Academic journal article Journalism History

KTLA at Forty

Academic journal article Journalism History

KTLA at Forty

Article excerpt

"KTLA At Forty." Los Angeles: Golden West Broadcasting, 1987. 90 minutes. Available through UCLA Film and Television Archive.

An important occasion lies ahead for media historians as America's pioneer television stations, those licensed just before the FCC "freeze" in 1948, celebrate their fiftieth anniversaries. A swell of anniversary telecasts and special broadcasts is certain to offer a cornucopia of material for those writing the history of U.S. television.

In my view, the standard by which all such telecasts will be measured is the 1987 documentary "KTLA At Forty," prepared to mark that station's fortieth year on the air.

KTLA's premiere in 1947 was the beginning of television on the West Coast. This program is sheer delight, as KTLA's colorful beginnings offer something for everyone.

Those compelled by the origin of entertainment television will see the first TV broadcasts by Bob Hope and Lawrence Welk. The sports-minded will meet KTLA's galaxy of celebrities, including Dick Enberg, Merlin Olsen, and Don Drysdale. Even those tuned to engineering and technical history will find something of interest.

Overall, though, the major achievement of this program, narrated and coordinated by veteran Los Angeles broadcaster Stan Chambers, is in placing KTLA in a meaningful historical context. It is not an overblown advertisement for the station, as many such programs are. Struggles this station enduredsuch as its failure to gain a network affiliation-are not glossed over.

A surprising amount of attention is given to KTLA's competitors, and the result is a balanced treatment not so much of KTLA but of how TV began in the nation's second-largest market. Given that KTLA's address is "Hollywood," celebrity razzledazzle probably was unavoidable. …

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