WGGB: 70 years of covering western Massachusetts
(WGGB/WSHM) -- It all began on Tuesday, April 14, 1953 when WHYN-TV went on the air for the first time on channel 55. WHYN-TV was founded by Hampden-Hampshire Corporation, who were the owners of WHYN radio at 560 AM and 93.1 FM.
WHYN-TV originally operated as a CBS affiliate. It moved to Channel 40 on September 30, 1957 in order to give the station a closer dial position to other UHF stations in the region. WHYN lost the CBS affiliation in November 1958 when WTIC in Hartford, now WFSB, went on the air.
In 1959, Channel 40 became an ABC affiliate and has been with ABC ever since. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there weren’t any syndicated programs like ‘Family Feud’ or ‘Live with Kelly and Ryan,’ so it was all about local programming.
Of course, there was local news. The first newscast of the day was a five-minute segment just before 7 p.m., right after a late afternoon movie and at 11 p.m., we offered 15 minutes of news, sports, and weather. There was no videotape or digital recording like today. It was all on film, shot in the field, and processed back at the station. There was no videotape until the mid-1960s. That’s why the only memories we have of these live programs are still pictures.
CHECK IT OUT - PHOTOS: WGGB through the years
For the kids, there was ‘Bozo the Clown’ every morning and ‘The Admiral and Swabby Show’ every night. The admiral was played by Gary Garrison, who was also a member of the news department. He fondly remembered the show in an interview from our 40th anniversary.
“So we had some wonderful experiences and did some great things, had some interesting characters go through that show. It was the highest rated local show in western Mass. at the time,” Garrison explained in 1993.
Every afternoon at 1 p.m., it was ‘The Barbara Bernard Show.’ Bernard was a true pioneer of broadcasting in western Massachusetts and the country. After hosting a radio show on WHYN, it then moved to television in the 1950s.
“It was during the years, the late 50s and 60s, we had the Valley Players, we had the Storrowton Music Tent, we had Jacob’s Pillow, we had Tanglewood. We had brilliant talented people. Also, the fact that we had a combination AM and FM radio meant that all of these great people could come to visit and the would love the chance to be interviewed on my program because they were promoting their records. They would lip sinc a record. We had ‘em all,” Bernard recalled in 2017.
The stations were sold for the first time in 1967 to Guy Gannett Broadcasting in Maine for $4 million. In the 1970s and 1980s, we offered local programs like ‘Polka with Frank Knight.’ It was one of the most popular local programs ever, highlighting local polka bands every week. Half of the viewing audience in western Massachusetts tuned to polka every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. There was also ‘Conversations with…’ hosted by Frank McInerney every Sunday afternoon, ‘Heritage Corner,’ ‘Latino,’ ‘Strum and Drummers,’ Pete and ‘Willies Tree Hut.’
Our local news expanded in the early 1970s with a morning broadcast with veteran newscaster John Deegan and Dave Scott.
Guy Gannett sold the radio stations in 1979 and that when the television call letters changed from WHYN to WGGB. The news expanded to a full half hour at 5:30 p.m. and another half hour at 11:30 p.m.
In the eighties, we started our first morning news from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., a noon news from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., and expanded the 5:30 p.m. news to a full hour.
The 1990s saw the name of our news change from Newsbeat and Newswatch 40 to News40 and the news expanded again with the areas first 5 p.m. newscast.
There were more behind the scene changes in 1998 when Gannett sold WGGB-TV and its other stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group. In November 2007, Sinclair sold WGGB to locally-based Gormally Broadcasting for $21.2 million, which made WGGB the only locally-owned television station in the market.
On March 31, 2008, WGGB officially launched WGGB-DT2 as Springfield’s first in-market FOX affiliate, which offered the full FOX network line up of entertainment and sports programs to western Massachusetts.
Gormally Broadcasting sold WGGB to the Meredith Corporation, the owner of WFSB-TV in Hartford, in November 2014 for nearly $54 million. That created a duopoly with low-powered CBS affiliate, WSHM CBS 3 Springfield.
CHECK IT OUT : Video from the WGGB archives
In 2015, the now three television stations, - ABC40, CBS 3, and FOX 6 - became Western Mass News.
On December 1, 2021, Meredith sold WGGB and its other stations to Gray Television for $2.7 billion and that’s where we are today.
We’ve come a long way in 70 years. Our morning news programing has expanded to four-and-a-half hours. Our noon newscast is now an hour. We offer two-and-a-half hours from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every afternoon. There’s news at 10 p.m. on FOX 6 and at 11 p.m. on ABC40 and CBS 3. We now offer two hours of news every weekend morning and newscasts at 6 p.m., 10 p.m., and 11 p.m.
We continue to get answers for you each and every day. Yes, ownership has changed hands over the years, but our commitment to you, our viewers, has never changed.
Copyright 2023. Western Mass News (WGGB/WSHM). All rights reserved.