An independent station is television terminology used to describe a television station broadcasting in the United States or Canada that is not affiliated with any network . Some consider Fox, The CW, and MyNetworkTV affiliates quasi independent stations due to the fact these networks only offer several hours a day of programming.
During the 1950s and 1960s, these stations would fill their broadcast hours with programming such as movies, sports, cartoons, newsreels, filmed travelogues , and some locally-produced programs, including newscasts. Independents on the air during this period would begin their broadcasting day (sign-on) at times later than network-affiliated stations, some in the middle of the morning.
A newer source of programming became available to independent stations by the middle 1960s: re-broadcasts (reruns) of network programs which, after completing their initial runs, were sold into syndication .
By the start of the 1970s, the standard format many independents followed was this: children's programming in the morning and afternoon, and movies and other adult-oriented shows (some stations aired paid religious programs) during middays. Independents would counter-program the local network stations with syndicated reruns, usually situation comedies (sitcoms)
and hour-long dramas, in the early evening (while network stations aired local and national news), and movies during primetime and late-night hours. In some areas, independents would carry network programs that were not aired on a local affiliate.
and others), independent stations benefited from a Federal Communications Commission ruling barring network-affiliated stations within the top fifty television markets from airing off-network programs in the two hours preceding prime time. Known as the "Prime Time Access Rule", this guideline was in effect from 1971 until 1995, and as a result, syndicated reruns became more readily available to independents.
In the 1980s, television syndicators started to offer original, first-run programming, and independent stations were the primary beneficiaries of this trend. Independents would schedule first-run programs during primetime and on weekends. Some stations in larger markets even ventured into local news broadcasts, usually at the earlier time of 10:00 p.m. in the Eastern
and Pacific time zones, and 9:00 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones. Network stations aired their late newscasts an hour later.
The independent station roster in the United States once numbered more than three-hundred in the mid-1980s. Many of these stations belonged to the Association of Independent Television Stations (INTV) (), a group similar to the National Association of Broadcasters, and which lobbied the FCC on behalf of the cause of the independent.
In the United States, several independent stations were commonly-owned. Companies that operated three or more independents included:
- Chris-Craft Industries, and its subsidiary United Television
- Christian Broadcasting Network
- Clear Channel Communications
- Cox Enterprises
- Gaylord Broadcasting
In 1986, several independents, led by the Metromedia stations, formed the Fox Broadcasting Company, the fourth U.S. television service. Many Fox Affiliates, however, considered themselves independent stations due to the fact Fox only programmed several hours of shows a day leaving over 20 hours daily for syndicated shows. To this day Fox only offers two hours of programming on weekdays and 6 hours a day on weekends.
Nine years later, in 1995, other stations joined together to create the WB and UPN networks, and other smaller stations banded together for the Pax (now ION Television) network in 1998. As a result, and in addition to changing programming trends, the true independent station has become a rare breed. Still, such stations are considered quasi-independent stations due to the fact they program far more hours a day than an affiliate of NBC, ABC, or CBS.
Current independents follow a much different program format than their predecessors: while sitcoms are still popular, children's shows and movies, once independent staples, have been replaced by expanded newscasts, other syndicated product such as talk shows and courtroom shows, and paid programs such as infomercials (program-length commercials) and Christian religious programs. Several stations affiliated with the WB and UPN became independent again when those services merged to form the CW Television Network in September 2006. Some of the newly-independent stations subsequently found a new network home through a venture launched by Fox called My Network TV.
A list of notable U.S. independent stations, past and present
(a partial listing; bold text denotes a current independent station)
- Albany/Schenectady/Troy, N.Y.: WXXA-TV
- Atlanta: WJRJ-TV/WTCG/WTBS/WPCH-TV, WGNX, WATL-TV, WVEU, WHOT
- Austin, Texas: KBVO
- Baltimore: WBFF, WNUV-TV
- Birmingham, Alabama: WTTO, WABM
- Boston: WSBK-TV, WLVI-TV, WXNE-TV, WSMW-TV/WHLL, WQTV, WNDS/WZMY-TV
- Buffalo, New York: WUTV, WNLO, WNGS, WNYO-TV
- Charlotte: WAXN-TV, WCCB, WJZY, WRET-TV, WHKY-TV
- Chicago: WGN-TV, WFLD-TV, WSNS-TV, WCIU-TV, WPWR-TV, WGBO-TV
- Cincinnati: WXIX-TV, WIII-TV/WSTR-TV
- Cleveland/Akron: WUAB, WBNX-TV, WKBF-TV/WCLQ, WOIO
- Columbus, Ohio: WTTE, WWAT
- Dallas/Fort Worth: KDFI-TV, KTVT, KTXA, KXTX-TV, KFWD, KRLD-TV, KSTR, KLDT
- Dayton, Ohio: WRGT-TV
- Detroit: WKBD-TV, WXON, WGPR-TV, WADL-TV
- Denver: KWGN-TV, KDVR, KTVD
- Des Moines: KCBR/KDSM-TV
- Fresno/Visalia: KMPH, KAIL
- Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek: WXMI
- Green Bay/Appleton WXGZ/WACY, WGBA
- Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point: WGNN-TV/WJTM/WNRW-TV, WGGT
- Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville: WAXA/WFBC-TV, WGGS-TV, WHNS, WASV-TV, WNEG-TV
- Harrisburg/Lancaster/York: WPMT
- Hartford/New Haven: WHCT, WTXX, WTIC-TV, WTVU, WTWS
- Houston: KHTV, KRIV-TV, KTXH, KNWS-TV
- Honolulu: KIKU-TV/KHNL, KFVE
- Indianapolis: WTTV, WXIN, WMCC-TV
- Jacksonville: WAWS, WJXT, WNFT
- Kansas City, Missouri: KBMA-TV/KSHB-TV, KZKC/KSMO-TV KMCI-TV
- Lafayette, Louisiana: KADN
- Las Vegas: KVVU-TV, KVMY-TV, KVCW-TV
- Louisville: WDRB-TV
- Los Angeles: KTLA, KHJ-TV/KCAL-TV, KTTV, KCOP, KWHY-TV, KDOC-TV
- Memphis: WPTY-TV, WMKW-TV/WLMT
- Miami/Fort Lauderdale: WCIX, WBFS-TV, WDZL, WAMI-TV, WKID
- Milwaukee: WVTV, WCGV-TV, WDJT-TV, WMLW-CA
- Minneapolis/Saint Paul: WTCN-TV, KMSP-TV, KITN-TV, KSTC-TV, KTMA/KLGT
- Mobile/Pensacola: WPMI, WJTC
- Nashville: WZTV, WCAY-TV/WXMT
- New Orleans: WGNO, WNOL-TV
- New York City: WNEW-TV, WOR-TV/WWOR-TV, WPIX, WATV/WNTA-TV, WLIG/WLNY
- Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News: WYAH-TV/WGNT, WTVZ, WVBT, WSKY-TV
- Oklahoma City: KOKH-TV, KAUT-TV, KGMC
- Orlando/Daytona Beach: WOFL, WKCF, WRBW, WRDQ
- Philadelphia: WPHL-TV, WTAF-TV, WKBS-TV/WGTW-TV, WGBS-TV, WYBE-TV, WFMZ-TV
- Phoenix: KPHO-TV, KNXV-TV, KUTP, KTVK, KUSK/KAZT-TV
- Pittsburgh: WPGH-TV, WPTT, WBGN
- Portland, Oregon: KPTV, KPDX, KUTF
- Providence/New Bedford: WNAC-TV
- Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville: WLFL-TV, WKFT, WYED-TV
- Richmond, Virginia: WRLH-TV, WZXK
- Rochester, New York: WUHF
- Sacramento/Stockton: KTXL, KMUV/KRBK, KSCH, KBFT
- Saint Louis: KPLR-TV, KDNL-TV
- Salt Lake City: KSTU, KAZG/KPNZ, KJZZ-TV
- San Antonio: KCOR-TV/KUAL-TV, KABB
- San Diego: KCST-TV, XETV, KUSI-TV, KTTY
- San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose: KRON-TV, KTVU, KBHK-TV, KGSC-TV/KICU-TV, KEMO/KTZO/KOFY-TV/KBWB, KFTY, KTVJ
- San Juan, Puerto Rico: WAPA-TV, WLII
- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: WOLF-TV
- Seattle/Tacoma: KTNT-TV/KSTW, KMO-TV/KTVW/KCPQ, KVOS-TV, KONG-TV, KTZZ
- Spokane, Washington: KAYU-TV
- Tampa/Saint Petersburg: WTOG-TV, WTTA, WMOR-TV, WFTS
- Toledo, Ohio: WUPW
- Tucson, Arizona: KZAZ/KMSB-TV
- Washington, D.C.: WTTG, WDCA-TV, WFTY, WJAL
- West Palm Beach: WFLX, WTVX, WHDT
A list of notable Canadian independent stations, past and present
While independent stations were not as common in Canada, there were several notable examples of such:
- Barrie, Ontario: CKVR-TV
- Calgary-Lethbridge: CFAC/CICT-CISA-TV
- Edmonton: CITV-TV
- Halifax: CIHF-TV
- Hamilton: CHCH-TV
- London, Ontario: CFPL-TV
- Pembroke-Ottawa: CHRO-TV
- St. Johns, Nfld.: CJON-TV
- Toronto: CITY-TV, CKXT, CFMT, CJMT
- Winnipeg: CKND-TV, CHMI-TV, CIIT-TV
- Wingham, Ontario: CKNX-TV
- Vancouver: CKVU, CIVT, CHNM-TV, CHNU-TV
Since the mid-1990s, independent television stations in Canada have mostly been merged into television systems, such as Citytv, E! (formerly CH), OMNI and A-Channel, or have become fully owned-and-operated network stations.
As of 2007, Toronto's CKXT is the only television station in Canada currently operating as an independent station in the American sense of the term. CJON-TV in St. John's, while officially unaffiliated with a network, in practice airs a mix of programming sublicensed from Canada's commercial networks rather than purchasing broadcast rights independently. CHNM-TV in Vancouver is a multilingual station which was recently purchased by Rogers Media, having received CRTC
approval. It is expected to join the OMNI system in the fall of 2008.
The independent stations that do still exist in Canada are mostly community-oriented
specialty stations, such as CFTV-TV in Leamington, Ontario, CFTU-TV in Montreal, and CHCT-TV in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, which do not target a general entertainment audience.