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WKRP TV Station Owner Elliott Block Dies At 71

Courtesy WKRP TV
Elliott Block at the station's transmitter on the WCPO-TV tower.

Elliott Block loved television. He loved TV technology, loved talking about it, and most of all, he loved providing the Greater Cincinnati area with a variety of TV programming on his low-power WKRP channels.

Block, who died Sunday at age 71, was a national low-power TV pioneer.

What started as limited-range W25AI-TV in 1990 grew into two TV stations broadcasting 12 networks on Channels 25 (WBQC-TV) and 38 (WOTH-TV), and later Channel 20. He also generously shared his experiences and technology expertise with many low-power TV operators.

Despite signal limitations, his Channel 25 broadcast UC, Xavier and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball;  Cyclones hockey games; the Findlay Market Opening Day parade; and WB and UPN networks.

His second station, WOTH-TV, which stood for his "other station," shut down in January 2018 as part of the Federal Communications Commission "repack," or TV channel re-alignment.

So Block used the latest engineering to squeeze 12 subchannels into his Channel 25 frequency: Get TV, This TV, Decades, Heroes & Icons, Movies!, Quest, Light TV, Cozi, Sonlife and three shopping channels.

In 1995, he brought the WB network -- with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Dawson’s Creek – to Cincinnati airwaves. He famously fought Time Warner Cable for carriage of his stations, but the local cable system would only offer his WB primetime lineup instead of granting viewers 24/7 access to his channel.

At the time, Block liked to say his call letters stood for “WB Queen City.” He rebranded his station as “WKRP,” in 2008 after the late 1970s sitcom, although he never officially changed the call letters from WBQC.

Block tried to operate Channel 25 as a full-power station, offering just about everything to attract viewers and advertisers. He had a mobile broadcasting "live truck." He aired the Opening Day parade and Riverfest in conjunction with CitiCable. 

Channel 25 had a Saturday night in-studio movie host, reviving the tradition of Bob Shreve and "The Cool Ghoul." He aired Friday night martial arts movies, the Friday Night Fu, hosted by Cap'n Dave and the Fu Crew. Other programs included New Xtreme Sounds, the Scizone with Bill Boshears and live coverage of O.J.Simpson's trial.

Read more about the station's history here.You can see comments from his friends and viewers on the WKRP Facebook page.

Block also loved "muscle cars," powerful 1960s and '70s American sports cars designed for drag racing.

Services will be 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 29, at Weil Kahn Funeral Home, 8350 Cornell Road, Sycamore Township. Visitation begins at the funeral home at 10 a.m. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Heart Association.

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.