Channel 5 first went on the air on May 22, 1954 as KFXJ-TV, owned by Colorado broadcasting pioneer Rex Howell along with KFXJ radio (AM 920). Howell had founded KFXJ on Colorado's front range in 1926 and moved it to Grand Junction in 1931.
Channel 5 shared a studio with its radio sister on Hillcrest Manor north of downtown Grand Junction. Howell had built the art-deco and block glass structure in 1931 for the radio station, but expanded it to two stories to accommodate television. At the time, Hillcrest Manor was the highest populated point in the city. The stations' broadcast tower was located on the grounds next to the studio building.
In 1956, Howell moved the KFXJ calls to a newly-opened satellite station on channel 10, located some 65 miles south in Montrose, Colorado. KFXJ Radio (then AM 920) and Channel 5 became KREX-AM-TV. KREX-FM (92.3) signed on in 1960, transmitting from the same tower used by channel 5 at the Hillcrest location. KFXJ became KREY-TV in 1965, shortly after the opening of Durango-based KREZ-TV on channel 6. This three-station network became known as "XYZ Television", with the calls of all three stations corresponding to the word 'king' ('Rex' coincidentally meaning king in Latin, with 'rey' the Spanish word for king).
For 25 years, KREX-TV was the only television station in western Colorado. However, cable providers supplemented it with the Denver stations. Channel 5 finally got some local competition when KJCT signed on in 1979. KJCT took ABC full-time, leaving KREX-TV to shoehorn CBS and NBC onto its schedule. This was very unusual for a two-station market. Channel 5 finally lost NBC in 1996 when KKCO signed on. For a time in the 1990s, it also carried some Fox programming in the off-hours.
KREX-TV relocated its analog transmitter to the Black Ridge electronics site at the Colorado National Monument west of Grand Junction in 2002. It increased power eight-fold, from 12.9kW to 100 kW visual. The digital transmitter remains at the studio location, operating at a licensed power of only 86 watts.
KREX-AM eventually moved its frequency to 1100 AM, and increased its power to 50,000 watts. It's now KNZZ, the top-rated radio station in the market. It transmits from Whitewater, a desert community 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of Grand Junction. KREX-FM is now KJYE, broadcasting soft rock from a transmitter at the Colorado National Monument electronics site. It and KNZZ are now owned by Western Slope Broadcasting.
KREX had previously offered My Network TV on its digital subcarrier and on co-owned KGJT-LP channel 27. However, since the KREX studios and operations center were destroyed by fire on January 20, 2008 (see below), that LPTV has simulcast KREX-TV's program schedule without deviation.
KREX was the leading news station in the area for many years, but for most of the last decade has been runner-up to KKCO.
|Station||City of license|| Channels|
|First air date|| Call letters’|
|Former callsigns||Former affiliations|| ERP|
|Facility ID||Transmitter Coordinates|
> Glenwood Springs
| 3 (VHF)|
|January 28, 1984||REGal||KCWS (1984-1987)|| independent (1984-1985)|
| 67.6 kW|
| 771 m|
| 10 (VHF)|
|September 18, 1956||REY (Spanish word for 'king')||KFXJ-TV (1956-1965)|| 6.17 kW|
| 24 m|
KREG-TV transmits from Sunlight Peak on Channel 3 and digital channel 23; plus 12 analog and one digital translator stations. At present it has no local news inserts but does have a small office in Carbondale, near Glenwood Springs. When launched by a group of investors in 1984, independent KCWS promised the best selection of off-network and first-run syndicated programming available; plus an aggressive regional news operation that pioneered the first long-form morning newscast on Western Slope television. Due to poor cable coverage (it took several months to get the signal on cable in Grand Junction, the largest community in the Western slope) and non-existent ratings, advertising dollars were scarce. It didn't help matters that KWGN-TV in Denver had been available on cable for decades in the area. News was eventually eliminated and, ultimately KCWS went silent following a Taxi rerun on a summer day in 1985. It returned it to the air in 1987 as a satellite of KREX.
KREY transmits from Flattop Mesa, a hill northeast of Montrose. It also offers digital service on Channel 13. Due to its relatively weak signal (6.17kw visual) and the areas' very uneven terrain, the station uses six translators to relay its signal to the Uncompaghre Valley and surrounding San Miguel mountain communities. Local studios are located on North 1st Street in Montrose. In its earliest days, local programs including "Letters To Santa," in which area children were invited to sit on Santa's lap on live television, were made in cramped quarters at the transmitter building, which doubled as the stations' studio through the 1970's.
KREX originally was also seen on KREZ Channel 6 in Durango, Colorado. KREZ had made several attempts at regional news programs over its 30 years as a semi-satellite of KREX. Eventually, the cost of supplying a 270-mile (435-kilometer) microwave link to Durango plus the relatively small revenue base led to the sale of KREZ in 1995. It is now a satellite of Albuquerque's KRQE.
In addition to its three satellites, KREX operates the largest translator network of any commercial station in Colorado, comprised of 60 low-power repeaters.
The Grand Junction Fire Department was forced to pull firefighters from the building shortly after arriving on the scene. The 77-year-old building had been renovated several times, creating many dead air spaces. Fire officials were concerned by the potential for backdrafts, and decided to battle the fire from the exterior only. More than 18,000 gallons of water were required to fully extinguish the blaze, which continued to smolder for over 24 hours.
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms assisted with the investigation. It was revealed that the fire started on the top floor (ground level offices) and continued down to the basement. Investigators focused on a heater in the hallway of the upper floor; however, it may be impossible to definitively determine the fire's cause. This was due to the profound level of destruction within the building as well as the decision to allow the fire to burn itself out. Ironically, the station had passed a fire inspection by the Grand Junction Fire Department only a few weeks prior to the fire.
Damage to the facility was estimated at roughly $6 million, making it the most significant fire loss in Grand Junction history. In addition to the losses of equipment and infrastructure, decades of file tapes were lost in the fire, as well as irreplaceable photographs and other archival material - wiping out a comprehensive catalog of the Grand Valley’s history.
The station's CBS and Fox feeds went off the air around 10:30 a.m. However, within a few hours the national CBS and Fox feeds were picked up by the local cable provider, Bresnan Communications. Dish Network temporarily replaced KREX and KFQX with their Denver counterparts, KCNC-TV and KDVR, respectively. (DirecTV currently does not offer a local Grand Junction feed.) Due to the high penetration of cable and satellite in this area, most of the area's residents didn't lose access to CBS programming. Cable and satellite are all but essential for acceptable television in much of western Colorado due to the market's rugged terrain. The fire also temporarily knocked out programming to KREX's satellites and massive translator network, as they either were controlled from KREX's studios, or fed off of the source originating at KREX's transmitter.
According to KREX General Manager Ron Tillery, the studios were a total loss and the structure is currently being demolished. However, the $130,000 transmitter survived without significant damage, as it was housed in a 1960's-era bomb shelter located in the basement of the building. It took crews three days to reach the shelter due to debris and obstructions.
The transmitter has been reassembled in a newly built outbuilding located on KREX’s current property, and the control room is temporarily housed in a mobile home directly behind the transmitter. The station's master control equipment has been completely replaced with all-digital equipment, and the trailer features three separate master controls for KREX’s CBS, FOX, and MY Network affiliates.
The KREX news division has moved into temporary quarters at the PBS broadcasting studio at Western Colorado Community College, and staff are also working directly from their homes.
KREX-TV and its three full-power satellites returned to the air on January 30, 2008, with KFQX coming online the following day. As of mid-March, KREX and KFQX are both carrying a full slate of network and syndicated programming, and local news. According to titan.tv, KGJT-LP is currently repeating KREX's programming, with no variances in the schedule.
The station's owner, Hoak Media, has pledged to reconstruct a "state of the art media and news gathering operation. A number of local businesses donated equipment and other materials to aid in the station's recovery.
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