History of Griffin Communications

Friday, April 4th 2008, 11:06 am
By: News On 6

Griffin Communications' unique strategy of concentrating its media efforts in the state of Oklahoma began in the early 1930s when J.T. Griffin, grandfather of current owners David and John Griffin, became fascinated by radio technology.  J.T. first launched a radio station in Tulsa, KTUL, a CBS affiliate, then purchased a second radio station in Oklahoma City, KOMA.

Fifteen years later, J.T.'s son, John entered the broadcasting business in the emerging technology of television.  John and his brother-in-law, Jimmy Leake, were half of a partnership awarded FCC permission to put KWTV, Channel 9, in Oklahoma City on the air.   KWTV (NEWS 9) began broadcasting December 23, 1954, from the KOMA radio tower while its own tower was under construction.  On April 5, 1955, KWTV's tower-then the world's tallest at 1,565 feet-was inaugurated.  It was a huge media event, attracting national publications, such as "TV Guide", "Popular Science" and "Time."

John Griffin and Jimmy Leake next launched a television station in Little Rock, Arkansas, KATV, before returning to Oklahoma to open KTUL, Channel 8, in Tulsa.  The pair sold their radio assets in 1956 to devote more time to their television station investments.  In 1963 they bought out their partners to gain full ownership of NEWS 9.

Their focus on the television business resulted in a host of "firsts."  NEWS 9 installed the first weather radar in the country in 1959 and later unveiled the first color radar.  Emphasizing coverage of Oklahoma's severe weather, it invested in the first Doppler radar to more quickly and accurately notify viewers of impending severe storms.  As the station expanded news coverage, it acquired the first news helicopter in Oklahoma, dubbed Ranger 9.

As the businesses evolved, John Griffin and Jimmy Leake decided to split control of the three television stations they owned.  John would own and operate NEWS 9 and Jimmy would take KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, and KTUL in Tulsa.  Later, Jimmy and his family sold their stations, but John Griffin retained NEWS 9, continuing to invest in new technologies and in the station's staff.

John's sons, David and John, took over leadership of NEWS 9 in 1990.  Under their direction the station continued its legacy of innovation.  NEWS 9 introduced the first automated weather warning system in the country.  It was the first station to gather video from cellular technology, capturing pictures of a large tornado east of Enid.  During coverage of the 1995 Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, NEWS 9 aired several days of continuous coverage of the tragedy and raised tens of thousands of dollars for victims.  That coverage earned the station a market-shared Peabody award, a national Edward R. Murrow award and several other national journalism honors. 

One of the most recent technological "firsts" was the purchase of a high-definition camera equipped Bell 407 news helicopter for NEWS 9.  SkyNEWS 9 HD is the fastest helicopter in the Oklahoma City market and the only one equipped with HD cameras.

In the past several years, Griffin Communications has expanded its Oklahoma media presence.

The News On 6

In 2001, Griffin Communications purchased KOTV, The News On 6, the highly successful CBS affiliate in Tulsa, from the BELO Corporation.

Radio Oklahoma Network

Griffin Communications expanded into the radio network business with Quinstar Radio in Enid, creating the Radio Oklahoma Network.  The network produces news, agriculture, sports, energy and weather information to 42 radio affiliates across the state.

Griffin New Media

Griffin New Media operates the company's websites, News9.com and NewsOn6.com, with a staff of nearly 30 employees embedded in the television stations.  The websites re-purpose material from the stations, but also generate news and information unique to the sites.  Griffin New Media also spearheads the company's mobile information distribution.

NewsNow 53

Griffin Communications established a partnership with Cox Communications in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City to produce an all-news cable channel in each market.  NewsNow 53 repeats newscasts of Griffin television stations 24-hours each day.

Sooner Sports Properties

Griffin was instrumental in crafting a partnership between NEWS 9, Learfield Communications and Renda Broadcasting to gain marketing rights to OU Athletics.  The joint venture is called Sooner Sports Properties.

Griffin Communications Companies are devoted to providing the best news and information to Oklahomans whenever and wherever they want it-television, radio, internet or through mobile technology.  They also serve as partners to Oklahoma advertisers by helping distribute marketing messages to more than 90% of the state. 

With its focus solely on the state of Oklahoma, Griffin Communications is Oklahoma's Very Own communications company.

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