WHBF Station History
WHBF-TV has been serving the Quad Cities community for more than 70 years and has a rich and colorful history. It all began on Saturday July 1st, 1950 when WHBF-TV began transmitting from a 482-foot tower in downtown Rock Island, which was the tallest structure in the Quad Cities at that time.
At sign on, WHBF-TV became the first television station in the state of Illinois outside of Chicago. During the first few years WHBF-TV was affiliated with both CBS and ABC. Kinescopes and films sent by the networks were aired until coast-to-coast relay stations were completed in October of 1950.
Over the years, WHBF-TV has kept pace with expanding technologies and a growing Quad City community. In fact, In the early days of the medium, WHBF-TV was the first station in the region to broadcast in color, and the first to receive live satellite transmissions. Fast forward several decades and the station continued to improve and innovate. In 1995, the station was one of the first to enter the digital age of broadcasting, airing commercial and promotional material digitally off a series of sequenced computer hard drives.
We thought that the digital revolution culminated in 2009 when WHBF-TV joined television stations around the country shut down our analog signals, relying solely on the new digital technologies. Soon after, WHBF-TV was the first station to broadcast its entire schedule – including commercials and other interstitials – in high definition. Little did we know that ten years later, the digital revolution would still be raging as we work hard to serve our viewers on non-broadcast platforms like the internet, social media outlets, and on a news app for smart devices.
From its humble beginnings in the early 1950’s, WHBF was also a regional pioneer in local news coverage. Slowly film was replaced by videotape, and the teletype replaced by computers. In 1978, CBS4 became the first area station to have a “live truck”, that allowed us to report live via microwave from outside our studios. In 1981, the WHBF newsroom pioneered the co-anchor concept, adding Wendy Ellis as the first female news anchor in the Quad Cities market. And in 2011, the WHBF-TV newsroom was the first in the market to use portable, wireless technology – housed in a “backpack” – that allowed reporters to go live in the field using cellular towers.
WHBF was a pioneer in local weather reporting as well, being the first station to add a full-time meteorologist and to introduce radar to local television audiences. Regular updates to our weather technology over the years have kept us at the cutting edge of local weather diagnostics and display.
While the name of our news broadcasts has evolved over the last six decades, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to local news. In fact, our commitment to providing the most comprehensive local news in the Quad Cities is so strong that, in 2015, we became Local 4 News. Because we consistently provide more local news stories, and infuse them with more local context and perspective than our competitors, we wanted to make sure that our commitment to “local” was included in our branding.
From its very first broadcast day more than 70 years ago, WHBF-TV, and all who have passed through its doors, have contributed to our legacy as a source of community news and information but also as a responsible corporate citizen. We are proud of the services we provide and of our employees, past and present, whose commitment has contributed to our legacy of service to the Quad Cities. And we look forward to the next 70 years.
KLJB Station History
KLJB first signed-on July 28, 1985. It was the Quad Cities’ first Independent station and broadcast an analog signal on channel 18. Because it became the first UHF station in the market, KLJB made a practice of giving away free UHF antennas to the public to encourage viewership.
In 1987, KLJB became affiliated with the Fox Television Network but the initial low viewer tune-in for the fledgling Fox network pushed local management to walk away from the network and provide the Quad Cities with a wide variety of old movies, local documentaries and syndicated programming.
On July 4, 1987, the station premiered Live on Tape, a late night comedy sketch show produced at the station’s studios in Davenport. It was not only the area’s only locally produced entertainment show at the time, it was the only original sketch comedy show being produced in the Midwest.
Following the success of FOX shows like The Simpsons, Married With Children, Cops and America’s Most Wanted, KLJB rejoined the FOX network 1990. The station also followed the network’s lead by programming for “a new generation of television viewers”.
Grant Broadcasting purchased KLJB on September 1, 1991. Five years later, Grant obtained KJMH-TV in Burlington, Iowa to simulcast KLJB programming in the southern part of the Quad Cities market. In 2001, KJMH became the area’s first WB affiliate and adopted the call sign KGWB-TV. On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to shut down the WB network and launch The CW and later that same year KGBW became KGCW.
KLJB-TV launched a local newscast on December 31, 1999. It was produced by a Davenport company called the Independent News Network. In the 20 years since, each of the local stations have produced the Fox 18 News at one time or another.
On November 6, 2013, Nexstar Broadcasting Group acquired KGCW, but due to FCC ownership regulations, could not own KLJB so that station was sold to Marshall Broadcasting Group. Through a Shared Services Agreement, Nexstar Broadcasting Inc/WHBF-TV provides support services for KLJB-TV including but not limited to the production of Fox 18 News at 9 which was expanded to one-hour each weekday evening, and added the two-hour weekday morning newscast which launched on September 18, 2017. On March 30, 2020, Mission Broadcasting Inc. agreed to acquire KLJB from Marshall Broadcasting Group. The sale was completed on September 1, 2020.
Though younger than its fellow Quad Cities television stations, KLJB-TV has a proud history of serving this community. For more than 35 years, in addition to providing local viewers with a full schedule of news, entertainment and sports programming, it has been an active member of the local community.