WKEF, virtual channel 22, is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Miami Valley area of Ohio, which is licensed to Dayton. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 18 from a transmitter off South Gettysburg Avenue, near the New Chicago section of the city. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WKEF operates Fox affiliate WRGT-TV and its MyNetworkTV/This TV second digital subchannel (owned by Cunningham Broadcasting) though a local marketing agreement (LMA). However, Sinclair effectively owns the station due to Cunningham's ownership structure. The two stations share a studio on Corporate Place in Miamisburg.
Channel 22 first signed on in Dayton in October 1953 as WIFE (TV) (the call sign was to be WONE-TV, but was changed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February 1953), The station was owned by Skyland Broadcasting Corporation, then-owner of WONE (AM) radio. Although the station first carried programming from ABC and DuMont, the networks stopped providing programming and the station went dark around March 20, 1954. In approximately February 1959, the FCC changed the call sign of the still-dark WIFE to the earlier-proposed WONE-TV.
In March 1961, the owners of Skyland Broadcasting Corporation sold the construction permit for dark WONE-TV, as well as on-the-air then-sister stations WONE (AM) and WIFE (FM) (now WTUE), to Brush-Moore Newspapers.
From 1961 into 1963, WONE-TV (and other applicants) requested that the FCC assign a new channel 11 to Dayton; in WONE-TV's case, the plan was to move its license from channel 22 to channel 11. Objecting to this request were other stations in the region already broadcasting on channel 11 — WTOL in Toledo, WHAS-TV in Louisville and WIIC (now WPXI) in Pittsburgh — as well as channel 12, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati; the stations claimed that interference from the proposed Dayton channel would disrupt reception for significant numbers of their stations' viewers. Although the FCC initially seemed in favor of adding VHF channels to existing television markets, it ultimately decided against most of them, including channel 11 for Dayton.
In December 1963, Brush-Moore Newspapers sold the construction permit for still-dark WONE-TV to Springfield Television Corporation (owner of WWLP in Springfield, Massachusetts). In January 1964 the station was renamed WKEF after the maiden name, Kathryn Elizabeth Flynn, of Springfield Television Corporation owner William Lowell Putnam III's future wife (who also went by the names Kitty Broman and Kitty Broman Putnam).
The station finally signed on again August 22, 1964. (Please note that the Putnams' cited memoir, How We Survived in UHF Television, claims that WKEF signed on in spring 1963. Sometime prior to February 18, 1963, Springfield Television Corporation asked that the FCC move channel 38 from Connersville, Indiana to Dayton in lieu of the dark channel 22.) Conventional wisdom suggested that WKEF would take the ABC affiliation since it was Dayton's third commercial station. Before 1964, ABC programming came to Dayton by way of off-hours clearances on NBC affiliate WLWD (channel 2, now WDTN). In addition, viewers could watch the full ABC schedule on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati and WTVN-TV (now WSYX) in Columbus, both of which decently covered Dayton. Under these circumstances, ABC initially balked at giving even a secondary affiliation to WKEF, forcing the station to make a go of it as an independent until late 1965. Another consideration may have been that many Dayton viewers didn't have UHF-capable sets at the time. The FCC had just required television set manufacturers to include all-channel tuning months earlier.
In 1965, WKEF began running ABC primetime shows and sports, plus any daytime shows that WKRC-TV or WTVN-TV preempted or WLWD (until 1971) did not carry.
For many years, WKEF produced the daily children's program Clubhouse 22 hosted by Malcolm MacLeod in the early-1970s with Joe Smith taking over in the mid-1970s. Their cohorts included Duffy the Dog, Stan The Man, and later Dr. Creep (Barry Hobart). For a time, the theme song of the program was to the tune of "High Hopes" and included the lyrics "Joe and Duff on Clubhouse 22!" Later, the theme was to the tune of "Mah Nà Mah Nà," with the lyrics "It's time for Malcolm / And Duffy, too." Dr. Creep was also the host of WKEF's weekly horror movie show, Shock Theater. Nationally syndicated conservative talk-show host Mike Gallagher began his broadcasting career at WKEF as a weatherman, sportscaster, and special events host.
By 1978, ABC had become the nation's most-watched network (with shows such as Happy Days) and was unhappy with the Cincinnati–Dayton arrangement. WKRC-TV and WTVN-TV were both preempting decent amounts of daytime programming, late night shows, and some of the Saturday morning cartoons. ABC wanted a station in Dayton that could run its whole schedule and be able to reach Cincinnati and Columbus. It also wanted a station that had local news. Although the station did eventually launch a news department, it was not enough to save its affiliation with ABC.
In late 1979, ABC began talks with WDTN, which provided at least grade B coverage from northern Kentucky all the way to Columbus. The two sides quickly reached a deal, which called for ABC to move its Dayton affiliation to WDTN when WKEF's contract ran out at the end of the year. The change took effect on New Year's Day 1980. Almost by default, WKEF was then left to take the NBC affiliation. At the time, NBC was far less tolerant of preemptions than the other networks. As a condition of signing up with NBC, WKEF cleared NBC's entire schedule.
Even with the affiliation swap, it remained in the ratings basement. NBC also lost market share in the Dayton/Springfield area to stronger affiliates in Cincinnati (WLWT, which has a city-grade signal in Dayton and a Grade B signal as far north as Piqua) and Columbus (WCMH-TV, who has a Grade B signal in Springfield and as far north as Bellefontaine). Since WKEF already had to compete in its own market with WDTN and CBS affiliate WHIO-TV—two of their networks' strongest performers—it found the going rather difficult.
In 1984, the Springfield Television group (WKEF, WWLP, and KSTU in Salt Lake City) was sold to Adams Communications. That company broke up the group in the late-1980s selling WKEF to KT Communications in 1989. KT invested millions in new equipment, updated the on-air look, and hired almost a completely new staff. However, it was not enough to get WKEF out of last place. Even with NBC's powerhouse primetime lineup in the 1980s and early-1990s, it was the third station in what was basically a two-station market.
KT sold WKEF to Max Television (later Max Media Properties) in 1995. Ratings improved, but WKEF remained a distant third in the ratings. In 1998, Max sold WKEF to Sinclair in a group deal. Sinclair was already managing WRGT-TV, owned by Sullivan, and Sinclair moved WRGT-TV's operations into WKEF's studios. In 2001, Sinclair bought most of Sullivan's stations, but could not buy WRGT-TV because the FCC does not allow common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in a market. Also, the Dayton market has only six full-power commercial stations—too few to legally permit a duopoly in any event. Accordingly, WRGT-TV was sold to Glencairn, Ltd. However, this was a sale in name only, as Glencairn's stock was almost entirely owned by the Smith family, founders of Sinclair. This effectively gave Sinclair a duopoly in Dayton. Glencairn, now known as Cunningham Broadcasting, still owns WRGT-TV today as one of several arrangements that has led to allegations of Cunningham being merely a shell corporation for Sinclair. Sinclair has a similar arrangement in Columbus with ABC affiliate WSYX and Fox affiliate WTTE.
On August 30, 2004, WDTN again took the opportunity to sign up with the more popular network, dropping ABC to switch back to NBC. WKEF took the ABC affiliation, and since then has run the entire ABC schedule. Only a few months after becoming an ABC affiliate again, the station and all other Sinclair-owned ABC affiliates (including sister WSYX in Columbus) as well as two other ABC affiliates in Ohio preempted the movie Saving Private Ryan. That decision was made due to the network's plan to air the R-rated film unedited, potentially exposing its affiliated stations to FCC scrutiny if viewers complained about the film's graphic violence and coarse language even though some of Sinclair's stations had already shown the film unedited and uncensored a few months earlier. The incident landed Sinclair at the center of a mild controversy fueling the debate over whether the context of such material should be considered in determining broadcast indecency violations.
Around November 11, 2010, Sinclair announced that when carriage agreements expired at the end of the year, it planned to pull all of its owned and/or operated TV stations in the United States, including WKEF and WRGT-TV, from Time Warner Cable, in a dispute over "retransmission fees". Negotiations began between the two parties. On December 31, Time Warner reached an agreement with an out-of-market station, presumably Cincinnati's WCPO-TV, to provide ABC network programming at least through the end of February. Later that same day, Sinclair and Time Warner extended talks for another two weeks, with continued cable carriage of Sinclair's stations, through January 14, 2011. On January 15, 2011, after a 24-hour extension of the previous deadline, Time Warner and Sinclair reached a tentative settlement. After further negotiations, a final agreement was reached on February 2, 2011, keeping WKEF and WRGT-TV on Time Warner.
On February 21, 2012, Miamisburg City Council approved a $150,000 loan to Sinclair, which planned to move the WKEF/WRGT-TV studios from Soldiers Home-West Carrollton Road in Dayton, and to move their business and sales offices from Broadcast Plaza (the former WRGT-TV studios), consolidating all within the former studios of CW affiliate WBDT on Corporate Place, off Byers Road, in Miamisburg. Sinclair expected to spend $5 million on renovations to its new facility, making it fully digital and high definition. The stations had anticipated moving into their new studios in November 2012; the move was finalized on January 27, 2013 with high definition newscasts, updated graphics and new logos on both stations.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|22.1||720p||16:9||WKEF||Main WKEF programming / ABC|
|22.2||480i||ASN||American Sports Network|
WKEF aired The Tube on DT2 and Time Warner Cable digital channel 723. WKEF and other Sinclair stations dropped The Tube on December 31, 2006. In October, 2010, WKEF began airing TheCoolTV on DT2. On April 12, 2011, Time Warner Cable began airing TheCoolTV on digital channel 996. Sinclair dropped TheCoolTV from all its stations, including WKEF, on August 31, 2012. Starting June 30, 2014, WKEF began airing GetTV on its second digital subchannel. On January 1, 2015, WKEF began airing Grit on its third digital subchannel. On January 1, 2016, the Antenna TV network was scheduled to be added on the third digital subchannel. Instead the third digital subchannel was changed to Antenna TV on December 4, 2015, while Grit was moved to a new fourth digital subchannel. On February 15, 2016, GetTV was dropped from DT2 and replaced by Sinclair's American Sports Network.
WKEF shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 22, 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 51. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 22.
As part of the SAFER Act, WKEF 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.
After that, analog transmissions on channel 22 continued, except now at low power, rebroadcasting WRGT-DT2's MyNetworkTV and This TV programming. Initially, this new low-power analog broadcast operated under Cincinnati sister station WSTR-TV's Dayton translator license, W66AQ (formerly on channel 66). On June 30, 2010, W66AQ's call letters were changed to W22DE. On December 8, 2010, Cincinnati's WCPO-TV moved its digital operations to channel 22. (According to RabbitEars, this knocked W22DE off the air; however, W22DE filed for a license renewal with the FCC on June 3, 2013.)
In a petition published by the FCC on September 18, 2014, WKEF requested moving the station's digital signal from channel 51 to channel 18. This request was made as part of WKEF's agreement with T-Mobile to eliminate potential interference with that company's wireless operations adjacent to channel 51. The move to channel 18 was completed on July 16, 2015.
During the station's early years, channel 22 had no local newscasts. WKEF established a news department in mid-1972 in response to licensing requirements with two weeknight broadcasts in mid-1972. Mark Pierce was named News Director, with anchor John Getter, sports from Billy McCool, and meteorologist Virginia Bigler. Bigler was granted the American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval based on her weather segments, becoming the second female meteorologist in the United States to receive this. The news department was discontinued after the Xenia tornado in 1974. The final Eyewitness News at 11 was anchored by Paul Douglas (Wilson) who had joined the WKEF staff as an anchor, reporter, and producer in 1973.
Throughout most of the 1970s, WKEF decided against airing its own newscasts possibly owing to low ratings. It relied instead on brief audio-only news updates from newscasters at local radio station WING-AM. It ran these updates at selected times in the morning, afternoon, and evening using a still slide on-screen with a picture of the newscaster. WKEF brought back full news programs in 1979 under the moniker 22 Alive! News with anchors Tom Miller and Jack Marschall.
In 1998, sister station WRGT-TV began airing a nightly 10:00 newscast, now known as FOX 45 News at 10, using WKEF's news team.
On June 12, 2006, WKEF began airing a weekday morning program from 5:00-7:00, called ABC 22 Good Morning. On the same day, WRGT-TV began airing FOX 45 in the Morning from 7:00-9:00 a.m. weekdays.
In August 2008, FOX 45 Dayton's News Source at 6:30 was added to WRGT-TV, airing on weeknights against the national news broadcasts on the "Big Three" stations.
In terms of ratings, WKEF's newscasts have always been a distant third place behind WHIO and WDTN. However, on some nights (usually Sundays because of ABC programming) there are times that WKEF is runner-up to WHIO. WKEF did not participate in the wider implementation of Sinclair's now-defunct, controversial News Central format for its newscasts but did air "The Point", a one-minute conservative political commentary hosted by Mark E. Hyman, that was also controversial and a requirement of all Sinclair-owned stations with newscasts until the series was discontinued in December 2006.
As of July 21, 2012, with WDTN's upgrade to high definition local newscasts, WKEF and WRGT-TV remained the only two "Big Four" network-affiliated television stations in the Dayton area that continued to broadcast their newscasts in pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition. WHIO-TV was the first to have made the upgrade to full high definition. Dean Ditmer, general manager of the stations, announced that WKEF and WRGT-TV would upgrade to HD in 2012 with a new set; the existing set had been in use since January, 1995. On October 29, 2012, the stations began constructing their new set at their future Corporate Place studios. HD newscasts from the new studios began on January 27, 2013.
In August 2015, the station began branding its newscasts as FOX 45 News on ABC, using their sister station, WRGT-TV's, branding.
- Barry Hobart, better known as "Dr. Creep", host of Shock Theater (aka Saturday Night Dead)
- Channel 18 digital TV stations in the United States
- Channel 22 virtual TV stations in the United States
- Grit (TV network)#Affiliates
- List of ABC television affiliates (by U.S. state)#Ohio
- List of Antenna TV affiliates#Ohio
- List of GetTV affiliates#Ohio
- List of stations owned or operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group
- List of television stations in Ohio
- List of television stations in Ohio (by channel number)
- List of television stations in the United States by call sign (initial letter W)