|Branding||Fox 45 (general)
Fox 45 News (newscasts)
|Channels||Digital: 46 (UHF)
Virtual: 45 (PSIP)
45.2 This TV
45.3 ZUUS Country
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group
(Chesapeake Television Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||April 11, 1971|
|Call letters' meaning||Baltimore's Forty-Five
(former analog and current virtual digital channel number)
Baltimore's Finest Features
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
45 (UHF, 1971–2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1971–1986)|
|Transmitter power||655 kW|
WBFF, virtual channel 45 (digital channel 46), is the Fox-affiliated television station located in Baltimore, Maryland; it is the flagship station of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also operates MyNetworkTV affiliate WUTB (channel 24) and CW affiliate WNUV (channel 54), through respective local marketing agreements with Deerfield Media and Cunningham Broadcasting. All three share studios on West 41st Street and transmitter facilities in the Woodberry section of Baltimore.
Syndicated programs seen on WBFF include Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, 30 Rock, Friends, Judge Judy and The King of Queens. WBFF remains the only Baltimore television station that has never changed its network affiliation.
WBFF signed on on April 11, 1971, founded by what was then called the Chesapeake Television Corporation, which was controlled by Julian Sinclair Smith. It was Baltimore's second commercial UHF station and second independent station, signing on four years after WMET-TV (channel 24, frequency now occupied by WUTB) began operations. Both stations aired general entertainment programming, but WMET's owners experienced financial problems and were forced to take their station off the air in 1972.
Even without direct competition, and operating on a small budget, WBFF still struggled for programming during the 1970s as Baltimore's network affiliates – WBAL-TV, WJZ-TV and WMAR-TV – continued to acquire off-network syndicated programs during this period. Channel 45 did find an advantage in having a decent library of movies and sitcoms at its disposal. Like other independent stations of that era, WBFF also ran network programs preempted by the local affiliates, local public affairs programs, and played cartoons in the afternoon in a show hosted by "Captain Chesapeake" (played by George Lewis), who was a fixture on WBFF until 1990.
Despite its financial restraints, WBFF became enough of a profitable operation that Julian Smith decided to expand his broadcast interests. Through a Chesapeake Television subsidiary, Commercial Radio Institute, Smith launched a new independent station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WPTT (now WPMY), in 1978. In 1984, Commercial Radio Institute signed on Smith's third station, Columbus, Ohio independent WTTE. That same year, WBFF received local competition again when WNUV-TV, then a two-year-old subscription television outlet, began to adopt a general entertainment schedule.
In 1985, Julian Smith merged his companies and renamed them as the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and around this time one of his sons, David D. Smith, took a prominent role in the operations of the three stations. In 1986, Sinclair agreed to affiliate WBFF and WTTE with the fledgling Fox Broadcasting Company, which debuted on October 9 of that year. The growth and rise of Fox coincided with that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which expanded its reach during the 1990s. But first, Sinclair attempted to exand the reach of its flagship station in a big way.
In early 1991, Sinclair filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a new station on VHF channel 2 – which was occupied by WMAR-TV – under a subsidiary called Four Jacks Broadcasting. If it were granted, it would have resulted in the entire WBFF intellectual unit (including its Fox affiliation) moving from channel 45 to channel 2, and with Sinclair then selling off WBFF's existing channel 45 allocation. However, those plans never materialized, and WMAR-TV (then affiliated with NBC) was instead sold to the E. W. Scripps Company (which had earlier announced its purchase of the station in the summer of 1990, only for it to be cancelled in February 1991 after Scripps accused Gillett Communications of misreporting WMAR-TV's financial statements, resulting in a lawsuit filed by Gillett that was settled later that year). In the end, Scripps' license to operate WMAR-TV on channel 2 was reaffirmed by the FCC. Stuck on channel 45, Sinclair refocused on strengthening that station, and in June 1991 opened up WBFF's news department with Baltimore's first 10:00 p.m. newscast.
Sinclair purchased Abry Communications, owner of WNUV, in 1994. As duopolies were not allowed at the time, channel 54 was spun off to Glencairn Ltd., a company owned by former Sinclair executive Edwin Edwards. However, Glencairn's stock was almost entirely owned by the Smith family. In effect, Sinclair now had a duopoly in Baltimore – and had emasculated its major rival in its hometown. Sinclair further circumvented the rules by taking over WNUV under a local marketing agreement, with WBFF as senior partner. Sinclair tried to buy Glencairn outright in 2001, but was unable to buy WNUV because the Baltimore market has only seven full-power stations (or six, if two stations licensed in the market that are operated by Maryland Public Television are treated as one) – two less than what FCC regulations allow to legally permit a duopoly (the FCC requires a market to have eight unique station owners once a duopoly is formed, effectively limiting duopolies to markets with at least nine full-power stations). Glencairn changed its name to Cunningham Broadcasting and retained ownership of WNUV. However, nearly all of Cunningham's stock is held in trusts owned by the Smiths. This de facto duopoly continues to this day, while the larger one between Sinclair and Glencairn/Cunningham has led to claims that Cunningham is merely a corporate shell that Sinclair uses in order to evade FCC ownership restrictions.
While WBFF entered the new century thriving as both locally and as a Fox affiliate, its network partner threatened the station's immediate future. In 2001, Fox's parent company, the News Corporation, became the new owner of Baltimore's UPN affiliate WUTB (the former WMET-TV) through its purchase of Chris-Craft Industries. Rumors abounded that Fox was considering moving its programming from WBFF to WUTB. In a move made clearly to protect its home interests, Sinclair persuaded Fox to sign a long-term contract to keep WBFF with the network. The same threat re-emerged in January 2006, when WUTB lost its status as a UPN affiliate when that network's owner CBS Corporation and Time Warner, owners of The WB Television Network, announced that those two networks would be shut down and replaced by the new CW Television Network. However, WBFF's Fox affiliation was protected again when News Corporation announced that WUTB would become an affiliate of its new MyNetworkTV service.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WBFF, that will run through 2017. This included an option (that was exercisable from July 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013) to allow Sinclair to purchase WUTB, resulting in the creation of a virtual triopoly with WBFF and WNUV; while giving Fox the option to buy any combination of six CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates (two of which were standalone stations affiliated with the latter service) owned by Sinclair in three of four markets: Raleigh (WLFL and WRDC), Las Vegas (KVCW and KVMY), Cincinnati (WSTR-TV) and Norfolk (WTVZ). Under the agreement and the WUTB purchase option, Sinclair would pay $52.7 million to continue WBFF's affiliation with Fox; however, if Fox exercised the option to buy any of the Sinclair stations that were included in the option, the affiliation payments would decrease to $25 million. On November 29, 2012, Sinclair exercised its option to purchase WUTB through Deerfield Media for $2.7 million. Following the completion of the sale, WUTB began to be operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement, as with Deerfield's other stations. In January 2013, Fox announced that it would not exercise its option to buy any of the Sinclair stations included in the earlier purchase option. On May 6, 2013, the FCC granted its approval of WUTB to Deerfield Media. Sinclair officially took over the operations of WUTB eight days later, although the sale was not formally consummated until June 1. With the completion of the WUTB sale, this makes Baltimore the largest market where one company (outside of non-commercial public television station groups) operates a virtual triopoly between full-power stations.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||PSIP Short Name||Video||Aspect||Programming|
|45.1||WBFF-HD||720p||16:9||Main WBFF programming / Fox|
WBFF shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 45, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 46, using PSIP to display WBFF's virtual channel as 45 on digital television receivers.
On May 1, 2006, WBFF launched a new service on its second digital subchannel (45.2) originally called WBFF-2, which was later renamed Good TV. This digital-only channel featured classic television programs such as Magnum, P.I., Mission: Impossible, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, In the Heat of the Night and Good Times (its format predated the existence of several nationally distributed digital multicast networks focused on classic television programming such as Me-TV, Antenna TV and Retro Television Network). In addition, "Good TV" offered expanded coverage of church services on Sunday mornings, local events, syndicated shows, and paid programming. This channel ceased broadcasting on or around September 30, 2008, to make way for programming from This TV.
WBFF-TV presently broadcasts 42 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among Baltimore's broadcast television stations as well as in the state of Maryland in general. It is also the highest output of Sinclair Broadcast Group's stations (both out of its Fox affiliates and the company's overall television stations); it is also the only Fox station owned or managed by Sinclair prior to its series of station acquisitions that began with the 2011 purchase of Four Points Media Group that produces early evening and weekend morning newscasts (two stations that have been acquired since then or are in the process of being acquired currently run early evening weeknight newscasts).
Sinclair decided to invest in developing a news department for WBFF, with the station launching a nightly 10 p.m. newscast on June 3, 1991. The station added a weekday morning newscast in March 2000. In February 2003, it added a weeknight 11 p.m. newscast that was broadcast from Sinclair's now-defunct centralized news service, News Central, located in Hunt Valley. The start time of the weekday morning newscast was moved to 5:30 a.m. and an early evening newscast at 5:30 p.m. was subsequently added to the schedule in January 2005. On June 2, 2008, WBFF became the first Baltimore television station to begin broadcast its local newscasts in high definition.
Jeff Barnd, a WBFF news anchor, also hosted and provided commentary for the Sinclair-distributed syndicated news program American Crossroads. WBFF was featured in an episode during the third season of The Simple Life. On that episode, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took control of the station's weekday morning newscast. The two read the weather forecast and messed with the teleprompter. Tony Harris, later a CNN anchor, was once WBFF's lead anchor.
Every Wednesday morning during the regular school year, a randomly selected child nominated by his or her teacher is selected to help meteorologist Jonathan Myers during the 6:30 and 6:40 a.m. forecast segments. The child usually helps with the weather report, gets a tour of WBFF, and receives a video copy of their performance; the segment is called "Weather Kid Wednesday" (a segment that has been used on other Sinclair-owned stations such as Oklahoma City sister station KOKH-TV).
On January 24, 2011, WBFF expanded its weekday morning newscast from four to five hours to 5-10 a.m. weekdays, with the 9 a.m. edition called Fox 45 Good Day Baltimore. On April 9, 2012, WBFF expanded its early evening newscast by adding an additional half-hour at 5 p.m., shifting Judge Judy to a full-hour at 4 p.m.; the 5:30 p.m. newscast remains, but is treated as a separate newscast. On January 20, 2013, WBFF debuted weekend morning newscasts, featuring a two-hour Saturday morning newscast and three hours of newscasts on Sunday mornings (with the third hour of the Sunday newscast airing after Fox News Sunday).
Current on-air staff
WBFF's primary news anchors are Jeff Abell (Saturdays at 10 p.m.; also weeknight reporter and fill-in anchor); Jeff Barnd (weeknights at 5, 5:30, 10 and 11 p.m.); Marianne Banister (weekend mornings); Jennifer Gilbert (Mondays-Thursdays at 5, 5:30 and 11 and Sundays-Thursdays at 10 p.m.); Megan Gilliland (weekday mornings on Fox 45 Morning News from 5-10 a.m.); Patrice Harris-Sanders (weekday mornings on Fox 45 Morning News from 5-10 a.m.); Karen Parks (Fridays at 5, 5:30 and 11 and Fridays-Saturdays at 10 p.m.; also weeknight reporter); and Tom Rodgers (weekday mornings on Fox 45 Morning News from 5-10 a.m.).
The Weather Authority team includes chief meteorologist Vytas Reid (member, AMS; weeknights at 5, 5:30, 10 and 11 p.m.); and meteorologists Jonathan Myers (weekday mornings on Fox 45 Morning News from 5-10 a.m.), Emily Gracey (weekends at 10 p.m., also "Hometown Hot Spot" feature reporter) and Tony Pagnotti (weekend mornings).
The sports team includes sports director Bruce Cunningham (weeknights at 10 and 11 p.m.) and sports anchor Morgan Adsit (weekends at 10 p.m., also weeknight fill-in sports anchor). Both serve as co-hosts of Sports Unlimited (airing on Saturdays at 10:45 and Sundays at 10:35 p.m.).
The station's reporting staff includes general assignment reporters Kathleen Cairns, Keith Daniels, Paul Gessler, Amber Miller, Janice Park, Melinda Roeder, John Rydell and Joel D. Smith (weekday morning reporter); Traffic Edge reporter Candace Dold (weekday mornings from 5-10 a.m., also entertainment reporter); investigative reporter Joy Lepola and "Tabloid Tuesday" feature reporter Brandi Proctor (also morning associate producer).
Notable former on-air staff
- Kristen Berset - sports anchor (now at WUSA-TV in Washington)
- Tony Harris (later at CNN)
- George Lewis ("Captain Chesapeake")
- Jon Lieberman
- Lori Stokes - reporter (1990–1992; now at WABC-TV in New York City)
- Amber Theoharis (now with NFL Network)
- "For the record: New stations-Applications." Broadcasting, November 25, 1991, pg. 70.
- Zurawik, David (13 September 1991). "Smith family seeks to take Channel 2; WBFF owners' move could shift WMAR". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
- "Scripps to buy WMAR-TV; WTNH-TV seeks equity." Broadcasting, July 23, 1990, pg. 28.
- "Gillett sues Scripps-Howard over WMAR-TV deal break-up." Broadcasting, February 18, 1991, pg. 53.
- "In brief." Broadcasting, April 8, 1991, pg. 96.
- Sinclair Reups With Fox, Gets WUTB Option, TVNewsCheck, May 15, 2012.
- "Sinclair Makes It A Triopoly in Baltimore". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Sinclair In An Acquisition State Of Mind, TVNewsCheck, February 6, 2013.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WBFF
- "Sinclair links with The Country Network to fill digital TV tier". Television Business Report. August 25, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "DTV Tentative Channel for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- CDBS Print
- News wars: WBFF-TV to add early newscast starting April 9
- WBFF Fox 45 to launch weekend newscasts, The Baltimore Sun, October 24, 2012.
- Meet The FOX45 News Team
- "Kristen Goes Fishing". WJHG. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- "Lori Stokes bio". Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- FoxBaltimore.com (Official WBFF-TV website)
- Baltimore.ThisTV.com (Official This TV Baltimore website)
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WBFF