|Providence, Rhode Island/
New Bedford, Massachusetts
|Branding||WPRI 12 (general)
Eyewitness News (newscasts)
Can Count On
|Channels||Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 12 (PSIP)
12.2 Bounce TV
|Affiliations||CBS (from 1955-1977, again since 1995)|
(TVL Broadcasting of Rhode Island, LLC)
|First air date||March 27, 1955|
|Call letters' meaning||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Former callsigns||WPRO-TV (1955-1967)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
12 (VHF, 1955-2009)
|Former affiliations||ABC (1977-1995)|
|Transmitter power||30 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WPRI-TV, channel 12, is a CBS-affiliated television station located in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. WPRI-TV is owned by Media General, and also operates Fox affiliate WNAC-TV (channel 64) through a local marketing agreement (LMA). The two stations share studio/office facilities located on Catmore Boulevard in East Providence, and WPRI's transmitter is located in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
The station debuted on March 27, 1955 known as WPRO-TV (for PROvidence). It was Rhode Island's third television station and was owned-and-operated by retailer Cherry & Webb along with WPRO radio (630 AM and 92.3 FM). WPRO-TV was originally supposed to go on-the-air in 1953 but ran into several delays. It originally planned to build a transmitter in Rehoboth but legal disputes with town officials forced Cherry & Webb to find a site in Johnston, Rhode Island.
The station then planned to sign-on in 1954 but Hurricane Carol destroyed the Johnston transmitter. The legal disputes in Rehoboth were finally settled in late-1954 and WPRO got the go-ahead to begin construction there. The channel was due to join CBS because of WPRO radio's long affiliation with CBS radio. Even when it became apparent that WPRO-TV would miss its target air date, CBS opted to continue its secondary affiliation with NBC station WJAR-TV rather than move its programming to ABC affiliate WNET-TV.
When WPRO-TV finally got on-the-air, ABC gave it right of first refusal for its more popular shows. Within less than a year, WNET had gone dark. This station continued to share ABC with WJAR until WTEV-TV (now WLNE-TV) signed-on in 1963.
Channel 12's studios were originally locatd the top floor of 24 Mason Street in Downtown Providence with its radio sisters. The three stations' news facilities were completely integrated. On-air personalities from radio and TV created newscasts together. In fact, some reporters recorded conservative-sounding FM news broadcasts prior to pulling a switch to deliver live, punchy "colorful color radio PRO" on-air news for the AM station on the hour, with headlines on the half hour. And some radio news reporters headed into the field with photographers to cover stories simultaneously for radio and TV.
Legendary Providence radio personality Salty Brine had a daily children's show on WPRO-TV. News personalities included Mort Blender and Walter Cryan while the beloved Hank Bouchard did a multitude of on-air duties. That included announcing, hosting programs, and giving the weather report. Cherry & Webb sold WPRO-AM-FM-TV to Albany, New York-based Capital Cities Television Corporation, predecessor of Capital Cities Communications, in 1959.
WPRO-TV was then sold to Poole Broadcasting (owners of WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan) on June 16, 1967; that sale was necessary because CapCities' purchase of KTRK-TV in Houston left it one VHF station over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limit of the time. Poole Broadcasting then changed WPRO-TV's call letters to the present WPRI-TV. It wanted to trade on the well-known WPRO calls and also realized that "PRI" could stand for Providence, Rhode Island. Capital Cities retained ownership of the WPRO radio stations until 1993 with the last seven being ABC-owned stations airing ABC Radio. However, the three stations continued to share the Mason Street studio until 1974, when they moved to separate facilities in East Providence. Poole retained ownership of channel 12 until 1977 when it sold its three television stations (WPRI, WJRT, and WTEN in Albany, New York) to Knight-Ridder Broadcasting. WPRI swapped affiliations with WTEV and became an ABC affiliate after this sale as a result of a corporate affiliation deal between ABC and Knight-Ridder.
In 1989, Knight-Ridder left the broadcasting business selling WPRI and WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia to Narragansett Television LP, a locally based firm. Narragansett Television sold WPRI to CBS in 1995 making it a network owned-and-operated station (and one of the last such acquisitions prior to the Westinghouse Electric Corporation's purchase of the network). At midnight on September 10, 1995, WPRI reversed the 1977 swap with WLNE and officially rejoined CBS. It aired a vigorous promotion called "Survive the Switch" so television viewers in Providence would be prepared for this changeover.
In August 1995, Westinghouse bought CBS for approximately $6 billion. The merger was finalized that November 24. Westinghouse already owned WBZ-TV in Boston. WPRI's city-grade signal, like most of the other major Rhode Island stations, decently covers most of the Boston area. Meanwhile, WBZ-TV provides city-grade coverage to Providence itself, as well as New Bedford and Fall River, and at least grade B coverage to the rest of Rhode Island. At the time, the FCC normally did not allow common ownership of multiple stations with overlapping coverage areas and would not even consider granting a waiver if the overlap was between city-grade signals.
As a result, CBS opted to keep WBZ-TV and sell WPRI to Clear Channel Communications on July 1, 1996 after less than ten months of ownership. Just months after the sale was announced, the FCC eliminated the requirement of a waiver for common ownership of television stations in adjacent markets with substantial grade B signal overlap. It began to permit common ownership of stations whose city-grade signals overlap when duopolies began to be permitted in 2000.
In 2000, Clear Channel was forced to sell WPRI as a condition of being allowed to buy additional radio stations in the Providence market. Sunrise Television acquired WPRI in early-2001 for $50 million. Sunrise merged with LIN TV in May 2002.
In November 2006, WPRI renewed its broadcasting license with the FCC. On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that could have resulted in the sale of the company. In October 2008, WPRI and sister station WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama relaunched websites through News Corporation's Fox Interactive Media (since spun off as the independent company known today as EndPlay) as a result of a new partnership between LIN TV and NewsCorp. The other LIN TV-owned stations (irrespective of network affiliations) followed suit within two months ending the company's long partnership with WorldNow. The new sites are in a format which is similar to those of the Fox O&O-style web addresses used by many Fox affiliates (and which the LIN TV-owned or controlled Fox affiliates such as WNAC-TV had used) except the flashy myFox look. The myFox sites themselves were eventually redesigned to a look similar to those of the LIN TV sites.
LMA with WNAC
Shortly after Clear Channel took over the station, WPRI entered in a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Fox affiliate WNAC (then owned by Argyle Television). WPRI took over the station's operations on September 28, 1997 when WNAC moved its operations into this station's facilities. WNAC operates under the license of the old WNET-TV, which was forced off-the-air in 1956 largely due to the presence of WPRI. In late-1997, Argyle merged with Hearst Broadcasting, owner of ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston. Hearst was forced to trade WNAC together with WDTN in Dayton, Ohio to Sunrise Television in return for WPTZ in Plattsburgh, New York, WNNE in Hartford, Vermont, and KSBW in Salinas, California because of the FCC rule forbidding common ownership of two stations with overlapping city-grade signals (the same rule that forced CBS to sell WPRI two years earlier).
When Sunrise bought WPRI from Clear Channel in early 2001, WNAC was sold to LIN TV due to FCC regulations forbidding common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in the same market. In this case, WNAC cannot be co-owned directly with WPRI. However, LIN TV was forced to put WNAC back on the market almost as soon as it closed on the station's purchase due to the ownership structures of Sunrise and LIN TV. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (now HM Capital Partners), a private-equity firm co-founded by Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars then-owner Tom Hicks, was (and still is) majority owner of LIN TV. At the same time, HMTF also controlled a large block of Sunrise stock. The FCC ruled that HMTF controlled enough Sunrise stock that the company could not own any stations in markets where LIN TV owned a station as well.
Finally in April 2002, LIN TV sold WNAC to Super Towers Inc. (d/b/a WNAC, LLC), a company owned by Timothy Sheehan, brother-in-law of former LIN TV Vice President Paul Karpowicz. This sale allowed the merger between Sunrise and LIN TV to be completed the following month. LIN TV continues to operate WNAC today under the same LMA that it inherited from Sunrise.
Station nightclub fire
WPRI and WNAC were heavily involved in the coverage and aftermath of The Station nightclub fire in 2003. Photographer Brian Butler was inside the nightclub taping a story when the pyrotechnics behind the band Great White lit soundproof foam within the nightclub on fire. The tape became crucial evidence in the case and WPRI reporter Jeff Derderian, who owned the nightclub with his brother, became a defendant accused of manslaughter. In February 2008, WPRI agreed to pay $30 million to settle a lawsuit against the station, parent company LIN TV, and Butler. Several families and survivors of the nightclub fire claimed that Butler stood in a doorway and continued to record footage rather than help people escape. The lawsuit alleged that Butler's actions caused more people to die. However, videotape evidence shown at deposition disputed those charges. Ironically, WPRI was there videotaping a story on nightclub safety a week after the E2 nightclub incident in Chicago.
Merger with Media General
On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because Media General already owns NBC affiliate WJAR and the two stations rank as the two highest-rated stations in the Providence market in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell either WJAR or WPRI-TV to another station owner in order to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as planned changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations which would prohibit sharing agreements; the LMA involving WNAC will be included in the sale. On August 20, 2014, Media General announced that it would keep WPRI and the LMA with WNAC and sell WJAR to Sinclair Broadcast Group, even though WJAR has higher ratings. The merger was completed on December 19.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|12.1||1080i||16:9||WPRI-HD||Main WPRI-TV programming / CBS|
WPRI-TV received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consent to discontinue regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 12, 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 (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 13, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 12. WNAC-TV also discontinued regular analog service on February 17, 2009 and began operation of its new digital facility on channel 12. WPRI is also one of the only remaining TV stations in America to sign-off and sign-on once a week to this day.
Traditionally, WPRI has been runner-up in the ratings to longtime dominant WJAR. For the February and May 2010 Nielsen ratings period, that station was number one in all time slots. Its newscast weeknights at 6 reached a reported 71,000 households which was an advantage of nearly 20,000 over WPRI. For the key audience measure of adult 18-49 and adult 25-54 viewers, WJAR out-delivered the competition in virtually all of the local news time slots. More recently, however, WPRI has mounted a spirited challenge to that channel's dominance.
Specifically, its broadcast weeknights at 11 p.m. has gained enormous popularity. As of the November 2010 sweeps period, this newscast on WPRI is the most watched in Rhode Island while WJAR continues its dominance in all other time periods. For most of its history, WLNE has been and continues to be ranked at a distant third place. This is despite numerous significant format and personnel changes designed to make a run at WPRI and WJAR.[relevant? ]
In 1996, WPRI began producing the market's first nightly prime time newscast at 10 p.m. on WNAC, currently titled Eyewitness News at 10 on FOX Providence. This was joined in April 1997 by a WJAR-produced show seen weeknights on WLWC entitled TV 28 News at 10. However, that was dropped in September when the WJAR LMA with WLWC ended. In 2004, an hour-long extension of WPRI's weekday morning show was added to WNAC at 7 a.m. branded as Eyewitness News This Morning on FOX Providence. It was eventually cancelled, but was brought back early in 2009 as a lead-in to The Rhode Show.
On October 1, 2007, WJAR began airing 10 at 10 on its NBC Weather Plus second digital subchannel. This was a live ten minute update consisting of the top stories of the day along with a current weather forecast. When WJAR-DT2 switched to the Retro Television Network (RTV), the show expanded to a half-hour format and renamed 10 at 10 on RTV. A third prime time newscast at 10 p.m. aired on WLNE's Cox-exclusive NewsChannel 5 from October 22, 2008 until March 2011. However, it was only occasionally shown, primarily when Fox Sports programming pre-empted the prime time broadcast on WNAC. WLNE's contract with Cox channel 5 ended on February 1, 2012 and is now operated by WJAR as Ocean State Networks (OSN).[relevant? ]
WPRI and WNAC received an on-air overhaul introducing a new news set and updated graphics on March 17, 2008. It operated a Bell 206L3 Long Ranger helicopter known as "News Chopper 12" until December 2008. This was shared with sister stations WTNH and WCTX in New Haven, Connecticut but known separately as "Chopper 8". The helicopter is currently being stored in Indianapolis as a backup for sister station WISH-TV. Footage previously shot from the chopper is still used for B-Roll as stories warrant or at the end of a newscast. Although not owned by the same company, WPRI maintains a content sharing partnership with The Providence Journal (a Belo-owned newspaper).
On February 18, 2009, WNAC launched an hour-long lifestyle and entertainment magazine-type program called The Rhode Show that aired weekday mornings at 8 a.m. A new secondary set for the show was built with a fully functional kitchen. The show was previously hosted by the weekday morning news anchor teams (Vince DeMentri & Elizabeth Hopkins from February 2009 to March 2010, Patrick Little & Elizabeth Hopkins from March 2010 to November 2010, and Patrick Little & Danielle North from November 2010 to December 2011). A third alternating host for a period of one year was found annually through open audition in a contest titled The Rhode Show Search for a Star. In 2008, Boston-area radio deejay Shawn Tempesta won the contest out of over 140 people. In 2009, Cranston comedian Ben Hague beat out over 100 other hopefuls. Bridgewater State University graduate Michaela Johnson of East Providence won the honor in 2010. During the week, The Rhode Show was streamed live on WNAC's website. The main channel re-aired the show weekday afternoons at 1 p.m. with WNAC-DT2 (MyRITV) doing the same at 4 p.m..
In December 2011, it was announced that on January 9, 2012, The Rhode Show would move to WPRI and would now begin at 9 a.m. Michaela Johnson and former WPRO-FM (92 PRO-FM) personality Will Gilbert became permanent hosts of the show and Mary Larsen was selected as the third host in the 2011 Search for a Star contest. MyRITV continued to re-air the show at 2 p.m. on weekdays until stopping this practice in 2013. In addition, Eyewitness News This Morning on FOX Providence was extended to fill the hour previously occupied by The Rhode Show. This newscast now airs 7-9 a.m.
WPRI operated a 24-hour local weather channel, known as the "Eyewitness News Pinpoint Weather Station", on Cox digital channel 125. It also aired on the second digital subchannels of WPRI and WNAC until 2007, when new FCC regulations for educational programming forced the stations to make the weather channel cable-only. It was then simulcast on weekends when the main channels of WPRI and WNAC signed off overnight. The weather channel was eliminated in 2010, and now during sign off hours on weekend overnights, a loop of the stations' Doppler radar is shown.
Along with its own weather radar at its transmitter site in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, the station also features live NOAA National Weather Service radar data from the Local Forecast Office on Myles Standish Boulevard in Taunton. Together, this is known in weather segments as "Live Pinpoint Doppler 12". It shares resources with WBZ-TV for coverage of Southeastern Massachusetts. In return, WPRI does the same for its coverage of the same area. All of WPRI and WNAC's weekday newscasts are streamed live on WPRI's website and mobile app. They also replay their most recent newscast on a continuous loop until the next live newscast and stream breaking news events.
WPRI and WNAC are the last stations in the market to upgrade their newscasts to high definition, though they were first to experiment with the format through promotional materials and debates during the election season in 2010. Set reconfiguration started on July 22, 2011. Newscasts in the interim aired from The Rhode Show studio. WJAR was the first in Rhode Island to have made the upgrade, on May 16, 2011, followed by WLNE on September 13, 2011. They debuted the new set and modified graphics on September 20, 2011 during their 5 p.m. newscast. On January 13, 2014, WPRI announced that it would be expanding its early evening news by launching a 6:30 p.m. newscast on WNAC on January 27.
Notable current on-air staff
- Michelle Muscatello - weekday mornings anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Ernie Anastos (news anchor, later with various stations in New York City)
- Jess Atkinson (sports director, previously NFL placekicker)
- Salty Brine (concurrent with WPRO/630, deceased)
- Steve Cascione (meteorologist, now with WLNE-TV)
- John Daly (later with New England Cable News)
- Vince DeMentri (news anchor, previously in New York City, now with WICS Springfield, Illinois)
- Mike Gorman (sports director, now with Comcast SportsNet New England)
- Mark Haines (later with CNBC)
- Kristine Johnson (news anchor/reporter, now with WCBS-TV New York)
- Harvey Leonard (chief meteorologist, later with WHDH Boston, now with WCVB Boston)
- Deb Placey (sports anchor/reporter, now with MSG Network)
- James J. Roberts (news anchor)
- Susan E. Roberts (news anchor, now with CCTV America)
- Charles Rocket (news anchor, later a cast member of Saturday Night Live)
- John Rooke
- Bob Ryan (meteorologist) (retired)
- Doug White (later with WJAR, deceased)
- Jack White (previously with the Cape Cod Times, deceased, father of current reporter Tim White)
- Mark Zinni (news anchor/reporter, now with WFSB)
- TV Station Mega Merger: Media General, LIN Set $1.6 Billion Deal from Variety (March 21, 2014)
- Media General acquiring LIN Media for $1.6 billion, Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2014.
- Media Gen/LIN To Sell/Swap In Five Markets, TVNewsCheck, March 21, 2014.
- "Media General, LIN Sell Stations In 5 Markets". TVNewsCheck. August 20, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- McKinney, Mike (August 20, 2014). "Media General to sell Channel 10 WJAR to Sinclair Broadcast Group". The Providence Journal. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Media General Completes Merger With LIN Media, Press Release, Media General, Retrieved 19 December, 2014
- RabbitEars TV Query for WPRI
- Federal Communications Commission (February 13, 2009). "FCC Releases Lists of TV Stations' Responses to Requirements for Analog Termination on February 17, 2009" (PDF). DA 09-245. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "2012 to bring new Rhode Show co-hosts". FOXProvidence.com. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- "WPRI named News Station of the Year". wpri.com. 19 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
- McGowan, Dan (13 January 2014). "Eyewitness News launching 6:30 p.m. news". WPRI.com. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Official website
- Official website – WNAC-TV
- Official website – WNAC-DT2
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WPRI-TV