WMAQ-TV Chicago Highlights Tech, TV Firsts in Its 75th Anniversary Celebration

WMAQ-TV logo and 75th anniversary
(Image credit: WMAQ-TV)

CHICAGO—NBCUniversal Local’s WMAQ-TV (NBC 5 Chicago) is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with a series of segments highlighting the station’s storied history and its involvement in a long list of tech and TV firsts. 

The firsts include being the first full-time color TV station in the nation, the first to televise the World Series in Chicago and being Chicago’s first TV station to broadcast in stereo. 

Other notable milestones in the history of local TV in the Chicago market include having the first 10pm black news anchor, the first 10pm female co-anchor and the first female solo news anchor.

“Since the advent of local broadcast television, WMAQ-TV has been at the forefront of innovation, creativity, integrity, and connectivity to the Chicago community,” said Kevin Cross, president & general manager, NBCUniversal Local Chicago. “As we celebrate WMAQ-TV’s historic 75th anniversary this month, NBC Chicago will relive numerous stories that occurred over the decades and honor the on-air and behind-the-scenes trailblazers who helped define our legacy.”

WMAQ-TV list of its “firsts” include these for the nation: 

  • First full-time color station in the country
  • First TV station to receive and generate network transmission via satellite
  • First TV station to broadcast a continuous 8 ½ hour newscast
  • First small mobile video tape unit
  • First college credit course on a commercial TV station
  • First daytime television serial
  • First do-it-yourself program
  • First boxing match ever staged in a TV studio
  • First broadcast of a live, remote, primetime local theatrical production

 Firsts for Chicago include:  

  • First televised World Series in Chicago
  • First demonstration in Chicago of the split-screen technique
  • First TV station in stereo
  • First electronically-generated graphics
  • First investigative unit
  • First Black 10pm news anchor
  • First female 10pm co-anchor
  • First female solo news anchor
  • First program offering to a national network (“Kukla, Fran and Ollie”)
  • First station with satellite-receive facilities
  • First live, local helicopter coverage
  • First televised signing of legislation into law by an Illinois governor
  • First live broadcast of a surgery
  • First computerized election returns

As part of the celebration running through the end of the year, WMAQ-TV will also be airing a series of segments and specials looking back at how WMAQ covered the historic moments that helped shape the City of Chicago.

The 75th anniversary segments airing this week on NBC 5 News at 10pm include: 

  • Monday, October 9 – “History of WMAQ-TV”. Segment host: Allison Rosati, featuring discussions with Ron Magers, Carol Marin, Rich Samuels, Jorie Lueloff, Art Norman, Brant Miller and Alex Maragos.
  • Tuesday, October 10 – “Covering Chicago Politics”. Featuring discussions with Carol Marin and MaryAnn Ahern.
  • Wednesday, October 11 – “The ’85 Chicago Bears”. Featuring discussions with Mark Giangreco and Art Norman.
  • Thursday, October 12 – “Covering Chicago Weather”. Featuring discussions with Brant Miller, Andy Avalos, and Alicia Roman
  • Friday, October 13 – “Flashback Friday: Most Impactful Story from 1980’s”

Forthcoming NBC 5 News “75th Anniversary” segments will include even more interviews with former WMAQ-TV standouts including Bob Sirott, Phil Rogers, Rob Stafford, Lisa Parker, Peter Karl, Charlie Wojciechowski, Paula Faris and Steve Wilkos among others, the station said. 

The station will also air “Chicago Today: WMAQ-TV 75th Anniversary Entertainment Special” (Fri, Oct. 13 - 11:30 AM). Chicago Today hosts Cortney Hall & Matt Rodrigues will relive WMAQ-TV’s most memorable moments covering the entertainment industry featuring first-hand recollections via Bob Sirott, along with archived WMAQ clips featuring the late Warner Saunders and Harry Volkman, along with celebrity interviews with Maya Angelou, Chris Rock, Dana 

In addition to NBC 5 Chicago’s upcoming 75th Anniversary segments airing on NBC 5 News at 10pm, viewers will also be able to access even more, exclusive archived videos that highlight WMAQ-TV’s vast, award-winning coverage of major news events, weather, politics, sports, along with many more moments of significance in Chicago and Illinois history. 

In addition, on Fridays throughout the month of October, 75th Anniversary segments on NBC 5 News at 10pm will focus on the single most memorable story from the decades of the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010’s, with viewers voting on which story will be featured. 

Additional programming and video archives can be found at the station's website

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.