Radio-TV Broadcast History

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WPVI-TV, channel 6, is a television station that is owned-and-operated by the Walt Disney Company-owned American Broadcasting Company. It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. WPVI has its studios located on the border between Philadelphia and Bala Cynwyd, and its transmitter is located in the Roxborough neighborhood. WPVI's signal covers the Delaware Valley area, comprising large portions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Branding 6ABC (general)

Channel 6 Action News (newscasts)

Slogan The Delaware Valley's Leading News Program
Channels Digital: 6 (VHF)

Virtual: 6 (PSIP)

Subchannels (see article)
Affiliations ABC
Owner Disney/ABC

(ABC, Inc.)

First air date September 13, 1947
Call letters' meaning Philadelphia

VI (6 in Roman Numerals)

Former callsigns WFIL-TV (1947-1971)
Former channel number(s) Analog:

6 (VHF, 1947-2009) Digital: 64 (UHF, 1997-2009)

Former affiliations DuMont (1947-1956, secondary from 1948)
Transmitter power 30 kW
Height 332 m
Facility ID 8616
Transmitter coordinates 40°2′39″N 75°14′26″W / 40.04417°N 75.24056°W / 40.04417; -75.24056



Philadelphia's second-oldest television station signed on the air on September 13, 1947 as WFIL-TV. It was owned originally by Triangle Publications, publishers of The Philadelphia Inquirer, along with WFIL radio (560 AM) and WFIL-FM (102.1 FM, now WIOQ).

WFIL radio had been an ABC radio affiliate dating back to ABC's days as the Blue Network. However, WFIL-TV started out as a DuMont affiliate, as ABC hadn't gotten into television yet. When ABC launched its television network on April 19, 1948; WFIL-TV became the fledgling network's first affiliate. Ironically, 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. However, it retained a secondary affiliation with DuMont until DuMont shut down in 1956.

[2][3]WFIL-TV logo card, circa 1957.The WFIL stations were the flagship of the growing communications empire of Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications, which owned two Philadelphia newspapers (the morning Inquirer and, later, the evening Philadelphia 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.

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 WFIL, located at Market and 46th streets. In 1963 (according to the WPVI web site) 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. The station still broadcasts from there today even as a new digital media building is finally in use for Action News and other original productions, while the original studio was turned over to public broadcaster WHYY-FM-TV.

Channel 6 has a long history of producing local shows. On Good Friday 1948 it broadcast a production of "Parsifal" from the John Wanamaker Store that featured Bruno Walter 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 original 1947 46th and Market Street studio). In 1957, ABC included the program as part of its weekday-afternoon network lineup and renamed it to reflect its more widespread broadcast – American Bandstand.

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.

Channel 6 was the first station to sign on from the Roxborough neighborhood. It originally used a 600-foot (180 m) tower, but in 1957 it moved to a new 1,100-foot (340 m) tower which it co-owned with NBC-owned WRCV-TV (channel 3, now KYW-TV). The new tower added much of Delaware and the Lehigh Valley to the station's city-grade coverage.


[4][5]WPVI-TV's first ID card, c. 1971. This was the first appearance of the station's current "6" logo. The callsign was rendered with a pipe rather than a hyphen well into the 1980s.In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) barred companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market -- the so-called "one to a market" rule. However, the FCC "grandfathered" several existing newspaper and broadcasting situations in several markets. Triangle approached the FCC for permission to grandfather its combination 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 (later Knight-Ridder) Newspapers.

In 1971, 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.[1] The WFIL stations, along with radio and TV outlets 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 (WFIL radio to LIN Broadcasting and WFIL-FM to Richer Communications, which changed the call letters to WIOQ), and channel 6 changed its call letters to the current WPVI-TV on April 27, 1971.

Despite the ownership change, channel 6 continued preempting ABC programming in favor of locally-produced and syndicated shows. In 1975, when ABC entered the morning news field with AM America, WPVI did not carry it. Nor would channel 6 pick up AM America's successor, Good Morning America, in its entirety for nearly three years, choosing instead to carry Captain Noah and His Magical Ark in place of the second hour of GMA. WPVI-TV also did not run other ABC daytime programming, 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 announced it was purchasing the American Broadcasting Company, a move that stunned the broadcast industry since ABC was some four times larger than CapCities at the time. Some have said that CapCities 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, the merged company almost had to sell off channel 6 due to a large grade B signal overlap with WABC-TV. In the FCC's view, the merger gave the new company a 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 WCBS-TV in New York and WCAU-TV in Philadelphia. The FCC granted the waiver, and when the transaction became final in early 1986, WPVI-TV became an ABC owned-and-operated station. The station was hitherto ABC's longest-tenured affiliate; this distinction went to Baltimore's WJZ-TV and then to Washington, DC's WJLA when WJZ dropped ABC in 1995. A decade later, the Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC.

Even in the years after WPVI became an ABC-owned station, it continued to pre-empt an hour of ABC daytime programs in favor of other programs. Wildwood, New Jersey-based NBC affiliate WMGM-TV picked up the pre-empted ABC shows until 1987, when it moved back to channel 29, which was now WTXF-TV. The pre-empted programs were usually magazine shows, game shows or reruns of ABC primetime sitcoms. Some leeway was made in the early 1990s, when WPVI was down to pre-empting only the first half-hour the Home Show.

It was also after the CapCities-ABC merger that WPVI encountered infamy: On January 22, 1987, the station partially re-broadcasted the suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer on its noon newscast. Dwyer's suicide occurred at a press conference earlier that morning.

In 1997, in a directive from the new Disney ownership, WPVI-TV began carrying the entire ABC network schedule for the first time ever. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of its highly-rated local show, AM/Live (formerly AM Philadelphia), which was shifted to overnights 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.

Today, WPVI carries the entire ABC line-up as well as syndicated programming such as Live with Regis and Kelly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, both of which are provided by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television. It also carries both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. In fact, its entire weekday line-up, including syndicated shows, is identical to that of WABC-TV. Since 1977, WPVI has also been airing the Pennsylvania Lottery live nighttime television drawings which occurs at 6:59 p.m. ET every night and since 2002, the Powerball drawings at 10:59 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

On January 28, 2010, WPVI entered into a multi-year agreement with Major League Soccer expansion team Philadelphia Union through which it will air every non-nationally televised game in HD, and show re-broadcasts of every game on the Live Well HD Network (digital channel 6.2).[2][3]

Digital television[]

WPVI-DT subchannels

Channel Name Programming
6.1 WPVI-TV main WPVI-TV/ABC programming(in HD)
6.2 WPVI-DT2 Live Well HD
6.3 WPVI-DT3 6ABC Weather Now (The Local AccuWeather Channel)

WPVI-TV currently broadcasts on VHF channel 6. Because of the nature of VHF-LO frequencies, WPVI-TV is difficult to tune without an outdoor VHF/UHF antenna. A temporary power increase to 30 kilowatts was granted, with WEDY in New Haven, Connecticut and WRGB in Schenectady, New York having to give their consent. Some viewers did notice an improvement in their signal.[4] Because of potential interference to other stations and to FM radio, there was doubt as to whether this increase could be granted.[5] Three months later, WPVI was still getting complaints.[6]

News operation[]

The station is famous for pioneering the Action News format, which was used by many stations throughout the United States. When WFIL-TV premiered it on April 6, 1970 the format allowed the news program to have more stories than KYW-TV's Eyewitness News due to strict time limits on story packages. Within a few months, the station surged to first place for the first time in its history. It had previously been an also-ran behind KYW-TV and WCAU-TV, as was the case with most ABC affiliates. Despite channel 6's newspaper roots, it was hampered by the fact that ABC was not on par with CBS and NBC until the early 1970s.

In 1970, Channel 6 stole first place in the ratings in Philadelphia. It has dominated the ratings for most of the time ever since, winning virtually every time slot. Its dominance has only been seriously challenged twice—in the 1980s, when WCAU-TV briefly took the lead at 5 p.m.; and in 2001, when WCAU took first place at 11 p.m. for a few months for the first time in decades. Many top executives in ABC's television station group worked at WPVI.

The station's newscast has used the same theme music since 1972, "Move Closer to Your World" by Al Ham. The composition has become as much a part of the Philadelphia consciousness as the Rocky theme and has helped WPVI stay number one in the Delaware Valley for 30 years. The station tried to switch to a fuller, thunderous and authoritative version of the song by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1996, but switched back to the old version after five days of viewer complaints. Also, since the early 1980s, Jeff Kaye (of NFL Films) has announced the familiar open: "Action News, Delaware Valley's leading news program," as well as rejoins and closings. Even through staff announcing changes for the station in general, Kaye had remained the constant voice of Action News. However, as of the mid-2000s, his voice started to show signs of decaying; it got to the point where his newly-recorded opens in late January 2010 were pulled off in less than a week. On June 21, 2010, Kaye was replaced with veteran announcer Charlie Van Dyke, who has been WPVI's station announcer since 2006.

Years of being in the lead have led WPVI to maintain an "if it isn’t broken, don't fix it" mentality. For instance, it has had the same "6" logo since becoming WPVI; the only significant change coming in 1997 when it began calling itself "6ABC" and began placing the ABC "circle" logo inside the "6." It has frequently remastered "Move Closer to Your World" to make it sound less dated.

[6][7]Action News coverage of flooding in Easton, Pennsylvania on June 28, 2006.In recent years, attempts have been made to modernize the newscasts. In 1998, it began downplaying its use of chromakey graphics. The magnet board used for weather forecasts gave way to a video screen in 2000 and a chromakey wall in 2005. On February 13, 2006, Action News debuted a revamped and fully modernized set which includes a glass etching background of several historical landmarks in Philadelphia positioned behind the anchor desk, shiftable lighting effects and a computerized Accu-Weather center. WPVI introduced a new HD-capable helicopter in February 2006. Live shots from the helicopter, officially named Chopper6 HD, were shown in high definition. Furthermore, on July 23, 2006, starting with the 6:00 p.m. broadcast, Action News began broadcasting from its studio in full 720p HDTV. The official announcement was made on July 24. All news cameras on Action News are HD. On September 12, 2009, WPVI debuted another new revamped and fully modernized set. This time, wider than the last set at the original round building, with a bigger newsdesk, AccuWeather center and background of glass sketches of the several historic landmarks in Philadelphia (now adding one of the Comcast Center). It also added a touch-screen video wall, the first for any station in the country.

Most of WPVI's on-air staff have been at the station for ten years; several for twenty years or more. Jim Gardner has been with the station since 1976 and has been main anchor since May 1977, the longest tenure as a main anchor in Philadelphia history. Rob Jennings has been the station's weekend anchor since 1981.

As there is no ABC affiliate or local station based in New Jersey, WPVI cooperates with WABC-TV in the production and broadcast of state-wide New Jersey political debates. When the two stations broadcast a state-wide office debate, such as Governor or U.S. Senate, they will pool resources and have anchors or reporters from both stations participate in the debate. Additionally, the two stations cooperate in the gathering of news in New Jersey where their markets overlap; sharing reporters, live trucks and helicopters.

After the death of long-time sports director Gary Papa, Channel 6 still does not have an official sports director or main sports anchor. Keith Russell (who also anchors the weekend sport segments) and Jamie Apody have been sharing the position of anchoring the sports during weeknight broadcasts. It remains unclear who may become an official replacement to Papa.

News/station presentation[]

Newscast titles[]

  • The RCA Color Newsreel (1958-1960s)
  • WFIL-TV News (1960s-1970)
  • Channel 6 Action News (1970-1971 as WFIL-TV; 1971–present as WPVI-TV)

Station slogans[]

  • Move Closer to Your World (1970s; music still used by its Action News branded newscasts)
  • The Delaware Valley's Leading News Program (1975–present)
  • Hello Philly/Say Hello (1980s; used during period station used Frank Gari's "Hello News" as image campaign)
  • Philadelphia's Watching Channel 6 (1990–1992)
  • More Stories... From More Places. That's Channel 6 Action News. (2009–present)

[8] This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.====Newscast music====

The theme during this period was an original composition by Tom Sellers; commissioned by Mel Kampmann while he was a student at Temple University. (Sellers was later an arranger on such hits as "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation); it was also used by such stations as KTLA in Los Angeles (during anchor George Putnam's second stint there in the early 1970s), WBNG-TV in Binghamton, New York (dating back from its days as Triangle-owned WNBF-TV), WNHC-TV / WTNH-TV in New Haven, Connecticut, and KSTP-TV in Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota. [1]

On-air staff[]

Current on-air staff[]

AccuWeather Team
  • Adam Joseph - Meteorologist; weekends at 6 and 11 p.m., and Monday-Wednesdays at 5 and 6 p.m.
  • Melissa Magee - Weather Anchor; weekend mornings and Sundays at noon
  • David Murphy (AMS Seal of Approval) - Meteorologist; weekday mornings (5-7 a.m.) and noon
  • Karen Rogers (AMS Seal of Approval) - Meteorologist; weekday mornings (5-7 a.m.); also traffic reporter
  • Cecily Tynan (AMS Seal of Approval) - Meteorologist; Thursday-Fridays at 5 and 6 p.m., and weeknights at 5:30 and 11 p.m.
Sports team
  • Jamie Apody - Sports Anchor; weeknights at 6 and 11 p.m.; also sports reporter
  • Keith Russell - Sports Anchor; weekends at 6 and 11 p.m.
  • Jeff Skversky - sports reporter
  • Matt Pellman - reporter, weeknights at 5:00 p.m.
  • Shirleen Allicot - general assignment reporter
  • Amy Buckman - "Saving with 6ABC" reporter/producer
  • Dann Cuellar - general assignment reporter
  • Cathy Gandolfo - New Jersey bureau correspondent
  • Ali Gorman - "HealthCheck" reporter
  • David Henry - general assignment reporter
  • Denise James - general assignment reporter
  • Nora Muchanic - New Jersey bureau correspondent
  • Vernon Odom - general assignment repoter; also host of Visions
  • Erin O'Hearn - general assignment reporter; also "Right Now on the Net" reporter
  • Chad Pradelli - general assignment reporter
  • John Rawlins - general assignment reporter
  • Katherine Scott - general assignment reporter
  • Brian Taff - general assignment reporter
  • Lisa Thomas-Laury - feature reporter

Notable former staff[]

Cable and satellite carriage[]

Outside of the Philadelphia market in central New Jersey, WPVI is carried in southern Middlesex County on Comcast in the municipalities of Plainsboro, South Brunswick, Monroe, Cranbury, Jamesburg, Helmetta, Spotswood, and East Brunswick on Channel 6. Cablevision Monmouth County also carries WPVI on Channel 6 on Cablevision Monmouth and Monmouth/Wall outlets. All of Ocean County carries WPVI on Comcast and Cablevision outlets. Due to a contract dispute with ABC, WPVI was blacked out on March 8, 2010 to Cablevision customers in Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties. Verizon FiOS carries WPVI on Channel 16 in Ocean County and extreme Southern Monmouth county. WPVI is also carried by Comcast in all of New Castle County, Delaware, and some of Kent County. As such, WPVI is significantly viewed in Warren, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

In the Lehigh Valley, WPVI is carried by Service Electric, RCN, and Blue Ridge Communications, which altogether encompasses nearly 1 million people. It can also be seen in Reading and most parts of Berks County.

See also[]


  1. ^ Obituary of Walter Annenberg from Slate
  2. ^ Philadelphia Union To Air on 6ABC - Regional Broadcast Leader Partners with MLS Expansion Club
  3. ^ Union sign local TV deal with Channel 6
  4. ^ Dickson, Glen (2009-06-22). "WPVI Gets Power Boost From FCC". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  5. ^ Grotticelli, Michael (2009-06-22). "DTV Transition Not So Smooth in Some Markets". Broadcast Engineering. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  6. ^ Svensson, Peter (2009-09-18). "Don't change that channel: DTV woes still abound". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-09-23.

External links[]