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WXPO-TV, Channel 50 (Ind.)

Manchester, New Hampshire (10/69-6/70)
Owned by Merrimack Valley Communications (a publicly owned company)

  • On September 4th, 1969, Anthony LaCamera wrote in the Boston Record-American that a new Boston UHF station would debut on September 28th, WXPO-TV Channel 50. Indeed the station, which was licensed to Manchester, NH, clearly had designs on the much larger Boston market, which at the time only had 2 commercial UHF's, WSBK and WKBG (now WLVI). WXPO was in a race with Worcester's WSMW to see who would get on the air first, and Channel 50 won the race by almost 3 months, but when Channel 27 hit the air on January 2, 1970, WXPO was already at "death's door".

  • WXPO was owned by Merrimack Valley Communications, a public company set up to run Channel 50. The group was led by Neil P. Cortel, who at the time was the owner of the Beacon Sports Network, which produced college and some pro sports on radio in the Boston area. Cortel has a vision to make Channel 50 a business channel by day, and sports at night. He was, sadly, 25 years ahead of his time.

  • The station actually had two studio locations, the "primary" studio was located at the transmitter building on Governor Dinsmore Road in Windham, NH (by Exit 3 on I-93) to conform with FCC rules of the day that the studio must be within 15 miles of the city of license. The other studio, which was also the offices of the station was located on Dutton Street in Lowell, Massachusetts (some 25 miles NW of Boston). The Lowell studios was outfitted with nearly $2 million dollars in "state-of-the-art" broadcast equipment, including 6 color studio cameras (3 in each studio), 3 Ampex 2 inch VTR's, a Grass Valley production switcher, 2 film chains and Gates audio boards and cart machines. It was thought by the station owners that the studio would pay for itself as a commercial production house, but that idea was doomed, right from the beginning.

  • Channel 50 was located less than 1,000 feet from the transmitter of WLLH (AM 1400) and RF interference in the studio cameras made it impossible to do any high quality production when the radio station was on. Meanwhile the station's signal did not perform as well as expected, and coverage was spotty in many parts of Metro Boston which further hampered the station. Plus, the Lowell Sun newspaper made it known that anybody who advertised on the new station could forget about advertising in the Sun.

  • Still in early October 1969, WXPO signed on. The weekday schedule looked like this........

    
    NOON  "INFO 50".  A 3 hour and 15 minute show that was geared to Wall
      Street. A NYSE and ASE ticker would run on the bottom of the screen     
      and the co-hosts (Gary Alexander and Gwen Loud) would deliver the 
      information. The show was produced in the smaller downstairs Lowell     
      studio.
    
    3:15  "ROMPER ROOM"-  Locally produced in the larger studio, the show     
    was hosted by Lori Lopez.
    
    4:00  "WOODY WOODBURY"-  A bad 90 minute talk show hosted by the man     
    who replaced Johnny Carson on Who Do You Trust.
    
    5:30  "TREEHOUSE 50"-  Hosted by Doug Wheeler and Paul Gettleman, the     
    show feature slapstick comedy and Warner Brothers Cartoons. The show     
    was probably Channel 50's most watched program as it developed cult     
    status with Boston area college students.
    
    6:00  "BONUS BINGO"-  Hosted by Don Hill, the show was bingo...players 
    could get game cards at local super markets. 
    
    6:30  "INFO 50"- Wrap-up A 30 minute stock market recap show, but     
    quickly became a "we will talk about anything" show.
    
    7:00  "MIKE DOUGLAS"-  The syndicated show from Philadelphia as the     
    idea was that people who worked in the daytime might watch. The     
    problem was the show was 6 weeks behind, to protect WBZ.
    
    8:30  "DENNIS WHOLEY"-  A very, very bad show from Cincinnati.
    
    10:00 "NEWS 50"-  New England's FIRST 10 PM newscast, (Channel 56 with     
    Arch McDonald didn't air until December 1st)..with Gary Alexander     
    (News), Don Hill (Weather), and Doug Wheeler (Sports)...but was     
    hampered with NO newsfilm.
    
    10:30 "STEVE ALLEN"-  Yet another talk show.
    
    MIDNIGHT  Racing from Suffolk Downs or Rockingham.   
    
    SATURDAY
    
       4:00 "MAVERICK"
       5:00 "ADVENTURES IN PARADISE"
       6:00 "SECRET AGENT"
       7:00 "JOHN GARY SHOW"
       8:30 "PARADE OF BANDS" (from Chicago)
      10:00 "WEEKEND IN HOLLYWOOD"
      11:30 "PLAYHOUSE 50" (movie)
    
    

  • The station was also the first to have newsbreaks every hour, and during the week this was done by John Foran from the New Hampshire studio. The station also tried a couple of remotes, the 1969 Lowell-Lawrence High School football game, and the "Lowell Holiday Festival" with mixed results. The station also had a "infamous" live New Years Eve Show, which got a little "weird" around 1 AM.

  • With almost no advertising revenue coming in, the first ax fell in early 1970 when 90% of the staff was let go. Yet, many continued to work unpaid as people believed in the station. But, by spring, the Lowell facility was shut down and the station "limped" along from Windham. The end came in June of 1970, when the power company shut off the power during an episode of "Maverick".

  • There were a couple of attempts to bring the station back in the early 70's as a possible CBS affiliate, but nothing ever came of it and finally the FCC deleted the license, in 1975.

    Editor: WXPO-TV DID return to the air on July 17, 1973 for a 6 hour test transmission, from midnight to 6 AM for testing purposes. After writing to WXPO-TV that summer, I received a letter from a "Mr. Louis Ziddle", regarding the prospects of Channel 50 returning to the air. He wrote ".....very definite plans are being made to return WXPO-TV 50 to the air, sometime later on this year". That was in August, 1973. WXPO-TV never did return to the air. Today's WNDS-TV50 is not related in anyway to the late WXPO-TV. WXPO-TV's old tower site is now being used for ENG and "two-way radio" purposes.

    WXPO-TV history written Kevin Vahey, a former WXPO-TV employee (and lived to tell us about it ;)... Thanks Kevin !!).