KFTY-TV 50 in Santa Rosa — the channel that gave broadcasters Jon Miller and Stan Atkinson their start — flipped yesterday to Spanish-language programming.
In 1972, a former KNBC executive, Kit Spier, put the station on the air from a studio that had been a former postal distribution center at Fifth and Davis in Santa Rosa. The station was undercapitalized and left the year a year later. (This op-ed from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat gives the early history of KFTY.)
Newspaper publisher Wishard Brown, who sold the Marin Independent Journal to Gannett in 1980, put TV50 back on the air in 1981.
Nine years later, Brown sold KFTY for $2.25 million Gary Heck of Korbel Champagne Cellars. Heck sold it to the Ackerley Group in 1996 for $7.8 million.
The station had a series of owners including Clear Channel Communications, which abruptly shut down KFTY’s newsroom on Jan. 26, 2007, and laid off 13 employees, as it was trying to reduce the station’s expenses in preparation for a sale to Newport Television a few months later.
In 2011, KFTY, which is carried on local cable systems in the Bay Area and DirecTV, found a new audience by airing shows such as “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space,” “I Love Lucy,” “MASH,” “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Gunsmoke” as an affiliate of MeTV.
But in July, Newport sold KFTY to Una Vez Mas for $5.2 million. Una Vez Mas, the largest affiliate group of Azteca America, owns stations in Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Tucson, Atlanta, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
MeTV announced on its website that it is seeking a new affiliate in the Bay Area.
(Photo credit: Screen grabs from this YouTube video of a 1972 video of a KFTY newscast.)