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WHO-TV logo.png
Des Moines, Iowa
United States
Branding WHO-HD Channel 13 (general)
Channel 13 News (newscasts)
Slogan THE Local News Leader
Channels Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
Subchannels 13.1 NBC
13.2 Iowa's Weather Channel
13.3 Antenna TV
13.4 This TV
Affiliations NBC
Owner Tribune Broadcasting
(sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group pending; possible resale to another owner to be determined thereafter)
(WHO License, LLC)
First air date April 15, 1954 (63 years ago) (1954-04-15)
Call letters' meaning The question prefix Who
Sister station(s) Quad Cities: WQAD-TV
Kansas City, MO: WDAF-TV
Former callsigns WHO-TV (1954–2009)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
13 (VHF, 1954–2009)
19 (UHF, 2002–2009)
Former affiliations Secondary:
UPN (2003–2006)
Transmitter power 36.5 kW
Height 600 m (1,969 ft)
Class DT
Facility ID 66221
Transmitter coordinates 41°48′32.6″N 93°36′53.7″W / 41.809056°N 93.614917°W / 41.809056; -93.614917
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.whotv.com

WHO-DT, branded as WHO-HD, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Des Moines, Iowa, United States. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 13 from a transmitter located in Alleman, Iowa. Owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media Company, WHO-DT maintains studio facilities on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines. On cable, the station is available on Mediacom channel 13 in standard definition and on digital channel 813 in high definition.[1]

WHO-DT was previously repeated on analog translators K27CV channel 27 in Ottumwa and K66AL channel 66 in Clarinda. The Ottumwa translator was operated by a local non-profit organization, and the Clarinda translator was owned by the City of Clarinda.


WHO-TV signed on the air on April 15, 1954 as the third television station in Des Moines, after WOI-TV (channel 5) and KGTV. It was owned by the Palmer family, owners of WHO radio (AM 1040 and FM 100.3, now KDRB). The Palmers had competed with KIOA for the channel 13 license and won it after reaching a settlement.[2] It has always been an NBC affiliate, having inherited this affiliation from WOI-TV and owing to WHO's long affiliation with the NBC Radio Network.

Until the 1980s, WHO-TV frequently preempted NBC programming in favor of local shows. For instance, it didn't pick up Days of Our Lives until the soap opera's 20th season; in the 1960s and 1970s, the station aired a 90-minute movie between 12:30 and 2 p.m. For its first 23 years on the air, WHO-TV had a competing station in KQTV/KVFD-TV in Fort Dodge.[3] KVFD-TV often received NBC programs from WHO-TV and so had to scramble to find local replacements between 12:30 and 2 p.m. until 1977, when KVFD-TV went off the air for good.[4]

The Palmers sold off their broadcast holdings in 1996, with WHO-TV and sister station KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City going to The New York Times Company. Earlier that year, a joint plan by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (at the time in the process of purchasing Oklahoma City's then-UPN affiliate KOCB) and River City Broadcasting (then owner of Fox affiliate KDSM-TV) to purchase Palmer Communications, the Palmer family's holding company, fell through; Sinclair would have purchased WHO outright while River City would have received KFOR. However, River City was in the process of being merged into Sinclair, which would have resulted in duopolies, which were at the time prohibited by Federal Communications Commission ownership rules, in both the Des Moines and Oklahoma City markets. Up to that time, channel 13 had been the last locally owned commercial station in Des Moines. WHO-AM, which was eventually acquired by Jacor Communications (which later merged with Clear Channel Communications), continued to occupy the same building until it moved to another building in 2005. While WHO-TV was co-owned with WHO-AM, it used an owl as its mascot.[5]

On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company entered into an agreement to sell its entire television stations group to affiliates of the private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners. On May 7, 2007, Local TV LLC, a new broadcasting company owned by Oak Hill, officially became the owner of the former New York Times stations.[6]

On December 20, 2007, Local TV and Tribune Company entered into a letter of intent to create a third-party broadcast management company to provide shared services to all of the stations Local TV and Tribune Company own respectively. The company will function as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tribune Company, and will provide back-office services, administration, and a number of other functions to the stations. The most noticeable byproducts of this partnership are the redesigned websites of WHO-TV and Local TV's other stations, which were launched during late January and into February 2009, using the Tribune Interactive platform also used by the websites of Tribune-owned stations. However, on March 7, 2012, following the lead of Local TV's Fox-affiliated stations, WHO-DT became the first of Local TV's "Big Three" network-affiliated stations to migrate its Web site away from Tribune Digital (successor to Tribune Interactive) to a new host, WordPress.com VIP. On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its stations would be acquired by Tribune.[7]

On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its stations (including sister station KFOR-TV) would be acquired by Tribune Broadcasting, giving Tribune its first NBC affiliates.[7] The sale was completed on December 27.[8]

Proposed acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group[edit]

On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group—which has owned KDSM since it acquired the station from River City Broadcasting in 1996—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. As WHO and KDSM rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Des Moines market in total day viewership and the creation of a second legal duopoly in the market would result in only seven owners of full-power stations in the Des Moines market (a minimum of eight is required to allow a duopoly), it is likely that the companies may be required to sell one of the stations to another broadcasting group in order to comply with FCC ownership rules preceding approval of the acquisition; however, a sale of either station to an independent buyer is dependent on later decisions by the FCC regarding local ownership of broadcast television stations and future acts by Congress.[9][10][11][12][13][14] Alternatively, Sinclair may opt to take over the operations of either WHO or transfer ownership of and retain operational responsibilities for KDSM through a local marketing agreement with one of its partner companies, a situation that Sinclair already employs in the adjoining markets of Omaha, Sioux City and Cedar Rapids.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[15]
13.1 1080i 16:9 WHO-DT Main WHO-DT programming / NBC
13.2 480i WHO-D2 Iowa's Weather Channel
13.3 4:3 WHO-D3 Antenna TV / ACC Network
13.4 WHO-D4 This TV

In 2008, WHO-TV introduced Iowa's Weather Plus, a 24-hour weather channel affiliated with NBC Weather Plus. This station airs on digital channel 13.2 and Mediacom digital channel 246. Although the national feed of NBC's Weather Plus has been discontinued, Channel 13 continues to air its own weather forecasts and radar loops. On August 22, 2016, WHO-DT began broadcasting This TV on digital subchannel 13.4.

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WHO-TV launches digital television programming on channel 19 as WHO-DT in 2002. The station shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 19 to VHF channel 13.[16]

With the conversion to digital, the station also retired the longtime WHO-TV call sign in favor of WHO-DT, a move opposite to what most other TV stations across the country have done (competitor WOI retained its "-DT" suffix as well). In the spring of 2011, the station unofficially changed its call letters to "WHO-HD".

News operation[edit]

It was in 1976 that WHO-TV formed its most popular news team: Jack Cafferty, Phil Thomas, Jerry Reno and Jim Zabel all were hired for the Des Moines variation of the Eyewitness News format. By 1977, Cafferty had become one of the nation's most sought after local TV anchors, even being represented by the William Morris Agency. Cafferty left WHO that year to join NBC's flagship station WNBC-TV in New York City and was with CNN until 2012. Knowing of his departure, WHO-TV ran a transitional ad where he was photographed next to Phil Thomas, who was in the foreground. Following Cafferty's departure, his place was taken by Greg Burden, a former college basketball player from Los Angeles who was hired away from KMOX-TV (now KMOV) in St. Louis. Although his personality clicked with fellow newscasters, Thomas complained that the fact that Burden was bigger than him had made him look like a circus midget.[17] Later in the decade the humor on Eyewitness News, combined with the two anchors' constant ribbing, was a source of annoyance for the Palmers, particularly when audience research showed that viewers compared Phil Thomas to the then-budding comedian Steve Martin and bloopers from the news were on the inaugural show of NBC's Real People. (said bloopers aired as part of the show locally on WHO-TV and have been uploaded to YouTube.)

By 1979, Phil Thomas had risen to become the news director at the station, as reported in the Guthrie Center Times, where he began his news career.

On September 2, 2008, WHO-TV entered into a news share agreement with Fox affiliate KDSM-TV (owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group). The big three station then began producing a Des Moines-based prime time newscast known as Channel 13 News at Nine on Fox 17. KDSM previously had its 9 p.m. broadcast produced by Sinclair sister outlet KGAN in Cedar Rapids. Originating from WHO-TV's primary set at its facilities on Grand Avenue in Downtown Des Moines (with separate duratrans indicating the Fox show), the nightly prime time program currently airs for an hour on weeknights and thirty minutes on weekends. KDSM features the majority of WHO-TV's on-air team but maintains a separate news anchor on weeknights. Unlike other outsourced news arrangements at Sinclair-owned television stations, KDSM uses the same music and graphics package scheme as seen on this NBC affiliate. WHO had also produced a primetime newscast for Pax TV (later i: Independent Television, now Ion Television) owned-and-operated station KFPX-TV in 2001, and later reran its 10pm news on that station.

For the better part of its history, WHO-TV was a solid, if usually distant, runner-up to CBS affiliate KCCI in the ratings. It managed to close the gap somewhat at the turn of the century. In February 2010, WHO-TV overtook KCCI in the mornings and at 6 p.m. The latter was significant, as it was the first time that channel 8 had lost the lead at 6 in decades.

In the May 2011 ratings period, WHO-TV surged ahead as central Iowa's news leader, claiming a ratings victory in the majority of weekday newscasts (morning, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.) KCCI retained a narrow lead at 10 p.m.[18] WHO-TV held the lead in most timeslots until February 2013, when KCCI beat WHO-TV by a decisive margin in every timeslot.[19]

WHO-TV has many firsts in the market. It was the first area station to use videotape and the first to broadcast from news events live. It was also the first station to use live Doppler radar and the first to broadcast in high definition (during the 2002 Winter Olympics) and air local news segments in high definition. On April 22, 2009, Channel 13 became the second station in Des Moines broadcasting all in-studio news in widescreen standard definition.[20] On May 19, 2010, WHO-HD became the first commercial station in Des Moines to launch fully into high definition television.[21]

On September 8, 2014 the station premiered a 4 p.m. newscast with Ellen's move to KCCI. The station decided not to fill the timeslot with syndicated programming as all the ad revenue in the hour goes to the station, especially during popular political advertising seasons.[22]

Notable current on-air staff[edit]

Former on-air staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Channel Lineup: Altoona, Bondurant, Carlisle, Des Moines, Hartford, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Polk Co., Waukee & West Des Moines, IA
  2. ^ Stein, Jeff (2004). Making Waves: The People and Places of Iowa Broadcasting. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: WDG Communications. ISBN 0-9718323-1-5. 
  3. ^ http://www.radiodiscussions.com/showthread.php?606290-RETRO-IOWA-FRIDAY-DEC-27-1974
  4. ^ http://www.radiodiscussions.com/showthread.php?662276-Retro-The-last-hour-of-KVFD-TV-Fort-Dodge-IA-May-4-1977&p=6017350&viewfull=1#post6017350
  5. ^ See American Channels: WHO on TVArk
  6. ^ NY Times CO. Sell TV Group to Equity Firm for $530M; Second equity group to buy a media business in two weeks., NewsInc. (via HighBeam Research), January 8, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Channick, Robert (July 1, 2013). "Acquisition to make Tribune Co. largest U.S. TV station operator". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  8. ^ Company Completes Final Steps of Transaction Announced in July, Tribune Company, 27 December, 2013
  9. ^ Stephen Battaglio (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion plus debt". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved June 6, 2017. 
  10. ^ Cynthia Littleton (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast Group Sets $3.9 Billion Deal to Acquire Tribune Media". Variety. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 6, 2017. 
  11. ^ Todd Frankel (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, giving it control over 215 local TV stations". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, LLC. Retrieved June 6, 2017. 
  12. ^ Todd C. Frankel (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, giving it control over 215 local TV stations". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, LLC. 
  13. ^ Liana Baker; Jessica Toonkel (May 7, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast nears deal for Tribune Media". Reuters. Retrieved June 6, 2017. 
  14. ^ Harry A. Jessell; Mark K. Miller (May 8, 2017). "The New Sinclair: 72% Coverage + WGNA". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. 
  15. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WHO
  16. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  17. ^ http://www.desmoinesbroadcasting.com/who-tv/philthomas-ads/philthomas-ads.html
  18. ^ [1] Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2013/08/19/kcci-sweeps-july-ratings-2/article
  20. ^ Channel 13 News: Widescreen
  21. ^ HD Arrives: Channel 13 Makes History With Iowa's First Commercial High-definition Newscast
  22. ^ McCormick, John (5 October 2014). "Local TV Stations Are Getting Force Fed Super PAC Cash". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 

External links[edit]