WBBM-TV, channel 2, is the CBS owned and operated television station in Chicago, Illinois. WBBM-TV's main studios and offices are located within the CBS 2 Broadcast Center located in The Loop at 22 W Washington Street. The facilities are part of the development at 108 North State Street, also known as Block 37. WBBM-TV transmits from the John Hancock Center.
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-TV in Los Angeles. As DuMont already owned WABD (now WNYW) in New York, WTTG in Washington and WDTV in Pittsburgh (now KDKA-TV, which is now an actual sister station to WBBM and even has a logo and graphics package similar to WBBM), 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 (ironically now a sister station to Chicago's WGN-TV) and WBKB-TV as its flagship stations. The programming service never gelled into a true television network.
In 1953, United Paramount Theaters, then-owner of WBKB which CBS was already primarily affiliated with, merged with ABC, who already owned WENR-TV on channel 7. ABC couldn't keep both stations under FCC regulations of the time, so it sold WBKB to CBS for $6.75 million.
On February 12, one day after the merger took effect, channel 4 took the WBBM-TV calls (after WBBM-AM, which CBS had owned since 1929). Hence, WBKB-TV became WBBM-TV, while ABC's existing O&O, WENR-TV was renamed WBKB-TV in a related call latter change. In addition, all CBS programming that had been airing on WGN-TV was moved to the new WBBM-TV, after a 2-month cancellation clause, leaving WGN-TV with the quickly crumbling DuMont as its only network affiliation.
As a further condition of the merger, WBBM moved to channel 2 on July 5 to eliminate interference with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which itself moved to channel 4 from channel 3 to avoid interference with Kalamazoo, Michigan's channel 3, WKZO-TV (now WWMT). In 1956, WBBM-AM-FM-TV moved to a renovated arena on North McClurg Court, where the television station remained until September 21, 2008 (early in 2006, the radio stations moved into new studios within Two Prudential Plaza). The WBKB-TV call letters currently reside on channel 11 in Alpena, Michigan, which is also a CBS affiliate.
On April 6, 2005, the station announced that it had reached an agreement to move its facilities to the vacant "Block 37" near the Daley Center in downtown Chicago. The new facility will be an all-digital HD facility with a street-level windowed studio, similar to that of sister station KYW-TV in Philadelphia. On January 18, 2006, the station announced that it had purchased new Sony XDCAM HD optical-disk cameras and recorders for news acquisition, which were to be delivered in March 2006. WBBM launched its newscasts in HDTV during the 10 pm news on September 21, 2008 during their move to its new facilities in the "Block 37" studio. This move made channel 2 the fourth station in Chicago to make the switch to HD newscasts (after WLS-TV, WMAQ-TV and WGN-TV).
In May 2007 WBBM-DT filed a last-minute request with the FCC to broadcast with high power on channel 12, after analog shutdown in February, 2009. The station has filed a request to run 13.8 kw at 520 m above ground level from the Sears Tower.
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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 and WBZ.
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 NBC, 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.
Since 2002, however, WBBM has recovered some of its former glory. That year, it signed Diann Burns, who had recently departed from WLS-TV, and hired Antonio Mora from Good Morning America. Burns and Mora 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 is 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 Diann Burns, while Antonio Mora still co-anchored with Burns 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, as part of a nationwide effort by CBS Corporation to cut costs; the job cuts also affected other on-air personnel at CBS's television and radio stations throughout the country. When WBBM announced the hiring of Anne State, this fueled speculation of this. 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)