Kit Spier began his television career in 1953 when he joined KING-TV in his hometown of Seattle. After a dozen years in the business, it became evident that if he ever wanted to make money, he would
“. . . have to own a TV station rather than work in one.”
While Executive Producer at KNBC-TV, part of Kit’s job was filing license renewal applications with the FCC. That experience served him well in applying for a brand-new UHF license in Santa Rosa, and resulted in the grant of a license for one of the “ . . . best television applications reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission.” That was the easy part of the puzzle. Next came the funding.
A torturous five-mile dirt road led from Highway 29 to the California Forest Service fire lookout on Mt. St. Helena’s 4,343-foot peak. Kit’s experience with KNBC-TV-- its transmitter signal beaming from Mt. Wilson and blanketing the Los Angeles basin--convinced him it was worth the resources to build a transmitter on Mt. St. Helena.
The transmitter, antenna, and 2” tape machine were leased from RCA; the remote cameras and 1” tape machines were leased from IVC; the older microwave equipment was KING-TV surplus; and the station was located in a former U.S. Postal Service distribution center. The KFTY limited partners could be certain their investment was being frugally managed.
They came from local cable headends and junior college classrooms, from national broadcast networks and corporate training departments, from Eureka, the Bay Area and the Russian River. KFTY hired a disparate mix of personnel that somehow kept the transmitter, the studio, the mobile unit and the news department in operation throughout the station’s brief existence.
The lifeblood of any television station is viewership. Kit knew he couldn’t compete with network programming. He could, however, give viewers a local-interest window into the Redwood Empire with a weekday hour-long newscast and the prodigious output of the Channel 50 remote unit.
As Kit said, “(The FCC) had never seen anybody put a station on the air with that little amount of money. Unfortunately, it turns out, the FCC was right.”
Producer/Interview Camera/Editor: Rene White
MotionGraphics/Graphics/Web Design: Nancy White
Still Photos: Rene White, Greg Overton, Stan Atkinson, Peter Spier
Biography In Rhythm: The Wakelee Family
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Email: Rene White