|City of license||Aurora, Illinois|
|Channels||Digital: 50 (UHF)
Virtual: 60 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||60.1 UniMás HD
60.2 UniMás SD
(UniMas Chicago LLC)
|First air date||April 20, 1982|
|Call letters' meaning||C(X)hicago/Xtreme TeleFuTura
(WCFT was already in use)
|Sister station(s)||WGBO-DT, WOJO, WPPN|
|Former callsigns||WBBS-TV (1982–1987)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
60 (UHF, 1982–2009)
59 (UHF, –2009)
|Former affiliations||Spanish independent (1982–1987)
|Transmitter power||172 kW|
WXFT-DT, virtual channel 60.1 (UHF digital channel 50), is a UniMás owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Aurora. The station is owned by Univision Communications, as part of a duopoly with Univision owned-and-operated station WGBO-DT (channel 66).
The two stations share studios on Fairbanks Court (near Columbus Drive and Illinois Street) in the Streeterville neighborhood, WXFT's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower in the Chicago Loop. The station can also be seen on Comcast Xfinity and RCN channel 15, and AT&T U-verse channels 16 and 3005. There is a high definition feed offered on Comcast Xfinity digital channel 194, RCN digital channel 614 and AT&T U-verse channel 1016.
The original station to transmit on channel 60 was WLXT-TV, which signed on in 1969 and operated only on evenings and weekends. WLXT broadcast Northern Illinois Huskies football on tape delay and Mickey Mouse cartoons; both of these, as well as all other WLXT programming, were transmitted in black-and-white. WLXT carried remote broadcasts of the Aurora Sealmasters fast-pitch softball team and quarter-mile drag racing from nearby Oswego Raceway. By 1970, WLXT purchased two RCA TK-60 color studio cameras from WNBQ-TV (channel 5, now WMAQ-TV). These cameras were said to be the first ever delivered and carried serial numbers 001 and 002. With a color studio, there was afternoon programming for children, an exercise show ("Nanette") and early and late half-hour news blocks. Newscasts were anchored by Christine Lund, who became a well-known news anchor in Los Angeles just over two years after the station signed off for good in August 1970. One part-time WLXT employee was Jeff Skilling (then a high school student, and brother of longtime WGN-TV (channel 9) meteorologist Tom Skilling), who later became well known as a member of the ill-fated Enron Corporation's management team.
1978-87: WPWR and WBBS
Fred Eychaner's Metrowest Corporation originally applied for a new channel 60 license in 1978, but soon attracted competition from Marcelino Miyares, doing business as Hatco-60 (HATCO standing for Hispanic-American Telecasters of Chicago). Ultimately, the two sides would reach a compromise: Metrowest's station would be licensed to Aurora and broadcast from 2:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, while Hatco-60's station would be licensed to West Chicago (located in western DuPage County, near the Kane County border) and broadcast from 7:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily. This made channel 60 a major oddity, the only split-licensed station in the United States.
With the compromise reached, in April 1982, the two stations signed on, sharing a transmitter atop Sears Tower. Eychaner signed on WPWR-TV, with a large percentage of its broadcast schedule dedicated to a new subscription television service called Sportsvision that was part of ONTV, which Eychaner had developed in a deal with Chicago White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. To access the service, viewers had to pay for a set-top converter and subscription fees to watch their favorite baseball team. However, Sportsvision achieved little success on WPWR, and moved to cable in January 1984. With Sportsvision gone, WPWR ran public domain movies and old sitcoms from the early to mid-1950s as well as old cartoons. In 1984, more familiar classic sitcoms and newer barter cartoons were mixed in.
Meanwhile, Miyares signed on WBBS-TV (a callsign obtained over the objections of Chicago station WBBM-TV), broadcasting a Spanish-language entertainment format and affiliated with NetSpan (which would evolve into Telemundo). WBBS featured news, novelas and other shows aimed at Hispanics. It also aired locally-produced shows, such as the popular music video program Imagen, hosted by local Spanish-language television personality (and now media executive) Rey Mena and co-host Vivianne Plazas. One of WBBS's notable events occurred in 1984, when the station introduced the teen Latin pop group Menudo (which included a young Ricky Martin), to Chicago's Spanish audiences. Its primary competition was the Spanish International Network (SIN)-affiliated WCIU-TV, channel 26.
In 1985, however, WSNS-TV channel 44 emerged from its several-year stint as a subscription television station and snatched the SIN affiliation, relaunching as Chicago's third Spanish-language station; the market now had one too many. WCIU responded to losing its connection with SIN by aligning with NetSpan. Miyares, realizing that the loss of network affiliation was crippling for his station, cut back his programming to weekends from 8pm to signoff at the end of 1985.
Meanwhile, Eychaner had spent $1.5 million for WGMI (later WDAI), a channel 56 construction permit that had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen since 1976, but was never built; in 1982, Eychaner opted to build channel 60 with Marcelino Miyares. However, in 1985, Eychaner acquired the educational broadcast license for WCAE channel 50 (licensed to Gary, Indiana), which had belonged to Lake Central School Corporation of St. John, who had not been unable to sustain WCAE's operations and had shut the station down a year earlier. Eychaner then swapped the licenses for channels 50 and 56, resulting in channel 56 becoming WYIN under the auspices of a new group, Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting Co., and channel 50 becoming a commercial license, with plans to use WPWR's assets (including the call letters) to put that station on the air. The primary reason for swapping the licenses for channels 50 and 56 was that the channel 50 transmitter could be moved to the Sears Tower. This was not the case for channel 56, as FCC rules required full-power analog UHF stations in close proximity to be at least six channels apart and channel 60 was already transmitting from downtown Chicago.
In October 1985, Eychaner bought WBBS for $11 million, and WBBS aired its last programs in August 1986 when the sale was approved. By October, channel 50 was ready to sign on, and Eychaner then sold channel 60 to the Home Shopping Network for $25 million. HSN, which owned the station through its Silver King Television arm, changed the call letters to WEHS (originally planned to be WHSI), and on January 17, 1987, channel 60 began its 15 years as an HSN outlet, WPWR moved to channel 50.
1987-present: HSN and Univision
Barry Diller, who owned the USA Network, acquired Silver King in the mid-1990s; by 1997, the company was known as USA Broadcasting. There were plans to convert WEHS into a general entertainment independent station, modeled after the local programming-infused format of USA's stations in select other markets (such as Dallas and Miami); however, before this occurred, USA Broadcasting later decided to put its television stations up for sale. USA almost sold to its television stations to The Walt Disney Company (which would have made the station a duopoly partner to ABC-owned WLS-TV). However, in December 2000, the station was instead sold to Univision Communications in a group deal. As a result, channel 60 changed its call letters to WXFT, and became a charter owned-and-operated station of Univision's new network, Telefutura (the forerunner to UniMás).
WXFT's five million watt transmitter malfunctioned in the early hours of December 6, 2006, causing an alarm which forced action by the Chicago Fire Department to extinguish the smoldering equipment. The transmitter was destroyed, leaving only one-half of its power available. The station also remained available via cable, which were fed via a direct connection from the station. A new transmitter was commissioned on January 11, 2007, restoring normal operation.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|60.1||1080i||16:9||WXFT-HD||Main WXFT programming / UniMás|
In December 2009, WXFT and sister station WGBO, along with most other Univision-owned stations, upgraded their main channels to transmit in 16:9 1080i high definition in preparation for the arrival of HD programming from Univision and TeleFutura, which occurred in 2010.
The station is currently experiencing closed captioning display problems, as many viewers (especially those subscribed to Comcast) have complained that the network's captions are not being displayed or displayed properly.
WXFT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 60, 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 59 to UHF channel 50 for post-transition operations. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 60, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
- P.J. Bednarski. "Ch. 60 bids adios to WBBS." Chicago Sun-Times 22 Aug. 1986
- P.J. Bednarski. "Home Shopping Network to buy Channel 60 for $25 mill." Chicago Sun-Times 24 Oct. 1986
- WXFT’s transmitter catches fire on Sears Tower, Broadcast Engineering, December 11, 2006.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WXFT
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WXFT-DT
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WXFT-DT