For nearly 100 years, the KFVS call letters have been part of the fabric of this region. In 1924, one of America’s first true broadcast pioneers, Mr. Oscar C. Hirsch, founded KFVS radio. His early broadcasts originated from a studio located in his parlor on Frederick Street in Cape Girardeau. The KFVS Radio studios had several subsequent homes, including the old Marquette Hotel on Broadway. KFVS Radio finally ended up at what is now the Mississippi River Radio studios at 324 Broadway. Then, on October 3rd, 1954, KFVS Television signed on the air in Cape Girardeau, and the recreational and leisure habits of people in southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, and western Kentucky area would be forever changed.
In 1960, Hirsch finished construction of a brand new transmitting tower near Oriole, Missouri, eight miles north of Cape Girardeau. At the time of completion, this “miracle of physics” was the world’s tallest man-made structure. Towering 2,000 feet above average terrain, the new KFVS-TV tower pumped a high-quality television signal to viewers in parts of six states. Today, the massive tower still reigns as the region’s tallest structure and remains as one of the top tallest man-made structures in the world.
In 1968, Hirsch moved KFVS-TV from its original location behind the current River Radio studio, to its present location at 310 Broadway. The studio and office tower stands 13 stories above downtown Cape Girardeau, and remains today as one of the most significant features of historic downtown Cape Girardeau.
KFVS-TV was sold in 1979 to the AFLAC Broadcast Division, part of AFLAC, Inc., headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. While Mr. Hirsch laid the foundation for quality broadcasting, AFLAC was able to allocate the additional resources necessary to take KFVS-TV to its current dominant position. Under AFLAC management, the station won numerous industry awards including Emmy’s, Telly’s, Addy’s, Missouri and Illinois Broadcasters’ Awards, the CBS Service to Community Award, the National Association of Broadcasters’ Service To Children Award, the Missouri State Teachers’ Association Media Award for covering education, the prestigious IRIS Award for local children’s programming, and the coveted Griffin Award for Community Service.
Under AFLAC ownership, more resources were allocated to local news coverage and more emphasis was placed on marketing and promotion. The Cape Girardeau/Paducah/Harrisburg/Mt. Vernon television market (as defined by the Nielsen company) consists of counties in Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, and Northwestern Tennessee. This provided challenges of how to cover local news and recruit advertisers in such a hyphenated culture. KFVS management wanted a marketing term that would define the viewing area to provide a commonality among the diverse viewers, and “America’s Heartland” was born. To this day, “The Heartland” is considered by most viewers as the common name of the region.
In 1997, AFLAC sold their broadcast group of seven stations, including KFVS-TV, to Raycom Media, Inc. headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. Raycom Media owned and operated TV stations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Raycom properties spanned from Honolulu to Syracuse to West Palm Beach. Under Raycom ownership, KFVS-TV continued to increase its domination in local news and weather coverage. In 2000, KFVS12.com launched as the number one local news website. Subsequently, KFVS launched numerous digital, social, and mobile platforms, always on the cutting edge of digital content delivery. And just like traditional on-air coverage, KFVS’s digital coverage continues to dominate, giving media consumers the local news and weather they want, where they want it, when they want it, 24 hours a day.
In May of 2002, KFVS-TV met the FCC mandate to switch from analog to a digital transmission signal. It was the first local station to broadcast in full-power high-definition.
The switch from analog to digital signals allowed local stations to include multi-cast channels, or “digi-nets” in their over-the-air broadcast signals. Currently KFVS transmits five full-power channels for free over-the-air. Channel 12.1 is the primary KFVS12 CBS signal. Channel 12.2 is KFVS-TOO, a CW affiliate. Channel 12.3 The Circle Network, a country music lifestyle channel. Channel 12.4 is a MeTV affiliate featuring classic TV shows of the past. Channel 12.5 is The Grit Network with western and action themed programming.
In the Fall of 2002, Raycom Media purchased the local UPN Network affiliate, WQWQ-TV, and the KFVS staff prepared to operate the new station. WQWQ eventually became a CW Network affiliate and is now known as KFVS-TOO.
In 2018, Gray Television, headquartered in Atlanta, announced its acquisition of Raycom Media TV stations, including KFVS. Gray currently owns TV stations in 102 U.S. television markets, reaching 25.4% of United States TV households. Under Gray ownership, KFVS has been able to increase the ability to provide relevant, local content on nearly every digital, social media, mobile, and streaming platforms, while continuing to achieve impressive traditional over-the-air viewership beating all local competition.
Through the years and ownership changes, KFVS-TV has consistently stood for quality broadcasting at the local level. Most of the staff are local to the region and are integrated with their communities. The management at KFVS-TV and Gray Television know that to be successful in broadcasting today means providing the best local news and weather coverage available, along with quality entertainment, on all streams and platforms.
KFVS-TV has been part of life in the “Heartland” for nearly 70 years. The television industry is more competitive today than most broadcasters ever thought possible, but with loyal viewers and employees, we feel confident that we’ll be entertaining and informing people for many more years to come.