KOAM-TV aired its first broadcast December 13, 1953. On December 27th the station held an Open House thinking a few interested people might come by. Station personnel were overwhelmed when over 10,000 visitors showed up parking up to 1 and 1/2 miles down 69 Highway and filling every field around the station.
“This television thing might just catch on,” was the conclusion.
The original signal had a 70-mile radius, which meant many homes that had never received a station, or had very snowy off and on reception from Kansas City or Tulsa received the station with a very clear picture. The first broadcast lasted only four and a half-hours. It started at 6:00 p.m. and ran until 10:30 p.m. with Lou Martin as its first on air personality. Many can remember Lou’s first comments, “If you are watching this, it’s what we call television.”
A flurry of television set purchases began with many being purchased at grocery stores or radio shops. KOAM began as one of the most powerful stations in the Midwest using 120,000 watts of power and a tower and antenna 574 feet tall. During construction of the station and the original tower, people from the community would park their cars along the highway to catch a glimpse of the building of the new station and tower. In later years KOAM more than doubled its tower height when it constructed a twelve hundred-foot tower with antenna. Both towers stand today and for over 45 years. The newest tower with antenna increased its coverage greatly and gave even more of the Four States a quality television picture.
In the beginning KOAM was formed by Midcontinent Telecasting, Inc., a group comprised of the Joplin Globe Publishing Co., Lester E. Cox, and Mr. and Mrs. E. Victor Baxter. Many of the KOAM offices and studios were located at the Joplin Globe. Beginning as an NBC affiliate, KOAM changed to the CBS Television Network for its network affiliation in 1982.
With KOAM-TV being located about halfway between Pittsburg and Joplin in an area that did not have phones installed yet, a ham two-way radio was installed so they could radio into town and have someone make the call for them. This also required a drive into KOAM Radio in Pittsburg just before News time to get the information they had received from the AP Wire. Since cameras were not as advanced as today and in low supply, when pictures were shown on a program they were often Polaroid still pictures. Even in this primitive broadcast era, KOAM was a favorite among its viewers. The station was the first to have color programs, use video tape, have satellite ground station reception, have both male and female anchors, have weather forecasting equipment, and stereo broadcasting.
Of course once moving pictures came around so did entertainment programs. Up until 1985 two programs called, “The Fun Club,” a children’s program, and “Melody Matinee,” the longest running local music program in the nation, aired and were favorites in the Four States. Many early viewers told KOAM that before the station came along, people were in bed by nine or ten at night, but after KOAM started broadcasting a ten o’clock news, it gave people a reason to stay up until almost eleven.
In 1965, KOAM gained the ability to broadcast local news in color.
KOAM continued its series of firsts. KOAM-TV was the first local station with color, first with weather radar, first with 24-hour broadcast, first with local Morning News, first with local Noon News, first with a 5:00 p.m. local News and the first with studios in two states.
On February 17, 2009 KOAM-TV turned off its analog transmitter & began transmitting on digital channel 7.1. Full HD News went live on July 28, 2013.
The internet has also brought more opportunity to connect with our community. KOAM offers the latest news at koamtv.com and on social media. Viewers can download the Skywatch Weather App and soon, a news app. Viewers can also sign up for a daily news email and a breaking news email through the website.
KOAM is a subsidiary of Morgan Murphy Media.
KOAM History is a part of Four-State History. Thousands of Four-Staters grew up watching local programs produced by this television station, so when recordings of those shows were lost, it was a loss for all of us. That’s why we’re so excited about the recent discovery of some lost reels of film. You can watch them by clicking the following links:
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