WXIN began broadcasting as WPDS on February 1, 1984, four years after Melvin and Fred Simon and Gerald Kraft, then vice president of Melvin Simon and Associates, applied as Indianapolis Television, Incorporated, for the license for the city’s last full-power commercial television station. It operated on Channel 59.

The company planned to broadcast, in part, programming of local interest, such as Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Indiana Repertory Theatre performances and sporting events not likely to draw national corporate advertising. It also planned to provide subscription television, requiring viewers to purchase decoder boxes to receive a scrambled signal.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the license in mid-1983, but shortly thereafter the Simons organized a new ownership team with Anacomp Corporation as the majority shareholder while maintaining a minority interest themselves. Under the name USA Communications, Inc., the station’s call letters, WPDS, represented the last names of its principal owners: Ronald D. Palamara, president of Anacomp; Christopher Duffy; and Melvin Simon. The station operated from the Riddick Building at 1440 North Meridian Street in studios previously used by WISH-TV.

Although USA Communications’ priority was television broadcasting, it equipped its renovated studios with state-of-the-art engineering and production facilities. The company’s goal was to become a communications company using its television station as “leverage” for Anacomp expertise in computer services operations, telecommunications, satellite transmission, graphics, and teletext and videotext. The station initially wanted to use teletext as a way of listing daily programming and Dow Jones reports on the television screen, and later to provide interactive videotext to offer home shopping and banking by subscription, presumably calling upon the retail know-how of the Simons.

By the time WPDS debuted, however, Cable Television had made significant headway in the city, forcing the station to cancel its plans for subscription television. The station heralded its “59 Headline News,” featuring “hard-rock, nonpersonality” news, and local programming such as “Al Hobb’s Love Express,” a gospel music show simulcast on radio station Wtlc, “Video Crackers” featuring local comedians, and original dramas by the Broad Ripple Playhouse. WPDS eventually pared its local programming from 15 to 3 hours a week and discontinued its hour-long daily news program, replacing it with periodic 90-second reports.

After less than nine months of ownership, the company accepted an unsolicited bid of $22 million from Outlet Communications of Providence, Rhode Island, a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Group of New York. The price tag was reportedly the most money ever paid for a television station in its first year of broadcasting. 

In July 1985, Outlet changed the station’s call letters to WXIN because viewers reportedly confused its call letters with those of PBS (Public Broadcasting System) and WTBS (Ted Turner’s cable “superstation”). Also in July, WXIN became the first commercial television station locally to broadcast in stereo.

In June 1986, WXIN became a Fox Network affiliate, after WTTV—one of the strongest independent television stations in the nation—turned down the opportunity

Indianapolis-based Emmis Broadcasting Corporation, a radio broadcasting company owned by Jeff Smulyan, agreed to purchase the station from Outlet in May 1988, but Outlet rescinded the agreement after concluding the $17.5 million purchase price was insufficient.

Outlet later sold the station to Chase Communications of Hartford, Connecticut, in August 1989. Renaissance Communications of Greenwich, Connecticut, agreed to purchase the station in September 1992, but the owner of Bloomington station WIIB petitioned against the acquisition, delaying the official purchase until March 1993. Just three years later, in July 1996, Tribune Broadcasting purchased the station for over $1 billion when it acquired Renaissance Communication’s assets. In 2004, WXIN and WTTV moved to Intech Park at 6910 Network Place.

In September 2019, when a deal between Tribune Broadcasting and Sinclair Broadcast Group fell through, Nexstar Media Group acquired WXIN as part of a $6 billion purchase. Nexstar already owned Wish-Tv (Channel 13) and WNDY-TV (Channel 23) (an affiliate of MyNetworkTV, a television syndication service owned by Fox Television Studios). Because the FCC prohibits ownership of more than two stations in one broadcasting market, Nexstar sold WISH and WNDY and kept WXIN and WTTV.

WXIN’s Fox affiliation has proved to be fruitful. By 2020, the station’s partnership with the network was Indiana’s longest-running. It remains the only commercial television station in the Circle City not to have swapped affiliates.

Revised July 2021

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