The Universal Broadcasting Company, owner of WISH radio and led by president, put Indianapolis’ second television station on the air at 5:56 P.M. on July 1, 1954. Shareholders in the venture included , , , , and Robert B. McConnell, son of the company’s president.
Operating out of the expanded WISH radio studios at 1440 North Meridian Street, WISH-TV began broadcasting at a maximum power of 316,000 watts, transmitting from a new 1,000-foot television tower at Post Road and Rawls Avenue. It occupied Chanel 8 on the television spectrum.
WISH-TV was initially affiliated with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) because of WISH radio’s network affiliation. Since WFBM-TV (now) was the only other television station in the city, WISH began carrying programs from the CBS, NBC, and Dumont networks. By the end of its first year of operation, however, WISH became an exclusive affiliate of CBS.
At the 1956 National Association of Broadcasters convention in Chicago, McConnell saw a demonstration of the first working model of a videotape recorder produced by Ampex. He ordered one off the floor and had it installed in the WISH studios by 1958. It was reputed to be the first videotape machine in the state and one of the first in the nation. The new technology quickly made WISH a leader in local broadcasting.
Also in 1956, Corinthian Broadcasting Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York banking house of J. H. Whitney and Company, paid $10 million for WISH-AM-TV; WIN-TV-Channel 15 in Waterloo, Indiana; and WANE radio in Fort Wayne. Corinthian sold its radio stations in 1963 to concentrate on the developing television industry. WISH-AM and its recently begun FM station were sold to Star Stations of Indiana, Inc. Shortly thereafter, the stations became WIFE-AM-FM.
As television grew, WISH-TV required more space. The station moved to new offices and studios at 1950 North Meridian Street in May 1965. Designed by architects Ralph Anderson of Houston and Robert T. Reid of Indianapolis, the building, a two-story glass veneer box inside a formal white sculptured colonnade, was modeled after the then recently completed Lincoln Center in New York City.
In 1971, the firm Dun and Bradstreet purchased WISH-TV along with four other Corinthian television stations in Houston, Sacramento, Tulsa, and Fort Wayne. They later sold those stations in 1984 with WISH-TV and WANE-TV going to LIN Broadcasting Corporation.
WISH-TV has won numerous broadcasting awards, including a CASPER award for its coverage of the blizzard of 1978. Some former Channel 8 reporters also have attained national reputations—John Stehr, a correspondent for CBS who retired in 2018; Jane Pauley, former coanchor of NBC’sshow; Sage Steele, an ESPN correspondent; and Nicole Briscoe, a former ESPN NASCAR prerace host and a current anchor for ESPN’s Sports Center. WISH-TV news anchor Mike Ahern reported local news for 34 years, second only to the 35 years of news reporting by WRTV’s .
On February 10, 2005, LIN bought Indianapolis stations WNDY-TV, creating synergy between the two channels and their programming. Less than a decade later, Media General acquired WISH-TV via a $1.6 billion merger on March 21, 2014.
The biggest shake-up for WISH-TV in the earliest 21st century came on January 1, 2015, when CBS chose to affiliate with instead of WISH-TV. Supposedly coming after failing to negotiate retransmission revenues with CBS, WISH would instead become an affiliate of the CW (WTTV’s former affiliate).
Nextstar Broadcasting acquired Media General in January 2017, and in 2019, it also bought the parent company of WXIN and WTTV. As FCC rules do not permit a group to own four city stations, Nextar had to sell WISH and WNDY. Circle City Broadcasting purchased the two stations on September 19, 2019, for $42.5 million.
Towards the end of 2020, DuJuan McCoy (the head of Circle City Broadcasting) announced his intentions to launch a new national news network focused on programming for underserved multicultural communities. Known as the Multicultural News Network, McCoy planned to run the cable news network out of WISH-TV’s station once it got off the ground.
By 2020, WISH was one of the few CW affiliates with a fully functional news station in the eastern half of the country. It broadcasts the news from 4 am to 10 am, 11 am to 12 pm, 4 pm to 7 pm, and 10 pm to 11:30 pm.
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