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Happy Birthday To WKRC-TV

John Kiesewetter
WKRC-TV tower next to studios at 1906 Highland Avenue in Mount Auburn

Happy birthday to WKRC-TV, which began broadcasting on April 4, 1949 from the Taft family's old Cincinnati Times-Star building built at 800 Broadway (now a Hamilton County courts building).

Local 12 – or Tall 12 as it was called in the 1960s – actually started on Channel 11.  It moved to Channel 12 on Oct. 20, 1952, after the federal government re-allocated the nation's TV stations.

Credit John Kiesewetter collection
WKRC-TV advertisement in 1949 Cincinnati Gardens program

Taft Broadcasting's flagship TV station signed on six weeks after the opening of Cincinnati Gardens on Feb. 22. And it arrived 14 months after Crosley Broadcasting, Cincinnati's technology leader, had started WLWT-TV, the city's first TV station on Feb. 9, 1948, on Channel 4.

By the time Taft's WKRC-TV hit the airwaves, Crosley Broadcasting already had televised the first Reds game, UC football game, variety show, weather forecast, religious service, boxing and wrestling matches, and professional basketball game (the Harlem Globetrotters from Music Hall Arena). In fact, all of those first were done as experimental W8XCT, before WLWT began commercial operation in 1948.

WKRC-TV's early stars included comedian Soupy Hines, later known as Soupy Sales, and Rod Serling, who wrote a live drama series called "The Storm" in 1951-52 while working for rival WLWT-TV. 

Channel 12 also aired the "Skipper Ryle" children's show starring Glenn Ryle; Dennis Wholey's daytime talk show produced by future Fox News President Roger Ailes; "P.M. Magazine" with hosts Jerry Thomas and Joyce Wise; Nick Clooney's TV variety show in the early 1970s; and Ira Joe Fisher's variety/talk show in the 1980s.

Credit ABC Television
Weatherman Ira Joe Fisher

A few years after his variety show, Clooney returned to Channel 12 as news anchor, and led Channel 12's "Eyewitness News" to first place, beating WCPO-TV's legendary Al Schottelkotte.

Familiar faces from Channel 12's news include Tim Hedrick, Dennis Janson, Ira Joe Fisher, Steve Horstmeyer, Edie Magnus, Walt Maher, Kit Andrews, Bob Jones, Bev White, Ken Anderson, Ken Broo, Tim Bray, George Ciccarone, Howard Ain, Rich Jaffe, Mary Krutko, Donn Burrows, Randy Little and  former Miss Ohio Pam Rigas.

Taft Broadcasting in the 1970s also owned Hanna-Barbera Productions ("The Flinstones," "Jetsons," "Smurfs") , WTBN-TV in Colunmbus and built Kings Island.

Credit John Kiesewetter
Taft family's Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper building at 800 Broadway, now home to Hamilton County courts.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.