JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Hanes Lancaster Jr., the late founder of WJHL, overcame several obstacles to get WJHL on the air 70 years ago.
Lancaster spoke in an interview before his death about how television was in the beginning and how it had changed during his lifetime.
One thing that did not change was his love for the region and the importance of trust in the local news station.
When News Channel 11 began, there was no filming capability so commercials were done live. Naturally, not everything went to plan.
“Well, of course, the picture was the main thing, and we didn’t have filming capability at the station,” Lancaster said. “So all local commercials that weren’t done on slide, if they wanted, were done live. So you had to have a rehearsal time, and hopefully, you could not mess up on the air as you as you hear them. We had quite a few of those where the wrong – you have a problem go wrong, and there was no way to edit it down or to go on for.”
That includes some questionable language, with a censor button controlled by the station engineer.
The same unpredictability also applied to guests in the studio.
“Well, animals at times are not very camera shy on what they’re going to do,” Lancaster said. “And then we had several occasions similar to that. People walked through the set while it was on air.”
Lancaster said he also liked the restrictions on the number of commercials in the early decades.
He recalled the rules then, “…controlled the number of commercials you could have in an hour. And I felt much more comfortable with it. But as operational calls began to rise, the pressure was on them to be able to put more commercials in, instead of having the commercials with higher prices. There would have been, and I can’t blame for that because costs have risen tremendously.”
Lancaster said he treasured the trust people had in his work and the station.
“It was the fact that I felt that I knew the people and they knew me, and they knew that they could trust me,” he said.
Lancaster’s legacy has remained all these years, as News Channel 11 is still The Team You Can Trust.