Broadcast Pioneers member George Koehler was one of the brains behind the advent of "Action News." The format and title quickly spread to all of the Triangle stations and many more across the nation. Koehler once said:
It's very carefully produced and carefully written. The last story was even backtimed - you start the music before the end of the story so they both end at the same time. ...You don't lose viewers, you drive them away.
The news format was developed by Koehler in 1970 for WFIL-TV. Koehler recalls that for several months, Channel 6 would count the stories on the three main news stations, Channels 3, 6 and 10. The next day they would promote that while Channel 3 gave you ten stories and Channel 10 gave you 12 stories, Action News on Channel 6 gave you 21 stories. "More news in the same amount of time," said Koehler.
A news reporter's story couldn't run more than a minute and a half. Action News also spent more of the newscast doing stories from the suburbs and New Jersey. Within two or three years, Action News was fighting back and forth with Eyewitness News for the top spot. In 1977, WPVI-TV (formerally WFIL-TV) took over the lead and kept it for three decades.
Broadcast Pioneers member Richard Kellman who worked at Channel 6 during the sixties and seventies, e-mailed us some information about the Action News Theme. He said:
Well, the original Action News theme was similar to the one we know and love and ran for maybe six months until, as I understood it, there was some kind of licensing/royalty dispute. WPVI then commissioned a replacement composed by—again, as I recall—a jingle writer named Al Hamm, who was famous for his McDonald’s jingles. The replacement was spookily similar to the original, so much so that it caused barely a ripple among viewers, and maybe because our audience was still small at the time.
I’d heard that the original was composed by a Temple University music student. The first Action News video open over the original music was shot and produced by Channel 6 photographer Larry Brown. It began, "From Philadelphia’s leading news station …." Leading to what, who knew, and now we know.
I wouldn’t swear to the details, but I remember the switch. I can still hear the original in my head, and frankly, I liked it better than what we have today.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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