WKBF-TV

WKBF-TV

:"This article is about the former television station in Cleveland, Ohio.:"For the current channel 61 in Cleveland, see WQHS-TV."

Infobox_Broadcast
call_letters = WKBF-TV
station_
station_slogan =
station_branding = WKBF Channel 61
analog = 61 (UHF)
digital =
affiliations = defunct "(off the air in 1975)"
founded = January 19, 1968
location = Cleveland, Ohio
callsign_meaning = W Kaiser Broadcasting "F"
former_callsigns =
owner = Kaiser Broadcasting (1968-1975)
Field Communications (co-owner with Kaiser, 1973-1975)| former_affiliations = Independent (1968-75)
homepage =

WKBF-TV channel 61 was an Independent television station serving the Cleveland, Ohio market owned by a joint venture between Kaiser Broadcasting and Field Communications (the latter owned a minority stake in the station from 1972 to 1975). WKBF is perhaps the least remembered for its position in television history, although many nationally recognized broadcast professionals began their career at the station. It was the first commercial UHF station in northeast Ohio. It was located on St. Clair Avenue in Euclid, Ohio. Its microwave Studio-Transmitter Link (STL) was assigned the microwave license of KZM-32.

History

1968-1975

Channel 61 began operation on January 19, 1968 as WKBF-TV. It was the first commercial UHF station in Cuyahoga County. Its studios were located on St. Clair Avenue in Euclid. It was part of the Kaiser Broadcasting chain of stations that included WKBD-TV in Detroit, WKBS-TV (frequency now occupied by WGTW-TV) in Philadelphia, WKBG-TV (now WLVI-TV) in Boston, WFLD-TV in Chicago, KBHK-TV (now KBCW-TV) in San Francisco, and KBSC-TV (now KVEA) in Los Angeles. When WKBF came to the air, its first day of broadcast was delayed due to one of the worst local snow storms that winter. The first video transmitted was a simple sentence on a hand lettered message board "We made it Cleveland", with a 1,000 hertz tone (normally used for system calibration). WKBF offered Japanese cartoons dubbed into English including "Kimba the White Lion" and "8 Man.

. (John Herrington died in 2007.)

WKBF also ran a children's show named "Captain Cleveland", where the viewer never actually saw the captain, only John (John Slowey, a local ventriloquist) and his puppet buddy Clem who performed on the station from 1969 to 1974. Additionally, the station aired traditional cartoons, anime ("8th Man"), syndicated shows (such as "McHale's Navy"), old movies, and public affairs programming. It also brought special interest sports programming into the market such as Canadian football, Cincinnati Royals NBA Basketball and harness racing. By 1973, Kaiser had sold a 22.5% share of WKBF to Field Communications, but continued with a majority share of the station.

Other programming on WKBF included the late-night weekend horror movies hosted by Ron Sweed, who's on-air character was named "The Ghoul." The Ghoul character was essentially a beatnik vampire, outfitted in a fright wig, goatee, lab coat, and sunglasses with one lens missing. It was patterned after (and with the permission to do so) of the Ghoulardi character created by Ernie Anderson, later to become the voice of the ABC network in the 1970's. While Anderson had no interest in doing so, he granted Sweed permission to don the costume. Because WJW owned the rights to the name "Ghoulardi," the younger performer adopted the name "The Ghoul." Although WKBF has long since passed into broadcasting history, Sweed continues to makes personal appearances in this guise today.

WKBF was also the first northern Ohio station to support the now famous Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. The local inserts were hosted by Linn Sheldon (of "Barnaby" fame) a career broadcaster whose work in the Cleveland market set national standards in children programming at Cleveland's channel 3 (WKYC/KYW).

Despite the quality of the local programming, the syndication of the original "Star Trek" was the most profitable program in terms of advertising revenue. With the popularity of "Trek", WKBF began a trend that other stations (including others in the Kaiser/Field chain) would come to copy. WKBF had decided to rebroadcast the 80-episode series in the exact order of play that NBC had done when it was a network show. They also ran it in its original length, without editing. At the time, stations were allowed (by the Television Code of the National Association of Broadcasters, not the Federal Communications Commission) the ability to run 20 percent more commercials than network programming.

WKBF was one of two commercial independent stations in the Cleveland market back in the early 1970s, along with WUAB. A third UHF station also existed, but was the non-profit PBS (then NET) station WVIZ. In April, 1975, United Artists (WUAB's owner) sold a partial stake in WUAB to Kaiser/Field. As the F.C.C. rules at the time did not allow for ownership of more than one station in any market by the same owner or group owner, Kaiser/Field opted to shut down WKBF and augment WUAB's programming assets with the better part of Kaiser's Cleveland assets (mostly programming), after the station went dark. At no time did WUAB operate under (full or partial) Kaiser ownership. Kaiser, partnered (as a minority shareholder) with United Artists operations in the spring of 1975.

During WKBF's final moments on the air, the station manager thanked the community for its support, and attributed the decision to fold the WKBF operation to "static market growth" and "the creation of a second (commercial UHF) station in less than a year". The channel 61 license was fully returned to the FCC, which closed the opportunity to transfer the license to another owner. It is here that the history of channel 61 breaks, with WKBF's history considered separate from that of WCLQ/WQHS-TV.

1975 to 1980: The dark years

Rumors abounded concerning potential companies that could file for the Channel 61 license in Cleveland, yet none came forward right away.In 1980, Balaban Communications purchased a new, separate license for Channel 61. They signed the station on later that year under the call letters WCLQ-TV (the station would later change the call letters to WQHS-TV). The station is now an affiliate of the Spanish language Univision network.



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