n the late-1940s, two television stations broadcasted news and programs in North Carolina. For the first time, state residents watched television and received updates regarding national current events. The Charlotte-based WBTV and Greensboro-based WFMY-TV were the first television stations in the Tar Heel state.
Although Greensboro’s WFMY television station was set to be North Carolina’s first station to air shows, the station was hampered because its main tower fell in 1949. Capitalizing on the opportunity, the Charlotte-based WBTV station opened as the Carolina’s first television station on July 15, 1949. The first statement aired by WBTV was by an announcer who finished a short broadcast with: “Now we present test pattern and tone for set adjustment.”
Despite the competition between the two branches, the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation owned and operated both stations in Charlotte and Greensboro. Within a year of operation, WBTV aired its first live program on September 30, 1950. The program was a football game between Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina at South Bend, Indiana.
On October 14, 1951, WBTV, along with WFMY-TV of Greensboro, broadcast the state’s first national football game between the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns. Despite poor television quality, North Carolinians across North Carolina tune in to watch the game.
WBTV, bolstering Governor Bob Scott’s complaints about the aging Executive Mansion, announced the problems with the mansion in October of 1969. A reporter claimed: “The Executive Mansion is a hodgepodge of turrets, balconies, gables and architectural gingerbread assembled into one tasteless mass. At its best, it’s pompous; at its worst, it’s ludicrous” (Powell, On This Day, p. 195). Despite the call of Governor Scott and WBTV for a completely new structure, the Executive Mansion underwent renovations that were finished in 1975.
As of 2012, WBTV remains affiliated with the CBS Corporation and the media outlet focuses over thirty hours of air time to local news every week. In addition to being the first television station in North Carolina, WBTV was also the first to videotape episodes, to mount and operate a live camera in a NASCAR race car, and the first to use closed captioning during evening news programs (Raycom Media).
“WBTV – Charlotte, North Carolina.” Raycom Media, Inc., 2012. http://www.raycommedia.com/wbtv/, (accessed July 11, 2012).
“WBT’s 70’s Evolution.” Reno Bailey, BT Memories Website. 2004 – 2012. http://www.btmemories.com/articles/history/wbt_70s_evolution/70s_evolution.html, (accessed July 11, 2012).
On This Day in North Carolina. Lew Powell. (John F. Blair: Winston-Salem, NC 1996).
“Television Stations.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).