Sarkes Tarzian

Sarkes Tarzian[1] (October 5, 1900 – October 7, 1987) was an Ottoman-born American engineer, inventor, and broadcaster. He was ethnic Armenian born in the Ottoman Empire. He and his family immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States in 1907, following their persecution by Ottoman Turks.[2] "His father escaped to America from the Turkish massacres of Armenians, and got a job as a weaver." In 1918, he was the top high school graduate in the city of Philadelphia, earning him a four-year, all-expenses-paid college scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania[3] where he received an undergraduate degree in 1924 and a graduate degree in 1927. Tarzian worked for the Atwater Kent company and then for RCA in Bloomington, Indiana.

Sarkes Tarzian
Born(1900-10-05)October 5, 1900
DiedOctober 7, 1987(1987-10-07) (aged 87)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
SpouseMary Mangigian Tarzian


He founded the manufacturing company Sarkes Tarzian Enterprises in 1944, and was involved in early experiments in VHF audio broadcasting in 1946. In May of that year, he began operating a 200-watt experimental AM station, W9XHZ, on 87.75 MHz in Bloomington. He used the station to provide programming to the local community, including Indiana University and Bloomington High School Football games, special events, and live band music from local high schools. Because standard AM radios could not tune to his station's high frequency, Tarzian modified a small number of sets himself and distributed them throughout the community.[4] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had recently established the FM radio band on 88.1-107.9 MHz, but FM receivers were expensive purchases. After two years of successful operation of what he referred to as his "HIFAM" station,[5] in 1948 Tarzian proposed that the FCC allocate a small high-frequency HIFAM broadcast band, saying that an affordable $5.95 converter could be added to existing AM radios to make them capable of receiving the HIFAM stations.[6] (This idea was essentially a revival of the "Apex band", which had been discontinued in 1941.) Tarzian continued to operate his experimental station, which eventually became KS2XAP, until 1950, although by then its transmitting hours were greatly restricted, as the FCC required the station to remain off the air whenever nearby WFBM-TV in Indianapolis was broadcasting, because the TV station's audio transmitter used the same frequency as Tarzian's station.[7] Moreover, after the station's final license expired on June 1, 1950, the FCC denied Tarzian any further renewals.[8]

In 1949 he started television station WTTV in Bloomington, which at various times under Sarkes Tarzian ownership operated as a DuMont, NBC and ABC affiliate and as an independent station. As a UPN affiliate, the station was sold to Teleco in 1978.

In 1956, two groups filed with the FCC to build a television station on channel 13 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the only allotted VHF channel for southern Kentucky.[9] The first group to file was Sarkes Tarzian.[10] A second application followed shortly thereafter, from George A. Brown, Jr., the Kentucky representative for Nashville-based General Shoe Corporation.[11] It was not until February 1957 that the commission designated the applications against each other for hearing,[12] and it took another 18 months for a hearing examiner to give the initial nod for the channel to Tarzian, citing its superior programming plans and broadcast experience as a factor that outweighed the local ownership represented by Brown.[13] Brown appealed the initial decision, and the FCC granted him the permit in 1959.[14] The station is now WBKO.

In 1957, Sarkes Tarzian founded WPTA, serving Fort Wayne, Indiana, taking an affiliation with ABC; in 1973, the station was sold to Combined Communications for $3.6 million.

In 1959, Sarkes Tarzian purchased dark WFAM-TV, channel 59, in Lafayette, Indiana from its owner, Henry Rosenthal. Sarkes Tarzian was able to get FCC approval to move the station to channel 18, which Rosenthal had been attempting since his purchase of the station in 1957. In 1967, the station's call sign was changed to the current WLFI-TV. In 1979, the station was sold to Block Communications. It is currently owned by Allen Media Broadcasting.

In 1980, Sarkes Tarzian bought television station KTVN in Reno, Nevada from Washoe Empire for $12.5 million.[15] In 1982, Sarkes Tarzian bought television station WRCB in Chattanooga, Tennessee from Ziff Davis.

The Sarkes Tarzian company was an important manufacturer of radio and television equipment, television tuners, and components. Its FM radio receivers helped to popularize the broadcast medium. Sarkes Tarzian manufactured studio color TV cameras in the mid-1960s.[16] The manufacturing operations were spun off in the 1970s and today the company still exists as a broadcaster, owning several television and radio stations. Gray Television has owned a partial stake in Sarkes Tarzian, Inc., since the early 2000s.

Tarzian was a member of the Rotary Club. He was survived by his wife Dr. Mary Mangigian Tarzian (August 22, 1905 – July 7, 1998); they had two children.

The Sarkes and Mary Tarzian Nature Preserve in Bloomington, Indiana, commemorates their names. Lake Tarzian located within the Hoosier National Forest is named after him.[17] Lake Tarzian is named after Tarzian who led the capital campaign to build the camp.[18]


Currently Sarkes Tarzian Inc. owns two television stations, 4 FM radio stations, and one AM radio station.



City of license/Market Station Channel
Owned since Affiliation
Reno, Nevada KTVN 2 (11) 1980 CBS
Chattanooga, Tennessee WRCB 3 (13) 1982 NBC


City of license/Market Station Channel
Years owned Current ownership status
Bloomington - Indianapolis, Indiana WTTV 4 (27) 1949–1978 CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Fort Wayne, Indiana WPTA 21 (24) 1957–1973 ABC and NBC affiliate owned by Gray Television
Lafayette, Indiana WLFI-TV 18 (11) 1959–1979 CBS affiliate owned by Allen Media Broadcasting



Indianapolis/Bloomington, Indiana

WTTS-HD1 (FM)-Adult Album Alternative, HD-2/96.1 W241CD (Bloomington)-Mainstream Rock (original owner)

Bloomington, Indiana

WGCL (AM)/98.7 W254DP-News/Talk (original owner)

Ft. Wayne, Indiana

WAJI-HD1 (FM)-Adult contemporary, HD-2/99.5 W258BY CHR

WGBJ (FM)-Alternative (purchased from Three Amigos Broadcasting in 2019)

WLDE (FM)-Classic Hits


Indianapolis, Indiana

Purchased WIGO (AM) from Luke Walton in 1966; changed call sign to WATI; sold in 1984 to Continental Broadcast Group, LLC, which changed call sign to WGRT; now WSYW

Further readingEdit

  • Miller, Delbert Charles (1993). The history of Sarkes Tarzian, Inc: The story of Sarkes Tarzian and Mary Tarzian and the industrial company they built.


  1. ^ "Sarkes Tarzian Obituary". Indiana Broadcast Pioneers. Indiana Broadcast Pioneers. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  2. ^ "Couple Have Hobby Giving Scholarships". The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida). 1974-07-10. p. 2D.
  3. ^ Sklarewitz, Norman (June 1955). "Sarkes Tarzian". The Rotarian. pp. 19–20.
  4. ^ Mitz, Andrew (July 2004). "Sarkes Tarzian and His HiFAM Experiment" (PDF). Radio Age. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  5. ^ "HiFam Radio Bans Static with Gadget". Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Sun-Gazette. AP. 1947-06-27. p. 9. HIFAM" was a contraction of "high frequency amplitude modulation
  6. ^ Christopher, Larry (1948-05-03). "HIFAM". Broadcasting/Telecasting. pp. 22, 72.
  7. ^ "HIFAM Renewal". Broadcasting/Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications. 1950-04-24. p. 75.
  8. ^ "HIFAM Renewal". Broadcasting/Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications. 1950-06-05. p. 46.
  9. ^ "2 Television Frequencies Assigned To City". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. March 23, 1951. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  10. ^ "Firm Seeks Channel 13 For Local TV Station". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. April 15, 1956. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  11. ^ "Second Application Filed With FCC For TV Channel 13 Here". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. May 17, 1956. p. 10. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  12. ^ "FCC To Hold Hearing On Applications For TV Station Here". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. February 25, 1957. p. 5. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  13. ^ "Tarzian Gets FCC Nod In Bid For Local TV Station". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. September 9, 1958. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  14. ^ "Brown Granted Local TV Permit By FCC". The Park City Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. October 8, 1959. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022 – via
  15. ^ "Changing Hands" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 26, 1980. pp. 40–1. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  16. ^ Sklarewitz, Norman (June 1955). "Hometown TV Man". The Rotarian. p. 19. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  17. ^ "Lake Tarzian". 2019-03-15. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  18. ^ "Maumee Scout Reservation". hoosiertrailsbsa. Retrieved 2020-02-25.

External linksEdit