60 Years | The History Of WIBW-TV

By: 13 News (posted by Josh Mabry)
By: 13 News (posted by Josh Mabry)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- WIBW Television’s history began 60 years ago, with the station’s first broadcast at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, November 15, 1953. The broadcast originated from 5600 SW 6th, at the top of what is now known as Menninger Hill in Topeka, which was owned by the Security Benefit Association.

The first WIBW-TV 13 event was an introduction from the owner/management team explaining the first television broadcast in Topeka, and the second in Kansas. Wichita's KWCH-TV had launched just a few months earlier. After introductions, WIBW-TV aired the old Dumont Broadcast Network, broadcasting the San Francisco 49er - Cleveland Browns football game at 1:00 p.m.

The WIBW-TV building was one of eight red, brick buildings constructed between 1919 and 1928 on the former Security Benefit Hospital grounds. The facility was originally a school attended by children at the old Security Benefit orphanage. The Menninger Foundation bought the property and WIBW-TV moved into the building, leading to that historic 1953 broadcast.

United States Senator Arthur Capper was the original owner of WIBW-TV, WIBW Radio and the Topeka Daily Capital. Senator Capper bought the original broadcast license from Indiana Broadcast Works in 1927. Since the license was purchased in Indiana, it received the designated “W” (the standard for all stations east of the Mississippi). Capper then used that license “WIBW” for his Topeka stations. WIBW-TV remains one of only a few stations with the “W” designation west of the Mississippi, since the letter designation was adopted in 1923.

For 14 years WIBW-TV held no single network affiliation. Instead the station aired the "best-of-the-best" from all the major networks. In 1967 WIBW-TV became a member of the CBS family, something WIBW Radio had done in 1931. In 1956 WIBW Radio moved in with WIBW-TV, putting the powerhouse stations under the same roof.

In 1957, Stauffer Publications bought the Capper properties and merged the Topeka State Journal, the Capper paper, and the Topeka Daily Capital, thus the Topeka Capital-Journal was born.

In 1963, WIBW-TV broke away from what was considered the Kansas City viewing market. The WIBW transmission tower was moved from the top of Menninger Hill to Maple Hill, 15 miles west of Topeka. The location meant WIBW-TV could be seen further west, and created a new Topeka based television market.

1966 was an exciting year as WIBW-TV introduced color network programming. It was that same year that newsman Bill Kurtis uttered the famous line, “For God’s sake, take cover,” during the devastating
Topeka tornado that tore through the capital city, killing 17 people and causing millions of dollars in damage.

WIBW-TV has always been a leader in technology, regularly investing years before competitors. In 1972, WIBW-TV set up the first live weather radar. In 1982, the station purchased the first live ENG microwave van in the market, making it possible to provide live broadcasts from across NE Kansas; and in 1983, WIBW-TV was the first station to receive programming via satellite. In 1989, WIBW-TV purchased the first satellite news gathering truck for $375,000. The investment pushed the envelope, allowing WIBW-TV to cover events live anywhere in North America.

In 1995, Stauffer Publications merged with Morris Communications and a condition of that merger meant selling WIBW Television to Benedek Broadcasting in 1996.

In 2001, after 48 years, WIBW-TV said goodbye to its home at 5600 SW 6th Avenue, moving less than a mile away to a new, state of the art facility at 631 SW Commerce Place. WIBW Radio also left the old station, moving to the top of Huntoon Hill.

In 2002, Benedek sold WIBW-TV to Gray Television, making WIBW part of a now 36-station network. The sale further expanded the station's ability to provide the most extensive news coverage possible, and resources to push the technological envelope even more.

In September of 2006, WIBW-TV added a 2nd digital channel, 13.2, which became "MyTV."

On January 5, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. fire ended decades of WIBW history. The original broadcast facility, and former school located 5600 W. 6th was burned to the ground. The fire is believed to have been intentionally set; although no charges or arrests have been made. The fire could be seen for miles, and drew small crowd of people who watched history go up in smoke.

On February 23, 2012, WIBW-TV turned another technology milestone when it was the first Northeast Kansas television station to convert from standard definition 4:3 to high definition 16:9 news broadcasts.

WIBW-TV gained national attention on May 23, 2012. A man broke into the front lobby of the TV station after he was told the station's news department could not help him with problems he said he had with the Topeka VA Hospital. The man, identified as 48-year-old Ray Miles, smashed through the front lobby, chased employees through the building, and used a knife to stab severalpeople. Eight employees we able to contain Miles until police arrived with guns drawn. No WIBW-TV employees suffered life threatening injuries, and were later honored by the Topeka Police Chief for their actions. Miles was found guilty by jury on six of seven felony charges, and put in prison appealing his eight year sentence.

On November 14, 2012, WIBW-TV converted to a high definition Vibrant weather system. WIBW-TV was the first Northeast Kansas television station to invest in the state-of-the art tool, solidifying an ongoing commitment to award-winning weather information for the residents of the community.

In 2013, WIBW-TV was selected “Station of the Year,” by the Kansas Association of Broadcasters. The Station has won that award in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011 as well. WIBW-TV has led Northeast Kansas in development of content for wibw.com, as well as mobile platforms. WIBW-TV also leads in the community in digital media, building a strong online community through networks like Facebook and Twitter.

WIBW-TV reaches 181,000 households and roughly 425,000 total viewers. The station is carried on over 170 cable systems in the State. Counties in the prime viewing area include Shawnee, Osage, Wabaunsee, Pottawatomie, Jackson, Jefferson, Riley, Geary, Lyon, Coffey, Morris, Clay, Cloud, Washington, Marshall, Nemaha, Brown

The current WIBW-TV executives are: Jim Ogle - Vice President and General Manager, Mike Turner – Director of Operations, Roger Brokke – General Sales Manager, Cary Lahnum – Chief Engineer, and Jon Janes - News Director.


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