Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 25


After World War II, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began granting television licenses and commercial TV began broadcasting in 1946 and 1947. The first television station in Cleveland was WEWS Channel 5, on December 17, 1947. WEWS was also the first television station in Ohio. The second television station in Cleveland was WNBK in 1948 and the third commercial television station was WXEL, which began broadcasting in 1949. Until January of 1949, TV programs in New York or any other East Coast city could not be seen live west of the Allegheny Mountains because television required coaxial cable. This cable was finally completed over the mountains in January, 1949 and the first program originated in Cleveland. The first live news program on this network was the inauguration of President Harry Truman on January 20, 1949.

During the early years of television, there were limited broadcasts. During the morning hours, station broadcasts consisted of little more than their test patterns, followed by programs for children. By the early afternoon, programs were broadcast for women in the home, and then for school-aged children in the later afternoon time slots. Television stations would then sign-off at 6:00 pm. and resume broadcasting at 8:00 pm. with old movies, and Kinescope films of network programs. At 11:00 an announcer would read the news that came off of a UP or AP teletype circuit.

During the early years, a few performers carried most of the programs. Many of these performers had previous experience on the radio. There was Gene Carroll on Channel 5 who did children's programs as Uncle Jake and hosted a local amateur hour. Linn Sheldon donned an elf-like costume and became Barnaby. There was also Captain Penny, played by Ron Penfound, who performed on several children's shows. These early children's shows relied heavily on cartoons or old Hollywood movie series such as "Our Gang" comedies and The Three Stooges.

On a Saturday afternoon in May of 1949, the first Cleveland Indians Baseball game was televised live on Channel 5, with Bob Feller pitching. The early news programs were little more than visual radio newscasts, using established radio announcers. Early newscasters included Tom Field, Bob Rowley, Dr. Warren Guthrie (a speech professor from Western Reserve University), and Jack Perkins. In 1949, Channel 5 hired a woman journalist and lecture-circuit speaker, Dorothy Fuldheim, who was a huge success with her news reports and candid commentaries on national as well as local events.

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