For more than a half-century, the Land Park-based television station Channel 10 has provided the Sacramento region with daily local news, national event coverage and a variety of other programming. And for 40 of those years, the station has aired from its current Land Park studio.
Land Park historic Channel 10 television station, which is widely recognized by its iconic, 300-foot-tall weather tower and is committed to its slogan of “Connecting with our Community,” appears to be heading strong into its next half-century of existence. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
The station debuted as KBET Channel 10 on March 19, 1955 at 2:15 p.m.
Four years later, the station changed its call letters to its current and more recognized KXTV. The “X” in the call letters KXTV represents the Roman numeral “10,” while the letters “BET” in KBET stood for the station’s slogan that it was the “Best Bet in Television.”
Getting on the air
Although the station first aired in 1955, the roots of Channel 10 date back to May 7, 1948, when the McClatchy Broadcasting Co., a subsidiary of McClatchy Newspapers, applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a permit to construct the television station.
Four years later and just a day prior to the FCC’s lifting of its freeze of TV permits, which lasted from Sept. 30, 1948 to July 1, 1952, a group of local investors, known as the Sacramento Telecasters, applied for the same license.
A legal case between the Telecasters and the McClatchy Broadcasting Co. eventually occurred, posing the question whether the ownership of newspapers could be the legal grounds for the denial of a television station construction license.
Peter Onnigan, one of the original owners of Channel 10, explained the Federal Supreme Court’s decision that ruled in favor of the Telecasters.
“They didn’t want to have the newspapers, for example, owning the only TV station in town, and so we fit into that area because we had no affiliations with radio stations or television stations or newspapers,” Onnigan said.
The station was constructed within an old California Highway Patrol building at 601 7th Ave., near Riverside Boulevard in Land Park, and Channel 10’s first transmitter was erected in early 1955 in El Dorado Hills.
Had the Telecasters fulfilled their previous plan, Channel 10 would have opened in February 1954 in a newly-built studio and office building at the northeast corner of 30th and L streets.
Committed to fulfilling its promise to the FCC that it would provide local programming, Channel 10, which was the first VHF station in Sacramento, hired its first anchorman Hank Thornley, pictured here. (Photo courtesy KXTV Channel 10)
To celebrate the first airing of the CBS-affiliate, KBET Channel 10, the station held a large community party that was emceed by Johnny Carson.
At the time of the station’s 1955 debut, few people in the capital city owned their own television sets, since this technology was still considered an expensive luxury.
Committed to fulfilling its promise to the FCC that it would provide local programming, Channel 10, which was the first VHF station in Sacramento, hired its first anchorman Hank Thornley.
Featured on the station’s 50th anniversary celebration special, which first aired on March 19, 2005, Thornley, who worked for Channel 10 from 1955 to 1960, described the primitive nature of the early newscasts.
“I honestly think that management at the time felt that all they needed was a radio newscast on television to suffice the requirements,” Thornley said.
Along with the station’s first photographer, Paul Meeks, Thornley assisted in bringing a greater dimension to Channel 10 news reporting, as he worked with Meeks to add related film footage to the local newscasts.
Remembering his pioneering days working with Thornley, Meeks said in about 2005 for the station’s anniversary program, “We put together a news department that was unprecedented in those days.”
Meeks added that his first days working for KBET were probably the most exciting times that he experienced in his television career.
Among the major events covered by Thornley and Meeks was the station’s first coverage of a major disaster – a 1955 levee break in Yuba City.
At the time, news and various other programming were presented live without the use of Teleprompters.
Unlike today’s 24 hours a day television stations, the earliest years of television was a 12 hours per day operation.
Very early in the station’s history, Channel 10 aired local talk and entertainment shows during the day and programs such as Gunsmoke, The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy at night.
Along with the station’s first photographer, Paul Meeks, Channel 10’s first anchorman Hank Thornley Thornley assisted in bringing a greater dimension to the station’s news reporting, as he worked with Meeks to add related film footage to the local newscasts. (Photo courtesy KXTV Channel 10)
Later early CBS programs were Perry Mason, Leave it to Beaver, The Twilight Zone, Lassie, the Ed Sullivan Show, Father Knows Best and the Andy Griffith Show.
The popular children’s show, Captain Kangaroo debuted on Oct. 3, 1955 and ran for 30 years.
The station also aired early locally-produced children’s shows such as Ranger Roy and the Anna Banana Show, featuring country music’s Tiny Moore as Ranger Roy and a little monkey, named Anna Banana.
Another early local children’s show was Diver Dan and O.U. Squid, which featured Norm Bales as Diver Dan and H. Alan Simms, who operated a squid marionette-type figure from the top of a ladder.
And long before the advent of cable television’s Cartoon Network, Channel 10 offered Kartoon Karnival to local children.
Station sells, brand builds
Major changes in Channel 10 history occurred in 1959 with the sale of the station by its original owners to the Corinthian Broadcasting Corp., the aforementioned change of the station’s call letters to KXTL and the beginnings of a project to renovate the 7th Avenue studio.
By this time, television had made many advancements, as 42 million American homes had television sets and RCA, which had introduced color television five years earlier, had sold 90,000 such television sets.
During the 1960s, KXTV aired coverage of major news events such as the announcement of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Watts Riots and the Apollo 11 moon landing.
After about a decade at its 7th Avenue location, Channel 10 was informed that its studio lied within the area of a future extension of Interstate 5.
On Sept. 5, 1965, The Sacramento Bee reported that KXTV had purchased the site of the former office and distribution warehouse of the Nulaid Egg division of the Pacific Growers cooperative on Broadway, between 3rd and 5th streets, in Land Park.
A year later, The Bee announced that architects Starks, Jones and Nacht had designed a new KXTV headquarters and studio with 33,000 square feet of floor space at the Broadway site.
Built by the Lawrence Construction Co., the industry award-winning structure, which continues to house KXTV, was first occupied by the station in 1969.
In the same year, KXTV hired Dick Cable, who worked as an anchorman for the station for 29 years. His tenure with Channel 10 marked the longest run by any anchor at a single television station in Northern California.
Other longtime familiar faces at Channel 10 were the station’s first full-time sports reporter Creighton Sanders, who worked for KXTV from 1960 to 1980, Alan Frio, an anchor from the 1970s to 1997, Mark Hedlund, a reporter from 1981 to 2009, Dan Adams, a reporter from 1981 to 2008, and Stuart Satow, the sports anchor from 1980 to 2002.
Many other notable anchors and reporters contributed to the success of the station and helped pave the way for such current Channel 10 personalities as Dale Schornack and Cristina Mendonsa. (Photo courtesy KXTV Channel 10)
Many other notable anchors and reporters contributed to the success of the station and helped pave the way for such current Channel 10 personalities as Dale Schornack, Cristina Mendonsa, Dan Elliott, Jennifer Smith, Dana Howard, George Warren, Kelly Jackson, Bryan May and Monica Woods.
Speaking about several of the station’s longtime anchors and journalists in 1995, Schornack said, “In sports, you’d call them franchise players. Every one of them is just gold and it’s part of what makes this such a great station.”
The station’s newscasts have been known by a variety of names throughout Channel 10’s existence, including Shell News, The Wilson-Gray Report, Eyewitness News and currently News10.
In addition to the station’s award-winning news coverage, Channel 10 has been home to a variety of other offerings throughout the years, including soap operas such as The Guiding Light and As the World Turns, game shows, including the Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune, a local educational, travel program known as California Postcard with Jonathan Mumm, and talk shows such as The Phil Donahue Show and The Late Show with David Letterman.
On March 6, 1995, after 50 years as a CBS station, KXTV became the third Sacramento television station to be affiliated with ABC. The others were Channel 40 and Channel 13.
In 1999, Channel 10, which was sold for its third time in 1971 and again in 1983, was acquired by its current owners, the Gannett Co.
Today, this historic Land Park-based television station, which is widely recognized by its iconic, 300-foot-tall weather tower and is committed to its slogan of “Connecting with our Community,” appears to be heading strong into its next half-century of existence.
E-mail Lance Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.