After getting an e-mail tonight from someone questioning the chronology of my work section – apparently Wikipedia showed KPBI-TV as not having signed on until 1995 – I took my first shot at editing/contributing to a Wikipedia article, correcting the sign-on date and adding a notation about the meaning of the station’s call letters. I mean, it doesn’t change the world if everyone thinks that station didn’t exist until ’95, but it does make the article and the history wrong. Nowhere in the article is Pharis Broadcasting mentioned – it’s like Equity always ran the thing out of Little Rock. I know better. I was there. With KPBI’s recent nose-dive into oblivion – its Fox affiliation transferred quickly to another station in town and it seems to have vanished from cable – I’ll admit I’ve felt a pang of sadness that the station I worked for is essentially no more. It’s not Fox 46 anymore, though I guess it hasn’t been that in a long time. But it disturbs me that, however hamfisted the management occasionally was, however haphazardly it was operated, however barely-on-the-air it stayed by a thin string during the years I worked there, the sheer amount of sweat shed by all of us who were there and helped build and grow the place is unacknowledged. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to see my name in that article (though I did give a momentary thought to adding a link to my work section, which is almost certainly the only video archive of what I consider KPBI’s “golden age” out there, and just as quickly decided against it). But a guy named Bill Pharis put it together from the ground up, sometimes almost literally with spit and bailing wire. And a bunch of us worked there, and for a nice purple patch in there from 1994-early ’96, it was a place to barely make a living, and to definitely have a lot of fun just making up the rules as we went. We didn’t sweat over sweeps months, we just tried to put cool crap on the air, and yes, we often did so in what seems now like an incredibly haphazard, amateur way. And sometimes I miss the whole “make it up as we went along” aspect of it – trying to get the higher-ups in corporate TV to think outside the box is frequently an exercise in interaction with a brick wall. I wouldn’t want to be working there now, but to have been there at that time, with those people, I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’ve softened a bit in my opinion on Pharis and how he did things; toward the end of my time working for him, I was quite eager to leave, for what I still think were good reasons. But somehow, the guy made money at it. I can’t fault him for that – I probably should’ve paid attention and taken notes. I know there are others who worked there who haven’t softened their less-than-favorable opinions of the place, the people or the management one bit over the years, but part of me is itching to start a Wiki article on Pharis Broadcasting, so there’s something to refer to for KPBI. The KPBI article as it is strikes me as something that started as a “Wikipedia vanity plate” – i.e. the subject of the article wrote the article about itself (a Wikipedia phenomenon that I find more than a little irritating) – and has now become something that the folks behind the area’s new Fox station are editing as events unfold.
But I feel compelled to add to KPBI’s prehistory – the days before Equity Broadcasting. Part of me has always suspected that maybe there’s a book on that subject waiting to be written, possibly on the history of Fort Smith/Fayetteville broadcasting overall. Or maybe not a book. Maybe…a sitcom. 😆 Either way, it’s funny – now that the place is, for all intents and purposes, no more, I find myself remembering it fondly.