What ever happened to…Channel One?

A recent conversion with a Facebook friend centered around reminiscing about old technology but got detoured with a discussion on TV channel one.  Of course, here in the States, there is no channel one, but, there was at one time.

Before we get into why there is no channel one now, let’s go back to just prior to the start of commercial television in the United States.

The FCC had, initially, set a date in 1941 for the beginning of commercial television.  July 1, 1941 is the official date for the start of commercial television in the United States.  Unfortunately, Hitler and Hirohito had different plans and World War II delayed the growth of commercial television for about five years.  1946 saw regularly scheduled commercial television get into gear with the advent of the DuMont Television Network (a subject I have covered in the past.) 

It was also in 1946 that the FCC settled on a firm set of standards for television, now called the NTSC standard (and also one that is now a dead standard.)  Once the standards were in place and network television had started, sales of the sets started to take off.  The FCC was flooded with applications for construction of new stations.  There was, however, a big problem: some television channels shared frequencies with radio. Because of the interference, the agency decried that radio and television would no longer share frequencies and they would be separated. Problem was, one channel would need to be sacrificed.  The amateur radio people wanted channel 2.  The FCC, however, had different ideas.

Prior to this period, the FCC had mandated that channel 1 be used for ‘community television’ or what we now call low power television.  Since only a handful of stations were actually on channel 1, the FCC decided to reallocate its frequency to radio services.  So, in 1948, the FCC removed channel 1.  However, since there were already so many sets in use, the decision was made to NOT reorder the channels, so the channel 2 to 13 order that is so familiar now is a remnant of the laziness of the FCC and the industry. 

A similar situation has occurred two more times.  The first, in 1982, saw UHF channels 70 to 83 done away with.  Again, few stations operated on these frequencies (they were in the very high end of the UHF band and were very susceptible to interference) that the FCC decided to move those few stations down lower on the ‘dial’.  Recently, since the switch to digital television, the channels from UHF 52 to 69 were reallocated to Land Mobile Radio Services (a fancy term for radio communication for communication between fixed and mobile points.  Whatever that means.)  This time, though, those stations did not need to change on-air channel references since the digital format provided for ‘aliasing’ of the channels.  For example, an old VHF channel 8, for example, might actually be on UHF 32 but when the digital channel is displayed, it shows as channel 8.1.

So, there you have it.  Channel one is a distant memory now and, I’m guessing, there are very few people around who remember it. If you are one of those people, I’d love to hear from you.

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One thought on “What ever happened to…Channel One?

  1. “The amateur radio people wanted channel 2.” Actually Amateur Radio did not want Channel 2. They were concerned that, at that time, the state of art of receiver and transmitter design, there could be problems with second harmonic interference from transmitters in the 28 to 29.7 MHz band which would be in close physical proximity to TV receivers. As it turns out, the Amateur Radio Community learned how to attenuate 2nd harmonics to levels low enough to stop interference. Of course today, that would not be a problem because there are almost no TV stations on channel 2 after the realignment to DTV.

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