On December 19, 1953, KFYR-TV became Bismarck’s first television station; a beacon of broadcasting in the rural heartland and “A new medium”, in the words of owner Etta Hoskins Meyer.
KFYR-TV was one of three television stations to go on the air in 1953, and the first station to broadcast in Bismarck. In April of 1953, KCJB-TV went on the air in Minot followed almost immediately by WDAY-TV in Fargo. KFYR-TV was the latest expansion of the Meyer family in the growing broadcasting industry. Starting with KFYR-AM radio in 1925, the Meyer family: P.J. Meyer and his wife Etta Hoskins Meyer and later, Etta’s daughter Marietta and her husband William Ekberg, had the expertise and the foresight to forge into television. It was not an easy task.
In the fall of 1953, if your family was fortunate enough to own a television you might have watched The Milton Berle Show, sponsored by Buick on NBC every Tuesday night at 8 PM. It was the most watched show of its time. KFYR-TV signed on the air December 19th of that year – a Saturday. On subsequent Saturdays, viewers could sing along with Your Hit Parade.
KFYR-TV kept up with the times. In 1955, the station established a microwave system and in 1964 the giant 1,101-foot tower at St. Anthony became operational, vastly improving KFYR-TV’s signal to hundreds of viewers in the outlying areas. By then, towns large and small in western North Dakota could watch news director Jack Swenson, sports director Doug Anderson and I.E. Solberg, forever known as “Esky the Weather Wizard” deliver the day’s news at 6 and 10 o’clock.
Videotape replaced film in the mid-1970s and a computerized weather graphics system took over for the magnetized weather board shortly after that. Sometime during the 1980s, manual and electric typewriters went into storage. They were replaced by computers and software that linked all the news people to a single program that revolutionized the way news was done.
Still more change in the 1990s as the Ekberg family decided to sell its television stations. They were purchased by Sunrise Television in 1998 and then sold to Wicks in 2002. They are currently owned by Hoak Media which purchased them in 2005.
Nearly six decades after it was established, KFYR-TV and its satellite stations KMOT-TV in Minot, KQCD-TV in Dickinson and KUMV-TV in Williston combine to present a powerhouse product to the people of western North Dakota. Hundreds of thousands of people still rely on KFYR-TV for vital local news, weather and sports. The strength and reach of the stations make them number one in local news – a position they have held since the industry began the ratings process. Their experienced news staff ensures that they live up to the slogan “Your News Leader”. KFYR-TV produces three and a half hours of live local news Monday through Friday and an hour of news on Saturday and Sunday. That is more news than any other local station in western North Dakota. KFYR-TV remains the only broadcasting company to employ local news reporters at all of their western North Dakota stations. The Emmy ® Award for Best Local Newscast was presented to KFYR-TV by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2002, 2007, and again in 2009. Another Emmy ® was presented to KFYR-TV in 2009 for Best Weekend Newscast.
On February 16, 2009, KFYR-TV reached another broadcasting milestone. They powered down their analog transmitter, which carried the tv signal to thousands of homes for nearly five decades, and began broadcasting in digital.
KFYR-TV is proud to serve the Bismarck area and all of western North Dakota. With a sense of history and a profound respect for the broadcast pioneers who built the station, they know that the past provided a roadmap to even greater success in the future for their station and talented staff.