Independent station (North America)

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An independent station is a type of television station broadcasting in the United States or Canada that is not affiliated with any broadcast television network. Such stations opt to fill their daily schedules with programming (such as feature films, sitcoms and drama series) acquired from syndication distributors as well as brokered programming.

Overview[edit]

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 children's programs. Independents that were on the air during this period would sign-on at times later than stations affiliated with a television network, some not doing so until the early or mid-afternoon hours.

Another source of programming became available to independent stations by the mid-1960s: reruns of network programs which, after completing their initial runs, were sold into syndication.

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 that barred network-affiliated stations within the top 50 television markets from airing network-originated programs in the two hours preceding prime time. This legislation, 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. Some stations in larger markets (such as WGN-TV in Chicago, KWGN-TV in Denver and WWOR-TV, WPIX and WNYW in New York City) ventured into local news broadcasts, usually airing 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.

From the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, independent stations in several U.S. cities, particularly those that had yet to receive a cable television franchise, carried a form of a network affiliation through subscription television networks (such as ONTV, Spectrum and SelecTV); these services – which were formatted very similarly to their pay cable counterparts – ran sports, uncut and commercial-free movies (both mainstream and pornographic, broadcasts of the latter often resulted in legal issues that were defeated due to an FCC statute that designated programs that would otherwise be deemed indecent was "in the clear," defined as being legal to broadcast if the encrypted signal was not visible or audible), and on some services, television specials. Independents usually ran the services during the evening and overnight hours in lieu of running movies and other programs acquired off the syndication market by the station, although a few eventually began to carry these services for most of the broadcast day. The services required the use of decoder boxes to access the service's programming (some of which were fairly easy to unencrypt because of how stations scrambled the signal during the service's broadcast hours), some required the payment of an additional one-time fee to receive events and adult films. As cities added cable franchises, thus allowing people to subscribe to conventional premium television networks like HBO and Showtime, the over-the-air subscription services eventually shuttered operations by the end of the 1980s.

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 – this trend primarily benefited independent stations. Independents scheduled these first-run programs during prime time and on weekends.

Nearly 300 independent stations existed in the United States by the mid-1980s.[1] 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:

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, beginning in the 1990s, some children's programming through Fox Kids). However, the lack of programming in other dayparts forced most Fox affiliates to continue to maintain the same programming model during non-prime time slots as independent stations. Though Fox coerced most of its affiliates to air late local news (there were some holdouts as late as 2013) as well as news programming in other dayparts common with other major network affiliates, 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).

Today[edit]

True independent stations have become a rarity. In 1995, many remaining independents joined the WB and UPN networks, and other stations banded together become charter outlets of the Pax TV (now Ion Television) network in 1998 (although some of the stations that aligned with Pax had earlier affiliated with its predecessor, the Infomail TV Network – or inTV, two years before). Several stations affiliated with The WB and UPN became independent again when those 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) or carry mainly niche programming (such as the primarily movie-oriented This 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; reruns of recent scripted comedy and drama series; 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 or popular 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. Home shopping programs (mainly simulcasts of cable services that also have over-the-air distribution such as QVC and the Home Shopping Network) or syndicated programs fill overnight time periods on stations that do not run infomericals during that daypart.

Religious independent stations also exist, which in lieu of being affiliated with a religious broadcaster (such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Daystar or 3ABN), instead carry televangelist programs that are acquired off of the syndication market and other religious study programs, some of which are produced locally.

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 news updates or syndicated radio programming).

List of notable independent stations, past and present[edit]

(a partial listing; bold text denotes a current independent station)

List of notable U.S. independent stations[edit]

Media market Station(s)
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York WXXA-TV
Atlanta, Georgia WJRJ-TV/WTCG/WTBS/WPCH-TV, WGNX, WATL-TV, WVEU, WHOT
Austin, Texas KBVO
Baltimore, Maryland WBFF, WNUV-TV
Beaumont, Texas KUIL-LD
Birmingham, Alabama WTTO, WABM, WVUA/WUOA-TV
Boise, Idaho KTRV-TV
Boston, Massachusetts WSBK-TV, WLVI, WXNE-TV, WSMW-TV/WHLL, WQTV, WBIN-TV
Buffalo, New York WUTV, WNLO, WBBZ-TV, WNYO-TV
Charlotte, North Carolina WAXN-TV, WCCB, WJZY, WRET-TV, WHKY-TV
Chicago, Illinois WGN-TV, WFLD, WSNS-TV, WCIU-TV, WPWR-TV, WGBO-DT
Chico, California KCVU-TV
Cincinnati, Ohio WXIX-TV, WIII-TV/WSTR-TV
Cleveland-Akron, Ohio WUAB, WBNX-TV, WKBF-TV/WCLQ, WOIO, WMFD-TV
Columbus, Georgia WXTX
Columbus, Ohio WTTE, WWAT
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas KDFI, KFWD, KLDT, KMEC-TVKBFI-TV/KXTX-TV/KDTV/KRLD-TV, KSTR-DT, KTVT, KTXA, KXTX-TV
Dayton, Ohio WRGT-TV
Denver, Colorado KWGN-TV, KCDO-TV, KDVR, KTVD
Detroit, Michigan WKBD-TV, WXON, WGPR-TV, WADL
Des Moines, Iowa KCBR/KDSM-TV
Evansville, Indiana WTVW
Fargo, North Dakota KVRR/KNRR/KBRR
Fresno-Visalia, California KMPH-TV, KAIL
Fort Wayne, Indiana WFFT
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Michigan WXMI
Green Bay-Appleton, Wisconsin WXGZ/WACY, WLRE/WGBA-TV
Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point, North Carolina WGNN-TV/WJTM/WNRW-TV, WGGT
Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina-
Asheville, North Carolina
WAXA/WFBC-TV, WGGS-TV, WHNS, WASV-TV, WNEG-TV
Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, Pennsylvania WPMT
Hartford-New Haven, Connecticut WHCT, WCCT-TV, WTIC-TV, WTVU, WTWS
Houston, Texas KHTV, KRIV-TV, KTXH, KCVH-LD, KNWS-TV, KTBU, KUBE-TV
Honolulu, Hawaii KIKU-TV/KHNL, KFVE
Idaho Falls, Idaho KPIF
Indianapolis, Indiana WTTV, WXIN, WMCC-TV
Jackson, Mississippi WDBD
Jacksonville, Florida WAWS, WJXT, WNFT
Kansas City, Missouri KBMA-TV/KSHB-TV, KZKC/KSMO-TV, KMCI-TV, KUJH-LP
Knoxville, Tennessee WKCH-TV/WTNZ-TV, WMAK/WKNX-TV
Lafayette, Louisiana KADN-TV
Lansing, Michigan WSYM-TV
Las Vegas, Nevada KVVU-TV, KVMY-TV, KFBT, KTUD-CD
Louisville, Kentucky WDRB-TV
Los Angeles, California KTLA, KHJ-TV/KCAL-TV KCOP, KWHY-TV, KDOC-TV, KCET
Madison, Wisconsin WMSN, tvw, W08CK
Memphis, Tennessee WPTY-TV, WMKW-TV/WLMT
Miami-Fort Lauderdale WCIX, WBFS-TV, WDZL, WAMI-DT, WKID
Milwaukee, Wisconsin WVTV, WCGV-TV, WDJT-TV, WMLW-TV, WBME-CD
Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota WTCN-TV, KMSP-TV, KITN-TV, KSTC-TV, KTMA/KLGT
Mobile, AL-Pensacola, FL WPMI, WJTC
Nashville, Tennessee WZTV, WCAY-TV/WXMT
New Orleans, Louisiana WGNO, WNOL-TV
New York City, New York WNEW-TV, WOR-TV/WWOR-TV, WPIX, WATV/WNTA-TV, WLIG/WLNY-TV
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Virginia WYAH-TV/WGNT, WTVZ, WVBT, WSKY-TV
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma KOKH-TV, KAUT-TV, KGMC/KOCB-TV, KSBI
Orlando-Daytona Beach, Florida WOFL, WKCF, WRBW, WRDQ
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania WPHL-TV, WTAF-TV, WKBS-TV/WGTW-TV, WGBS-TV, WYBE-TV, WFMZ-TV
Phoenix, Arizona KPHO-TV, KNXV-TV, KUTP, KSAZ-TV, KTVK, KUSK/KAZT-TV
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania WPGH-TV, WPTT, WBGN-CD
Portland, Oregon KPTV, KPDX, KUTF
Providence, Rhode Island-New Bedford, Massachusetts WNAC-TV
Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, North Carolina WLFL-TV, WKFT, WYED-TV
Richmond, Virginia WRLH-TV, WZXK
Reno, Nevada KAME-TV
Rochester, New York WUHF
Sacramento-Stockton, California KTXL, KMUV/KRBK, KSCH, KBFT
Saint Louis, Missouri KPLR-TV, KDNL-TV
Salt Lake City, Utah KSTU, KAZG/KPNZ, KJZZ-TV
San Antonio, Texas KCOR-TV/KUAL-TV, KABB
San Diego, California KCST-TV, XETV, KUSI-TV, KTTY
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, California KRON-TV, KTVU, KBHK-TV, KGSC-TV/KICU-TV, KEMO/KTZO/KOFY/KBWB/KOFY, KEMO-TV, KTVJ
San Juan, Puerto Rico WAPA-TV, WLII-DT
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania WOLF-TV
Seattle-Tacoma, Washington KTNT-TV/KSTW, KMO-TV/KTVW/KCPQ, KVOS-TV, KONG, KZJO
Shreveport, Louisiana KMSS, KWLB/KSHV
Spokane, Washington KAYU-TV
Springfield, Missouri KOZL-TV
Suffolk County, New York WVVH-CD
Tampa-Saint Petersburg, Florida WTOG-TV, WTTA, WMOR-TV, WFTS
Toledo, Ohio WUPW
Tucson, Arizona KZAZ/KMSB-TV
Tulsa, Oklahoma KOKI-TV, KGCT-TV
Washington, D.C. WTTG, WDCA-TV, WFTY, WJAL
West Palm Beach, Florida WFLX, WTVX, WHDT

List of notable Canadian independent stations[edit]

While independent stations were not as common in Canada, there were several notable examples of such:

Media market Station(s)
Barrie, Ontario CKVR-DT
Calgary-Lethbridge, Alberta CFAC/CICT-CISA-DT
Edmonton, Alberta CITV-DT
Halifax, Nova Scotia CIHF-DT
Hamilton, Ontario CHCH-DT
Lethbridge, Alberta CJIL-DT
London, Ontario CFPL-DT
Montreal, Quebec CFHD-DT, CFTU-DT, CJNT-DT
Pembroke-Ottawa, Ontario CHRO-TV
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
Wingham, Ontario CKNX-TV

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 (which it was formally affiliated with until 2002, with only CTV's news programming being carried since then) 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.

Three independent religious stations also exist in Canada: CHNU in the Fraser Valley Regional District, CIIT in Winnipeg, and CJIL in Lethbridge.

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kanner, Bernice (1985-06-17). "Thinking About a Fourth Network". New York Magazine (New York): 19–23. Retrieved 2009-10-04.