WPVI-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 6, branded on-air as Fox 6, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station licensed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of News Corporation. WPVI-TV's studios are located on City Line Avenue in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia, and its transmitter is located in the city's Roxborough neighborhood.
The station first signed on the air on September 13, 1947, as WFIL-TV; it is Philadelphia's second-oldest television station. The first program broadcast on channel 6 was a live remote of a Philadelphia Eagles exhibition game against the Chicago Bears from Franklin Field, followed by an official inaugural program later that evening.
WFIL-TV was originally owned by Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications, publishers of The Philadelphia Inquirer and owners of WFIL radio (560 AM, and 102.1 FM). The WFIL stations were the flagship of the growing communications empire of Triangle Publications, which owned two Philadelphia newspapers (the morning Inquirer and, later, the evening Daily News), periodicals including TV Guide, Seventeen and the Daily Racing Form, and a broadcasting group that would grow to ten radio and six television stations. WFIL radio had been an ABC radio affiliate dating back to the network's existence as the NBC Blue Network. However, WFIL-TV started out carrying programming from the DuMont Television Network, as ABC had not yet ventured into broadcast television. When the ABC television network debuted on April 19, 1948, WFIL-TV became its first affiliate. Channel 6 joined ABC before the network's first owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City (now WABC-TV), signed on in August of that year. However, it retained a secondary affiliation with DuMont until that network shut down in 1956.
The WFIL radio stations originally broadcast from the Widener Building in downtown Philadelphia. With the anticipated arrival of WFIL-TV, Triangle secured a new facility for the stations, located at Market and 46th streets, which opened in 1947. In 1963, Triangle built one of the most advanced broadcast centers in the nation on City (or City Line) Avenue in the Wynnefield Heights community, in a circular building across from rival WCAU-TV (channel 10). The station still broadcasts from the facility today, even as a new digital media building was constructed that now houses production of the station's newscasts and other local programs, while the original studio was turned over to public broadcaster WHYY-FM-TV.
Channel 6 has a long history of producing local programs. On March 26, 1948, it aired a production of "Parsifal" from the John Wanamaker Store that featured Bruno Walter conducting 50 players from the Philadelphia Orchestra, a chorus of 300, and the Wanamaker Organ. Perhaps its most notable local production was Bandstand, which began in 1952 and originated from WFIL-TV's newly constructed Studio B (located in the 1952 addition to the 46th and Market studio). In 1957, ABC added the program as part of its weekday afternoon network lineup and renamed it American Bandstand to reflect its more widespread broadcast scope and would air until 1989.
Other well-known locally produced shows included the children's programs Captain Noah and His Magical Ark; a cartoon show hosted by Sally Starr; and Chief Halftown (whose host, Traynor Ora Halftown, was a full-blooded member of the Seneca Nation), and two variety programs: The Al Alberts Showcase, a talent show emceed by the lead singer of The Four Aces; and The Larry Ferrari Show, on which the host played organ versions of both popular and religious music. WFIL-TV also produced an early, yet long-running, program on adult literacy, Operation Alphabet. One of its earliest local series was Let's Pop the Question, from 1947 to 1948.
Channel 6 was the first station to sign on from the Roxborough neighborhood. It originally transmitted from a 600-foot (183 m) tower, but in 1957, it moved to a new 1,100-foot (335 m) tower, which it co-owned with NBC-owned WRCV-TV (channel 3, now CBS owned-and-operated station KYW-TV). The new tower added much of Delaware and the Lehigh Valley to the station's city-grade coverage. WFIL-TV was also one of the first TV stations in Philadelphia to broadcast local color.
In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a rule barring companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market. However, the agency "grandfathered" several existing newspaper and broadcasting cross-combinations in several markets. Triangle asked the FCC to grandfather its cluster of the Inquirer, the Daily News and WFIL-AM-FM-TV, but was turned down. As a result, in 1969, one year after the new regulation was made official, Triangle sold the Inquirer and the Daily News to Knight Newspapers (later renamed Knight Ridder).
In 1970, the FCC forced Triangle to sell off its broadcasting properties due to protests from then-Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp. Shapp complained that Triangle had used its three Pennsylvania television stations—WFIL-TV, WLYH-TV in Lebanon and WFBG-TV (now WTAJ-TV) in Altoona—in a smear campaign against him. The WFIL stations, along with radio-television combinations in New Haven, Connecticut and Fresno, California, were sold to Capital Cities Communications. As a condition of the sale, Capital Cities had to spin off the radio stations to other entities – in Philadelphia, WFIL-FM (now WIOQ) was sold to its general manager John Richer, and WFIL radio went to LIN Broadcasting. On May 1, 1971, shortly after the sale was approved and Capital Cities took control of channel 6, WFIL-TV changed its call letters to the current WPVI-TV.
Despite the ownership change, channel 6 continued preempting ABC programming in favor of locally produced and syndicated shows. In January 1975, when ABC entered the morning news field with AM America, WPVI chose not to carry the second hour of the program in favor of continuing Captain Noah and His Magical Ark at 8:00 a.m.; in response to viewer complaints, the station later moved Captain Noah to 7:00 a.m., with the one hour of AM America shifting to a tape-delay at 8:30. When AM America's successor, Good Morning America premiered in November 1975, WPVI-TV aired only one hour at 9:00 a.m. on tape. With the arrival of Donahue in January 1976, the station began clearing the first hour live at 7:00, with Captain Noah following at 8:00. Channel 6 began carrying both hours of GMA live in September 1978; Captain Noah was moved to weekends and remained there for the remainder of its run.
WPVI-TV also did not run other ABC daytime programs, notably The Edge of Night and numerous sitcom reruns. ABC was able to get most of its daytime schedule on the air in Philadelphia anyway through contracts with independent stations WKBS-TV (channel 48) and WTAF-TV (channel 29).
In March 1985, Capital Cities Communications announced it was purchasing ABC, a move that stunned the broadcast industry since ABC was some four times larger than Capital Cities at the time. Some have said that Capital Cities was only able to pull off the deal because WPVI-TV, the company's flagship property, had become very profitable in its own right. However, before the merger could be completed, Capital Cities was required to sell channel 6 and its sister station, WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut, as both stations had a large signal overlap with network flagship WABC-TV. In the FCC's view, the merger gave the new company a de facto duopoly prohibited by the regulations of the time—the same "one-to-a-market" rule that forced Triangle to split its newspaper/broadcast combination in Philadelphia many years earlier. Capital Cities sought a waiver of the rules to keep WPVI, citing CBS' then-ownership of WCAU-TV locally in Philadelphia and WCBS-TV in New York. The FCC granted the waiver, and when the transaction was finalized in early 1986, WPVI-TV became an ABC owned-and-operated station. Nearly a decade later, in 1995, Capital Cities/ABC merged with MCA Inc., and renamed itself ABC/Universal.
Even in the years after WPVI became an ABC-owned station, it continued to preempt an hour of ABC daytime programs in favor of other programs. Wildwood, New Jersey-based NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (channel 40) picked up the pre-empted ABC shows until 1987, when those programs moved back to channel 29, which was now WTXF-TV. The preempted programs were usually magazine shows, game shows or reruns of ABC primetime sitcoms. By the early 1990s, WPVI preempted only the first half-hour of The Home Show.
On January 22, 1987, the station partially rebroadcast the suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer—which had occurred at a press conference earlier that morning—during its noon newscast.
In 1997, per a directive from the new ABC/Universal ownership, WPVI-TV began carrying the entire ABC network schedule for the first time in the station's history with the network. It came at the expense of its highly rated local talk show, AM/Live (formerly AM/Philadelphia), which was shifted to an overnight timeslot to make room for ABC's then-new talk show The View. AM/Live was moved to 12:35 a.m. following Politically Incorrect and was renamed Philly After Midnight, where it lasted until 2001.
As a Fox stationEdit
On May 4, 2001, Fox Television Stations entered into an agreement to purchase WPVI from ABC/Universal; the sale was finalized on September 10th of that year. Tired of running a station on the UHF dial, Fox sold WTXF to the E. W. Scripps Company, and jumped at the chance to affiliate with a VHF station. The affiliation swap, named Fox's biggest jump, occurred on December 11, 2001. As a result, this marked the end of WPVI's 53-year affiliation with ABC, which moved to WTXF that same day.
The switch to Fox also made WPVI the effective "home" station of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Through Fox's broadacast rights to the National Football Conference (NFC), where the Eagles play, WPVI airs most Eagles regular-season games.