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WHBF-TV logo.png

Rock Island - Moline, Illinois/
Davenport - Bettendorf, Iowa
Branding Local 4 (general)
Local 4 News (news)
Slogan Local 4 You! (general)
Channels Digital: 4 (VHF)
Virtual: 4 (PSIP)
Subchannels 4.1 CBS
4.2 The CW
Translators 47 (UHF) Rock Island
Affiliations CBS
Owner Nexstar Broadcasting Group
(Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.)
First air date July 1, 1950; 64 years ago (1950-07-01)
Call letters' meaning Where
Black Hawk
(a reference to Chief Black Hawk, whose tribe once occupied the area that is now the Quad Cities)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
4 (VHF, 1950–2009)
58 (UHF, 2003–2009)
Former affiliations Both secondary:
ABC (1950–1963)
DuMont (1950–1956)
RTV (12/1/2008–1/15/2012)
LWN (1/16/2012–1/16/2014)
Transmitter power 33.7 kW
Height 409 m
Facility ID 13950
Transmitter coordinates 41°32′48.8″N 90°28′37.7″W / 41.546889°N 90.477139°W / 41.546889; -90.477139
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.ourquadcities.com

WHBF-TV, channel 4, is a television station licensed to Rock Island, Illinois, USA, which serves as the CBS affiliate for the Quad Cities television market (comprising Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa). WHBF-TV is owned and operated by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, with studios located in the Telco Building on 18th Street in downtown Rock Island, and transmitter located in Bettendorf.


The studios for WHBF television in downtown Rock Island.

WHBF-TV signed on the air on July 1, 1950. It is the fifth-oldest surviving station in Illinois and the oldest outside Chicago. It was owned by the Potter family, publishers of the Rock Island Argus, along with WHBF radio (1270 AM, now WKBF; and 98.9 FM, now WLKU).

WHBF-TV has been a CBS affiliate since its inception, but carried secondary affiliations with ABC and the DuMont Television Network. After DuMont's demise in 1956, WHBF shared ABC programming with WOC-TV (channel 6, now KWQC-TV) until WQAD-TV (channel 8) signed on as an ABC affiliate in 1963. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.[1]

The Potters broke up their media holdings in 1986; at that time, Citadel Communications acquired WHBF-TV, and the radio stations moved out of the Telco Building. The following year, Lynch Entertainment acquired a stake in the station; at that time Coronet Communications Company was formed as a partnership between Citadel and Lynch.[2]

On January 29, 2007, WHBF-TV rebranded as CBS 4. It also adopted a variation of the circle logo shared with Citadel's other major network affiliates.

WHBF-TV was the first station in the area to use color radar, and now uses the state-of-the-art weather system known as ESP: Live (Exclusive Storm Prediction). This allows the station to alert the Quad Cities about any potential weather hazards. Citadel's other stations also use the ESP: Live branding.

On January 16, 2012, WHBF-TV, along with all Citadel stations, launched an affiliation with the Live Well Network on its DT2 subchannel.[3][4] From December 1, 2008 to January 15, 2012, the station carried the Retro Television Network on DT2. Prior to that, WHBF had been simulcasting its main programming in SDTV on the DT2 subchannel. From March 5, 2011 until January 15, 2012, WHBF-TV's subchannel affiliation with the Retro Television Network had a local competitor in the Quad Cities as the DT2 subchannel of WQAD-TV became an affiliate of Antenna TV after WQAD discontinued their "Quad Cities Weather Channel" service.

On September 16, 2013, Citadel announced that it would sell WHBF-TV, along with WOI-DT in Des Moines and KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group for $88 million. Nexstar immediately took over the station's operations through a time brokerage agreement.[5] The deal followed Citadel founder and CEO Phil Lombardo's decision to "slow down," as well as a desire by Lynch Entertainment to divest its investments in WHBF and WOI.[6] On November 6, Nexstar announced that it would purchase the stations owned by Grant Broadcasting, including KLJB and KGCW, for $87.5 million. Due to FCC ownership regulations, KLJB was spun off to Marshall Broadcasting, but will be operated by Nexstar through a shared services agreement, forming a virtual triopoly with WHBF.[7] The sale for WHBF was completed on March 13, 2014.[8] The deal reunited WHBF with two of its former Citadel sister stations, WIVT in Binghamton, New York and WVNY in Burlington, Vermont.


WHBF carries the complete CBS schedule. However, until 2011, it did not carry CBS News Up to the Minute or its predecessor, CBS News Nightwatch. Instead the station joined its fellow Citadel stations in signing off every night, one of the few stations in the country to still do so. However, as of the mid-2000s, WHBF ran its transmitters all night, airing a test pattern with station identification superimposed over the pattern. Digital channel 4.2 has operated 24/7 since the Retro Television Network debut on December 1, 2008. The move left Iowa Public Television station KQIN as the last Quad Cities television station to sign-off.

WHBF broadcasts all CBS network programming in high definition. In addition, five syndicated programs available on WHBF's schedule are broadcast in HDTV: the weekday and weekend editions of Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition, which are both produced and distributed by CBS Television Distribution; a corporate sibling of the CBS Television Network under CBS Corporation. Also, The Dr. Oz Show, which is distributed by Sony Pictures Television, as well as Judge Judy and The Jeff Probst Show, which are produced by Big Ticket Television and distributed by CBS Television Distribution, are broadcast in high-definition by WHBF.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is once again multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming
4.1 1080i 16:9 WHBF-DT Main WHBF-TV programming / CBS
4.2 480i 4:3 KGCW SD SD simulcast of KGCW

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WHBF-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, at 6:01 a.m. on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 58, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 4.[9][10] WHBF-TV is now one of the very few TV stations in the United States to broadcast its digital signal on a low VHF channel assignment, alongside sister station WOI-DT in Des Moines, Iowa and ABC O&O station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Even though the "WHBF-TV" callsign was transferred from analog channel 4 to digital channel 4 on the morning of June 12, 2009, and the "WHBF-DT" callsign was discontinued simultaneously, the PSIP identifier for the main channel 4.1 still identifies the station's main channel as "WHBF-DT." Also, from the digital transition onward, Retro Television Network on channel 4.2 was abbreviated "RTV" and not "RTN" like it was prior to the digital transition, and as of late summer 2009, WHBF's PSIP had been identifying its secondary channel as "RTV 4" instead of the previous "RTN 4" although the local branding was immediately changed over at the transition.

On January 16, 2012, WHBF, along with all of its sister stations, launched an affiliation with the Live Well Network on its second digital subchannel. As of that date, the PSIP for channel 4.2 had been identifying the subchannel as "LWN 4.2" as a nod to its new affiliation. The Live Well Network originates as a 720p HDTV operation but was carried by WHBF in a letterbox format, preserving the native 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio of the network while saving bandwidth for WHBF by keeping digital channel 4.2 in its traditional 480i format with the 4:3 screen size. On January 16, 2014, WHBF dropped the Live Well Network affiliation and digital subchannel 4.2,[11] which left WHBF-TV as the only big network affiliate in the Quad Cities market with only one main digital channel and no subchannels for the next 16 months.

In November 2014, while Nexstar was still waiting for the completion of its sale of KLJB to Marshall Broadcasting, there was speculation by other local media that KGCW might move to a WHBF subchannel.[12] On May 14, 2015, Nexstar relaunched WHBF's digital subchannel 4.2 with a standard definition simulcast of KGCW. Due to the fact that KLJB is now owned by a separate company than KGCW, the simulcast of KGCW, which was previously aired on KLJB's 18.2 subchannel, moved to WHBF's 4.2 subchannel as Nexstar owns WHBF and KGCW, where Marshall Broadcasting owns KLJB.[13]

Post-transition digital signal issues[edit]

During the Summer of 2009, WHBF-TV, being broadcast as it is in digital on a low VHF channel assignment, encountered numerous reception problems, and received several reception related complaints in its first two months alone of being broadcast digitally on VHF channel 4. As a result, the station's owner filed an application for a digital UHF fill-in translator on channel 47 [14] and also sought permission to increase the ERP output of its main digital signal on VHF channel 4 from 24.1 kW to 33.7 kW.[15] The fill-in translator is located on the station's Rock Island tower at the telco building-based studios in downtown and operates at an ERP of 2300 watts. Sister stations WOI-DT in Des Moines and KCAU-TV in Sioux City, as well as former sister KLKN in Lincoln, all of which returned their digital broadcasts to their former analog channel assignments in the VHF spectrum at the end of the digital transition in 2009 as well, are going through a similar process and they have all set up fill-in translators themselves.

As of September 8, 2009, WHBF has been operating its main digital signal on VHF channel 4 at an effective radiated power of 33.7 kW. Also, as of October 22, 2009, WHBF has been operating its digital fill-in translator on UHF channel 47 from its studio location in downtown Rock Island.

News operation[edit]

WHBF-TV's previous logo, used from 2007 until 2015

Prior to the Fall of 2011, WHBF, unllike most CBS affiliates, did not air a morning newscast and had not done so for many years. Instead, a weather forecast was aired during the CBS Morning News and The Early Show each weekday morning between 6 and 9 a.m. Previously, WHBF had local news updates during the CBS Morning News and The Early Show but later on it was simply a repeat of the weather update that aired earlier in the half-hour during CBS Morning News and The Early Show. The CBS Morning News was aired at 6 a.m. and repeated itself at 6:30 a.m. weekdays on WHBF. WHBF also had not aired a 6 p.m. newscast during the week since 1997, although a 6 p.m. newscast has always aired on Saturday evenings. Unlike most CBS affiliates, it does not air a midday newscast.

WHBF won numerous awards and public recognition for a ground-breaking news series that ran weekly from April, 1995 to April, 1996. "Robb's Life" focused on the life of Robb Dussliere, a Rock Island resident who was battling AIDS. Each week, News Director Ken Gullette (November, 1993 to July, 1997) followed Robb as he went to doctors offices, enjoyed his family, and worked to renovate a home for HIV and AIDS patients. WHBF viewers watched as Robb went from being relatively healthy in April, 1995 to his funeral in April, 1996. The stories were unique in that Gullette's voice was never heard and he never appeared on camera. Working as a one-man producer, videographer and editor, he told Robb's story through video, natural sound, interviews, and music. The feature stories also ran longer than the normal TV stories. "Robb's Life" raised awareness, changed viewer opinions about AIDS, and won awards from the Illinois and Iowa Associated Press. Most of the weekly features can now be seen on YouTube. Fifteen years after it aired, the Dispatch/Argus ran a story about the impact of the series, and interviewed Robb's parents, Lorney and Hattie Dussliere of East Moline, Illinois.

WHBF has noticeable turnover with its on-air talent. Sports director Jay Kidwell has currently been at the station the longest, since 2001. Jay is known for his energetic personality and is becoming the Quad Cities' favorite for local sports coverage.

On December 21, 2010, WHBF-TV became the second in the Quad Cities market, behind KWQC, to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, beginning with the 5 p.m. newscast.

During the summer of 2011, WHBF announced morning newscasts would be coming to the station. Meredith Dennis anchored and Travis Michels provided weather information as of September 12, 2011. Also, the 6 p.m. news returned after a 14-year absence on September 26, 2011.[16] The morning local newscast, known as CBS4 News This Morning, was aired from 5:30 to 7 am. The CBS Morning News was moved back to 5 am and the station's daily paid early morning religious programming was discontinued. However, as of Spring 2012, CBS4 News This Morning now airs from 5-7 a.m., while the CBS Morning News airs at 4:30 a.m.

In March of 2014, Morning Anchor Meredith Dennis left WHBF and was replaced in April of 2014 by Emily Scarlett.[17]

On March 4, 2015, WHBF debuted its new set, graphics, and logo.[18] The new 'Local 4' branding, similar to that of WKRC-TV (Local 12) in Cincinnati, WPSD-TV (Local 6) in Paducah, Kentucky, and sister station WOI-DT (Local 5) in Des Moines, went into effect, replacing original 'CBS 4.'


WHBF was a solid, if distant, runner-up to rival WOC-TV until the mid-1970s, when it surged to first place. It lost the lead to WOC-TV around 1980. The station was able to hold up the number 2 spot for most of the 1980s until WQAD passed it. Since the late 1980s, WHBF has clearly been the 3rd ranked station in the Quad Cities market.


  1. ^ "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films", Boxoffice, November 10, 1956: 13 [dead link]
  2. ^ "TV station purchased". Chicago Tribune. March 17, 1987. Retrieved September 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ Malone, Michael (9 January 2012). "Citadel Communications Stations Grab Live Well". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Live Well Network replaces RTV on Ch. 4.2". The Dispatch / The Rock Island Argus. 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Malone, Michael (September 16, 2013). "Nexstar to Acquire Citadel's Iowa Stations for $88 Million". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved September 16, 2013. 
  6. ^ Hicks, Lynn (September 16, 2013). "Nexstar buys WOI, other Citadel TV stations in Iowa". Des Moines Register. Retrieved September 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ Malone, Michael (November 6, 2013). "Nexstar to Acquire Seven Grant Stations For $87.5 Million". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ Consummation Notice, Federal Communications Commission, Retrieved 17 March, 2014.
  9. ^ http://www.whbf.com/Global/story.asp?S=10446353
  10. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  11. ^ Booker, Roy (February 27, 2014). "Ask the Times: WHBF TV4 drops Live Well Network". Quad Cities Times. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ Burke, David (2014-11-10). "Big changes likely ahead for 3 Quad-City television stations". Quad City Times (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 2015-05-22. 
  13. ^ KGCW facebook page
  14. ^ https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101326660&formid=346&fac_num=13950
  15. ^ https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101326657&formid=911&fac_num=13950
  16. ^ Burke, David (2011-09-05). "WHBF to expand news programming". Quad City Times (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  17. ^ http://www.ourquadcities.com/story/d/story/emily-scarlett/42352/WBjm4JYOOkC0gxK7z2fseQ
  18. ^ Burke, David (2015-03-04). "WHBF gets 'Local' makeover". Quad City Times (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 2015-04-01. 

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