Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 1, 1996

The first television station in Texas, WBAP-TV, Fort Worth, began operating on September 27, 1948, carrying a speech by President Harry Truman; the station officially signed on two days later. By 1950 six stations were in operation in Texas, with three in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, two in San Antonio, and one in Houston. The rapid growth of television in its early stages prompted the Federal Communications Commission to bring all television construction to a halt in the summer of 1950 in order to allow a long-range analysis of the industry, upon which channel allocations and technical specifications could be based. At the time of the freeze only the six stations mentioned above were in existence. The ban was lifted in 1952, and other stations around the state soon began operations. In the early 1950s the San Antonio and Fort Worth stations began broadcasting live programs by use of the coaxial cable. In 1953 four major television networks served Texas—American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Dumont. In that year network broadcasting was made possible across the state through use of facilities of the Bell Telephone System, which had invested $10 million in Texas television cables and microwave relay stations. By 1973, ABC, CBS, and NBC were the major television networks; the Hughes Sports Network was operating in Texas, while the Westinghouse Network (not truly a network, but a program supplier) ran special dramatic programs and documentaries. Beginning in 1954 the Spanish International Network began Spanish-language television programs for the Spanish-speaking population in the El Paso-Juárez, Mexico, area. San Antonio joined the network the following year, Laredo-Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, joined in 1962, and Lubbock was added in 1970.

As an example of the early economic value of commercial television stations in Texas, the hourly rate for television time on KRLD-TV in Dallas was $750 in 1953; by 1968 the rate was $2,300 per hour. Rates varied around the state, with some of the smaller stations charging $300 per hour, but rates were increased by the 1970s. Over a period of twenty-five years the number of stations steadily increased, particularly in the larger metropolitan areas such as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, but some of the stations in less populated areas went out of business for lack of supporting revenue. As of September 6, 1973, there were forty-seven major television stations and five satellite television stations in Texas, for a total of fifty-two stations. A satellite station is one that is a sister-subordinate to a major station, carrying programs from the major station, but also carrying some local programs and advertising.

The first educational television in the nation was KUHT, Houston, established in 1953. Others followed in Texas during the 1960s, so that by 1973 there were the following additional educational stations in the state: KLRN, Austin-San Antonio; KERA, Dallas; KTXT, Lubbock; KNCT, Killeen; KEDT, Corpus Christi (the latter two connected with KLRN, Austin-San Antonio); and KAMU, College Station. These stations, in addition to providing locally produced programs, were connected with Educational Television (ETV), later known as National Educational Television (NET) and in 1970 as Public Broadcasting System (PBS). In 1966 the Texas legislature provided financial aid to school districts for student ETV services, as did the National Defense Education Act. The Educational Television Facilities Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided financial aid for purchase of broadcasting equipment. The nation's first closed circuit television for university level classroom instruction was Texas Educational Media Program, originally called Texas Educational Microwave Project, and was operated by the University of Texas at Austin Communication Center. Plans for the project began in 1957, and the unique transmitting equipment was designed and built by Collins Radio of Dallas and bears serial number one. TEMP covered a seventy-mile path from Austin to San Antonio. When the system began operation it served Southwestern University in Georgetown; Texas Lutheran College in Seguin; Incarnate Word College, San Antonio College, Trinity University, St. Mary's University, and Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio; Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos; and the University of Texas, Huston-Tillotson College, and St. Edward's University in Austin. By 1972 the first three schools were no longer a part of the inter-college network. The program subjects, designed to supplement college studies, varied widely. Approximately fifteen courses were presented in 1971, with foreign-language instruction the most popular among member schools. A two-year (1971–73) Moody Foundation grant of $62,195 underwrote the TEMP service to the five private colleges and three public universities and colleges.

Since the end of World War II the mushrooming expansion of the television industry has affected the Texas economy in the manufacturing of parts, servicing of television sets, and construction of television stations; operation of the medium has steadily increased the demand for technical and studio personnel. In the 1980s most Texans were served by local cable companies, and the proliferation of both cable services and independent stations had reduced the viewer share of the three major networks. The number of television stations in the state increased dramatically in the 1980s, going from sixty-nine stations in 1980 to ninety-five stations in 1990 and 109 in 1995. In 1995 forty-three cities had one or more stations; El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston led with eight stations each, followed by Dallas with seven, Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, and Odessa with five each, and Fort Worth and Waco with four each.

  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Television,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996

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