Harry Pappas-78

 

Harry Pappas, one of three brothers who founded Pappas Telecasting Companies in 1971, died April 24, 2024. He was 78 years old.

Pappas is survived by his wife Stella, son John F. Pappas and daughters Mary K. Pappas and Destiny Jewell.

The youngest son of Greek immigrants, Pappas as a high school graduate pooled the $5,000 he had saved for college with the funds of his twin brothers Mike and Pete to buy KVEG radio in Las Vegas. Working as a salesman and on-air talent under the name “Harry Holiday,” Pappas and his brothers were able to put the station into the black in less than 90 days.

In 1971, he and his brothers put KMPH (“M” for Mike, “P” for Pete and “H” for Harry) on air as an independent UHF channel serving viewers in the San Joaquin Valley originally from Visalia, Calif., and eventually from Fresno.

Pappas financed the station by issuing stock to 117 local people who knew of the brothers’ success in radio, he said during a 2021 interview with KMPH on the station’s 50th anniversary.

Under Pappas, the station racked up several notable accomplishments, including the launch of local news, which made it the first TV station outside the top 40 markets to air a primetime newscast, the establishment of a small investigative reporting team, which was credited with uncovering financial irregularities at a local savings institution, and the launch of the “Great Day Show,” a local morning program. The station became one of the first Fox affiliates in the country.

In his 2021 interview, Pappas noted that he met with Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch to convince them that it was feasible for Fox to launch a fourth national broadcasting network. He also helped to pioneer Fox Kids, a children’s network launched as a cooperative with participating broadcasters.

As a broadcaster, Pappas was focused on serving the local communities of his stations. “I had been raised in the tradition of broadcasters—that a broadcast station is obliged to serve the public in its areas in a meaningful way,” Pappas said in the 2021 interview.

During the recession of 2008, Pappas worked diligently to maintain the financial health of his company’s stations, but ultimately the 13 stations filed for bankruptcy.

Pappas was well-liked by his former employees. “It was always a very special day when Mr. Pappas came to Omaha to visit KPTM, the third TV station he built,” recalls Dale Scherbring former vice president, director of corporate engineering at Pappas Telecasting. “His energy, dynamic personality and vision for the future of broadcasting garnered respect and admiration by so many of us in the TV industry.”

Jim Ocon, who was deputy director of engineering at Pappas Telecasting, says Pappas should be remembered for broadcast innovation. “I wish more people would know how important this man was to our industry, and the innovation he pushed continues to this day. He was a strong proponent of UHF—the new beachfront in broadcasting at the time—and digital television.”

Following his broadcast career, Pappas enjoyed spending time with his family, which “he loved more than anything else,” says his son John. “He was the most genuine person I have been blessed to know. He was loved by hundreds—maybe thousands—of people and will be missed.”

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