Florida has 106 full-power television stations today, and many more channels when you consider their digital offerings. It’s a far cry from what the FCC envisioned for the Sunshine State in the early days of television.
In 1948, when the FCC froze construction and operation of any new television station that had not already been approved, only three areas of the state were assigned TV channels: Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Jacksonville. Four stations had been given the green-light to broadcast here: WTVJ Channel 4 in Miami, WMBR-TV Channel 4 in Jacksonville, WJAX-TV Channel 2 in Jacksonville and WSEE-TV Channel 7 in St. Petersburg. Only the first two went on the air, and the channel assignments for WJAX and WSEE were later moved to other markets.
During its TV freeze, the FCC began to re-evaluate what cities would get channels and how to make sure their signals didn’t interfere with each other. By late 1950, it had an outline of a plan that would grant 50 stations across Florida to cities large and surprisingly small.
An Oct. 30. 1950 Associated Press story in the Palm Beach Post listed Florida cities which “would be allocated TV channels under the [FCC] staff proposal.” They were: Apalachicola, Belle Glade, Chosen, Clearwater, Crestview, Cross City, Daytona Beach, DeLand, Everglades, Fort Lauderdale (2), Fort Myers (2), Hollywood, Jacksonville (3), Key West (2), Lake City, Lakeland, Lake Worth, Leesburg, Marianna, Melbourne, Miami, Ocala, Orlando, Palatka, Palm Beach, Panama City (2), Pensacola (3), Perry, Plant City, Quincy, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg-Tampa (5), Sanford, Sarasota, Sulphur Springs, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach and Winter Haven.
The official FCC channel allocation for Florida on April 13, 1952, came close to matching that early report. The FCC set aside 58 stations for Florida, including 20 VHF stations and 38 UHF stations. Cities as small as DeLand, Marianna, Belle Glade, Palatka and Quincy were all given TV channel assignments. Here’s a look at the original FCC channel assignments for Florida and where those channels or stations are today.
Belle Glade: Channel 25 (now WPBF-25, Tequesta-West Palm Beach, ABC)
Bradenton: Channel 28 (now WFTS-28, Tampa, ABC)
Clearwater: Channel 32 (now WMOR-32, Tampa, Independent)
Daytona Beach: Channel 2 (now WESH-2, NBC)
DeLand: Channel 44 (now WTOG-44, Tampa, CW)
Fort Lauderdale: Channels 17, 23 (was WITV-17, ABC; now WLRN-17, Miami, PBS // was WFTL-TV 23; now WLTV-23, Miami Univision)
Fort Myers: Channel 11 (now WINK-TV 11, CBS)
Fort Pierce: Channel 19 (was WTVI 19, Fort Pierce, CBS; now WTVX-34, West Palm Beach, CW)
Gainesville: Channels 5, 20 (now WUFT-5, PBS; now WCJB-20, ABC)
Jacksonville: Channels 4, 7*, 12, 30, 36 (now WJXT-4, Independent // now WJCT-7, PBS // now WTLV-12, NBC // now WFOX-30, Fox // was WJHP-36, NBC)
Key West: Channel 14, 20 (now WGEN-18, Azteca America // now WSBS-22, Mega TV)
Lake City: Channel 33 (now WHBR-33, Pensacola, Christian)
Lakeland: Channel 16, 22 (now WUSF-16, PBS // now WCLF-22, Clearwater, Christian)
Lake Wales: Channel 14 (no Channel 14 in the state)
Leesburg: Channel 26 (WVEN-26, Orlando, Univision)
Marianna: Channel 17 (no record of Channel 17 near city; possibly WCWJ-17, CW, Jacksonville)
Miami: Channels 2, 4, 7, 10, 27, 33 (now WPBT-2, PBS // now WFOR-4, CBS // now WCKT-7, Fox// No channel 27 // now WBFS-33 My Network TV)
Ocala: Channel 15 (now WDSC-15, New Smyrna Beach, PBS)
Orlando: Channels 6, 9, 18, 24* (now WKMG-6, CBS // now WFTV-9, ABC // now WKCF-18, CW // WUCF-24, PBS)
Palatka: Channel 17 (now possibly WCWJ-17, Jacksonville, CW)
Panama City: Channel 7, 30*, 36 (now WJHG-7, NBC; no record of 30 or 36)
Pensacola: Channels 3, 15, 21*, 46 (now WEAR-3, ABC; WPMI-15, NBC, Mobile; WMPV-21, Mobile, Christian; WPCT-46, Panama City Beach, Independent)
Quincy: Channel 54 (no record of 54 in or near Quincy)
St. Augustine: Channel 25 (now WJXX-25, Orange Park-Jacksonville, ABC)
Sanford: Channel 35 (now WOFL-35, Orlando, Fox)
Sarasota: Channel 34 (possibly WTVX-34, Fort Pierce, CW)
Tallahassee: Channels 1*, 23, 51 (now WFSU-11, PBS // no channels 23 or 51)
Tampa-St. Petersburg: Channels 3, 8, 13, 38 (now WEDU-3, PBS // now WFLA-8, NBC // now WTVT-13, Fox // now WTTA-38, My Network TV)
West Palm Beach: Channels 5, 12, 15, 21 (now WPTV-5, NBC // now WPEC-12, CBS // no record of 15 // now WTCE-12, Christian)