Virtually all of the participants in the hearings (they went on
for four days) agreed that the NTSC Standards were correct and
should be adopted quickly. The FCC was convinced that the industry
had finally agreed and the NTSC Standards were adopted as the
national standard in April 1941. The effective date was July 1,
1941. Commercial television could finally begin!
When that "Opening Day" for commercial television finally
arrived, only two television stations were licensed and ready for
operation; WNBT (NBC, old W2XBS) transmitting on Channel 1 and WCBW
(CBS, old W2XAS) transmitting on Channel 2. Both of these stations
were in New York City. Soon after WPTZ in Philadelphia started
transmitting September 1, 1941, using on Channel 3. By the spring of
1942, a total of four commercial stations were in full operation and
10,000 television receivers had been sold.
World War II halted television's growth, when the Defense
Communications Board ordered construction of new radio and
television stations to end. Television programming was reduced to
just four hours per week for the broadcasters already in operation
(all devoted to war-related activities).
As the end of the war approached, the FCC was faced with a
monumental task. The war effort had brought about an extraordinary
leap in communications technology. Frequencies that had been
thought to be useless were now in tremendous demand. The entire
spectrum had to be re-examined, with new allocations made and old
ones revised. The FCC began holding hearings on September 28,
1944. It was promptly overwhelmed. The 18-channel television
allocations in effect since 1940 were attacked by one group as being
wasteful of the valuable VHF spectrum, yet another group urged in
increase to 26 channels. Others urged the FCC to immediately move
all television allocations to UHF frequencies. But the television
industry argued that television had waited long enough and should
develop now, using the existing allocations.
After hearings that were held on February 14, 1945, it became
clear that no group was going to get everything it wanted. In the
FCC's final decision, released on June 27, 1945, television's
allocation was reduced to 13 channels and FM was moved from the
42-50 MHz slot to 88-106 MHz, later extended to 108 MHz. The
television interests were very unhappy that they had been left with
only 13 channels, but the FM interest suffered a major blow because
all of the existing stations had to go off the air and switch to new
frequencies. In addition, 500,000 home FM receivers were now
The reduction to 13 television channels was accompanied by new
and reorganized frequency allocations (see Table 1). Again
broadcasters had to go off the air to switch frequencies.
Our Channel 1 was still around, but it was moved back to the
44-50 MHz band that it had occupied from 1938 to 1940. In addition,
there was a restriction on assigning Channel 1: It could only be
used as a community channel, and power limited to 1,000 watts. Other
television channels were for metropolitan stations, with a maximum
power of 50,000 watts permitted. All channels, except Channel 6,
were shared with fixed and mobile services -- a fact that left the
television interest concerned about interference. The changes
became effective March 1, 1946.
Even with the reduced number of channels, the boom was on.
Manufacturers quickly began producing television receivers,
transmitters, antennas, etc. New television stations were built all
over the United States. The FCC had identified the top 140
metropolitan cities and assigned each at least one channel; a total
of 400 were to be allotted. The FCC received many more applications
than it had available channels. In an effort to provide with as
many channels as possible, the FCC routinely threw away the "safety
factor" of mileage between licensed transmitters. Television
receiver sales were doing very well, with 175,000 sold by the end of
1947. Manufacturers were selling television sets as fast as they
could be made, even though they were rather expensive. (A typical
set with a 10-inch screen sold for $375.)
But problems began to appear. Propagation theories at that time
predicted that television signals would not be received over the
horizon -- but they were, quite readily. So, even with just 50
stations on the air, interference problems were beginning to
appear. Meanwhile, the FCC had reduced the minimum distance between
stations using the same channel to just 80 miles. An engineering
study released by the FCC warned of interference problems if
immediate action wasn't taken. That lead to an FCC report issued on
may 5, 1949, that rules that television could no longer share its
frequencies with fixed and mobile services, and that the 72 to 76
MHz band could be used for fixed radio services only.
But where could the mobile services be located if they could no
longer share the television allocations, and could no longer be used
for use the 72 to 76 MHz band? There was only one place to go --
the television industry would have to give up another television
channel. But which channel would that be? The American Radio Relay
League (an association of amateur radio operators) urged that
Channel 2 be deleted so that the second harmonics of the 28-29.7 MHz
amateur radio band would not interfere with television reception.
The television industry, although not pleased about losing yet
another television channel, agreed that 12 clear channels were
preferable to 12 shared channels. If they had to lose a channel,
they preferred that it be Channel 1, because its absence would have
the least impact on commercial television.
The FCC went along with the television industry's position, and
on June 14, 1948, Channel 1 was deleted from the allocation plan.
Channel 1"s frequencies were assigned to the land and mobile
services. At the same time, the FCC decided not to renumber the
channels -- that is what happened to Channel 1.
What follows is some
additional information provided by Steve Geary, KA8RIZ
When the FCC moved the FM band
from 42-50 MHz to 88-108, this of course made all FM radios made
before the war obsolete. Major E. H. Armstrong fought back and
managed to get the FCC to re-establish the old 42-50 MHz slot for
FM. This was to help the transition to the new band and was in
effect until 1949 or 1950.
The reason I say this is that I have several FM radios made after
WWII that have BOTH 42-50 and 88-108 FM bands.
The big four Armstrong licensed manufacturers (Zenith, General
Electric, Magnavox and Stromberg Carlson) all made
FM radios with both bands until 1949. (The last known model with
both bands I can find is a 1949 Zenith)
Afterwards, the 42-50 MHz slot was allocated to fixed and land
There was quite a battle between Armstrong and David Sarnoff
(president of RCA of this time period) I feel that it was part of
Sarnoff's doing to get the FCC move the FM band and give the
allocation back to Television.
Its also interesting that according to Volume 10 of the John F.
riders manuals, Television channel allocations on the RCA TRK series
of televisions for 1939 have a channel/frequency lineup like this:
1 = 84-90 MHz
2 = 78-84 MHz
3 = 66-72 MHz
4 = 50-56 MHz
5 = 44-50 MHz
All this is from my experiences as a vintage radio collector and
historian as well as fine books such as Lawrence Lessing's "Man of
High Fidelity: Edwin Howard Armstrong" copyright 1956. and Tom
Lewis' "Empire of the Air" copyright 1991. Also John F. Rider