Alaska Broadcasting Pioneer Augie Hiebert Remembered

Broadcasting pioneer, mentor and friend, August “Augie” Hiebert, has died. He was 90.

Hiebert left his mark on broadcasting history. He built Alaska’s first television station, KTVA in Anchorage, which signed on in 1953. Hiebert brought television to Fairbanks two years later by establishing KTVF.

Hiebert started out in radio, building his first ham radio in Bend, Ore., at age 15. He later moved to Alaska and was hired as an engineer for KFAR radio in Fairbanks. He is credited with being the first person in North America to hear radio messages of the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and alerting Alaska’s military.

Charles W. Rhodes, television broadcast technologies and planning consultant and TV Technology columnist, said of his friend, “It is no exaggeration to say that Augie was involved in many instances where radio was the only means of communication in Alaska and he understood the significance of wireless communications in time of disaster.”

His other accomplishments include pioneering the use of translators to reach Alaskans beyond the reach of Anchorage or Fairbanks transmitters; as well as playing a key role in bringing satellite communications to Alaska in 1969.

Hiebert sold Northern Television Inc. in 1997, but his involvement in the industry didn’t stop there. In 2000, Hiebert began mentoring students at Mirror Lake Middle School in Anchorage, as well as helping them get the school’s low-power radio station licensed by the FCC.

Rhodes said, “The modern telecommunications system in Alaska owes much to the memory of Augie Hiebert, and I believe Alaskans know it. I know that Alaska’s broadcasters know it. Augie always had a vision of the future and he made it come about for Alaska.”

Rhodes said for more information on Hiebert, read his biography “Airwaves over Alaska: Story of Pioneer Broadcaster Augie Hiebert” with a forward by Walter Cronkite.