|Branding||WTHR 13, Channel 13, or WTHR Channel 13 (general)
Channel 13 Eyewitness News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Indiana's News Leader|
|Channels||Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
13.2 Cozi TV
|Owner||Dispatch Broadcast Group
|First air date||October 30, 1957|
|Call letters' meaning||channel THiRteen|
|Former callsigns||WLWI (1957–1976)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
13 (VHF, 1957-2009)
46 (UHF, 1998-2009)
|Former affiliations||ABC (1957–1979)|
|Transmitter power||42.1 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WTHR, channel 13, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The station is owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group. WTHR's studios are located on North Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis, and its transmitter is based in suburban Carmel, Indiana.
The station signed on October 30, 1957 as ABC affiliate WLWI, and was originally owned by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation. It was one of five stations that made up the Cincinnati-based "WLW Television Network". Its sister stations were WLW radio and WLWT in Cincinnati, WLWC (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus, and WLWD (now WDTN) in Dayton, Ohio; along with WLWA (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta and WOAI-TV in San Antonio. Channel 13 and its sister stations in Ohio shared common programming (such as The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club, The Bob Braun Show, The Paul Dixon Show, Midwestern Hayride, The Phil Donahue Show, and Cincinnati Reds baseball) and similar on-air branding which reflected their connection to each other – the Indianapolis station called itself "WLW-I".
From 1957 to 1962, the station was tied up in one of the most heated licensing disputes in early television history. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) originally awarded the construction permit for channel 13 to a group headed by Union Federal Savings and Loan president George Sadlier. However, after an appeal, the FCC reversed itself and awarded the permit to Crosley. One of the other competitors, WIBC radio owner Richard Fairbanks, sued the FCC on claims that the Commission had erred in awarding the last VHF channel in Indianapolis to a company based in Cincinnati when there were viable, locally based potential applicants. The suit, however, was filed too late to prevent WLWI from signing on under Crosley ownership.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the FCC's decision in 1958, but allowed Crosley to continue running the station pending further FCC action. In 1961, the FCC awarded Fairbanks the channel 13 license, but Crosley appealed. A year later, Crosley and Fairbanks reached a deal in which Fairbanks bought WLWA in return for allowing Crosley to keep WLWI. Amid this instability in ownership, WLWI found the going rather difficult. It was also dogged by a weaker network affiliation; ABC would not be on an equal footing with CBS and NBC until the 1970s. WLWI spent most of its first 17 years on the air as an also-ran behind WFBM-TV (channel 6, now WRTV) and WISH-TV (channel 8). In some cases, it even fell to fourth place in the local ratings behind then-independent station WTTV (channel 4). Today, the WLWI callsign belongs to news/talk AM and country music FM radio stations in Montgomery, Alabama.
From last place to ratings leadership
In late 1974, Avco announced it was exiting the broadcasting business in an effort to raise cash. The Wolfe family, owners of the Columbus Dispatch and WBNS-AM-FM-TV in Columbus, bought WLWI from Avco in August 1975 and changed the calls to WTHR six months later; ironically WBNS is the longtime rival to WTHR's former sister station in Columbus under Crosley/Avco ownership, WCMH. With new ownership in place, on-air quality began to improve, but WTHR was still rating third behind WISH and WRTV.
In the case of the ABC affiliation, the network rose to first place and was seeking out stronger local stations to affiliate with in many markets; NBC, meanwhile, was the lowest-rated network. On June 1, 1979, WTHR swapped network affiliations with WRTV and became an NBC affiliate. The switch to NBC eventually provided a major windfall for WTHR beginning with the arrival of the NFL's Colts in 1984, which until 1998 gave WTHR the bulk of the team's regular season games under the NFL on NBC's AFC package. Still, ratings were slow to improve until the mid-1990s, when WTHR hired former CBS News correspondent John Stehr to anchor its evening newscasts, in addition to being the first station in Indianapolis to launch weekend morning newscasts. WTHR quickly moved from third to second place after a botched relaunch at WRTV. Changes continued to be made, and in 1999, WTHR's Eyewitness News surged past then-dominant WISH in several key news timeslots, moving to first place for the first time in its history. By 2002, WTHR beat WISH in all news timeslots and changed its slogan to "Indiana's News Leader". It has been one of NBC's strongest affiliates for the last decade.
On September 2, 2007 WTHR celebrated its 50th anniversary; like its sister station in Columbus, WTHR used the song "Carousels (Dreaming of Tomorrow)" by Columbus, Ohio rock band Alamoth Lane, which was also used on WBNS as a large marketing campaign to promote the launch of its newscasts in high definition.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|13.1||1080p||16:9||WTHR-HD||Main WTHR programming / NBC|
|13.2||480i||4:3||Skytrak||Cozi TV (simulcast of WALV-CD)|
WTHR shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, at 12:37 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 46 to its former analog VHF channel 13 for post-transition operations.
Current syndicated programming includes The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Phil during the daytime, with Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune before primetime. The NBC affiliate has been home to both Jeopardy! and Wheel since 2002; prior to that, WISH-TV aired both shows. WTHR also produces the Brain Game, a weekly televised quiz bowl competition for high school students. It has aired since 1972 and is currently hosted by meteorologist Chuck Lofton.
WTHR presently broadcasts 33 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours on weekdays, and four hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). After several NBC affiliates in markets larger than Indianapolis switched to a different network and/or dropped the Eyewitness News format in the past two decades, WTHR is now the largest NBC affiliate to use the Eyewitness News brand continuously to date. This is based on the fact the branding was originally synonymous with most ABC-owned stations and stations formerly owned by the now-defunct Westinghouse Broadcasting (or Group W) that have since become owned by CBS.
WTHR formerly maintained a news share agreement with then-UPN affiliate WNDY-TV (channel 23; now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in which channel 13 produced a 10 p.m. newscast for that station. However, the agreement ended when WNDY was purchased by LIN TV in 2005, putting WNDY under common ownership with CBS affiliate WISH-TV, which assumed production responsibilities for WNDY's 10 p.m. newscast after the purchase was finalized. WTHR formerly operated the SkyTrak Weather Network, which was carried on low-power station WALV-CD (channel 50) and on WTHR digital subchannel 13.2, and carried local weather forecasts, rebroadcasts of WTHR's midday and 6 p.m. newscasts, and five-minute long news updates throughout the day; in lieu of a 10 p.m. newscast, the station produced an eight-minute long weather segment called "First Forecast" on the SkyTrak Weather Network. This ended in March 2013, when WALV and digital channel 13.2 began carrying programming from Cozi TV.
On November 12, 2006, beginning with the 11 p.m. newscast, WTHR became the first Indiana television station to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Much of WTHR's field video continued to be shot in pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition until October 2, 2007 when all field video began to be broadcast in widescreen; news footage taped by the station's news crews is shot in the 1080i resolution, but downconverted to a lower resolution for broadcast.
In June 2011, WTHR began offering free on demand segments of their newscasts on the Roku digital video player. On June 25, 2012, as a result of the growing Hispanic population in the Indianapolis market, WTHR began to produce a daily Spanish-language newscast called Acanale 13 Eyewitness News en Espanol on the station's website; the program is co-anchored by Marco Dominguez and Rossina Lazaneo.
Awards and honors
WTHR has received national honors for its news reporting over the years, including Peabody Awards for two 2006 reports, "Cause for Alarm" (an investigation into faulty tornado sirens in Indiana) and "Prescription Privacy" (an investigation of improper disposal of personal pharmacy records); WTHR would earn a third Peabody for 2010's "Reality Check: Where Are the Jobs?", which revealed grossly exaggerated job creation claims made by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. An investigative series into the IRS earned WTHR a fourth national Peabody award in 2013. "Investigating the IRS" exposed how illegal immgrants were fraudulently receiving billions of dollars in tax refunds and how the IRS failed to stop it once the fraud was discovered.
In 2012, WTHR earned a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) for breaking news coverage of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse. Additionally, WTHR videographer Steve Rhodes earned a Murrow award in the category best use of video. It was the second year in a row the RTNDA had honored WTHR. The station earned two awards from the organization in 2011; one for "Overall Excellence", one for "Investigative Series".
- The WLWI Newsreel (1957–1962)
- Channel 13 News (1962–1969)
- Eyewitness News (1969–1976)
- Eyewitness NewsCenter 13 (1976–1979)
- NewsCenter 13 (1979–1993)
- NewsChannel 13 (1993–1996)
- (Channel) 13 Eyewitness News (1996–present, modified in late 2011 dropping "Channel")
- 13 News (2011–present, used in promos)
Notable former employees
- Ross Becker - anchor/reporter (now at KUSI in San Diego)
- Mary Ann Childers - anchor (later co-anchor at WLS-TV and then WBBM-TV in Chicago)
- Carol Costello - reporter (now late night anchor at CNN)
- Jerry Harkness - sports anchor (1970s)
- Bill Jackson - host of the Mickey Mouse Club, later renamed The Bill Jackson Show from 1963 to 1965
- Dick Johnson - reporter (now morning anchor at WMAQ-TV in Chicago)
- David Letterman - weekend weatherman, host of Freeze Dried Theater and Clover Power (now host of Late Show with David Letterman)
- Paul Page - former sports anchor/reporter (formerly with NBC and the ESPN sports networks)
- Alex Sanz - reporter (2003-2007, now at WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, FL)
- Mark Spain - weekend anchor (early 1990s; later at WJW in Cleveland, now at WAWS-TV/WTEV Jacksonville)
- "Crosley WLWI (TV) signed as basic ABC-TV affiliate." Broadcasting, April 1, 1957, pg. 126. 
- "Avco jettisons fifth station." Broadcasting, March 31, 1975, pp. 80-81. 
- "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, August 25, 1975, pg. 70
- "For the Record." Broadcasting, February 23, 1976, pg. 105. (approval of call letter change from WLWI to WTHR) 
- "Television Schedule". Marion Chronicle-Tribune (Marion, IN). 1979-05-30.
- "WTHR's 50th Anniversary promo" (FLV). WTHR-TV Indianapolis. 2007-09-02. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- "WBNS-TV Station Image Promo; Alamoth Lane - Carousels (Dreaming of Tomorrow)". WBNS-TV Columbus. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- "WBNS-TV Station Image Promo Version 1". WBNS-TV Columbus. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- "WBNS-TV Station Image Promo Version 2". WBNS-TV Columbus. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- Rabbitears TV Query for WTHR
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- FCC DTV status report for WTHR
- WTHR - Indianapolis News and Weather - Westfield Insurance Brain Game
- WTHR.com: Get WTHR video on Roku
- "72nd annual Peabody Awards winners announced". Street Insider.com. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "2012 National Edward R. Murrow Award winners". RTNDA website. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
- "WTHR announced as national Edward R. Murrow award winner". WTHR website. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
- "Alex Sanz bio". 1 December 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- WTHR.com - Official WTHR website
- MeTVIndianapolis.com - Official Me-TV Indianapolis website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WTHR
- Listing 1024109 in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Antenna Structure Registration database
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WTHR-TV