WIFR, virtual channel 23, is the CBS television affiliate based in Rockford, Illinois and licensed to nearby Freeport. It broadcasts its digital signal on UHF channel 41 from a transmitter at its studios on North Meridian Road in Rockford. though it formerly broadcast its analog signal on channel 23, which it continues to use as its virtual digital channel via PSIP. It is currently owned by Gray Television. WIFR is the only television station in the Rockford market to retain the same network affiliation since it first signed-on.
The station went on the air as WCEE-TV on September 12, 1965. It was originally owned by Rock River Television Corporation. The area's previous CBS affiliate, WREX-TV, switched to NBC full-time, sending CBS to WCEE. It has been with CBS ever since, and is the only station in the market to have never switched affiliations. The call letters were changed to the present WIFR in 1977 and stand for "Wisconsin-Illinois-Freeport-Rockford." General Media sold the station to Worrell Newspapers of Charlottesville, Virginia in September of that year. Worrell sold all three stations WIFR, WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg, Virginia and now-defunct WBNB-TV in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands to Benedek Broadcasting in 1986. When Benedek went bankrupt in 2002, WIFR and WHSV were acquired by current owner Gray Television.
On the morning of July 5, 2003, a severe wind storm swept through Rockford. WIFR's transmitter tower, located behind the studio and office building at 2523 North Meridian Road in Rockford, collapsed. Pieces of the tower fell onto a field behind the station's headquarters. No one was injured or killed. Nearly four months later, a new tower was erected and WIFR's signal was back to full power once again.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|23.1||1080i||16:9||WIFR-HD||Main WIFR programming / CBS|
|23.2||480i||Ant TV||Antenna TV|
WIFR shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 23, at noon on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 41. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 23.
WIFR announced on November 16, 2012 that the station will add Tribune Broadcasting's Antenna TV network to its digital subchannel lineup effective December 17, replacing the AccuWeather Channel on channel 23.2 (branded locally as 23 WeatherNow). Channel 23.2 also currently airs live sports programming, in addition, featuring the Rockford IceHogs hockey team (a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks), plus selected Chicago Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox telecasts (via WGN Sports on U). The station stated that these telecasts will continue on with its new Antenna TV affiliation, which will pre-empt selected shows.
On May 28th, 2015, WIFR launched its 2nd subchannel, simply known as "23.3" at this time and also carried by the former public access channels on Comcast and Charter in the Rockford area, with a live broadcast of the graduation ceremonies for Rockford Public School District 205 from the BMO Harris Bank Center at 10 AM and 2PM. Following the broadcast, the subchannel went to a test screen with the words "NEW NETWORK COMING TO ROCKFORD, ANNOUNCEMENT SOON" and in the top right-hand corner the new call sign for the subchannel, "23.3 WIFR-DT Freeport/Rockford". Prior to that date, the channel had intermittently aired games 23.2 wasn't able to air due to delays, other games, or prior arrangements. On June 25th, 2015, WIFR announced that 23.3 will be affiliated with the Justice Network, a channel dedicated to crime and investigation programs. The launch was later announced to take place July 27th.