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Television comes to ND


The theories for creating television were developed long before the technologies existed that made it possible. Some of the earliest concepts date back to the 1870s and 1880s. Some years later, in the 1920s, the first television signal was broadcast, featuring stick figures and silhouettes. This work went on out of the public eye until April 9, 1927, when Bell Laboratories and the Department of Commerce held the first long-distance transmission of a live picture and voice simultaneously, starring then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who said: “Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history. Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

In the years just preceding World War II, TV as we know it came into being. In 1948, there were also early tests of cable television in a rural area of Pennsylvania. Cable provided better reception of broadcast programming from nearby large cities.

The fledgling industry was not immediately profitable. In 1949, although most of the television stations were located in densely populated areas, stations reportedly lost “a total of about $15,000,000.”

On this date in 1951, North Dakota, which had no television stations of its own, was importing programming. However, bringing television to North Dakota presented a few problems. The nearest station was in Minneapolis, and the normal television range was between 40 and 50 miles, so relay towers or cable were needed.

Establishing local stations was expensive. And another factor that made television in North Dakota problematic was “the relatively sparse population.” The Bismarck Tribune reported that “In order to meet expenses, TV stations must charge high rates for advertising, which makes it necessary in turn for the business places to have as large a market among potential listeners as possible.”

However, television was here to stay, and it certainly helped when, on August 4, 1953, the first TV station in North Dakota, KCJB-TV, began broadcasting out of Minot.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


Bismarck Tribune, March 24, 1951, p2

“Historically Speaking” A short History of Broadcasting in North Dakota” by Frank E. Fistzsimonds, 1958