Radio-TV Broadcast History

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Chicago, Illinois
Branding ABC 7 Chicago (general)

ABC 7 News (newscasts)

Slogan People Make the Difference

Chicago's #1 News Your News. Your Way.

Channels Digital: 44 (UHF)

Virtual: 7 (PSIP)

Subchannels (see article)
Translators 7 (VHF) Chicago
Affiliations ABC
Owner Disney/ABC

(WLS Television, Inc.)

First air date September 17, 1948
Call letters' meaning World's

Largest Store (reflecting its sister radio station's past ownership by Sears)

Former callsigns Analog:

WENR-TV (1948–1953) WBKB (1953–1968) WLS-TV (1968–2009) Digital: WLS-DT (1996–2009)

Former channel number(s) Analog:

7 (1948–2009) Digital: 52 (1996–2009) 7 (6/12/2009–10/31/09)

Transmitter power 346 kW
Height 475 m
Facility ID 73226
Transmitter coordinates 41°52′44″N 87°38′8″W / 41.87889°N 87.63556°W / 41.87889; -87.63556


[hide]*1 History

  • 2 Digital television
  • 3 Programming
    • 3.1 Station oddities
    • 3.2 Syndicated programming produced in Chicago
    • 3.3 Other WLS-TV produced programs
  • 4 News operations
    • 4.1 News/station presentation
      • 4.1.1 Newscast titles
      • 4.1.2 Station slogans
      • 4.1.3 News music packages
    • 4.2 On-air staff
      • 4.2.1 Current on-air staff
      • 4.2.2 News directors
      • 4.2.3 Notable former on-air staff
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The station first went on the air as the third TV station in Chicago (after WBKB-TV which later became WBBM-TV and WGN-TV) on September 17, 1948 as WENR-TV. It was named after WENR-AM, ABC's Chicago radio affiliate. As one of the original ABC-owned stations on channel 7, it was the second station after WABC-TV in New York City to begin operations, ahead of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, KGO-TV in San Francisco and KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

In 1953, ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, the former theater division of Paramount Pictures. UPT owned WBKB on channel 4 (which shared a CBS affiliation with WGN-TV) but the new ABC could not keep both, because of Federal Communications Commission regulations at that time. As a result, WBKB was sold to CBS and renamed WBBM-TV; while WENR was renamed WBKB-TV. The old WBKB's talent stayed at WBBM (which moved to channel 2), while the old WBKB's call letters and management moved to channel 7.

The general manager from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s was Sterling "Red" Quinlan,[2] who was a giant in early Chicago television. He was instrumental in the careers of Tom Duggan, Frank Reynolds, and Bob Newhart. The station courageously aired The Tom Duggan Show in the mid-1950s, which was the most popular show in Chicago far out drawing other network competition. The station became WLS-TV on October 7, 1968,[1] after WLS-AM, which ABC had owned since 1959. Today, the WBKB-TV calls are used by a CBS affiliate in Alpena, Michigan.

WLS-TV had claimed to be "Chicago's first television station" in sign-ons in the 1980s [2](implying a connection with the original WBKB on channel 4,) but admitted to its true roots with WENR with its 60th anniversary in 2008. [3]

Digital television[]

WLS-TV's operation is multiplexed:




RF Channel





Name Programming
7.1 44.1 720p 16:9 WLS-DT Main WLS-TV programming/ABC HD
7.2 44.2 720p 16:9 Livwell Live Well HD Network
7.3 44.3 480i 4:3 WLS-SD ABC 7 News Now/The Local AccuWeather Channel

Upon completion of the digital transition, WLS officially transferred the "WLS-TV" legal callsign from the now-defunct analog channel 7 to the original post-transition digital television channel 7, and discontinued the "WLS-DT" callsign. In late 2009, after moving full-power digital operations to UHF channel 44, the "WLS-TV" callsign was moved to channel 44. Even though WLS-TV converted VHF channel 7 into a digital fill-in translator and it is a LD facility (-LD meaning "Low-power Digital"), it uses the same call letters and suffix like their main full power facility. However, the PSIP identifier for WLS-TV's virtual channels still continues to identify the station as "WLS-DT."

After the digital transition on June 12, 2009, WLS moved from out-of-core UHF Channel 52 to their pre-analog VHF channel 7 for their digital operations. WLS operated their digital signal at low power (4.75 kW) to protect the digital signal of WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan (which also broadcasts on channel 7, but with much higher power). As a result, many viewers were not able to receive the station.[4] The FCC sent extra personnel to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City to deal with difficulties in those cities. WLS had received 1,735 calls just by the end of the day on June 12 (WBBM only received 600), and an estimated 5000 calls in total by June 16.

WLS-TV was just one station which needed to increase its signal strength or move its frequency to solve its problems, but a power increase required making sure no other stations were affected.[5] WLS received a two-week experimental permit for a power increase late in June.[6] WLS had also applied for a permit to construct a low-power fill-in digital translator station on UHF channel 32, (the former analog frequency of WFLD)[7] but abandoned that plan (the channel 32 RF frequency has since been claimed by WMEU-LD). Eventually the FCC granted it a permit to transmit on a second frequency, Channel 44,[8] formerly occupied by WSNS-TV, and WLS announced the availability of that frequency on October 31, 2009. [9]

As of June 2010, WLS is operating both channels 7 & 44 from their auxiliary transmitting facilites at the John Hancock Center under an extenstion of an existing STA, while construction continues of its maximized facilities at the Willis Tower.[10] WLS is operating channel 7 as a fill-in translator with a power of 7 kW [11] & operating their full power operations on channel 44 with a power of 1 MW.[12] Through PSIP technology, both operating frequencies are re-mapped and displayed as virtual channel 7, which would cause some digital tuners to have two versions of virtual channels 7.1, 7.2 & 7.3, while tuning sequencially. WLS-TV is expected to operate channel 44 at the 473.3 kW power level from the Willis Tower in the near future.[13] [14]

Since WLS-TV officially moved their full power operations to channel 44, it is the only ABC O&O to vacate its former analog allotment for its digital operations and the second ABC O&O to operate its full power operations on the UHF band, after KFSN-TV.


Station oddities[]

WLS-TV airs Jimmy Kimmel Live! in a one-hour delay at 12:07 a.m. instead of 11:07 p.m. due to airing the re-broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show after Nightline. It is also the only ABC owned-and-operated station not to air Live with Regis and Kelly, with the WABC-TV-produced show on WGN-TV instead.[15]

Syndicated programming produced in Chicago[]

  • The Oprah Winfrey Show - former A.M. Chicago 9am local program, retained name about one year after Oprah Winfrey became host - originally created by WLS-TV, but now produced by Harpo Productions and CBS Television Distribution at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios
    • Weekdays 9 a.m., reruns Weeknights 11:07 p.m.
  • At the Movies - nationally syndicated film review program, produced at WLS-TV's studios, and syndicated by Disney-ABC Domestic Television
    • Saturdays 10:35 p.m. (airs later during the fall season), reruns Sundays 10:30 a.m. (11 a.m. during the fall season)

Other WLS-TV produced programs[]

  • 190 North - local life style program named after the station's studio address at 190 N. State St. in the Loop - began broadcasting in HD on Sunday, May 6, 2007
    • Sundays 10:35 p.m., reruns Saturdays 11:05 p.m. (airs later during the fall season)
  • Chicagoing - local public affairs program
    • Sundays 11 a.m. (11:30 a.m. during the fall season)
  • The Chicago Huddle - local sports program about the Chicago Bears hosted by Ryan Chiaverini [16]
    • Sundays 10:30 a.m. (during football season)
  • Let's Dish, for the Live Well HD Network[17]
    • Shown locally on Channel 7.2.[18]

News operations[]

WLS, like the other ABC owned-and-operated stations, adopted the Eyewitness News format in the late 1960s after it became a hit at flagship WABC-TV in New York. Fahey Flynn, a local broadcaster known for his bow ties and Joel Daly served as the anchormen of the newscasts from the mid 1960s until the early 1980s. In 1973, Eyewitness News surpassed WMAQ-TV to become Chicago's top-rated new operation, a lead it held until WBBM-TV surpassed it in 1979. For much of the 1970s and 1980s, it waged a spirited battle for second place in the Chicago news ratings. WLS-TV's ABC 7 News opening.By 1983, a disastrous anchor change had dropped WLS into third place. That prompted two major changes. First was the hiring of Dennis Swanson as General Manager, who in turn, hired Bill Applegate as News Director. Secondly, ABC commissioned Frank Gari to write an updated version of the Cool Hand Luke theme widely associated with the Eyewitness News format. The result was News Series 2000, which was quickly picked up by the other ABC O&Os.

Swanson was instrumental in hiring Oprah Winfrey to host its then low-rated morning talk show, "AM Chicago," in 1983. Within a year, it had shot to first place. It was picked up nationally in 1986 and renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. Channel 7 still airs it today, along with most other ABC O&Os. Swanson also hired lead anchor John Drury, who had previously worked at WLS, WBBM and WGN-TV and Floyd Kalber, who had led WMAQ-TV to the top of the ratings in the 1960s.

Drury and Mary Ann Childers were a popular anchor team at WLS during the 1980s and 1990s, accompanied by weatherman Steve Deshler and sportscaster Tim Weigel. In March 1986, WLS passed WBBM as the highest-rated news station in Chicago. It has held the lead ever since, aside from a brief period when WBBM managed to forge a tie for first. WLS-TV's State Street Studio Sign, c. 2007.As of 1996, the station currently brands its newscast as "ABC7 News" even though it still uses the same basic format from its Eyewitness News days. The station has been using its current news music package, News Series 2000 Plus by Frank Gari since 1992. It also updated the on-air graphics for its newscasts on Saturday, June 3, 2005.

The new State Street Studio officially debuted Monday, April 10, 2006 during the station's morning newscast, but it started broadcasting its newscast from the new studio on Saturday, April 8, 2006.[19] On the weekend of April 29-30, 2006, WLS-TV began using Chopper 7 HD. On Saturday, January 6, 2007, WLS-TV became the first Chicago station to broadcast its entire news and local programming in high definition.

On Sunday, December 23, 2007, the State Street Studio became breaking news when a minivan drove through a reinforced studio window two minutes into the 10 p.m. newscast, startling anchor Ravi Baichwal on air and creating a 20° draft, but injuring no one.[20]

News/station presentation[]

Newscast titles[]

  • Tomorrow's News Tonight (early 1950s)
  • Channel 7 News (mid-late 1950s)
  • Flynn-Daly News (early 1960s)
  • Flynn-Daly Eyewitness News (mid 1960s)
  • Channel 7 Eyewitness News (late 1960s-1996)
  • ABC7 News (1996-2013)
  • ABC7 Eyewitness News (2013-present)

Station slogans[]

  • 7's On Your Side (1980-1983)
  • 7's On The Move (1984-1985)
  • The Chicago Area's Leading News (late 1980s-1991)
  • Chicago's #1 News (1991-present)
  • People Make the Difference (2000-present)
  • Your News. Your Way. (2008-present)
This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.====News music packages====
  • Cool Hand Luke: The Tar Sequence by Lalo Schifrin (1969-1980)
  • On Your Side by Gari Communications (1980-1983)
  • News Series 2000 by Gari Communications (1983-1992)
  • News Series 2000 Plus by Gari Communications (1992-present)
  • First News by Gari Communications (2001-present)

On-air staff[]

Current on-air staff[]


  • Stacey Baca - weekend mornings; also weekday field reporter
  • Ravi Baichwal - weekend evenings; also weekday field reporter
  • Kathy Brock - weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Cheryl Burton - weeknights at 5 p.m.
  • Judy Hsu - weekday mornings; also field reporter
  • Karen Jordan - weekend evenings; also weekday field reporter
  • Alan Krashesky - weekdays at 4 and 6 p.m.; also host of "NewsViews"
  • Ron Magers - weeknights at 5 and 10 p.m.
  • Sylvia Perez - weekdays at 11 a.m.; also "Healthbeat" reporter
  • Hosea Sanders - weekday mornings; also field reporter
  • Linda Yu - weekdays at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

ABC 7 MetroVision Weather

  • Jerry Taft (AMS Seal of Approval) - Chief Meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Mark Bishop (AMS Seal of Approval) - Meteorologist; Saturday mornings
  • Tracy Butler (AMS/NWA Seals of Approval) - Meteorologist; weekday mornings and 11 a.m.
  • Mike Caplan - Weather Anchor; weekdays at 4 p.m.
  • Phil Schwarz (AMS Seal of Approval) - Meteorologist; Sunday mornings and weekend evenings

Sports Team

  • Mark Giangreco - Sports Director; weeknights at 5 and 10 p.m.
  • Ryan Chiaverini - Sports Anchor; weekend evenings; also sports reporter and host of the "Chicago Huddle"
  • Jim Rose - Sports Anchor; weekdays at 4 and 6 p.m.


  • Roz Varon - weekday mornings
  • Thom Johnson - weekday morning fill-in


  • Ben Bradley - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Steve Dolinksy - food reporter
  • Michelle Gallardo - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • John Garcia - general assignment reporter
  • Chuck Goudie - chief investigative reporter
  • Evelyn Holmes - general assignment reporter
  • Leah Hope - general assignment reporter
  • Jason Knowles - general assignment reporter
  • Frank Mathie - feature reporter
  • Paul Meincke - general assignment reporter
  • Karen Meyer - disablilty issues reporter
  • Sarah Schulte - general assignment reporter
  • Charles Thomas - political reporter

Local Program Hosts

  • Michelle Alegria - "190 North" contributor
  • Doug Banks - "190 North" contributor
  • Bill Campbell - "Chicagoing" host
  • Janet Davies - "190 North" host; also features and entertainment reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Theresa Gutierrez - "The ñ Beat" host; also weekday field reporter
  • Mark Nilsson - "190 North" contributor

News directors[]

  • Phyllis Schwartz (1993-1998)
  • Eric Lerner (1999-2001)
  • Jennifer Graves (2001-present)
This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.====Notable former on-air staff====
  • Mike Adamle - sports anchor (1983-1988, later at WBBM-TV, now at WMAQ-TV)
  • Diane B. Allen - anchor/reporter (1979-1982)
  • Jim Avila - reporter (1980-1984)
  • Roberta Baskin - investigative reporter (1980-1984)
  • Diann Burns - anchor/reporter (1985-2003, later at WBBM-TV, now host of Next TV)
  • Jann Carl - reporter (1983-1984, later at Entertainment Tonight)
  • Mary Ann Childers - anchor/reporter (1980-1994, later at WBBM-TV, now Senior Consultant at Res Publica Group)
  • Lauren Cohn - anchor/reporter (1994-1998, later at WBBM-TV and WFLD-TV)
  • John Coleman - longtime meteorologist (1968-1979)
  • Joel Daly (longtime anchor from 1967-2005, also part-time legal contributor 2005-2007, now retired)
  • John Drury - anchor (1970-1979 and 1984-2002, deceased)
  • Tom Duggan - talk show/mob basher (1954-1956, deceased)
  • Steve Edwards - A.M. Chicago host (1975-1978), now host of Good Day LA at KTTV in Los Angeles
  • Fahey Flynn - anchor (1968-1983, deceased)
  • Judie Garcia - anchor/reporter (1996-2001, later at WBBM-TV, now at WGN-TV)
  • Mike Jackson - anchor/reporter (1983-1989)
  • Rob Johnson - weekend anchor/reporter (1998-2006, now at WBBM-TV)
  • Jack Jones (1980-1984, deceased)
  • Floyd Kalber - anchor (1984-1998, deceased)
  • Al Lerner - sports anchor (1978-1984)
  • Kent Ninomiya - reporter (1993-1998)
  • Mike Nolan - sports anchor (1975-1978)
  • Brad Palmer - sports reporter/anchor (1985-2006)
  • Kim Peterson - anchor/reporter (1979-1982)
  • Frank Reynolds - anchor/reporter (early 1960s?-1967, later at ABC News, deceased)
  • Charlie Rose - A.M. Chicago host (1978-1979), now host of his own self-titled late-night talk show on PBS
  • Jim Rosenfield - anchor/reporter (1989-1998)
  • Tim Ryan - reporter (1983-1989)
  • Warner Saunders - host of For Blacks Only (1965-1972, later at WBBM-TV and WMAQ-TV)
  • Mark Schanowski - sports anchor/reporter (1990-1998, now at Comcast Sportsnet Chicago)
  • Jack Smith - reporter (1970-1976, later at ABC News, deceased)
  • Tim Weigel - sports anchor/short time anchorman (1977-1994, later at WBBM-TV, deceased)
  • Oprah Winfrey - anchor/host of A.M. Chicago, which evolved into her current program (1984-1988)
  • Robb Weller - A.M. Chicago host (1980-1983, later co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight)
  • Larry Yellen - reporter/producer (1982-1993 now at WFLD-TV)

See also[]

  • WLS (AM)
  • Circle 7 logo
  • Eyewitness News


  1. ^ Television News section, Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1968.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Eggerton, John (2009-06-17). "Weigel's Analog Nightlight Could Help Chicago Stations With Reception Issues". Broadcasting & Cable.
  5. ^ Wong, Wailin (2009-06-17). "DTV Transition Problems Linger; FCC Beefs Up Role". Chicago Tribune.,0,5744081.story.
  6. ^ Eggerton, John (2009-06-29). "Boise Station Gets Power Boost". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "ABC7 is adding a DTV frequency; UHF frequency should help reception". October 31, 2009.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Live Well HD Network debuts". April, 2009.
  18. ^ "TV Schedule for Chicago, Illinois". Live Well HD Network.
  19. ^ ABC7 Unveils State Street Studio, ABC 7 Chicago, April 25, 2006
  20. ^ YouTube - WLS-TV Studio Car Crash

External links[]