WDIV-TVvirtual channel 4 (UHFdigital channel 45) is an NBC-affiliatedtelevision station located in Detroit, Michigan, United States. The station serves as the flagship broadcast property of the Graham Holdings Company subsidiary Graham Media Group. WDIV maintains studio facilities – which also house the headquarters of Graham Media Group – located on West Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit. As such, WDIV-TV is the only major television station in the market whose offices and studios are located in Detroit proper, while the market's other television stations are located in Southfield.
The station first signed on the air as WWDT on October 23, 1946 for one day of demonstrative programming; regular programming commenced on June 3, 1947. It was the first television station in Michigan and the tenth station to sign on in the United States overall. The station was originally owned by the Evening News Association, parent company of the Detroit News, along with WWJ radio (AM 950 and FM 97.1, now WXYT-FM). On May 15, 1947, the television station changed its call letters to WWJ-TV to match its radio sisters. Channel 4 has always been an NBC affiliate owing to WWJ radio's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network although it aired some programs from the DuMont Television Network prior to WJBK-TV (channel 2)'s sign-on in October 1948.
Channel 4 had a number of broadcasting firsts in Michigan including the first telecast of Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and Lions games as well as the state's first televised newscasts. WWJ-TV was the first television station in Michigan to broadcast in color in 1954. The station's studios and transmitter were originally located in the Detroit News building in downtown Detroit. In 1954, the station moved to a new 1,004-foot (306 m) transmitter at the intersection of Greenfield and Lincoln roads in Southfield. The station began broadcasting its newscasts and other locally produced programs in color in 1960, when it purchased new studio camera equipment.
Over the years, the Evening News Association acquired several other broadcasting outlets, such as KTVY (now KFOR-TV) in Oklahoma City, KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona and WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama. Eventually, the Evening News Association created Universal Communications Corporation as a holding company for its broadcasting interests, with WWJ-AM-FM-TV as the flagship stations.
Trade to The Washington Post Company
In 1969, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to impose restrictions on the common ownership of print and broadcast media in the same market. The combination of the Detroit News and WWJ-AM-FM-TV was given grandfathered protection from the new regulations. But by the mid-to-late 1970s, the Evening News Association was under pressure to break up its Detroit cluster voluntarily. Fearing that an FCC-forced divestiture was imminent, the Evening News Association agreed to trade WWJ-TV to the Washington Post Company in return for that company's flagship station, WTOP-TV (later WDVM-TV and now WUSA). On July 22, 1978, channel 4 changed its call letters to the present WDIV-TV, for Detroit's IV (representing the Roman numeral for 4). Additionally, in a series of promotional announcements with news anchor Dwayne X. Riley, the new call letters were said to represent the phrase, "Where Detroit Is Vital". The WWJ-TV call sign was later adopted for use by the former WGPR-TV (channel 62), after its 1995 purchase by CBS, which had acquired WWJ radio in 1989; the current WWJ-TV is a separate entity and not related to WDIV.
Ultimately, the FCC never imposed any limitations on ownership of television station and newspapers in the same market and the exchange of stations between the Evening News Association and the Washington Post Company (which was renamed Graham Holdings Company following the sale of the Washington Post in 2013) became somewhat unique in television broadcasting.
In 1982, WDIV moved out of its facility (which had been built in 1936 for WWJ-AM and expanded in 1948 and today is known as the Walker-Roehrig Building) adjacent to the headquarters of the Detroit News and moved one block to its current broadcast facility at West Lafayette Boulevard. The building has also housed the headquarters of Graham Media Group since 1997; the "Local" branding now utilized by most of the group's stations began at WDIV alongside its acquiring of flagship status in 2000. The station later became available outside the Detroit market when it was selected for inclusion on many Canadian cable providers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. WDIV's signal has been uplinked on C-band satellite since at least 1988. In 2004, the station bolstered local programming by securing broadcast rights to several Detroit Pistons basketball games (Fox Sports Detroit became the Pistons' sole broadcaster in 2008) as well as returning as the host television station for the North American International Auto Show. The station airs the auto show's charity preview, America's Thanksgiving Parade (both in high definition), The Ford Fireworks and the charity event "The Hob-Nobble Gobble" which is held the night before the Thanksgiving parade.
On April 15, 2005, former WDIV employee John Owens was shot in the station's lobby by Epifanio Rivas, Jr., a man with a history of harassing WDIV employees. Rivas was charged with attempted murder, while Owens remained in the hospital in critical but stable condition. On November 21, 2006, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge James Callahan sentenced Rivas to 16 to 32 years in prison for the shooting; he was also sentenced to two years for a felony firearm conviction. In December 2008, WDIV began streaming its newscasts online as part of a redesign of . On June 21, 2010, The 52nd Annual Target Fireworks were produced and aired entirely in high definition. On August 6, 2010, WDIV-TV and WXYZ-TV (channel 7) became the first stations in Detroit to offer Mobile DTV feeds.
On the evening of April 14, 2011, a suitcase containing a suspected improvised explosive device was left in the WDIV studio lobby after the person who planted the device was denied entry by the station's security guard, prompting the Detroit Police Bomb Squad to evacuate the studio as well as the Doubletree Hotel across the street. That night's 11 p.m. newscast was broadcast from the corner of Lafayette and Howard streets; the evacuation resulted in master control operations being inaccessible, preventing the broadcast or editing of news stories, and the broadcast of commercials. The station's PSIPvirtual channel temporarily reverted to 45.1 (the station's physical digital channel), with HD content downconverted to 720p. The device was detonated minutes later, with police giving the all-clear at 11:15 p.m. for the news crew to re-enter the studio.
Upon re-entering the studio, anchor Devin Scillian explained that WDIV has a policy of not immediately reporting bomb threats, in case they turn out to be nothing. However, because staff was barred access into the studio for the 11 p.m. newscast, an explanation as to why they were on the street, broadcasting from the station's mobile truck instead of the studio needed to be given. The news was first reported by the Twitter and Facebook accounts of WDIV's news staff; WJBK, WXYZ-TV and WMYD (channel 20) reported on the situation while during the lockout, before the WDIV mobile truck could return to the studios from its assignments. A sweater and some empty soda cans were later found in the briefcase in which was left by a homeless man that had followed a WDIV employee in for warmth and coffee, the man was brought to Detroit Receiving Hospital for observation the next day. The Detroit Police Department and Post-Newsweek's management said that charges would not be filed as it was "just a big misunderstanding".
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WDIV's second digital subchannel formally carried programming from NBC Weather Plus, which folded in November 2008. WDIV-TV also has a Mobile DTV feed of subchannel 4.1, labelled "Local 4", broadcasting at 1.83 Mbit/s.
On July 30, 2015, at 6:55 PM, WDIV-TV activated a third subchannel on their broadcast signal for MeTV, which initially aired a test pattern with a "Me TV Detroit" logo. The new subchannel eventually "soft-launched" at about 5 PM the following evening with an episode of Emergency! (this was the second half of the show's two-hour weekday block on Me TV, the first half had already concluded on the national feed).
WDIV signed on its digital high-definition signal on UHF 45 on March 1, 1999. WDIV-TV shut down its analog signal over VHF channel 4 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 45. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.
As part of the SAFER Act, WDIV kept its analog signal on the air until June 26 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
WDIV's over-the-air signal can be picked up as far away as Flint, Lapeer, and Adrian in Michigan, as well as Toledo, Ohio and even London, Ontario. WDIV is also one of only three American stations that mention Windsor and London as among their primary viewing areas, alongside WMYD and WJBK.
WDIV is carried on most cable providers in Southeast Michigan, Southwestern Ontario and Northwestern Ohio. It's also carried on several other Canadian cable providers including Rogers Cable in Ottawa, Ontario well away from the range of its signal. It's also one of five Detroit area television stations seen in Canada on satellite provider Shaw Direct and was the original affiliate offered by CANCOM (now Shaw Broadcast Services) starting in September 1983. WDIV is also carried on some cable providers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in communities such as Seney, Republic and Grand Marais.
CANCOM/Shaw's carriage of WDIV stretches outside of Canada with cable carriage in places as varied as far northern New York state (including Hammond and Alexandria Bay), all of Bermuda, parts of Latin America and for a time in the early 1990s, some parts of Ireland (with a delay). In addition, WDIV is carried on some cable providers in Mexico, via Shaw Broadcast Services, such the Cablemás system in Ciudad Juárez, which offers WDIV instead of fellow NBC affiliate KTSM-TV in nearby El Paso, Texas. From 1985 to circa 1998, WDIV was the NBC affiliate carried by Cable Atlantic (now Rogers Cable) in Newfoundland and Labrador including in St. John's before the provider switched to the network's Boston affiliate WHDH.
In the 1970s and 1980s, WDIV preempted one to two hours of NBC's daytime programming every day. The station also refused to air Late Night with David Letterman and its successor, Late Night with Conan O'Brien at 12:35 a.m. for many years. Instead, until 1999, the station opted to rebroadcast Jenny Jones in that timeslot. WDIV currently airs the entire NBC schedule, though while Late Night now airs at its usual time of 12:35 a.m., Last Call with Carson Daly is delayed from 1:35 a.m. to 2:35 a.m. due to an hour-long block of infomercials. WDIV has also delayed the fourth hour of Today (which nationally airs at 10:00 a.m.) since its debut, airing it generally at 11:00 a.m., save for a period from 2013-2015 when it aired at 2:00 p.m after the launch their own local talk show Live In The D. In its place, WDIV has aired The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Ricki Lake Show and Rachael Ray at 10:00 a.m., with Live In The D airing in that timeslot since 2015. The station does not carry NBC's late night rerun of the fourth hour of Today along with Mad Money, preferring to carry an encore of the 11 p.m. newscast, infomercials and syndicated programming. Conversely the station, along with all other Post-Newsweek stations, has refused to air all of NBC's televised poker programming, including Poker After Dark, the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and Face the Ace.
From 1999 to 2002, WDIV did not clear the soap opera Passions at 2:00 p.m. Instead, it aired on WADL (channel 38) at noon on a tape delay, while WDIV aired daytime talk shows at 2:00 p.m. and Houston sister station KPRC-TV did this as well until August 30, 2004 when it became the last NBC station to carry Passions at 2:00 p.m. These two stations were the only NBC affiliate holdouts to the show; the issue was rendered moot when NBC canceled Passions in 2007. Those same two NBC stations also didn't carry Sunset Beach, the soap was seen on their UPN stations WKBD and KTXH.
NBC programming is still occasionally pre-empted for special events, including coverage of the North American International Auto Show, the annual Target Fireworks on the Detroit International Riverfront and America's Thanksgiving Parade (whose coverage, incidentally, pre-empts the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast on the station) and on occasion, infomercials. Rebroadcasts of movies recorded from This also air several times a year in primetime on WDIV's main channel (usually Saturday nights so no new programming is affected) to recover revenue and fulfill "make goods" for advertisers.
Local programs and personalities
WDIV was the launching pad for several locally produced shows that went national. The station broadcast the talk show Sonya (hosted by Dr. Sonya Freidman) live at 4 p.m. It was so popular that the station under the banner of Post-Newsweek Stations, syndicated it on a delayed basis to USA Network (which is now co-owned with NBC under NBCUniversal). WDIV also produced the afternoon variety show The Tony Orlando Show at 4 p.m. However, the station's management canceled the program after one year to run the syndicated daytime talk show Jenny Jones.
WDIV later signed WOMC (104.3 FM) morning radio host Dick Purtan to perform live segments during a 4–5 p.m. comedy block called Purtan's People. It was followed by WOMC's Tom Ryan with a monthly special that showed B-movies with comedy skits (in which Ryan played a character known as Count Scary). This was during the heyday of NBC's late-night success Second City Television and Joe Flaherty's Count Floyd. Eventually, Count Scary was dropped by WDIV and moved on to WKBD-TV (channel 50)'s Shocktoberfest. One local program idea that almost cost the station was for a Detroit-based comedy-drama called Hamtramck in which aired only once. It created a storm of controversy with the Hamtramck community. The program's executive producer, Alan Frank, apologized to the community.
Meteorologist Chuck Gaidica hosted the Michigan Lottery's game shows and his own show. Sports director Bernie Smilovitz also hosted a couple of shows including The Chuck and Bernie Show in which featured then Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly and The Sparky and Bernie Show in which featured Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. Smilovitz also hosted Bernie's Bloopers/Weekend at Bernie's specials.
WDIV was the over-the-air television flagship station of the Detroit Tigers, a relationship that lasted twenty seasons, from 1975 to 1994, and previously from 1947 to 1952. During the majority of WDIV's second tenure as the Tigers' broadcast outlet, Hall of FamersGeorge Kell and Al Kaline served as play-by-play announcer and color analyst, respectively, on the telecasts. Bernie Smiltovitz hosted the station's pregame show, Tigers 'XX ('84, '85, etc.) during most of WDIV's time as the TV home of the Tigers. As a result of the station's carriage of Tigers games (which usually ranged between 40 and 50 telecasts per season, the majority of them on weekends), WDIV preempted or rescheduled any affected NBC programming that was displaced.
WDIV, along with WDWB/WMYD (Channel 20) shared the over-the-air broadcast rights to the Detroit Pistons, from 2004 to 2008. After the 2007–08 season, the Pistons' local telecasts became exclusive to Fox Sports Detroit. As the co-flagship of the Pistons' television network, WDIV was the local outlet that televised the game between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers on the night of November 19, 2004, which led to the most infamous brawl in NBA history near that game's conclusion.
WDIV-TV presently broadcasts 36½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours on weekdays, three hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays). The station uses a Eurocopter A350 helicopter for newsgathering, which is also shared with WJBK and WXYZ-TV through a Local News Service agreement with those stations' respective owners Fox Television Stations and the E. W. Scripps Company. This helicopter features a completely digital HD video system and is quite noticeable from the ground with its large front camera pod and distinctive red paint (hence the callsign "Red Bird"). WDIV also purchases services from Metro Traffic, which provides traffic reporting from its analog SD video platform, aloft on a Bell 206 airframe. This helicopter is blue and white with a smaller camera pod. Both helicopters are operated by HeliInc, which provides aircraft services to broadcasters in many markets.
WDIV's news department operates a fleet of 14 newsgathering vehicles, including 11 standard news ENG (electronic news gathering) Ford E350 vans with two-band digital microwave transmitters and video editing platforms. One of these trucks is a dual-purpose microwave truck and digital satellite uplink package. The station has one micro-ENG E150 van capable of rapid deployment short-range broadcasts and one additional satellite uplink vehicle with a much larger 1.8 meter antenna.
On January 8, 2007, the station added a half-hour late afternoon newscast at 4 p.m. In the spring of 2007, WDIV received an RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism. "The China Syndrome", reported and produced by Devin Scillian, was named Best Documentary. On August 19, 2007, starting with the 11 p.m. newscast, WDIV became the second television station in Detroit to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.
In August 2013, WDIV dropped its noon newscast and converted it into an online-only broadcast in order to attract viewers who are at work during that timeslot. Viewer demand resulted in the station relaunching the noon newscast on the television station on January 13, 2014.
Notable current on-air staff
- Devin Scillian – weeknights anchor
- Carmen Harlan - Senior Anchor, Co-host of Detroit's International Freedom Fireworks and America's Thanksgiving Parade
Notable former on-air staff
- Asa Aarons – consumer reporter (1990-1993, went to WNBC-TV in New York)
- Asha Blake – weekend anchor/health reporter (1993–1996, went to NBC News; later at KWGN-TV in Denver and KTLA in Los Angeles, now with WFAA in Dallas)
- Jim Brandstatter – sports producer and reporter (1970s)
- Doug Bruckner – reporter (now at Extra)
- Mort Crim – news anchor/radio reporter (1978–1997, now runs Mort Crim Communications and spokesperson for Majic Windows)
- Vince DeMentri – reporter (1993–1994, most recently at WPIX in New York City)
- Carol Duvall – television personality and noon anchor (1960s-1970s; left for HGTV, now retired)
- Shon Gables – morning anchor (2000–2003, left WCBS-TV in New York City in April 2006; now with WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth)
- Chris Hansen – investigative reporter/anchor (1988–1993, later at NBC News)
- Fran Harris – TV host and news personality (1950–1960s)
- Fred Hickman – sports anchor (1984–1985, also worked at CNN and ESPN)
- Doug Hill – meteorologist (1980–1982, now at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.)
- Dave Kelley – news director (1970s)
- Davey Marlin-Jones – film critic (1978–1987, also worked at WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.)
- Dean Miller – news anchor (1970s), now deceased
- Fred McLeod – weekend sports anchor/host of "Sports Final Edition" on Sunday nights (1989–2006; currently the TV play-by-play voice of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Anne Thompson – reporter (1986–1997; now at NBC News as correspondent for NBC Nightly News)
- Reynolds Wolf – meteorologist (1999–2002, joined CNN; currently on The Weather Channel)
- Van Earl Wright – sports anchor (1993–1996, was lead announcer of NBC's American Gladiators)