Orlando’s first television station, WDBO-Channel 6, formally signed on the air on July 1, 1954. But another anniversary usually goes unnoticed — the first television signal from an Orlando station, which aired about a month earlier.
It was at 11:16 p.m. on Friday, June 4, that Channel 6 turned on its transmitter and sent out its first broadcast, a test pattern. The signal came from an 80-foot antenna atop the station’s new 500-foot tower on Texas Avenue, just north of West Colonial Drive.
“And viewers reported the pattern was sharp and clear on a good signal,” the Orlando Sentinel reported in a front page story. “The WDBO-TV test pattern was sent out four days after the initial target date. Delays made the postponement necessary.”
There were a lot of delays getting Channel 6 on the air. It originally targeted April 25, 1954, for its start, then that shifted to May 15 and eventually to July 1. In the end, the delays worked to the benefit of viewers. A coaxial cable that brought live network programming was installed in time for the station’s sign on, and in April the station announced its primary affiliation with CBS, although it would also air shows from ABC and the Dumont network. (In fact, the first network show the station aired the morning of July 1 was not from CBS. But more on that when we celebrate Channel 6’s 63rd anniversary in July.)
The WDBO test pattern would become a familiar sight — as the station would air it daily for viewers to adjust their television sets to get the best picture quality. Orlando TV owners were used to getting fuzzy TV signals from then WMBR-Channel 4 in Jacksonville but also from cities as far away as Milwaukee, if the atmospheric conditions were just right. But Channel 6, with its 67-mile signal radius, was about to bring long-awaited clear television images to area sets.