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Lansing/Jackson, Michigan
United States
Branding WLNS-TV 6 (general)
6 News (newscasts)
Slogan Your Local News Leader
Channels Digital: 36 (UHF)
Virtual: 6 (PSIP)
Subchannels 6.1 CBS
6.2 Live Well Network
Affiliations CBS (primary until 1959; exclusive 1959-present)
Owner Media General
(Young Broadcasting of Lansing, Inc.)
First air date May 1, 1950 (1950-05-01)
Call letters' meaning LaNSing
Sister station(s) WLAJ
Former callsigns WJIM-TV (1950-1984)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
6 (VHF, 1950-2009)
59 (UHF, 2001-2009)
Former affiliations All secondary:
DuMont (1950-1955)
ABC (1950-1958)
NBC (1950-1959)
Transmitter power 984 kW
Height 288 m
Class DT
Facility ID 74420
Transmitter coordinates 42°41′19″N 84°22′35″W / 42.68861°N 84.37639°W / 42.68861; -84.37639
Website wlns.com

WLNS-TV is the CBS-affiliated television station for the Central Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Licensed to Lansing, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 36 (or virtual channel 6.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Van Atta Road in Meridian Charter Township. Owned by Media General, WLNS operates ABC/CW affiliate WLAJ-TV (owned by Shield Media, LLC) through joint sales and shared services agreements. The two stations share studios on East Saginaw Street (along U.S. 127/BL I-69/M-43) in Lansing's Eastside section. Syndicated programming on WLNS includes The Insider, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, and Dr. Phil among others.


The station signed-on May 1, 1950 as WJIM-TV and was owned by Harold F. Gross along with WJIM radio (1240 AM). It is Michigan's second-oldest television station outside Detroit (behind WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids). Gross had started WJIM, the first commercial radio station in Lansing, in 1934 and both stations were named after his son Jim. According to local legend, Gross won the original radio license in a card game.

WJIM-TV originally aired an analog signal on VHF channel 6 from a transmitter from the top of a bank in Downtown Lansing before moving to its current location on Saginaw Street (known as "the country house") in 1953. Gross was skeptical of the success of television, so the new facility was designed as a motel complete with a pool in case the station did not catch on. As it turned out, the pool had very little use except for the occasional employee party.

WJIM-TV originally carried programming from all four major networks:ABC, DuMont, NBC, and CBS; although it was, and always has been, a primary CBS affiliate. ABC disappeared from the schedule in 1958 when WJRT signed-on from Flint. DuMont programming disappeared when the network ceased operations in 1956. NBC disappeared from the schedule in 1959 when WILX signed-on. Thus, at the start of the fall 1959 TV season, WJIM-TV was broadcasting only CBS.

License challenges[edit]

The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the station's license in 1973 on allegations Gross prevented a number of prominent political figures from appearing on WJIM-TV [1] A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) judge ordered the license revoked in 1981--only the second time a station had its license revoked for violating the FCC's fairness guidelines. The first instance was WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi which lost its license in 1969 due to blatant bias against the Civil Rights Movement. Unlike WLBT, however, WJIM kept its license when the initial revocation was reversed by a three-member review board at the FCC in 1982.

The ACLU would eventually agree to a cash settlement in 1984.

Ownership transfers[edit]

The stress of the decade-long licensing dispute made Gross decide to get out of broadcasting. Channel 6 (along with WKBT which Gross had bought a decade earlier) was sold to Unicom, a unit of Forstmann Little, doing business as Backe Communications soon after the cash settlement was approved. Even after deducting the settlement with the ACLU, Gross netted a handsome return on his original investment of 51 years earlier.

After the sale, the station adopted its current call letters WLNS on July 16, 1984.

Unicom's ownership of the station was short-lived; in 1986 it sold WLNS and WKBT to Young Broadcasting.

Young filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early-2009. The company was subsequently taken over by its secured lenders and had operations of most of its stations outsourced to Gray Television. WLNS was not part of the management agreement because Gray already owned-and-operated WILX, the Lansing NBC television outlet.

Flint and Detroit[edit]

Channel 6 doubled as Flint's CBS affiliate for many years as its signal (the second strongest in Michigan at the time it began broadcasting) decently covers the city and surrounding Genesee County. For many years, it identified on-air as "Lansing/Flint/Jackson". In 1972, Saginaw's WEYI-TV, then the CBS affiliate for the rest of Mid-Michigan, moved its studios and transmitter to Clio just north of Flint. Until the early-1980s, Flint was served by two CBS stations. However, later in the 1980s, WLNS chose to concentrate more on Lansing so Comcast would eventually drop WLNS in Flint as a result. However, it is still easily viewable in Flint and Saginaw with a good antenna.

The station's signal also reaches as far as the Detroit area but this is limited mostly to the northwestern and western suburbs. In the Detroit market, its digital signal is strongest in fast growing Livingston County where some parts actually get city-grade coverage. This is because WLNS' transmitter is only ten miles west of the Ingham County line. For many years, WLNS' programming was seen on a low-powered analog repeater, W67AJ channel 67, in Ann Arbor (which is also part of the Detroit market). This translator was owned by Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. W67AJ's license was canceled in January 2007 by the FCC.[2]

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[3]
6.1 1080i 16:9 WLNS-HD Main WLNS-TV programming / CBS
6.2 480i WLNSLWN Live Well Network

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WLNS-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[4] The station digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 59, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.

The station began airing in digital on UHF channel 36, using PSIP to display WLNS-TV's virtual channel as 6 on digital television receivers. WLNS was not allowed to use 36 initially because WJRT-TV was previously using 36 for its digital transmissions. However, on June 12, 2009, that station moved its digital broadcasts to VHF channel 12 allowing WLNS to use UHF channel 36 without causing interference.

News operation[edit]

News open.

Traditionally, WLNS had been the most watched television station in Central Michigan regularly beating rival WILX in Nielsen ratings. Sometime in the early-2000s, however, the NBC outlet overtook WLNS for the first time and has maintained a narrow (if not consistent) lead ever since then. Throughout its history, WLAJ has made three attempts to offer Lansing a third option of local newscasts but none of them have ever made any headway in the ratings and/or gained consistent viewership. This is due in part because it was the area's last big three network-affiliated station to launch and compete against well established news departments at WLNS and WILX. Since its weekday noon show was canceled in the late-1990s, WILX has not offered a newscast during the midday hours resulting in WLNS having the only local news program seen in the time slot.

Ironically, unlike most CBS affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, this station does not offer a newscast weeknights at 5:30. Therefore, WSYM is the only option for news during that time (all of the Fox affiliate's news broadcasts are actually produced by WILX through an outsourcing agreement). On January 28, 2011, WILX became the first station in Central Michigan to upgrade local newscasts to high definition level (WSYM would eventually follow on June 13). In July 2011, WLNS began airing all of its news programming from a temporary set in the station's breakroom while a new one was constructed in preparation for its own launch of HD news programing. The brand new set debuted on August 26, 2011 during the 5 p.m. newscast while HD newscasts debuted during the 5 p.m. show on October 26, 2011.

On September 12, 2011, 6 News This Morning expanded to two and a half hours and now begins at 4:30 a.m. As a result the CBS Morning News now airs at 4 a.m. locally. On April 1, 2013, WLNS began simulcasting its weeknight 6 and 11 o'clock newscasts on WLAJ. Their morning newscast started simulcasting (from 5 until 7 a.m.) on WLAJ on April 15 and includes separate, recorded cut-ins during ABC's Good Morning America.[5][6][7] In addition to its main studios, WLNS operates a bureau within the Jackson Citizen Patriot newsroom on South Jackson Street in downtown Jackson.


External links[edit]