WBAP-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 24), is an NBC owned-and-operated television station licensed to Fort Worth, Texas, United States and serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. The station is owned by the NBC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of WarnerNBC (itself a subsidiary of General Electric), as part of a duopoly with Dallas-licensed Telemundo owned-and-operated station KXTX-TV (channel 39), and is also sister to WBAP radio (820 AM). The two stations share studios at 3900 Barnett Street in eastern Fort Worth (also nicknamed "Broadcast Hill"); WBAP-TV's transmitter is located south of Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
Early history under Carter PublicationsEdit
Amon G. Carter, Sr.—the founding publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram—first submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to build and operate a television station on VHF channel 5 in late October 1944, mere days after Karl Hoblitzelle, owner of Interstate Circuit Theatres, filed an application to operate a station on channel 8 on October 23, the first such license application for a television station in the Southern United States. When the FCC awarded the construction permit for Channel 5 to Carter on June 21, 1946, he originally requested to assign KCPN (for "Carter Publications News") as the station's call letters; three months before it signed on, however, Carter chose instead to assign the television station the calls that were used by the radio station that he also owned, WBAP (820 AM).
The station began test broadcasts on June 20, 1948, originally transmitting over a closed-circuit television system. Channel 5 informally signed on the air as WBAP-TV on September 27, to broadcast coverage of President Harry S. Truman's re-election campaign speech at the Texas & Pacific terminal building in downtown Fort Worth. WBAP-TV officially commenced regular programming two days later on September 29, 1948, with two 10-minute specials at 7:00 p.m. that evening, respectively featuring speeches from Carter and general manager Harold Hough and a film from NBC dedicating the station's launch. Carter owned the television and radio properties through the Star-Telegram's corporate parent, Carter Publications. It was the first television station to sign on in the state of Texas; the second to be located between Los Angeles, St. Louis and Richmond, Virginia (after NBC/DuMont affiliate KDYL-TV – now ABC affiliate KTVX – in Salt Lake City); and the 25th to sign on in the United States.
When the station made its formal debut, its first night of regular broadcasts did not go smoothly. On the date of its sign-on, the station's studio facilities were in the latter stages of construction; at one point, Amon Carter accidentally stepped into an unmarked hole in the studio floor that led to the building's basement, narrowly saved from enduring potential injury by Star-Telegram cartoonist Johnny Hay. A power outage near the transmitter facility also knocked WBAP-TV off the air for 17 minutes around 8:00 p.m. Angry viewers subsequently called into the station, blaming engineers for an outage that was beyond their control; after the power problems were fixed, another viewer calling into the station complained to a receptionist about not being able to receive WBAP-TV's signal, not realizing that the television station could not be picked up through their radio receiver. Even still, Fort Worth Press reporter Jack Gordon wrote regarding the station's first night of programming that "part of Fort Worth's inaugural television show [...] looked like our first roll of home movie film. But a good deal more of it was excellent – enough so to convince the stubbornest critic that television is here to stay."
Originally serving as an affiliate, Channel 5 has carried programming from NBC since its sign-on—having inherited the affiliation through WBAP radio's longtime relationship with the television network's radio predecessor, the NBC Blue Network, with which it had been affiliated since 1927; however, it also maintained a secondary affiliation with ABC by way of a secondary affiliation that WBAP radio had begun maintaining with the ABC Radio Network, the direct successor to NBC Blue, when it and timeshare partner WFAA assumed the 570 AM frequency (taking over the former KGKO) on an alternating basis in April 1947. The following year in 1949, WBAP-TV and WBAP (AM), were joined by a sister station on radio, WBAP-FM (96.3 FM, now KSCS). The WBAP calls reportedly stood for "We Bring A Program"; the call sign and their associated meaning were suggested by Herbert Hoover during his tenure as chairman of what was then the Federal Radio Commission prior to the radio station's sign-on in 1922; in reality, they were sequentially assigned with no meaning. Among the local programs that aired on Channel 5 in its early years included the Saturday night country music/dance program Barn Dance, music series Bobby Peters Jamboree and the children's programs See-Saw Zoo and Kitty's Playhouse.
When Channel 5 signed on, it was apparent that Dallas and Fort Worth were going to be collapsed into a single television market due to the close proximity of the two cities; despite the fact that Dallas and Tarrant counties bordered one another, Arbitron had initially designated their respective county seats as separate markets (the counties that surrounded Tarrant County on the western half of the Metroplex were part of the Fort Worth market, while those surrounding Dallas County in the eastern half of the metropolitan region were part of the Dallas market). However, Carter, who had long been a booster for the Fort Worth area, did not care whether Dallas residents could view Channel 5's broadcast signal, which provided rimshot coverage within most of central and eastern Dallas County, including Dallas proper. As a result, in 1950, NBC reached an agreement with A.H. Belo Corporation to switch the primary affiliation of DuMont affiliate WFAA-TV (channel 8) to NBC to serve as its affiliate for the eastern half of the market.
On July 1, 1952, WBAP-TV became among the first six television stations in the country (along with fellow NBC stations KPRC-TV in Houston, WOAI-TV in San Antonio, WKY-TV in Oklahoma City, KOTV in Tulsa and WDSU-TV in New Orleans) to begin transmitting network programming over a live microwave feed, inaugurated with a message by Today Show host Dave Garroway welcoming the stations in commencing live network telecasts. That decade, Channel 5 also became one of the first television stations to convert its local programming to color; the station's conversion to color broadcasts on May 15, 1954 was preceded by a dedication of its new production and master control facilities—which were upgraded specifically for color telecasting—from Carter and David Sarnoff, chairman of then-NBC parent RCA, that was broadcast on the station; this was followed by a three-hour block of programs produced in color, the longest broadcast of such programs ever attempted by a television station at that time. By 1955, WBAP-TV—which had earlier ordered RCA color television equipment in the fall of 1949, and became the first television station in Texas to broadcast NBC programs in color on April 9, 1954—had greatly increased the number of programs that it broadcast in color, televising the largest amount of programming produced in the format of any U.S. television station at the time.
Ownership of Star-Telegram and the WBAP stations would transfer to Amon Carter Sr.'s heirs after he succumbed from the last of several heart attacks he had suffered over the previous two years on June 23, 1955. Meanwhile, NBC grew frustrated with having to maintain affiliations with two stations to carry its programming in an otherwise effectively consolidated market. In early 1957, a taller transmission tower was built at the west end of the Broadcast Hill studio property. However, NBC threatened to strip its affiliation from Channel 5 if it did not relocate its transmitter farther eastward to extend the station's signal deeper into the Dallas metropolitan area; reportedly, the network approached the owners of Fort Worth's other station, independent KFJZ-TV (channel 11, now KTVT), which had in 1962 moved its transmitter to the antenna farm in Cedar Hill. Belo also made an attempt to make WFAA-TV the market's exclusive NBC affiliate. To prevent the network from defecting, Carter's heirs—who were reluctant to comply to NBC's demands at first, out of their desire to continue Amon Carter Sr.'s legacy of pro-Fort Worth civic boosterism—agreed to move WBAP-TV's transmitter facilities to Cedar Hill and boost its effective radiated power to adequately cover Dallas; in the summer of 1964, it installed a transmitter at the Hill Tower (owned by the Dallas Newspapers) to feed the channel 5 antenna on a 1,500-foot (460 m) candelabra tower that was already shared by WFAA-TV and KRLD-TV (channel 4, now KDFW-TV); sister station WBAP-FM also moved its transmitter to this location. The move to Cedar Hill allowed channel 5 became the sole NBC affiliate for the entire Dallas–Fort Worth market on September 1, 1957 and subsequently, WFAA-TV became the area's exclusive ABC station. In October 1959, WBAP-TV installed the first color videotape recorder in Texas, allowing it the ability to record a 90-minute segment of programming and replay it in less than five minutes.
During NBC's coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, WBAP-TV transmitted news reports conducted from its Broadcast Hill studios on the sniper-range shooting at the Presidential motorcade carrying Kennedy and Governor John Connally (who himself was injured in the shooting) in color; NBC broadcast the station's color feed during its coverage, which was otherwise transmitted in black and white from their New York studios. Charles Murphy, who served as an anchor at the station, relayed word of Kennedy's death during emergency surgery at Parkland Hospital that afternoon. Two days later on November 24, a remote unit that was loaned to WBAP-TV by KTVT management and set up at the Dallas Police Department's downtown headquarters, awaiting the transfer of suspect Lee Harvey Oswald (who shot both men from an upper-floor window at the Texas School Book Depository overlooking Elm Street) to the Dallas County Jail, fed live images of the accused Presidential assassin being gunned down by nightclub owner Jack Ruby to the NBC network; it marked the first time that a murder had been witnessed live on U.S. network television. The station's coverage of the Kennedy assassination and his visit to Texas during which it occurred earned WBAP-TV a national Sigma Delta Chi television news award and bronze medallion, and honors by the Dallas Press Club and the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) in 1964.
LIN Broadcasting ownershipEdit
Channel 5 remained under the ownership of trusts held by the Carter family until 1974 when the FCC passed a measure prohibiting the common ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market. Among the combinations that were granted grandfathered protection by the agency were A.H. Belo's combination of The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-AM-FM-TV; and the Times Mirror Company's combination of KDFW-TV and the Dallas Times Herald. The Commission, however, declined the same for the Star-Telegram, WBAP-AM-TV and KSCS (the former WBAP-FM), leaving the Carters with little choice but to break up their media empire. In January 1973, Carter Publications announced it would sell WBAP-TV to LIN Broadcasting for $35 million; the Star-Telegram, WBAP and KSCS, meanwhile, were sold to Capital Cities Communications. The sales were finalized in early May 1974; due to FCC rules in place then that prohibited separately owned broadcast properties based in the same market from using the same callsign, channel 5's call letters were subsequently changed to the current KXAS-TV on May 16 of that year.
In 1985, KXAS became the first television station in the Dallas–Fort Worth market to broadcast programming in stereo, when NBC began transmission in the format. On January 14, 1987, the broadcast tower at the station's transmitter in Cedar Hill was struck 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; KXAS, WFAA and KDFW were all briefly knocked off the air for a few seconds immediately following the incident. The jet's two occupants survived as they had ejected themselves from the aircraft and parachuted to the ground before it crashed. KXAS improvised auxiliary transmission facilities at the nearby tower belonging to KXTX-TV (channel 39)—a tower that itself would collapse while undergoing maintenance in October 1996. Rather than continue sharing transmitter facilities shared with KDFW and WFAA (which co-owned the tower site), station management opted to build a new 1,400-foot (427 m)-tall facility to house its transmitter (the first such broadcast transmitter in Texas to utilize the improved circular, polarized dish to transmit its signal) a 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) to the east of the old tower, on acres of land that had been owned by the station since the 1960s; the tower, which also houses transmitters for former sister radio stations KSCS and KBFB, was completed in 1989.
KXAS-TV had claimed themselves as "The Pioneer Television Station of the Great Southwest" (or "The Pioneer Station of the Great Southwest") in its sign-on and sign-off announcements during its four decades, but admitted to its true roots with WBAP with its 30th anniversary in 1978.
In 1993, LIN Broadcasting assumed operational responsibilities for independent station KXTX-TV through a local marketing agreement with the station's owner at the time, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Through the consolidation of that station's operations with Channel 5, KXTX began airing rebroadcasts of its 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts each weeknight as well as select first-run syndicated programs seen on KXAS.
On May 23, 1994, in an overall deal in which News Corporation also acquired a 20% equity interest in the company, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement with Fox, as part of the network's strategy to strengthen its affiliate portfolio (then composed mostly of UHF outlets with limited to no prior history as major network affiliates) after the National Football League (NFL) awarded it the television rights to the National Football Conference (NFC), a four-year contract that began with the 1994 NFL season, on December 18, 1993. One of the twelve television stations affiliated with either CBS, ABC or NBC that were involved in the deal was KDFW, which had been affiliated with CBS since it signed on in December 1949 and—along with CBS affiliate KTBC in Austin and ABC affiliate KTVI in St. Louis—was added to the agreement as a byproduct of New World's $717 million purchase of four stations owned by Argyle Television Holdings on May 26. With thirteen months left until CBS's contract with KDFW—which, as a result of the agreement with New World, would replace existing owned-and-operated station KDAF (channel 33, now a CW affiliate) as the market's Fox station, resulting in Fox Television Stations selling KDAF to Renaissance Broadcasting—was set to expire on July 1, 1995, KXAS was the first station that the network had approached to become its new Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate. LIN Broadcasting turned down the offer, in favor of signing a long-term deal that renewed its affiliation agreements with KXAS and NBC-affiliated sisters KXAN-TV in Austin, WAVY-TV in Norfolk and WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids; however as WFAA was already under contract with ABC through a multi-station agreement with Belo, this later prompted CBS to sign a deal with KTVT through an agreement it signed with Gaylord Broadcasting on September 14, 1994, in exchange for also switching its sister independent station in Tacoma, Washington, KSTW (now a CW owned-and-operated station), to the network.
In June of that year, following the $12.6-billion acquisition of majority owner McCaw Cellular Communications (which acquired a 52% interest in LIN in 1990 for $3.4 billion) by the AT&T Corporation in 1994, LIN Broadcasting announced that it would spin off seven of its eight television stations (including KXAS-TV) into a separate publicly traded corporate entity, the LIN Television Corporation. The following year in 1995, KXAS became the first commercial television station in Texas to launch a website, which provided news reports and information on the station's community initiatives and on-air staff members; the station expanded its Internet offerings in 1997, when it became the first television station in the Southwestern United States to deliver news alerts via e-mail.
In 1997, KXAS became the first television station in the Dallas–Fort Worth market to commit to launching a digital television signal; the station aired its first high-definition telecast on March 31 of that year, when it aired a Major League Baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox. Regular digital television transmissions commenced on November 1, 1998, when KXAS began full-time operation of its digital signal on UHF channel 41.