Celebrating 70 Years: The history of WDTN

Local News

MORAINE, Ohio (WDTN) – WDTN is celebrating 70 years on the air this week! A lot has changed since 1949 – including our call letters – so we’re beginning our celebration with a look back at how we got here.

Over 40 hours of live news is now produced within the station’s walls every week, but to understand WDTN’s commitment to serving you each and every day in the present, first we must take a look back to when it all began.

The U.S. was still riding the high following WWII, the economy was booming, and America was building.

It was 1947, and in Moraine, blocks and mortar were piecing together what would become history. But at the time, the building was meant to be just an indoor skating rink and sports complex.

Two years later, the cinder-blocked walls had a new tenant, our founding station, WLW-D.

It is hard in the 2019 television universe of hundreds of channels to appreciate the magnitude of that moment, yet in 1949, WLW-D was one of just 11 stations in Ohio.

“The Texaco Star Theater starring Milton Berle” was the first show on the air and it set the tone for hours of family programming every day.

Berle became one of the most famous personalities in TV history and other shows and personalities were quick to follow.

“Midwestern Hayride,” some shows of which were produced inside the WLW-D studio, became wildly popular.

Before The McGuire Sisters shot to stardom with hit-after-hit including a few that went to number one, they were just sisters growing up in Miamisburg, singing in churches and looking for a break. They got it here.

A half-century before the Dayton Dragons began selling out Fifth Third Field, the Dayton Indians minor league team was all the rage, and within two months of WLW-D signing on in 1949, the Indians were on the air, becoming the first Class A baseball team to be broadcast on TV.

A year later, wrestling was broadcast for a TV audience from a TV studio, the WLW-D studio, for the first time anywhere in the world.

In 1953, we were the first television station in the country to sign a Color Broadcast Agreement with NBC, then on January 1 of 1954, the Rose Bowl became the first sporting event broadcast in color.

Then there are the people. The list of personalities that forged their fame here is just as long, from Ruth Lyons and her 50 Club to the Joe Longstreth Show to Gordon Jump, who was a community service director for the station and wrote several shows before shooting to stardom as Arthur Carlson on WKRP.

But the one name that shaped an era of television and new genre of broadcast like no other is the biggest of them all – Phil Donahue.

His show was produced and televised from our Channel 2 studio, debuting in 1967. Two years later it went national.

Donahue quickly shot to stardom and became national conversation, as well as the measuring stick for any talk show that would ever follow.

From black and white to 4K High Definition, from Howdy Doodie to Coats for Kids, the last 70 years have been a historic run with many changes, with one exception…our viewers!

Thank you, and stay tuned for the next 70 years!

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