WJBK, virtual channel 2 (VHF digital channel 7), is a Fox owned-and-operated television station located in Detroit, Michigan, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. WJBK maintains studio and transmitter facilities located on West 9 Mile Road in the Detroit suburb of Southfield.
WJBK's over-the-air signal covers the entire Metro Detroit area, along with the southwestern portion of the Canadian province of Ontario, surrounding the city of Windsor. The station is carried on most cable television systems in southeast Michigan, southwestern Ontario and northwest Ohio. It is also carried on certain Canadian cable television providers.
As a CBS affiliate
The station first signed on the air on October 24, 1948 as WJBK-TV (the "TV" suffix was removed from the call letters in 1998); it was the third television station to sign-on in Detroit (after WWJ-TV, channel 4, now WDIV-TV; and WXYZ-TV, channel 7). The first program broadcast by WJBK was a presentation of Lucky Pup at 6:15 p.m. that evening. The station was originally an affiliate of both CBS and the DuMont Television Network. It was originally owned by George B. Storer's Storer Broadcasting, along with WJBK radio (AM 1500, now WLQV, and FM 93.1, now WDRQ). The station originally operated from Detroit's Masonic Temple until 1956, when its operations were moved to a purpose-built studio facility on Second Avenue in Detroit's New Center section. WJBK-TV would eventually become an exclusive CBS affiliate by 1955, when Windsor, Ontario-based CKLW-TV (channel 9, now CBET-DT) became a DuMont affiliate. WJBK first broadcast in color around 1956. In 1970, the station moved to its current broadcast facilities at 16550 West 9 Mile Road in Southfield. Like most studio facilities built by Storer during that time, it resembles an antebellum mansion.
Even though WJBK was one of CBS' stronger affiliates, it would pre-empt or reschedule some network programs. As the flagship station of Detroit Tigers baseball from the 1950s to the 1970s, it would preempt network programming to televise games. From 1970 until the early 1980s, the station would air its own local morning newscast from 7-8 a.m. and then Good Morning, Detroit instead of the CBS Morning News. In 1992, it chose again not to air CBS This Morning in favor of its own local newscast. The station would regularly reschedule CBS' daytime game shows and it would also move the soap opera Guiding Light from its usual network airtime of 3 p.m. ET to 10 a.m., with episodes airing on a day-behind basis. WJBK would also pre-empt the CBS late night schedule with syndicated reruns including Cheers and late night movies until the debut of the Late Show with David Letterman in 1993, when the station cleared the show at 11:35 p.m.
The station went through a number of ownership and management changes with its parent companies in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985, the equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) acquired Storer Communications, Incorporated in a leveraged buyout. KKR then sold all of the former Storer broadcast assets, including WJBK, to Gillett Communications in 1987, after an attempt to sell the stations to Lorimar-Telepictures in 1986 failed. When Gillett went bankrupt in 1992, it reorganized the ownership of its television stations into SCI Television. The following year, in 1993, a few other station owners (Scripps-Howard, owner of cross-town WXYZ-TV; Federal Broadcasting,owners of WWJ & WWJ-FM; Group W; and network owner CBS) showed interest in the station. Scripps considered trading WXYZ back to its former network owner in order to bid for the Gillett stations as a group, though this would have put them well over the limit of stations they could own, even if Scripps sold off its smaller-market stations, so this was abandoned. So in 1993, SCI was acquired by the film and television production company New World Communications.
As a Fox station
In May 1994, News Corporation, then-parent of the Fox network, purchased a 20% ownership stake (amounting to a $500 million investment) in WJBK's owner New World Communications. Fox made the investment to comply with their winning bid for the broadcast rights to the NFL's National Football Conference. Fox outbid CBS for the NFL broadcast rights on the condition that it would improve the network's affiliate coverage in the larger television markets. As a result of Fox's investment, New World agreed to switch the network affiliations of most of the company's stations, including WJBK, to Fox.
WJBK became Detroit's new Fox affiliate on December 11, 1994, after the station's affiliation contract with CBS ended, ending its 45-year affiliation with that network. Despite a three-month interruption in coverage due to CBS losing the NFC rights (the games instead aired on WKBD-TV, channel 50, for the first three months of Fox's NFC telecasts), with the switch, the Detroit Lions' regular season games would continue to air on WJBK. CBS was forced to scramble to find a home in Detroit, and had a contingency plan in place to import affiliates from nearby markets on area cable providers due to its struggle finding a new affiliate within the Detroit market; CBS would end up purchasing low-rated UHF independent station WGPR-TV (channel 62, now WWJ-TV) in September 1994. Former Fox affiliate WKBD briefly became an independent station before becoming a charter affiliate of UPN in January 1995. As a result of the network switch, WJBK changed its branding from "TV 2" to "Fox 2" by the fall of 1995 (becoming one of the few New World stations that switched to the network to adhere to the network's branding conventions before Fox's buyout of New World). Fox Television Stations bought New World's ten Fox-affiliated stations, including WJBK, in July 1996; the purchase was finalized on January 22, 1997, with channel 2 becoming a Fox owned-and-operated station as a result.
After the affiliation switch, WJBK maintained its existing schedule, with the exception of the expansion of its news programming including the move and conversion of its 11 p.m. newscast to an hour-long broadcast at 10 p.m. As Fox offered less network programming, especially during the daytime hours, WJBK would fill its schedule with more syndicated programs and off-network reruns. However, the station, like its fellow former New World stations, never ran the Fox Kids children's programming block. That block would remain on former Fox affiliate WKBD before eventually moving to WADL (channel 38) and then WDWB-TV (channel 20, now WMYD).
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||720p||16:9||WJBK||Main WJBK programming / Fox|
|2.4||16:9||H&I||Heroes & Icons|
WJBK began airing its digital high-definition feed, WJBK-DT, on UHF 58 starting on October 1, 1998. WJBK shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, 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 moved from its pre-transition UHF channel 58, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition and reclaimed by the FCC for public safety and advanced wireless services, to VHF channel 7 (which was formerly occupied by WXYZ-TV's analog signal, and was assigned to WJBK for its post-transition digital signal on May 7, 2007). Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers continues to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2.1. As of 2012, WJBK is the only American television station in the Detroit-Windsor television market that broadcasts its digital signal on the VHF band. CBET, broadcasting from Windsor is on VHF channel 9. All other Detroit-Windsor DTV market stations are on the UHF band, currently channels 14 to 51, excepting 37 which is reserved for radio astronomy use.
As part of the SAFER Act, WJBK 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.
Some of WJBK's early productions included popular children's shows. Milky's Movie Party starring Milky the Clown, played by magician Clarence R. Cummings, Jr., was one of the station's first locally produced children's programs from 1950 to 1955. The program featured a mix of cartoons and Westerns with Cummings performing magic tricks with other acts in front of a live audience. Cummings would eventually take the Milky character to WXYZ-TV and the former WWJ-TV (now WDIV).
Other original WJBK children's programs included a cowboy themed show with Sagebrush Shorty, played by ventriloquist Ted Lloyd, with his sidekick dummy Skinny Dugan that aired from 1956 to 1960, featuring a mix of children's activities and various other characters that interacted with Lloyd. That program was followed by another WJBK children's favorite, Jungle-La with wildlife expert "B'wana" Don Hunt, that aired from 1960 to 1963. Hunt with his sidekick chimpanzee Bongo Bailey hosted cartoons and taught viewers about various wildlife. Hunt moved to Africa in 1964 and managed a wildlife preserve in Kenya responsible for saving some species from extinction. After airing first on the former WWJ-TV and CKLW-TV, performer Art Cervi would obtain the Bozo the Clown franchise for Detroit and perform the character at WJBK beginning in 1975. During its run at the station, the program would be syndicated from WJBK to cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Wichita, Kansas.
WJBK also produced one of Detroit's first morning talk shows, Ladies' Day with Chuck Bergeson, which aired from 1952 to 1959. The hour-long show included games, contests, and interviews with the biggest stars of the time including Lucille Ball and Red Skelton. Bergeson also hosted other WJBK shows in the 1950s including Your TV Golf Pro and The Name Game. From 1967 to 1983, Sir Graves Ghastly, played by actor Lawson J. Deming, hosted WJBK's assorted sci-fi and horror movies on Saturday afternoons; the humorous character became a popular figure in Detroit television. Deming had originally come to the station as a puppeteer and voice actor for the children's program Woodrow the Woodsman when that show moved from Cleveland's WKYC-TV to WJBK in 1966. In addition to playing the character in Cleveland, he also played Sir Graves on WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C. at the same time.
With This Ring was a nationally syndicated religious program produced at the studios of WJBK from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s. The weekly 15-minute show hosted by Roman Catholic priest Raymond Schlinkert featured lectures and advice about marriage and family life. The program was syndicated to several other U.S. commercial stations, usually shown immediately following the station's sign-on or before sign-off on Sundays.
WJBK would also produce Sunday public affairs/interview shows over the years including Focus Detroit, hosted by reporters Woody Willis and Beverly Payne in 1973; Sunday in Detroit, hosted by news anchor Kathy O'Brien, would air around 1980 and WJBK business reporter and news anchor Murray Feldman also hosted a Sunday business and financial program in the mid-1990s called Moneywise. WJBK produced a local version of the syndicated program PM Magazine from 1978 to the mid-1980s. The show changed titles over the years eventually becoming known as PM Detroit – it also had various hosts included Ronnie Klemmer, Lorrie Kapp, Gary Cubberly and Mattie Majors. The station was also the Detroit home and active participant for comedian Jerry Lewis' annual Labor Day MDA Telethon for several years.
From 1983 to 1986, popular WJR (760 AM) morning radio host J. P. McCarthy hosted an evening interview show with newsmakers and people of interest called JP, as well as a similar program in the early 1990s entitled In Person with J.P. McCarthy. He also previously hosted sports interview show specials through the 1970s. In 1995, former WXYZ-TV news anchor Bill Bonds hosted the 11 p.m. talk/interview show, Bonds Tonight. Bonds eventually would end up anchoring and reporting on WJBK's newscasts.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, WJBK was a pioneer in Detroit sports broadcasting. In 1949, it was the first television station in Michigan to broadcast live Detroit Tigers baseball and Detroit Lions football games. From 1953 to 1974, WJBK served as the first flagship station of the Tigers Television Network with games broadcast on stations throughout Michigan, northern Indiana, and northwest Ohio. In the 1960s, longtime Tigers broadcaster and former player George Kell hosted the pregame show Tigers Warm Up on the field during batting practice. During the 2007 baseball season, the station aired some regular season Tigers games produced by Fox Sports Detroit. Currently, the only Tigers games aired on WJBK are the Tigers' season home opener and national coverage presented by Fox.
WJBK also televised Detroit Pistons games from the time that the team's relocated to Detroit from Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1957, until 1972; the team's games began airing on WKBD-TV the following season. The Pistons would also air on WJBK during nationally televised games on CBS.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings NHL hockey games, produced again by Fox Sports Detroit, would also be aired on the station from 2003 to 2007. In March 2007, WJBK began broadcasting Red Wings games in high definition. Previously the Red Wings aired on the station various times between 1956 and 1980 through broadcast rights held by CBS and again from 1995 to 1999 through Fox's contract with the NHL.
In 1994, WJBK, upon switching its affiliation to Fox shortly after Fox acquired the broadcast rights to the NFL's National Football Conference, became the "unofficial" home station of the Detroit Lions. Since then, most Lions regular season games air on WJBK. This was also the case prior to 1994 as a CBS affiliate when that network held those broadcast rights. However, regular season home games are subject to the NFL's local television blackout policy. This occurred five times during the Lions' 2008 season when five home games were blacked out due to low ticket sales. In previous years, WJBK had also televised Lions preseason games as the flagship station of the Detroit Lions Television Network and produced pregame and postgame shows. Those preseason broadcast rights were then held by WWJ-TV and then WXYZ-TV until 2015, when WJBK once again became the official station of the Lions as well.
WJBK's sportscasters have also been team play-by-play announcers through the years with Van Patrick doing Tigers, Lions and Notre Dame Football games. Ray Lane would be paired with Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell on Tigers' radio broadcasts from 1967 to 1972; and current sports director Dan Miller performs radio play by play for the Lions.
WJBK currently broadcasts 63½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 10½ hours each weekday and 5½ hours on Saturdays and Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among all broadcast television stations in the state of Michigan, and the fourth-highest in the United States (behind Los Angeles CW affiliate KTLA's 64½ hours, Fox affiliate and former sister station under Fox Television Stations ownership, WJW in Cleveland's carriage of 65½ hours of newscasts, and WXIN in Indianapolis's carriage of 66 hours of news per week). In addition, WJBK produces a sports highlight program on Sunday nights following the 10 p.m. newscast called Sports Works (which is also the branding of the sports segments seen within its newscasts); the show is hosted by either WJBK sports director Dan Miller or sports anchor/reporter Woody Woodriffe, and typically features a roundtable discussion with members of the Detroit sports media including Sean Baligian, formerly of WDFN (1130 AM); Bob Wojnowski from the Detroit News; Pat Caputo from the Oakland Press and WXYT-FM (97.1) and Tony Ortiz from WXYT-FM.
WJBK operates a fleet of Ford E350 ENG vehicles with microwave transmission and video editing capabilities. The station also has (SNG) mobile satellite uplink capability. For aerial news coverage, WJBK shares a Eurocopter AS350BA A-star news helicopter with WXYZ-TV and WDIV-TV as part of a Local News Service agreement. The aircraft has HD video capability and goes by the callsign "Red Bird" (although WJBK brands the helicopter as "SkyFox"). In 2009, WJBK and WXYZ-TV expanded the LNS agreement to allow the sharing of local news video.
In an effort to cut expenses, WJBK and WXYZ's respective owners, Fox and the E. W. Scripps Company, established an LNS in all markets where both companies own stations. The stations pool newsgathering resources and share video during coverage of general news events. While the news department primary focuses its local news coverage on southeastern Michigan, it also provides coverage of larger stories in southwestern Ontario, northern Ohio and the rest of Michigan.
TV-2 Eyewitness News
Through much of the 1960s and 1970s WJBK's TV-2 Eyewitness News dominated the newscast ratings in the Detroit market. This began with news anchor Jac LeGoff and grew when LeGoff was paired with newscaster John Kelly. Other popular longtime Detroit television personalities including Joe Weaver, Jerry Hodak, Van Patrick and Marilyn Turner would also be a part of WJBK's ratings success. The station's ratings would begin to wane in the mid-1970s after then-ABC O&O WXYZ-TV hired away WJBK's and WWJ-TV's top talent, including Kelly and Turner and eventually LeGoff and Hodak. WJBK's newscasts remained competitive in the 1970s with a new stable of talent including anchors Joe Glover, Robbie Timmons, Harry Gallagher, Murray Feldman and Terry Murphy. The station also had correspondents in bureaus at the Detroit City-County Building, the Michigan state capital in Lansing and Washington, D.C.. Nationally syndicated radio host George Noory was even a news producer at WJBK from 1974 to 1978, before becoming a news director at stations in Minneapolis and St. Louis. However, by 1980, the station's news ratings steeply declined with the growing dominance of WXYZ. Also by this time WDIV's new owners, Post-Newsweek Stations, were making aggressive changes to bolster its station's image and ratings from third place. By 1982, management at WJBK replaced most of the staff, which sank the station's news ratings further into third place, from where it would almost never recover.
With new management, WJBK's news department saw a resurgence by 1990 with new staff that included Sherry Margolis, Huel Perkins and the rehiring of former anchor Joe Glover. The station would also hire away news staff and talent away from top rated WXYZ including Rich Fisher, Dayna Eubanks, Catherine Lehan, Jerry Hodak and investigative reporter Vince Wade. The station revised its image with a new logo, graphics, music and news set and began airing Detroit's first 4 p.m. newscast as part of a three-hour evening news block with half-hour newscasts at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. At the same time, the station also became Detroit's first television station to launch a weekend morning newscast. Overall, WJBK's news ratings would not improve enough to surpass WXYZ and WDIV, which would continue to go head-to-head for first place. The station would also begin to simulcast its late newscast on WADL, which lasted until 1998. It would also be among the first television stations in the country to air obituaries in 1995 during the Detroit newspaper strike.
Fox 2 News
When WJBK switched affiliations from CBS to Fox in December 1994, the station adopted a news-intensive format. It has retained a news schedule similar to the one it had as a CBS affiliate. The 35-minute 11 p.m. newscast was moved to 10 p.m. and expanded to an hour, and the weekday morning newscast was also expanded. The weekend 6 p.m. newscasts would also be expanded to one hour. WJBK now had a late local newscast in first place as it immediately overtook the hour-long 10 p.m. newscast that WKBD had at the time in the ratings. Eventually, WJBK would drop the 4 p.m. newscast, but the station's profile and ratings for its morning and 10 p.m. newscasts would surge with it out of direct competition from its main competitors WDIV and WXYZ. In 1995, the station would hire news anchor Bill Bonds after his departure from WXYZ-TV. Bonds would fill the 11 p.m. timeslot with a news/interview show, Bonds Tonight.
The newscasts were branded as Fox 2 Eyewitness News until 1997, when Fox took full ownership of the station and rebranded its newscasts as Fox 2 News. By that time, the station would also release its previous WXYZ hires. At the same time, Fox's news management brought on new talent including Dan Miller, Alan Lee and Monica Gayle from Seattle. By 1998, the station would bolster its image by improving its investigative and consumer advocate unit and branding it as The Problem Solvers. It also adopted a slogan complimentary to Detroit's working class heritage, "News That Works for You". On September 24, 2007, WJBK relaunched an 11 p.m. newscast, using the NewsEdge format originally used by Fox Tampa station WTVT. It also changed its logo, graphics and news theme to an image that became standard on the Fox O&O stations. In April 2008, the station became the first Fox-owned station (and the third television station in Detroit) to broadcast its news programming in high definition.
WJBK had a tradition of producing its own morning news shows instead of airing CBS's morning news programs, beginning with a 7:30 a.m. newscast in 1969. The newscast would soon expand to an hour starting at 7 a.m. It became a mix of news, interviews and features and would be renamed Good Morning, Detroit and eventually moved to 8 a.m. During its run, Vic Caputo would co-anchor separately with Beverly Payne, Ken Ford and Kathy O'Brien. Payne would be the first African-American female news anchor in Detroit. Good Morning, Detroit eventually became Morning Magazine, hosted by Kathy O'Brien and Gary Cubberly. In 1982, Morning Magazine was discontinued and briefly became Two's Company, also hosted by O'Brien and Cubberly. In 1992, the station preempted CBS' morning news program again when WJBK rehired Jerry Hodak from WXYZ to co-anchor Eyewitness News Morning. Just prior to that, WJBK also debuted Detroit's first weekend morning newscast, which was first anchored by former PM Magazine host Gary Cubberly. Competitor WDIV would follow with its own weekend morning newscast, as did eventually WXYZ. Since then, the station has broadcast more morning news hours than any other Detroit television station. In September 2009, the morning newscast was expanded to 5½ hours, airing from 4:30–10 a.m. In September 2011, Fox 2 News Morning expanded to 6½ hours from 4:30-11 a.m., where it joins the station's hour-long midday newscast at 11 a.m. WJBK has also had the longest-running midday newscast in the Detroit market, which originated in 1966 in the noon timeslot, before moving to 11 a.m. shortly after the switch to Fox.
As of February 2012, WJBK's Fox 2 News Morning has consistently remained the Detroit market's highest rated local morning newscast (6–7 a.m., 4.5 rating/17 share). After years of faltering at a distant third against WDIV and WXYZ, WJBK began to make gains in its audience growth in other newscasts. While WDIV continued to have the most-watched evening and late newscasts, WJBK's 10 p.m. news (7.5 rating/12 share) remains the highest-rated primetime newscast in Metro Detroit. Its early evening 5 and 5:30 p.m. newscasts (6.0/13) have surpassed WXYZ-TV's longtime dominant 5 p.m. newscast (5.8/13) for second place. While WJBK's 6 p.m. newscast (5.1/10) has become a very close third moving within one rating point to WXYZ's newscast in that timeslot (6.1/12). Since debuting in 2007, WJBK's 11 p.m. newscast Newsedge has been in third place overall (5.0 rating/9 share).
Notable current on-air staff
- Dan Miller sports director; also SportsWorks host
- M.L. Elrick, investigative reporter
- Rob Wolchek, "Problem Solvers" investigative and "Hall of Shame" feature reporter
- Charlie LeDuff, serves as a contributing reporter and is host of Charlie Leduff, Off the Chain
- Lee Thomas, Entertainment reporter
Notable former on-air staff
- Bill Bonds - news anchor and interviewer (1995–1998; was top anchor at WXYZ-TV from 1964–1995; also anchored at KABC-TV and WABC-TV, died 2014)
- Lawson J. Deming - played horror movie host Sir Graves Ghastly (1967–1983; died in 2007)
- Jerry Hodak - meteorologist (1965–1977) and news anchor (1992–1996; went to WXYZ-TV after each time as meteorologist and science editor, retired in 2010 after having forecasted weather longer than anyone in Detroit television)
- Ray Lane - sports anchor (1961–1982; became sportscaster at WKBD-TV and for Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers games)
- Joseph "J.P." McCarthy - interview show host (occasionally from 1972-1986; morning show host on WJR; died 1995)
- Fred McLeod - sports anchor/reporter (1981–1989; moved to WDIV, now at Fox Sports Ohio)
- Terry Murphy - news anchor (1974–1975; became news anchor at WLS-TV/Chicago and host of A Current Affair)
- George Noory - assignment editor/producer (mid-1970s; now host of the overnight radio show Coast to Coast AM)
- Van Patrick - sports director (1960–1974; died 1974)
- Charles Pugh - anchor/reporter (1999–2009; became Detroit City Council president)
- Jeff Rossen - reporter (1998–2001; moved to WABC-TV/New York, now an NBC News correspondent)
- Mark Wilson - sports anchor/reporter (1992–1997)
WJBK also serves as a Fox station for other Canadian cable providers, including on Rogers Cable in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. It was also one of five Detroit television stations seen in Canada on satellite provider Shaw Direct. As of April 2009, Shaw Broadcast Services (formerly CANCOM) replaced WJBK's signal with Rochester, New York Fox affiliate WUHF. As a CBS affiliate, WJBK was carried on Cable Atlantic (now Rogers Cable) in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia from 1985 until it affiliated with Fox in 1994. Both provinces are now served by Boston CBS O&O WBZ-TV.
When WJBK became a Fox station, Cadillac, Michigan Fox affiliate WGKI/WGKU (now WFQX-TV/WFUP) stopped simulcasting WKBD's 10 p.m. newscast in favor of WJBK's until WGKI began producing its own 10 p.m. newscast in 2000. In January 2007, WFQX began simulcasting WJBK's morning newscast from 6 to 8 a.m. under the title Michigan's Fox News Morning. The simulcasts were made possible with an agreement that offered northern Michigan businesses advertising opportunities during the newscast. WFQX would also air the second half of WJBK's 10 p.m. newscast following its own half-hour 10 p.m. newscast. WFQX would drop WJBK's newscasts altogether in October 2007, after the station was sold and CBS affiliate WWTV began producing WFQX's 10 p.m. and morning newscasts.