Radio-TV Broadcast History

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Rockford, Illinois
Branding WTVO Channel 17 (general)

WTVO Channel 17 News (news)

Slogan News Where You Live
Channels Digital: 16 (UHF)

Virtual: 17 (PSIP)

Subchannels 17.1 ABC

17.2 MyNetworkTV

Affiliations American Broadcasting Company
Owner Mission Broadcasting, Inc.

(operated by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc.)

First air date May 3, 1953
Call letters' meaning WinnebagoTeleVision

Organization (Rockford is the county seat of Winnebago County)

Sister station(s) WQRF-TV
Former channel number(s) Analog:

39 (1953-1967) 17 (1967-2009)

Former affiliations NBC (1953-1995)
Transmitter power 196 kW
Height 201 m
Facility ID 72945
Transmitter coordinates 42°17′14″N 89°10′15.4″W / 42.28722°N 89.170944°W / 42.28722; -89.170944

[edit] History[]

WTVO is the oldest television station in the greater Rockford area, and is also the oldest continuously operating UHF station in the northern portion of Illinois. This station went on the air on May 3, 1953 on channel 39, but moved over to the channel 17 frequency in 1967. Interestingly, current sister station WQRF has operated from channel 39 since it signed-on in November 1978.

WTVO was locally owned by Winnebago Television until 1986, when Young Broadcasting of New York purchased the station. For most of its history, WTVO was affiliated with the NBC television network. However, after a 42-year run as the local NBC station, it swapped its network affiliation with WREX-TV, taking the ABC affiliation in August 1995. Another ownership change came on November 22, 2004, when Mission Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting bought WTVO from Young for $21 million. Currently, the station is operating under a joint sales and shared services agreement with WQRF, but in effect, WTVO functions as the senior partner of this agreement. As a result, WQRF originates from the WTVO facility, and WTVO produces programming for WQRF, including a nightly newscast at 9pm.

For a number of years, WTVO carried selected Chicago Cubs telecasts, originating from WGN-TV. However, in 1988, those telecasts moved to WIFR-TV. WTVO, during its days as an NBC affiliate, preempted a good number of network shows, particularly in weekday and Saturday daytime, as well as the Saturday edition of the NBC Nightly News in the 1980s.

A significant figure in WTVO’s history was news anchor Bruce Richardson. He spent over 35 years at the station, from 1956 until his retirement in June 1992. Richardson had the longest reign as a local news anchor in the history of Rockford television. Harold Froelich, one of WTVO's founders, served as general manager for 37 years, from sign-on until his retirement in 1990. In 1953, Froelich was one of the youngest general managers in television.

[edit] Rockford’s My Network TV[]

WTVO’s secondary programming service was launched on September 22, 2003, as Rockford UPN 16. Prior to the launch of Rockford UPN 16, UPN programming to the Rockford area was provided by Janesville, Wisconsin-based WHPN (Channel 57; now WBUW), which also served the near-by Madison, Wisconsin television market. However, in 2002, a change in WHPN’s ownership prompted a change in network affiliation, going from UPN to The WB, as WHPN’s new owner, Acme Communications, was a major station group involved in The WB. Since UPN moved to a cable/digital-only channel in Madison (UPN14), Rockford cable systems imported Chicago’s WPWR-TV (Channel 50) into the market as the de-facto UPN affiliate for Rockford until UPN 16 signed-on.

Now, with The CW signing-on in September 2006, which replaces UPN and The WB, UPN 16 will become the Rockford home of My Network TV, and as a result, it changed its on-air imaging to reflect the new network affiliation; although the legal call letters are still WTVO-DT2. The CW programming will be on WREX’s cable/digital secondary service.

[edit] News/Station presentation[]

Newscast titles[]

  • WTVO News (1953-1970s)
  • Channel 17 News/Bruce Richardson and the News (1970s)
  • Newservice 17 (1970s-1980s)
  • NewsWatch 17 (1980s)
  • News 17 (1980s-1993)
  • NewsChannel 17 (1993-2000)
  • WTVO Channel 17 News (2000-2012)
  • Eyewitness News (2012–present)

Station slogans[]

  • The News Station (1984-1988)
  • Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin's Leading Source for News (1993-1998)
  • Your 24-Hour Local News Source (1998-1999)
  • News Where You Live (1999-2012)
  • More Local (2012-present)
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