Fort Smith First Television Station KFSA
At 4:22 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, 1953, KFSA went on the air with a live broadcast for the first time. It was the first television station to broadcast from Fort Smith, and it did so on UHF channel 22. Donald W. Reynolds owner of the station, KFSA radio and the Southwest American and Fort Smith Times Record newspapers had hoped and worked for a Fort Smith television station for 14 years.
From 4:22 p.m. to 5 p.m., ceremonies and public remarks took place and were transmitted through the first broadcast. Mayor H.R. Hestand and city commissioners Jack Hough and Jay Medlen congratulated the company live on television. Pat Porta, the station's program director, was the master of ceremonies. Weldon Stamps, KFSA manager, was the last person to appear and reported that viewers from outlying towns like Poteau, Mountainburg and Booneville said the signal was clear. At 5 p.m., an hour-long feature starring Jane Wyatt called "Girl From God's Country" began airing.
Because other network affiliates were so far away in Tulsa and Little Rock, KFSA was able to affiliate with more than one broadcaster, carrying regular programming from NBC, ABC and the Dumont networks. Two Dumont programs on the station were Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's "Life Is Worth Living" and "Blind Date." The "Cisco Kid" and "Boston Blackie" also were slated in those first months. NBC programs like "Dragnet" and "Dangerous Assignment" were seen as well. A live progam originating from KFSA was a 5 p.m. Saturday "auction party" show.
The first day of broadcasting ended with "The Hairy Ape" starring William Bendix and Susan Hayward. Sign-off followed that. The broadcasting did not begin again until 4 p.m. Monday. For some time, the station maintained a 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight schedule. Fifteen minute news broadcasts were made from the KFSA studio at 6:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.
In time, KFSA would change it's channel frequency to channel 5 in the VHF band, and its call letters to KFSM. KFSM channel 5 is a CBS network affiliate that still broadcasts today from Fort Smith and northwest Arkansas.
Source: "Television Goes On Air For First Time in City," Southwest American, July 20, 1953, p. 1; several news features in a special section of the Southweset-Times Record, July 12, 1953, 2-A, 3-A, 18-A, 19-A, 21-A.