The Lady Behind Boise's TV Station: KTVB's Georgia Davidson
Take a moment to remember when access to the news, entertainment, and sports was not accessible from the palm of your hand. The innovations of technology that allowed for news and information to be readily available on handheld devices that simultaneously connect us to friends and relatives all across the globe happened fast—very fast when you consider that in 1953, the Treasure Valley was home to only a few hundred television sets and that the first licensed radio station in Boise—under the call letters KFAU—dated to 1922. Behind much of the success of this industry’s launch, development, and growth in Boise was a widow with two children, Mrs. Georgia Davidson. In honor of Women’s history month and KTVB Channel 7’s 70th anniversary, keep reading to learn more about this unpretentious and pioneering woman who helped broadcast television across southern Idaho.
Georgia Marie was born in Notus, Idaho, to Mr. James B. and Mrs. Emma Newport on May 18, 1907.1 She attended the College of Idaho, the University of Idaho, and the University of Oregon, and it was there, during her senior year, that she met her first husband, Curtis Gerald “Kido” Phillips.2 During an interview with Idaho Statesman TV Editor Ken Burrows, Davidson recalled meeting Phillips during spring break while she was substituting as a pianist for a quartet that sang at the radio station in Eugene, Oregon, that Phillips owned. On October 16, 1927,3 as she put it, she had taken care of his “bachelor situation,” and the couple had married.4 Georgia went to work with her new husband as assistant manager of KOIR Radio in Eugene, but soon, they moved to Boise and bought KFAU Radio from the Boise School Board. Together, they operated the radio station under the call letters KIDO until Curt’s untimely death in 1942.
At that time, Georgia, now a single mother to two girls, Bette and Sherli, stayed involved in the station. In interviews, Georgia described being frightened her whole life, and taking on the radio station after Curt’s passing was no scarier than taking it on with him by her side.5 Of course, there were always risks in business, but the business sense she developed from her banker father and her vision of getting “the excitement of radio on-screen” propelled her first to grow the radio station and then take on the next big innovation—television.6
By 1946, Georgia had remarried her second husband, Mr. R. Mowbray Davidson, who owned Peasley Transfer and Storage Company in Boise.7 That year she also turned over reigns of the station’s day-to-day operations to general manager Walter Wagstaff; she continued as president.8 As president, she expanded the station’s services to include FM broadcasting, which signed on the air as KIDO-FM in 1947; she changed the station’s AM frequency to 630 kilocycles and upgraded its power; and she upgraded and relocated the company’s headquarters and broadcasting studios to Boise’s Chamber of Commerce Building in 1949.9 Nevertheless, her most visionary decision as president was applying for a television license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC had frozen television licenses in the 1940s because it had issued too many too fast, causing conflicts with the signals. However, anticipating that the FCC would soon lift the freeze, Georgia applied for a license in March of 1952,10 built the television studio, and signed affiliate agreements with all three established television networks—NBC, CBS, and DuMont. She received the license on December 23, 1952; six months later, on July 9, 1953, she broadcast the first test signals, and less than a week later, on July 12, the station KIDO-TV began formal programming. Furthermore, for a few years, she managed both the television and radio stations, but by 1959, she decided to dedicate her attention fully to the television station and sold KIDO Radio to Bill Boeing and Jack Link.11 She also filed to change the television station’s call letters to KTVB, which are still in place today.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Georgie decision’s ensured hallmark moments for Boise’s television history timeline. In 1955, Channel 7 broadcast the World Series—live. In 1967, she invested in color broadcasting for her station. Moreover, she advocated for the industry and her community when she was not working directly to advance KTVB. She worked as a diligent member of the Board of Directors for the Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Corporation, ensuring that public television came to Idaho.12 She prided herself on being “unfailingly fair and objective in the presentation of [the] news and [the] treatment of conflicting views, controversial issues,” and she maintained that unbiased perspective in the hiring and firing practices at KTVB, recognizing that the presence of biased individuals on staff could jeopardize the public’s trust in the organization and its content.13 For anyone shocked to learn of such a remarkable woman associated with such an innovative industry, fear not, for Georgia, especially as she grew closer to selling the station, which she did in 1980, was not one to stand in the spotlight, as her humility preceded her. She always recognized the well-qualified people with whom she worked at KTVB.
Congratulations to KTVB-Channel 7 for 70 years of broadcasting in the Treasure Valley.
Written by State Historian HannaLore Hein
Altrusa Club of Boise, ed. Biographies of Idaho Women. Boise, Id.: Altrusa Club of Boise, 1979.
Gould, Alice J. “‘Brought to You in Living Black and White’: Early Television Broadcasting in Boise, Idaho,” 2001.
Gregory, Art. KIDO: Boise’s First Radio Station. Images of America. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia Pub, 2012.
Idaho Centennial Foundation, ed. Here We Have Idaho: People Make the Difference. Boise, Idaho: Idaho Centennial Foundation, Idaho Centennial Homecoming Committee, 1990.
Morning Register. “Six Licenses Issued: Marriage Business Good At County Clerk’s Office.” October 16, 1927.
“U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current – AncestryInstitution.Com.” Accessed March 23, 2023. https://www.ancestryinstitution.com/discoveryui-content/view/87849994:60525?tid=&pid=&queryId=86bf97507f1156957d1d727a21e437fe&_phsrc=gLn14&_phstart=successSource.