Television comes To Chicago- Part III
























Three months after it began commercial operation, WGN-TV claimed an audience of 4,499,126.  The station enjoyed the powerful lineage to the Chicago Tribune, WGN Radio (and it's affiliation with Mutual), and WPIX in New York.  Facilities at the Tribune Tower included one master studio at 36' x 42' x 20'; two 16' x 20' auxiliary studios; one 16mm and two 35mm film projectors; and four mobile cameras.  The station programmed about 45 hours per week, seven days a week.  This broke down to 30% studio, 18% film, and 52% remote.  Not surprisingly, channel 9 was big on sports right from the beginning.  Coverage included home games of both The Cubs and The White Sox; Northwestern football; wrestling; and amateur boxing.  Men in charge at WGN-TV that first year on the air included Frank P. Schreiber, manager; Carl J. Meyers, director of engineering; Vernon R. Brooks, director of operations; Ted Mills, program manager; and William A. McGuiness, commercial manager.

1948 ushered in a new era of commercial television (and Uncle Miltie). At the beginning of the year, there were eighteen operating stations in twelve cities.   At the time of the FCC freeze on new construction permits,  Chicago had enough operating (or soon to be operating) stations to provide the public with the four television networks.

Viewers could now enjoy their favorite ABC network shows on WENR-TV; for NBC they tuned in WNBQ (which would begin regular telecasting in January of 1949); CBS, lagging behind in acquiring stations due to their attention focused on the mechanical color television system they hoped would gain FCC approval, (which it did, temporarily) was the only major network without an owned and operated station in Chicago.

Starting in 1949 they used WBKB as their affiliate in the Windy City for most of their programming. WGN-TV would also air CBS programs until 1953 when the network purchased WBKB. Because WGN-TV's contract stipulated a two month notice for cancellation, many CBS programs appeared on both WGN-TV and the new WBBM-TV for a short time. WGN-TV would continue to be the Chicago DuMont affiliate (its primary network) until that network's demise in 1956.

Television was here to stay. The mechanical sets of the thirties were but a distant memory. TV set sales in the late forties had exploded and appeared on display in almost every window in downtown Chicago. Edward Robert Sirovy, a life long Chicagoan, remembers: "The first time I saw TV was in a downtown department store in '46-'47. About 1947 my mother and I were downtown one evening shopping on State Street. In front of The Palmer House, RCA was demoing their Image Orthicon camera's low light capability under the hotel marquee. A sign proclaimed "This equipment on order by WGN." 10" TV sets allowed the gawkers to see themselves on (closed circuit) TV. Few people at that time had even seen TV much less looked into the business end of a camera."