TV Stations Wikia

WTTW, virtual channel 11 (UHF digital channel 47), is the primary Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Chicago, Illinois, United States. Owned by not-for-profit broadcasting entity Window to the World Communications, Inc., it is a sister station to MHz Worldview affiliate WYCC (channel 20) and commercial classical music radio station WFMT (98.7 FM). The three stations share studios in the Renée Crown Public Media Center, located at 5400 North Saint Louis Avenue (adjacent to the main campus of Northeastern Illinois University) in the city's North Park neighborhood; WTTW and WYCC share transmitter facilities atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop. WTTW also owns and operates The Chicago Production Center, a video production and editing facility that is operated alongside the three stations.

WTTW is one of two PBS member stations serving the Chicago market, alongside Gary, Indiana-licensed WYIN (channel 56). WTTW, along with Wisconsin Public Television flagship station WHA-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, serve as default PBS member stations for Rockford as that market does not have a PBS station of its own; both stations are available in that market on local cable providers.

On December 7, 2017, Window to the World Communications announced that it was seeking to purchase WYCC from the City Colleges of Chicago in a move that would put WYCC and WTTW under one corporate umbrella. The sale was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 13, 2018, and was completed on April 20.


WTTW first signed on the air on September 6, 1955, as a member station of National Educational Television (NET). The station was founded by a group of civic-minded Chicagoans, led by Inland Steel executive Edward R. Ryerson. Channel 11 came to life during the first year of the inaugural term of Mayor Richard J. Daley; Daley, Ryerson and businessman Irving B. Harris were responsible for creating WTTW, which began its life with studios and offices in Chicago's Banker's Building. It also had a 'working exhibit' facility at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago's Jackson Park. The WTTW call letters were chosen as the founders wanted the station to be Chicago's "Window To The World". The station's transmitter was given to WTTW by the staff and management of the defunct KS2XBS, a pay television station operated by Zenith Radio Corporation on VHF channel 2 that was forced to shut down as a result of CBS owned-and-operated station WBBM-TV's relocation to that channel in July 1953.

Ryerson recruited a young communications lawyer, Newton N. Minow, to join the station's Board; Minow would both serve as chairman of the WTTW board and as Commissioner of the FCC under the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Irving B. Harris, Henry W. "Brick" Meers, John W. McCarter, Jr., Martin J. "Mike" Koldyke and Sandra P. Guthman have served as Chairman of the Board for the public broadcaster in subsequent decades. Guthman, a member of the famous Polk Brothers family of Chicago, is the current Chairman of the Board, having served in that post since October 2003.

Minow stated that the only really important decision that he made during his tenure as Chair of WTTW was the recruitment of William J. McCarter, Jr. as president and chief executive officer, a post which he held for 27 years. Having run public station WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., McCarter—a decorated Korean War hero and a veteran television pioneer—got his start in the broadcasting industry as a cameraman for American Bandstand and then as a part of the Army-McCarthy hearings on Capitol Hill. McCarter developed the concept of the political roundtable that is now a staple of television news. In non-commercial television circles, McCarter is referred to as the "architect" of public television (his friends know him as the man who kicked Bob Dylan—who was set to tape an episode of SoundStage and was found by McCarter asleep on the couch in the room—out of his office, waking the bearded Dylan up and ushering him out of the office after McCarter returned from a meeting).

During the 1960s, WTTW aired educational programming during the daytime hours, showing programs produced under the auspices of Chicago Area Schools Television (CAST). Programs from "TV College", covering college subjects, were also shown on weekdays. Other afternoon shows included a locally produced series titled The Storyteller, which featured a children's story presented weekdays at 5:30 p.m., and was sponsored by the locally based Marshall Field & Company department store chain. On October 5, 1970, WTTW became a charter member station of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

WTTW did not broadcast programming on Saturdays until the summer of 1972, when it began airing a limited schedule of programming on that day until 2:00 p.m.; the station expanded its Saturday programming scheduled to a full broadcast day in 1974. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, WTTW was used during the overnight hours as a test vehicle in the development of stereophonic sound for television audio broadcasts. In 1981, the Chicago Educational Television Association founded Chicago magazine as the program guide for WTTW and WFMT; the publication was sold to a joint venture between Metropolitan Detroit Magazine and Adams Communications in 1986 for $17 million.

On November 22, 1987, WTTW's signal was hijacked by an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask—the second such signal interruption incident to occur in the Chicago area that night, with the first taking place during the 9:00 p.m. newscast on independent station WGN-TV (channel 9)'s two hours prior to the hacker's intrusion of the WTTW signal. While WGN-TV's analog transmitter was located atop the John Hancock Center at the time, allowing for engineers to almost immediately thwart the video hacker by changing the studio-to-transmitter frequency, WTTW's transmitter was located atop the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), which made it harder to stop the hacker before the interruption voluntarily concluded after almost two minutes.

On June 4, 2010, Window to the World Communications announced that it would lay off around 12% of WTTW and WFMT's employee base and extend a salary freeze instituted in 2009 for one additional year, in an effort to cut $3 million in operating costs due to declining revenue, effects from the economic downturn and the loss of $1.25 million in grant money from the Illinois General Assembly. Among the employees exiting WTTW in that layoff were Randy Chandler, Amy Christenson, Andy Fontana, Marc Glick, Susan Godfrey, Andrea Guthmann, Kari Hurley, Andre Jones, Shaunese Teamer, Sarah Warner and Tom Wuellner.

In 2012, WTTW eliminated the position of 16-year company veteran Joanie Bayhack, who had been senior vice president of communications and corporate partnerships. In 2014, WTTW eliminated the position of Holly Gilson, a 13-year veteran of the company who most recently had been director of strategic partnerships and special projects.

On April 15, 2014, Window to the World Communications renamed the broadcasting facilities for WTTW and WFMT-FM as the Renée Crown Public Media Center, following a monetary gift of an undisclosed amount by the family of Renée Crown (wife of Lester), who has served as a trustee for Window to the World since 1981).

TV stations in Illinois
WTTW, Chicago

WYIN, Gary/Chicago
WSIU, Carbondale/Olney
WILL, Urbana
WTVP, Peoria
WSEC, Jacksonville/Macomb/Quincy
WQPT, Moline
WEIU, Charleston

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)