The station first signed on the air on September 27, 1953, as KFEQ-TV. It was founded by local businessman Barton Pitts, owner of local radio station KFEQ 680 AM. KFEQ-TV originally operated as a primary CBS affiliate, and also carried programming from the DuMont Television Network. That year, a 750-foot (229 m) tall lattice steel tower was constructed to house the station's transmitter. The tower, which had become landmark in the city of St. Joseph, is often compared to the 1,042-foot (318 m) tower used by KCTV (channel 5) in Kansas City. The two stations, which signed on the air on the same date, built their respective towers at the same time. In preparation for the digital television transition, on January 19, 2009, the KQTV tower was partially truncated in height to 587 feet (179 m).