Sixty years ago today, television came to the Cedar Valley when KWWL began broadcasting on Channel 7. That on-air debut came after a tough legal battle between two Waterloo radio stations that each wanted the Channel 7 license.
On Nov. 15, 1953, KWWL founder R.J. McElroy projected an initial test pattern live and made history.
Two weeks later, on Nov. 29, 1953 -- 60 years ago today -- real television came to the Cedar Valley on Channel 7.
Early films show McElroy out in front of the KWWL building, quizzing local residents on trivia and handing out prizes.
But before that, he engaged in a legal tug-of-war with the owner of a rival radio station, KXEL's Joe Dumond, for the FCC license to operate Channel 7.
Even without a license, Dumond had already built a studio and was buying TV equipment, and he was encouraging Waterloo businesses to boycott McElroy's radio station. That is, until McElroy filed suit and entered as evidence a secret tape recording of Dumond encouraging the boycott.
Dumond went on the stand and said he would never say such things. And then they played the tape and within an hour, McElroy had won.
Broadcast historian and author Jeff Stein says things would likely have been very different if McElroy had lost that fight.
"The suspicion is, if Dumond had put Channel 7 on the air, it would not have had the dedication to community and local involvement that has been a hallmark of Channel 7 for 60 years," Stein said.
Local television was very different in those early days. From the kids show, "Romper Room," to the evening news, almost everything was live -- even commercials -- with no chance to edit out mistakes.
But for 60 years, the one thing that has never changed is KWWL's commitment to viewers in eastern Iowa to provide the best programming and the best news coverage. From the days of legendary news director Grant Price, to our shift to digital high definition -- and now even broadcasting live on smart phones -- we're always looking for ways to serve you better.
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