KUSI-TV, virtual channel 51 (UHF digital channel 18), is an independent television station located in San Diego, California, United States. The station is owned by McKinnon Broadcasting. KUSI maintains studio facilities on Viewridge Avenue (near I-15) in the Kearny Mesa section of San Diego, and its transmitter is located southeast of Spring Valley. Its signal is relayed on low-powered K12PO in Murrieta. On cable, KUSI is available on Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse channel 9.
The station first signed on the air on September 13, 1982. At its sign-on, it operated as a general entertainment independent station airing a mix of children's programs, sitcoms, older theatrical and made-for-TV movies, drama series and sports events. The station's license was originally assigned to United States International University (the university's initials served as the basis of the station's callsign); however prior to the station's sign-on, USIU sold the license to Texas businessman Michael D. McKinnon. His company, McKinnon Broadcasting (which operates the station under the wholly owned licensee Channel 51 of San Diego, Inc.), is owned by Mike McKinnon (who has a controlling 66.26% stake), brother C. Dan McKinnon (who has a 17.48% stake) and sons Michael Dean McKinnon and Mark Daniel McKinnon (who hold 08.13% each)). Channel 51 of San Diego, Inc., is a California-based licensee corporation, while Corpus Christi-based corporation San Diego's Fifty-One, Inc., is a holding company for McKinnon Broadcasting.
In January 1994, the station dropped its weekday morning children's programs, moving them to afternoons upon the launch of a morning newscast; by 1995, KUSI began dropping many of these shows (which were scattered among other local outlets) and added more court, talk and reality shows, mirroring the scheduling format used by Los Angeles independent station KCAL-TV of that time period. The cartoons and recent off-network sitcoms were moved to a weaker station, KTTY (channel 69, now KSWB-TV), which became a charter affiliate of The WB in January 1995. On January 16 of that year, KUSI gained a network affiliation when it became San Diego's original outlet of the upstart United Paramount Network (UPN).
Eleven months later in November 1995, in an attempt to take the Fox affiliation away from Tijuana-licensed XETV-TV (channel 6), KUSI filed an appeal against the Federal Communications Commission's decision to grant Fox a permit to broadcast live sports on the Mexican-licensed signal of XETV (McKinnon Broadcasting had made an earlier unsuccessful attempt to pull the Fox affiliation from XETV in April 1991). Fox had picked up the broadcast rights to NFL games from the National Football Conference the year prior, as cited in the United States Court of Appeals case Channel 51 of San Diego, Inc. vs. FCC and Fox Television Stations, Inc. 79 F.3d 1187. FCC regulations disallowed television stations that were licensed outside the United States from airing live sporting events from a U.S. broadcast network without licensing approval.
The permit was granted to Fox on behalf of XETV, and the case was settled on March 26, 1996. However until XETV started its own news department in December 1999, KUSI provided newsgathering resources to Fox's news and sports divisions for the San Diego market (similarly, in 2008, it was rumored that KUSI would affiliate with The CW. after KSWB-TV decided to end its affiliation with that network after two years in order to assume the Fox affiliation from XETV on August 1 of that year, but The CW chose to affiliate with XETV instead). KUSI dropped UPN when its affiliation agreement with the network expired on January 16, 1998, citing low ratings for the network's programming locally. However, UPN programming remained available in the market on local cable providers via the network's Los Angeles owned-and-operated station KCOP-TV (whose presence in the market also played a factor in KUSI dropping the UPN affiliation); however, many San Diegans that did not have a cable television subscription or a strong antenna (facing Los Angeles) were unable to view UPN programs within the market until Tecate, Baja California-licensed XHUPN (channel 49, now MyNetworkTV affiliate XHDTV-TV) signed on in November 1999.
In the fall of 2007, KUSI announced plans to open a new state-of-the-art streetside studio facility in downtown San Diego. However, the site that was intended to house its new studio facilities was eventually sold to Bosa Development; KUSI continues to operate from its Kearny Mesa studios. Since McKinnon Broadcasting sold its two Texas stations, KBMT in Beaumont and KIII in Corpus Christi, to the London Broadcasting Company respectively in August 5, 2009 and August 31, 2010, KUSI is currently the company's only remaining television station property As of August 2014. In September 2017, KUSI will celebrate its 35th anniversary.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|51.1||720p||16:9||KUSI-HD||Main KUSI-TV programming|
KUSI-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 51, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 18. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 51.
Syndicated programming on KUSI-TV includes The Big Bang Theory, The Real, TMZ on TV, Extra and Family Feud, among others. From 1987 to 1994 and again from 1997 to 2003, KUSI held the over-the-air television rights to Major League Baseball games from the San Diego Padres; during the second tenure, the station had only broadcast the team's Sunday games, which were produced by 4SD until becoming exclusive to the cable channel in 2004.
KUSI became active in the local television news race when it launched its news department with the introduction of an hour-long 10:00 p.m. newscast in September 1990. Originally anchored by veteran television anchors Roger Grimsby and George Reading, it was the first television station in San Diego to begin producing local newscasts since XETV's original news department folded in 1972, after it lost the ABC affiliation to what was then KCST. On January 5, 1994, the station debuted a three-hour weekday morning newscast from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Originally anchored by Laura Buxton and Tom Blair (who was later replaced by Stan Miller), it gradually became a competitor to the national morning newscasts aired during the final two hours of the program.
The station is known for its series of civic and consumer watchdog reports during its evening newscasts called The Turko Files, helmed by investigative reporter Michael Turko (who regularly utters the line "It Ain't Right" during the segments). From 1994 to 2014, John Coleman (a longtime Chicago weatherman and co-founder of The Weather Channel) served as KUSI's chief meteorologist, appearing on its evening newscasts. During his tenure at the station, Coleman was known for his trademark drawn-out pronunciation of the station's call letters ("K-uuuuuuuuuuu-S-I"), and providing his own lively presentation during the forecast segments (often referring to the strong winds that affect the area as the "SOSA" (or "Sort of Santa Ana"), and breaking out in dance at random). Coleman retired from broadcasting in April 2014 after a 61-year career, however he did not appear on-air for a proper sendoff (as he was on vacation at the time) when KUSI ran a retrospective of his career on the April 10 edition of the 6:00 p.m. newscast.
In January 2000, KUSI expanded its news programming into early evenings with the debut of a half-hour newscast at 7:00 p.m.; within a few months however, the program was moved to 6:30 p.m. Subsequently in July 2001, an additional half-hour newscast at 6:00 p.m. was launched. In January 2005, the station expanded its late evening news programming with the debut of a half-hour 11:00 p.m. newscast. On April 1, 2010, beginning with the station's 6:00 p.m. newscast, KUSI became the fourth television station in the San Diego market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. In 2011, the station began using the AFD #10 broadcast flag to present its newscasts in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable television through 4:3 television sets.
In September 2011, the station expanded its weekday morning newscast to five hours, with the addition of an hour at 9:00 a.m. (replacing Live with Regis and Kelly, which moved to CBS affiliate KFMB-TV (channel 8) on that date). On August 11, 2014, KUSI debuted an hour-long 5:00 p.m. newscast; subsequently on August 16, the station expanded its weekend morning newscasts to five hours, with the addition of an hour at 10:00 a.m.
Notable on-air staff
- Ross Becker – weeknights anchor
- Allen Denton – weeknights anchor; also co-host of San Diego People
- Sandra Maas – weeknights anchor; also co-host of San Diego People
- Carlos Amezcua - weekday morning co-anchor on Good Morning San Diego
- Mark Mathis – weekday mornings meteorologist on Good Morning San Diego
- John Coleman - chief meteorologist (1994–2014; retired)