I wonder how many people that were born after 1982 realize that small indie stations were once common and in most large cities. Everything from original shows to a crop of movies and reruns, etc. like you see on TV Land or Nick at Nite. There was something cool about that, now everything is owned by a greater or lesser network, it seems.
Heck, in the beginning, even network affiliates had to fill time on their own. Leading to the monster theater and captain video stuff local stations during the golden TV age.
The interesting thing is that once people in TV were desperate to fill time in the new medium. Now, there is so much content flying around that even rapidly multiplying cable niche channels can't hold it all.
Oh well, at least with cable and TV stations going to the way there are, syndication is forever - yet those little stations - and some network stations that had to fill time (remember the first FOX affiliated stations, before there was a network? FOX 5 in NYC? WTXF 29 in Philadelphia?) that kept Star Trek on everyone's TVs in syndication. They made kids of several generations grow up laughing at The Little Rascals, or Tim Conway in "McHale's Navy," or Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Heroes".
A true cultural impact. They scared kids of the seventies and eighties out of their wits when they stayed up to watch the old horror films, Public Service Ads, and not to mention all the syndicated cartoon shows that they aired.
In the early nineties when I was still in Brooklyn, NY before moving to Florida (and didn't have cable TV btw) usually at nights or when it was raining, my "Cable Ready TV" would pick up various UHF TV stations from Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey.
By 1993, Independent TV in the New York City market was pretty much crap... so when my little indoor antenna picked up those unknown "out of area" stations I was more than happy.
The very first station it pulled was a connecticut station "WTXX TV-20", it aired the "Home Shopping Club" from morning to 3:00pm, then cartoons would air from 3 to 6pm, and then sitcoms and dramas would continue through 10pm.
It was a breath of fresh air seeing an indie station that was indeed "independent". I actually stayed up real late to see what this station aired, but by 6am the signal gotten weak as daylight became brighter... and by 7:30am the signal was completely gone, as if it was never there.
Disappointed, I went out and bought a new indoor antenna to see if the signal would come back, it didn't, but I left it hooked to the TV. As the night approaches I was receiving faint signals from WTTX-20, Connecticut's Channel 26, NBC 30, Connecticut's FOX 29, WMBC-63, WNJN-50, and WLNY-55. The strongest of the signals was WLNY-55, probably because it was a Long Island station.
Yet again, I stayed up late flipping the channels to see what was showing and I saw TV movies (such as "Playing With Fire" with Gary Coleman), old sitcoms, and misc TV programs. But as usual the signals would vanish by sunrise. Within a year I bought 6 different indoor antennas to get these stations to stay but with no luck. I also found that if it was raining real hard during the day the signals would come back even stronger... then I realized it had to do with the atmospheric changes.
The fun ended in 1995, however. One day I tuned in to WTXX TV-20, and noticed a "UPN" logo at the bottom and they were calling themselves "UPN 20". Everything that was original about that station was replaced with UPN slogans and promos. Other stations I tried to get that was once "independent" were either UPN or WB affiliates.
There was no reason for me to tune into these stations anymore, it was over.
When I was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in 1995-97... stations like WSVN-7 would still air late night movies on the weekends at 2am, I can't remember what WSVN called this time slot... but it was similar to what indies would call their late hour movie blocks.
In 1998 they attempted to bring back indies and I remember WAMI-69 debuting. The station was nick-named "Miami", and it aired local and old programs... one local program was called "Neil At Night", it was the radio shock jock "Neil Rogers", they were showing us two half-hour sets of his 4-hour daytime radio show at night on WAMI, once at 8:30pm and another at 10:30pm.
They even had WAMI Kids, a cartoon block which was really "Fox Kids" but with young teenagers as the hosts, and it was similar to how The Bozo Show and DJ Kat Show was formatted... little skits in between cartoons.
Well, WAMI-69 is no longer an independent as of 2002... it turned into Telefutura, a spanish network.
There is another independent station in South Florida called "WPPB-63" it is nicknamed "BEACON-TV", but this station is not what I would call a real independent. It's programs are all educational and it's from the school board. It airs "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", but the episodes are from Barr? videos.. and parts in the episodes that wasn't educational was edited along with the laugh tracks. So it's basically a learning aid for kids rather than entertainment.
Today, I'm in Tampa, FL... and guess what? There is a real indie station here called "WMOR Channel 32" (More TV-32). And it doesn't "credit crunch" or squeeze the credits to the bottom or sides of the screen, but you do hear a voice-over during the credits just like the independents of old use to do. This station airs movies every night at 8pm, weekend movies begin at 12pm. Late weekend nights they show old "b-movies", this station really fills in that gap for people who miss independents. I am glad WMOR-32 and WLNY-55 in Long Island never sold out to becoming a network affiliate... I hope they will stay independent.