Here are actual pictures of WFIL TV at 46th & Market St. home to American Bandstand.

In 1945, Philadelphia Inquirer publisher Walter Annenberg decided to purchase WFIL Radio in Philadelphia from the Lit Brothers Department store. The purchase price for the station was $190,000. When buying WFIL, it was an AM station that was experimenting with something new called FM. Moreover, Annenberg was really attracted to the fact that WFIL Radio had the right to build a television station, a medium Walter thought would be a powerful tool.

WFIL-AM (left) WFIL-FM (right)

Walter Annenberg
One day, Annenberg called his advisors into a room to discuss the possibility of starting a television station. All were opposed, all except Walter. He won. For the cost of a three-cent stamp, he filed for the construction permit. He knew that Philly was supposed to have three TV stations and he would have one of them. The license was approved in 1947 and WFIL-TV became the 13th TV station on the air in the U.S.A in September of that year. It was also the very first ABC-TV affiliate outside of the ABC O&O's. Once on the air, the station ran at a loss for only a half of a year.

WFIL-TV was filling the afternoons with B movies. Hollywood wouldn't sell TV anything good as they considered them competitors. The movies were bad and when the cost went up, the contract wasn't renewed. WFIL-TV Station Manager George Koehler (a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia) was "pulling his hair out" trying to think of a replacement.

George Koehler (behind camera)

George had a show on the air called "Parade of Stars," with films of pop stars. Bob Horn was the host. Koehler asked popular WFIL Radio DJ Bob Horn to transfer his successful radio program "Bandstand" to television and have it replace "Parade of Stars". It would be a huge gamble.

Lee Stewart & Bob Horn on the 1st Bandstand Set

The show started on Monday, October 6, 1952 with sidekick Lee Stewart. They talked, played records and aired a few publicity interviews. A year later, Stewart was removed from the program and given his own TV show. The music took to the foreground with local neighborhood kids dancing in front of the cameras.

On July 9, 1956, Horn was fired after a statutory scandal and drunk driving arrest. WFIL's owner Walter Annenberg's Philadelphia Inquirer were ironically doing a series on drunk driving at the time.

Dick Clark already on staff at WFIL quickly took over the show.

In August of 1957, WFIL talked the ABC Television Network into a 5 week trial as a summer replacement show.
The show was renamed American Bandstand. It was an immediate national hit.

American Bandstand

American Bandstand

Bristol Stompin' Bonnie Nadley on the set of American Bandstand
(First row far left/big hairdo)
Bonnie Nadley on American Bandstand

(Below) Dick Clark is interviewing Johnny Crawford

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In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission barred companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market -- the so-called "one to a market" rule. However, the FCC "grandfathered" several existing newspaper and broadcasting clusters in several markets. Walter Annenberg approached the FCC for permission to grandfather its cluster of the Inquirer, Daily News and WFIL-AM-FM-TV, but was turned down. As a result, in 1969, one year after the new regulation was made official, Walter Annenberg sold the Inquirer and the Daily News to Knight (later Knight-Ridder) Newspapers.

In 1971, the FCC forced Walter Annenberg to sell off his broadcasting properties due to protests from then, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp. Shapp complained that Walter Annenberg had used his three Pennsylvania television stations, WFIL-TV, WLYH-TV in Lebanon and WFBG-TV (now WTAJ-TV) in Altoona -- in a smear campaign against him. WFIL AM/FM/TV was sold to Capital Cities Communications. As a condition of the sale, Capital Cities had to spin-off the radio stations to other entities (WFIL radio to LIN Broadcasting and WFIL-FM to Richer Communications, which changed the call letters to WIOQ), and channel 6 changed its call letters to the current WPVI-TV on April 27, 1971.

In March 1985, Capital Cities, in a move that stunned the broadcast industry, and largely based on the growing revenue success of Channel 6 Action News, announced it was purchasing the American Broadcasting Company, thus making WPVI an ABC owned-and-operated station. A decade later, the Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC.

Dateline: City Ave. & Monument Road Philadelphia

The Round WPVI Building under demolition

(above) February 2010 (below) March 2010

The new WPVI TV studios are just to the left of the demolition of the original building.


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Coming Soon: The history of WDAS Radio & WHAT Radio in Philadelphia

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More pictures & WIBG Broadcast
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