History of Michigan TV Broadcasting

(Does not include LPTV)

10/23/1946: WWDT Channel 4 Detroit broadcasts demonstration programming, becoming the first Michigan television station to take to the air. This date is not often cited as the start of channel 4 as it was a one-day only demonstration and regular programming did not begin until March 1947.

3/1/47: From the 1947 Broadcasting Yearbook, two Michigan stations are planned:

  • WDLT Channel 5 Detroit, owned by King-Trendle Broadcasting Corp.
  • WWDT Channel 4 Detroit, owned by Evening News Association

3/4/47: WWDT Detroit, channel 4, begins experimental broadcasts on a regular basis (now WDIV).
5/15/47: WWDT becomes WWJ-TV.
5/31/47: WWJ airs first televised newscast in Detroit
6/3/47: WWJ begins airing regularly scheduled programs.
6/3/47: WWJ airs its first Tigers' game. Ty Tyson handles play-by-play for game versus Yankees.
9/5/47: WWJ airs its first Lions' game (exhibition game?)
9/27/47: WWJ airs its first college football game- Michigan versus Michigan State.
10/19/47: WWJ airs its first Red Wings' game.
November 1947: WWJ airs its first Thanksgiving Day parade.

3/31/48: WWJ joins NBC.
10/9/48: WXYZ-TV Detroit, channel 7, signs on.
10/24/48: WJBK-TV 2 Detroit signs on, owned by Storer Broadcasting. Storer also owned WJBK-AM 1490, which later moved to AM 1500, and later WJBK-FM 93.1. WJBK-TV's primary affiliation is with CBS but also shows programming from the DuMont Network.

8/15/49: WLAV-TV Grand Rapids MI, channel 7, signs on (now WOOD-TV channel 8).
1949: The Lone Ranger debuts on WXYZ

5/1/50: WJIM-TV Lansing, channel 6, signs on (now WLNS).
6/1/50: WKZO-TV Kalamazoo, channel 3, signs on (now WWMT).

1951: Grandwood Broadcasting (owner of WOOD radio) purchases WLAV-TV Grand Rapids and changes the call letters to WOOD-TV.

1952: Educational Television and Radio Center is formed in Ann Arbor to provide materials for fledgling educational television and radio stations. Later this organization moved to New York City and became National Education Television (NET), supplying children's programming, documentaries and a variety of other educational programs. NET was the basis for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

4/5/53: WKNX-TV Saginaw, channel 57, signs on as an affiliate of CBS (now WEYI).
12/8/53: WOOD-TV Grand Rapids moves from channel 7 to channel 8. WOOD-TV is the first station in Michigan to broadcast in color.
10/1953: WILS-TV 54 Lansing signs on near the middle of the month with a Dumont affiliation. Call sign was later changed to WTOM-TV before the station went dark. Studio was on North Washington and the transmitter in the Olds Tower.
1953: Soupy Sales debuts live Detroit children's TV show on WXYZ
1953-54: For a short time during 1953-54, WTAC-TV channel 16 was on the air as an ABC affiliate in Flint. This station signed off on June 1954 during the McCarthy hearings because of storm damage and financial problems.

1/1/54: WWTV Cadillac, channel 13, signs on as an affiliate of CBS; WWJ-TV Detroit airs the first color broadcast in Michigan.
January 1954: WKAR-TV East Lansing, channel 60, signs on.
2/16/54: WNEM-TV Bay City, channel 5, signs on as an affiliate of NBC and ABC at 7:00pm.
9/16/54: CKLW-TV Windsor, channel 9, signs on.

10/3/55: WTVS Detroit, channel 56, signs on.

1956: WDMJ-TV Negaunee/Marquette, channel 6, signs on (now WLUC).
1956: DuMont Network shuts down. Michigan affiliates included WJBK Detroit, CKLW-TV Windsor.

1957: WOOD-TV Grand Rapids is purchased by Time, Inc.

TV stations from Summer 1958 North American Radio-TV Station Listings, by Vane A. Jones:
2 -- WJBK-TV Detroit
3 -- WKZO-TV Kalamazoo
4 -- WTCM-TV Cheboygan, new- not yet in operation
4 -- WWJ-TV Detroit
5 -- WNEM-TV Bay City
6 -- WDMJ-TV Marquette
6 -- WJIM-TV Lansing
7 -- WPBN-TV Traverse City
7 -- WXYZ-TV Detroit
8 -- WOOD-TV Grand Rapids
10 - NEW Onondago, new- not yet in operation
12 - WJMS-TV Ironwood, new- not yet in operation
12 - WJRT Flint, new- not yet in operation
13 - WWTV Cadillac
20 - WPAG-TV Ann Arbor, had suspended operations
23 - WMCM Grand Rapids, new- not yet in operation
26 - WUOM-TV Ann Arbor, new- not yet in operation
34 - WHLS-TV Port Huron, new- not yet in operation
50 - WBID-TV Detroit, new- not yet in operation
54 - WTOM-TV Lansing, had suspended operations
56 - WTVS Detroit, new- not yet in operation
57 - WKNX-TV Saginaw
60 - WKAR-TV East Lansing
Notes on this listing:
WJMS-TV 12 Ironwood: Was likely bought out and moved to Rhinelander, WI (current WJFW)
WUOM-TV 26 Ann Arbor: No record of this station ever making it on the air

10/12/58: WJRT Flint, channel 12, signs on as an ABC affiliate. WNEM Bay City drops ABC programming. The original owner of WJRT, Goodwill Stations (which was also the owner of WJR-AM at the time), orignally wanted the tower for WJRT near Clarkston. After objections about the station attempting to serve the Detroit market, the tower was constructed near Chesaning.

1959: WILX/WMSB Channel 10 Onondaga/Lansing signs on. Station is a shared operation: part-time NBC programming, part-time public / educational broadcasting. WMSB replaced WKAR-TV which left channel 60.

1/24/61: WWTV Cadillac's building burns to the ground.

5/15/62: WWTV Cadillac moves from channel 13 channel 9.
6/16/62: WWUP-TV Sault Ste. Marie signs on as a satellite station of WWTV Cadillac.
November 1962: WZZM-TV Grand Rapids, channel 13, signs on.

1964: WUCM-TV Bay City, channel 19, signs on (now WDCQ).

1/10/65: WKBD Detroit, channel 50, signs on.
9/14/65: WKNX Saginaw moves from channel 57 to channel 25.

9/15/68: WXON Detroit, channel 62, signs on (now WMYD).
1968: WJMY Detroit, channel 20, is issued a construction permit and begins testing. This construction permit was purchased by the owners of WXON who moved the station to channel 20 in 1972 and abandoned channel 62.

196x: WHAX 66 Flint is issued a construction permit but never makes it on the air. The permit was owned by the Balaban brothers- one time owners of WBKB-TV (now WLS-TV) channel 7 in Chicago. (WBKB-TV channel 11 Alpena is not related to the Chicago station)

7/24/71: WUHQ Battle Creek, channel 41, signs on at 3:01pm (now WOTV) as an affiliate of ABC.

November 1972: WXON Detroit moves to channel 20.
12/17/72: WGVC Grand Rapids, channel 35, signs on as an affiliate of PBS (now WGVU).
1972: WOOD-TV Grand Rapids becomes WOTV-TV When Time sells WOOD radio.
1972: WNMU-TV Marquette, channel 13, signs on as an affiliate of PBS.
1972: WILX/WMSB-TV Lansing becomes WILX-TV only as public broadcasting moves to WKAR-TV.
1972: WKAR-TV E. Lansing, channel 23, signs on again as an affiliate of PBS.

September 1975: WGPR-TV Detroit, channel 62, signs on (now WWJ-TV). USA's first black-owned TV station.

May 1978: WWJ Detroit is sold by the Evening News Association to Post-Newsweek and gets a new call sign, WDIV.

1979: "ON-TV" debuts on WXON TV 20 Detroit, available to subscribers only begins running evenings starting at 8:00 p.m. For a monthly subscription fee, a descrambler box was provided access to live sporting events, movies, and concernts. Piracy of ON-TV was prevelant with knock-off boxes being sold for much less than the $22.50 monthly subscription fee.

1980: WFUM Flint, channel 28, signs on as an affiliate of PBS.

1/13/1981: WRHT Ann Arbor, channel 31, signs on as an independent.

3/1982: WMMA-TV Grand Rapids (now WXMI), channel 17, signs on as an independent station.
12/1/82: WFSL Lansing (now WSYM), channel 47, signs on as an independent station.
1982: WIHT-TV Ann Arbor (now WPXD) is running suscription TV as "IT-TV". This lasts until 1985.
1982: WXON Detroit expands ON-TV to include daytime slots on weekends.

1984: WGVK Kalamazoo, channel 52, signs on as a satellite station of WGVC Grand Rapids- an affiliate of PBS.

3/26/85: WAQP-TV Saginaw, channel 49, signs on.
1985: WDIV becomes the first Michigan station to broadcast in stereo.

1986: WUCX-TV (now WDCP) Bad Axe, channel 35, signs on as a satellite station of WUCM-TV Bay City- an affiliate of PBS.
1986: Fox network debuts with Michigan affiliate WKBD Detroit.
TV stations from the 1986 Broadcasting Yearbook. The list includes stations with construction permits that were not yet on the air:
2 -- WJBK-TV Detroit
3 -- WJMN-TV Escabana
3 -- WWMT Kalamazoo
4 -- WDIV Detroit
4 -- WTOM-TV Cheboygan
5 -- WHTA Calumet
5 -- WNEM-TV Bay City
6 -- WCML-TV Alpena
6 -- WLNS-TV Lansing
6 -- WLUC-TV Marquette
7 -- WPBN-TV Traverse City
7 -- WXYZ-TV Detroit
8 -- WGTQ Sault Ste. Marie
8 -- WIIM-TV Iron Mountain
8 -- WOTV Grand Rapids
9 -- WWTV Cadillac
10 - WILX-TV Onondaga
10 - WWUP-TV Sault Ste. Marie
11 - WBKB-TV Alpena
12 - WJRT-TV Flint
13 - WNMU-TV Marquette
13 - WZZM-TV Grand Rapids
14 - WCMU-TV Mt. Pleasant
17 - WXMI Grand Rapids
18 - WLLD Jackson
19 - WUCM-TV University Center
20 - WXON Detroit
21 - WCMW Manistee
23 - WKAR-TV East Lansing
25 - WEYI-TV Saginaw
27 - WCMV Cadillac
28 - WFUM Flint
29 - WGTU Traverse City
31 - WIHT Ann Arbor
35 - WGVC Grand Rapids
35 - WUCX-TV Bad Axe
38 - WADL Mount Clemens
41 - WUHQ-TV Battle Creek
46 - NEW Port Huron
47 - WSYM Lansing
49 - WAQP Saginaw
50 - WKBD-TV Detroit
52 - WGVK Kalamazoo
53 - WLAJ-TV Lansing
54 - WMKT Muskegon
56 - WTVS Detroit
61 - WVCI Bay City
62 - WGPR-TV Detroit
64 - WLLA Kalamazoo
66 - WSMH Flint
Note on this listing:
WVCI-TV 61 Bay City: Station never made it on the air. The station was attempting to build a 1500 foot tower in order to provide coverage to all of the Tri-Cities and Flint. Apparently there was a hang up with one or more of these factors: The FCC approving the 1500 foot HAAT, financing, and/or local zoning ordinances.
WMKT-TV 54 Muskegon was originally to be targeted towards Muskegon/Holland and feature local news and sports. The funding was never fully secured and the construction permit was ultimately sold. Station signed on as WTLJ in November 1986.

9/16/90: WSYM Lansing joins the Fox Network.
10/13/90: WLAJ Lansing, channel 53, signs on as an ABC affiliate.

1/1/92: WOTV Grand Rapids once again becomes WOOD-TV. WUHQ Battle Creek, because of its local marketing agreement with WOOD becomes WOTV.

12/11/94: As the first domino in Detroit's first major affiliate shakeup ever, WJBK-TV 2 Detroit drops CBS programming in favor of the FOX network which moves from WKBD-TV 50. Detroit's CBS programming is picked up by WGPR Channel 62 after CBS fails to reach affiliation deals with many of the other Detroit TV stations. CBS eventually purchases WGPR-TV 62 (now known as WWJ-TV) and invests millions to upgrade the station's facilities. WJBK does not air FOX kids programming block, instead those shows remained on WKBD.

1/16/95: WNEM Bay City and WEYI Saginaw swap network affiliations. WNEM goes from NBC to CBS, WEYI from CBS to NBC.
April 1995: WDIV Detroit is the first Michigan station with a web site.
1995: WLUC Marquette changes network affiliation from ABC to NBC.
1995: UPN network debuts with Michigan affiliate WKBD Detroit.

10/11/96: WJUE-TV Battle Creek, channel 43, signs on (now WZPX).
10/30/96: WBKP-TV Calumet, channel 5, signs on as an ABC affiliate.

8/1/97: Channel 28 in Marquette signs on under special authority. Rebroadcasting WBKP-TV 5 Calumet, this station provides ABC programming over-the-air to Marquette.
1997: WBSX Ann Arbor is purchased by Paxson Communications in preparation for launch of PaxTV network.

8/31/98: PaxTV network debuts with Michigan affiliates WPXD Ann Arbor and WZPX Battle Creek.
9/29/98: WXYZ Detroit begins digital service on Channel 41.
September 1998: WXYZ is first to offer live Internet simulcasts of its news broadcasts.
September 1998: Fox Kids programming in Detroit moves from WKBD (Ch. 50) to WADL (Ch. 38).
10/1/98: WJBK Detroit begins digital service on Channel 58.
10/30/98: WDIV is first to offer 'on demand' Internet broadcasts of its news shows.
11/98: WBKP 5 Calumet is granted license (ABC affiliate)

3/1/99: WDIV Detroit begins digital service on Channel 45.
7/99: WWJ Detroit begins digital service on Channel 44, forcing WDWO-LP off the air. WDWO-LP has a construction permit to return on channel 18.

10/2000: WTVS Detroit is first public broadcaster in Michigan to begin digital broadcasts




Follow Michiguide on Facebook