|Channels||Digital: 47 (UHF)
Virtual: 11 (PSIP)
|Affiliations||PBS (since 1970)
|Owner||Window to the World Communications, Inc.|
|First air date||September 6, 1955|
|Call letters' meaning||Window
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
11 (VHF, 1955–2009)
|Former affiliations||NET (1955–1970)|
|Transmitter power||300 kW|
WTTW, virtual channel 11 (UHF digital channel 47), is the primary PBS member television station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The station is owned by not-for-profit broadcasting entity Window to the World Communications, Inc., and is sister to classical music radio station WFMT (98.7 FM). The two stations share studios located on North Saint Louis Avenue, adjacent to Northeastern Illinois University, in the city's North Park neighborhood, WTTW's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower in the Chicago Loop. It also owns and operates The Chicago Production Center, a video production and editing facility that is operated alongside the two stations.
The station can also be seen on Comcast Xfinity, RCN, WOW! and AT&T U-verse channel 11. There is a high definition feed offered on Comcast Xfinity digital channel 191, RCN digital channel 611, WOW! digital channel 205 and AT&T U-verse channel 1011. WTTW, along with WHA-TV out of Madison, Wisconsin, serve as default PBS member stations for Rockford, Illinois as that market does not have a PBS member station of its own and both are available in that market on local cable providers. It is one of three PBS member stations in the Chicago market, alongside WYCC (channel 20) and Gary, Indiana-licensed WYIN (channel 56). Programming on WTTW is funded in part by financial support of viewers and by other not-for-profit organizations such as the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.
WTTW began broadcasting on September 6, 1955. The station was founded by a group of civic-minded Chicagoans, led by Inland Steel executive Edward R. Ryerson. The station came to life in the first year of the first term of Mayor Richard J. Daley; Daley, Ryerson and businessman Irving B. Harris were responsible for creating WTTW, which began its life as an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The call letters came about because the founders wanted the station to be Chicago's "Window To The World". The station's transmitter was given to WTTW by the staff and management of the defunct KS2XBS, a pay-television station that was bumped off the air from channel 2 by WBBM-TV (now a CBS owned-and-operated station).
Mr. Ryerson recruited a young communications lawyer to join the station's Board, and Newton N. Minow would both chair the WTTW board and also serve President John F. Kennedy as FCC Commissioner. Irving B. Harris, Henry W. "Brick" Meers, John W. McCarter, Jr., Martin J. "Mike" Koldyke and Sandra P. Guthman are the other individuals who have served the public broadcaster as Chairman of the Board. Guthman, a member of the famous Polk Brothers family of Chicago, is the current Chairman of the Board.
Newt Minow stated that the only really important decision that he made as Chair of WTTW was to recruit William J. McCarter, Jr., as President and CEO, a post he held for 27 years. Having run public station WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., McCarter, a decorated Korean War hero and a veteran television pioneer, began in the broadcasting industry as a cameraman for American Bandstand and then as a part of the Army-McCarthy hearings on Capitol Hill. McCarter developed the concept of the political roundtable that is now a staple of television formats. In public television circles, McCarter is referred to as the "architect" of public television (his friends know him as the man who kicked Bob Dylan out of his office – Dylan was there to tape a SoundStage and had found McCarter's office, which had a couch, and off he went to sleep; McCarter, returning from a meeting, found a sleeping bearded guy on his couch, woke him up, and ushered him out of his office).
During the 1960s, WTTW aired educational programming during the day, showing programs produced under the auspices of Chicago Area Schools Television (or CAST). Programs from "TV College", covering college subjects, were also shown on weekdays. Other afternoon shows included the locally produced The Storyteller, which featured a children's story presented weekdays at 5:30 p.m., and was sponsored by local department store Marshall Field & Company. WTTW was a member station of National Educational Television (NET) and continued its affiliation when that organization became the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
WTTW did not broadcast on Saturdays until mid-1972, when WTTW began airing progamming on that day only until 2:00 p.m. In 1974, Saturday programming was extended to a full broadcast day. Chicago magazine started as the program guide for WTTW; it was sold to private interests in 1986.
Max Headroom pirating incident
On November 22, 1987, WTTW had its signal hijacked by an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask. This was the second incident of that night involving the interruption of a Chicago television station's broadcast signal, with the first taking place during WGN-TV (channel 9)'s 9 p.m. newscast two hours before the WTTW signal intrusion incident. While WGN-TV's analog transmitter was located atop the John Hancock Center and allowed for engineers to almost immediately thwart the video hacker by changing the studio-to-transmitter frequency, WTTW's transmitter was located atop the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), which made it harder to stop the hacker before almost two minutes of the interruption. These stations are two of only three existing victims of what is called broadcast signal intrusion. Premium cable channel HBO was the other victim of such signal overriding; its signal was intercepted during a movie broadcast in April 1986.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||1080i||16:9||WTTW-HD||Main WTTW programming / PBS|
|11.2||480i||WTTW-PR||PBS Encore ("WTTW Prime")|
Local cable provider Comcast currently retransmits WTTW (analog), WTTWD1 and WTTWD2. Create and V-me are transmitted over the air at 480i. WTTW transmits its HD programming in 1080i, over-the-air, and to local cable providers that carry the HD feed. Prior to the fall of 2009, WTTW transmitted its primary over-the-air signal in 720p, with HD programming converted from the original 1080i.
Previously, WTTW-HD/11.1 was branded as WTTW-Digital and featured a full-time schedule of high definition programs, while 11.2 transmitted the same schedule as analog channel 11. Starting in late 2008, channels 11.1 and 11.2 shared the same programing schedule. On March 30, 2009, WTTW Prime was launched on 11.2, which includes a combination of PBS primetime programs and WTTW's locally produced programing, including during the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. period when the main channel runs children's programming. The WTTW Prime schedule returns some PBS programming to its traditional times, including a public affairs block on Friday evenings and the Nightly Business Report at 5:30 p.m. WTTW Prime is also available to Comcast digital cable subscribers on channel 370.
WTTW shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, 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 47. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 11. The "WTTW" callsign was also officially transferred from the now-defunct analog channel 11 to digital channel 47 and the "WTTW-DT" callsign used to identify digital channel 47 during the pre-transition era was officially discontinued.
WTTW produced The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith in the 1980s. The station produced hundreds of significant arts programs, highlighting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Ravinia Festival. Its Chicago Matters series is perhaps the preeminent local journalism collaboration in the country, involving television, radio and print, and dialogue at the highest levels of articulation; the series is underwritten by the Chicago Community Trust.
However, the most famous program ever to originate at WTTW was Sneak Previews, the first movie review show on television. The show began in 1975 with hosts Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel and was later hosted by Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons when Siskel and Ebert moved into syndication (starting the show At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert and later Siskel & Ebert & the Movies). Sneak Previews was cancelled in 1996. In January 2011, WTTW produced a new movie review program called Ebert Presents At the Movies, hosted by Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Ebert himself hosting a segment called "Roger's Office".
WTTW has produced over 110 SoundStage shows from its Chicago studios, the first of which featured Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters surrounded by his young proteges: Dr. John, Junior Wells, Michael Bloomfield, Koko Taylor, Rollo Radford, Buddy Guy, Nick Gravenities, Buddy Miles and his long-time collaborator, pianist Otis Spann among others.
WTTW also produces the newsmagazine and analysis program Chicago Tonight, hosted by Phil Ponce. The program began as a half-hour panel interview program with local broadcast journalist John Callaway, but was later expanded to one hour with the addition of arts and restaurant reviews and other features.
Other popular programs produced by WTTW have included the early art-video show Image Union, CEO Exchange, restaurant review show Check, Please!, cooking show Mexico: One Plate at a Time, children's programs Lamb Chop's Play-Along and WordWorld and the irreverent magazine series Wild Chicago. In addition, WTTW features documentaries written, produced and hosted by Geoffrey Baer, spotlighting the history and culture of various parts of the Chicago area. These programs are very popular and often result in a high volume of monetary contributions to the station. One of the popular shows on WTTW is The Artsiders, produced by Kai Harding, Inc. and created by former Big Idea director Chris Olsen.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WTTW
- "WTTW Prime Highlights". wttw.com.
- "WTTW Schedules". wttw.com.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Roger Ebert to appear on movie review show". WTTW. October 5, 2011. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters: "Roger Ebert reviving "At the Movies" on public TV", September 10, 2010.
- "See you at the movies". Roger Ebert's Journal (Chicago Sun-Times). March 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
- "Roger Ebert and PBS bring back 'At the Movies'". Los Angeles Times. September 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
- Official website
- Streaming video of CBS Evening News coverage of the Max Headroom pirate incident
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WTTW
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WTTW-TV