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The untold story of TV-43

Discussion pertaining to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, and Michiana
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MWmetalhead
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The untold story of TV-43

Post by MWmetalhead » Sat Oct 19, 2019 6:58 am

The origins of channel 43, the station now known as WZPX (West Michigan's owned & operated ION station), has always been a point of curiosity to me.

We all know Florida broadcasting magnate Lowell "Bud" Paxson via one of his companies purchased the station and actually got it on the air some time in the mid 1990's.

The CP was issued in June 1991 under proposed calls WYYC. Three months later, the calls were changed to WJUE.

The station didn't make it to air until October 1996. About nine months later, the calls were changed once again, this time to WILV - matching the calls of a Paxson-owned radio station in the Tampa Bay area (101.5 FM).

Original programming consisted of 24/7 airings of the "Worship" network, which basically played traditional hymnal music around the clock as scenic images from across the world were paraded on the screen. After about a year, "Worship" programming was relegated to late nights and the rest of the day was filled with nonstop infomercials.

I think it wasn't until 1998 that PAX-TV was launched and the current WZPX call sign was adopted.

Here's what I want to know, though:
- Which broadcaster (or wannabe broadcaster) applied for the initial Construction Permit?
- What programming was planned for the station before it was sold to Paxson?
- Why was a tower site in far NW Eaton County chosen as opposed to one of the existing TX sites along the Allegan/Barry border? (The analog signal yielded poor reception in the valley near downtown Grand Rapids, although I do remember reception being decent in the south metro.)
- What happens to the tower in Vermontville now that WZPX is presumably vacating it? Will that massive 1,000 foot structure go to waste?


Alexis Wiley and Mike Duggan - together following in Hillary's footsteps!

statmanmi
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by statmanmi » Sat Oct 19, 2019 10:46 am

- Why was a tower site in far NW Eaton County chosen as opposed to one of the existing TX sites along the Allegan/Barry border?


Scott Fybush’s visit report recorded that the location was intentional to cover both the Lansing & West Michigan DMAs, per Dick Castanie, chief engineer of WZPX:

https://www.fybush.com/site-031127.html

I agree it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the tower. My recollection from driving past a couple of times is that it has few if any other antennas on it, microwave or cellular.

Cheers! ~~ Statmanmi



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MWmetalhead
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by MWmetalhead » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:30 am

Perhaps WJUE believed it wouldn't be able to request "must carry" status in both markets if the COL and physical tower location were both situated within the same DMA?

By the late 90's, both WZPX and WPXD were carrying largely the same programming, were both managed or owned outright by Paxson Communications, and both offered analog signals that easily reached greater Lansing.

I did some research and learned that WJUE Battle Creek and WBSX Ann Arbor were *not* under common control or common ownership yet when WJUE signed on. WBSX at the time was owned by Blackstar Television.

Paxson Communications did not acquire WBSX until February 4, 1998. (WJUE signed on in October 1996.)

At time of Paxson's acquisition of WBSX, the FCC would not permit common ownership of WJUE and WBSX due to significant signal overlap. So, Paxson Communications "sold" WJUE to DP Media, which was essentially a holding company formed to bypass FCC restrictions, who in turn allowed Paxson Communications to continue to operate TV-43 via LMA.

Getting back to the original question - the dual market coverage must've been relevant in terms of selling long-form programming blocks. On paper, WZPX's predicted city grade signal reached more households than what would've been the case had the tower been placed in NW Barry County.

I wonder how well WOTV (5 million watts) and WXMI (1.7 million watts) reached the Lansing area in the analog TV era?


Alexis Wiley and Mike Duggan - together following in Hillary's footsteps!

fuzzpower
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by fuzzpower » Sat Oct 19, 2019 4:22 pm

I do remember when TV-43 aired mostly infomercials before PAX-TV launched Summer of 98. Since I’m not from the area, I don’t know the history very well.

When was 43 allotted to Battle Creek? I know in the early days of UHF, the city had 58 and 64, though only the latter signed on (briefly). I am guessing 58 was changed to 41 in a revision and 64 obviously went to Kalamazoo.

I vividly remember WBSX Ann Arbor airing the Home Shopping Network pretty much 24/7 while owned by Blackstar. Cable companies in SE Oakland, parts of Wayne, and pretty much if not all of Macomb did not carry it due to the analog signal being poor to non existent. The translator on 48 was puny.



ftballfan
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by ftballfan » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:49 am

I wonder if cell phone companies are also on the Vermontville tower.

I did read somewhere that WZPX was one of the highest-rated PAX stations, due in no small part to their secondary WB affiliation, which was only picked up after WB programming was dropped from WGN Superstation



bosco
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by bosco » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:44 pm

MW, hang on, I've got a twist for you..

Grand Rapids Baptist College (before the name change to Cornerstone) was approached in the mid 90's to buy the CP and put the station on the air. I was only contract engineering for their WCSG radio station at the time. I had a well respected TV engineer come in with some numbers. The $ 35,000/month for electricity, and a few others items scared them off, properly. Basically, peel off a $ 50 bill every hour and burn it! (not counted actual construction costs) I'm thankful for the decision. Also, many, and I mean many area business folks were approached to buy it and put in the capital to put it on the air.

WZPX had no problems leaving that 1000 foot tower, as they don't own it. They sold it to American Towers. To my knowledge, there are no other renters on the tower. None. Nor would it be practical for any other radio or TV station. The cell folks only need 150-200 feet. This will be another albatross for AT.

It was indeed located in Vermontville to grab GR/Lansing markets.

Been there, got a SS check every month to prove it!



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MWmetalhead
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by MWmetalhead » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:21 pm

Thanks, Bosco, for the info. Hope all is well with you. Happy to know you still check in on occasion. :)

So, mystery solved. Sounds like the original applicant wanted to feature Christian programming on TV-43. Lansing didn't have a full power Christian TV station (and still doesn't), so the dual market strategy made sense.


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MasterB
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by MasterB » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:43 pm

ftballfan wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:49 am
I wonder if cell phone companies are also on the Vermontville tower.

I did read somewhere that WZPX was one of the highest-rated PAX stations, due in no small part to their secondary WB affiliation, which was only picked up after WB programming was dropped from WGN Superstation
Kalamazoo Gazette made a big deal about it when WZPX picked up The WB 20 years ago I was always hoping for it to be a full-time WB station. I always called it paid programming network when it was Pax/I Suck Network


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smallwonder
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by smallwonder » Thu Oct 24, 2019 3:30 am

What was weird about 43 was they ran The WB at 6 on a delay and UPN aired at 11. At least, we got to see them, but it wasn't when everyone else did.


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EdWalker
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by EdWalker » Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:48 am

Because I have no life, spent some time going through applications and such both through old copies of Broadcasting Magazine and the FCC website and came up with this timeline of TV-43 from inception to 2005:

1980s: There were 4 original applicants for the channel, 2 were tossed from the comparative hearing, leaving two applicants who settled.

June 9, 1988 CP awarded to Margaret Miller of Owendale, MI (who appears to have been/is an egg farmer in Owendale). CP tower site was in Pennfield Charter Township, just north of Battle Creek.

June 28, 1991: Call letters WYYC assigned

September 3, 1991: Call letters WJUE assigned

October 20, 1992: CP sold for $55,467 to Western Michigan Christian Broadcasting, Inc. (William B. Popjes of Grand Rapids)

August 24, 1993: Modification of permit approved to change transmitter location to Vermontville Township in Eaton County.

February 20, 1997: Pro Forma assignment of license to Horizon Broadcasting Corporation (includes same principals in Western Michigan Christian Broadcasting, Inc.) **guessing here that the new corporation was Popjes and Paxson, the latter likely financed construction of the station**

February 28, 1997: Facility is licensed. (May have been operating under a CP prior to this date)

April 28, 1997: Voluntary transfer of control of Horizon Broadcasting Corporation from William B. Popjes to Paxson Communications of Battle Creek-43, Inc.

July 11, 1997: Call letters WILV assigned.

July 30, 1997: Voluntary assignment of license from Horizon Broadcasting Corporation to DP Media License of Battle Creek, Inc.

January 20, 1998: Call letters WZPX assigned.

December 3, 1999: Voluntary assignment of license from DP Media License of Battle Creek, Inc. to Paxson Battle Creek License, Inc.

April 14, 2000: Voluntary transfer of control from Shareholders of DP Media, Inc. to Paxson Communications Corporation.

August 17, 2005: Voluntary transfer of control from Paxon Holdings, Inc. to Paxson Management Corporation.



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MWmetalhead
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Re: The untold story of TV-43

Post by MWmetalhead » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:02 am

Many thanks for compiling this highly informative summary, Ed! :)

The info you posted completely answers my original question. So, we all now know the original intent was for channel 43 to be a Battle Creek-licensed station, dating all the way back to the 80's.

Given the fact this was a Battle Creek allotment and given the need to maintain at least 20 miles' separation from WUHQ/WOTV, the tower placement in far NW Eaton County now makes a lot more sense.

My guess is Ms. Miller's intent - and obviously Mr. Popjes' intent - was to develop TV-43 a Christian or family-oriented TV station. The financial involvement of Paxson is completely understandable, as Paxson owned - at least in part - the "Worship" television network, and of course, had his sights set on the roll-out of an OTA family friendly television network. Dual market designation for must-carry purposes made TV-43 a desirable asset.


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