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History of KVIA ABC-7

KVIA-TV has a proud history of serving as the ABC network affiliate in El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Juarez, Mexico.

KILT-TV 13 (now KVIA) signed on the air in a facility in south-central El Paso on September 1, 1956. The legendary Gordon McLendon co-owned KILT-TV and KILT-AM 920 radio. McLendon was the giant of radio programming. He pioneered the original Top 40 radio format and emphasized the importance of the radio disc jockey.

After a short period of ownership, the McClendon Investment Corporation sold KILT to Joseph Harris and Norman Alexander in March 1957. The TV station became KELP-TV before the John B. Walton Jr. purchase in January 1966.

Walton oversaw the move of KELP to its present location at 4140 Rio Bravo, off Executive Center on El Paso's westside. During the 1960s and 1970s, KELP-TV may have been the only TV station in the country with an outdoor swimming pool.

Walton separately sold the radio and TV stations. Stanley Marsh 3 of Marsh Media took over KELP-TV in February 1976. Marsh, an eccentric millionaire, was famous for his ranch of buried Cadillacs on Interstate 40 West of Amarillo.

Marsh, who also owned KVII-TV in Amarillo, changed the El Paso TV station's call letters to KVIA. (V-I-A was a derivation of V-I-I, which stood for Roman number seven, representing KVII's channel number in Amarillo.)

On July 10, 1981, we became KVIA Channel 7 when KVIA (previously broadcasting as channel 13 V-H-F) received FCC approval to swap channels with El Paso public television station KCOS then operating as channel 7.

Current KVIA owner News-Press & Gazette, a private, family-owned communication company from St. Joseph, Missouri, purchased KVIA in January 1995. NPG owns the St. Joseph, Missouri News-Press & Gazette newspaper, cable TV holdings primarily in the mid-west and 10 TV and/or radio stations in markets like Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Colorado Springs, Yuma, Arizona and Bend, Oregon, to name a few. Brian Bradley leads the family's 4th generation as president of the company.

With NPG's support, KVIA has vastly improved its broadcast signal and facilities. In 2001 KVIA installed a new transmitter and antenna atop more than mile-high-Ranger Peak in the Franklin Mountains overlooking El Paso. Thousands of viewers who used to receive a fuzzy picture enjoyed crystal-clear reception. In 2002, KVIA completed a major news and sales expansion project at its studio on Rio Bravo. In 2022, the station unveiled a state-of-the-art studio to showcase ABC-7 news coverage.

KVIA takes pride in initiating several "news firsts" in the market. It became the first El Paso TV station to provide closed captioning for the hearing impaired. KVIA was also the first El Paso TV station to provide simultaneous Spanish-language translation of one of its newscasts.

KVIA was the first with a morning news program. "Good Morning El Paso" began May 25, 1992. KVIA initiated El Paso's first investigative "I Team" and was the first station in the market to have ten straight minutes of news at the start of its 10 PM newscast.

KVIA is the only El Paso station to conduct a series of town hall forums to gauge community concerns throughout the region. KVIA also pioneered the first one-hour-long newscast in the market, as well as "Xtra," an original late-night issues and call-in program. The hour newscast at 6 PM was split into more traditional 5 & 6 PM newscasts. "Xtra" returned to the airwaves in July 2008 to give major news stories additional in-depth coverage.

The station was the first El Paso station to have a live report from a helicopter during a hostage situation. KVIA was the first American TV station we know of to broadcast an entire English-language newscast from a foreign country. That happened on November 3, 1993, live from Grupo Bermudez Maquila in Juarez, with reports showing the financial impact of the twin plant industry.

KVIA was the first El Paso TV station to have a website. The station was first and still the only one with a weekend morning newscast, and in 2016, it expanded its weekday morning newscast to 4:30 AM.

In September 2007, KVIA became the first El Paso television station to stream a newscast (ABC-7 at 4). In January 2009, KVIA was the first El Paso TV station to broadcast live reports from Austin, Texas, via a broadband internet connection.

ABC-7 has teamed up with the local PBS affiliate (KCOS-TV) to sponsor and broadcast live, important statewide gubernatorial and lieutenant governor debates. This included then-Texas Governor George W. Bush's debate with Democratic opponent Gary Mauro.

ABC-7 and the El Paso Times have participated in several landmark polling, reporting and town hall projects, including surveying graduating high school seniors, teachers and analyzing race relations and health care in El Paso.

In 1998, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented KVIA with the Governor's Award for our survey of race relations. In 1996, the Texas Associated Press honored KVIA with its most prestigious award, the Award for Overall Excellence in News, beating out significantly larger stations in Houston, Dallas and other large markets.

ABC-7 has had very notable anchors. Highly-respected veteran Gary Warner anchored KVIA news from 1974 until his retirement in May 2008. Popular El Paso anchor Estela Casas joined Gary in 1993. Together they were the longest-running anchor team in El Paso television history.

Estela was joined by Rick Cabrera for ten years, then Erik Elken. She retired from television news in 2020. El Pasoan Stephanie Valle was promoted to the main anchor, joining Erik at the desk.

In 1999 The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inducted Gary into its prestigious "Silver Circle" for his 25 years of broadcast excellence. The El Paso Women's Hall of Fame inducted Estela into its shrine in 2000.

In 2003, the National Association of Broadcasters' Education Foundation (NABEF) , honored KVIA-TV, ABC-7, with a Service to Children award for outstanding community service through ABC-7's Education First.

The Service to Children award is part of NABEF's Service to America awards. It spotlights television stations for outstanding programs and public service campaigns produced for the benefit of children. This national honor is one of the most coveted awards broadcasters can receive. Only three of these awards are given out nationally, based on market size. KVIA-TV received the award in the Small Market category (stations in DMAs 76 and above).

ABC-7's Education First was an aggressive outreach program that helped raise awareness on issues that affect children in the El Paso-Las Cruces area, such as education and health. "It makes a difference," said Kevin Lovell, then-KVIA's General Manager. "By creating awareness, it helps people take better care of themselves."

ABC-7 has continued to garner numerous awards, including the 2021 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Innovation for a virtual reality new experience.

KVIA is proud of its role in the community.

Station sponsorship extends to the Humane Society telethon and dozens of other community and public service initiatives. ABC-7 sponsors the Operation Noel telethon annually, which helps raise funds to pay for new winter coats for tens of thousands of children in the region whose families cannot afford them.

Good Morning El Paso wakes up with you and helps to start your day right. Our StormTrack Weather stream keeps you up-to-date on weather situations in the area and around the country.

We look forward to continuing to provide you with the most comprehensive coverage in the El Paso/Las Cruces/Juarez area, both on the air and on the web at ABC-7, News Comes First.

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