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Alpena, Michigan
United States
Branding WBKB 11, CBS (.1)
WBKB Fox 11.2
Slogan The News That Affects You
Channels Digital: 11 (VHF)
Virtual: 11 (PSIP)
Subchannels 11.1 CBS HD
11.2 Fox/MyNetworkTV SD
11.3 ABC SD
Owner Marks Radio Group
(Thunder Bay Broadcasting Corporation)
Founded November 20, 1974
First air date September 22, 1975 (42 years ago) (1975-09-22)
Sister station(s) WBUP, WBKP
Former channel number(s) 11 (VHF analog, 1975–2009)
13 (VHF digital, –2009)
Transmitter power 20 kW
Height 201.8 m (662 ft)
Facility ID 67048
Transmitter coordinates 44°42′11″N 83°31′26″W / 44.70306°N 83.52389°W / 44.70306; -83.52389
Website wbkb11.com

WBKB-TV is the CBS-affiliated television station for the northeastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan in the United States. Licensed to Alpena, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 11 (also the station's virtual channel via PSIP) from a transmitter in unincorporated Alcona County (near M-72) south of Hubbard Lake. On cable, the station can be seen on Charter Spectrum channel 10 in Standard definition and digital channel 781 in high definition. Owned by the Marks Radio Group, WBKB has studios on North Bagley Street in Alpena. WBKB is the only commercial television station in one of the smallest media markets in the United States.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[1]
11.1 1080i 16:9 WBKB-HD Main WBKB-TV programming / CBS
11.2 480i 4:3 WBKB-FX WBKB 11.2 Fox & MyNetworkTV (letterboxed into 480i 16:9 for network programming)
11.3 WBKB-AB WBKB 11.3 ABC (letterboxed into 480i 16:9 for network programming)

WBKB-DT2 (Fox & MyNetworkTV)[edit]

WBKB's second subchannel features the market's Fox affiliate, which also carries MyNetworkTV directly after Fox primetime on weeknights. WBKB-DT2 is carried in standard definition locally on Spectrum channel 13 in SD and digital channel 786 in HD; the subchannel's cable distribution is the only current way to watch Fox and MyNetworkTV programming locally in HD, although to alleviate the resulting aspect ratio issue for viewers without cable (at least during network hours), network programming on the over-the-air feed for this DT2 subchannel is presented in a letterboxed 480i 16:9 format.

WBKB-DT3 (ABC)[edit]

WBKB's third subchannel began carrying ABC programming on January 14, 2013, effectively replacing former ABC O&O WJRT-TV from Flint (now owned by Gray Television) on area cable systems and taking WJRT's former cable positions on Spectrum channel 12 in SD and digital channel 782 in HD. As with WBKB-DT2, ABC programming in HD from WBKB-DT3 is only available through cable, although to alleviate the resulting aspect ratio issue for viewers without cable (at least during network hours), network programming on the over-the-air feed for this DT3 subchannel is presented in a letterboxed 480i 16:9 format.


Thunder Bay Broadcasting Corporation was formed in the State of Michigan in September 1971 by Thomas Scanlan, a U.S. Air Force Captain stationed in Indianapolis, for the express purpose of establishing a commercial television station in Alpena, Michigan. At the time Alpena and its surrounding area was one of the last places in the Eastern United States without any over-the-air television service, as defined by the FCC. Such areas were called 'white areas'. Scanlan had just completed a tour of duty in Germany, where he and three other active duty airmen, Thomas Disinger, S. Peter Neumann and Curtis Smith had been engaged in creating the first use of live satellite feeds to Europe of events specifically targeted to military personnel stationed in Europe. This first use was the live Apollo XI moon walk and events surrounding it from blast off to touchdown.

Beside his stock and stock reserved for Disinger, Neumann and Smith, Scanlan sold off stock to 43 other stockholders, mostly residents of Alpena. The construction permit application was filed on September 22, 1971 and specified using the tower of WHSB-FM radio at Manning Hill, near Lachine, Michigan, some 15 miles (24 km) west of Alpena. Expectations were that the permit would be granted and the station could be on the air by the summer of 1972, most likely as an ABC affiliate. On November 22, 1971, a competing application was filed for Channel 11 by a group headed by cable operator Bruce Freel. Freel's North American Broadcasting Company specified a much larger coverage area than that applied for by Scanlan, with a 792-foot (241 m) tower near Millersburg, and coverage extending well to the west of Interstate 75. To maximize its opportunity to receive a grant in the event the FCC designated the two applications for a hearing, Scanlan amended the Thunder Bay application in 1972 to specify a shared tower with Alpena's non-commercial WCML-TV (channel 6). With both Freel's and Scanlan's group applying for facilities that would duplicate, to a small degree, that of Traverse City's WGTU, Channel 29, the President of WGTU, Thomas Kiple, urged his group, Northern Entertainment, to ask the FCC to invoke their "UHF Impact Policy" on the applications. The UHF Impact Policy is no longer active, but at the time, 1972, the FCC would entertain applications to limit, or deny applications from proposed VHF facilities seeking new or improved facilities that would duplicate existing or planned UHF coverage.

At this same time Freel's group was facing mounting expenses in his cable and real estate businesses, and Freel offered to sell out to Scanlan's group for its out of pocket expenses, which the FCC approved almost immediately. This would allow Thunder Bay to proceed with its construction. Within a matter of weeks Northern Entertainment filed its UHF Impact Request with the FCC.

This action set in motion a competitive posture between Thunder Bay and Northern Entertainment. To break the logjam of inactivity, Thunder Bay voluntarily again modified its application to specify a smaller, peanut-shaped coverage area from a 500-foot (150 m) tower at Barton City, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Alpena. This reduced the percentage of overlap with WGTU's signal to 4.7%. On July 19, 1974 the FCC set aside Northern's objections and granted Thunder Bay its permit. The station with facilities basically unchanged to date since originally built, beginning in September 1974, signed on September 22, 1975. In 1982 Scanlan's group sold controlling interest in Thunder Bay to Stephen Marks of Maryland.

The station first went on-the-air September 22, 1975 as the first of two stations in Alpena to sign-on that year (the other being WCMU-TV satellite WCML that launched in November). The Alpena market consists of Alpena and Alcona counties, and is the third smallest media market in the United States. It is also served by portions of the Northern Michigan (Traverse City, Cadillac, and Sault Ste. Marie) as well as the Mid-Michigan (Bay City, Saginaw, Midland, and Flint) markets. The station originally aired an analog signal on VHF channel 13 from a transmitter at the station's studios.

After the switch to digital-only broadcasting on June 12, 2009, it moved its digital signal to channel 11. WBKB signed-on a new second digital subchannel to serve as the area's primary Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate in November 2009. Until this point, Cadillac's WFQX-TV had been serving as the default Fox affiliate, operating a translator in Alpena, W31BO, Channel 31, between 1996 and 2005. In addition, WFQX's full-powered satellite WFUP in Vanderbilt served areas around greater Alpena although not in the city proper.

Despite the existence of WBKB-DT2, Charter systems still carry WFQX in standard and high definition to this day. MyNetworkTV can also still be seen in the market on Charter through Bay City's WNEM-DT2. That outlet served as the area's default MyNetworkTV outlet since the service signed-on back in September 2006.

On January 14, 2013, WBKB added a new third digital subchannel to be the area's ABC affiliate—the first over-the-air ABC service to Alpena since WGTU translator K55AW, Channel 55, went off the air in the mid-1970s. Until the launch of ABC on 11.3, WJRT-TV in Flint had been serving as the market's default affiliate on Charter with standard and high definition feeds.[2][3][4]

Legacy of WBKB callsign[edit]

The WBKB call letters originally belonged (from 1946 until 1953) to channel 4 in Chicago. That station was owned by the Balaban and Katz Broadcasting subsidiary of Paramount Pictures and is now CBS owned-and-operated station WBBM-TV. WBKB then transferred to Chicago's ABC owned-and-operated station on channel 7 from 1953 to 1968 until it was renamed WLS-TV.



WBKB-TV's main channel clears the entire CBS schedule. Syndicated programming on WBKB-TV includes Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.[5]


WBKB-DT2 clears most of the Fox schedule, except for Xploration Station; WBKB-DT2 instead relies on the open syndication market for E/I compliant programming. WBKB-DT2 also clears the entire MyNetworkTV schedule which, as previously stated, airs immediately following Fox's primetime lineup. Syndicated programming on WBKB-DT2 includes Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, and NBCUniversal Television Distribution's conflict talk shows, including Jerry Springer and Maury.[5]


WBKB-DT3 clears most of the ABC schedule, but like WBKB-DT2, preempts Litton's Weekend Adventure in favor of E/I compliant programming from the open market. WBKB-DT3 also serves as the local outlet of the Detroit Lions Television Network, carrying the Lions' preseason football games and their coach's show. Syndicated programming on WBKB-DT3 includes Rachael Ray, Judge Judy and Steve Harvey.[5]


Shortly after Stephan Marks acquired WBKB, newscasts known as UGN News (with "UGN" meaning "Upper Great <Lakes> Network") began to be simulcasted with WBKP/WBUP in Marquette. Likewise, the programs featured regional news and weather coverage from the entire Upper and Northern Lower Peninsulas. In 2006, UGN News was re-focused to the Upper Peninsula and only originated from WBKP/WBUP. Currently, WBKB only airs local news weeknights at 6 and every night at 11 ET. All on-air personnel at the station perform "one-man-band" journalism duties such as shooting video, editing coverage, and producing the newscasts. With the addition of ABC programming to its third digital subchannel, WBKB finally launched its first ever weekday morning show (as of February 2013). The nightly newscasts are simulcasted on WBKB's CBS and ABC channels.


External links[edit]