Alaska's first TV station celebrates 65 years
In the 1950s, Alaska was a land of booming opportunity. Men from around the nation were drawn to jobs in the state's expanding oil industry. Cathy Hiebert, executive director of the Alaska Broadcasters Association, said some new residents felt left behind.
"The families would come up, but the women would feel isolated because they didn't have that one thing; they didn't have television," she said. "And often times they would just give up and leave. The families would leave."
Hiebert's father, Augie, was determined to change that.
"Dad had seen television in the Lower 48, when he'd make trips outside," Cathy Hiebert said. "Now, he had to convince stores up here that he was going to have a viable television station, and that they needed to carry TV sets in order to sell them to the people who wanted to watch TV."
On Dec. 11, 1953, Augie Hiebert started Alaska's first television station, KTVA.
Sixty-five years later, Channel 11 continues to broadcast statewide — even during some of Alaska's most devastating times, like the 1964 earthquake.
"All I did during the whole four minutes was try and push my filing cabinet back. It kept opening up and hitting me in the back of the head," Augie Hiebert said in a 2002 interview by Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association (AMIPA).
In a book written by his eldest daughter, Robin Ann Chlupach, Augie Hiebert described his thoughts once the shaking stopped:
"I was pretty sure from the action of the building, that the tower had broken off. And the thought crossed my mind that if the antenna is broken and gone, plus whatever other damage has been done, it is probably the end of Northern TV. If it's still up there, there's still hope. I ran out the door when everything quieted, and looked up. And there it was, and I thought, 'By George, we're going to make it!'"
His daughter Cathy said he might have approached the aftermath of the Nov. 30 earthquake with the same optimism.
"You get out the shovels, you clean up the mess, you stay on the air. You're working in hard hat conditions. And keeping everybody informed. It's all those critical pieces of information that make local broadcast, TV and radio so important," Hiebert said.
Tuesday marked 65 years of television in Alaska — predating statehood thanks to Augie Hiebert's vision for a stronger community and his mission to keep Alaskans connected.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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