|Channels||Digital: 45 (UHF)
Virtual: 44 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||44.1 Telemundo HD
44.2 Éxitos TV SD
(NBC Telemundo License, LLC)
|First air date||April 5, 1970|
|Call letters' meaning||Essaness (former owner)|
Comcast SportsNet Chicago
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
44 (UHF, 1970–2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1970–1985)
|Transmitter power||665 kW|
WSNS-TV, virtual channel 44 (UHF digital channel 45), is a Telemundo owned-and-operated television station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The station is owned by the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations subsidiary of NBCUniversal, as part of a duopoly with NBC owned-and-operated station WMAQ-TV (channel 5). The two stations share studio facilities within the NBC Tower in downtown Chicago's Magnificent Mile district, WSNS's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower in the Chicago Loop.
As an independent station
WSNS-TV, Chicago's fourth-oldest commercial UHF station, began broadcasting on April 5, 1970. It was initially owned by a consortium of investors including Harriscope (which owned 50 percent) and the Essaness Television Corporation, from which the station's call letters arose. The transmitter and small studio were located on the 97th floor of the John Hancock Center.
The station programmed an all-news format in its early days. During the day, the station aired an alphanumeric feed of news reports supplied from wire services. The lower third of the screen displayed a commercial banner for Continental Bank, Jewel Foods and other clients, while elevator music played continuously. Every seven minutes a four-sided board would turn in front of a camera to show headlines, traffic reports, sports scores and birthdays.
The first program added to the format was the 10-minute long Underground News. It began on July 1, 1970 at 11:50 p.m. when the AP wire feed changed to local news, the program was produced and directed by Howie Samuelsohn, and written by Linda Freedman. At that time, the banner ad changed to "Head Imports" and the music changed to progressive rock artists, such as The Grateful Dead. Most of the news concerned the Anti-War Movement. On November 16, 1970, the station moved to newly constructed studios on Grant Place in Chicago's Lincoln Park (which has since been demolished). With a staff consisting of local talent and a team of recent graduates from Southern Illinois University, the station went "live." One of the first live-on-tape programs was a revamped version of Underground News, which was hosted, reported and co-produced by Chuck Collins, was a 21-year-old recent college graduate in political science. Eventually, the show was bought by Collins and Samuelsohn, and became syndicated in more than a dozen cities. Later, Collins went on to capture seven Emmy Awards for NBC News, two Peabody Awards, a Dupont Award and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award; he died in July 2010 from a nerve disease.
To secure a mattress store advertiser, the station ran a news show titled Heart of the News, which featured anchorwoman Linda Fuoco reading the news in a provocative manner on a heart-shaped bed. That program was short-lived, but the second anchorwoman, Judith Wright, anticipated such current-day fare as Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, as she would make funny and ironic commentaries on news stories picked off the AP wire during the day. Wright later went on to become a Ph.D. geochemist, an ironic twist for a young starlet, and invented a method of using fish bones to clean up heavy metal contamination in water and soil.
During these early years, the Emergency Broadcast System required many stations to shut down in the event of a national emergency. When a false alarm took place on February 20, 1971, WSNS was the only station to respond correctly and shut down.
The news format was not particularly successful, and by 1972, WSNS began running a low-budget general entertainment schedule. Basically, WSNS was the "also ran" independent station in the market, running whatever programming that the larger and more established independents, WGN-TV (channel 9) and WFLD (channel 32), turned down. The lineup included some Japanese animated and adventure shows like Ultra Man, Marine Boy and Space Giants, along with low-budget cartoons, older off-network shows, old movies, and religious programming.
Following an effort by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promote alternative programing efforts by the UHF broadcasting spectrum, such as subscription television, WSNS filed for and received one of the many subscription television licenses awarded in the United States; the subscription service was known as ONTV. Most major cities had one or two licensed subscription television operators. To obtain a subscription television license, the station had to provide the FCC with the proposed programing in detail (usually first-run movies, morning children's shows and late night adult entertainment, much like that offered by HBO or Showtime). The station was required to install an unscrambling device in each home that would unscramble the television signal that was broadcast by the station. In the summer of 1980, WSNS began offering ONTV after 7 p.m. weeknights and after 5 p.m. on weekends. Early in 1981, ONTV's broadcast day expanded to begin at 6 p.m. weeknights and noon on weekends. By 1982, WSNS aired ONTV for all but two hours of the day each morning. Early in 1983, WSNS began running ONTV 24 hours a day and would be scrambled the entire time. During one of the license renewal periods, a group filed a motion with the FCC to contest the license for WSNS, arguing that a station should not be allowed to use the public airwaves for a subscription fee. This case was ultimately settled.
By 1985, WSNS decided the subscription model was not commercially viable, at a time when cable television was entering the Chicago market. That July, the station became a full-time affiliate of the Spanish International Network, which became Univision a year later, through a three-year deal. It displaced original SIN affiliate WCIU-TV (channel 26), which ran the network's programming after 5 p.m. and business news during the daytime hours; WCIU then affiliated with NetSpan (which would become Telemundo in 1987).
As a Telemundo station
WSNS swapped affiliations with WCIU in 1989 and joined Telemundo. Essaness sold a 74.5 percent controlling interest to Telemundo in 1996, retaining a 25.5 percent stake. This provided Telemundo with its first major-market owned-and-operated states and allowed Telemundo to establish itself as a viable Spanish outlet against Univision. When NBC purchased Telemundo in 2002, WSNS became part of the newly enlarged conglomerate, creating Chicago's first commercial television duopoly between two full-power television stations. At that time, WSNS moved its operations to the NBC Tower, where NBC O&O WMAQ-TV (channel 5) is based. One year later, NBC became the sole owner of WSNS when it bought out Essaness' stake in the partnership.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|44.1||1080i||16:9||WSNS HD||Main WSNS-TV programming / Telemundo|
WSNS-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 45. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 44. WSNS-TV's main transmitter was also transferred from the John Hancock Center to the Willis Tower.
WSNS obtained the broadcast rights to baseball games from the Chicago White Sox in 1973 from WFLD and aired the team's games until 1980. The White Sox games at the time were announced by legendary play-by-play man Harry Caray. Beginning in 1977, Caray was joined by former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall. WGN-TV actually produced the games for WSNS via an outsourcing contract (Caray appeared on WGN's newscasts in the 1970s and was thus an employee of that station). Later, the games returned to WFLD and WGN-TV proper (twice).
In 1972, WSNS aired (via satellite) hockey's 1972 Summit Series that featured Team Canada vs. the Soviet Union. WSNS also aired Chicago Bulls basketball games from 1973 to 1976, as well as Chicago Cougars WHA hockey from 1972 to 1975. From 1976 to 1980, WSNS aired the NHL Game of the Week on Mondays, and started airing Chicago Blackhawks road games from 1978 to 1980 (those games were also simulcasted with WCFL-AM, which was the Blackhawks' radio outlet at the time). That marked the last over-the-air television outlet for the Blackhawks until 2008, when WGN-TV resumed airing the team's games. Through the 1970s, WSNS aired college basketball featuring the Purdue Boilermakers, the Indiana Hoosiers, and in the late 1970s, the DePaul Blue Demons.
WSNS-TV presently broadcasts five hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with one hour each weekday). In 1990, the station began to broadcast local Spanish-language newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. weeknights. These were anchored by Luisa Martinez and Augusto Torrez and featured Elio Montenegro as lead reporter and fill-in anchor.
- Changing Channels
- RabbitEars TV Query for WSNS
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Chicago Television Spotlite--Ed Morris".
- "Bob Luce: 1928 - 2007 A promoter extraordinaire Staging pro wrestling shows was a labor of love for Bob Luce". Chicago Tribune. February 13, 2007.
- Official website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WSNS-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WSNS-TV