The Boston TV Dial: WHDH(TV)

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Digital channel: 42
PSIP: 7-1: main program (inc. network HD)
7-2: This TV
Ownership: WHDH-TV, a Massachusetts business trust
(Sunbeam Management Corp./Edmund N. Ansin and family)
Studio: 7 Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114-2913
Transmitter: 45 Tower Road
Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464-1510
Phones:
Receptionist +1 617 725 0777
Newsroom 725 0770
Network: NBC

Technical Parameters

WHDH transmits from a 1062-foot-tall (324 m) self-supporting tower on Tower Road in Newton Upper Falls, just north of Needham Street. WHDH operates on digital channel 42 under program test authority with an average ERP of 948 kW using a Dielectric TFU-24GBH-R antenna mounted 298 meters (978 feet) above ground (288 meters above average terrain). In May, 2010, WHDH applied to increase its average ERP to 1000 kW, using the same antenna.

Station History

The Yankee Network, owner of WNAC radio, was purchased General Tire and Rubber Company in 1943, under the name General Teleradio. General's first TV station, WNAC-TV, was Boston's second television station when it débuted on June 21, 1948, two weeks after WBZ-TV 4. In 1950, General expanded its broadcasting operation with the purchase of KHJ (AM, FM, and TV) in Los Angeles, and then in 1953 purchased WOR (AM and TV) in New York City. General's expansion into mass media culminated in the 1955 purchase of RKO Radio Pictures, a major Hollywood movie studio which had been brought down by Howard Hughes' mismanagement. The studios were immediately sold to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, but the film library was kept to provide programming for WOR-TV and KHJ-TV, neither of which were network affiliates. The combined companies became known as RKO General in 1958.

WNAC-TV operated from the Yankee Network's studios at 21 Brookline Avenue in Boston, with its transmitter on a hill in Malden. WNAC-TV was the Boston outlet for CBS as well as for ABC and DuMont. WNAC-TV became solely a CBS affiliate in 1957 when WHDH-TV 5 signed on. In 1962, the stations switched affiliations, and WNAC-TV became primary ABC.

Beginning in 1965, RKO General faced multiple investigations over its business and financial practices. In 1969, RKO applied for renewal of WNAC-TV's license, and the FCC conditioned renewals of RKO's other stations on the outcome of the WNAC proceeding. Through many hearings and appeals, the question was drawn out through the 1970s, and would not be finally decided until 1981.

In the late 1960s, RKO moved WNAC-TV, WRKO, and WROR from Brookline Avenue to a new building at 7 Bulfinch Place, near the new City Hall building. Channel 7 returned to the CBS family on March 19, 1972, when WHDH-TV 5 lost its license and WCVB-TV took the ABC affiliation.

When the Appeals Court ruling on WNAC-TV's license renewal came down on December 4, 1981, things could not have turned out worse for RKO. While the FCC process had been going on, the Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating RKO for securities fraud. In the settlement of that case, General Tire admitted to cooking its books in order to hide illegal political contributions and bribes paid to foreign officials. Meanwhile, in the FCC proceeding, RKO General had been denying the same allegations. In light of RKO's lack of candor before the FCC, RKO was ruled unfit to be a broadcast licensee, and stripped of all its licenses. The Court of Appeals concurred in the FCC's judgment with respect to WNAC-TV, and ordered a rehearing for the other stations. (The FCC had already rejected an offer by General Tire to spin off its broadcasting division to shareholders.)

The FCC lost no time in awarding a new license for channel 7 to New England Television—a company formed by the merger of the two competing applicants which had originally challenged WNAC-TV's renewal back in 1968. NE-TV was originally headed by MIT professor Edward Fredkin; later Fredkin would give way to local businessman David Mugar, heir to the Star supermarket fortune. (Former MIT president Jerome Wiesner was also on NE-TV's board.) Having lost the channel 7 license, RKO cut its losses by selling the facilities and intellectual property to the new licensee.

At the same time, RKO General was ordered by the FCC to dispose of all its other broadcast stations, including former WNAC sister stations WRKO and WROR. RKO was able to tie up the divestiture process procedurally for eight more years, until the final station, KHJ-TV, was sold in 1990.

NE-TV took over officially on May 22, 1982. Mugar renamed the station WNEV-TV, and introduced a new “SE7EN” logo. Channel 7's newscasts remained mired in the ratings basement for the next decade. Mugar bought WHDH radio in 1990, and changed channel 7's call letters to WHDH-TV to correspond. WHDH radio was sold again in 1992, and is now WEEI.

Mugar sold WHDH-TV in June 1993, to Edmund Ansin of Miami. Ansin completely revamped WHDH's news operation, introducing the fast-paced “7 NEWS” format he had developed at WSVN-TV in Miami. With a mostly new staff, 7 NEWS soon became a contender in the Boston news wars, forcing WBZ-TV and WCVB to speed up the pace of their newscasts to keep up. Ansin added an early-morning newscast, and soon dropped “CBS This Morning” to expand 7 NEWS to 5-9 am. WABU 68 briefly picked up CBS This Morning.

With WBZ's 1994 announcement that it would take over the CBS affiliation on January 2, 1995, WHDH had to choose between Fox and NBC. WHDH chose NBC, and on January 2 became an NBC affiliate. That meant an end to the 7-9am local news block, in favor of NBC's “Today”, but it also gave WHDH the prestige of affiliation with the then number-one network in prime time, as well as NBC's strong sports lineup.

WHDH-TV completed its transition to digital television on June 12, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. Prior to the transition, WHDH-TV operated on analog channe 7 with 316 kW peak visual ERP, from 306 meters (1000 ft) above average terrain, using a horizontally-polarized Dielectric TWB9-7 traveling-wave antenna with 0.75 degrees of electrical beam tilt; after the transition, WHDH-TV used 29.7 kW average ERP from the same antenna. WHDH-TV's transitional digital service operated at 948 kW average ERP on channel 42, from 288 meters AAT.

After the transition, however, the station began receiving numerous complaints from viewers who were unable to receive the DTV channel 7 signal. WHDH-TV quickly received Special Temporary Authority to reactivate the channel 42 signal, which in a stroke of luck was still available; in September of 2009, the station applied for a construction permit to move permanently back to channel 42, which was granted a few weeks later. An application for a license to cover the construction permit was filed in December, 2010, and remains pending before the FCC.

In July, 2010, WHDH-TV offically dropped the “-TV” suffix from its callsign.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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