Harry J. Pappas, Owner of Lots of TV and Radio Stations, Dies at 78

Harry J. Pappas, who presided over more than 30 TV stations as the CEO of what was the largest privately held broadcasting company in the U.S. in terms of household coverage, died April 24 in Reno, Nevada, his niece announced. He was 78.

Under his watch, Pappas Telecasting stations KMPH-TV in Fresno, California; WHNS-TV in Greenville, South Carolina; and KPTM-TV in Omaha, Nebraska, became affiliates of the new Fox network starting in the late 1980s. Other Pappas stations would join The WB and The CW Network lineup in the mid-’90s.

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A member of Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame, Pappas also is said to have come up with the idea for the Fox Children’s Network.

The youngest of four kids, Pappas was born on March 14, 1946, to Greek immigrants, Katherine and John, in Modesto, California. His older twin brothers, Pete and Mike, hosted a local two-hour radio show that aired six nights a week.

While attending classes at UNLV in 1963, he joined his brothers at the Las Vegas radio station KVEG-AM, working as an announcer known as Harry Holiday and as a salesperson. A year later, the Pappas boys purchased KGEN-AM in Tulare, California, for $35,000; they launched KBOS-FM in Fresno a few years later.

The brothers got into the television business with the Tulare station KMPH — named for Mike, Pete and Harry — in October 1971 and then purchased KTRB-AM and its sister FM station in Modesto. (KMPH moved to Fresno in the early 1980s.)

Pappas Telecasting also owned stations in Florida, Iowa, Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia, Washington and other states. In 2008, the year he retired, 13 stations filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; most of the stations were sold, and others would go out of business.

His other broadcast interests included Pappas Teleproductions, a Fresno studio launched in 1980.

Survivors include his wife, Stella, whom he married in 1969; his children, John and Mary Katherine; and his niece, Kathy.

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