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Chicago, Illinois
Branding WTTW 11
Channels Digital: 47 (UHF)
Affiliations PBS (since 1970)
Owner Window to the World Communications, Inc.
First air date September 6, 1955
Call letters’ meaning Window
Sister station(s) WFMT
Former callsigns Digital:
WTTW-DT (2000's–2009)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
11 (1955–2009)
Former affiliations NET (1955-1970)
Transmitter Power 300 kW
Height 465 m
Facility ID 10802
Transmitter Coordinates 41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.87889°N 87.63611°W / 41.87889; -87.63611

WTTW, channel 11, is one of three PBS member stations serving the Chicago, Illinois market; the others are WYCC and WYIN. WTTW began broadcasting on September 6, 1955 and is owned and operated by Window to the World Communications Inc., a not-for-profit broadcasting entity. Programming on WTTW is funded in part by financial support of viewers and by other not-for-profit organizations such as the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. WTTW also owns and operates The Chicago Production Center, a video production and editing facility in the city's North Park section, and a classical music radio station WFMT located at 98.7 FM. WTTW also serves the nearby Rockford, Illinois market via cable television: Rockford is one of the few markets in the country without a PBS station of its own.



WTTW was founded by a group of civic-minded Chicagoans, led by Inland Steel executive Edward R. Ryerson. The station came to life in the first year of the first term of Mayor Richard J. Daley; Daley, Ryerson and businessman Irving B. Harris were responsible for creating WTTW, which began its life as an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The call letters came about because the founders wanted the station to be Chicago's Window To The World. The station's transmitter was given to WTTW by the staff and management of the defunct KS2XBS, a pay-television station that was bumped off the air from Channel 2 by WBBM-TV.

Mr. Ryerson recruited a young communications lawyer to join the station's Board, and Newton N. Minow would both chair the WTTW board and also serve President John F. Kennedy as FCC Commissioner. Irving B. Harris, Henry W. "Brick" Meers, John W. McCarter, Jr., Martin J. "Mike" Koldyke and Sandra P. Guthman are the other individuals who have served this public broadcasting giant as Chairman of the Board. Guthman, a member of the famous Polk Brothers family of Chicago, is the current Chairman of the Board.

Newt Minow is fond of saying that the only really important decision that he made as Chair of WTTW was to recruit William J. McCarter, Jr. as President and CEO, a post he held for 27 years. Having run public station WETA in Washington, D.C. McCarter, a decorated Korean War hero, and a veteran television pioneer, cut his teeth first as the cameraman on American Bandstand and then as a part of the Army-McCarthy hearings on the Hill. McCarter developed the concept of the political roundtable that is a staple of television formats today. In public television circles, McCarter is referred to as the "architect" of public television. (His friends know him as the man who kicked Bob Dylan out of his office - Dylan was there to tape a SoundStage and had found McCarter's office, which had a couch, and off he went to sleep. McCarter, returning from a meeting, found a sleeping bearded guy on his couch, woke him up, and ushered him out of his office).

During the 1960s, WTTW aired educational programming during the day, showing programs produced under the auspices of CAST, or Chicago Area Schools Television. Programs from "TV College", covering college subjects, were also shown on weekdays. Other afternoon shows included the locally-produced "The Storyteller", which featured a children's story presented weekdays at 5:30pm, and was sponsored by local department store Marshall Field & Company. WTTW was an affiliate of NET, National Educational Television, and continued its affiliation when that organization became the Public Broadcasting Service.


Max Headroom pirating incident

On November 22, 1987, WTTW had its signal hijacked by an unknown person wearing a Max Headroom mask. This was the second incident of that night involving the interruption of a television station's broadcast signal, with the first taking place during WGN-TV’s News at Nine. While WGN-TV's analog transmitter is atop the John Hancock Center and thus engineers were almost immediately able to thwart the video hacker by changing the studio-to-transmitter frequency, WTTW's transmitter was atop the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) which made it harder to stop the hacker before almost two minutes of the interruption. These stations are two of only three existing victims of what is called broadcast signal intrusion. Subscription television network HBO was the other victim; its signal was intercepted during a movie broadcast in April 1986.


WTTW distributes The McLaughlin Group and Lamb Chop's Play-Along to public television stations independently of PBS. National productions for PBS include the music program SoundStage and CEO Exchange, a leadership program hosted by Jeff Greenfield.

WTTW produced The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith in the 1980s. The station produced hundreds of significant arts programs, highlighting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Ravinia Festival. Its Chicago Matters series is perhaps the preeminent local journalism collaboration in the country, involving television, radio and print, and dialogue at the highest levels of articulation; the series is underwritten by The Chicago Community Trust.

However, the most famous show ever to originate at WTTW was Sneak Previews, perhaps the first movie review show on television. The show began in 1975 with hosts Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel and was later hosted by Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons when Siskel and Ebert moved into syndication (starting the show At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert and later Siskel & Ebert & the Movies). Sneak Previews was cancelled in 1996.

WTTW has produced over 110 SoundStage shows from its Chicago studios, the first of which featured Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters surrounded by his young proteges: Dr. John, Junior Wells, Michael Bloomfield, Koko Taylor, Rollo Radford, Buddy Guy, Nick Gravenities, Buddy Miles and his long-time collaborator, pianist Otis Spann among others.

WTTW also produces the news magazine and analysis program Chicago Tonight, hosted by Phil Ponce. The program began as a half-hour panel interview program with local broadcast journalist John Callaway, but was later expanded to an hour with the addition of arts and restaurant reviews and other features.

Other popular programs produced by WTTW have included the early art-video show Image Union, restaurant review show Check, Please! and the irreverent magazine series Wild Chicago. In addition, WTTW features documentaries written, produced, and hosted by Geoffrey Baer, spotlighting the history and culture of various parts of the Chicago area. These programs are very popular and often result in a high volume of monetary contributions to the station.

One of the populor Shows in WTTW is The Artsiders produced by Kai Harding, Inc. and created by former Big Idea director Chris Olsen. Olsen has just finished directing the THREADS films which include Threads: A Pond Full of Pigs and Threads: Things That Go Puff in the Dark with the now defunct CGI digital studio Motion Picture Studios.

Digital television

RF Channel
Name Programming
11.1 47.1 1080i 16:9 WTTW-HD Main WTTW/PBS HD Programming
11.2 47.2 480i 4:3 WTTW Prime WTTW and PBS programming in SD
11.3 47.3 480i 4:3 Create Programming from Create
11.4 47.4 480i 4:3 V-me Spanish programming from V-me

The local cable franchise Comcast currently retransmits WTTW (analog), WTTWD1 and WTTWD2. Create and V-me are transmitted over the air at 480i.

Previously, WTTW-HD/11.1 was branded as WTTW-Digital and featured a full-time high definition program schedule, while 11.2 transmitted the same schedule as analog channel 11. Starting in late 2008, channels 11.1 and 11.2 shared the same programing schedule. On March 30, 2009, WTTW Prime was launched on 11.2. WTTW Prime includes a combination of PBS prime time programing and WTTW's locally produced programing, including during the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. period when WTTW 11 runs children's programming. The WTTW Prime schedule returns some PBS programming to its traditional times, including a public affairs block Friday evening and the Nightly Business Report at 5:30 p.m. WTTW Prime is also available to Comcast digital cable subscribers on channel 243.[1]

On June 12, 2009, WTTW shut down its analog signal on channel 11, continuing digital broadcasts on it pre-transition channel 47, and using PSIP to display WTTW's virtual channel as 11. Also, the "WTTW" callsign was officially transferred from the now-defunct analog channel 11 to digital channel 47 and the "WTTW-DT" callsign used to identify digital channel 47 during the pre-transition era was officially discontinued.

WTTW transmits its HD programming in 1080i, over the air, and to subscribing cable systems.

See also


External links


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