WTMJ-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 28), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. WTMJ-TV's studios are located on Capitol Drive (Wisconsin Highway 190) in Milwaukee (an Art Deco facility that is known as "Radio City", in tribute to the New York complex of the same name), and its transmitter is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) north of downtown Milwaukee.
From its inception until October 31, 2018, WTMJ-TV was a sister station to WTMJ radio (620 AM) and WKTI (94.5 FM). The radio stations are now owned by Good Karma Brands, but continue to share studios and internal operations (including web hosting) with Scripps and WTMJ-TV; Good Karma's WAUK (540) will eventually move to Radio City itself and operate under a lease agreement with Scripps.
Journal Communications ownershipEdit
The Journal Company (owner of the Milwaukee Journal, which was consolidated with the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1995 to become the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) was granted its first television station license in September 1931 for W9XD. The experimental station used a low-definition electromechanical system to transmit its signal, and conducted field tests from 1931 to 1933; in 1934, Journal converted W9XD's facilities to experimental high-fidelity apex radio unit W9XAZ in 1934. Its license was withdrawn by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1938 as part of an effort to limit broadcast licenses to stations that would actively engage in the development of television. No publicly announced television programming was broadcast by W9XD during this experimental period.
The Journal Company obtained one of the first construction permits issued by the FCC for a commercial television station on December 7, 1941, under the call letters WMJT (for "Milwaukee Journal Television"), and built a new broadcast facility to transmit its signal by August 1942. However, the company's television plans were suspended when the U.S. War Production Board halted the manufacturing of television and radio broadcasting equipment for civilian use from April 1942 to August 1945, in order for such equipment to be allocated for use by the military during World War II.
The station's call letters were later modified to WTMJ-TV (referencing The Milwaukee Journal), which first signed on the air on December 3, 1947, originally broadcasting on VHF channel 3. In addition to being the first commercial television station to sign on the air in Wisconsin, the fourth such station to sign on in the Midwestern United States and the 15th to launch in the United States, WTMJ was also the first station located outside of the Eastern Time Zone to be affiliated with a major broadcast television network. At the time it began operations, there were only 500 television sets in Milwaukee; that number would jump to 2,050 by the following April. The existence of television sets in Milwaukee before WTMJ-TV even debuted was because of the fact that the city is close enough to Chicago that television stations from that market could be and still are viewable in Milwaukee; therefore, residents in southeastern Wisconsin had access to WBKB-TV (now WBBM-TV), which signed on from Chicago in 1946 as the first commercially licensed television station outside of the Eastern Time Zone.
At its official sign-on, it was one of several flagship media properties owned by Journal, which in addition to the Journal newspaper, also owned radio station WTMJ (1020 AM, now at 620 AM). In 1959, these properties were joined by WTMJ-FM (102.1 FM, now WKTI at 94.5). WTMJ-TV has been affiliated with NBC since its sign-on, owing to its radio sister's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network; although, it also initially carried programming from CBS, ABC and the DuMont Television Network. It lost its secondary affiliation with CBS when WCAN-TV (channel 25, now defunct) signed on in September 1953, and lost access to ABC and DuMont programming when WOKY-TV (channel 19, now CW affiliate WVTV on channel 18) made its debut one month later. WTMJ is the only television station in Milwaukee to have been affiliated with the same network throughout its history, and is currently NBC's second-longest tenured affiliate, behind only KSDK in St. Louis (which signed on as KSD-TV eleven months earlier in January 1947).
On July 11, 1953, WTMJ-TV moved to VHF channel 4, in order to alleviate interference with WKZO-TV (now WWMT) in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is located nearly directly across Lake Michigan. The relocation of the station's channel allocation was a part of the FCC's complete revision of its Table of Channel Assignments, as issued in the Sixth Report and General Order issued by the agency on April 14, 1952. This move forced the CBS O&O on channel 4 in Chicago, WBBM-TV, to be reassigned to VHF channel 2; WBBM had moved to that frequency six days before WTMJ's channel relocation on July 5, 1953.
WTMJ-TV was one of the first television stations in the United States to purchase color equipment to transmit and produce programming in the format; in December 1953, it broadcast NBC's color telecast of Amahl and the Night Visitors, when only two prototype color sets existed in Milwaukee. The first color television sets in the city were sold in March 1954; by July of that year, WTMJ became the third television station in the U.S. with live color capability, when it broadcast its first local color program that originated from its studios, The Grenadiers. About 3,000 color sets existed in Milwaukee in February 1957.
Over time, Journal gradually expanded its television chain, acquiring, among other stations, KTNV-TV in Las Vegas (acquired in 1979); KIVI-TV in Boise, Idaho (acquired in 2002); KMTV in Omaha and KGUN-TV in Tucson, Arizona (both acquired in 2005); WGBA-TV and WACY-TV in Green Bay (the former being acquired in August 2004, with the latter operated under a local marketing agreement until Journal acquired it outright in 2012); and WTVF in Nashville (acquired in 2012).
WTMJ inaugurated the current "Today's TMJ4" brand on July 25, 1992, coinciding with the start of NBC's coverage of that year's Summer Olympics (variants of this brand, whether they incorporated the last three letters of the callsign or not, were later used by other stations such as KTHV in Little Rock and WTMJ sister station KIVI-TV in Boise). The first generation of the "TMJ4" branding lasted until August 13, 2004, on the date NBC began its coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics, as part of a graphical overhaul that resulted in the retirement of the "sailboat 4" logo that had been in use by the station since 1980.
In 2001, Journal entered into a local marketing agreement with Kenosha-licensed WPXE-TV (channel 55), resulting indirectly from NBC's partial ownership interest in WPXE network partner Pax TV (now Ion Television) and a related management agreement with that network's owned-and-operated stations. Under the LMA, the two stations shared certain programs, while WTMJ handled advertising sales services for channel 55; the agreement also allowed WPXE to air rebroadcasts of channel 4's 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts on a half-hour delay. The LMA ended on July 1, 2005 upon Pax's rebranding as i: Independent Television. However, WTMJ continues to provide engineering assistance for WPXE-TV.
Summer 2013 Time Warner Cable carriage disputeEdit
Due to a dispute between the cable provider and Journal Communications, WTMJ-TV was removed from Time Warner Cable's southeastern Wisconsin systems at midnight on July 25, 2013, four days before the provider's agreement with Journal was set to expire on July 30; the dispute between the companies also affected Journal-owned stations in four other markets (WGBA-TV and WACY-TV in Green Bay, KMTV-TV in Omaha and KMIR-TV in Palm Springs, California); The Local AccuWeather Channel and Live Well Network subchannels were pulled from TWC's systems two weeks earlier on July 10 as they were not protected under the sweeps rule that prohibits cable providers from pulling the main signal of a carried station (such as WTMJ 4.1) during such ratings periods, including that occurring in July. On August 15, GSN replaced WTMJ on its designated channel 4 slot, while Starz Kids & Family replaced the two subchannels on digital channels 994 and 999, before being replaced by the Hallmark Movie Channel in September.
On August 8, a group of Time Warner Cable subscribers filed a class action lawsuit against the provider in a Wisconsin District Court under grounds of breach of contract. Journal Broadcast Group claimed on its website that TWC was distracted due to its dispute with CBS Corporation (which resulted in the removals of CBS Television Stations outlets in select markets and the Showtime Networks premium channel suite nationwide, until it signed a new agreement on September 2, 2013). Journal also asked state authorities to intervene in the dispute.
WTMJ was restored at 7:00 p.m. on September 20, 2013, as a result of a new carriage agreement between Journal and TWC. WTMJ was relocated to cable channel 2 (GSN remained on channel 4). WTMJ's high definition feed stayed on digital channel 1004, with Journal executives citing that the HD slot was more important than the declining analog and standard definition viewership. In the Racine, Kenosha and Plymouth areas for the time being, WTMJ will be seen on channel 83 while Time Warner finds a lower channel slot. This also left WTMJ's subchannels off Time Warner systems, making them only receivable over-the-air as they are not carried on Charter Communications's legacy systems pre-Time Warner Cable merger, DirecTV and Dish Network.
Management realignment and sale to ScrippsEdit
In the winter of 2014, Journal made several management changes to split responsibilities between its radio and television division. Some of the changes included the appointments of Debbie Turner (executive vice president and general manager at WTVF) as the company's vice president of television, Steve Wexler (executive vice president of Journal's Milwaukee radio and television properties) as executive vice president for the company's radio division, and Joe Poss (general manager of Journal's Green Bay duopoly of WGBA/WACY) as WTMJ-TV's general manager. Janet Hundley (longtime assistant news director at ABC O&O WLS-TV in Chicago) was also hired as the station's news director in May 2014, following the resignation of Bill Berra.
On July 30, 2014, the E. W. Scripps Company announced that it would acquire Journal Communications in an all-stock transaction. The combined firm would retain their broadcast properties—including WTMJ-TV and its AM and FM radio siblings—with the print assets being spun off as Journal Media Group. The deal was approved by the FCC on December 12, 2014, with shareholders of the two companies approving it on March 11, 2015; the merger/spin-off between Journal and Scripps formally closed on April 1 (Journal Media Group would be subsequently acquired by the Gannett Company—which spun off its own broadcasting and digital media properties into Tegna, Inc. three months after the Journal split was completed, in order to focus on its newspapers—in August 2015). Through its ownership by Journal, WTMJ had been one of the few television stations in the country not owned by a major network that had the same callsign, owner and primary network affiliation throughout its history; it was also the last major television station in the Milwaukee market to be locally owned.
E. W. Scripps and Time Warner Cable announced a new multi-year carriage agreement on February 1, 2016, well ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics that includes WTMJ. With this agreement, Scripps also obtained carriage for WTMJ's subchannels as of April 4, 2016, which took the channel 990 and 991 slots on area Time Warner systems.
|TV stations in Wisconsin|
| WTMJ, Milwaukee|
|TV stations in Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha|
| WTMJ 4 (NBC) |
WITI 6 (Fox)
WMVS 10 (PBS)
WISN 12 (ABC)
WVTV 18 (CW)
WMKE-CD 21 (Quest)
WVTV-DT2 24 (MNTV)
WVCY 30 (Rel)
WMVT 36 (PBS)
WTSJ-LP 38 (AZA)
WBME-CD 41 (MeTV)
WMLW 49 (Ind.)
WWRS 52 (TBN)
WPXE 55 (Ion)
WDJT 58 (CBS)
WYTU-LD 63 (TLM)
WIWN 68 (COZI)