WFLD

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"Fox 32" redirects here. For station in Cadillac, MI, see WFQX-TV.
WFLD
WFLDFox32News.png
Chicago, Illinois
United States
Branding Fox 32 (general)
Fox 32 News (newscasts)
Slogan What Chicago is talking about (newscasts)
We Are Fox 32 Chicago (general)
Channels Digital: 31 (UHF)
Virtual: 32 (PSIP)
Subchannels 32.1 Fox
Affiliations Fox (O&O)
Owner Fox Television Stations
(Fox Television Stations, Inc.)
First air date January 4, 1966; 48 years ago (1966-01-04)
Call letters' meaning FieLD Enterprises
(the station's founding owner)
Sister station(s) WPWR-TV
Former channel number(s) Analog:
32 (UHF, 1966-2009)
Former affiliations Independent (1966-1986)
Transmitter power 1000 kW
Height 475 m (1,558 ft)
Facility ID 22211
Transmitter coordinates 41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.87889°N 87.63611°W / 41.87889; -87.63611
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website www.myfoxchicago.com

WFLD, channel 32, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station, located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. WFLD is owned by the Fox Television Stations division of 21st Century Fox, and operates as part of a television duopoly with Gary, Indiana-licensed, MyNetworkTV-owned WPWR-TV (channel 50). The two stations share studios and offices at Michigan Plaza in Chicago's Loop neighborhood, and WFLD's transmitter is based at the Willis Tower.

History[edit]

Independent origins[edit]

The station began broadcasting on January 4, 1966 from its original studios within the Marina City complex on State Street.[1] WFLD was founded by a joint venture of parties who each competed individually for the station's license and construction permit. Field Enterprises, publishers of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News and owned by heirs of the Marshall Field's department store chain, was the station's majority (50%) partner and responsible for managing WFLD's day-to-day operations; they were led by veteran broadcasting executive Sterling C. (Red) Quinlan.[2] Channel 32 was christened the "Station of Tomorrow" by the Sun-Times in an April 1966 article because of its innovative technical developments in broadcasting its signal. It also broadcast news programming from the Sun-Times/Daily News newsroom.[citation needed]

In March 1969, Field entered into an agreement to sell WFLD to Metromedia.[3] At the time, the Field interests were concerned about running afoul of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s recent scrutiny of co-owned multiple local media outlets. The deal ultimately fell through nearly one year later[4] and following its collapse, Field instead purchased the half-share of WFLD held by its minority partners.[citation needed]

WFLD was noteworthy for being the longtime home of the local B-movie program Svengoolie. There were two versions of this show: the original began in 1971 as Screaming Yellow Theatre with local disc jockey Jerry G. Bishop doing scary voices and later wearing a long blond wig. Bishop became such a hit with viewers that the show was popularly called "Svengoolie" after his character (although the name did not change), and this version lasted until 1973. The second version began in 1979 with Rich Koz as "Son of Svengoolie", and it ran until 1986. The show currently airs locally on WCIU-TV (channel 26), and is broadcast nationally on Me-TV.[citation needed]

Field Enterprises sold controlling interest in WFLD to Kaiser Broadcasting in 1973, and the two companies' new partnership resulted in WFLD joining Kaiser's stable of UHF independent stations in San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit.[5][6][7] In 1977, Kaiser ended the partnership by selling its share of the stations back to Field Enterprises.[8] The station also aired movies, initially European made films dubbed into English, and local public affairs programming.[citation needed]

To counterprogram against its more established VHF rivals, channel 32 offered older cartoons, older off network sitcoms, documentaries, dramas, westerns and live sports, though it easily trailed WGN-TV (channel 9) in the ratings among Chicago's independent stations. The station would be on the air from 10 a.m. to about 1 a.m. in the 70's except during the months of September to December when the station signed on 7 a.m. Beginning in 1978, WFLD signed on daily before 6 a.m. In 1975, WFLD won the rights to run The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family and in 1977 won stronger cartoons such as Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry. In 1979, WFLD acquired local syndication rights to M*A*S*H, All in the Family, Happy Days, and What's Happening!!. They also acquired I Love Lucy that year and Star Trek in 1982. As a result, the station beat WGN-TV in ratings, and the two stations continued to go head-to-head throughout the 1980s. WFLD scored no big ticket items in 1980 or 1981 but in 1982 won huge syndication success such as Three's Company and Taxi as well as Mork and Mindy.[citation needed]

In 1982 to 1983, Field Enterprises sold off their company, one station at a time. Back in 1981, though they were shopping for a potential buyer for WFLD in the event that that the company would be put up for sale. While WFLD was the leading independent station, most companies interested were only willing to pay about half of what Field would want for the station. Field stated they wanted at least 100 million for the station, while the most expensive UHF stations went for about $50 million. Also most companies were fearful of Tribune's WGN and that they could overtake WFLD again eventually. The one company interested in WFLD was Metromedia which owned WNEW-TV Channel 5 in New York City and beat Channel 11 WPIX as a leading independent station there. Metromedia was ripe to compete against WGN based on their success against WPIX. In Chicago, Metromedia was given right of first refusal for WFLD. When Field began selling stations, they sold WFLD to Metromedia once again–this time successfully. WFLD was the first of the stations they sold beginning the process in September of 1982 and completing the sale in march of 1983. They sold for slightly over 100 million dollars which was a record price for a UHF station back then. [9][10] As a condition, Metromedia was forced by the FCC to divest its Chicago radio station, then-AOR WMET (95.5 FM, now WNUA), which was sold to Doubleday Broadcasting.

WFLD's programming changed slightly, but the station's on-air graphics were abruptly changed to reflect the new ownership. Still, the old Field Logos were also accidentally used on some occasions through the summer. Metromedia added several hours a day of first run syndicated shows that were previously not on in the Chicago market (being that Chicago only had two commercial independent stations at the time with WSNS going Subscription full-time the previous year) like Merv Griffin (which WFLD previously carried a few years before but moved to WSNS and was dropped by them when they went STV full-time) to the lineup, particularly in prime time. WFLD continued to remain as the leading independent station throughout Metromedia's ownership.[citation needed]

Fox era[edit]

In 1986, WFLD and the other Metromedia television stations were sold to the News Corporation; the stations formed the core of the new Fox Broadcasting Company, which debuted on October 9 of that year. Following the sale to Fox, the station – now branded on-air as "Fox 32" – continued to compete aggressively in the market. Shows like Family Ties were won by the station. The station expanded its news presence as well, with the August 1987 launch of a primetime newscast at 9 p.m. The afternoon cartoon block, which became the network-supplied Fox Kids by 1992, continued on the station, as well as the top-rated off-network sitcoms in the evening. It also added more first-run talk shows and court shows. In the mid-1990s, WFLD won shows like The Simpsons, Home Improvement, and Seinfeld (which eventually go to sister station WPWR, and currently WCIU).[citation needed]

In 1997, after several years of being known on the air as "Fox 32", the station rebranded itself as "Fox Chicago." This was due to the perceived embarrassment of being on a UHF analog channel in the third-largest market in the U.S., especially since The WB was carried on WGN-TV. For much of this period, WFLD was the only Fox-owned station to not use the usual "Fox (channel number)" branding standardization, even though most Chicagoans still referred to WFLD as "Fox 32" or "channel 32" (WFLD's Philadelphia sister station WTXF-TV utilized this same practice for several years after Fox bought WTXF from Paramount in the mid-1990s).[citation needed]

Fox purchased WPWR-TV from Newsweb Corporation in 2002, creating a duopoly with WFLD; WPWR's operations were then integrated into WFLD's facilities in downtown Chicago. When Fox ended the weekday kids block in January 2002, WFLD added more first-run reality and talk shows to the lineup. In January 2003, WFLD dropped the Fox Saturday morning cartoon block, by then outsourced by Fox to producer 4Kids Entertainment and subsequently rebranded 4Kids TV, which was moved to WPWR – where that station aired the Saturday block in the same timeslot until Fox discontinued 4Kids TV on December 27, 2008. WFLD was the first of Fox's six original owned-and-operated stations (that were owned prior to its purchase of the New World Communications stations) to drop Fox's Saturday children's programming, and one of the few non-New World Fox O&Os (the other being Minneapolis's KMSP-TV) that currently does not run Weekend Marketplace, which airs on WPWR instead.[citation needed]

In September 2006, WFLD relaunched its website, migrating it to the "MyFox" platform that was also rolled out to the other Fox-owned stations. The MyFox sites would be refreshed in 2009 using a new platform developed by Fox and LIN Media (spun off as EndPlay, which Fox owned an equity interest in). In April 2012, WorldNow began to operate the websites for Fox's O&Os.[11] On November 12, 2012, the station dropped the "Fox Chicago" branding, and began branding as "Fox 32" for the first time since 1993.

Digital television[edit]

As part of the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, WFLD shut down its analog transmitter, on June 12, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. WFLD was the only Chicago station that participated in the "Analog Nightlight" program until its analog transmitter on top of the John Hancock Center was turned off permanently on June 26, 2009 (2009-06-26).[12] It continued to broadcast on its pre-transition digital channel 31, whose transmitter had been upgraded to operate at its full 1 megawatt legal maximum power in early 2009. Digital television receivers display WFLD's virtual channel as 32 through the use of PSIP.

Sister station WPWR-TV also has two Mobile DTV feeds, one of its subchannel 50.1, labelled "WPWR", and a feed of WFLD labelled "WFLD", broadcasting at 3.67 Mbit/s. This is the highest bitrate of any Chicago television station mobile feed.[13][14]

Sports programming[edit]

In 1968, WFLD acquired broadcast rights to the Chicago White Sox baseball team from WGN-TV, carrying them initially until 1972, and again from 1982 to 1989. From 1985 to 1989, WFLD also aired Chicago Bulls NBA games, until WGN-TV acquired broadcast rights to both teams in late 1989 (Chicago-area attorney and real estate investor Jerry Reinsdorf owns both franchises).[citation needed]

In 1994, WFLD became the unofficial "home" station of the Chicago Bears when Fox acquired the television rights to the National Football Conference of the NFL, of which the Bears are a member. It is now the official station of the Bears, airing both preseason telecasts in addition to most regular season games, as well as Bears Gameday Live and Gamenight Live, which follows The Final Word on Sunday evenings during the season.[citation needed]

News operation[edit]

WFLD presently broadcasts 39½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (7½ hours on weekdays, and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to locally produced news programming, it is the second-highest newscast output of any station in the Chicago market, behind WGN-TV (which runs 49 hours of newscasts each week). In addition, the station produces Fox Chicago Sunday, a talk show focusing on local and national politics airing Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m., and the half-hour sports highlight show The Final Word, which airs Sunday evenings following the 9 p.m. newscast. WFLD is one of only two Fox owned-and-operated stations that do not carry an early evening newscast (the other is WJZY in Charlotte, NC); however, the station runs news and weather updates during syndicated programs that air weekdays between 5 and 7 p.m.[citation needed]

The station has been one of Fox's weakest owned-and-operated stations for a number of years.[citation needed] In recent Nielsen ratings sweeps periods, WFLD has been mired in last place among the late evening (9 or 10 p.m.) newscasts seen on the market's five English-language news-producing stations.[citation needed] As such, Chicago is one of the few markets in the country where the Fox station actually trails that market's CW-affiliated station (WGN-TV) in the local viewership ratings, from sign-on to sign-off.[citation needed] This is primarily due to WGN-TV's relatively strong news department, local sports programming, higher-rated syndicated programming, and due to the fact that WGN has a rich history in the Chicago news history.[citation needed] In the February 2011 Nielsen ratings sweeps period, WFLD's 9 p.m. newscast slid to a 2.3 rating share, down more than a full point from a 3.4 during the February 2010 sweeps period. This is despite the pairing of co-anchor team Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson, suggesting that the pairing of the anchors has not been able to improve ratings.[15] The station came in third place for its prime-time lead-in.[citation needed]

WFLD's news department began on August 3, 1987 with the premiere of a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast (touted as "the news that doesn't get home before you do"), which was accompanied by another half-hour newscast at 11 p.m.[16][17] The two programs aired separately for a year until both newscasts were consolidated to compete with the 9 p.m. newscast on then-independent station WGN-TV. The newscast was moved back to 7 p.m. by the fall of 1988,[18] and returned to 9 p.m. by the fall of 1989,[19] in anticipation of Fox's expanding prime time schedule. In 1991, the station's newscasts were retitled from Fox 32 News to Fox News Chicago (though it was largely referenced verbally as simply Fox News). That year, the station replaced its morning cartoon block with a new three-hour weekday morning newscast called Good Day Chicago.[citation needed]

WFLD scored a major coup in 1993 when it persuaded Walter Jacobson, longtime anchorman at WBBM-TV, to take over as its lead anchorman. Jacobson stayed at WFLD until his retirement in 2006 (he has since come out of retirement to return to WBBM). Largely due to Jacobson's influence, WFLD's newscasts have somewhat less of a tabloid feel than other Fox stations. However, they are much flashier than the other newscasts in Chicago.[citation needed]

On April 9, 2007, WFLD premiered a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast called The TEN, anchored by David Novarro and former WLS-TV and WBBM-TV anchor/reporter Lauren Cohn. The program (according to Robert Feder's April 18, 2007 column in the Chicago Sun-Times) beat CBS-owned WBBM-TV's 10 p.m. newscast on its second day on the air. Despite its early success against WBBM-TV, overall The TEN was never much of a factor in the ratings; towards the end of its run, it fell to a distant fifth behind newscasts on WBBM, WLS-TV and WMAQ-TV, and Family Guy reruns on WGN-TV. This factor resulted in the program's cancellation on September 21, 2009.[20]

On January 12, 2009, WFLD and NBC-owned WMAQ-TV entered into a Local News Service agreement to share a news helicopter and pool video footage between the two stations.[21] On May 10, 2009, WFLD became the last news-producing English-language station in the market to begin broadcasting its newscasts in high definition; however, remote field footage continues to be broadcast in 16:9 widescreen standard definition.[citation needed]

Notable current on-air staff[edit]

Former on-air staff[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WFLD (TV) takes to the air." Broadcasting, Jan. 10, 1966, pg. 48. [1]
  2. ^ "Quinlan has big plans for Chicago U." Broadcasting, Feb. 1, 1965, pp. 50-51. [2] [3]
  3. ^ "Metromedia, Post-Newsweek expand." Broadcasting, Mar. 10, 1969, pp. 40-42. [4] [5]
  4. ^ "Metromedia drops deal for WFLD-TV." Broadcasting, Feb. 9, 1970, pg. 48. [6]
  5. ^ "Kaiser, Field put their U's together." Broadcasting, May 29, 1972, pg. 8. [7]
  6. ^ "Kaiser-Field merger passes FCC muster." Broadcasting, May 14, 1973, pg. 34. [8]
  7. ^ Kaiser Broadcasting advertisement. Broadcasting, July 30, 1973, pg. 2. [9]
  8. ^ "FCC approves Field purchase, cites benefit to UHF medium." Broadcasting, June 27, 1977, pp. 29-30. [10] [11]
  9. ^ "Through the roof with Metromedia." Broadcasting, Aug. 30, 1982, pp. 25-26. [12] [13]
  10. ^ "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, Mar. 7, 1983, pg. 104
  11. ^ Jessell, Harry A. "Fox Stations Moving to WorldNow Platforms". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  12. ^ [14]
  13. ^ http://www.rabbitears.info/market.php?request=atscmph
  14. ^ http://www.mdtvsignalmap.com
  15. ^ Johnson-Sullivan anchor duo paying off for WBBM-Channel 2, Chicago Sun-Times, March 4, 2011.
  16. ^ TV Guide Chicago Issue #1798
  17. ^ Fox flashback: When Murdoch put his mark on local news, TimeOut Chicago, July 31, 2012.
  18. ^ TV Guide Chicago Issue #1853
  19. ^ TV Guide Chicago Issue #1902
  20. ^ WFLD To Eliminate 10PM Newscast; "The Office" Reruns Debut In September, Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2009
  21. ^ "Fox, NBC Share Chicago Chopper". Retrieved 2009-01-12. 

External links[edit]