UTAH BROADCASTING HISTORY
Heber J. Grant on KZN radio, 1922
In this wide-angled view of Utah broadcast history we have tried to
describe the reasons broadcasting developed as it did, and to identify Utah
broadcasting's early pioneers and contributors.
The amateur efforts of wireless telegraphers - mostly teenaged boys - in
the early 1900s gave rise to national and local radio clubs throughout America.
In fact, the first local wireless radio club in the United States appeared
in Utah - the Radio Club of Salt Lake, founded in September 1909. Utah youngsters
were among the first experimental broadcasters in the nation to transmit
voice and music over the air waves as technology made radio voice transmission
Historians often point to KZN and KDYL, both of which went on the air in
May 1922, as the only two pioneer Utah radio stations, when, in fact, there
were eleven. KDZL in Ogden, licensed to Rocky Mountain Radio Corporation,
and KDYV in Salt Lake City, licensed to John N. Cope and Lionel Cornwall,
and broadcasting from Cope's parents' home at 1138 Michigan Avenue, both
began broadcasting within a month of the original two. By February 1923
these stations were joined by Ogden's KFCP and Salt Lake's KFLH. During
the next two years, KFUR and KFWA appeared in Ogden. KFXD went on the air
in Logan, and KFOO, KFUT, and KFPH could be found in Salt Lake.
Only KZN (now KSL), KDYL (later KCPX), and KFUR (now KLO) survived the 1920s.
All eleven stations were historically important, but these three stations
provide the clearest explanation of why some stations survived while others
disappeared. The survival of KZN, KDYL, and KLO was a function of the economic
and promotional backing each had at various stages in their development
from three Utah newspapers: the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Telegram,
and the Standard-Examiner, respectively. Initially, the newspaper
owners saw the fledgling stations as little more than devices to promote
subscriptions through crystal-set give-aways, but the evolution of broadcasting
as a viable financial enterprise of its own led to a genuine symbiotic relationship.
While there were many amateurs who tinkered with radio equipment, one particularly
bright and highly motivated young man stood above his peers. Ira J. Kaar,
born in 1902, obtained his first regular amateur radio license in 1916 and
a Special-Land-Station license, 6ZA, in 1919. Also in 1919, he constructed
what became KFOO, the nation's first radio station licensed to an educational
institution - the Latter Day Saints University. Kaar built KDYL for A.L.
Fish and the Salt Lake Telegram in 1922, and helped H. Carter Wilson,
Telegraph Department manager for the Deseret News, solve technical
problems at KZN. In 1923, Kaar erected KFUT (later KUTE) at the University
of Utah while pursuing his electrical engineering degree. After leaving
his mark on more early radio stations than any other individual in the state,
Kaar went on in 1925 to begin an illustrious thirty-one-year career at General
Commercial radio's feasibility was demonstrated by Utah's second wave of
broadcast engineers, who began their work in the 1920s. Eugene Pack, Harold
C. Mailander, Everett J. (Hap) Seeley, John Baldwin, and W. D'Orr Cozzens
are perhaps best representative of this group. Mailander, Seeley, and Baldwin
followed Ira Kaar at KDYL. Cozzens succeeded in the construction of KSUB
in Cedar City and KALL in Salt Lake City, among other stations. Pack engineered
KSL through several power increases, including its move to 50 kw in 1932,
and Baldwin constructed Utah's first television station (KDYL, now KTVX,
Channel 4) in 1948. With others, this collective of broadcast engineers
led Utah broadcasting from its amateur beginnings into its commercial era.
The first two great Utah commercial broadcast entrepreneurs were Sidney
S. Fox and Earl J. Glade. Fox was as rough and unpolished as Glade was smooth
and sophisticated, but both understood the essentials of financial investment
and exhibited a keen business sense. Fox, a truly flamboyant character,
made his way to Salt Lake City from St. Louis via Denver, where he generated
travel money by selling business cards to prostitutes in that city's red-light
district. Fox took over KDYL in 1926, and later invested in the construction
of KDYL-FM and KDYL-TV. He eventually sold all three stations in 1953 to
Time-Life Corporation for $2.1 million. Glade joined KFPT (soon to be KSL)
in November 1924, a few months after John N. Cope took over the station
from the Deseret News Company and the LDS Church. During Glade's first year,
control of KSL was taken by the Radio Service Corporation of Utah, another
LDS Church-owned company. Glade guided KSL's operations for the next fourteen
years, until Ivor Sharp arrived to manage the station in the late 1930s.
Glade stepped aside as station manager but remained on the board of directors,
and Sharp guided KSL through the next two decades.
Many talented performers began their careers in early radio with Glade's
help. Irma Bitner and Josephine Goff performed and directed at KSL, and
Louise Hill Howe directed the "KSL Players." Alvin and Lena Marie
Pack benefited from Glade's guidance. Beginning in the early 1930s, this
husband and wife team added zestful advertising promotions to their live
programs. Alvin Pack later managed KDYL and KALL.
In the early 1930s, A.L. (Abe) Glasmann, owner of the Ogden Standard
Examiner, took over the faltering KFUR and changed the call letters
to KLO. Glasmann formed the Interstate Broadcasting Corporation as parent
to KLO in 1934 and hired his son-in-law George Hatch to manage the Ogden
station in 1941.
Glasmann's establishment of George Hatch in broadcasting is typical of the
histories of several Utah pioneer broadcasting families. In Price, KEUB
- Eastern Utah Broadcasting - opened in 1936. It was owned by Sam Weiss
and funded by his father's Uintah Basin hide and pelt business. Frank Carman
was the engineer at the station. Jack Richards became a principal owner
of KEUB in 1950 and the call letters changed to KOAL. Richard's son, Tom
Anderson, now owns and operated KOAL. Cache Valley Broadcasting Company
put Logan's KYNU on the air in 1938, and Herschel Bullen and his son Reed
joined with Dan B. Shields, a Salt Lake attorney, in 1944 to purchase the
station. Reed Bullen and his son Jonathan are still involved in Logan radio
broadcasting but have sold their cable television holdings. Howard Johnson
- engineer at many Utah stations and originator of KNAK, Utah's first rock
n' roll station - began his Utah radio career in the early 1940s. He later
joined forces with his sons, and the Johnson family continues to own and
operate KSUB in Cedar City. In Provo, Alma Van Wagenen established his sons,
Frank A. and Harold E., in broadcasting. They put KCSU on the air in 1946.
Cutler R. Miller, a respected Utah engineer, helped the Van Wagenens technically
with KCSU. In Richfield, KSVC - "The Voice of Scenic Utah" - began
broadcasting in September 1947 under the guidance of William L. Warner,
Sr., with the operational assistance of his son William. Brigham City's
first radio station, KBUH, was started in 1947 by retired contractor Samuel
L. Stephens and his son Samuel, Jr. Also in 1947, Ogden's KVOG was put on
the air by Arch Webb, who went on to own an Ogden TV station. Webb's sons,
John and Richard, now own Ogden's KLO/KXAN stations. These are representative
of the numerous Utah families who became early participants in the emerging
In addition to family operations, radio's commercial potential was demonstrated
by other pioneers as well. In southern Utah, Leland Perry and Harold Johnson
founded KSUB in Cedar City in 1937 with studios located in the Escalante
Hotel. Arch L. Madsen, who would later achieve worldwide stature as Bonneville
International Corporation's visionary leader, was KSUB's first station manager.
Madsen also contributed to broadcasting in Utah's central region. In 1939
he became the first manager of KOVO, Clifton A. Tolboe's Provo station.
Madsen also helped form the Intermountain Network, which joined KOVO with
KALL, KLO, and KOAL. Frank Carman put Salt Lake's KUTA on the air in 1938.
In 1945 George Hatch and Robert and Abrelia Hinckley put KALL on the air.
In Vernal, James C. Wallentine put KJAM on the air in 1947. He had to put
the complete KJAM operations in the Hotel Vernal because land surrounding
the city of Vernal was unavailable and too expensive due to oil speculation.
Recognizing a market interdependence, these Utah broadcast pioneers and
others founded the Utah Broadcasters Association in 1952. The UBA has been
a unifying force helping to shape the Utah broadcasting industry for more
than four decades.
The 1980s saw a surge in corporate broadcast ownership in Utah. Station
transfer regulations were relaxed and Ogden and Provo became part of the
Salt Lake market. This allowed FM stations licensed in Ogden and Provo to
put their transmitters in the Oquirrh Mountains and thus reach the Salt
Lake radio audience. The Salt Lake market became attractive to investors
and to large corporations, which brought in corporate management and programming
teams and infused cash into the market. As a result, the Salt Lake market
became among the most competitive in the country, with more than forty radio
stations. To try to differentiate themselves from the Ogden and Provo stations,
the Salt Lake County broadcasters formed the Salt Lake Market Radio Broadcasters
Association, which caused industry tension until the late 1980s when the
Association was changed to the Salt Lake Area Broadcasters Association and
was then opened to all Wasatch Front broadcasters.
Also in the 1980s, several stations became the property of non-Utah corporations
and owners. The most significant was Frank Carman's sale of KLUB/KISN to
Sun Mountain Broadcasting. In 1988 Citadel Communications Corporation bought
KCNR and KLZX. The KMGR stations were purchased in 1988 and later sold again.
KKAT was sold to the Brown Broadcasting Group in 1986. Using a modern country-and-western
format, Brown made KKAT number one in the Salt Lake market and then sold
it to a San Francisco financial group for $12 million, the highest price
ever paid for a Utah radio station.
Nevertheless, many stations stayed in Utah hands or were acquired by Utahns
in the 1980s. George Hatch's Communication Investment Corporation and the
LDS Church's Bonneville International Corporation continued as Utah corporate
owners of KALL and KSL, respectively. David Williams, owner of General Telephone,
a Utah paging company, purchased KFAM. The KCPX stations were purchased
in 1983 by Salt Lake developer John Price. Simmons Family, Inc., under the
direction of banker Roy Simmons, purchased several Utah stations, including
Salt Lake's KDYL/KSFI and KDXU/KZEZ in St. George.
The 1990s began as a shake-out period for Utah broadcasting. The FCC changed
its long-held regulations against the ownership of more than one radio station
of a kind in the same market. Under the new ruling, the George Hatch stations,
the John Price stations, and several others were acquired by outside corporate
owners. When Hatch sold 80 percent ownership of KUTV television in 1993,
it represented a significant erosion of the long-standing local ownership
of Utah broadcasting stations.
Cable television in Utah has expanded since the 1980s, largely under the
leadership of Telecommunications, Inc., the largest operator of cable systems
in the world. Independent television stations were also started during this
period. Long-time Salt Lake City television stations KTVX, KSL, and KUTV
were joined by KSTU and KXIV. Ogden's KOOG and Park City's low-power Channel
45 also went on the air in the 1980s. In radio, public stations KBYU-FM
in Provo, KUER-FM and KRCL-FM in Salt Lake, KUSU-FM in Logan, KPCW in Park
City, and later KCPW in Salt Lake City provided viable alternatives to commercial
radio. In television, KUED at the University of Utah and KBYU at Brigham
Young University achieved national recognition as public stations. The University
of Utah was awarded a license for an unprecedented second VHF channel in
order to offer education programs on KULC, Channel 9 - "Utah's Learning
Channel." In the early 1990s, the new Dolores Dore Eccles Broadcast
Center at the University of Utah brought KUER-FM, KULC-TV, KUED-TV, and
the Utah Education Network together in a single location. In 1990, Philo
T. Farnsworth, the native Utahn who invented an all-electronic television
system in the 1930s was given immortality when his bronze image was added
to the historic figures in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol in
From its very humble beginnings in the basements and attics of Utah's amateur
operators, radio and television have prospered throughout the state. The
engineers who gave Utah broadcasting its start in the 1920s were replaced
in the decades to follow by savvy radio pioneers and business entrepreneurs.
In more recent years, corporations from beyond Utah's borders have been
actively charting the course of broadcasting's future.
Tim Larson and Robert K. Avery