New Spotlight: Eye Witness

An early documentary series is the topic of this month’s spotlight. Eye Witness ran for 13 weeks from 1947 to 1948 on WNBT in New York City. It may also have aired on the stations in the limited NBC Eastern network. Ben Grauer served as host for the series. It examined all aspects of the television industry, from transmitters to receivers, camera techniques to studio operations, mobile units to the manufacture of television tubes.

Remarkably, despite potentially airing on just one station, a kinescope recording of a single episode of Eye Witness exists. The February 26th, 1948 episode featured dramatic reenactments of important milestones in the history of television dating back to 1873. The special guest for the episode was none other than Dr. Vladimir K. Zworykin, inventor of the iconoscope. The entire episode was uploaded to the Internet Archive in September 2013:

The kinescope recorded what appears to be an NBC-WNBT news break about the progress of television networks. It ends with a station identification and a primitive weather forecast. Reportedly, Eye Witness was sponsored by RCA Victor but there are no commercials or sponsor spots.

You can read the entire spotlight here.


  • Karen Martin says:

    I watched this just because I rarely get a chance to see 1948 programs, but I was cooking and only listening to parts of it. Then when it was finished there was a group of “thumbnail” links to old shows, so I tapped on one link and watched an episode of The Medic, with Richard Boone.

    These same episodes may be available for viewing elsewhere, but it was neat to find the links, as a “reward” for listening to the history of television while I worked in my kitchenette.

  • Gail Gauthier says:

    So television history goes back to 1873? I am intrigued.

    • Robert says:

      The episode traces the history of television to the 1873 discovery by an Irish telegraph operator that selenium is photosensitive.

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