the switch meant getting popular Denver Bronco football games and NBC' s prime time schedule, the strongest o f the big three. Carrying the games also helped Channel 9 win a contract with the Broncos to broadcast pre-season games and become the team' s "official" home. Befor e that, the Broncos had a 15 year relationship with Channel 4 . 286 Sports o n television had been a p art of the medium almos t since the beginning, most of it provided by the networks. Bu t even back in the 1950s, Channel 9 produced local games, including a 1959 Denver Bears minor league baseball game. A critic for The Denver Post called the broadcast a "fairly fine first try. "287 All of the Denver stations have produced local sports programming of one 285 Dusty Saunders, "Big Switch should help KMGH, but hurt KCNC, " Rocky Mountain Ne ws, September 3 , 1995, 62 A . 286 Jim Armstrong, " B roncos changing stations," The Denver Post, January 3 , 1996, 6D. 28 7 " A Fairly Fine First Try," The Denver Post , May 1 , 1959, 48. 173

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type or another, but nothing compares with the popularity of the Broncos, so winning the contract was a significant development for Channel 9 . After much negotiating among the three networks, they finally established September 10, 1995, as the day Denver television would change channels. At 12:06 a.m. that day, it happened. There was a peculiar twist to the actual switch itself. At 12:06, Channel 9 ran an announcement saying it was joining a program, "NBC Ne ws Overnight," in progress. But at the same time, Channel 4 was just finishing the credits for NBC' s "Saturday Night Live." So for 18 seconds, both Channel 9 and Channel 4 were running NBC programming. 2 88 After that, though, the switch was complete. In the year since the switch, Channel 9 has emerged again as the clear leader in local news ratings. In February 1995, before the switch, Channel 4's 10 p.m. news Monday through Friday measured a 15 rating/28 share while Channel 9 had a 13 rating/24 A year 2 8 8 Phil Keating, "Switch story," KUSA-TV, September 10, 1995. 289 Nielsen Statio n Index, February 1995, 50. 174

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later, in February 1996, five months after the switch, the roles were reversed. Now Channel 9 had a 15 rating/28 share and Channel 4 had a 13 rating/23 Channel 9's improved ratings had an immediate effect on the station's financial performance as well. In 1995, a 30 second commercial on the 10:00 p . m . news sold for an average of $1,443. In 1996, the same time sold for about $2, 00 0 .291 Channel 7's ratings, meanwhile, stayed about the same. "Channel 7 didn' t capitalize on ABC programming, which many thought would give the station major audience strength. "292 The reasons for Channel 7 's fall from the top and its inability to rise again are difficult to identify and explain, although many have tried. Denver Magazine writer Joe Popper wrote in 1981 that, "The decline of KMGH is a long and complicated, almost Byzantine, tale o f screwups and lost opportunities. "293 Station Index, February 1996, 54 -56. Cornetta interview. January 9, 1997. Dusty Saunders, "Sweep dreams," Rocky Mountain News, December 3 , 1995, 72 A . :n Joe Popper, "Denver's TV News Teams: Selling Souls for a Thirty Shar e," Denver Magazine, November, 1981, 114. 175

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Unlike Channels 4 and 9, the station has failed to hire and establish news anchors with the image of being among the best in the community. While Channels 4 and 9 were involved in a brutal promotional war, (Channel 4 pounded viewers with its slogan of News while Channel 9 countered with News Channel 7's image during the past 20 years has been inconsistent, forgettable and therefore ineffective. Former Channel 9 newsman and later Denver Post TV critic Clark Secrest offers an explanation for all this: have never seen a station so consistently poorly managed. Popper lays much of the blame for the station's failures o n its owner, McGraw-Hill, which he says in many respects a fine employer, but it is notorious for slow and ponderous decisionmaking. This problem has a particularly pernicious effect on the company's broadcast division. In television, speed is Popper claims McGraw-Hil l executives made decisions in New York and to see that Denver was not the same as the Big Apple. 294 Secrest interview. 295 Popper, Denver Magazine, November, 1981, 118. 176

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In fairness to those who have managed Channel 7 during the past 20 years, as well as those who have worked there, achieving success in television, particularly television news, can be an elusive goal. Finding the reasons people watch what they watch often seems like an almost mystical pursuit of something that may or may not even be there. Audience research is a valuable t ool, but it can also lead television stations down the wrong road. People who make decisions in the television business are painfully aware that at least some degree of their success or failure is not even in their own hands. This fact was certainly clear to Channel 7 news director Arlin Stevens, who resigned after the November 1995, ratings period failed to show any improvement for the station. Rocky Mountain News broadcasting critic Dusty Saunders was quick to point out that the failure was not Stevens' fault, but could not come up with a precise explanation for what kept the station from being successful. "Maybe Channel 7 is destined to remain in third place,"237 Saunders wrote. In 2 9 6 Ibid, 117. '97 -Dusty Saunders, "Merry-go-round of news directors only part o f Channel 7's inertia," Rocky Mountain News , 177

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any case, a year after the big switch and 44 years after signing on, Channel 9 is number one again. Will it stay there? Stay tuned. In addition to the switch, the 1990s have seen more effects from technology. The number of choices for viewers is now far beyond those even offered by cable, thanks to new and improved satellite distribution. For about $500, you can buy a small satellite dish for your home that will provide you with hundreds of channels. The internet is now a household word, even if every household does not use it every night. There is the possibility of "video on demand" where we would all be able to choose programming, everything from documentaries to news to soap operas, by simply pointing and clicking, for a fee of course. But, no more trips to the video store or waiting until a certain day and time to watch a certain show. All this choice presents a new question for those who make television and those who watch it: Do we want it that way? Author George Comstock points out that predictions of obsolete networks and the extinction of December 6 , 1995, 16D. 178

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massive popular entertainment "failed to take into account the welcome place in American lives that television had achieved with its established pattern. In short, they represent the fallacy of the technological imperative that holds that what becomes feasible promptly will be put into place."2 H Where does that leave local stations like Channel 9? "Fifteen years ago, we were information providers. Today, we 're still information providers," says Cindy Velasquez, who became Channel 9 ' s station manager in 1992. "I think there will still be a need for useful information. "299 But even Channel 9 may change the way it distributes that information, along with every other local station in the country. The FCC is pushing for a conversion to digital technology, which would require all stations to buy new transmitting equipment. Digital technology would result in significantly better picture and sound, but it would also force television consumers to buy new and improved digital television sets. "I don' t see anyone 298 Comstock, Television in America, 38. 299 Velasquez interview. 179

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standing in line to go out and buy a $3,000 receiver right now," Velasquez says. "Most people don't even understand it, let alone want to do it." 300 But like it or not, it appears that the government will mandate digital conversion, which also means Channel 9 might be broadcasting on Channel 99 fifteen years from now, although technology might still allow viewers to tune in Channel 9 on their TV sets without ever knowing the difference. The FCC promises a conversion period so that no matter when digital broadcasting starts, w e will still be able to use our old TV sets while we get used to the new technology. No matter how you look at it, digital technology does represent, in the words of retired Channel 9 engineer Herb Schubarth, "A whole new bag of worms. "301 As we approach the 21st century, Bill Clinton i s beginning his second term as president, the country i s once again at peace as the U.S. struggles with the notion that it is now the world's only superpower, and Channel 9 prepares for the television world o f tomorrow that i s in 3 0 0 Ibid. 3 0 1 Schubarth interview. 180

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some ways the same old thing, and in others a completely different animal. 181

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CHAPTER 6 REFLECTIONS OF A TELEVISION CHILD "Television is intrinsic to the American experience. It accounts for a substantial proportion of the national expenditure of time; legitimizes and sometime celebrates political and social institutions; provides a common experience and transcendent popular culture; participates in socializing the young; is an endorsement, servant of and means to the consumer economy; and participates in the history of the times as well as being a means of observing the unfolding of that history. "302 Author George Comstock When I was little, growing u p o n a farm near Milan, Missouri, our family could get only one television station. It was an ABC affiliate, KTVO-TV in Kirksville. I actually used to cheer for ABC in the ratings because they were "our" network. Sometimes, if the weather wa s right, w e could pick up an NBC station from Kansas City 302 Comstock, Television in America, 128. 1 8 2

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and I would strain through the fuzzy picture to watch Johnny Carson do his monologue. But mostly, Channel 3 was television for us. I remember watching re-runs of "Gunsmoke" and "Dark Shadows" in the afternoon after school. I remember eating spaghetti every Monday while we watched "Monday Night Football," no matter who was playing. I watched local news without analyzing it like I do now, and remember thinking how "cool" it must be to be on TV. I was two months old when President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. One of the first big news stories I can remember watching was the attempted assassination of Alabama Governor George Wallace. "Fantasy Island," "The Rookies," "The Mod Squad," "The Love Boat," "SWAT," "The Brady Bunch," "Welcome Back Kotter." All of these shows contributed to my reality, although to what degree I am not sure. Even though I am quite certain I have wasted many hours, both as a child and an adult, in front of the "boob tube," as my father used to call it, I have also never blamed any of my failings on the medium. Watching a television show has never prompted me to think of killing anyone. 183

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From then until now seems like more than a lifetime. I not only work in television, but I am still a consumer of it as well, with choices that now far exceed those I had as a child. I subscribe to cable. I rent movies at Blockbuster. I am even thinking about buying one of those little satellite dishes if the they get a little less expensive. You might wonder how I could possibly write an objective report on the history o f Channel 9, when I have been part o f that history myself for the past five years, most recently as the managing editor of 9News. I do admit a bias in the station's favor. One of the reasons I moved to Denver was Channel 9's reputation as an excellent organization. Still, I have tried my best to detail the good and the bad during this station's lifetime, and there is plenty of both. After working in television news for ten years, I have often pondered the question: Is TV better or worse than it used to be? Is the news less serious and more sensational? Are the networks' prime time shows degenerating into an "anything to get them to watch'' kind of mentality? Are we all going to look like "Hard Copy"? 184

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It may be self-serving, or at least wishful thinking, but I have to believe that television can be, and often is, a good thing. The role it plays in offering the country a place to turn during crises like the Kennedy assassination, or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, is critical. Much more mundane things like today' s weather forecast or the score of a Broncos game are also important. As suggested earlier, television also offers us escape, but much more than that. It offers us travel, culture and experience that we would otherwise never enjoy. But as FCC Chairman Newton Minow suggested in 1961, it can also be a "vast wasteland." Which leads me to the conclusion that television is both better and worse than it used to be. There is more of it than ever before. More news, more weather, more movies, more sports. Today you can watch virtually whatever you want, whenever you want to it. So, in that landscape, there is bound to be more than an occasional garbage dump . However, that same landscape also has a school to teach us, an amusement park to thrill us, and a football stadium to make us cheer. 185

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So what role will local stations like Channel 9 play in tomorrow's television landscape? Should we be the hi-tech mall that has everything o r the specialty store that does one thing and does it well? Will we be around at all, o r will we perhaps get swallowed u p by that horrible monster called C HOICE. For me, the answer is once again a mixture. It is still a bit difficult to imagine any of the networks going out o f business as long as they conti nue to make money, and it is even harder to imagine the networks existing without a relationship with local stations. So going away does not seem likely . Being a mall is impossible. That is precisely what cable and the new dish networks are all about. But being completely specialized is not the answer either, because narrowing the focus too much would make us just like "The H ome Shopping Network" and who wants to be that? The answer is to find out what we do that no one else can do and mak e it as good as we can. Th a t means local news, local weather, local sports, and working diligently to put national and international events into a context that our audience will find useful to them. 186

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Will it b e too simple for some people? Yes. Will "serious" viewers scoff at our reporters standing next to the highway talking about how hard it is snowing? Probably. Will we do damage to the world as we know it? I doubt it. A s ABC newsman Peter Jennings suggests, the media do not have power, but we do have influence . 303 While I reserve the right to change my mind next week, for now at least I can live with what we do in the media generally and Channel 9 specifically. While both are far from perfect, the world is a better place with them than without them, especially if the world remembers a saying that keeps what w e do in perspective: " It's only television." 303 Mike Rhodes, "Audience needles journalists o n bias; 3 50 attend Channel 7 event moderated by ABC' s Jennings," Rocky Mountain News, November 11, 1996, 5A. 187

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SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Abramson, Albert. Zworkin, Pioneer o f Television. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1995. Arlen, Michael J . Viking Press, Living Room War . 1969. New York, the Auletta, Ken . Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their W a y . N ew York, Random House, 1991. Barnouw, Eric. Tube of Plenty: Th e Evolution of American Television. New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1975. Barwise, Patrick and Andrew Ehrenberg. Television and its Audience. Newbury Park, California, Sage Publications, 1988. Batra, N . D., ed. The Hour of Television: Critical Approaches. Metuchen, N . J., Th e Scarecrow Press, 1987. Beville, Hugh Malcom, Jr. Audience Ratings: Radio, Television and Cable. Hillsdale, N.J., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988. Comstock, George. Park, Calif., Television in America. Newbury Sage Publications, 1991. Leonard, Stephen J., and Thomas J. Noel. Denver, Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot, Colorado, University Press of Colorado, 1990. 188

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Macdonald, J . Fred. One Nation Under Television: The Rise and Decline of Network TV. Chicago, Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1990. Mayer, Martin. About Television. New York, Harper and Row, 1972. Mehling, Harold. Th e Great Time Killer. Cleveland, The World Publishing C o., 1962. O'Conner, John E., ed., American History/American Television: Interpreting the Video Past. New York, Frederick Unger Publishing, 1983. Papazian, Ed. Medium Rare: The Evolution, Workings and Impact o f Commercial Te levision. N ew York, Media Dynamics, 1989. Patten, David A . Newspapers and N ew Media. White Plains, NY, Knowledge Industry Publications, 1986. Udelson, .Joseph H. The Great Television Race: A History o f the American Television Industry 1925-1941. University, Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1982. Winship, Michael. Television. Ne w York, Random House, 1988. Winston, Brian. Misunderstanding Media. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1986. Newspapers "3 KOA engineers complete first city video test." Th e Denver Post. April 11 , 1948 . 3 . "Agreement reached on KLZ-TV sale." The Denver Post. March 9 , 1971. 21 . " Appointment questioned and praised." The Denver Post. June 16, 1995. 20A . 189

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Armstrong, Jim. "Broncos changing stations." The Denver Post. January 3 , 1996. 6D. "Auditorium Considered for Video." The Denver Post. October 12, 1951. 29. Brown, Mark. "Channel 4 chief's leadership put to test." Rocky Mountain News. June 4 , 1990. 11 . Burns, Robert A . "Mullins Broadcasting reveals agreement to sell holdings." Rocky Mountain News. April 6, 1971. 62 . "Carl Akers Resigns TV Post." The Denver Post. August 31, 1966. 2 . Cayton, Linda. "FCC holding ten licenses in limbo." Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal. July 27, 1977. 1. Chawkins, Steve. popularity." 6. "KBDI: Unorthodox approach brings Rocky Mountain News. June 22 , 1980. "City to See C.U. Game On Video." The Denver P ost. November 8 , 1951. 1 . "Crowd 'at' Bowl Game Proves Denver Likes TV." Rocky Mountain News. January 2, 1952. 22 . "Denver TV Opens Bid F o r Outlet." The Denver Post. October 9 , 1952. 4 3. Es.trella, Joe. "14 broadcasters sign agreement with TCI." Rocky Mountain News . June 1 8 , 1993. 5 5A. Estrella, Joe. with TCI." 52A. "Channels 7, 9 make transmission deal Rocky Mountain News. October 1, 1993. "Executive Profile, Charles T. Leasure." Rocky Mountain Business Journal. July 1, 1 9 81. Sec.1, p.4. "A Fairly Fine First Try." The Denver Post. May 1 , 1959. 48 . 190

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Freed, David. "Graduates of an innocent age. " Rocky Mountain News . July 11 , 1982. 30. Garner, Joe. "Can the No. 1 team keep its magic after 7 years?" Rocky Mountain News . March 11 , 1984. 18M. Gaskie, Jack. "Denver ETV Makes Quiet Debut." Rocky Mountain News. January 31, 1956. 6 . Gavin, Tom. "Denverites Spend $9 Million on TV Sets." Rocky Mountain News . September 4, 1953. 5. Goldberg, Hillel. "Looking Back o n a Legend; The Max Goldberg Era." Intermountain Jewish New s Literary Supplement. June 26, 1992. H addad-Ryan, Barbara. "After 30 Years on the Air, Ed Scott Wouldn' t Dare Stop Moving Up Ladder." The Denver Post Roundup. November 9 , 1975. 27 . Haddad-Ryan, Barbara. "Ch annel 7 New s Chief Feels Pride in Station Spurs Viewer Rating." The Denver Post Roundu p . August 27 , 1972. 23. Haddad-Ryan, Barbara. "Innovative Features to Make News on 4 ' s Renamed Reports." The Denver Post Roundup. February 1, 1976. 2 9 . Haddad-Ryan, Barbara. "KOA 'Largest' News Team Scoring Points With Boss. " The Denver Post Roundup. September 1 0 , 1972. 23 . Haddad-Ryan, Barbara. "Station Manager Leasure to 'Put More Into Mix' at KBTV." The Denver Post Roundup. August 19, 1973. 21 . Haddad-Ryan, Barbara. "Survey Shows Dip in E mployment at Four Denver TV Station s . " The Denver Post. February 12, 1976. 66. Husted, Bill. "Tea Time with Roger Ogden." Rocky Mountain News, April 7 , 1996. 2 D. 191

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Jones, Bill. "High Winds Hurl TV Tower from Mountain." Rocky Mountain News . March 11 , 1955. 11. "KBTV Takes Step Toward Pay Television." Mountain News . September 25, 1957. Rocky 43 . Keating, Stephen. Denver Post. "Business goes on at TCI." The November 19, 1996. 1C. Keating, Stephen. "Cable pioneer dies." The Denver Po s t . November 17, 1996. 1A . "KFEL Set to Double Coverage in September." The Denver Post. August 17 , 1952. 22 A . "KFEL Set for Video 'Scoop.'" The Denver Post. July 14, 1952. 1 . "KLZ among units in media sale talks." The Denver Po s t . October 16, 1970. 3 6 . " K L Z -TV Renamed: It' s Now KMGH-TV." The Denver Post. June 2 , 1972. 90 . "KOA 30 years old this month." The Denver Post Roundup. December 5 , 1954. 30 . "KOA-TV, 4th Denver station, goes on air. " The Denver Post. December 25, 1953 . 27 . Lindberg, Gene. "Denverites see First Color TV Program." The Denver Post. January 1 , 1954. 13. Lindberg, Gene. Denver TV. " 34 . "Truman Treaty Talk Seen by 8 On The Denver Post. September 5 , 1951 . Lindberg, Gen e . "'Write Your Congressman' Denverites Want TV-Now." The Denver Post. January 28 , 1952. 23 . "Local Group Buys KOA stock." Rocky Mountain News . September 10, 1964. 1 4 . 192

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Lopez, Greg. "Carl Akers would say, 'That's 30.'" Rocky Mountain News. January 8 , 1993. 7 . Lowe , Warren. "150,000 TV Sets Reported For Colorado." Rocky Mountain News. May 17 , 1953. 55. Lusky, Sam . Warns." 15. "Denver Can Find TV Nuisance, Visitor Rocky Mountain News . March 22 , 1951. Marsh, Steve. "Cable TV Puts Fear I n Some Hearts." Up the Creek. February 18, 1983. 1 . "Mayor, 6 Others New Television Firm." Rocky Mountain N ews . January 9 , 1949. 5 . Mehle, Michael, Tustin Amole and Mark Brown. "Search for bodies resumes this morning." Rocky Mountain News. February 1 3 , 1992. 6 . "Nine Applicants Vie For TV Stations Here." The Denver Post. March 18, 1951. 20A. Never, Barnet . Channels." "Bid Ed Charges Denver Slighted in TV The Denver Post. May 7 , 1951. 2 . Ostrow, Joanne. "Bergen quits Channel 4 amid pit bull investigation." The Denver Post. September 14 , 1990. lB. Ostrow, J oanne. " Channel 4 leaves its news competitors in ratings dust." The Denver Post. March 7 , 1995. lE. Ostrow, Joanne. " Channel 9 ' s move to new offices gets hot news treatment." The Denver Post. April 24 , 1992. lE. Ostrow, Joanne. "Channel 9 shows biggest muscle after affiliation swap." The Denver Post. October 19, 1995. lE. Ostrow, Joanne. " Channel 9 v s . Channel 4 : youth v s . seniors." The Denver Post. A pril 4 , 1991. l F . 193

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Ostrow, Joanne. "Denver TV's Stormy Rottman is dead at age 74." The Denver Post. January 16, 1993. 2B. Ostrow, Joanne. " Ed Greene to move from KCNC-TV to KUSA Channel 9." The Denver Post. August 1, 1995. 4B. Ostrow, Joanne. "Let's take the stress out of sweeps, KCNC's Ogden says." The Denver Post. May 25, 1995. 1E . Ostrow, Joanne. " NBC makes Europe Roger Ogden' s oyster, KCNC chief lands job at Super Channel." The Denver Post. June 16, 1995. 17A . Partner, Dan. "Survey Shows TV Sales Gaining In Denver After Short Slump." The Denver Post. August 17, 1952. 22A . Partner, Dan . "TV Equipment Rushed by Air." The Denver Post. July 16, 1952. 1 . Patty, Mike. "Former Denver TV exec dies." Rocky Mountain News . August 24 , 1988. 12. Pendleton, Ed. "Radio-TV Logos: Powerful Weapons for Ratings Strategy in Denver' s Hot, Ferocious Campaign." Denver Business World. December 28 , 1981. 20 . Penprase, Mike. "High tech takes Denver to Denver in a wink." Springfield, Missouri, Leader/Press. May 31 , 1985. 1D. "Poll Reveals 21,735 Video Sets in City." The Denver Post. October 9 , 1952. 43. Rhodes, Mike. "Audience needles journalists on bias; 350 attend Channel 7 event moderated by ABC's Jennings." Rocky Mountain News . November 11, 1996. SA. Roman o , Michael. "'Cable cowboy' Magness made TCI giant." Rocky Mountain News. November 17 , 1996. 4A. 194

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"Sale of KLZ to Time Inc., for $3. 5 M completed." The Denver Post. July 15, 1954. 20. Saunders, Dusty. hurt KCNC." 1995. 62A . "Big Switch should help KMGH, but Rocky Mountain News . September 3 , Saunders, Dusty. "If Channel 4 president is right, look for the 'Big Switch' Aug . 26." Rocky Mountain News . June 7 , 1995. 17D. Saunders, Dusty . "Channel 9 lures Ron Zappolo." Rocky Mountain News . June 6 , 1990. 69 . Saunders, Dusty. "Denver's TV news war." Rocky Mountain News . December 12, 1990. 123. Saunders, Dusty. "A few news-bites and insights from a memorable Memorial Day." Rocky Mountain News . May 30 , 1995. 9D. Saunders, Dusty. "KCNC's Ogden signs off." Rocky Mountain News. June 16, 1995. 65A. Saunders, Dusty. "London awaits, but Ogden leaving roots in Denver." Rocky Mountain News . August 6 , 1995. 105A. Saunders, Dusty. "Merry-go-round of news directors only part of Channel 7 ' s intertia." Rocky Mountain News . December 6 , 1995. 16D . Saunders, Dusty. "As NBC lays more news ground, KCNC president leads the way." Rocky Mountain News . August 25, 1994. 24D . Saunders, Dusty. "Peacock preens over string of NBC successes." Rocky Mountain News . January 21 , 1996. 7D. Saunders, Dusty. "Sweep Dreams." Rocky Mountain News. December 3 , 1995. 72 A. 195

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Saunders, Dusty. "TV won ' t be the s ame without 'the twang' and 'the twinkle.'" Rocky Mountain News . January 8 , 1993. 101 . Saunders, Dusty. "'Ultra-slick ' just wasn' t Carl Akers' style." Rocky Mountain News . December 21 , 1986. 2 3 . Saunders, Dusty. "With Roger Ogden' s departure Denver' s loss is London' s gain." Rocky Mountain News . June 16, 1995. 44D . Saunders, Walter. "Akers to give up news anchorman slot." Rocky Mountain News . August 7, 1974. 40 . Saunders, Walter. "Carl Akers Leaving KLZ After 18 Years." Rocky Mountain News . August 31, 1966. 7 . Saunders, Walter. " Channel 2 gets New Look: Fo rmat, Studios changed." Rocky Mountain News . March 7 , 1966. 9 A . Saunders, Walter. "Channel 9 eyes newscast to battle Channel 4 lineup." Rocky Mountain News . December 7 , 1984 . 36. Saunders, Walter. "Owners of KBTV Buy Webb and Knapp' s Share." Rocky Mountain News . August 9 , 1961. 5 . Saunders, Walter. "T V beginning at Ch annel 2 remembered after 25 years." Rocky Mountain News . July 18 , 1977. 46 . Saunders, Walter. "T V news war is Denver tradition." Rocky Mountain N ews. Oct ober 20 , 1985. 14E . Saunders, Walter. "TV nostalgia abounds." Rocky Mountain News . July 11, 1982 . 68 . Secrest, Clark. Business." 17, 1977. "There's No Business Like News Th e Denver Post Roundup. July 31. 196

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Secrest, Clark. " War! 'Copters Battle in Denver Skies!" The Denver Post Roundu p . Decembe r 9 , 1979. 39. Seldner, Joseph. " Area TV viewers subjected to 'dueling' helicopters." Rocky Mountain News. November 30, 1981. 7 . " Thomas C . Ekrem of KVOD Dies." The Denver Post. May 24 , 1955. Thomas, Mark. "Court OKs KUSA for Cha nnel 9." Rocky Mountain News . M arch 31 , 1984. 11 . "Time sells Denver's KLZ, other broadcast property." Rocky Mountain News . October 3 1 , 1970. 36. Trainor, Lee. "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days." Rocky Mountain News . July 22 , 1952. 5 . " T V or not TV." Westward. January 18 , 1984. 14 . " T V Tries to 'Rescue' Ratings." Up the Creek. December 3 , 1982. 6 . Tweedell, Bob. "Akers Elevated at Channel 9." The Denver Post. January 13, 1969. 43 . "Video Here to Stay But It Won't Be Free. " The Denver Post. October 12, 1951. 1 . Wennergren, Earl. "FCC Awards Channel 6 to school board." Rocky Mountain News. Jul y 2 , 1953. 5 . Wennergren, Earl. "Latest Television Tally Places 40 ,000 Sets in Denver Area Homes." Rocky Mountain News . November 11, 1952. 45 . Zuckerman, Leo . "Television Makes Its Denver Debut." Rocky Mountain N e ws . M a y 23 , 1949. 1. 197

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Magazines Bilby, Wynne . "Local TV Wars Hit High Tech Gear." Denver Magazine. February 1987. 60 . "Denver's top newscaster." TV Review. September 2-8, 1961. 6 . Geller, Mitch. "Insta-Cam." Denver Magazine. January 1977. 48 . Meadow, James B . "Weathering Heights; Is Denver's TV weather business overblown?" Denver Business. April , 1 9 8 7 . 58 . 1'lurray, M . Thomas. "Young, Pretty and Weather-wise." TV Review. September 9 -15, 1961. 6 . Popper, Joe. "Denver's TV News Teams: Selling Souls for a T hirty Share." Denver Magazine. November 1981. 41 . rapid rise of a media giant." Business Week. April 4 , 1977. 30 . Rock, Thea. "KUSA targets February, headquarters." NATAS Monthly. ' 92 debut of new January 1990. 5 . "Salute to KBTV." TV and Radio Weekly. July 11 -17, 1953. Seidner, Joseph . "The Slickness Syndrome." Rocky Mountain Magazine. September/October 1981. C2. Newsletters Tucker, Mike. "Remember When." Behind Bench 9 . March 4 , 1988; March 18, 1988; April 1 , 1988; April 15, 1988; April 29, 1988; May 27 , 1988; June 13, 1988; June 24 , 1988; November 11 , 1988; November 23, 1988; December 22 , 1988; April 28, 1989; May 12 , 1989; May 26, 1989; October 13, 1989; December 8 , 1989. 198

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Theses and Scholarly Articles de la Garza, Cherie. "Television Invades 1952/53 Denver: Origins of the Video Revolution." M . A . thesis, University of Colorado at Denver, 1995. de la Garza, Cherie. "Television Comes to Denver." University of Colorado at Denver Historica l Studies Journal (Spring 1994) : 1 -31. Foster, Mark S . Olympics. " 163-186. "Colorado' s Defeat of the 1976 Winter Colorado M a g azine (Spring 1976): Television " Carl Akers 25th An niversar y." KBT V . 1973. "Denver TV, Then and Now." KBTV. 1981. K e ating, Phi l . 1995. "Switch Story." KUS A-TV. September 10, "KUSA move stories." KUSA-TV. April 21 and 24 , 1992 . Mitchell, Ron. "Channel 9 40th Anniversary series." KUSA-TV. April 20-26, 1992. " This is Carl Akers." KUSA-TV . 1987. " When TV Was Young." CBSTV. April 28, 1977. Winfrey, Karla. 1994. "TV swap story." KUSATV. October 21 , Videotapes Scarborough Research Corp. promotional video. 1996. 199

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Interviews Arthur, Fred. 1996. 1950s Channel 9 announcer. November 17 , Barron, George. 1950s Channel 9 engineer. November 9 , 1996. Bliesner, Carl . 1950s-70s Channel 9 transmitter engineer. November 9 , 1996. Brown, Bob. 1950s60 s Channel 9 salesman, manager. Novembe r 10, 1996. Butts, Jim. 1950s60s Channel 9 engineer, program director. November 9 , 1996. Cornetta, Mark . Channel 9 general sales manager, January 7 and 9 , 1997. Franzgrote, Joe. Channel 9 general manager. November 17 , 1996, and January 9 , 1997. Goldberg, Miriam. Wife of late Channel 9 founder Max Goldberg. November 17 , 1996. Mitchell, Ron. Channel 9 reporter. August 7 , 1996. Ogden, Roger. Channel 9 news director, Channel 4 general manager, NBC Super Channel president, Novembe r 18, 1996. Perry , Laura. A.C. Nielsen Co. account executive. January 8 and 9 , 1997. Rayburn , John. 1970s Channel 9 news anchor. November 11 , 1996. Rivenbark, Flynn. Channel 9 local sales manager. January 7 , 1997. Sardella, Ed. Channel 9 news anchor. November 16, 1996. 200

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Schubarth, Herb. retired Channel 9/Gannett engineer/manager. November 9, 1996. Secrest, Clar k . 1960s Channel 9 newswriter/reporter/photographer, The Denver Post writer. November 9 , 1996. Tucker, Mike. Channel 9 engineer. November 24, 1996. Velasquez, Cindy. Ch annel 9 vice president of broadcast/station manager. November 20, 1996. Walker, Cecil. President and CEO o f Gannett Broadcasting. December 6 , 1996. Research Reports Frank N . Magid Associates. The Role of Television in the Denver Metropolitan Area: Study in Depth, approximately 1960. Nielsen Station Index. A . C . Nielsen Co. 1971-1996. Nielsen Station Index Reference Supplement . A . C . Nielsen Co. 1995-1996. Advertisements "Flanagan," Eastman Kodak Company advertisement, 1978 . "Take Action," TV set advertisement, The Denver Post, October 6 , 1952. Memos Gannett Company Profile memo , October 7, 1996. 201