Television Broadcasting Began in the Carolinas

An early news set from WBTV

On July 15, 1949, announcer Jim Patterson signed on Charlotte’s WBTV, the first television station in the Carolinas, two months ahead of WFMY in Greensboro which signed on in September 1949. The Charlotte studio at that time was in the Wilder Building on Tryon Street, the present site of the Marriott Hotel.

WBTV and WFMY in 1949 were owned by Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Company, an affiliate of the life insurance company of the same name. The company filed an application for a Charlotte license with the Federal Communications Commission in December 1947. A construction permit arrived two months later and work proceeded on an antenna atop Spencer Mountain in Gaston County. At the time there were only 12 television stations in the nation, mostly in larger cities.

Test patterns began running on Channel 3 on July 1, 1949. Station owners set up a viewing party in the Charlotte Armory and thousands packed the venue for three days beginning on July 15. At that time the number of television sets in the area was less than 1,000; that count was up to 8,500 by year’s end.  In 1955, WBTV moved to its present location.

More on TV in North Carolina’s history is available on NCpedia.

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