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WVPX-TV, virtual and UHF digital channel 23, is an Ion Television owned-and-operated television station serving Cleveland, Ohio, United States that is licensed to Akron. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks, as part of a duopoly with Canton-licensed Ion Life owned-and-operated station WDLI-TV (channel 17). The two stations share offices on King James Way in Akron and transmitter facilities on the west side of the city, just north of the former site of Rolling Acres Mall.


Origins of WAKR-TV[]

The station first signed on the air on June 7, 1953 as WAKR-TV (for "AKRon"), broadcasting from a transmitter located on the First National Tower in Akron. The station was owned by Summit Radio Corporation, the family-owned business of S. Bernard Berk, which also owned WAKR radio (1590 AM, and 97.5 FM, now WONE-FM). Summit had applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1947 for a television broadcast license to operate on VHF channel 11, the only channel allocated to Akron. However, before the license was issued, the FCC implemented a freeze on further television licenses while it undertook a study of what to do with the VHF spectrum.

After the release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order lifted the freeze in 1952, the Commission decided to collapse Akron and Canton into the Cleveland market. It limited the number of VHF channels in the Cleveland area to three—channels 3, 5 and 8 (changed from 4, 5 and 9) and to grant licenses to any additional stations only in the UHF spectrum; the channel 11 frequency was deleted in order to protect what would become WTOL in Toledo and WIIC-TV (now WPXI) in Pittsburgh. Summit was able to secure a license to operate on UHF channel 49.

Being a UHF television station in a predominantly VHF market was extremely difficult in the 1950s. Almost all television sets that were sold were not capable of tuning UHF stations, and special converters and antennas were required to receive a UHF broadcast signal. Even with a converter, the picture quality was marginal at best. About half of the UHF stations in the country that debuted in the 1950s failed and shut down before the end of the decade. The FCC did not require television sets to include UHF tuning capability until 1964, as part of the All-Channel Receiver Act.

Early years[]

WAKR-TV was fortunate to obtain an affiliation with ABC, which had some problems during the early 1950s obtaining clearances for its complete schedule on its two secondary affiliates in Cleveland: WJW-TV (channel 8), which was also a DuMont affiliate; and WEWS-TV (channel 5), which was also a CBS affiliate. Additionally, Akron was at the time just beyond the reach of New Castle, Pennsylvania ABC affiliate WKST-TV (now WYTV), which did not move its tower and license to Youngstown until 1964. WAKR-TV also focused its programming on the Akron area to distinguish itself from the Cleveland stations. It boasted the only newscast that focused on Akron and Canton news, using resources shared with WAKR radio and the Akron Beacon Journal (a part-owner of the WAKR stations until the 1970s).

The going got more difficult, however, when WEWS became a full-time ABC affiliate in 1955. WAKR-TV was left with lower-rated syndicated programming (especially a large amount of country music and religious shows, aimed perhaps toward the area's large population of Southern expatriates), as most of the more popular shows went to the larger Cleveland stations. In 1961, Summit Radio declared that channel 49 had "suffered very substantial operating losses" from the beginning.

The situation got only marginally better after the FCC required all-channel tuning, and did not improve much more after the station moved to the stronger channel 23 in 1967. (The channel 49 allocation is now held by PBS member station WEAO.) It tried to focus on its unique local programming including its Akron-based newscasts. Then-station manager Bob Bostian stated as WAKR-TV marked its 25th anniversary in 1978, "Our local programming is geared to giving Akron what it wants—news, advertising, announcements and local shows all about Akron".[3] The station struggled, however, and Summit had to rely for its profitability on its very successful AM station.

Cleveland TV vs. Akron TV[]

The station also suffered from overall low ratings because it operated in the shadow of the Cleveland market. Several studies indicated that even when viewers watched WAKR, they assumed they were watching WEWS, since both stations had a large amount of common programming from ABC. Furthermore, Akron was not a separate market for ratings purposes, but was only a small section of the Cleveland market. Although WAKR's overall ratings were very poor in the Cleveland market as a whole, it trounced the Cleveland stations in Akron and Canton.

When WAKR-TV signed on, it was Akron's only network affiliate. Had even one more network station signed on around the same time, or even a network affiliate in Canton, the two cities may well have broken off from Cleveland and formed their own market. This market would have been among the top 100 markets in the country and would have probably served much of east-central and north-central Ohio, where the Cleveland stations have poor reception.

As it was, WAKR-TV was forced to compete with the Cleveland stations with the odds stacked heavily against it, especially since it was in the shadow of WEWS, one of ABC's strongest affiliates. It was also in constant jeopardy of losing its ABC affiliation. WEWS' owner, the E. W. Scripps Company, often tried to pressure ABC into pulling its affiliation from WAKR-TV, so that WEWS did not have to compete with another ABC affiliate in the same market.

Later years[]

Summit Radio was reorganized as Group One Broadcasting in 1965. In 1986, Group One sold off its radio stations, but kept channel 23 and changed its call letters to WAKC (for "AKron-Canton") on November 3 of that year. In 1993 ValueVision, a company specializing in home shopping programming, bought the station. Immediately, speculation arose that the station would cancel its newscasts; however ValueVision chose to keep the station's news programs, and had rebranded WAKC as "The North Ohio News Station," though the quality was uneven at best. The station then started to identify itself as serving Akron and Cleveland, but news coverage was still focused on the Akron/Canton area for the most part. With the launch of the new branding, the station expanded its 6 p.m. newscast to one hour, but dropped its weekend newscasts. In the fall of 1995, the station launched a 5 p.m. newscast called Your News.

Finally, in 1996, Paxson Communications—another company that specialized in home-shopping programs, though of the infomercial variety (and whose founder also launched the Home Shopping Network; although Paxson had owned a couple of major network affiliates years before, such as West Palm Beach, Florida ABC affiliate WPBF)—purchased WAKC. The station abruptly dropped all local news programming after February 26. Later that fall, the station began branding itself as "ABC 23", even though its affiliation with the network was set to end on December 31, 1996. For the next year-and-a-half, WAKC began carrying Paxson's infomercial service inTV (or the Infomail Television Network). The station assumed its current WVPX-TV call letters on January 13, 1998, after Paxson changed most of its stations' call letters to include "PX" in them. WVPX became a charter station of Paxson's new family-oriented broadcast network Pax TV when it launched on August 31, 1998 and carried the network's entire schedule, with practically no local programming.

An Akron-based newscast was briefly resurrected in June 2001 when Paxson entered into a local marketing agreement with Cleveland's NBC affiliate, WKYC-TV (channel 3), as part of an overall corporate deal between Paxson and NBC. Gannett-owned WKYC opened an Akron studio and produced nightly 6:30 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts (as Pax 23 News), featuring WKYC reporters assigned to stories in the Akron/Canton area. Weather reports were supplied by WKYC's meteorologists in that station's Cleveland studio. The newscasts were anchored by WKYC Akron bureau chief Eric Mansfield, who had been a reporter for the old WAKC newscasts from 1992 to 1994. WVPX dropped the newscasts upon Pax TV's rebranding as i: Independent Television on June 30, 2005, as Paxson had decided to discontinue its news share agreements with NBC's stations. What became Akron/Canton News migrated to a local origination channel on Time Warner Cable's Akron/Canton area system, where it aired until May 30, 2008.

TV stations in Ohio
WVPX, Akron

WYFX-LD, Youngstown
WTVG-DT4, Toledo
WCMH-DT3, Columbus

TV stations in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron, and Canton
WJW 8 (Fox)
W16DO-D 16 (RTV)
WDLI 17 (Court TV)
WIVD-LD 22 (Ind)
WVPX 23 (Ion)
W27DG-D 27 (Ind)
WIVN-LD 29 (Ind)
WIVM-LD 39 (Ind)
WOHZ-CD 41 (Ind)
WUAB 43 (CW)
WIVX-LD 51 (Ind)
WGGN 52 (Rel)
WCDN-LD 53 (Daystar)
WBNX 55 (Ind)
WMFD 68 (Ind)