WSM-TV first signed on the air on September 30, 1950, becoming Nashville’s first television station and a pioneer in local television broadcasting.
The station’s trailblazing ways continued when in March 1960, WSM was the first television station to broadcast live from inside a prison, and the only local television station to provide continuous live coverage of the Tennessee prison riots.
In 1964, WSM became the first television station in the country to broadcast weather satellite pictures. Through creative engineering, WSM received a signal from the first orbiting weather satellite, providing our viewers with their first-ever look at cloud cover pictures as seen from space. WSM’s weather dominance continues to this day as the first and only Nashville television station with its own live radar, providing potentially life-saving weather information up to five minutes faster than any other station in the market.
In 1965, WSM was the first to provide programming in color. WSM was also the first local television station to produce an hour long newscast. The station’s very first newscast lasted just 15 minutes; hosts Jud Collins and Ralph Christian presented the “Views of the News.”
While Channel 4 currently produces 43.5 hours of newscasts each week, in the early days the station was known for entertainment and lifestyle shows. Many viewers still talk today about the “Ralph Emery Show” which aired for nearly 30 years beginning in the 1960’s. Other popular shows such as “The Porter Wagoner Show,” “That Nashville Music,” “Opry Almanac,” “The Bobby Jones Gospel Show” and the “Coke Bandstand and 5:00 Hop” were either recorded in or aired live from the WSM studios.
Originally owned by National Life and Accident Insurance Company, the station’s call letters come from an insurance company slogan: We Shield Millions. The V was added in 1981 when the television station was sold and split from its radio sister WSM.
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