Independent station (North America)
During the 1950s and 1960s, independent stations filled their broadcast hours with movies, sports, cartoons, newsreels, filmed travelogues, and some locally produced television programs, including newscasts, and kids shows. Independents on the air during this period would sign-on at times later than affiliated television network stations, some in the early or mid-afternoon hours.
By the start of the 1970s, independent stations typically aired children's programming in the morning and afternoon hours, and movies and other adult-oriented shows (some stations aired paid religious programs) during the midday hours. They counterprogrammed local network stations' news programs with syndicated reruns – usually sitcoms and hour-long dramas – in the early evening, and movies during prime time and late night hours. In some areas, independent stations carried network programs that were not aired by a local affiliate.
In larger markets such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, independent stations benefited from a Federal Communications Commission ruling barring network-affiliated stations within the top 50 television markets from airing network-originated programs in the two hours preceding prime time. What was known as the Prime Time Access Rule was in effect from 1971 to 1995, and as a result independents faced less competition for syndicated reruns.
In the 1980s, television syndicators began offering original, first-run series such as Fame, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Star Search and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and made-for-television movies and miniseries like Sadat – and this trend primarily benefited independent stations. Independents scheduled these first-run programs during prime time and on weekends. Some stations in larger markets ventured into local news broadcasts, usually at 10:00 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones, and 9:00 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones. Network stations aired their late newscasts an hour later.
Nearly 300 independent stations existed in the United States by the mid-1980s. Many of these stations belonged to the Association of Independent Television Stations, a group similar to the National Association of Broadcasters, and which lobbied the FCC on behalf of independents.
In the United States, many independent stations were commonly owned. Companies that operated three or more independents included:
- Chris-Craft Industries, and its subsidiary BHC Communications
- Christian Broadcasting Network
- Clear Channel Communications
- Cox Enterprises
- Gaylord Broadcasting
- Grant Broadcasting
- Kaiser Broadcasting, and its successor Field Communications
- Meredith Corporation
- Pappas Telecasting Companies
- Renaissance Broadcasting
- RKO General
- Scripps-Howard Broadcasting
- Sinclair Broadcast Group
- Taft Television and Radio Company
- Tribune Broadcasting
- TVX Broadcast Group, and its successor Paramount Stations Group
In 1986 several independent outlets, led by the Metromedia stations, formed the Fox Broadcasting Company, the fourth U.S. broadcast television network. Fox made efforts, slowly at first, to have its affiliates emulate a network programming style as much as possible, but in turn, the network only programmed two hours of prime time programming each night (and, during the 1990s, some children's programming through Fox Kids). However, the lack of programming in other dayparts forced most Fox affiliates to continue to program their non-prime time slots through the same programming model as independent stations. Though Fox coerced most of its affiliates to air late local news (there were some holdouts as late as 2013), many still programmed the bulk of their days with syndicated programming (which, by the 1990s, consisted primarily of tabloid talk shows and eventually court shows in addition to sitcoms, formats that continue to be the norm for these stations into the 2010s).
True independent stations have become a rarity. In 1995, many remaining independent stations joined the WB and UPN networks, and other stations banded together for the Pax (now Ion Television) network in 1998 (although some of the stations that aligned with Pax had earlier affiliated with its predecessor inTV two years before). Several stations affiliated with The WB and UPN became independent again when the networks merged to form The CW in September 2006. Some of the newly independent stations subsequently found a new network home through MyNetworkTV. The smallest stations, which in the past would have been forced to adopt a locally originated independent program schedule, now have other options – 24-hour-a-day networks that require no local or syndicated programming; some of these networks, such as AMG TV or America One, follow a full-service variety format, while others take a rerun-driven approach (such as Me-TV). Many stations that are affiliated with the larger post-1980s networks still behave much like independents, as they program far more hours a day than a station affiliated with one of the Big Three television networks.
Current independents follow a very different program format from their predecessors. While sitcom reruns are still popular, expanded newscasts and other syndicated product such as talk shows, courtroom shows, and no-cost public domain programming are common. Also being added to many independent station lineups has been brokered programming, including infomercials, home shopping and televangelist programs; the Federal Communications Commission did not allow infomercials to be broadcast on American television until 1984, but since then, it has proven to be a lucrative, if somewhat unpopular with viewers, way to fill airtime. During the 1990s when infomercials gained popularity, many stations began broadcasting 24 hours a day rather than signing off at night. By filling the overnight hours with informercials, the station would be able to generate extra revenue where they had previously been off the air.
Independent radio is a similar concept with regards to community radio stations, although with a slightly different meaning (as many non-"indie" commercial broadcasting radio stations produce the vast majority of their own programming, perhaps retaining only a nominal affiliation with a radio network for radio news or syndicated radio programming).
List of notable independent stations, past and present
(a partial listing; bold text denotes a current independent station)
List of notable U.S. independent stations
||The inclusion of certain items in this list is currently being disputed. Please see the relevant discussion on the article's talk page. (March 2008)|
List of notable Canadian independent stations
While independent stations were not as common in Canada, there were several notable examples of such:
|Halifax, Nova Scotia||CIHF-DT|
|Montreal, Quebec||CFHD-DT, CFTU-DT, CJNT-DT|
|St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador||CJON-DT|
|Toronto, Ontario||CKXT-DT, CITY-DT, CFMT-DT|
|Vancouver, British Columbia||CKVU-DT, CIVT-DT, CHNM-DT, CHNU-DT|
|Victoria, British Columbia||CHEK-DT|
|Winnipeg, Manitoba||CKND-DT, CHMI-DT, CIIT-DT|
Since the mid-1990s, most independent television stations in Canada have merged into television systems such as CTV Two or have become fully owned-and-operated stations of networks with which they had previously had more informal programming arrangements as with CIHF, CICT and CITV, all now Global stations. However, this trend was partially reversed in 2009 with the demise of Canwest's E! television system, which resulted in three of its stations, Hamilton's CHCH, Montreal's CJNT, and Victoria's CHEK, becoming independent; CJNT subsequently affiliated with City in 2012, later becoming a full-time O&O in 2013.
CHCH and CHEK are the only television stations in Canada currently operating as independent stations in the American sense of the term. However, since fall 2010, these two stations (previously along with CJNT) have resumed sharing some common American programming.
CJON in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, while officially unaffiliated with a network, in practice airs a mix of programming sublicensed from two of Canada's main commercial networks, CTV and Global, rather than purchasing broadcast rights independently.
CFTU and CFHD in Montreal are also independent. However, each of these stations has a specific programming focus: educational television in the case of the former, and multicultural television in that of the latter.
Apart from these, some additional independent stations exist in Canada which are community-oriented specialty stations. These stations, such as CFTV-TV in Leamington, Ontario and CHCO-TV in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, transmit at low power.
- List of independent television stations
- List of United States television networks
- Operation Prime Time
- Prime Time Entertainment Network
- Kanner, Bernice (1985-06-17). "Thinking About a Fourth Network". New York Magazine (New York): 19–23. Retrieved 2009-10-04.