Four channels and nothing on

An artifact from the early days of cable:

What I wanted to know is this: what four channels? Sault Ste. Marie had no TV stations of its own in 1969; WWUP-TV (UP, get it?), channel 10, rebroadcast WWTV, the CBS station in Cadillac, Michigan; WPBN-TV (then owned by the Paul Bunyan Network), channel 7, brought in NBC from Traverse City. There was no ABC affiliate back then, so those two split whatever ABC programs they thought might be worth carrying. (In 1971, WGTU, channel 29, would sign on from Traverse City as a full-time ABC affiliate; five years later they added a satellite on channel 8 in Sault Ste. Marie proper.) Educational TV? Maybe, if you could pick up WCMU-TV from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant — and if you were on the cable, you probably could, even though WCMU was way out on channel 14.

Still, we’ve accounted for only three channels. For the fourth, we must venture northward. In 1955, CJIC-TV signed on from the Ontario side of the river on channel 2; it became a CBC affiliate, closing down in 2002. (It’s now rebroadcasting CBC Toronto.)

As for prices, well, $3.99 a month (we’re extrapolating from “13 cents a day”) for four channels works out to about a buck a channel. Last time I rescanned the TV I was getting 106 channels for $86, 81 cents a channel. If there were economies of scale in the cable industry, they’ve long since faded away.

(I should point out here that I’ve spent maybe half a week of my life in Michigan, and none in the Upper Peninsula; I do have a lot of reference materials, and occasionally, I have time on my hands.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    5 April 2017 · 7:20 am

    I know exactly where Sault Ste. Marie is. (It’s kind of the other side of the UP from where my relatives were).

    My grandma got three over-the-air channels – one was out of Marquette, I think: at any rate, they played a show on learning Finnish called Suomi Kutsuu or Finland Calling. I THINK there was a PBS affiliate, and one other network.

    (I’m pretty sure WLUC was the Marquette station. I thought it was PBS but they say it’s NBC….I think they were the ones who ran Finland Calling)

    (Looking up the name of Suomi Kutsuu, I’m sad to see the program has ceased. One more link with things of my childhood gone…)

    I used to get a CBC affiliate when I lived in Ann Arbor; I watched “Kids in the Hall” before it was cool….

  2. McG »

    5 April 2017 · 9:22 am

    By the time Mrs. McG returned to the Lower 48, Fairbanks had acquired a separate, if low-power, channel for each of the Big Four networks (plus PBS), though the channel carrying ABC had become essentially a translator for Anchorage’s ABC affiliate.

    When we had moved there though, there was no CBS affiliate. K13XD, IIRC, was the callsign it got when it arrived; it was started by the group that was operating the Fox affiliate and shared its news team.

  3. McG »

    5 April 2017 · 9:23 am

    …oh, and when she returned to the Lower 48, so did I…

  4. fillyjonk »

    5 April 2017 · 10:11 am

    Currently, my local market has one company operating the CBS and Fox affiliates and another doing NBC and ABC and CW….upside is we can get local news on the half-hour on one of the “alternate” stations, downside is that there are really only two local news outlets (and for ppl who are doing over-the-air only, half their channels go dark if one of the transmitters goes offline)

    in some ways, where I live now is not unlike the small town where my grandma lived….except we don’t have a cute little IGA store. Nor a Red Owl.

  5. McG »

    5 April 2017 · 10:42 am

    Well now, Wikipedia says KTVF started out as a CBS affiliate that also showed NBC programming, then went over to NBC — which led to the advent of K13XD.

    Details, details…

  6. CGHill »

    5 April 2017 · 11:51 am

    Here in the Big Breezy, the Big Three networks have been fixed in place: 4 is NBC, 5 is ABC, 9 is CBS. (13 is PBS.) The others have been all over the place: 43 has been a scrambled pay channel, Fox, UPN, PBS, MyNetworkTV, and now has no affiliation at all.

  7. McG »

    5 April 2017 · 4:12 pm

    Several years ago, after I had been gone from Sacramento for several years, I learned that Sacramento’s CBS and ABC affiliations had flipped.

    That’s pretty much the only switch of note there since before my family moved to Sacramento more than mumble years ago.

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