WSNS-TV, virtual channel 44 (UHF digital channel 33), is a Telemundo owned-and-operated television station licensed to Chicago, Illinois, United States. The station is owned by the NBC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of NBCUniversal, as part of a duopoly with NBC owned-and-operated station WMAQ-TV (channel 5); NBCUniversal, a Comcast subsidiary, owns both networks, along with regional sports network NBC Sports Chicago. WSNS-TV and WMAQ-TV share studio facilities and business offices at the NBC Tower on North Columbus Drive in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, and transmitter facilities atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop.


As an independent stationEdit

Early historyEdit

The station first signed on the air on April 5, 1970, as an independent station; it is currently the third-oldest commercial television station on the UHF band in the Chicago market (behind WCIU-TV (channel 26), which signed on in February 1964; and WFLD (channel 32), which signed on in January 1966). WSNS was originally owned by a joint venture consisting of Harriscope Broadcasting (owned by Irving Harris, which owned a 50% interest), the Essaness Television Corporation (founded by theater owner Edwin Silverman), from which the station's call letters are derived, and National Subscription Television, a joint venture between Oak Industries (a manufacturer of satellite and pay television decoders and equipment) and Chartwell Enterprises (owned by media executive A. Jerrold Perenchio). The station's transmitter and studio facilities were located on the 97th floor of the John Hancock Center on North Michigan Avenue in the Streeterville neighborhood. The station never disclosed its ownership, in any of WSNS' formats, during regular sign-ons or sign-offs.

Initially, channel 44 maintained an all-news programming format. During the daytime, the station aired an alphanumeric feed of news reports supplied from various wire services set to continuous elevator music, with a commercial banner placed on the lower third of the screen displaying advertisements for businesses such as Continental Bank, Jewel Foods and other clients. Every seven minutes, a four-sided board would be rotated—which was taped live on-camera—to display news headlines, traffic reports, sports scores and birthdays of notable celebrities and other personalities. On November 16, 1970, the station moved into a newly constructed studio facility on West Grant Place in the Lincoln Park community's Mid-North District. During these early years, the Emergency Broadcast System required many stations to shut down in the event of a national emergency. On February 20, 1971, when a National Level EBS message was accidentally activated, WSNS was the only television station to respond correctly and shut down.[1]

The all-news format was not particularly successful, and by 1972, WSNS had converted into an entertainment-based independent, running a low-budget general entertainment schedule. Basically, WSNS was the "also ran" independent station in the market, running whatever programming that established independents, WGN-TV and WFLD (now a Fox owned-and-operated station), declined to purchase the local rights to. The lineup included some Japanese animated and adventure series (such as Prince Planet, Ultraman, Marine Boy and The Space Giants), along with low-budget cartoons, older off-network shows, older feature films, and religious programming.

WSNS did incorporate a few stronger programs within its schedule (among them, I Love Lucy, The Munsters, Leave It To Beaver and Gomer Pyle USMC); for a time during the mid-1970s, it also carried a local early-1960s-era showcase of Popeye cartoons hosted by Steve Hart. During the late 1970s, the station had also aired talk shows such as The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah! In addition, WSNS featured Chicago White Sox baseball games for seven years as well as showing Chicago Blackhawks hockey. By the early 1980s, the station had lost some of its higher-profile shows (such as I Love Lucy) to competitors such as WFLD.

ONTV yearsEdit

With the station stuck near the bottom of the ratings, WSNS looked at various options to become more viable. One such option was to acquire additional movie rights and drama series, and focus on more adult fare in the manner of what fellow independents WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) in New York City and KTLA in Los Angeles were carrying at the time. However, the station was approached by National Subscription Television, a subsidiary of Oak Industries, about purchasing time on the station to broadcast a planned over-the-air subscription service called ONTV.

Following an effort by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promote alternative programming efforts on the UHF broadcasting spectrum, such as subscription television services, WSNS filed for and received one of the many subscription television licenses awarded in the United States, 32 of which went into use at one point. The station then began carrying programming from the new ONTV service. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, most major cities had one or two licensed subscription television operators. To obtain a subscription television license, the station had to provide the FCC with a proposal detailing the programming to be offered (usually first-run movies, children's shows during the morning hours and late-night adult entertainment, much like those offered by cable-originated pay services such as HBO or Showtime). The station required subscribers to have a descrambler installed in their home in order to unscramble the station's signal during ONTV's programming hours. National Subscription Television subsequently purchased a 24.5% interest in the station from Essaness Television Corporation.

In September 1980, WSNS continued to maintain a general entertainment programming format until 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends until 5:00 p.m., with ONTV occupying the remaining time periods. In November 1981, WSNS extended its transmission of ONTV programming by one hour on weekdays (now starting at 6:00 p.m.) and by three hours on weekends (to 12:00 p.m.). By January 1982, WSNS began carrying ONTV for 20 hours per day, with an hour of public service programming (which also was listed as part of ONTV's schedule, though was not mentioned in other listings publications such as TV Guide) in order to fulfill FCC requirements for television stations offering a subscription service to broadcast at least 20 hours of unencrypted programming per week. In January 1983, after the FCC repealed the unencrypted programming requirements the previous fall, WSNS began carrying ONTV programming on a 24-hour basis, with the station's signal being scrambled the entire time. During one of the station's license renewal periods in 1982, Monroe Communications Corporation, a group owned by twelve Chicago-area investors, filed a motion with the FCC to contest the license for WSNS, arguing that a television station should not be allowed to use the public airwaves for a subscription fee nor should the airwaves be used to carry indecent content; this case was ultimately settled.

The ONTV Chicago service ceased operations in July 1985, largely due to the long-awaited entrance of cable television service into the area. Chicago was the last market where ONTV ended service as a result of protracted debates by the Chicago City Council over how to divide the market for cable distribution in order to avoid a single provider monopolizing service. However, WSNS was hit with additional lawsuits regarding the softcore pornographic films aired on ONTV, challenges that continued shortly after the service's shutdown. In addition, in February of that year, administrative law judge Joseph Chachkin ruled in favor of Monroe Communications in its effort to strip the Essaness/Harriscope/National Subscription Television venture of the WSNS license. Video 44, Inc. (the licensee operated by Essaness and Harriscope) appealed the ruling, which resulted in a stay of the judge's order.

As a Univision affiliateEdit

By 1985, WSNS decided the subscription format was not commercially viable, at a time when cable television providers were beginning to enter into the Chicago market. On July 1 of that year, after signing a three-year affiliation agreement with the network, the station became a full-time affiliate of the Spanish International Network—which became Univision the following year. WSNS displaced WCIU-TV (channel 26) as the market's SIN affiliate; that station ran the network's programming daily after 5:00 p.m. and the English language Stock Market Observer business news block during the daytime hours; WCIU then affiliated with NetSpan (which would become Telemundo in 1987).

As a Telemundo stationEdit

On October 13, 1988, WSNS-TV announced that it would switch its affiliation to Telemundo after that station's affiliation agreement with Univision concluded on December 31; two months later on December 16, WCIU—whose contract with Telemundo was set to expire the following month—signed an affiliation agreement with Univision, returning the station to that network after four years. The two stations switched affiliations on January 10, 1989.

Monroe Communications' attempts to have the WSNS license revoked from the Essaness-Harriscope venture's possession continued into the early 1990s. In April 1990, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. overturned the FCC's 1989 decision to renew Video 44's license to operate WSNS, stating that the agency acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in granting it, partly due to it having "improperly refused to consider evidence of obscene broadcasts" by the station in the early 1980s, requiring the Commission to conduct further proceedings in the dispute. On September 19, 1990, the FCC denied Video 44's application to renew its license; the ruling was upheld on appeal weeks later in a 5-0 decision, and awarded a new construction permit to Monroe Communications; Video 44, Inc. subsequently appealed the decision.

Although Monroe pledged to provide an expanded array of Hispanic programming aimed at Chicagoans of Mexican and Central American heritage should its license application be approved, several Hispanic aldermen on the Chicago City Council and other community leaders objected to the FCC's decision, expressing concern that the revocation would deprive Chicago's Hispanic community of a major voice.[8] The FCC denied Video 44's appeal of the license revocation for a second time on July 25, 1991. The dispute between the Monroe and Essaness/Harriscope groups finally ended after eleven years in June 1993, when Monroe Communications reached an agreement with Harriscope to drop its case against Video 44, Inc., in an $18 million settlement awarded to Monroe by Harriscope Broadcasting.

On November 9, 1995, Essaness sold a 74.5% controlling interest in the station to Telemundo for $44.7 million, with Essaness retaining a 25.5% stake. The move provided Telemundo with its first major-market owned-and-operated station and allowed Telemundo to establish itself as a viable Spanish language network against Univision. When NBC purchased Telemundo in 2002, WSNS became part of the newly enlarged conglomerate, creating Chicago's first commercial television duopoly between two full-power television stations. At that time, WSNS migrated from its longtime studio facility on West Grant Place and merged its operations with NBC owned-and-operated station WMAQ-TV (channel 5) at the NBC Tower on North Columbus Drive in the Magnificent Mile; the Grant Place building has since been demolished. The following year, NBC became the sole owner of WSNS when it bought out Essaness' stake in the partnership.

On November 11, 2016, WMAQ-TV's president and general manager David Doebler was appointed as president and general manager of WSNS-TV. Doebler is succeeding its president and general manager Chris McDonnell who was hired by the station in 2012, becoming the second person in Chicago to become president and general manager of the duopoly stations (following Dennis Welsh of Fox-owned duopoly of WFLD/WPWR-TV) and the third NBC employee to become the president and general manager of their duopoly stations (following Rich Cerussi of the San Francisco Bay Area's duopoly stations of KNTV and KSTS and Ric Harris of Philadelphia's duopoly stations of WCAU and WWSI).

TV stations in Illinois
Chicago market independent stations: Chicago market Spanish stations: Chicago market religious stations: Other stations:
WGN, Chicago WOCK-CD, Chicago WEDE-CD, Arlington Heights W15BU-D, Johnson City
WESV-LD, Chicago WWTO, Naperville WTJR, Quincy
WMEU-CD, Chicago WSNS, Chicago WDCI-LD, Chicago WHOI, Peoria
WXFT, Aurora WLPD-CD, Chicago WCHU-LD, Rochelle
WPVN-CD, Aurora WTCT, Chicago WWME-CD, Chicago
WGBO, Aurora WPXS, Mount Vernon, IL/St. Louis, MO WRJK-LP, Chicago
WYCC, Chicago
W40CN-D, Sugar Grove
WLCF-LD, Decatur
WBXC-CD, Champaign
WCHU-LD, Rochelle
W25DW-D, Chicago
WMWC, Galesburg
TV stations in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana
WGN 9 (Ind)
WOCK-CD 13 (Ind)
WYCC 20 (MHz)
WRJK-LP 22 (Diya TV)
W25DW-D 25 (HSN)
WCIU 26 (CW)
WLPD-CD 30 (Hillsong)
WFLD 32 (Fox)
WEDE-CD 34 (Ind)
WCPX 38 (Ion)
WMEU-CD 48 (Ind)
WDCI-LD 57 (Daystar)
WXFT 60 (UMas)
WJYS 62 (Ind)
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