KDFW, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 35), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Dallas, Texas, United States and serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. The station is owned by the Meredith Corporation, as part of a duopoly with independent station KDFI (channel 27). The two stations share studios on North Griffin Street (between Patterson and San Jacinto Streets) in downtown Dallas; KDFW's transmitter is located south of the junction of Belt Line and Mansfield Roads in Cedar Hill.
On September 2, 2019 (Labor Day), KDFW returned to its former CBS affiliation, making this its second stint with CBS.
First stint as a CBS affiliateEdit
On August 20, 1945, the KRLD Radio Corp. – a subsidiary of the Dallas Times Herald newspaper, which was headed at the time by Times Herald Printing Co. president Tom C. Gooch – filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license and construction permit to operate a commercial television station on VHF channel 2. On August 22, 1946, one year and two days after it filed for the broadcast license, KRLD Radio Corp. amended its application to instead seek assignment on VHF channel 4. (The VHF channel 2 allocation was later reassigned to Denton as part of the FCC's "Sixth Report and Order" in November 1951; it would eventually be assigned to North Texas Public Broadcasting, which signed on KDTN—now a Daystar owned-and-operated station—over that allocation on September 1, 1988.) The FCC Broadcast Bureau granted the license to the Times Herald on September 13, 1946.
The newspaper chose to assign KRLD-TV for use as the television station's call letters; the base KRLD callsign had been used by the Times Herald-owned radio station on 1080 AM – a combined reference to both Edwin J. Kiest, an original investor and one-time owner of the Times Herald, and KRLD (AM), and the radio station's founding owner, Radio Laboratories of Dallas (which changed its name from Dallas Radio Laboratories as it sought the radio permit upon discovering that the KDRL calls had already been assigned for maritime use) – since it signed on its original 1040 AM frequency in October 1926, and applied to its FM sister on 92.5 (now KZPS) upon its March 1948 sign-on.
The station began test broadcasts on November 21, 1949. Channel 4 officially signed on the air, as KRLD-TV, two weeks later on December 3, 1949 at 12:30 p.m., with a short inaugural program featuring speeches from Gooch and KRLD-AM-TV managing director Clyde Rembert dedicating the station's launch, followed by a broadcast of the CBS game show It Pays to Be Ignorant. The first local program aired on the station that day was a college football game in which the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Southern Methodist Mustangs, 27-20. (The station was originally scheduled to debut on October 1, later pushed back to November 15.) KRLD-TV was the third television station to sign on in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex and the second to be licensed to Dallas, following Dallas-based KBTV (channel 8, now WFAA), which launched three months earlier on September 17; and Fort Worth-licensed WBAP-TV (channel 5, now KXAS-TV), which debuted on September 29, 1948. It was also the fourth Texas-based television station to be granted a license by the FCC (along with WBAP-TV, KBTV and NBC affiliate KLEE-TV [now KPRC-TV]).
Channel 4 originally carried programming from CBS, an affiliation that KRLD-TV inherited through the CBS Radio Network's longtime relationship with KRLD (AM), which became the first radio station in Texas to affiliate with the television network's radio predecessor in 1927 (when the station was transmitting at 1040 AM); it was the first Metroplex-area television station to have maintained a singular network affiliation from its sign-on. The station originally broadcast for 4½ hours each weekday (from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) and for four hours per day (from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.) on Saturdays and Saturdays. Among the local programs on channel 4 in its early years included O.Kay! Mr. Munn (hosted by an artist drawing visual interpretations of various song lyrics, predating the advent of the music video) and Confessions (a series featuring interviews with incarcerated criminals from the Dallas County Jail revealing why they committed the crimes they were convicted of).
The station initially operated from studio facilities located inside the Adolphus Hotel (between Commerce and Main Streets, north of the Times Herald Building) in downtown Dallas. The building—which also housed KRLD radio's facilities at the time—was used on a temporary basis until a permanent broadcast facility then under construction within the Times Herald's Herald Square building (at 1101 Patterson Street, which has since been demolished and converted into a parking lot) was completed. The tower that transmitted its signal (supporting microwave and remote antennas) was also based on the studio grounds. The station's 586-foot (179 m) transmission tower was located on Griffin Street and San Jacinto Avenue; at the time, it was designated as the tallest free-standing television transmission tower in the world, and provided a signal spanning approximately 90 miles (145 km) from the site. By 1954, KRLD-TV expanded its broadcast day to an 18-hour daily schedule (running from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.). In May 1955, the station began construction of a new 1,521-foot (464 m)-tall tower in Cedar Hill. At the time of its completion in October 1955, the structure was considered to be the tallest television broadcast tower in the world (once KRLD-TV moved its transmitter to the Cedar Hill tower in early 1956, the original Griffin Street transmitter remained in use as an auxiliary facility until it was disassembled in 1984; the antenna on which it was installed was torn down in 1995, in order to reduce the load on the tower).
KRLD-TV served as the home base for CBS' network coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, when suspect Lee Harvey Oswald (from an upper-floor window at the Texas School Book Depository) shot his rifle at sniper range at the Presidential motorcade carrying Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally as it had turned onto Elm Street. Eddie Barker, who was KRLD-TV's news director at the time and had been with the station since it signed on fourteen years earlier as one of the original members of its news department staff, was the first person to announce Kennedy's death on television, relaying a message from an official at Parkland Hospital that Kennedy had succumbed from the gunshot wound as doctors conducted emergency surgery. Because of a local press pool arrangement that was put in place that morning to cover Kennedy's speech at the Trade Mart downtown, Barker's scoop appeared live simultaneously on CBS, which had sent correspondent Dan Rather to report from Dealey Plaza, and ABC. Two days later, a KRLD-TV field crew captured footage of Oswald's assassination by nightclub owner Jack Ruby as officers were transferring the former in handcuffs out of the Dallas Police Department's downtown precinct.
CBS also maintained an arrangement with Channel 4 to use the station's remote unit to transmit live programming broadcast by the network during the 1960s and 1970s; in particular, the remote transmission truck was used to relay color broadcasts of CBS' NFL and college football game telecasts held in Texas. In 1964, KRLD-TV moved its operations from the Times Herald's Patterson Street offices into the station's current, purpose-built studio facility at 400 North Griffin Street (across the street from the former building, at the intersection of Griffin and San Jacinto). In 1968, the station's Cedar Hill transmitter site was struck by a helicopter, causing substantial damage to the tower.
Times Mirror ownershipEdit
On September 22, 1969, the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company announced it would purchase the Times Herald and the KRLD radio and television from the Times Herald Printing Co. for $91 million in cash and stock. Although recently implemented FCC cross-ownership rules prohibited media companies from owning newspapers and full-power broadcast television and radio outlets in the same market, Times Mirror received approval to maintain the existing combination of the Times Herald and KRLD-TV under a cross-ownership waiver. However, to comply with FCC rules of the time that prohibited a single company from owning full-power broadcast television and radio outlets in the same market, Times Mirror sold KRLD-AM-FM to KRLD Corp. (owned principally by Philip R. Jonsson, Kenneth A. Jonsson and George V. Charlton, the sons and daughter of Dallas mayor and former Texas Instruments chairman J. Erik Jonsson) for $6.75 million. The transaction was approved by the FCC on May 15, 1970, and was finalized 1½ months later on July 1. The purchase marked Times Mirror's re-entry into broadcasting (it owned KTTV in Los Angeles, a present-day sister station of KDFW, from its sign-on in 1949 until 1963, when it sold that station to Metromedia for $10.5 million in cash and promissory notes), resulting in the creation of Times Mirror Broadcasting.
In order to comply with an FCC rule in effect at the time that prohibited separately owned radio and television stations in the same market from sharing the same base call letters, as KRLD Corp. was allowed to keep the KRLD call letters for its new radio properties, the station's call letters were changed to KDFW-TV – in partial reference to its service area of Dallas and Fort Worth – on July 2. (The "-TV" suffix was dropped from the KDFW callsign in July 1998; the KRLD-TV calls were later used by present-day CW affiliate KDAF [channel 33] from 1984 to 1986, when Metromedia co-owned that station and KRLD radio, the latter of which was also co-owned with present-day CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT [channel 11] from 1999 until CBS Corporation sold its radio division to Entercom in 2017.) In June 1986, the Times Mirror Company sold the Times Herald to Woodbury, New Jersey-based MediaNews Group for $110 million in cash and notes; Times Mirror retained ownership of KDFW, leaving the station as its sole remaining media property in the Metroplex. (The newspaper would cease publication five years later in December 1991, after it was purchased by the A.H. Belo Corporation, owners of rival newspaper The Dallas Morning News, for $55 million.)
A helicopter-tower collision similar to the one that occurred 19 years earlier happened on January 14, 1987, when KDFW's Cedar Hill broadcast tower (which was jointly owned by KDFW and WFAA, via the Hill Tower, Inc. consortium involving their respective corporate parents) was hit by a Navy F-4 Phantom that was performing training exercises as it was on approach to the Dallas Naval Air Station, clipping several guy-wires. The jet's two occupants survived as they had ejected themselves from the aircraft and parachuted to the ground before it crashed. (KDFW, KXAS and WFAA did not have their transmissions affected by the accident, although radio stations KZEW [97.9 FM, now KBFB] and KSCS [96.3 FM] were knocked off the air and temporarily broadcast at reduced power from another tower as a result.) In 1989, KDFW relocated its transmitter onto a new 1,400-foot (427 m)-tall tower constructed at the junction of Belt Line and Mansfield Roads in Cedar Hill, 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) to the southwest. (The former tower – which had its height reduced to 1,240 feet [378 m] due to the removal of the candelabra mast that encompassed the upper 281 feet [86 m] of the structure – was converted into an auxiliary transmitter facility for KDFW, WFAA and radio stations KJMZ [100.3 FM, now KJKK], KMEZ [107.5 FM, now KMVK], KQZY [105.3 FM, now KRLD-FM], KKDA-FM [104.5] and KMGC [102.9 FM, now KDMX].)
In a move by the company to concentrate on its newspapers and cable television system franchises, on March 29, 1993, Times-Mirror announced it would sell KDFW-TV and its three sister stations — fellow CBS affiliate KTBC (now a Fox owned-and-operated station) in Austin, ABC affiliate KTVI (now a Fox affiliate) in St. Louis and NBC affiliate WVTM-TV in Birmingham — to San Antonio-based Argyle Television Holdings for $335 million in cash and securities. Under the transaction's two-part purchase option structure, Argyle acquired WVTM and KTVI from Times Mirror in an initial transactional (for $45 million and $35 million, respectively), and subsequently acquired KDFW and KTBC in a secondary transaction following FCC approval of their license renewals. The purchase of KDFW and KTBC was finalized on January 3, 1994.
In February 1994, Argyle Television took over management responsibilities for struggling independent station KDFI (channel 27, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station) under a local marketing agreement with its then-owner, Richardson-based Dallas Media Investors Corporation. The agreement – which resulted in KDFI integrating its operations into KDFW's downtown studios on North Griffin Street – allowed KDFW to provide advertising, promotional and master control services for KDFI, while Dallas Media Investors (which was owned by former KDFW station manager John McKay) would retain responsibilities over channel 27's programming and production services. Through the consolidation of that station's operations with Channel 4, KDFI began airing late-night rebroadcasts of KDFW's 10:00 p.m. newscast each weeknight as well as select syndicated programs seen on that station; during the first months of the LMA, KDFW also produced a daily 30-minute wrap-up of the proceedings in the O. J. Simpson murder case for KDFI—which aired in place of the 10:00 p.m. news rebroadcast—during the summer and fall of 1994.
As a Fox stationEdit
New World Communications ownershipEdit
On May 23, 1994, in an overall deal in which network parent News Corporation also acquired a 20% equity interest in the company, Atlanta-based New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement with the Fox Broadcasting Company. Under the initial agreement, nine television stations affiliated with either CBS, ABC or NBC—five of the seven that New World acquired through its 1992 purchase of SCI Television, and four others that it acquired on May 5 from Great American Communications (in a separate deal for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants)—would become Fox affiliates once their existing respective affiliation contracts expired. The deal was part of a strategy by Fox to strengthen its affiliate portfolio after the National Football League (NFL) accepted the network's $1.58 billion bid for the television rights to the National Football Conference (NFC), a four-year contract that began with the 1994 NFL season, on December 18, 1993. At the time, Fox's stations were mostly UHF outlets that had limited to no prior history as major network affiliates; among them was its existing Dallas outlet KDAF, which News Corporation purchased through its May 1985 merger with Metromedia and was among Fox's original group of six owned-and-operated stations when the network launched in October 1986.
On May 26, New World bought the four Argyle Television stations for $717 million (including approximately $280 million in debt), in a purchase option-structured deal. Under the terms, New World included KDFW, KTBC and KTVI in the group's affiliation agreement with Fox (WVTM, now owned by Hearst Television, remained an NBC affiliate as New World chose to transfer Birmingham ABC affiliate WBRC into a trust company for later sale to Fox Television Stations—an arrangement that was part of a deal also involving ABC affiliate WGHP in High Point, North Carolina to comply with FCC restrictions at the time that prohibited broadcasting companies from owning more than twelve television stations nationwide and, in the case of Birmingham, barred television station duopolies—and was subsequently sold to NBC before being purchased by Media General in 2006). Although the network already owned KDAF, Fox sought the opportunity to align with KDFW because of its stronger market position (the station placed second, behind WFAA, in total day and news viewership at the time) and its operation of a news department; as a result, Fox Television Stations decided to sell KDAF, which would ultimately trade it to Renaissance Broadcasting in exchange for existing Fox affiliate KDVR in Denver.
CBS had a thirteen-month leeway to find a new Dallas–Fort Worth affiliate, as its contract with KDFW did not expire until July 1, 1995; the affiliation contracts for KTBC and KTVI expired around the same time, giving the networks that were already affiliated with the three former Argyle stations slated to switch to Fox a longer grace period to find new affiliates than CBS, NBC and/or ABC were given in most of the other markets affected by the Fox-New World deal (ABC's affiliation contracts with WGHP and WBRC ended even later, respectively expiring in September 1995 and September 1996). CBS first approached longtime NBC affiliate KXAS-TV about negotiating an affiliation deal, ultimately to be turned down by its then-owner LIN Broadcasting, which subsequently signed a long-term affiliation deal renewing its contract with KXAS and its NBC-affiliated sister stations in Austin, Norfolk and Grand Rapids; WFAA was eliminated as an option as ABC reached a new long-term agreement with Dallas-based owner of the station, Belo, to extend affiliation contracts for WFAA and other Belo-owned stations that were affiliated with the network.
This left independent station KTVT as CBS' only viable option among the Metroplex's VHF television stations, particularly as it was the only other English language station in the market that had a news department. (At the time, KTVT had been producing a prime time newscast—originally airing at 7:00 p.m., before being shifted to 9:00 in January 1991 to reduce preemptions caused by the station's sports telecasts—since August 1990; however, the station had been producing short- and/or long-form newscasts in various formats since 1960.) On September 14, 1994, Gaylord Broadcasting reached an agreement to affiliate KTVT with CBS, in exchange for also switching its sister independent station in Tacoma, Washington, KSTW (now a CW owned-and-operated station), to the network. (WB network majority owner Time Warner would later file an injunction attempting to dissolve a previous agreement with Gaylord to turn KTVT, KSTW and KHTV in Houston [now CW affiliate KIAH, which became a sister station to KDAF when Tribune Broadcasting acquired the latter from Renaissance in 1996] into charter affiliates of The WB at that network's launch in January 1995.) New World took over the operations of the Argyle stations through time brokerage agreements on January 19, 1995; the group's purchase of the four Argyle stations received approval on April 14, 1995 and was finalized four days later on April 18. The last CBS network program to air on KDFW was a repeat of Walker, Texas Ranger at 9:00 p.m. Central Time on July 1; this led into a message by then-station president and general manager David Whitaker shortly before the start of its late-evening newscast (which was renamed from News 4 Texas Nightbeat to News 4 Texas at 10:00 that evening, with the implementation of a new graphics package centered partly on imagery of the Texas state flag), informing viewers about the pending network changes.
KDFW switched to Fox on July 2, 1995, ending its first relationship with CBS after 45½ years; with Fox switching from UHF to VHF, Dallas–Fort Worth became one of a handful of markets where all of the "Big Four" networks maintained affiliations with VHF stations (along with New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Tucson, Miami, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Honolulu, Boise and Anchorage; Reno joined this distinction in 1996, followed by Portland and Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2002; in both Boise and Honolulu, the Fox affiliation switched from one VHF station to another). The remainder of CBS' programming moved on that date to KTVT, which consequently ceased distribution as a regional superstation on cable and satellite providers outside of its viewing area, as many of the markets where a pay television provider carried KTVT already had access to local or out-of-market CBS affiliates (KTBC joined Fox the same day, while KTVI followed suit on August 7). On that date, KDAF – whose sale to Renaissance Broadcasting was finalized the following day on July 3—became an affiliate of The WB; Christian Broadcasting Network-owned KXTX-TV (channel 39, now a Telemundo owned-and-operated station), which reverted into an independent station, served as the market's original WB outlet during the network's first six months of operation under a temporary arrangement until it could affiliate with KDAF when Fox moved to channel 4.
KDFW rebranded as "Fox 4 Texas" upon the affiliation switch, but with references to the Fox logo and name limited in most on-air imaging; although as with most of the other New World-owned stations affected by the agreement with Fox, channel 4 retained the news branding it had been using before it joined the network—in its case, News 4 Texas, which the station adopted in November 1990 as a CBS affiliate (the "4 Texas" motif was adopted as a universal brand, extending to weather and sports content produced by KDFW's news department). In addition to expanding its local news programming at the time it joined Fox, the station replaced CBS daytime and late night programs that migrated to KTVT with an expanded slate of syndicated talk shows as well as some documentary-based reality series, and also acquired some movies and off-network drama series for broadcast on weekends; however, unusual for a Fox affiliate, the revamped programming schedule did not include sitcoms and, like New World's other Fox stations, ran children's programs only on weekend mornings.