WSBA exec oversaw early days of York County radio – and TV

Leonard Zinn, Hall-of-Fame steel guitarist, sets to work. Zinn played for the 101 Ranch Boys, a group that helped launch WSBA Radio in York County. Philip Eberly tells about the Boys and other radio personalities in “Susquehanna Radio: The First 50 years.” Background posts: 101 Ranch Boys play on in York County memories and Old WSBA station: ‘Another part of history has gone’ and Carly Simon at WSBA: ‘What do you want to hear?’.
Philip Eberly, who died recently, left a legacy on the early days of York County radio as a WSBA and Susquehanna Broadcasting salesman, sales manager, station manager, vice president and general manager.
So says a recent York Daily Record/Sunday News article (8/07/09).
But his most lasting contribution might be his 1992 book “Susquehanna Radio: The First 50 years.” (Available via the York County Library System.)
That work tells about WSBA and Susquehanna Broadcasting’s early years up to 1992. That empire grew into a media group that grew into stations in San Francisco, Houston and Dallas before it was sold in recent years to Cumulus Media.
For example, an interesting book section tells about the company’s venture into TV… .

Actually, WSBA-TV was more real investment, airing from the early 1950s to early 1980s.
With government approval of UHF broadcasting in 1952, Susquehanna raced to become the first UHF station.
Eberly explains that this was one of Susquehanna president’s Louis J. Appell’s first projects following his father’s, Louis Sr.’s, death the previous year.
Work went on at a feverish pace at WSBA-TV’s 2005 S. Queen St. site. At one point, the project sustained a setback. A crew hoisting the antennae atop the tall Queen Street tower dropped it. It was destroyed but a replacement was soon secured.
“As it turned out,” Eberly quoted Appell, “we were not technically the first UHF station, since Storer Broadcasting has been operating one on an experimental basis. But we were the first UHF station with a commercially manufactured transmitter.”
Engineer Ray Ensminger viewed the race this way: “My recollection is we were the first with regularly scheduled programming, but another station beat us with a test pattern.”
Susquehanna got out of the TV business in 1983, selling to Mohawk Broadcasting. WSBA became WMPT (Pennsylvania Movie Time), Channel 43.
Today, the station is a Fox affiliate with the same call letters, operating out of the old WSBA studios.
Such is the rich information found in Eberly’s book, an interesting work that brings readers across many people and institutions in post-World War II York County.
Background posts: 101 Ranch Boys play on in York County memories and Old WSBA station: ‘Another part of history has gone’ and Carly Simon at WSBA: ‘What do you want to hear?’.


About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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