WBBM-TV: Wikis


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CBS2 Chicago.PNG
Chicago, Illinois
Branding CBS 2 HD (general)
CBS 2 News (newscasts)
Slogan The Heart of Chicago
Channels Digital: 12 (VHF)
Virtual: 2 (PSIP)
Affiliations CBS
Owner CBS Corporation
(CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)
First air date September 6, 1946
Call letters’ meaning World's Best
Battery Maker
(referring to H. Leslie Atlass, founder of WBBM radio)
also for:
We Broadcast
Better Music
(former alternate slogan of radio sister)
Former callsigns WBKB (1946–1953)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
4 (VHF, 1946–1953)
2 (VHF, 1953–2009)
3 (VHF, 2001–2009)
Former affiliations Independent (1946-1949)
Paramount Television Network (1949-1953)
Transmitter Power 8 kW
Height 497 m
Facility ID 9617
Transmitter Coordinates 41°52′44″N 87°38′8″W / 41.87889°N 87.63556°W / 41.87889; -87.63556
Website http://www.cbs2chicago.com

WBBM-TV, channel 2, is the CBS owned and operated television station in Chicago, Illinois. WBBM-TV's main studios and offices are located in The Loop section of Chicago, as part of the development at Block 37, and its transmitter is atop the Willis Tower.



WBBM-TV traces its history to 1940 when Balaban and Katz, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures, opened experimental station W9XBK. Balaban and Katz was already well known for owning several theaters in Chicago. On September 6, 1946[1], it received a commercial license as WBKB (meaning Balaban and Katz Broadcasting) on channel 4, the first commercial station outside the Eastern Time Zone, airing some of the earliest CBS programing, including the debut in 1947 of Junior Jamboree (renamed Kukla, Fran and Ollie after moving to NBC in 1948). Starting in 1948, WBKB shared the CBS affiliation in Chicago with WGN-TV (channel 9). Balaban & Katz was renamed United Paramount Theatres (UPT) in 1950 after Paramount was forced to divest it. The Balaban and Katz trademark is now owned by the Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation.

WBKB played an indirect role in the demise of the DuMont Television Network. Paramount owned a stake in DuMont, and the FCC considered WBKB a DuMont "O&O" (owned and operated) station even though WGN-TV was Chicago's DuMont affiliate. Paramount also owned KTLA in Los Angeles. As DuMont already owned WABD (now WNYW) in New York, WTTG in Washington and WDTV in Pittsburgh (now KDKA-TV), the FCC's decision meant DuMont could not acquire any more stations. Paramount even launched a short-lived "Paramount Television Network" in 1949, with KTLA and WBKB-TV as its flagship stations.[1][2] The programming service never gelled into a true television network.

In 1953, United Paramount Theaters, then-owner of WBKB, merged with ABC, who already owned WENR-TV (channel 7). ABC could not keep both stations under FCC regulations of the time, so it sold WBKB's channel 4 license to CBS for $6.75 million.

On February 12, one day after the merger took effect, channel 4 took the WBBM-TV calls letters (after WBBM radio, which CBS had owned since 1929). The WBKB calls subsequently were taken by ABC's channel 7, the former WENR-TV; that station was renamed WLS-TV in 1968. In addition, all CBS programming that had been airing on WGN-TV was moved to the new WBBM-TV, after a two-month cancellation clause, leaving WGN-TV with the quickly crumbling DuMont as its only network affiliation. As a further condition of the merger, WBBM-TV moved to channel 2 on July 5 to eliminate interference with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, which itself moved to channel 4 from channel 3 to avoid interference with Kalamazoo, Michigan's channel 3, WKZO-TV (now WWMT).

The WBBM-TV Studios at Washington Blvd and Dearborn St, across from Daley Plaza.

In 1956, CBS consolidated its Chicago operations into a renovated arena on North McClurg Court, where the television station remained until September 21, 2008, when WBBM-TV moved to its new facilities in the "Block 37" studio. This move coincided with the debut of channel 2's newscasts in high definition, making them the fourth Chicago television station to do so. (Early in 2006, the WBBM radio stations moved into new studios within Two Prudential Plaza).

For the past decade or so, WBBM has been one of CBS's weakest O&O stations, generally rating behind WLS-TV, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV (channel 5) and at times behind WGN-TV and Fox-owned WFLD-TV (channel 32), despite the popularity of CBS's daytime and prime-time shows. The station made some viewership gains during 2009 but has generally remained in third place in the local viewership ratings.

In May 2007 WBBM-TV filed a last-minute request with the FCC to broadcast its post-transition digital signal with high power on channel 12, after analog shutdown in June 2009. The station has filed a request to run 13.8 kW at 520 m above ground level from the Sears Tower. As of the digital transition, WBBM is one of only three CBS O&Os to broadcast on the VHF dial (the other two are KTVT in Fort Worth and WJZ-TV in Baltimore); however, one of these three (KTVT) has been granted FCC approval to permanently move to a UHF frequency due to reception problems which adversely affected viewership.

Digital television

RF Channel
Name Programming
2.1 12.1 1080i 16:9 WBBM-DT Main WBBM-TV Programming/CBS HDTV

WBBM-TV's digital broadcasts are on channel 12. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers continue to display WBBM-TV's virtual channel as 2.1.

Currently, WBBM-TV is the only "full-power" VHF digital television station in Chicago (as it was prior to the June 2009 digital transition). WBBM-TV's rival station, WLS-TV, was the other station to operate their full-power operations on VHF until the station moved their full power operations to the UHF dial in order to alleviate reception problems and keeping their VHF allotment as a digital fill-in translator on October 31, 2009.

Some viewers have had trouble picking up VHF signals since the June 12 transition, so a low-power analog nightlight is airing newscasts.[3] In addition, WBBM-TV has applied for a construction permit to build a low-power fill-in repeater on UHF channel 26 (formerly the analog home of WCIU-TV).

News operations

In the late 1970s, WBBM-TV surged past WMAQ-TV for first place in the Chicago news race. It became one of the most respected local news operations in the country and was considered a bastion of serious journalism. Led by anchors Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson, weatherman John Coughlin and sports director Johnny Morris, WBBM dominated the news ratings in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At one point, its dominance was so absolute that it called its 10 pm newscast simply THE Ten O'Clock News.

In 1975, Chicago jingle composer Dick Marx wrote a theme for WBBM-TV based on an old folk song, "I Love Chicago, Chicago My Home." This theme, known simply as "Channel 2 News," became very popular in Chicago during WBBM-TV's glory days. WBBM-TV has used this theme and several variations on it for all but six years since then. The tune has also been adopted by several other stations across the country, mostly CBS stations. It has become the de facto official local news theme music for CBS's O&Os. From 1994-1997, 2000-2001, and 2002-2008, WBBM-TV used an updated version called The CBS Enforcer Music Collection by Frank Gari. A synthesized version of the original theme, it was especially written for the station. From 2006 to 2008, WBBM-TV used an updated version of the theme, composed by Frank Gari's son Christian. For their high-definition news debut, WBBM-TV commissioned a new theme composed by In The Groove Music, which has done theme music for sister stations WCCO, WBZ and ATV.

Kurtis and Jacobson were first teamed together in 1973 by general manager Robert Wussler and news director Van Gordon Sauter, who introduced a hard-news format and began using the newsroom as the set for all newscasts. Kurtis became known for his "Focus Unit" in-depth reports, Jacobson for his "Perspective" commentaries. Among the others who were known for their work with WBBM-TV in this period were film critic Gene Siskel, police and crime reporter John "Bulldog" Drummond, women and consumer issues reporter Susan Anderson, feature reporter Bob Wallace, investigative reporter Pam Zekman, medical reporter Roger Field, political reporter Mike Flannery and reporter/weekend news anchor Mike Parker. Bob Sirott and Phil Ponce, later hosts of the WTTW program Chicago Tonight, were also reporters for WBBM-TV during this period. Zekman, Flannery and Parker are still on WBBM-TV, and Drummond also still contributes occasional reports.

In 1982, Kurtis left WBBM-TV to anchor the CBS Morning News in New York and was replaced by Don Craig, formerly of WMAQ-TV. When Kurtis returned three years later, he was teamed with Craig for the hour-long 6 p.m. news, and Harry Porterfield, who had been the co-anchor of that newscast for several years, was demoted to a weekend shift. Porterfield later left for WLS, but the Rev. Jesse Jackson began a boycott of WBBM-TV after Porterfield, who is African-American, was demoted. WBBM-TV later hired African-American news anchorman Lester Holt, later of MSNBC to replace Porterfield. Kurtis left WBBM permanently in 1996.

In March 1986, WLS-TV, which had been a strong third for many years, overtook WBBM for the lead. In 1990, WBBM hired Bill Applegate, who had taken WLS to first place as news director, as general manager. Applegate took Jacobson off the anchor desk (Jacobson eventually left for WFLD in 1993) and made the newscasts much flashier than they had previously been. The reporting staff during this time was impressive. It included Elizabeth Vargas now at ABC news, Rob Stafford, now at NBC, Jim Avila, now at ABC, Larry Mendte, most recently a main anchor at CBS in Philadelphia and Dawn Stensland, now a main anchor at Fox in Philadelphia. They were on the streets in addition to Jay Levine, Mike Parker and Pam Zekman. It was enough for a rebound to a first-place tie with WLS-TV by 1993. The momentum did not last as Vargas, Aliva, Mendte, Stafford and Stensland all left the station within a short time. By the mid-1990s, WBBM-TV had crashed to last place. For most of the next decade, WLS and WMAQ fought it out for first, while WBBM-TV's once-proud news division often trailed syndicated reruns on WFLD.

The station has gone through several different on-air branding schemes—from its longtime brand of Channel 2 News to 2 News, News 2 Chicago, The News on CBS 2 Chicago (which is still being said out loud in opens, minus "Chicago"), and finally the present CBS 2 News. A good example of this is in 2002, when the station eliminated its year-old computer-intensive graphics and "newsplex" studio in favor of a simpler studio and corresponding graphics set.

In 2002, Diann Burns, former anchor at WLS-TV and Antonio Mora, news reader from Good Morning America, became WBBM's new main anchor team. In January 2006, WBBM-TV passed WMAQ for second place at 5 p.m. While still far behind WLS, it was WBBM-TV's best finish at 5 p.m. in 13 years. It was still in last place at 10 p.m., but was the only late newscast to gain audience share in the first month of the new year. WBBM-TV also finished second sign-on to sign-off (from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.), leapfrogging from fourth for its best monthly performance in 23 years. That performance was short-lived, however: In August 2006, WBBM-TV added Rob Johnson as co-anchor of the 5:00 p.m. newscast alongside Burns, while Mora and Burns still co-anchored at 6 and 10. Johnson has previously worked at WLS-TV as weekend anchor since 1998. In May 2007, WBBM-TV slipped to fourth overall (from sign-on to sign-off) behind WLS-TV, CW affiliate WGN-TV and NBC station WMAQ (in descending ratings order), and just barely ahead of Fox station WFLD. And in the July 2007 ratings period, WBBM's reporting of the Amy Jacobson fiasco resulted in the station's newscasts falling further behind in the Nielsen ratings.

CBS 2 made more anchor changes in 2007, replacing Antonio Mora on the 10:00 p.m. newscast with Rob Johnson. Mora continued as co-anchor of the 6:00 p.m. newscast and host of Eye on Chicago. After these changes, the ratings dropped 30%. Mora left WBBM-TV in January 2008 to co-anchor evening newscasts at CBS O&O WFOR-TV 4 in Miami, Florida. Johnson then added the 6:00 p.m. newscast to his duties.

On March 31, 2008, it was announced that Diann Burns' contract would not be renewed. She, along with medical editor Mary Ann Childers, sports director Mark Malone, and reporters Rafael Romo and Katie McCall would no longer be with the station. Also, when WBBM announced the hiring of Ryan Baker from WMAQ, this fueled the thought that he would replace Mark Malone. On April 2, 2008, CBS 2 News Director Carol Fowler announced a new set of anchor lineups to take effect on April 14, 2008. (see link to news team)

On February 20, 2009, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that WBBM was signing its personalities on contracts that were "as short as possible", and the rumored possibility of discontinuing newscasts altogether due to the current economic crisis.[4]

On April 30, 2009, WBBM-TV laid off at least seven -- but fewer than 18 -- personnel. Those furloughed included reporter and fill-in anchor Joanie Lum, entertainment reporter and film critic Bill Zwecker, sports reporter and anchor Howard Sudberry, assistant news director Todd Woolman, producer Liz Johnson, news writer and producer Shelly Howell, and camera man Chris Cangilla. Along with the layoffs, WBBM-TV cancelled its weekend morning newscasts and the very late night rebroadcasts of its 10 o'clock news (replacing them with infomercials in the process) and restructured its weeknight 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts to use a solo anchor (Rob Johnson now anchors the 6 and 10 o'clock newscasts solo).[5][6]

Harry Porterfield returned to WBBM-TV with a very warm welcome after 24 years at WLS-Channel 7 on Monday, August 3, 2009, to anchor the 11AM news with Roseanne Tellez, and also to continue "Someone You Should Know," the series he began at WBBM in 1977.

On November 13th, 2009 Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson returned to the anchor desk one last time to anchor the 10pm Newscast.

At the conclusion of the November 2009 Nielsen Ratings sweeps period, WBBM-TV's 10 pm newscast overtook WMAQ-TV for second place, largely due to the low ratings of the latter station's lead-in (The Jay Leno Show). WLS-TV continues to dominate the local newscast ratings in the Chicago market; however, it should be noted that WBBM-TV's 10 o'clock newscast was the only late-night newscast in Chicago to see an increase in viewership over the same ratings period the previous year.[7]

For January 2010 ratings period, CBS 2 News at 10 scored a 6.0 points ratings, up from 4.3 points year over year. [8]. That was good enough to remain in second place although WMAQ showed signs of a recovery from its November 2009 swoon. But during the February 2010 Nielsen ratings sweeps period, CBS 2 News at 10 slipped back to third place behind NBC 5 due in large part to the latter network's airing of the 2010 Winter Olympics.


The 10 p.m. news experiment

The most notable of many changes WBBM-TV has made to its news operation occurred in 2000, when it revamped its 10 p.m. newscast by ditching the traditional news format in favor of in-depth "hard news" features, a staple of its glory days. Anchored by Carol Marin, former longtime anchor at WMAQ, the newscast was hailed as a return to quality in-depth journalism in the best CBS tradition at a time when tabloid journalism and "soft news" were becoming the norm in broadcast news. However, plummeting ratings led to the newscast's cancellation in October after being on the air for only nine months.

Station trivia

  • WBBM-TV's investigative reporter Pam Zekman, police reporter John Drummond,chief correspondent Jay Levine, and then evening anchor/reporter Lester Holt appeared in the final scenes of the 1993 film The Fugitive, playing themselves. Holt also briefly appeared in the 1998 sequel U.S. Marshals.
  • WBBM-TV also served as home to syndicated programs Donahue from 1982-85 and Siskel & Ebert from 1986 to the late 1990s.
  • Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, Columbia Records housed an office and recording studio in the building.

News Team

Current On-Air Talent


  • Susan Carlson - weekday mornings
  • Rob Johnson - weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Mai Martinez - Saturdays at 5 p.m., Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and weekends st 10 p.m.
  • Harry Porterfield - weekdays at 11 a.m.
  • Anne State - weeknights at 5 p.m.
  • Roseanne Tellez - weekdays at 11 a.m.
  • Jim Williams - Saturdays at 5 p.m., Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and weekends at 10 p.m.

CBS 2 WeatherTrak Team

  • Steve Baskerville - (AMS Seal of Approval) Chief Meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Ed Curran - (AMS Seal of Approval) Meteorologist; Tuesday-Fridays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 5 and 10 p.m.
  • Rick DiMaio - (AMS Seal of Approval) Meteorologist; fill-in
  • Mary Kay Kleist - (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist/NWA Seal of Approval) Meteorologist; weekday mornings
  • Don Schwenneker - (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist/NWA Seal of Approval) Meteorologist; Sundays at 5:30 and 10 p.m., and Mondays at 11 a.m.

Sports Team

  • Ryan Baker - Sports Director; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Megan Mawicke - Sports Anchor; Saturdays at 5 p.m. Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and weekends at 10 p.m. (also weekday field sports reporter)


  • Susan Carlson - weekday mornings
  • Kris Habermehl - Chopper 2 HD

Chopper 2 HD

  • Kris Habermehl - weekday main photojournalist
  • Bart Shore - weekday fill-in photojournalist
  • Skipp Hann - weekday fill-in photojournalist


2 Investigators

  • Dave Savini - investigative reporter
  • Pam Zekman - investigative reporter


  • Lisa Dietlin - philanthropy contributor
  • John Drummond - organized crime reporter (semi-retired)
  • Walter Jacobson - Perspectives
  • Chris Jones - theater reporter
  • Bill Kurtis - Cold Case Minutes
  • Irv Miller - legal analyst

Monsters & Money in the Morning

  • Susan Carlson - weekday mornings
  • Mike Hegedus - weekday mornings
  • Dan Jiggetts - weekday mornings
  • Mary Kay Kleist - weekday mornings
  • Mike North - weekday mornings
  • Terry Savage - weekday mornings

Former On-Air Talent

General managers

  • H. Leslie Atlass (1940-1959)
  • Clark B. George (1960-1965)
  • Edward R. Kenefick (1965-1970)
  • Leon Drew 1970-1972)
  • Robert Wussler (1972-1974)
  • Neil Derrough (1974-1977)
  • David Nelson (1977-1978)
  • Ed Joyce (1978-1980)
  • Peter Lund (1980-1983)
  • Eric Ober (1983-1984)
  • Gary Cummings (1984-1986)
  • Johnathan Rodgers (1986-1990)
  • Bill Applegate (1990-1993)
  • Bob McGann (1993-1996)
  • Hank Price (1996-2000)
  • Walt DeHaven (2000-2002)
  • Joe Ahern (2002-2008)
  • Bruno Cohen (2008-present)
Television.svg This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.

News/Station Presentation

Newscast titles

  • B&K News (1943-1944)
  • Today's World Picture (1944-late 1940s)
  • Pix of the News (early 1950s)
  • Standard Oil News Round-Up/John Harrington News (mid 1950s-1961)
  • Channel 2 News (1961-1994)
  • Channel 2: The Six O'Clock/Ten O'Clock News (late 1970s-1980s)
  • 2 News (1994-1997)
  • News 2 Chicago (1997-2000)
  • The News on CBS2 Chicago (February-October 2000)
  • CBS 2 News (October 2000-present)
  • CBS 2 News HD (September 22, 2008-present)


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  85. ^ http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040519/news_lz1c19tvbrief.html
  86. ^ http://www.askmen.com/celebs/women/models_300/326_elizabeth_vargas.html
  87. ^ http://www.chicagomediaexaminer.com/v02n22.htm
  88. ^ http://www.publicity.org/monthlyapr01a.htm
  89. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-3791836.html
  90. ^ http://www.whas11.com/bios/webb.html
  91. ^ http://www.planetary-spirit.com/Guests/133_Jennifer_Weigel.html
  92. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-4598952.html

See also

External links


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