KFDM is a television station licensed to Beaumont, Texas and serving the Beaumont/Port Arthur market. The station operates on physical channel 25 or virtual channels 6.1 (which is affiliated with CBS) and 6.2 (The CW). The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It also serves the Lake Charles, Louisiana market as the market's default CBS station (especially since Lafayette's KLFY-TV's coverage was severely crippled by the low power the FCC gave it on TV RF 10 with its digital signal; KLFY-TV on analog 10 could easily cover Lake Charles). The station's studios are located at the Interstate 10/U.S. Highway 69 (Eastex Freeway) interchange in Beaumont, which is shared with KBTV-TV, and the transmitter location is in Vidor, Texas.
KFDM-TV commenced broadcasting on April 24, 1955 and is the oldest on air TV station in the Beaumont/Port Arthur market (there was a short lived UHF TV 31 that preceded KFDM by a year or so but went dark (off the air) in less than a year of its sign on). The call sign was borrowed from its then sister radio station KFDM (AM 560), which was founded in 1924 by Magnolia Petroleum Company; the calls stood for "Kall For Dependable Magnolene," the brand name for Magnolia's motor oil line. (Coincidentally, the call letters could also be said to represent former owner FreeDoM Communications.) KFDM used the "-TV" suffix in its call sign to differentiate from KFDM radio until 1964 (when KFDM radio was sold and became KLVI) and again from 1980 until 2009.
Original Chief Engineer Harold Bartlett (ham callsign W5KWA), oversaw all technical aspects of the station from its construction until his retirement in July 1980. His assistant, Richard Kihn, took over immediately as "acting" Chief Engineer after Bartlett's retirement, and was appointed Chief Engineer on August 4, 1980. Kihn retired as of 10/26/2012 and was replaced by Jim Hobbs. However, Hobbs did not last long and returned to radio engineering in Nebraska. Don Dobbs, former Director of Engineering at KTVT and KXAS in Dallas, took over as Director of Engineering at KFDM to oversee a major rebuild of the studios.
KFDM-TV would be sold by Beaumont Broadcasting to A.H. Belo Corporation in 1969. In 1983, Belo merged with Corinthian Broadcasting, owner of Houston's KHOU-TV, which caused concern with the Federal Communications Commission, which at the time did not normally allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping signals (as was the case with the Grade B signals of KFDM and KHOU). As a result, Belo would sell KFDM-TV to Freedom Communications in 1984.
Freedom Communications announced on November 2, 2011 that it would bow out of television and sell its stations, including KFDM, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. The deal would make KFDM the fourth Sinclair-owned television property in the state of Texas and the first in Eastern Texas (Sinclair already owns the duopoly of KABB and KMYS in San Antonio and has completed its purchase of Austin's KEYE-TV on January 3, 2012). Sinclair began operating KFDM under a time brokerage agreement from December 1, 2011 until the group deal was consummated on April 2, 2012.
On August 22, 2012, Nexstar Broadcasting Group filed with the FCC to sell its Fox affiliate KBTV-TV to Deerfield Media (a company also involved in Sinclair's acquisition of stations from Newport Television); following the acquisition, KFDM took over operation of the station under a shared services agreement. The sale was completed on December 3.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||1080i||16:9||KFDM-HD||Main KFDM programming-CBS|
|6.2||720p||KFDM-CW||Southeast Texas CW|
|6.3||480i||4:3||Grit TV||GRIT TV|
When The WB and UPN announced their merger as The CW in 2006, KFDM's new CW subchannel was seen only on digital cable. After negotiating with Time Warner Cable, The CW became available to all cable subscribers in February 2007.
KFDM shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, 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 21. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 6.
In September 2009, KFDM removed the old analog 6 Batwing antenna that had been on top of the tower since the 1960s when the current tower site was built and moved the UHF 21 antenna to the top of the tower; this was done hoping that improved reception would take place from this move. For reasons never really determined, it actually made reception worse.
On April 7, 2010, the FCC issued a Report & Order, granting KFDM's channel change from channel 21 to channel 25. The reasoning was viewers in the eastern sections of the viewing area had difficulty receiving their signal on channel 21, due to channel 20 occupied by KLTL 18.1, the PBS and LPB affiliate in Lake Charles, Louisiana and the antenna issue noted above. On April 11, 2011, KFDM completed its move to channel 25 with higher power and a new omnidirectional antenna. Later test showed the coverage is close to what KFDM had on analog 6 (though in the pine tree areas, the signal is weaker than before and has less coverage)
The popular 1970s KFDM weekday news team consisted of Beaulieu, Burandt, weatherman Gary Powers, and sportscaster Cy Hurst. KFDM was awarded in 2005 by the Texas chapter of the Associated Press for their coverage of Hurricane Rita. KFDM was also awarded a regional Emmy award in 2006, also for their coverage of Rita.
Greg Bostwick has been with the station over 30 years and approximately 20 of those years as chief meteorologist. He endured Hurricane Rita's wrath in downtown Beaumont with weeknight anchor Bill Leger.
Former KFDM Manager, Larry Beaulieu was with the station since 1974 when he was hired as News Director. He teamed for over 15 years with Cecile Burandt, who was the first female anchor hired in the Beaumont area. Beaulieu retired on September 29, 2011, and was replaced the following December by longtime station employee Rix Garey.