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How an Entrepreneur Created WISH-TV

2024-07-07 – BE&O GS

Seventy years ago, a former door-to-door cigarette and candy salesman had an idea. Having already created the popular WISH radio, Charles Bruce McConnell wanted to enter the broadcast television business.

With a handful of investors and partners, McConnell created the Universal Broadcasting Corporation in 1952 and immediately petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a license to broadcast on channel 8 in the Indianapolis area.

At the time, Indy only had a television station, WFBM, but McConnell had a vision for something grander.

Once the FCC issued McConnell a license, he set out to build the most innovative and advanced television station in the Midwest.

Work began on a 1,000-foot-transmitter on the city’s east side. The tower would send the WISH-TV signal as far away as Ohio. At the time, it was the tallest transmitter in the country.

Even though the majority of televisions in Indianapolis homes couldn’t broadcast in color, McConnell equipped his new TV station with color cameras, so once the switch was made, WISH-TV would be ready.

The innovation continued when McConnel stocked his station with some of the best on-air talent in the market. Vince Leonard on the news, Kay Field doing the weather, Luke Walton with sports updates, and Catherine Daniels hosting a popular midday lifestyle show (sound familiar).

When it came to studio space, McConnell and his team built an addition to their existing radio studios, located at 1440 N. Meridian inside the Riddick Building. The newly built third story included two studios, one of which was large enough for a live audience, and the other featured a brand new kitchen stocked with the latest appliances for that midday lifestyle show.    

On July 1st, 1954, all the pieces were in place, and when WISH-TV went on the air at 5:56 pm, Indianapolis television changed forever.

For the past 70 years, Hoosiers have witnessed history, thanks to C. Bruce McConnell and the hard-working men and women who have walked these halls and stood in front of and behind these cameras.