About KFOR News 4Fascinated with the medium since the late 1930s, Edward K. Gaylord—publisher of the morning Daily Oklahoman and evening Oklahoma Times newspapers—brought television to Oklahoma on an exhibitory basis in mid-November 1939, when his Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) sponsored a six-day demonstration of telecasts and broadcast equipment at the Oklahoma City Municipal Auditorium (now the Civic Center Music Hall) in downtown Oklahoma City, which featured appearances by performers from NBC and Gaylord's radio station, WKY (930 AM). During November and early December 1944, OPUBCO conducted a similar, 19-city television exhibition tour across central and western Oklahoma (open to residents who had purchased war bonds) that included performances from WKY personalities and demonstrations by television technicians.
On April 16, 1948, Gaylord submitted a permit application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a television station that would transmit on VHF channel 4. He waited to make the submission so as to ensure that any financial burden would be limited until revenue from existing OPUBCO assets was able to offset the station's profit losses. When the FCC granted the license for the proposed television station to Gaylord on June 2, 1948, Gaylord requested to assign WKY-TV as the television station's call letters, applying the base WKY callsign that had been used by his AM radio station shortly after it signed on in 1922 and also assigned to its FM sister on 98.9 (now defunct, frequency now occupied by KYIS) when it signed on in July 1947. The station began test broadcasts, accompanied by music playing over the test pattern slide, on April 21, 1949. Television set owners in Oklahoma and neighboring states called to report reception of the WKY test signal, which was transmitted each afternoon until regular broadcasts commenced. The test signal operated at low power for three days, after a lightning strike caused minor damage to a junction box on the transmission tower during the early morning of April 27. Closed-circuit transmissions began on May 27, with a wrestling match at the Oklahoma City Stockyards Coliseum.
Channel 4 officially signed on the air at 7:00 p.m. on June 6, with an inaugural broadcast that included speeches from Gaylord, executive vice president/general manager Proctor A. "Buddy" Sugg, and Governor Roy J. Turner; a topical feature by Gaylord and Sugg on the new television medium; and a film outlining programs that would air on WKY-TV. It was the first television station to sign on in the state of Oklahoma (KOTV in Tulsa – which had its license approved the same day as the grant of the WKY-TV license to Gaylord – would not debut until October 22), and the 65th to sign on in the United States. WKY-TV's original studio facilities were based at the Municipal Auditorium (near Colcord Drive and Walker Avenue, 0.5 miles [0.80 km] west of WKY radio's facilities at the Skirvin Tower Hotel on Park and Broadway Avenues), with production facilities in the Freede Little Theatre on the second floor. Following a second round of renovations to the building due to a fire that caused $150,000 in damage on November 17, 1948, most of the technical and production equipment was replaced, and soundproofing material was installed in the auditorium to limit disruptions between production of local programs and stage productions that would be held elsewhere in the building. The radio station's 968-foot (295 m) broadcast tower, located between Kelley Avenue and the Broadway Extension in northeast Oklahoma City's Britton section, was the site of an accident in which the assembly carrying the WKY-TV transmitter antenna fell 8 feet (2.4 m) (at the tower's 600-foot [180 m] mark) while being hoisted for installation; the antenna suffered minor, albeit repairable dents.