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WGN-TV, virtual channel 9 (digital channel 19), is a television station in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker. It has been owned by the Tribune Company since its inception, and is an affiliate of the CW Television Network. WGN-TV's studios and offices are located in the North Centermarker neighborhood of Chicago, and the station transmits signal from the Willis Towermarker (formerly known as the Sears Tower).

WGN Television is one of several flagship properties owned by the Tribune Company, which also owns radio station WGNmarker (720 kHz) and publishes the Chicago Tribune, whose slogan ("World's Greatest Newspaper") was the basis for the call letters used by both stations. The Tribune Company also operates Chicago area cable news channel Chicagoland Television , which shares resources from both WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune.

WGN-TV is also a pioneering superstation, and continues to program an alternate feed for cable and satellite subscribers throughout the United States and Canada, known as WGN America (formerly Superstation WGN). Ironically, the "superstation" feed remains unavailable to Chicago-area cable subscribers, despite vastly different programming offerings. However, WGN America is available in the Chicago area on DirecTV and Dish Network.

WGN's longtime slogan, "Chicago's Very Own", was the basis for a popular image campaign of the 1980s and 1990s, as performed by Lou Rawls.

History

WGN Television began test broadcasts in February 1948 and began regular programming on April 5 with a two-hour special, "WGN-TV Salute to Chicago", at 7:45 p.m.

Early on, WGN-TV was affiliated with the CBS and DuMont networks, sharing both with WBKB (channel 4). As a sidebar to the February 1953 merger of ABC and United Paramount Theatres, channel 9 lost its CBS affiliation. CBS had purchased the license to operate channel 4 in Chicago (now WBBM-TVmarker, which later moved to channel 2), and moved all of its programming there, leaving channel 9 with DuMont. WGN-TV was one of the DuMont Network's strongest affiliates. Several DuMont programs, including The Al Morgan Show, Chicago Symphony, Chicagoland Mystery Players, Music from Chicago, The Music Show, They Stand Accused, This is Music, Windy City Jamboree, and Down You Go, were broadcast from WGN over the DuMont Network. When DuMont ceased operations in 1956, WGN-TV became an independent station. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.

After becoming an independent, WGN-TV spent much of the next two decades as the top-rated independent station in Chicago, offering a variety of general-entertainment programs including movies, sports, off-network reruns, and children's shows. For much of its existence, channel 9 produced a large amount of its own programming at its own studios. An historic moment in Chicago's local television programming occurred when Sheldon Cooper launched a musical variety show for 13 weeks entitled "The All-Time Hits" featuring The Buckinghams in color. Notable WGN-TV productions included several incarnations of the immensely popular Bozo's Circus, Ray Rayner and His Friends, and Garfield Goose and Friends (which was hosted by Frazier Thomas). A popular children's educational series at the time was The Space Explorers. WGN-TV also telecasted performances of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, beginning in 1953, when Fritz Reiner was the orchestra's music director. From 1974 until 1982, Phil Donahue's syndicated talk program originated from WGN-TV.

The station began broadcasting via satellite in 1978. This signal was picked up by many fledgling pay-cable television systems, as well as directly by satellite dish owners. This continent-wide exposure elevated WGN-TV to superstation status. Along with WOR-TV (now WWOR-TVmarker) in New York Citymarker and WTBS (now WPCH-TVmarker) in Atlantamarker, WGN-TV was among the first local stations to become a superstation.

But as WGN-TV gained national exposure, the station became vulnerable in the Chicago area and underestimated the ability of one of its UHF competitors, WFLD-TVmarker (channel 32), to acquire top-rated programs such as M*A*S*H, Happy Days and All in the Family. As a result, WFLD finished ahead of WGN-TV in the ratings by the end of 1979. WGN-TV continued with its format, competing with WFLD and another UHF independent, WSNS-TVmarker (channel 44).

In 1990, due to syndication exclusivity rules, WGN-TV launched a separate national feed with alternate programming about half the time. It was a similar situation at WWOR-TV and the national "WWOR-EMI Service".

In 1994 weekday morning children's programming was replaced by WGN Morning News. However, a few years later, the Morning News and the first hour of WGN Midday News were dropped by the national feed, reportedly because certain segments of those newscasts are not allowed to air outside of Chicago. The national feed still airs the second hour of Midday News, as well as the late evening 9PM newscast. Also in 1994, the The Bozo Show was moved from weekday mornings to Sunday mornings until 2001, when the program was controversially discontinued by station management.

In 1995 WGN-TV became a network affiliate once again when it and all of Tribune's other independent stations joined the newly-launched WB Television Network. The new network was operated by the Warner Bros. Television division of Time Warner, and Tribune held a minority interest. Channel 9 aired primetime WB network programming in the Chicago area but chose not to air Kids' WB, the network's block of children's programs. Those shows aired instead on WCIU-TVmarker (channel 26), which had dropped its Spanish-language Univision affiliation at the start of 1995 for an English-language, general entertainment schedule. Initially, Superstation WGN aired WB primetime and children's programming nationally. This was done to make WB programming available in areas not yet served by a WB affiliate. In 1999, at the network's request, Superstation WGN stopped carrying primetime WB and Kids' WB network programming. By this time, The WB felt its national footprint was large enough that Superstation WGN didn't need to carry its programming.

In 2004, WCIU-TV dropped Kids' WB programming and it was moved to WGN-TV's Chicago area signal.

In January 2006, The WB and UPN networks announced that they would merge to form a new network, The CW Television Network. On the same day the new network was announced, it also signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with most of Tribune's WB stations, including WGN-TV. The new network launched on September 18, 2006. The WGN America national feed does not carry any CW programming.

Although WGN America continues to be distributed in Canadamarker, the Chicago area feed of WGN-TV is also carried by Bell TV and Shaw Direct satellite services, as well as most Canadian cable services. Bell TV has always carried the Chicago area feed but Shaw Direct and many cable services that carried Superstation WGN switched on January 17, 2007 when Shaw Broadcast Services, a primary supplier of Superstation WGN in Canada, switched to the Chicago area feed.

On April 2, 2007, Chicago investor Sam Zell announced plans to purchase the Tribune Company, with intentions to take the publicly-traded firm private. The deal was completed on December 20, 2007. Prior to the close of the sale, WGN-TV was one of two Chicago commercial television stations to have never been involved in an ownership transaction (WCIU is the other, having been owned by Weigel Broadcasting since its launch in 1964).

On July 19, 2008, WGN-TV began broadcasting its newscasts in High Definition, becoming the third Chicago station to do so.

On February 4, 2009, Tribune Broadcasting announced it is merging CLTV with channel 9's news department.

Max Headroom pirating incident

On November 22, 1987, during The 9 O'Clock News sportscast, WGN-TV's Chicago area signal was hijacked for approximately 25 seconds by an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask. This was only the first incident of that night involving the interruption of a television station's broadcast signal. Approximately two hours later, Chicago PBS station WTTWmarker (channel 11) had its broadcast interrupted by the same person. WGN-TV's analog transmitter was atop the John Hancock Centermarker and engineers were almost immediately able to thwart the video hacker by changing the studio-to-transmitter frequency, thus cutting the hacker off. Unfortunately for WTTW, its transmitter was atop Sears Towermarker and it was unable to stop the hacker before enduring almost two minutes of the hacker's interruption. These two stations are two of only six existing victims of what is called "broadcast signal intrusion". Subscription television networks HBO and Playboy TV, Washington, D.C.marker ABC affiliate WJLA-TVmarker, and the Comcast cable systems in Nashville, Tennesseemarker, Lincroft, New Jerseymarker and Tucson, Arizonamarker are among the other victims.

Digital television

Channel Programming
9.1 / 19.1 WGN-DT
9.2 / 19.2 LATV


WGN-TV is broadcasting digtially on its current pre-transition channel number, 19. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers are displaying WGN-TV's virtual channel as 9.

In late June 2008, WGN-TV added LATV as a subchannel to its digital broadcast, as part of a deal between three Tribune Broadcasting stations (KDAFmarker in Dallasmarker and WPIXmarker in New York Citymarker being the other two) and LATV. This subchannel originally aired The Tube Music Network until it shut down in October 2007, and then switched to a simulcast of the main WGN-TV channel with Spanish language dubs added to some of its programs in later months until the arrival of LATV.

From June 13 to July 12, 2009, WGN-TV was simulcasting its 9pm newscasts (except when sports schedules intervene) on WWME-CA's analog signal on channel 23 to provide an "lifeline" for viewers who were unprepared or has reception issues when the DTV transition was completed. Also in that month span, WWME-CA also aired the WMAQ'smarker early morning & early evening newscasts.

In the Far Northern portion of Chicagoland and rural areas north and west, WMTVmarker out of Madison, Wisconsinmarker interferes with reception of WGN, especially in Kanemarker, Boonemarker and McHenrymarker Counties—both WMTV and WGN broadcast their digital signals on channel 19.

Sports programming

Throughout its history, WGN-TV has had a long association with Chicago sports. Perhaps with the exception of the NFL's Chicago Bears, each of the city's major professional sports franchises, along with several area collegiate teams, have had its games televised over channel 9.

The station's relationship with the Chicago Cubs goes back to channel 9's inception in 1948, and was further cemented in 1981 when the Tribune Company purchased the National League franchise. At the same time, channel 9 was also broadcasting games of Chicago's American League team, the White Sox. Jack Brickhouse, the longtime sports director (and later vice president of sports programming) for the WGN stations, handled home game play-by-play duties for both teams until 1967, when the White Sox ended their first stint on WGN-TV, and continued to call Cubs games until his retirement from broadcasting in 1981. With both teams, Brickhouse called over 5,000 baseball games during his career, sharing the booth with announcers such as Milo Hamilton, Lou Boudreau, Vince Lloyd, and Lloyd Pettit.

WGN regained broadcast rights for the White Sox in 1973, but it opted to enter into a contract with rival independent WSNS-TV to have that station carry the games, instead of WGN, an arrangement that lasted until the 1980 season. With this, legendary broadcaster Harry Caray joined the WGN family, occasionally sitting in as a sportscaster on the station's newscasts in the 1970s. WGN carried White Sox games alone in 1981, but the following year, WGN lost that team's rights to WFLD-TV, and with the retirement of Brickhouse, Caray was dispatched from the South Sidemarker to replace Brickhouse as the Cubs' lead TV voice. For the next 16 years, primarily working with analyst Steve Stone, Caray further established his place among Chicago's most-beloved personalities. Like Brickhouse, Caray was known for displaying an unapologetic, home team-oriented enthusiasm to his game calls, punctuated with memorable signature catchphrases for big plays (such as Caray's "Holy Cow!" and Brickhouse's "Hey-hey!"). Caray also brought his unique rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch to the channel 9 broadcast booth. With WGN-TV's prominence as a national superstation in the 1980s and '90s, Caray's fan base—and that of the Cubs—grew beyond Chicago and the Midwest.

After moving their games to WFLD-TV in 1982 for an eight-year-long run, the White Sox came back to WGN-TV in 1990 when co-owner Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to long-term deals with the station for both the Sox and his NBA franchise, the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls returned to WGN-TV at the start of the 1989-90 season, just in time for the Bulls' dominance of the NBA during the Michael Jordan era. The team had been on channel 9 previously from their inception in 1966 until 1973, and again from 1976 until 1985; Jack Brickhouse, Lorn Brown, Milo Hamilton, and a young Bob Costas were among those assigned to work as Bulls play-by-play announcers, with Johnny "Red" Kerr serving as an analyst.

The NHL's Chicago Blackhawks were carried by the station from 1961 until 1975. WGN-TV's broadcasts were limited to away games only, as Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz had long prohibited televised coverage of his team's home games. Following Bill Wirtz' death in September 2007, his son and successor Rocky Wirtz ended the home TV blackout, and announced on April 1, 2008 that channel 9 would become the Blackhawks' new broadcast home. The station will air 20 games per season through a three-year contract starting with the 2008–09 campaign.

In November 1999, WGN-TV and WCIU-TV entered into a programming arrangement involving sports coverage. Selected Bulls and White Sox games, and a handful of Cubs games, produced by and contracted to air CLTV on WGN-TV are broadcast on WCIU-TV for the Chicago market only. This is due to network affiliation contracts limiting the number of programming preemptions per year, and also due to rights restrictions put in place by the NBA which limit the WGN America feed to fifteen Bulls games per season. The remaining Bulls games produced by WGN-TV are split between the station's Chicago area signal and WCIU-TV. Blackhawks games on channel 9 are exclusive to the Chicago market. All games airing on WGN-TV are produced in high definition.

Along with its coverage of professional teams, WGN-TV formerly broadcast football and basketball games of Chicago area college teams, such as Northwestern Universitymarker, DePaul Universitymarker, Loyola Universitymarker, and other teams of the Big Ten Conference.

News Operation

Appropriate for a station owned by the Tribune Company, news has played an important role on WGN-TV from the station's beginnings. WGN-TV currently broadcasts a total of 37 hours of local news per week (with seven hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays).

WGN America, the national superstation feed does not run all of WGN's newscasts. The WGN Morning News was dropped by the national feed in the late 1990s due to SyndEx rules prohibiting certain segments of the newscast from airing outside the Chicago area (this is the only known incidence in which Syndex rules caused the preemption of a newscast on cable systems outside of the main viewing area). The national feed does air the 9PM newscast (which is preempted on WGN America if a sporting event airs on the Chicago area feed that is not cleared to air on the superstation feed) and the Noon-1PM block of the midday newscast (the 11:30-Noon portion of the midday newscast and the 5PM newscast do not currently air on the superstation feed).

WGN-TV's 9PM newscasts usually beat Fox-owned WFLD-TVmarker (channel 32)'s head-to-head in the ratings, despite the latter's Fox lead-in, and generally have a larger audience than CBS-owned WBBM-TVmarker's news has at 10PM. WGN-TV's newscasts are well known in the Chicago area for the longevity of its on-air news staff. Current news anchors Dina Bair, Jackie Bange, Robin Baumgarten, Robert Jordan, Micah Materre, Allison Payne, Larry Potash, Steve Sanders, meteorologists Paul Konrad, Jim Ramsey, Tom Skilling, and sports anchors Rich King, and Dan Roan have all worked for WGN-TV for ten years or more.

Currently WGN and WFLDmarker are the only two major news stations in the Chicago area who are not broadcasting in a "street side studio." On October 5, 2009 WGN expanded its early evening newscast to one hour, running from 5-6PM and also expanded its midday newscast a half-hour more to two hours long, which now starts at 11AM.

Personalities

Current On-Air Talent

Current Anchors
  • Jackie Bange - weekends at 9PM
  • Robin Baumgarten - weekday mornings "WGN Morning News" (5-9AM)
  • Lourdes Duarte - weeknights at 5PM (also general assignment reporter)
  • Robert Jordan - weekends at 9PM
  • Micah Materre - weeknights at 9PM
  • Allison Payne - weekdays at 11AM
  • Larry Potash - weekday mornings "WGN Morning News" (5-9AM)
  • Steve Sanders - weekdays at 11AM
  • Mark Suppelsa - weeknights at 5 and 9PM
  • Valerie Warner - weekday mornings "WGN Morning News" (5AM) (also 6-9AM traffic anchor)


Reporters
  • Dina Bair - fill-in anchor (also medical reporter)
  • Ana Belaval - "Around Town" feature reporter
  • Randi Belisomo - general assignment reporter (also CLTV reporter)
  • Muriel Clair - general assignment reporter
  • Julian Crews - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Judie Garcia - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Gaynor Hall - general assignment reporter (also CLTV anchor)
  • Marcus Leshock - entertainment reporter
  • Antwan Lewis - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Sean Lewis - general assignment reporter (also CLTV anchor)
  • Paul Lisnek - political analyst
  • Kye Martin - fill-in traffic anchor (also CLTV traffic anchor)
  • Erin Mendez - general assignment freelance reporter (also fill-in morning traffic)
  • Jae Miller - general assignment freelance reporter (also CLTV reporter)
  • Tom Negovan - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Marcella Raymond - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Dean Richards - entertainment reporter (also staff announcer)
  • Tony Tantillo - "Fresh Grocer" feature reporter; weekdays 11AM
  • Julie Unruh - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Judy Wang - general assignment reporter (also CLTV anchor)


WGN Weather Team
  • Tom Skilling (AMS Seal of Approval) - Chief Meteorologist; weekdays (11AM-1PM), 5 and 9PM
  • Paul Konrad - Weather Anchor; weekday mornings "WGN Morning News"
  • Jim Ramsey - Weather Anchor; weekends at 9PM (also seen on CLTV)
  • Duffy Atkins (AMS/NWA Member) - staff meteorologist (also evening meteorologist on CLTV)
  • Tim McGill (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) - staff meteorologist (also morning meteorologist on CLTV)


Sports Team
  • Dan Roan - Sports Director; Monday-Thursdays at 9PM (also host of "Instant Replay")
  • Rich King - Sports Anchor; Friday-Saturdays at 9PM
  • Pat Tomasulo - Sports Anchor; weekday mornings "WGN Morning News"
  • Dave Eanet - fill-in sports anchor


Past personalities





(D) - deceased

News/Station presentation

Newscast titles

  • 10th Hour News (1960s-1970s)
  • Newsnine (1970s-1980)
  • The Nine O'Clock News (1980-1993)
  • WGN News (umbrella title; 1993-present)
*WGN Morning News - weekday 5-9 a.m. newscast
*WGN Midday News - weekday 11 a.m.-1 p.m. newscast
*WGN Evening News - weekday 5-6 p.m. newscast
*WGN News at Nine - nightly 9-10 p.m. newscast


Station slogans

  • Chicago's Very Own (1983-present)


News Music Packages

  • WGN News (1980-1984)
  • WGN 1984 News (1984-1987)
  • WGN 1987 News (1987-1993)
  • WGN 1991 News (1991-1993)
  • Chicago's Very Own (1993-1997)
  • WGN News Theme (1997-2007)
  • Chicago's Very Own (2007-present)


See also



References

  1. Tribune Broadcasting Combines WGN, CLTV, Mediaweek, February 4, 2009
  2. CDBS Print
  3. http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/towerticker/2009/06/wmaqtv-wgntv-partner-with-weigel-broadcasting-for-analog-lifeline.html
  4. http://www.wciu.com/about.php?section=press&releaseID=14
  5. Blackhawks return to WGN-TV | About the Station | WGNTV.com | WGN TV | Chicago's CW
  6. Confirmed by WGN-TV "WGN-TV Contact Page". Accessed June 8, 2007.
  7. Chicago Professional Sports L.P. & WGN Continental Broadcasting Co. vs. National Basketball Association. 961 Fed. 2d 667 (7th Cir. 1992)


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