On The Air:
The Early Days of Radio and Television in Evansville
October 13, 2013 – January 12, 2014
WIKY have been familiar call letters in the Evansville market since the late 1940s. In the early 1980s, WIKY donated AM 820 to the University of Southern Indiana and the station became WSWI. Today, WIKY FM 104.1 is the most listened to station in the Evansville market.
Presented in partnership with SOUTH CENTRAL COMMUNICATIONS
Evansville has long relied on radio and television for news as well as entertainment. For generations, families gathered around the radio and television to catch the latest headlines, ballgame, or talk show.
The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau Center for History and Science will feature an exhibition examining the development of these two mediums in our city. This exhibition that recalls the early days of radio and television in Evansville and also celebrates the 80th anniversary of radio, and the 60th anniversary of television in our city.
The arrival of radio and television in Evansville dramatically affected those living in the tri-state area. The advent of commercial radio in Evansville occurred in 1924 when WGBF AM signed on the air. Drawing on the achievements of other pioneer radio stations in the United States, the Finke Furniture Company set up WGBF in its store. The station presented a variety of local talent that featured singing and instrumental pieces; noted personalities included Pat Roper and George Van Horn. By 1937, it was affiliated with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
With the potential of radio demonstrated by the success of WGBF, other stations began to appear in the Evansville market. Significantly, WIKY AM signed on the air in the immediate post World War II period. Shortly thereafter, WIKY commenced operation of Evansville’s first FM station at 104.1 on the radio dial. What started as a fledgling radio station in the late 1940s, grew to become today’s South Central Communications – a holding company with multi-faceted interests, including radio stations.
While radio was thoroughly entrenched in Evansville by the early 1950s, television was in its infancy. The Evansville market’s first television station signed on the air in September of 1953 as WEHT‑Channel 50 (Channel 25), and began broadcasting from Henderson, Kentucky. As an affiliate of the Columbia BroadcastingSystem, Channel 50 provided the tri-state with entertainment from stars such as Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, and Red Skelton.
Two months later, WFIE‑Channel 62 (Channel 14) came on the air as the first television station whose transmitter and studios were located in Evansville. It proudly claimed the title of “first in Evansville”. Originally aligned with NBC, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Dumont, the station also featured local news, sports, cooking, and children’s programs.
In 1956, WTVW-Channel 7 came on the air. Its morning broadcasts were dedicated to educational broadcasts and its evening offerings were from ABC. Other stations have joined the Evansville market since the early years of television – including PBS station WNIN-Channel 9 in 1970 and WEVV-Channel 44 in 1983.
The continuing development of Evansville’s radio and television stations has provided citizens of the tristate with instantaneous coverage of local and world events and forms of entertainment that were unheard of a century ago. With On the Air, we look back at this interesting and eventful journey.
Decades of Change: Evansville 1900-1945
April 14 – Ongoing
Presented in partnership with the EVANSVILLE COURIER & PRESS
From 1900 through Evansville’s major involvement in the World War II home front effort, the City experienced many important events as it and the nation transitioned from the horse and buggy era to the atomic age. Opening in the Town Hall and Arms for Victory Galleries this exhibition examines a period in which Evansville experienced a major race riot; two major floods; dedicated Bosse Field; welcomed Evansville College (today’s University of Evansville); opened its first airport; endured the Great Depression; and became a major producer of war goods as the United States and the Allies battled the Axis powers during World War II.