KVIE Channel 6 brought educational television to Sacramento

Editor’s Note: This is part 10 in a series about local people connected to the early days of television.

A man stands alongside a jetski during KVIE Channel 6’s 1969 live televised auction. Photo courtesy of KVIE

A man stands alongside a jetski during KVIE Channel 6’s 1969 live televised auction. Photo courtesy of KVIE

KVIE Channel 6, as noted in the previous article of this series, officially debuted on Feb. 23, 1959.
With its establishment, KVIE became the state’s second educational television station, behind San Francisco’s KQED, which first aired on April 5, 1954.
According to information provided by KVIE, in its initial year, the station’s control room consisted of push button controls, two film projectors, a slide projector, a tape recorder and a turntable.
The first local, independently produced show to be aired on KVIE was “Since Time Began.” The show debuted on the station on April 1, 1959.
Another show, “TV Ski School,” which was hosted by Jim Winthers, represented the station’s first live studio broadcast when it was aired three days later.
It was also in 1959 when KVIE held the first of its many live televised auctions.
As KVIE was about to enter its second year of operation, The Sacramento Bee reviewed the station’s achievements during its “baby year.”
The article noted that the nonprofit station, which then served 15 Northern California counties and was a National Educational Television (now Public Broadcasting Service/aka PBS) member, had continuously offered a “unique TV diet” of programs in such fields as art, religion, science and music, as well as current events and instruction shows for college credit or classroom use.
During its initial year, the station, according to the same article, increased its on-air time from 20 to 45 hours per week, and its staff had expanded from 10 to 24.
In commenting to The Bee about the inaugural year of KVIE, John C. Crabbe, the station’s general manager, said, “We feel Channel 6 has been accepted very well by Northern California viewers and we’re looking forward to even greater success in the year ahead.”
Crabbe added that he was then hoping that the station’s membership total could be increased from 5,200 to 8,700.
In 1961, as it did during the previous year, The Bee published an article regarding KVIE’s status around the time of its anniversary.
Crabbe, who would remain employed by KVIE until 1969, told The Bee that one of the most notable accomplishments for the station during its second year was the completion of a microwave hookup for programming with KQED.
At the time that the 1961 article was published, KVIE was airing “Shape of a City,” a program investigating the social and political problems in the metropolitan area of Sacramento.
Additionally, it was mentioned in the same article that KVIE’s annual budget had reached $300,000, and that its membership roster then included about 3,500 names.
In its March 27, 1960 edition, The Sacramento Union focused on “Let’s Talk,” KVIE’s speech program series for students in primary grades.
Certainly, another one of KVIE’s early, notable accomplishments occurred in May 1960 with its creation of “Main Street,” its first documentary-style program for national public television.
Also notable in the KVIE’s history was the first meeting of the station’s volunteer group, Supporters for 6. That meeting was held on Oct. 27, 1962.
The Bee, in its Feb. 24, 1963 edition, reported that KVIE had then aired about 8,000 hours of programs.
Among the programs regularly shown at that time were “Prospects of Mankind,” “An Age of Kings” and “Ragtime Era.”
The station was also then known for presenting capital punishment hearings, controversial freeway hearings of the old California Highway Commission and a symposium about the potential of women.
In regard to KVIE’s fiscal status at its five-year mark, The Bee, in its 1963 article, noted that the station had a capital value of about $375,000.
Furthermore, it was mentioned in the article that the station had spent about $750,000, which included funding from non-Sacramento County foundation grants.
On Sept. 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law.
Sesame Street, one of the all-time most celebrated and viewed children’s educational television series, was first aired on KVIE on Nov. 10, 1969.
Volunteers donate their time during the 1965 KVIE auction. Photo courtesy of KVIE

Volunteers donate their time during the 1965 KVIE auction. Photo courtesy of KVIE

Other classic educational children’s television series that have aired on KVIE include Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Electric Company.
In response to the closure of most schools during the summer of 1978 due to Proposition 13, KVIE presented special morning programming that was collectively known as “Summer School on 6.”
It was also in 1978 when KVIE both launched and discontinued its glossy magazine, Our Town.
The magazine, which debuted in October 1978 and lost $74,000 in four issues, was cancelled on Dec. 20, 1978.
According to an article in the Aug. 10, 1980 edition of The Bee, John D. Hershberger was a much welcomed addition to KVIE when he became the station’s president and general manager in May 1979, as he replaced the station’s former controversial general manager.
The article noted that the station had struggled during the previous two years due to what was described as “poor management.”
But it was also mentioned in the article that employees of KVIE were willing to dedicate themselves to the station, despite experiencing disharmony with the former management, low pay and far from ideal working conditions.
During Hershberger’s first year with KVIE, a mission statement was adopted on Oct. 24, 1979 and a five-year plan of goals and priorities was approved on Jan. 22, 1980.
It was noted in the 1980 article that the station then had a budget of $1.8 million, $1.2 million of which was raised through the development department, which was led by Nicki Shearer, who had become that department’s director in February 1979.
Other notable KVIE personnel at that time included Horst Bruenjes, director of administrations; Chris Cochran, executive producer; Susan Prince, program director; and Howard Lowe, director of operations.
The 1980 article also described KVIE’s facilities at that time, as follows: “The station needs at least 60 percent more floor space than its present 15,000 square feet. There is no room to put additional people or equipment in the present 25-year-old facility at 2480 Garden Highway.”
It was also noted in the article that KVIE’s development department had already been forced out of the site and was then operating in a rented office structure on Bercut Drive. The station would eventually add a third location.
In what was then considered to be a promising endeavor to raise funds for public television, At Six restaurant opened at the Sierra 2 community building at 2791 24th St. on June 6, 1983.
However, the restaurant closed on July 15, 1984, and left behind thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
Although KVIE had no legal connection to At Six, it had contributed $35,000 to assist in the establishment of the eatery, and it would not be refunded that money.
“Grassroots Guide to Yard Care,” was televised on KVIE for the first time in 1984. It would become the station’s longest running series with 14 seasons of original programming.
Among the more notable days in KVIE’s history was May 28, 1985.
On that day, KVIE launched a $7.5 million new building, transmitter and antenna fundraising project, and received a gift valued at nearly $1 million from KTXL Channel 40.
The gift was much appreciated by KVIE, especially considering the deterioration of its building, which was built in 1952 and had been intended for only temporary use by the station.
On Aug. 20, 1985, Channel 6 was awarded a federal grant of $720,000 that would be used toward the purchase of a new transmitter and antenna, which had a combined cost of $1.1 million.
The 1,900-foot-tall antenna, which replaced the station’s 1,100-foot-tall antenna, was purchased and installed on a new TV-40 tower less than a year later.
In February 1987, while still under the direction of Hershberger, KVIE announced its plans to relocate to South Natomas.
The Bee reported at that time that the station’s future studio facility, which had a targeted completion date of March 1989, would be located in the Natomas Corporate Center, near Interstate 5 and West El Camino Avenue.
The property for the project was donated to KVIE by KCS Development Co. of Sacramento.
KVIE had raised $5.7 million for the project by February 1987, and Hershberger noted at that time that he was confident that the remaining portion of the necessary funds would be raised within the following seven months.
A KVIE Channel 6 truck visits the Capitol grounds in 1976. Photo courtesy of KVIE

A KVIE Channel 6 truck visits the Capitol grounds in 1976. Photo courtesy of KVIE

KVIE presented its first stereo broadcasts on May 18, 1988.
The first of KVIE’s stereo broadcasts was an 8 p.m. showing of “In Performance at the White House: A Salute to Broadway.” The program featured musical performances by Marvin Hamlisch, Bea Arthur, Jennifer Holliday, Mary Martin and Elaine Page.
A special day in KVIE’s history occurred on Sunday, Jan. 28, 1990, when KVIE staff moved into the station’s then-new, 69,000-square-foot television facility at 2595 Capitol Oaks Drive, near Interstate 5 and West El Camino Avenue.
A public grand opening of the building, which was designed by E.M. Kado and Associates, was held on Saturday, April 28, 1990.
In 1992, KVIE held the last of its 33 annual, live televised auctions.
Hershberger said, in May 1992, that the 10-day auction was no longer cost effective, despite grossing more than $400,000 per auction during its latter years.
Channel 6, however, has been presenting live art auctions for decades. This year’s art auction will be held on Sept. 19-21.
As an example of KVIE’s community support, 3,572 volunteers contributed 30,360 hours to the station from 1995 to 1996.
Various advancements have been made by KVIE thus far in the 21st century.
For instance, the station broadcast digitally for the first time on June 18, 2003, with its showing of the program, “Discover California.” And at the same time, KVIE HD was launched on Channel 53.
KVIE also made its high-definition debut with the program, “The Golden Game: Baseball in Sacramento.”
Additionally, KVIE presented its first Spanish programming through KVIE Vme TV in 2007, and aired its first Spanish language production, “Los Braceros: Strong Arms to Aid the U.S.,” a year later.
Channel 6 began its digital-only broadcasting on June 12, 2009.
And in 2011, KVIE, which has the present day address of 2030 West El Camino Ave., held its first golf classic at Serrano Country Club in El Dorado Hills. This year’s edition of the annual event will be held on June 23.
David Lowe, president and general manager of KVIE, recently shared details about the station for readers of this publication.
“Every business or organization is rooted in a mission of some sort,” Lowe said. “I take pride in leading KVIE in its mission to see viewers as citizens, not consumers. Rather than operating as being in the business of television, we see our business being about ideas, exploration and learning, arts and culture, and citizenship. Television just happens to be the means by which we deliver these resources to our community.
“We are an integral part of the community. The professionals and volunteers who work to make KVIE possible are the people who live alongside you. KVIE is not just public television, but quite literally the public’s television, a community resource dedicated to serving everyone through our locally produced programs that help us understand our past, present and future to our national schedule of PBS programs that help our youngest citizens learn their ABCs and 123s and let everyone explore their world through the highest quality programs available anywhere.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

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