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KXAS-TV celebrates 65th anniversary

Posted 12:42pm on Friday, Sep. 27, 2013

It won’t be long before KXAS/Channel 5 moves from its home on Fort Worth’s Broadcast Hill just east of downtown to new facilities at CentrePort, which is technically in Fort Worth but is closer to Dallas than KXAS’ current location.

And it has been on Broadcast Hill a long time. Channel 5 briefly went on the air Sept. 27, 1948 -- 65 years ago -- to cover President Truman’s visit to Fort Worth. Two days later, it officially signed on as WBAP, the first TV station in Texas. It moved into the Broadcast Hill station on Barnett Street in 1949.

The station, founded by Amon Carter (also the founding publisher of the Star-Telegram), became KXAS in 1974 when LIN Broadcasting bought control of it from the Carter family and had to change call letters because it was now separated from Carter’s WBAP radio.

The station has been commemorating the anniversary this week with “NBC 5 Factoids” segments (the station didn’t begin calling itself “NBC 5” till 1998, when NBC bought a controlling interest in the longtime network affiliate).

If you’ve missed these segments, don’t worry -- the station has bigger plans for Friday and Saturday.

During the 4 p.m. newscast on Friday, chief meteorologist David Finfrock will ditch the graphics and the green screens at 4:40 p.m. and do the forecast with paper maps, the way he was taught by Harold Taft, the station’s vaunted weatherman who joined the station in October 1949 (when he was the first TV meteorologist west of the Mississippi) and stayed there till he died of stomach cancer in 1991 -- coincidentally, on Sept. 27. Finfrock -- the last of a Taft-picked crew that also included Scott Chesner and Rebecca Miller -- has been with the station since 1975, although he didn’t go on-air till January 1976.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Finfrock will host the half-hour special NBC 5 Turns 65, which will feature a Finfrock-produced segment about Taft’s pioneering work in TV weathercasting; longtime entertainment reporter showing viewers what it was like to be in the brand-new building in 1948; and comments from such WBAP/KXAS vets as Bob Schieffer, Boyd Matson and Karen Hughes.

According to a 2008 Star-Telegram story about the station’s 60th anniversary (which is where some of the above info comes from, culled from Star-Telegram archives, NBC 5’s website at the time and Mike Shannon’s History of Dallas-Fort Worth Radio and Television), other national personalities who worked for the station include Charlie Rose, who began the minimalist Charlie Rose Show as a local program in 1979. The station boasts that a 1997 live Texas Rangers-Chicago White Sox game was the first high-definition broadcast in Texas.

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