Station History

About NewsChannel 4 – KFOR-TV-DT and KAUT-TV

Welcome to KFOR-TV-DT the NBC Affiliate for Oklahoma City and surrounding areas.

KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV are owned by Local TV with studios and transmitter co-located on East Britton Road in Oklahoma City.

KFOR also carries Antenna TV on digital subchannel 4.2 and channel 247 on Cox Digital Cable. On cable, KFOR-TV can be seen on channel 4 or 704 in HD on Cox Oklahoma City. KAUT-TV can be seen on channel 16 or 714 on HD on Cox. KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV can also be seen throughout Oklahoma on four translator stations serving northwestern Oklahoma and several cable systems across the state.

The station signed on June 6, 1949 as WKY-TV, owned by the Oklahoma Publishing Company, publishers of the Daily Oklahoman, along with WKY radio. The station was affiliated with the four major networks at the time (NBC, ABC, CBS and DuMont). It is Oklahoma’s first television station, having signed on a few months before KOTV in Tulsa. Channel 4 took a primary affiliation with NBC due to WKY radio’s association with NBC Radio.

See archive footage thanks to a partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society. 

Scroll down to see former and current employees tell their personal stories about working at this legacy station.

Due to an FCC-imposed freeze on station licenses, WKY-TV was the only Oklahoma City television station until 1953 when KTVQ (channel 25, now KOKH-TV) signed on, taking an ABC affiliation. Later that year KWTV (channel 9) debuted as a primary CBS affiliate. WKY-TV continued as a dual NBC/DuMont affiliate until the DuMont network shut down in 1956. KTVQ closed its operations that year as well, and channel 4 picked up ABC once again. In 1958, ABC station KGEO (channel 5) was moved from Enid into Oklahoma City, becoming KOCO-TV, and that allowed WKY-TV to become an exclusive NBC affiliate.

In 1954, when NBC became the first television network to broadcast color programs, WKY-TV subsequently followed as one of the very first local TV stations in the U.S. to broadcast its own color programming many years ahead of most other local stations nationwide, most of whom did not follow suit until the mid-1960s.

In September 1954, not long before he left for rival KWTV, meteorologist Harry Volkman delivered the first tornado warning broadcast on television. WKY-TV station management believed that the FCC’s ban on broadcasting tornado warnings (which they feared broadcasting such warnings would cause panic) was responsible for heavy loss of life, such as in the Flint-Worcester tornado outbreak sequence, a year earlier. They figured that giving advanced warning on such storms would save lives. The station bootlegged a Tornado Forecast from Tinker Air Force Base (which was first produced in 1948), in order to warn people of a tornado in the Oklahoma City area. Survivors sent letters of thanks following the storm to WKY-TV and Volkman for the advance warning.

In 1972 news director Ernie Schultz hired Pam Henry and she became the first female television reporter in Oklahoma. While at WKY she became the first female to anchor a news broadcast in Oklahoma. She had contracted polio at age 14 months and had been the national Poster Child for the March of Dimes in 1959. She had a 30-year career in television news despite walking on crutches.

Over the years, Oklahoma Publishing acquired several other television and radio stations, including WTVT in Tampa, Florida (in 1956), WVTV in Milwaukee (in 1966), KHTV in Houston (launched in 1967), and KTVT in Fort Worth, Texas (in 1971). WKY-TV was their flagship outlet, and Oklahoma Publishing called their television subsidiary the WKY Television System. When the Federal Communications Commission disallowed same market co-ownership of newspapers and broadcast licenses in the early 1970s, the combination of the Daily Oklahoman and WKY-AM-TV was grandfathered under the new rule. But in 1976, WKY-TV was sold to Universal Communications, a subsidiary of the Detroit-based Evening News Association. Universal Communications changed channel 4′s call letters to KTVY after the sale was finalized. Oklahoma Publishing retained WKY radio, and its television group was rechristened Gaylord Broadcasting, after the family which owned the company.

The Gannett Company bought the Evening News Association in 1986. Gannett had owned KOCO-TV since 1979, and FCC rules of the time forced Gannett to sell KTVY (along with KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona and WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama) to Knight Ridder Broadcasting after just one day of ownership. In 1989, Knight Ridder sold all of its broadcasting properties to separate buyers, with KTVY going to Palmer Communications, owner of fellow NBC affiliate WHO-TV in Des Moines, Iowa. Palmer changed the station’s call letters to the current KFOR-TV in 1990. The New York Times Company purchased the two stations in 1996.

KFOR-TV eventually became the first station in the country to introduce color Doppler weather radar and in the 1990s, becoming the first television station to broadcast pictures and video of severe weather via cell phones.

On the evening of June 13, 1998, a severe thunderstorm which produced several tornadoes in northern Oklahoma City, including one that hit the Frontier City amusement park, destroyed the old WKY-AM-TV tower not far from KFOR-TV’s studios.

KFOR became the first television station in Oklahoma City to launch a digital signal in June 1999.

On September 13, 2006, The New York Times Company announced that it plans to sell off its television stations, including KFOR and KAUT. On January 4, 2007, the New York Times Company entered into an agreement to sell the stations. On May 7, 2007, KFOR and KAUT officially became part of Local TV LLC.

On July 1, 2013, the Tribune Company (which formed a management company that operated both Tribune and Local TV’s stations in 2008) acquired the Local TV stations. The sale was completed on December 27, 2013. 

Some of this information gathered from Wikipedia.com

Personal stories from former and current employees:

Interning at WKY-TV in 1973, Linda Cavanaugh has since become nationally known for her accomplishments with forty plus years in broadcast journalism. Inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame as “one of the most distinguished journalists in the history of the state”.

John Ferguson

Brad Edwards

Pam Henry was the first female news reporter for WKY-TV. Pam covered the news in field assignments, as well as reported on-the-air Television Broadcasts.

Ronnie Kaye

Lee Allan Smith 

Danny Williams started his love affair with Oklahoma in May of 1950 at WKY-TV, the first Local Color Television station in the Untied States! Danny shares memories of his early career. Dan-D-Dynamo and Foreman Scotty, Danny’s Day, and insight to wrestling as he knew it.

Jon Spence

E.K. Gaylord-at 90 years old, tells a luncheon how he purchased WKY-TV & WKY Radio.

WKY-TV Pioneers- Click here to see more of the legacy of WKY-TV