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The earliest known use of the Eyewitness News name in American television was on April 6, 1959 when KYW-TV (now WKYC-TV) - at the time, based in Cleveland and owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting - launched the nation's first 90-minute local newscast (under the title Eyewitness), which was combined with the then 15-minute national newscast. The name was then adopted for use by Westinghouse's other television stations - KPIX in San Francisco; WJZ-TV in Baltimore; WBZ-TV in Boston; and KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh - for their local newscasts.
After the KYW-TV call letters, management, and some staffers moved from Cleveland to Philadelphia in 1965 the station's then-news director, Al Primo, created the Eyewitness News format. In this format, which was meant to be faster in pace than the standard newscast format (in which an anchor simply read headlines), a reporter in the field would be the "eyewitness" to a news event to the anchor in the studio and the viewer at home. The anchors became personalities instead of presenters with the introduction of banter, or "happy talk" as it was named by Al Primo. Anchors would give their own personal comments in between stories to let viewers know their personalities.
Primo used the cue 007 from the 1963 film From Russia with Love as the musical theme. The format quickly became a hit in Philadelphia and allowed KYW-TV to surge past longtime leader WCAU-TV for first place, a position it kept on and off until the late 1970s. KYW-TV's success inspired rival station WFIL-TV (now WPVI-TV) to develop the Action News format to compete with it (after NBC was ordered to re-assume control of its Cleveland broadcasting properties in 1965, the Eyewitness News name left that city until WEWS adopted it for its newscasts in the 1970s).
KYW-TV used the name and format until 1991, and re-adopted it in 1998. All five major stations owned by Westinghouse prior to its 1995 acquisition of CBS have used Eyewitness News as their newscast title at some point in time; as of October 23, 2017, only KYW-TV continues to do so.
In 1968, Primo moved to WABC-TV in New York City and took the Eyewitness News concept there with him, choosing music from the 1967 Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke - the "Tar Sequence" cue (composed by Lalo Schifrin) - as the theme. However, he added a new twist at WABC-TV - light, informal-sounding conversation among the anchors between the news stories and segments, which came to be known as "happy talk". Among the newscasters in the first wave of happy talk on WABC-TV was young reporter Geraldo Rivera, a comical and entertaining weatherman in Tex Antoine, and Bill Beutel and Roger Grimsby as anchormen of contrasting yet complementing styles. Primo also criticized the then-standard practice of "three white men" "preaching the news" at viewers and included women and persons of color to reflect the diversity of the viewing audience. WABC-TV has kept the name and format since then, and has been the highest-rated station in New York City for much of that time.
The format, as modified by WABC-TV, was copied by many other stations in the United States, with four other stations owned and operated by ABC - KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WLS-TV in Chicago, WXYZ-TV in Detroit and KGO-TV in San Francisco - using both the format and the Cool Hand Luke theme (in the case of KGO, since KPIX was already using the Eyewitness News name, KGO titled its newscasts as Channel 7 NewsScene in 1969 and by 1983 simply Channel 7 News, while WXYZ used the Action News name since rival WJBK-TV was using the Eyewitness News name for its newscasts; KABC and WLS were free to use the Eyewitness News name as did WABC-TV). Ironically, WPVI, which developed the Action News format, is also now an ABC owned-and-operated station.
In addition, U.S. Spanish-language stations also use their own version of Eyewitness News, called Noticias de Primera Plana (Headline News, a concept translation in Spanish of Eyewitness News) on certain owned-and-operated stations of Spanish networks.
A separate, but mostly unrelated, Eyewitness News format was developed by Irv Weinstein in Buffalo, New York for WKBW-TV. This format was mostly based not on the original Eyewitness News (though it used the same logo; in actuality, a slightly modified version of it) but rather on the Action News format of its sister stations in the Capital Cities Communications stable. While based on Action Newss brief and numerous reports, Weinstein built his Eyewitness News newscast around attention-grabbing catchphrases and alliterative headlines, along with occasional wisecracking or sarcastic one-liners about the day's news stories.
This version of Eyewitness News was used on WKBW as well as other Capital Cities stations where the Action News name was in use by another station, such as WTVD in Durham, North Carolina. It was also used on a few stations not owned by Capital Cities, including WOKR (now WHAM-TV) in Rochester, New York.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s, some local newscasts also used the Eyewitness News format, under the names Noticias de Primera Plana (Headline News) and Noticias de Acción (Action News).
In Australia, BTQ-7 in Brisbane adopted the Eyewitness News branding in the early 1970s. The branding was also employed by NWS-9 in Adelaide for its evening newscast. TEN-10 in Sydney and ATV-0 in Melbourne, the principal stations of Network Ten, adopted the Eyewitness News branding in the mid-1970s and it was later adopted by other stations in the Network Ten group (SAS-10 (later SAS-7) in 1976 and TVQ-0 (later TVQ-10) in 1978) as BTQ-7 and NWS-9 later relinquished the brand. Regional affiliates for Network Ten including CTC-7 in Canberra (Ten Capital Eyewitness News, formerly Capital 7 Eyewitness News, Capital Television Eyewitness News and Ten National News), Southern Cross Network in Victoria (Southern Cross/TV8 Eyewitness News formerly TV8 Newshour), and QTV in Townsville (QTV Eyewitness News and later Ten North Queensland Eyewitness News), also used the Eyewitness News name. The Australian version of Eyewitness News more closely resembled Weinstein's version than the original format, but it became one of the ratings winners in the 1980s due to its one-hour duration unlike other newscasts. Network Ten dropped the use of the Eyewitness News name in September 1988 (but retained it in Brisbane until October 31, 1988 on TVQ-10) but later reinstated it in July 1989 for six months, and then again in January 1991 until late 1994, this time using its present logo. Network Ten reinstated the "Eyewitness News" branding once again on September 16, 2013 and was later retired on October 31, 2018 as part of a network relaunch and has since been replaced with 10 News First.
In South Africa, Eyewitness News is used by Eyewitness News, located in Johannesburg and in Cape Town. It is also used by Talk Radio 702 and 94.7 Highveld Stereo in Gauteng, 567 CapeTalk and 94.5 Kfm in Cape Town.
Eyewitness News is also the name of a syndicated news music package, composed by Frank Gari, founder of music production firm Gari Media Group (formerly Gari Communications).
Beginning in 1968, ABC owned-and-operated stations in major markets and later some NBC and CBS affiliates in other markets had used the Cool Hand Luke "Tar Sequence" theme for their newscasts. In 1983, the ABC owned-and-operated stations started using News Series 2000, an updated version of the original Schifrin theme, composed by Gari, that had been originally commissioned by WLS-TV in Chicago.
However, in the early 1990s, Schifrin raised his royalties for using the Cool Hand Luke "Tar Sequence" music and its variations to a level that effectively priced the theme out of the local news market. As a result, in 1994, Gari was commissioned by ABC's New York City flagship WABC-TV to compose a new music package called Eyewitness News. This new package, based slightly on the "Tar Sequence" theme, has been updated several times. WABC-TV currently uses the Series 4 version, which was specifically updated for the station in 1999.
Besides being used in America, the Eyewitness News music package has also been licensed for use overseas. Hong Kong Cable News uses the theme for its morning newscast, while POP TV in Slovenia has used it for its main newscasts. It is also used by Nine Network in Australia and its owned-and-operated stations for their newscasts. It is also used on Network Ten's regional affiliate WIN Television for its news bulletins. Ten used the Action News music package "Move Closer to Your World" as the theme for the Eyewitness News newscasts on its stations except for TVQ-0 in Brisbane, from 1976 to 1988 (Network Ten did not reach Perth until May 26, 1988), a record twelve years before the theme music was changed to reflect the full reach of the network across Australia's five major cities. By then, Frank Gari's "Turn To News" music package, used by Ten in both Brisbane (in 1986) and later in Adelaide (in early 1988), was adopted by Ten's stations in Melbourne, Sydney, and later in Perth that year. Another news theme, "Team to Watch", used by KNXT-TV (now KCBS-TV) in Los Angeles in the 1980s, was used as the Ten News update theme on almost all its stations, and in the mid-1980s became the Eyewitness News theme on TEN-10 Sydney. Presently, 10 News First uses the current theme music first used in 1994, when it was renamed Ten News, with minor changes.
A station using the Eyewitness News music package might not necessarily use the Eyewitness News title for its newscasts, and vice versa. For example, WXYZ-TV in Detroit uses the music package, but uses the Action News format and branding, and in 2006 KGO-TV started using the "Eyewitness News" package but brands its newscasts as ABC 7 News.
In 2005, Gari Communications renamed the "Eyewitness News: New Generation" news package to the "ABC O&O News Collection", as the packages are now only commissable by ABC owned-and-operated stations and affiliates. Despite this, many still refer to the package as "Eyewitness News". In Buffalo, New York, "Move Closer to Your World" is known as the Eyewitness News theme; it has been used by WKBW-TV from 1972 to 2003, and again from 2008-2016.
The theme music for Rising Star, which is coincidentally broadcast on ABC, is loosely based on the Eyewitness News package.
While a large number of local television stations used the name "Eyewitness News" for only a relatively short period, ... Eyewitness News had five key provisions: emphasis on visual elements and "action" video, sometimes in the form of ...