KFOR-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 27), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Media Group subsidiary of the Nexstar Broadcasting Inc, as part of a duopoly with independent station KAUT-TV (channel 43). The two stations share studios on Britton Road (near U.S. 77) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City; KFOR's transmitter is located near 122nd Street, also on the city's northeast side. On cable, KFOR is available on Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse channel 4 in standard definition (and on Cox digital channel 704 and U-verse channel 1004 in high definition) in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area; it is also available on channel 4 on most cable systems elsewhere within the Oklahoma City DMA as well as on DirecTV and Dish Network.
The station is also carried on cable providers throughout much of western and southern Oklahoma, extending as far away as Guymon (which is in the Oklahoma Panhandle section of the Amarillo market) and Idabel (part of the Shreveport–Texarkana market). The station is carried on Cable One and other cable systems on the Oklahoma side of the Ada–Sherman market as an alternate NBC affiliate, albeit with NBC programs blacked out due to the presence of Ada-licensed KTEN, in compliance with FCC regulations allowing local network affiliates to prohibit cable providers from carrying duplicative network content from an out-of-market station.
Fascinated with the medium since the late 1930s, Edward K. Gaylord—publisher of the morning Daily Oklahoman and evening Oklahoma Times newspapers—brought television to Oklahoma on an exhibitory basis in mid-November 1939, when his Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) sponsored a six-day demonstration of telecasts and broadcast equipment at the Oklahoma City Municipal Auditorium (now the Civic Center Music Hall) in downtown Oklahoma City, which featured appearances by performers from NBC and Gaylord's radio station, WKY (930 AM). During November and early December 1944, OPUBCO conducted a similar, 19-city television exhibition tour across central and western Oklahoma (open to residents who had purchased war bonds) that included performances from WKY personalities and demonstrations by television technicians.
On April 16, 1948, Gaylord submitted a permit application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a television station that would transmit on VHF channel 4. He waited to make the submission so as to ensure that any financial burden would be limited until revenue from existing OPUBCO assets was able to offset the station's profit losses. When the FCC granted the license for the proposed television station to Gaylord on June 2, 1948, Gaylord requested to assign WKY-TV as the television station's call letters, applying the base WKY callsign that had been used by his AM radio station shortly after it signed on in 1922 and also assigned to its FM sister on 98.9 (now defunct, frequency now occupied by KYIS) when it signed on in July 1947. The station began test broadcasts, accompanied by music playing over the test pattern slide, on April 21, 1949. Television set owners in Oklahoma and neighboring states called to report reception of the WKY test signal, which was transmitted each afternoon until regular broadcasts commenced. The test signal operated at low power for three days, after a lightning strike caused minor damage to a junction box on the transmission tower during the early morning of April 27. Closed-circuit transmissions began on May 27, with a wrestling match at the Oklahoma City Stockyards Coliseum.
Channel 4 officially signed on the air at 7:00 p.m. on June 6, with an inaugural broadcast that included speeches from Gaylord, executive vice president/general manager Proctor A. "Buddy" Sugg, and Governor Roy J. Turner; a topical feature by Gaylord and Sugg on the new television medium; and a film outlining programs that would air on WKY-TV. It was the first television station to sign on in the state of Oklahoma (KOTV in Tulsa – which had its license approved the same day as the grant of the WKY-TV license to Gaylord – would not debut until October 22), and the 65th to sign on in the United States. WKY-TV's original studio facilities were based at the Municipal Auditorium (near Colcord Drive and Walker Avenue, 0.5 miles [0.80 km] west of WKY radio's facilities at the Skirvin Tower Hotel on Park and Broadway Avenues), with production facilities in the Freede Little Theatre on the second floor. Following a second round of renovations to the building due to a fire that caused $150,000 in damage on November 17, 1948, most of the technical and production equipment was replaced, and soundproofing material was installed in the auditorium to limit disruptions between production of local programs and stage productions that would be held elsewhere in the building. The radio station's 968-foot (295 m) broadcast tower, located between Kelley Avenue and the Broadway Extension in northeast Oklahoma City's Britton section, was the site of an accident in which the assembly carrying the WKY-TV transmitter antenna fell 8 feet (2.4 m) (at the tower's 600-foot [180 m] mark) while being hoisted for installation; the antenna suffered minor, albeit repairable dents.
Channel 4 has been an NBC television affiliate since its debut, inheriting those rights through WKY radio's longtime relationship with the progenitor NBC Red Network, which had been affiliated with that station since December 1928 (WKY-TV did not air its first NBC program, Who Said That?, until June 17). It also maintained secondary affiliations with CBS, ABC and the DuMont Television Network. Originally broadcasting Sunday through Fridays from 7:00 to 9:45 p.m., the station expanded its broadcast hours markedly over the next two years: WKY-TV began broadcasting seven days a week on February 11, 1950, when it started offering programs on Saturday evenings, and by 1951, when it added a morning schedule of local and network programs, was airing 90 cumulative hours of programming per week. Channel 4's initial local programming included some WKY radio shows that were adapted for television, including variety series Wiley and Gene (hosted by singers and WKY performers Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan) and children's program The Adventures of Gizmo Goodkin. In July 1951, the operations of WKY-AM-TV were integrated into a proprietary studio facility, which included television soundstages that were engineered to also allow origination of WKY radio programs, built just east of the Britton Road transmission tower (WKY radio had earlier moved into the facility on March 26).
OPUBCO management challenged a proposal under the FCC's "Sixth Report and Order" – which ended the agency's four-year-long freeze on licensing grants and realigned VHF channel assignments in many American media markets to alleviate interference issues – that would have resulted in channel 4 being reassigned to Tulsa and WKY-TV being moved to VHF channel 7. The company cited the cost of installing a temporary antenna, the potential effects on WKY radio's transmissions, and the need for viewers to replace their existing outdoor antennas with models capable of receiving high-band VHF signals in its response seeking to stay on channel 4. In April 1952, the FCC rescinded its request for WKY-TV to change frequencies, citing in part, feasible co-channel assignment separation from CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW) in Dallas, and the proposal's potential generation of signal interference issues in adjacent markets with other television stations transmitting on the same channel (the channel 7 allocation was reassigned to Lawton, where it would become occupied by present-day ABC affiliate KSWO-TV). On July 1, 1952, WKY-TV became among the first six television stations in the country – along with fellow NBC stations WBAP-TV (now KXAS-TV) in Fort Worth, KPRC-TV in Houston, WOAI-TV in San Antonio and WDSU in New Orleans, and secondary NBC affiliate KOTV (now exclusively a CBS affiliate) in Tulsa – to begin transmitting network programming over a live coaxial feed. The milestone was inaugurated that morning with a message by Today host Dave Garroway welcoming the stations in commencing live network telecasts; at that time, WKY increased its programming to 111 hours per week.
In 1953, OPUBCO—whose founder had long been an advocate for Oklahoma's educational system—donated $150,000 worth of existing WKY-TV broadcasting equipment to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) for its proposed station on channel 13 (flagship station KETA-TV, which would sign-on in April 1956). Because of the licensing freeze instituted by the FCC in September 1948, WKY-TV was the only television station in the Oklahoma City market until 1953; its initial two UHF-based competitors—KTVQ (channel 25, allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV) and KLPR-TV (channel 19, allocation now occupied by Cornerstone Television affiliate KUOT-CD)—made their respective debuts on October 28 and November 8 of that year. Though KTVQ and KLPR respectively signed on as basic affiliates of ABC and DuMont, channel 4 continued to carry selected programs from the two networks, with ABC programming being retained through a secondary basic affiliation; in contrast, WKY disaffiliated from CBS one month prior to KWTV (channel 9) signing on as an affiliate of that network on December 20. WKY-TV remained a primary NBC and secondary DuMont affiliate until the latter network discontinued operations in August 1956. In 1958, Enid-based ABC affiliate KGEO-TV (channel 5) changed call letters to KOCO-TV, refocusing its coverage area to include Oklahoma City and assuming the local ABC programming rights; this left WKY-TV exclusively affiliated with NBC.
On April 8, 1954, channel 4 became one of the first American television stations not owned by a network to produce and transmit local programs in color, beginning with a five-minute telecast hosted that evening by E.K. Gaylord; it also carried select NBC network programs in the format, with children's program The Paul Winchell Show was the station's first network color telecast. (Before the FCC had approved a color transmission standard, Gaylord had ordered color broadcasting equipment being developed by RCA—which included two RCA TK40 color cameras—in September 1949.) The cooking show Cook's Book became the first regular program to broadcast in color from the WKY studios and first in the state to do so, while dance program Sooner Shindig became the first live color program in the country to originate from the studios of a network-affiliated station. When NBC became the first network to commence color telecasts on May 1, WKY-TV provided color feeds of the Anadarko Indian Festival to the network for broadcast on Today and Home. Local variety series The Hank Thompson Show also became the first color broadcast of a variety program. In 1955, WKY-TV became the first network affiliate to feed a full-length color program to a television network, transmitting coverage of a square dance convention in downtown Oklahoma City to NBC; it also transmitted closed-circuit images of a surgical procedure in color (WKY-TV had become the first Oklahoma television station to air a surgical procedure via closed circuit telecast four years earlier in February 1950).
The Oklahoma Publishing Company, through its WKY Radiophone Company subsidiary, eventually acquired or launched other television and radio stations during and after its stewardship of WKY-TV, including: WSFA (TV) and WSFA (AM) (now WLWI [AM]) in Montgomery, Alabama (in 1955); WTVT in Tampa, Florida (in 1956); WUHF-TV (now WVTV) in Milwaukee (in 1966); KTVT in Fort Worth (in 1962); KHTV (now KIAH) in Houston (built and signed on by the company in 1967); and KTNT-TV (now KSTW) in Tacoma, Washington (in 1973). WKY-TV served as the company's flagship station, and in October 1956, OPUBCO renamed its broadcast group, the WKY Television System. In December 1954, a half-hour WKY-TV special, Gift of God, which outlined the medical and legal aspects of corneal transplants and included a film of a transplant operation project, led to the development of a statewide eye bank through a partnership with the Lions Clubs of Oklahoma and Lions Sight Conservation Foundation; by 1957, more than 16,400 donor cards (700 of which were received within 1½ hours after the special's initial airing, including one signed by then-Oklahoma Governor Raymond Gary) were signed to permit donation of participants' eyes to the bank after their deaths and 346 Oklahomans (including two who had underwent transplant surgery within 48 hours of the broadcast) had received corneal transplants to restore their sight.
In 1958, WKY became one of the first local television stations in the U.S. to acquire a videotape recorder; intended primarily for use by the station's news department, the recording equipment was also used for some program production, including those it distributed to NBC for national broadcast. One such videotaped show, the Stars and Stripes Show, premiered on NBC that year as the first network television program to be produced by a local station. Ownership of OPUBCO's Oklahoma City-based print and broadcast properties was transferred to Edward L. Gaylord, after his father, E.K. Gaylord, died of natural causes on May 30, 1974 at the age of 101.
In July 1975, Oklahoma Publishing sold WKY-TV to Universal Communications (a subsidiary of the Detroit-based Evening News Association) for $22.697 million. The Gaylords – which would later rechristen their broadcasting division as Gaylord Broadcasting – sold channel 4 to comply with FCC rules of the time that prohibited a single company from owning more than seven television stations nationwide, as it chose to purchase ABC affiliate WVUE-TV (now a Fox affiliate) in New Orleans and independent station WUAB (now a CW affiliate) in Cleveland as well as make building improvements to the Britton Road studio using proceeds from the sale. The sale coincided with the FCC's passage of new cross-ownership rules that prohibited media companies from owning newspapers and full-power broadcast television and radio outlets in the same market, restricting media companies to owning only either a print or broadcast property within an individual market. However, OPUBCO filed for a "grandfathering" waiver (which the agency allowed companies to seek to maintain existing newspaper-broadcasting combinations under special circumstances) to retain WKY radio, the Oklahoman, and the Times. The transaction was approved by the FCC on October 29.
On January 5, 1976, the station's call letters were changed to KTVY, in order to comply with a since-repealed FCC rule that prohibited separately owned TV and radio stations that were based in the same media market from sharing the same call letters. The WKY call letters had been assigned to its former radio sister before the "K"/"W" border definition assigned by the FCC was shifted to the Mississippi River in 1935; as such, upon changing them, channel 4 would have had to adopt a callsign starting with "K"—the KTVY calls were presumptively chosen as an anagram of its original WKY-TV calls— in any event. (WKY radio—which, in March 1977, moved to a new facility just west of the Britton Road building—was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in 2002, it is now owned by Cumulus Media; the Times ceased publication as a separate newspaper and was folded into the Oklahoman in March 1984; the Gaylord family sold the OPUBCO properties to The Anschutz Corporation in 2011). On June 6, 1985, KTVY became the first Oklahoma station to broadcast in stereo, initially broadcasting NBC network programs, local programs and certain syndicated shows that were transmitted in the audio format; taking advantage of the new format, channel 4's daily sign-ons and sign-offs began to feature music videos, some of which were tailored to the station's public service campaigns.
On September 5, 1985, the Gannett Company announced that it would purchase the Evening News Association for $717 million, thwarting a $566-million hostile takeover bid by L.P. Media Inc. (owned by television producer Norman Lear and media executive A. Jerrold Perenchio). As FCC rules then prohibited a single company from owning two commercial television stations in the same market, Gannett was required to sell either KTVY or KOCO-TV, the latter of which had been owned by Gannett since its 1979 acquisition of Combined Communications Corporation. On November 15, 1985, Gannett sold KTVY, fellow NBC affiliate WALA-TV (now a Fox affiliate) in Mobile, Alabama and CBS affiliate KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona to Miami, Florida-based Knight Ridder Broadcasting for $160 million (with KTVY selling for a reported $80 million). The sale to Gannett was completed on January 13, 1986, with the Knight-Ridder transaction being approved by the FCC on February 19.
On February 28, 1989, Knight Ridder—which, 3¾ months earlier on October 8, 1988, announced its intent to sell its eight television stations to reduce its $929-million debt load and to help finance its $353-million acquisition of online information provider Dialog Information Services—sold channel 4 to Palmer Communications, then-owner of fellow longtime NBC affiliates WHO-TV in the company's headquarters of Des Moines and KWQC-TV in Davenport, Iowa, for $50 million; the sale was approved by the FCC on May 8.
On April 22, 1990, the station's call letters were changed to KFOR-TV, in reference to its over-the-air channel assignment. (The KFOR call letters were formerly used by a now-defunct television station on channel 10 in Lincoln, Nebraska [now occupied by CBS affiliate KOLN] that operated from May 1953 to March 1954; the KTVY call letters were later used by a full-power television station in Goldfield, Nevada [later KEGS, now defunct] from 2002 to 2005, and its Las Vegas-based low-power repeater [later KEGS-LP, also now defunct] from 1997 to 2005.) It also adopted the generalized promotional brand "4 Strong" (an analogue to the longer-established "5 Alive" moniker used by KOCO-TV from 1977 to 1994), and retitled its newscasts from News 4 Oklahoma (which had been in use since March 1984) to News Team 4. Subsequently, on May 11, the station began maintaining a 24-hour programming schedule seven days a week, adding a mix of syndicated programs and infomercials as well as hourly local news updates to fill overnight timeslots. (As KTVY, the station had first adopted a 24-hour schedule on weekends in 1978, in order to air overnight feature films on Fridays and Saturdays.)
On November 7, 1991, Palmer announced it had signed a letter of intent to sell KFOR, WHO-TV and Des Moines radio stations WHO (AM) and KLYF (now KDRB) for $70.2 million to New Canaan, Connecticut-based Hughes Broadcasting Partners, a group formed earlier that year with its purchase of ABC affiliate WOKR-TV (now WHAM-TV) in Rochester, New York. The sale agreement was terminated on April 2, 1992, after Palmer management rejected the bid submitted by Hughes Broadcasting representatives. In a lawsuit against Palmer, majority owner VS&A Communications Partners LP asked a Delaware court to force Palmer, which claimed it had no binding obligation to negotiate or reach a formal agreement, into resuming negotiations to reach a definitive sale contract. Hughes formally gave up its pursuit of the transaction, months after the judge presiding the case ruled that the agreement between VS&A and Palmer was not binding. Coinciding with the start of that year's Summer Olympics, KFOR inaugurated the "NewsChannel 4" moniker for its news branding on July 25, 1992 (the title would be extended to full-time use in May 1997); the "4 Strong" moniker was concurrently discontinued, opting to use the phoneticism "K-FOR" as a general identifier, sometimes accompanied by the slogan "Oklahoma's News Channel".
On May 14, 1996, The New York Times Company (through its Memphis-based broadcasting subsidiary) announced that it would purchase KFOR-TV and WHO-TV from Palmer Communications for $226 million (with KFOR selling for $155 million); the sale received regulatory approval less than two months later on July 3, and was finalized on July 16. On June 13, 1998, the WKY-AM-TV transmitter tower (which had been used as an auxiliary tower for KFOR-TV and WKY radio, and was designed to withstand winds in excess of 125 mph [201 km/h]) collapsed due to straight-line wind gusts to near 105 mph (169 km/h)—which also caused minor damage to KOCO-TV's studio facility, located 1.1 miles (1.8 km) to the east of the KFOR studios—produced by a supercell thunderstorm that also spawned four tornadoes across northern sections of Oklahoma City that evening. On October 11, 2000, The New York Times Company entered into a joint sales agreement with Pax TV owned-and-operated station KOPX-TV (channel 62, now an O&O of successor Ion Television), as part of a broader agreement between the Times Company and Paxson Communications that also involved stations in Des Moines and Scranton–Wilkes-Barre. Until the agreement ended on July 1, 2005 (coinciding with Pax's rebranding as i: Independent Television), KFOR handled advertising sales services for channel 62, while KOPX carried NBC programs on occasions when conflicts with special event programming prevented them from airing on KFOR, and aired rebroadcasts of channel 4's 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. newscasts on a delayed basis.
On September 14, 2005, Viacom Television Stations Group sold UPN owned-and-operated station KAUT-TV (channel 43, now an independent station) to The New York Times Company, creating a duopoly with KFOR upon the sale's November 4 closure. On January 4, 2007, the Times Company sold its nine television stations to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners, for $530 million; the sale was finalized on May 7. On July 1, 2013, the Chicago-based Tribune Company (which formed a management company for the operation of both Tribune Broadcasting and Local TV's television stations in December 2007) acquired the Local TV stations for $2.75 billion. The sale, which was completed on December 27, reunited KFOR with former sister station KIAH (which Tribune had acquired from Gaylord Broadcasting in 1995).
On August 5, 2014, during a staff luncheon held at the soundstage within the original Britton Road studios that housed KAUT's news set, duopoly president and general manager Wes Milbourn announced plans to construct a new facility on a ten-acre (4.0 ha) plot of land directly adjacent to the existing studio building to house the operations of KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV. Construction of the facility began in January 2015, and was completed in early August 2017. The facility—designed under an open floorplan to improve workflow and encourage collaboration between employees of the station's individual departments—incorporates two production studios (the main studio, which was named in honor of after veteran anchor Linda Cavanaugh upon her retirement on December 15, 2017, provides a backdrop of the newsroom structured similarly to the set used from 1992 until the anchor desk was walled off from the former studio's newsroom in 2006, and incorporates an 80-inch [203 cm] razored monitor); an expanded weather center within the production studio housing KFOR's main news set; two control rooms that relay high definition content; and several conference rooms dedicated to former channel 4 employees (such as the Barry Huddle Room, named in honor of late longtime sports anchors Bob Barry Sr. and Bob Barry, Jr.). The building's exterior was built with reinforced steel, concrete and protective glass to resist a direct hit from a tornado or extreme straight-line winds, which would allow KFOR to broadcast uninterrupted during significant severe weather events affecting Oklahoma City proper. KFOR/KAUT's news, sales and marketing departments, and all other operations moved to the new Britton Road studio on August 19, 2017 (commencing broadcasts with that evening's edition of the 10:00 p.m. newscast), ending KFOR's 65-year tenure at the original 444 East Britton Road building. The older building was later razed after operations were moved into the new building to make room for public parking space near the newer building. Coinciding with the move, KFOR-TV changed its branding to Oklahoma’s News 4 (although print and online TV listings mistitle the station's newscasts as "KFOR News 4"), adopting an alteration of the Tribune Creative West-designed graphics package developed for the Fox affiliates it owned prior to the Local TV purchase in 2012, and replacing the Wow and Flutter-composed custom theme that had been in use since 1997 with Stephen Arnold Music's NBC chimes-derived "The Rock."
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group—owner of Fox affiliate KOKH-TV and CW affiliate KOCB (channel 34)—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. (Ironically, Sinclair attempted to purchase the Palmer stations in 1996, in a proposal with River City Broadcasting—which Sinclair, which in turn was purchasing then-UPN affiliate KOCB from Superior Communications at the time, would acquire later that year—that would have resulted in River City acquiring KFOR in exchange for allowing Sinclair to buy WHO-TV from Palmer; Sinclair's purchase of the River City stations precluded this, because of FCC rules that then prohibited duopolies.) Because Sinclair and Tribune each owned two television stations in the Oklahoma City market, with KFOR and KOKH both ranking among the market's four highest-rated stations in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell either KFOR or KOKH (and optionally, KAUT and KOCB) to another station owner in order to comply with FCC local ownership rules.
On April 24, 2018, in an amendment to the Tribune acquisition through which it proposed the sale of certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies to curry the DOJ's approval, Sinclair announced that it would sell KOKH-TV to Standard Media Group (an independent broadcast holding company founded by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving nine Sinclair- and Tribune-owned stations located in markets where both groups have television properties) in a $441.1-million group deal. Sinclair would have effectively acquire KFOR-TV's license and intellectual assets directly, while retaining ownership of KOCB, which it opted not to include in the Standard Media sale; as a result, channel 34 would have formed a new legal duopoly with KFOR-TV had Sinclair assumed ownership of that station, and would have migrated its operations into KFOR/KAUT's Britton Road studios following a six-month transitional period in which Sinclair would have continued to provide services to KOKH for six months after the sale's completion. However, because FCC rules prohibit common ownership of more than two full-power stations in a single market, Sinclair would have spun off KAUT-TV to affiliate company Howard Stirk Holdings for $750,000; however, it would have assumed control of that station through shared services and joint sales agreements with Stirk. Less than one month after the FCC voted to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties (such as KAUT-TV), and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire Tribune in an all-cash deal valued at $6.4 billion, including the assumption of Tribune-held outstanding debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would give the KFOR/KAUT duopoly additional sister stations in Lawton–Wichita Falls (NBC affiliate KFDX-TV and SSA partners KJTL [Fox] and KJBO-LP [MyNetworkTV]), Wichita (the Kansas State Network group of NBC affiliates, led by flagship KSNW), Fort Smith–Fayetteville (NBC affiliate KNWA-TV and Fox affiliate KFTA-TV, which are part of an ownership conflict with Tribune-owned CBS affiliate KFSM-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate KXNW), Joplin–Pittsburg (NBC affiliate KSNF and ABC-affiliated SSA partner KODE-TV), Amarillo (NBC affiliate KAMR-TV and SSA partners KCIT [Fox] and KCPN-LP [MyNetworkTV]) and Shreveport–Texarkana (NBC affiliate KTAL-TV and SSA partners KMSS-TV [Fox] and KSHV-TV [MyNetworkTV]).
As of September 2017, KFOR-TV broadcasts 40½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among Oklahoma City's broadcast television stations. In addition, the station produces Flashpoint, a political discussion show focusing on state and national issues (moderated by weeknight anchor Kevin Ogle, with former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpen and former Oklahoma State Senator and Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb as panelists), which airs Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Because it produces Rise and Shine for sister station KAUT-TV, channel 4 does not produce live news updates during the first two hours of the weekday editions of NBC's Today, choosing instead to air brief weather segments recorded earlier in the morning during production of each day's edition of Oklahoma's News 4 This Morning (KFOR does produce live news updates for broadcast during the Saturday edition of Today and Sunday Today with Willie Geist).
The station operates a Bell 206L-4 LongRanger IV helicopter for newsgathering, "Air Comfort Solutions Chopper 4", named through a brand licensing agreement with the local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning repair firm in 2018. The helicopter caught footage of an F5 tornado that killed 36 people on May 3, 1999 as it tracked from Amber to Midwest City (this video was used for eleven years in promos for "Chopper 4" until the helicopter's pilot at that time, Jim Gardner, left the station to join KWTV in that same capacity in 2011), and an EF5 tornado that hit Moore on May 20, 2013, which was televised nationally by The Weather Channel (via an affiliate video feed provided to the network by then-co-owner and NBC parent NBCUniversal) during its live coverage of the event. KFOR became the first Oklahoma station to broadcast aerial helicopter footage in high definition on March 11, 2010.
News department history
Channel 4's news department began operations along with the station on June 6, 1949, originally consisting of 10-minute-long newscasts at sign-on and sign-off, using wire copies of local news headlines read by anchors over still newspaper photographs. Bruce Palmer, the station's first news director, wanted to provide more immediacy to news coverage; he believed the restrictions placed on television news would result in broadcasts detailing only a limited number of stories at a time, outside of weather reports, and foresaw that television news would concentrate on films or photographs to help tell the story. The television station's news department utilized news staff from WKY radio to serve as reporters and photographers. (A collection of 16 mm news footage shot by WKY-TV between 1953 and 1979 was donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society, which made the films available on its website and a dedicated YouTube channel, in 2013.) Within a few years, WKY had employed a staff of 44 Oklahoma-based reporters and additional correspondents in three surrounding states. In 1950, WKY-TV became one of the first television stations in the country to employ a mobile broadcasting unit to conduct live broadcasts that would be relayed to the Oklahoma City studio or to film on-scene footage on kinescope for later broadcast; the unit—which had its electronic equipment installed by station engineers—employed up to three cameras, one of which was stationed on a special platform on the roof of the bus, and included a 12-inch television receiver built onto its side to display the direct-to-studio feed (this vehicle was replaced in 1969, with a proprietary mobile color unit). Among the events that the unit was sent to cover during the station's early years were the Oklahoma Republican and Democratic State Conventions, both of which were relayed live from the Municipal Auditorium, respectively in February and April 1952.
In January 1951, WKY-TV became the first station in the U.S. to provide coverage of state legislature sessions, which were conducted from the Oklahoma State Capitol twice a week. Channel 4 claimed to have made the fastest showing of any sound on film ever to have been processed and aired on television at the time, when on February 8, 1952, WKY-TV aired anchor John Field's introductory remarks that were filmed 15 minutes prior to that evening's newscast. The Houston film processor used by the station allowed WKY-TV to broadcast news coverage only a few hours after it was shot on-scene. The station is also purported to be the first in the U.S. to have been allowed access to film a court proceeding on December 13, 1953, while covering the trial of accused murderer Billy Eugene Manley. A WKY-TV film crew (led by reporter Frank McGee) was placed in a specially constructed, enclosed booth in the rear of the trial's courtroom at the Oklahoma County Courthouse, with a microphone hidden near the front of the court recording the proceedings. A small button was placed on the desk of Judge A. P. Van Meter to allow him to automatically discontinue operation of the cameras at any time. The swearing in of the jury, some testimony and Manley's sentencing was filmed for later news broadcasts.
The station's ascendance in the local news ratings occurred primarily under the stewardship of longtime news director Ernie Schultz (who joined the station as a reporter and photographer in 1955, before being promoted to news director and noon news anchor in 1964). The station hired top-drawer talent and based its journalistic style around in-depth reporting. In 1972, Pam Henry—who contracted polio at 14 months old, and had served as the national poster child for the March of Dimes in 1959—was hired by channel 4 as an assignment reporter, becoming the first female to work as a news reporter on Oklahoma television; after a brief stint working in Washington, D.C., Henry would later work at other television stations in Oklahoma City and Lawton as well as a 16-year run as manager of news and public affairs at OETA. From 1973 to 1978, WKY-TV aired Spectrum, a weekly prime time public affairs show with a newsmagazine format, which incorporated feature segments on local stories and people of importance and issues affecting Oklahoma's minority community. A documentary featured on the program, Through The Looking Glass Darkly (produced and reported by eventual NBC News correspondent Bob Dotson, about the history of blacks in Oklahoma), became the first program from an Oklahoma television station to win an Emmy Award in 1974.
The station is well known in the Oklahoma City market for the longevity of its anchors as well as the two families that have had roots with the station. In 1979, Linda Cavanaugh—who began her broadcasting career at the station on October 17, 1977 as an assignment reporter and news photographer, before being promoted to lead anchor of the weekend newscasts in June 1978—became the first female to co-anchor an evening newscast at channel 4 when she was appointed as lead co-anchor for the station's 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts, alongside George Tomek (who also became lead anchor of the station's midday newscast that same year) and Brad Edwards, respectively. Besides Tomek, Cavanaugh's co-anchors throughout her tenure also included Gary Essex (1981–1982), Jerry Adams (1982–1987), Jane Jayroe (1984–1987), Dan Slocum (later known as Eric Slocum after leaving KFOR for KOMO-TV in Seattle; 1987–1990), Bob Bruce (1990–1992), Devin Scillian (1992–1995) and finally, Kevin Ogle (1996–2017). In 1989, Cavanaugh and chief photographer Tony Stizza were awarded the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting for its documentary "From Red Soil to Red Square," which detailed life in the Soviet Union, a principal trade partner with Oklahoma's agricultural industry, under the territory's glasnost. The two partnered on several other projects including Tapestry, a 1996 documentary on the lives of several survivors of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building one year after the terror attack, which was honored with four Emmys, a National Gabriel Award Certificate of Merit as well as several accolades by, among others, the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. Cavanaugh holds the record as the longest-serving news anchor in Oklahoma television, having served as primary co-anchor at KTVY/KFOR for 38 years until her retirement from broadcasting on December 15, 2017. (She is also the second-longest-tenured television news personality in Oklahoma, behind only Gary England, who served as chief meteorologist at rival KWTV for 41 years from 1972 to 2013.) Replacing her on the 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. broadcasts was Joleen Chaney, who first joined KFOR as a weekend evening anchor/reporter in 2008, and after a two-year reporting stint at KWTV beginning in June 2014, returned as co-anchor of the weekday 4:00, 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts in July 2016; Heather Holeman, who first served as weekday morning anchor/reporter from 2000 to 2007 and returned to KFOR in 2015 as a weekday morning traffic reporter, concurrently replaced Cavanaugh as 4:30 p.m. anchor and Chaney as 5:00 p.m. co-anchor.
The Ogle family have been part of the station in some manner since the 1960s. Jack Ogle joined WKY-TV as its main news anchor in 1962, and became known for his interpersonal, "good-ol'-boy" approach to his on-air delivery; his tenure also featured prominent anchor/reporters George Tomek, Ernie Schultz and Jerry Adams. After Schultz moved to a role as WKY-TV's director of information, Ogle became news director in 1970 and served in that capacity for seven years; he continued to occasionally appear on channel 4 as well as rivals KOCO and KWTV after departing as anchor/news director role to do regular commentary pieces. His eldest son, Kevin Ogle, first worked at channel 4 as a reporter from 1986 to 1989; he returned as a weekend evening anchor/reporter in 1993, before being promoted to weeknight co-anchor in 1996. Middle son, Kent, was hired as a reporter in 1994; after brief stints anchoring the weekend morning and, later, weekend evening newscasts starting in 1994, Kent was moved to the weekday morning and noon newscasts in 1997 (two of Jack's other descendants, youngest son Kelly Ogle and granddaughter by way of Kevin, Abigail Ogle, respectively serve as evening co-anchor at KWTV and weeknight 6:00 p.m. co-anchor/field reporter at KOCO-TV). In 2006, Kevin began hosting The Rant, a segment airing most Monday through Thursdays during the 10:00 p.m. newscast that features viewer opinions on a selected news story, with the Thursday edition serving as an "open topic" forum featuring positive and critical comments on multiple subjects.
The late Bob Barry, Sr. was also a fixture for many years, starting his television career at WKY-TV as its lead sports anchor in 1966, while maintaining his duties as the radio play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma Sooners (a position to which Barry was appointed by Bud Wilkinson in 1961; Barry called radio broadcasts of OU, and later Oklahoma State, football and basketball games with Jack Ogle until 1974). Barry became sports director in 1970, holding that position for 27 of his 42 years at Channel 4; he remained a part-time evening sports anchor until his retirement in May 2008. His son, Bob Barry, Jr., became weekend sports anchor/reporter at KTVY in 1982, working along Bob Sr. for 25 years and assuming his father's role as sports director in 1997; the younger Barry—who was known for his jovial, off-the-cuff style—served as KFOR's sports director and weeknight sports anchor until the day prior to his death in an auto-motorcycle accident in June 2015. Collectively, including a posthumous win by Bob Barry Jr. in 2016, the Barrys earned 22 "Sportscaster of the Year" awards from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (Bob, Sr. holds the record for most wins with 15). In February 2016, Brian Brinkley (who joined KFOR as weekend sports anchor in 1991) succeeded Barry Jr. as sports director.
The station is known for its In Your Corner series of consumer advocacy reports, which focus on investigations into reported scams, area businesses accused of ripping off consumers, and occasionally, issues of corruption in Oklahoma state and local governments. Debuting in 1981, the segment was created and originally conducted by Brad Edwards, who joined channel 4 as a reporter/photographer in 1973, before being promoted to 10:00 p.m. anchor in 1977. Edwards also started several community initiatives overseen by the station that help low-income residents, including "Warmth 4 Winter" (a partnership with The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command and local dry cleaners to collect donated winter coats and other winter clothing for needy Oklahomans) and "Fans 4 Oklahomans" (a drive held each summer to collect boxed fans for donation to the elderly and poor who cannot afford or do not have air conditioning). Following Edwards's death due to complications from endocarditis, vasculitis and a brain aneurysm in May 2006, duties for the "In Your Corner" segment were rotated between anchors Lance West and Ali Meyer, and assignment reporters Scott Hines and Cherokee Ballard in the interim until Hines was promoted to a full-time consumer investigative reporting role in 2007, remaining in that role until his departure from KFOR on September 26, 2019. Adam Snider (who previously served as an assignment reporter at KFOR from 2012 until 2016, when he joined eventual sister station WKRN-TV in Nashville in the same capacity) was subsequently named as Hines' replacement, returning to KFOR in December 2019.
On January 5, 1981, KTVY moved its early evening newscast one hour earlier to 5:00 p.m. and expanded it to one hour (it was the first station in Oklahoma City to air an hour-long newscast in that timeslot, predating the launch of KOKH-TV's own 5:00 p.m. news hour by 34 years). The move resulted in the station shifting NBC Nightly News to 6:00 p.m., airing on a half-hour delay from its network-recommended slot. The early-evening newscast was split into two half-hour programs at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., bookended by Nightly News, on August 19, 1985. On May 11, 1990, coinciding with its permanent adoption of a 24-hour programming schedule, KFOR-TV implemented the "24-Hour News Source" concept. Produced outside of its regularly scheduled, long-form newscasts and half-hourly updates during Today, the station began airing 30-second-long news updates near the top of each hour—even during prime time and overnight programming—during local commercial break inserts within syndicated and NBC network programs. (Producers and other newsroom personnel anchored the overnight update segments for several years during the 1990s.) Management with rival KOCO, which would also launch the hourly update format on May 14, subsequently sued KFOR and then-owner Palmer Communications on grounds that the former infringed on KOCO's exclusive local rights to the "24-Hour News Source" moniker that it had held since 1980 by marketing as "Your 24-Hour News and Information Station" (a slogan that was changed in November 1990—following the settlement of the lawsuit—to "Where the News Comes First," which was usually amended to include an oblique reference to the update concept), and that KFOR's three-day jump on instituting the concept created viewer confusion that denied KOCO immediate recognition with its own rollout. Channel 4 continued to run hourly newsbriefs exclusively in daytime and late fringe slots until 2006, when they were reduced to two afternoon segments that served as de facto promotions for the evening newscasts (as of 2019, the station continues to air a promotional "update" segment between programs each weekday around 3:00 p.m.). Upon joining KFOR in July 1991, Galen Culver (who is currently married to Saturday morning anchor Tara Blume) started Is This a Great State or What?, a regular feature airing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the 5:00 p.m. newscast that focuses on stories of interesting places and people around Oklahoma.
Just prior to and following the adoption of the NewsChannel 4 brand in August 1992, KFOR-TV began to slowly expand its local news programming, starting under the direction of then-general manager Bill Katsafanas and news director Melissa Klinzing, who enacted the strategy to gear KFOR as "the CNN of the [Oklahoma City] market". On June 15 of that year, the station added a weekday afternoon, lifestyle-focused newscast at 4:30 p.m. (originally titled First News at 4:30). Two months later on August 15, channel 4 became the second Oklahoma City station to debut weekend morning newscasts, originally airing Saturdays and—beginning on August 23—Sundays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.; then on August 17, KFOR expanded its weekday noon newscast to a full hour. On February 7, 1993, KFOR debuted Flashpoint, a half-hour Sunday morning talk show that was originally moderated by Devin Scillian (who developed a program of the same title and format at WDIV-TV in Detroit in 1996). Following their run as analysts for channel 4's coverage of the 1992 presidential election, news producer Mary Ann Eckstein—who later became KFOR's news director in 1996—developed the program around panelists and former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates Mike Turpen and Burns Hargis. Hargis left the show in 2008 to become president of Oklahoma State University–Stillwater and was replaced by former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys (who left the show in June 2019 to focus on his job as CEO of local real estate investment firm Humphreys Capital, with former-State Senator-turned-Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb replacing him as the conservative on the panel).
During coverage of the April 19, 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, the station erroneously reported during that day's coverage that a member of the Nation of Islam had called in to the station to take credit for the bombing (which was actually orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh, who associated himself with the Patriot movement, and Terry Nichols), even though it cautioned that the claim might have been a crank call; similarly, in the aftermath of the bombing, then-KFOR reporter Jayna Davis reported on a story which claimed that McVeigh was seen drinking beer with a former Iraqi soldier in an Oklahoma City tavern (Davis would later write a 2005 book, The Third Terrorist, which looked at the conspiracy theory that a Middle Eastern man had been involved in planning the bombing). On May 1, 1995, KFOR debuted a half-hour extension of its 6:00 p.m. newscast—replacing first-run syndicated programs that the station had traditionally aired in the 6:30 timeslot, and originally serving to provide proceedings of the aftermath of and developments in the investigation into the Murrah Building bombing—focusing primarily on national and international news headlines that was modeled similarly to ABC, CBS and NBC's national evening newscasts. KFOR-TV has avidly competed with KWTV for first place among the market's local television newscasts for decades. It had placed second behind KWTV in the morning and late evening news timeslots. Nielsen later found an error in KFOR's ratings reports in September 2008, in which share points were mistakenly assigned to KFOR's 4.1 digital multicast signal from 2005 to 2008; the corrected ratings showed that it had placed #2 in all timeslots at that time, a rarity given the ratings declines that NBC's programming and its affiliates' local newscasts overall had suffered beginning in 2004.
On June 5, 2006, KFOR-TV began producing a half-hour weeknight 9:00 p.m. newscast for KAUT-TV (which competes against Fox affiliate KOKH-TV's hour-long newscast that debuted in May 1996); it expanded news programming on KAUT with the debut of a two-hour extension of its weekday morning newscast on September 8, 2008. On July 12, 2009, starting with its 10:00 p.m. newscast, KFOR became the first commercial television station in the Oklahoma City market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (it also upgraded its severe weather ticker to be overlaid on HD programming without having to downconvert the content to standard definition); the Is This a Great State or What? segments began to be produced in HD that January and the KAUT newscasts were included in the overall upgrade. On September 7, 2011, KFOR-TV launched a half-hour 4:00 p.m. newscast that features an emphasis on viewer interaction through social media, mixing news, lifestyle and entertainment stories with trending stories on the internet and web videos. On August 27, 2012, KFOR expanded its weekday morning newscast to three hours, with the addition of an hour at 4:00 a.m.
- News Room (1950s)
- WKY-TV News (1960s-1970s)
- Channel 4 News (1970s)
- NewsCenter 4 (1970s–1980)
- Action 4 (1980–1984)
- KTVY News 4
- News 4 Oklahoma (1984–1990)
- News Team 4 (1990–1992)
- (Oklahoma's) NewsChannel 4 (1992–2017)
- Oklahoma's News 4 (2017–present)
- Oklahoma's Leading News Station
- Oklahoma City's Leading News Station (?–1979)
- We're 4 Oklahoma (1979–1980)
- It's a New 4 (1980–1982)
- Action 4, Our Pride is Showing (1981-1982; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- We're Action 4, Just Watch Us Now (1982-1983; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Action 4 There, Be There (1983-1984; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- 4's the One (1984–1987)
- Come Home to Channel 4 (1986-1987; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Going All Out 4 Oklahoma (1987–1990)
- Come on Home to Channel 4 (1987-1988; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come Home to the Best, Only on Channel 4 (1988-1990; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- 4 Strong: The Strength of Oklahoma (1990–1992)
- Oklahoma's News Channel (1992–1994)
- The Stars Are Back on Channel 4 (1993-1994; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Where the News Comes First (24 Hours a Day) (1994–1997)
- Expect the News First (1997–2001)
- The News Leader (2013–?)
- The Weather Leader (2013–present; weather slogan)
- Looking Out 4 You (?–present)
|TV stations in Oklahoma|
|KFOR, Oklahoma City|
|TV stations in Central, Northwestern and West-central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City|
|KFOR 4 (NBC) |
KOCO 5 (ABC)
KWTV 9 (CBS)
KWET 12 (PBS)
KETA 13 (PBS)
KTBO 14 (TBN)
KUOT-CD 21 (CTV)
KTOU-LD 22 (HSN)
KOMI-CD 24 (Youtoo)
KOKH 25 (Fox)
KTUZ 30 (TLM)
KLHO-LD 31 (TVALA)
KOCB 34 (CW)
KUOK 35 (UNI)
KUOK-CD 36 (UNI)
KBZC-LD 42 (OnTV4U)
KAUT 43 (Ind.)
KOHC-CD 45 (AZA)
KOCM 46 (Daystar)
KOCY-LP 48 (ESTRELLA)
KUOC-LD 48 (BUZZR)
KSBI 52 (MNTV)
KOPX 62 (Ion)