WFAA, virtual and VHF digital channel 8, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Dallas, Texas, United States and serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. WFAA maintains business offices and secondary studio facilities at the WFAA Communications Center Studios on Young Street in downtown Dallas (next to the offices of its former sister newspaper under the ownership of former parent company Belo, The Dallas Morning News), and operates a primary studio facility, which is used for the production of WFAA's newscasts and also houses certain other business operations handled by the station, in the Victory Park neighborhood (near Olive and Houston Streets, next to the American Airlines Center) in central Dallas. The station's transmitter is located south of Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
WFAA is the largest ABC-affiliated station by market size that is not owned and operated by the network through its ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary, and the largest affiliate of any of the "Big Four" television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) that is not owned by that respective network. It is also one of only two television stations in the Dallas–Fort Worth market (along with CW affiliate KDAF (channel 33), which is owned by Tribune Broadcasting) that is not owned by the corporate parent of its affiliated network.
The initial application for the television station was filed on October 23, 1944, when local businessman Karl Hoblitzelle, owner of movie theater chain Interstate Circuit Theatres, applied with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to obtain a construction permit and license to operate a television station on VHF channel 8; it was the first such license application for a television station in the Southern United States. Hoblitzelle planned to operate the station out of the Republic Bank building in downtown Dallas, and even conducted a closed-circuit television broadcast of the opening of one of his properties, the Wilshire Theatre. Texas oil magnate Tom Potter filed a separate application for the Channel 8 license and was ultimately awarded the permit over Hoblitzelle.
The station first signed on the air at 8:00 p.m. on September 17, 1949 as KBTV, with a fifteen-minute ceremony inaugurating the launch of Channel 8 as its first broadcast; KBTV broadcast for one hour that evening, with the remainder of its initial schedule consisting of its first locally produced program, the variety series Dallas in Wonderland. Potter founded and operated the station through the Lacy-Potter TV Broadcasting Company, which he partially controlled. It was the third television station to sign on in Texas (behind WBAP-TV (channel 5, now KXAS-TV) in nearby Fort Worth, which signed on almost one year earlier on September 29, 1948; and KLEE-TV (now KPRC-TV) in Houston, which debuted on January 1, 1949), the second station in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, and the first to be licensed to Dallas. The station originally operated from studio facilities located at Harry Hines Boulevard and Wolf Street, north of downtown Dallas.
When the station commenced its full schedule on September 18, KBTV had broadcast for only four hours of programming per day. It originally operated as a primary affiliate of the DuMont Television Network and a secondary affiliate of the short-lived Paramount Television Network; under the arrangement, through an agreement between Lacy-Potter and Paramount Pictures, the station agreed to air 4.75 hours of Paramount Television's programming each week during 1949. KBTV, NBC affiliate WBAP-TV and CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (channel 4, now Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW) – the latter of which was also licensed to Dallas and signed on three months later on December 3 – would be the only television stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to sign on for the next six years as the FCC had instituted a freeze on new applications for television station licenses in November 1948, a moratorium that would last for four years.
Belo ownership and ABC affiliation
Lacy-Potter Television Broadcasting lost $128,020 in net revenue during its four-month stewardship of KBTV, leading Tom Potter to make the decision to put the station up for sale. The A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of The Dallas Morning News, had attempted to launch a new television station in Dallas two years earlier, when it applied for a construction permit to build transmitter and broadcasting facilities for a proposed station that would have transmitted on VHF channel 12. The FCC rejected Belo's application and, following the issuance of the Sixth Report and Order in 1952, eventually chose to reassign the Channel 12 allocation to Waco (after the agency assigned that same channel to Ardmore, Oklahoma, where it would be licensed to KXII, the FCC would eventually move the VHF channel 12 allocation from Waco to Abilene, which became home to present-day ABC affiliate KTXS-TV). Complicating matters, the agency's moratorium on new license applications, which the FCC instituted to sort out the backlog of prospective applicants that already filed to build such operations, left Belo with the sole recourse of acquiring a television station that was already on the air if it wanted to own one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In January 1950, Belo purchased KBTV from Lacy-Potter for $575,000; the sale received FCC approval on March 13, 1950, with Belo formally assuming control of Channel 8 on March 17. The station was the first television property to be owned by the Dallas-based company, and also served as the flagship station of its broadcasting division until Belo merged with the Gannett Company in 2013. Four days later on March 21, Belo changed the station's call letters to WFAA-TV to match those of its new radio partner WFAA (570 AM, now KLIF). The WFAA calls reportedly stood for "Working For All Alike," although the radio station later billed itself as the "World's Finest Air Attraction" (the KBTV call letters were later used from 1953 to 1984 by what is now sister station KUSA in Denver, and since 1999 are used by a Fox-affiliated television station in Beaumont). WFAA is one of a relatively limited number of broadcast television stations located west of the Mississippi River whose call letters begin with a "W"; the FCC normally assigns call signs prefixed with a "K" to television and radio stations with cities of license located west of the river and broadcast call signs prefixed with a "W" to stations located east of the river. The anomaly in the case of the WFAA television and radio stations is due to the fact the policy predates the launch of the former, as Dallas was originally located east of the original "K"/"W" border distinction defined by the FCC.
In 1950, WFAA switched its primary affiliation to NBC, and also affiliated with ABC on a secondary basis. DuMont shut down in 1955, amid various issues that arose from its relations with Paramount that hamstrung it from expansion. Although it had been apparent from the start that Dallas and Fort Worth (which Arbitron originally designated as separate media markets) were going to be collapsed into a single television market due to their close proximity, Fort Worth Star-Telegram owner Amon G. Carter—who founded WBAP-TV through his company, Carter Publications—did not care whether residents in Dallas could view that station; WFAA affiliated with NBC under a time share arrangement with WBAP-TV to expand coverage of the network's programming to areas of central and eastern Dallas County that only received rimshot coverage of the Channel 5 signal.
After ownership of Carter Publications transferred to his familial heirs after Carter suffered a fatal heart attack two years before, in early 1957, NBC threatened to strip WBAP-TV of its affiliation if it did not agree to move its transmitter eastward to reach the entire Dallas area. Belo had attempted to get an exclusive NBC affiliation first, and approached the network with an offer to make WFAA its exclusive affiliate for the entire market. The network also approached the Roosevelt family-owned Texas State Network about affiliating with independent station KFJZ-TV (channel 11, now CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT), which had earlier moved its transmitter to the antenna farm in Cedar Hill. Carter's heirs—who initially did not want to move the transmitter closer to Dallas, in their aim to continue Carter's legacy of civic boosterism for Fort Worth—eventually agreed to NBC's demands that it move WBAP-TV's transmitter facilities to Cedar Hill, installing a transmitter antenna on a 1,500-foot (457 m) candelabra tower that was already shared by WFAA and KRLD-TV, and operate it at a higher effective radiated power strong enough to adequately cover Dallas. WFAA lost its NBC affiliation on September 1, 1957, as the network had awarded WBAP-TV the exclusive affiliation for the Dallas-Fort Worth market as a byproduct of the transmitter relocation and signal boost; this left Channel 8 as an exclusive affiliate of ABC.
Channel 8 became known for its heavy schedule of local programs during the period from the 1950s through the 1980s. The most popular was a show aimed at younger audiences; Jerry Haynes hosted a local children's program on the station on-and-off from 1961 to 1996. Originally debuting in March 1961 as Mr. Peppermint, Haynes (who donned a red- and white-striped jacket and straw hat in his portrayal of the titular character, accompanied by a candy-striped cane) starred alongside a variety of puppet characters (performed by Vern Dailey) and presented various segments from educational content to cartoon shorts; five years after ending its original nine-year run on WFAA in 1970, the program was revived as the half-hour magazine-style educational series Peppermint Place in 1975, running for 21 additional years—expanding into syndication for its final seven—until the program ended its collective 30-year run in July 1996. Other notable WFAA local productions included the music series The Group And Chapman and its progenitor Sump'n Else (both of which were hosted by Ralph Baker Jr. and Ron Chapman), Dallas Bandstand (also hosted by Haynes), lifestyle and fashion talk program The Julie Bennell Show (hosted by Dallas Morning News food editor Julie Bennell), the viewer Q&A series Let Me Speak to the Manager (originally titled Ask the Manager and later named Inside Television for the final four years of its run, co-hosted by Belo vice president Myron "Mike" Shapiro), and local versions of the Dialing for Dollars and PM Magazine franchises. Channel 8 also served as the original Dallas-Fort Worth home of the magazine series Texas Country Reporter, after host Bob Phillips, who originated it on KDFW in September 1972 as the locally produced 4 Country Reporter, sold the series into regional syndication (airing on WFAA under the title 8 Country Reporter) in 1986.
In 1958, WFAA became the first television station in the market to use a videotape recorder for broadcasting purposes; the station would gradually shift much of its locally produced programming from a live to a pre-recorded format, outside of newscasts, sports and special events, and eventually became one of the first television stations in the U.S. to convert its news footage to videotape in the 1970s. During the 1958–59 television season, WFAA served as the taping location for Jack Wyatt's ABC true crime reality series, Confession, in which assorted criminals explained why they chose to reject the mores of society and turn to crime.
On April 2, 1961, the station's operations were relocated to the WFAA Communications Center Studios, a state-of-the-art broadcasting complex located at Young and Record Streets in downtown Dallas; the former studio facilities on Harry Hines Boulevard were subsequently purchased by North Texas Public Broadcasting for use as the broadcasting facilities for National Educational Television station KERA-TV (channel 13, now a PBS member station). The Communications Center complex housed three production studios, offices and sound recording studios for the WFAA radio stations as well as The Dallas Morning News' headquarters. The first live telecast to originate from the building was Young America Speaks, a 13-week intercollegiate debate tournament series (the first such program ever televised), which aired until June of that year. In 1974, Texas State Sen. Jim Wade filed a motion to the FCC, challenging Belo's renewal application for the Channel 8 license and strip it of rights to operate WFAA; Wade's efforts, in which he also attempted to convince the FCC to award the television station's license to him, would prove unsuccessful as the agency chose to approve renewal of the existing license owned by Belo.
Over time, Belo gradually expanded its television broadcasting unit. The company acquired its second television station in 1969, when it purchased KFDM-TV in Beaumont from Beaumont Broadcasting, later followed in 1980 by its purchase of WTVC in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Among its purchases in later years, Belo acquired the Corinthian Broadcasting subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet in December 1983, adding six additional stations – including CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston – to its portfolio (forcing the respective sales of KFDM and WTVC to Freedom Communications, and of WISH-TV in Indianapolis and WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana to LIN Broadcasting, to comply with FCC ownership limits); and added ten additional stations through its 1997 merger acquisition of the Providence Journal Company. By 1999, when it purchased ABC affiliate KVUE in Austin from the Gannett Company, Belo owned television stations in Texas' four largest television markets (WFAA, KHOU, KVUE and CBS affiliate KENS in San Antonio).
In May 1984, WFAA unveiled one of the most successful station image campaigns in the United States with the launch of the "Spirit of Texas", which was created in commemoration of the forthcoming 1986 sesquicentennial of Texas' independence. The promotions that aired as part of the campaign focused on the region's cultural heritage, accompanied by an imaging theme written by James R. Kirk of TM Productions, who composed it as part of an associated music package that was used for the station's newscasts until 1991. All of the news themes that WFAA commissioned afterward had carried the TM Productions theme's seven-note musical signature (including the "WFAA 1992 News Theme" from 1992 to 1996; four packages composed by McKinney-based Stephen Arnold Music: "The Spirit" from 1996 to 2000, the "Custom WFAA-TV News Package" from 2000 to 2004, a variation of Arnold's "News Matrix" from 2004 to 2005 and "Evolution" from 2004 to 2007; and the 615 Music-composed "Propulsion" from 2006 to 2014). The "Spirit" image campaign and/or slogan was also adapted by some of its Belo-owned sister stations (such as KHOU in Houston, KIII in Corpus Christi, WVEC in Norfolk, WWL-TV in New Orleans and KXTV in Sacramento) and by television stations owned by other companies, sometimes in conjunction with its accompanying theme (KHOU used the original TM-composed theme from 1986 to 1989, with the themes it used until 2014 also incorporating the "Spirit" signature including the custom John Hegner-composed "American Spirit", which was used from 1994 to 2000). WFAA discontinued the signature after three decades on August 27, 2014, when it switched to Gari Media Group's standardized package for Gannett's stations, "This is Home" (the station's news graphics and imaging were also overhauled to match Gannett's mandated look at that time); however, the station continues to use its longtime "Spirit of Texas" slogan, which is still used sparingly in some on-air promotions.
On January 14, 1987, the Hill Tower transmitter facility in Cedar Hill (which was jointly owned by WFAA and KDFW) was struck by a Navy F-4 Phantom as it was performing training exercises while on approach to the Dallas Naval Air Station. The jet clipped several guy-wires; however, its two occupants had ejected themselves from the aircraft and parachuted to the ground before it crashed. The tower consortium between the two stations decided to have a new 1,400 feet (430 m)-tall tower constructed a 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) southwest of the original facility, which was completed in 1989. The candelabra mast that encompassed the upper 281 feet (86 m) of the former tower, meanwhile, was dismantled (reducing its height to 1,240 feet (378 m)), with new transmitters installed to serve as auxiliary facilities for WFAA, KDFW and radio stations KJMZ (100.3 FM, now KJKK), KMEZ (107.5 FM, now KMVK), KQZY (105.3 FM, now KRLD-FM), KKDA-FM (104.5) and KMGC (102.9 FM, now KDMX).
In April 1998, when KTEN (which had been affiliated with ABC on a part-time basis since its sign-on in 1956) disaffiliated from the network, WFAA began serving as a default ABC station for areas near and south of the Red River within the adjacent Sherman-Ada market—including Gainesville, and the southern Oklahoma cities of Ardmore, Durant and Hugo—through its existing availability on most cable providers in the region (KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City served as the primary default affiliate for the northern counties of the DMA in south-central Oklahoma). However, residents in extreme North Texas could view most ABC programs that were pre-empted by KTEN via WFAA for several years beforehand, particularly after the former switched to a primary NBC affiliation in 1986 (steadily reducing ABC-provided content on its schedule to select daytime and prime time programs by 1994, when it added an additional primary affiliation with Fox). The market would regain an ABC station of its own when KTEN launched a digital subchannel affiliated with the network on May 1, 2010. Despite this, WFAA remains available on some cable providers in the southern half of the market; Cable One, however, removed the station from its Sherman and Denison systems on February 26, 2015, due to a clause in its retransmission agreement with KTEN that precluded it from carrying any other ABC stations from nearby markets.
On January 1, 1999, Belo launched Texas Cable News (TXCN), a statewide cable news channel that initially featured rolling news, weather and sports content, as well as public affairs, sports-talk and entertainment news programs, utilizing staff and resources from WFAA and sister stations KVUE, KHOU and KENS, and The Dallas Morning News. TXCN switched to a format primarily consisting of repackaged newscasts featuring segments seen on each of Belo's Texas-based stations, and in-house weather segments on January 1, 2005, citing limited cable distribution in Texas' largest television markets for the format change that resulted in the layoffs of 45 of the channel's employees. Following its acquisition of Belo, Gannett shut down Texas Cable News on May 1, 2015.
On July 20, 2005, Belo announced that it had reached an agreement with real estate developer Hillwood Capital to build a secondary studio facility in the eastern tower of the Plaza Towers complex then under construction in the Victory Park development at the corner of Olive and Houston Streets (adjacent to the American Airlines Center). The 5,000-square-foot (465 m2) facility, which opened in January 2007, incorporates a street-level studio where most of the station's news programming (with the exception of the 10:00 p.m. newscast) and the local talk show Good Morning Texas is produced, and houses news production staff and engineering operations; initially, the building also housed certain operations run by Belo's other Dallas-based properties, including its publishing division. The WFAA Communications Center continues to house the station's newsroom and most other business operations (including its master control, traffic, advertising and programming departments).
On October 1, 2007, Belo announced plans to split off its broadcasting and newspaper interests into two independent companies. WFAA would remain with the broadcasting entity, which retained the Belo Corporation name and was structured as the legal successor to the previous company, while the newspaper division (which in addition to The Dallas Morning News, included among other publications Al Día, Neighborsgo and Quick) was spun off into the similarly named, shareholder-held entity A. H. Belo Corporation (the name used by the original company from 1865 to 2001). The split – which was completed on February 8, 2008 – ended the joint ownership of WFAA television and The News after 59 years, becoming the last of the three newspaper/television broadcasting combinations in the Dallas–Fort Worth market to be separated into different companies (KXAS-TV was co-owned with the Star-Telegram from September 1948 until Carter Publications sold the former two properties and radio stations WBAP (820 AM) and KSCS (96.3 FM) to separate companies in 1974, while KDFW was co-owned with the Dallas Times-Herald—which ended publication after Belo acquired the newspaper in December 1991—from December 1949 until the Times Mirror Company sold the latter to the MediaNews Group in 1986). However, WFAA and The News continued to maintain a news content partnership through the end of 2013, at which time the newspaper entered into a collaborative agreement with KXAS-TV.
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo for $1.5 billion (the purchase price would increase to $2.2 billion by the merger's completion). The deal was granted FCC approval on December 20, and was finalized on December 23. Through the merger with Gannett, WFAA became the company's largest television station by market size (supplanting CBS-affiliated sister station WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., which has been owned by the company since 1986); it also marked channel 8's first ownership change in 63 years. Additionally in July 2014, WFAA gained new sister stations in nearby markets—including NBC affiliate KCEN-TV in Waco and its Bryan semi-satellite KAGS-LD, CBS affiliate KYTX in Tyler and Fox affiliates KXVA in Abilene and KIDY in San Angelo—through Gannett's purchase of six television stations owned by the Dallas-based London Broadcasting Company, which based its portfolio of broadcasting properties exclusively within Texas (independent station KTXD-TV (channel 47) in nearby Greenville was one of two stations that London exempted from the deal, along with MeTV affiliate KCEB in Tyler, although FCC ownership regulations did not play a factor in the case of KTXD and WFAA as the Dallas–Fort Worth market had enough full-power television stations to allow a fourth duopoly).
On August 5, 2014, Gannett announced that it would split its broadcast and print media properties into separate publicly traded companies. Once the corporate separation was finalized on June 29, 2015, WFAA became part of Tegna, which was structured as the legal successor of the old Gannett and assumed ownership of the original company's non-publishing assets (including the broadcasting unit and most of its digital media properties); the Gannett Company, meanwhile, was re-established as a new company absolved of all existing debt that retained its predecessor's newspapers (including the company's flagship publication, USA Today) and select digital assets not acquired by Tegna.
|TV stations in Texas|
KSAT, San Antonio
|TV stations in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas|
| KDTN 2 (Daystar)|
KDFW 4 (FOX)
KXAS 5 (NBC)
WFAA 8 (ABC)
KTVT 11 (CBS)
KERA 13 (PBS)
KPFW-LD 18 (IND/Religious)
KBOP-LD 20 (Infomercial)
KTXA 21 (IND)
KNAV 22 (Hot TV)
KUVN 23 (UNI)
K25FW 25 (HSN)
KODF 26 (Hot TV)
KDFI 27 (MNTV)
KHPK 28 (SBN)
KMPX 29 (ESTRELLA)
KWDA-LD 30 (Rel)
K31GL 31 (SBN)
KDAF 33 (CW)
KJJM-LD 34 (HSN)
KVFW 38 (Infomercial)
KXTX 39 (TMD)
KLEG 44 (TVC)
KTXD 47 (STADIUM)
KSTR 49 (UNIMAS)
KHFD 51 (EICB)
KFWD 52 (SON)
KAZD 55 (MeTV)
KDTX 58 (TBN)
KPXD 68 (ION)