1949: Florida’s First TV Station Signs On
At 7:00 p.m. on March 21, 1949, television station WTVJ started broadcasting on channel 4. The station’s first broadcast lasted four hours, most of which “was on film, jerky film, which was fuzzy and blurred too much of the time,” wrote Miami “News” reporter (not yet editor) William C. Baggs, who singled out some of the “sparkling commercials” on the “Admiral Broadway Revue” for praise. Sounds like a Super Bowl viewer.
Baggs found the evening’s dedication ceremonies “embarrassing.” Evidently most local luminaries weren’t entirely comfortable appearing on a new medium not seen in the state before, although Baggs singled out the Rev. Cyril Burke of Barry College and WTVJ founder Col. Mitchell Wolfson Sr. for their on-camera elan.
“Wolfson, joked over the medium, gave a nice little talk and appeared very much at ease,” wrote Baggs.
“The Colonel” appears in this clip, excerpted from a 1964 special, “15 Years with 4 — A Look Back.” Wolfson reminisces about TV’s first night with News Director Ralph Renick and explains how his experience in World War II led him to introduce television to Miami. There’s also a glimpse of the station’s earliest days, when the Everglades Hotel was home to WTVJ’s studio and antenna.
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