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Iowa History Daily: November 26 - KWWL Goes Live!

Iowa History Daily: On November 26, 1953, Ralph (R.J.) McElroy’s KWWL Waterloo first went live on the air. Operated by Black Hawk Broadcasting, the unlikely recipient of an FCC license, the story illustrates McElroy’s dogged boosterism and commitment to providing a public-oriented option for Cedar Valley news.

Ralph McElroy overcame a difficult childhood and early adulthood, ultimately finding success as an advertising salesman at WMT Radio Waterloo. After a stint in the Pacific Theater of World War II, McElroy returned and worked to create a community-oriented radio station. With the backing of 31 local investors, he founded the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company and KWWL Radio.

Joe DuMond’s KXEL, a large clear channel station, represented the dominant station in the Waterloo market during the late 1940s and early 1950s. When the FCC started considering potential television licensing for the market, KXEL and KWWL both applied. DuMond used KXEL’s status to lean on local advertisers in order to undercut KWWL, while also constructing and equipping a television station prior to license approval (a violation).

McElroy sued DuMond in federal court after obtaining a tape-recording of the KXEL executive discussing a boycott of KWWL by sponsors, and eventually the plucky McElroy bought out the studio and equipment from KXEL after winning the license. Initially a DuMont Television Network Station, KWWL became an NBC affiliate in 1955. Today, KWWL still represents an important voice in the Waterloo market. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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