KSWO-TV - History


KSWO is owned by Drewry Communications Group, which started out with one radio property at Lawton, KSWO-AM, in 1941, followed by the addition of KRHD Radio in nearby Duncan, Oklahoma in 1947. The call letters of the Duncan station were named for the owner, Ransom H. Drewry's, initials. The call letters KSWO are now exclusively used by the TV station and KRHD is now used as the call sign for an ABC affiliate in Bryan-College Station, Texas, which is also owned by Drewry Communications. Drewry Communications Group also owns CBS affiliate KFDA-TV in Amarillo, Texas; ABC affiliate KXXV in Waco, Texas; NBC affiliates KWES-TV in Midland, Texas; and KWES repeater station KWAB-TV in Big Spring, Texas. If not for the vision of these men, R.H. Drewry, J.R. Montgomery, T.R. Warkentin, Robert P. Scott and G.G. Downing, KSWO-TV would not be here today.

KSWO-TV is the only television station in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market to have remained under the same ownership since its inception and to remain locally owned and operated to this day. It also one of the few TV stations in the country (not counting owned-and-operated stations) that has had the same call letters, channel number, and primary network affiliation throughout its history.

KSWO-TV uses the Circle 7 logo that is also used by ABC's owned-and-operated stations along with many other ABC affiliates with Channel 7 frequencies. It is the oldest logo still in use among TV stations in the Wichita Falls/Lawton market, having been used continuously since 1979, though the "Circle 7" was previously used at KSWO from 1967 to 1970, and then succeeded by a TV-screen '7" logo from 1970 to 1977, followed by a "Circle 7" logo from 1977 to 1979 that was similar to one used in the 1980s and 1990s by Midland-Odessa station KOSA-TV. The ABC "Circle 7" symbol returned to KSWO in 1979 as part of a re-imaging that included a new news set and the introduction of the "Action 7 News" name and format to the Texoma area which would last for more than 15 years until the current "7 News" branding and newsroom/studio format began in the mid-1990s.

Due to electrical outages following a damaging windstorm that rolled through the Lawton area in late May 1996, the early morning newscast Good Morning Texoma was broadcast virtually in the dark. The only power came from the portable generator in one of the station's live trucks, which they also used as a makeshift STL (studio-to-transmitter link) to get the signal to the transmitter. The show was done with one camera, one tape deck and one microphone (that was passed between the announcers).

KSWO has broadcast the annual West Texas Rehabilitation Center telethon from Abilene, Texas each year since 1971. The telethon is broadcast one Saturday night each January over TV stations serving various markets in north, west and central Texas.

The station's first transmitter was at the studios east of Lawton, which was a relatively low-power unit that could reach viewers within a limited 55-mile radius that included Altus, Oklahoma to the west, Wichita Falls to the south, Anadarko, Oklahoma to the north and Ringling, Oklahoma to the east. By the late 1950s, other ABC affiliates such as KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and KTEN in Ada, Oklahoma were encroaching the northern and eastern fringes on KSWO's viewing area, but wide gaps existed to the south and west of Wichita Falls, and the only primary ABC affiliates in north and west Texas were WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth and KVII-TV in Amarillo, as Lubbock and Abilene did not get their own primary ABC affiliates until 1969 and 1979, respectively.

In 1959, the FCC permitted KSWO-TV to erect a 1,000-foot-tall (300 m) tower with 316,000 watts of power (maximum allowable for VHF channels 7-13) near Grandfield, Oklahoma, which was activated in early 1960 and permitted reception of Channel 7 over a much larger area of North Texas and Southwest Oklahoma - bringing complete ABC programming with viewable reception to many locations for the first time. Wichita Falls stations KFDX-TV and KSYD-TV (now KAUZ) opposed the application, and the FCC had to be convinced. The new site was about halfway between the cities and from a Lawton perspective in the same direction as the Wichita Falls stations. Many years later when KJTL (channel 18) was activated in the mid-1980s, it chose a site near KSWO-TV's transmitter at Grandfield. Ironically, KJTL is now in common ownership with NBC affiliate KFDX (channel 3), which continues to operate its own transmitter from the original site in Wichita Falls as does CBS affiliate KAUZ (channel 6).

On July 31, 2009 Drewry Communications initiated a joint sales/shared operational services agreement between KSWO and CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV (channel 6). This will combine oversight of sales and promotion with those of KSWO-TV. In time, it could streamline operation of the two stations (shared people, shared equipment, shared location) along the lines of separately owned but cooperatively operated competitor stations KFDX-TV and KJTL-TV. With each station office more than an hours drive from the other, it is not as easy as combining stations that are around the corner from each other. With the agreement, KAUZ-TV General Manager Mike deLier, News Director Dan Garcia, and a videographer were released. These tasks were assumed by their KSWO-TV counterparts.

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