KAIT was built and supported by the efforts of a Fort Smith businessman named George T. Hernreich. Hernreich ignored the skepticism of those that felt he was making a mistake and proceeded to build a small television station on 40 acres of wooded Crowley’s Ridge hill land. Although its resources were limited and its staff inexperienced, KAIT thrived in spite of the stiff competition it faced through the years from both Little Rock and Memphis television markets.
With only a handful of employees to man the station, the first day of broadcasting started with a newscast, followed by the Kirk Douglas movie, “Indian Fighter”. Most of those employees had never even seen the inside of a television station, much less attempted to run one.
Since there was no network affiliation at the time, the call letters stood for Arkansas Independent Television. The early years of broadcasting were far from what viewers have come to expect today. Since the station had no network affiliation to provide viewers with programming, KAIT relied on a small package of “black and white” movies and a lot of locally produced programs.
The station had to provide local programming such as its own live productions of “Romper Room”, “Dance Party”, “Studio Wrestling”, and several country music programs. “Gene Williams Country Junction” was one of the long running “bread and butter” programs. This show premiered in 1963 and provided much needed financial support in the fledgling years of the station.
The Hernreich family, including former General Manager Robert “Bob” Hernreich (son of George T. Hernreich), maintained a management interest in the station until it was sold to Channel Communications on July 9th, 1984. Bob was succeeded by Darryl Cunningham who continued to work for the family in their broadcast holdings in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, long after the sale in 1984.
KAIT reaches more homes than ever before through its three channels, website, multiple apps, social media presence and more, serving numerous counties in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.