WFMZ-TV (channel 69) is an independent television station in Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States. Locally-based Maranatha Broadcasting Company owns both WFMZ-TV and Wilmington, Delaware–licensed MeTV affiliate WDPN-TV. The two stations share studios on East Rock Road on South Mountain in Allentown, where WFMZ-TV's transmitter is located. WFMZ-TV also maintains a secondary studio in the PPL Center sports arena in Center City Allentown and a newsroom on Court Street in Reading.

CityAllentown, Pennsylvania
BrandingWFMZ-TV 69
OwnerMaranatha Broadcasting Company, Inc.
First air date
November 25, 1976
(47 years ago)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 69 (UHF, 1976–2009)
  • Digital: 46 (UHF, 1998–2018)
Call sign meaning
Family Minded Zone
Technical information[2]
Licensing authority
Facility ID39884
ERP80.6 kW
HAAT332.5 m (1,091 ft)
Transmitter coordinates40°33′52″N 75°26′24″W / 40.56444°N 75.44000°W / 40.56444; -75.44000
Public license information

Broadcast area edit

WFMZ mainly serves the Lehigh Valley region (including Warren County, New Jersey in the New York City market) and Berks County. Because the Lehigh Valley is part of the Philadelphia television market, it also has significant cable reach into much of the Philadelphia area, including Trenton. The station's over-the-air signal reaches some counties in northwestern New Jersey that are part of the New York City market and is carried on some New York City-area cable networks.

History edit

Channel 67 edit

Prior to the debut of channel 69, an earlier television station that held the WFMZ-TV call sign and was based in Allentown operated on UHF channel 67 from December 1954 until April 1955. Like the current WFMZ-TV, it was co-owned with WFMZ radio (100.7 MHz). The radio station was sold twice in the 21-year gap between the two television stations.

Channel 69 edit

In February 1975, WFMZ reapplied for a television station license with channel 69 having been substituted for channel 67 in Allentown.[3] The application was approved on December 9, 1975.[4] Studios and a transmitter were co-sited with WFMZ radio.[5] The channel 69 transmitter and much of the equipment came from the short-lived WHFV in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which had ended operations in May 1975.[6]: 8:28 

WFMZ-TV made its debut on November 25, 1976. Its programming consisted primarily of family-oriented entertainment shows, operating 13 hours a day.[7] The FM radio station remained co-owned until it was sold in 1997.[8]

In the 1990s, WFMZ began running fewer religious shows and more sitcoms, talk shows and reality shows. The station's news division, 69 News, also gradually expanded. By 2000, the station was running three hours of local Lehigh Valley news a day and a mix of comedy shows and talk, reality television, and court show programming. The station presently airs about six hours a day of news in addition to talk and reality shows.

Local programming edit

News edit

In 1976, the station's news department debuted with two daily newscasts at 7 and 10 p.m. daily.[9] The news programs were later branded as Channel 69 News in the late 1980s and the station's news division was expanded. In 1989, WFMZ added a 5 p.m. newscast and the 7 p.m. news show was moved up to 6 p.m.[10]

In 1995, WFMZ expanded its news service geographically with the debut of its Berks Edition newscast at 5:30 p.m. In 1998, this program was expanded to include a 10:30 p.m. news broadcast. Both Berks Edition newscasts were established in response to a perception that the Allentown area was being covered more extensively than the Reading area by Philadelphia news stations. WFMZ originally used a small newsroom at the Reading Eagle newspaper for these broadcasts.[6]: 27:05 

Beginning in 1997,[11] WFMZ began experiencing significantly enhanced ratings for its news coverage of the Lehigh Valley.[12] In the late 1990s, the station also launched its first Lehigh Valley-focused morning and noon news programs.[13]

In 2003, the region's first Spanish language newscast, 69 News en Español, debuted to serve the growing Hispanic community in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County areas.[14]

In 2005, WFMZ formed a broadcast partnership with WPVI-TV (channel 6), Philadelphia's ABC owned-and-operated station. The partnership permitted the two stations to cooperate in news gathering for local stories. In November 2017, WFMZ launched newly formatted and expanded newscasts. In May 2008, WFMZ became the fourth television station in the Philadelphia media market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.

In October 2014, WFMZ added an hour-long newscast at 4 p.m., making it the third station in the Philadelphia market (after WCAU and WPVI-TV) to broadcast local news in the 4 p.m. timeslot. In February 2015, WFMZ debuted its new street-level studio inside the PPL Center sports arena in Center City Allentown. The station broadcasts its noon news program from its PPL Center studio.

On September 25, 2023, WFMZ debuted a new 30-minute long 8pm newscast. Previously, there was a gap in news coverage from 6:30 p.m. until the 10 p.m. newscast.

Non-news programming edit

WFMZ produces local programs about business, sports and health-related topics, including:

  • The American Law Journal is a call-in show that debuted in 1990, hosted by attorney Christopher Naughton, who is joined by various attorneys to answer questions about legal topics.
  • Animal Doctor is hosted by 6pm weather anchor Kathy Craine and features Lehigh Valley veterinarians discussing pet-related topics.
  • The Big Ticket covers Lehigh Valley high school football highlights and airs every Friday at 11pm in place of the Spanish-language Edición en Español newscast, which airs at 6:30pm on WFMZ-DT4 during the high school football season. The show debuted in 1995 and is hosted by Jim Vaughn and Dan Moscaritolo with reports from WFMZ sports reporter Dave Lesko.
  • Business Matters is a discussion program, hosted by Tony Iannelli, that features a panel of experts discussing various business issues.
  • The Freddy Awards, modeled after the Tony Awards ceremony, debuted on WFMZ in 2003 and features a panel of evaluators who view and judge Lehigh Valley high school musical productions. The best of these high school productions are recognized in an annual ceremony broadcast live on WFMZ. Ed Hanna and Shelley Brown host the ceremony from the State Theatre in Easton.
  • Lehigh Sports Magazine is a sports program on Lehigh University sports that debuted in 1994 and airs during the fall.[15] It is hosted by Jim Vaughn and features interviews with Lehigh University coaches and players.
  • Talk With Your Doctor is a call-in show featuring health-related issues. The show is hosted by Doug Eberhart, who is joined by a panel of physicians from St. Luke's University Health Network.
  • The Peak[16] features new medical innovations, nutritious recipes and related events. The show debuted September 30, 2012,[17] and is hosted by Ashley Russo and Mike Mittman.
  • WFMZ Documentary Unit is a partnership between WFMZ and Julian Farris Films to create documentaries on local Lehigh Valley events and people. The documentary unit has won Emmy nominations for several of its documentaries, including Boscov: An American Story, Time Bomb: Allentown Gas Explosion, and Aftershocks: Earthquake in Haiti. The documentary unit is headed up by 69 News reporter Jaccii Farris and includes WFMZ executive producer Amy Unger, both of whom also maintain affiliations with Julian Farris Films.

Technical information edit

Subchannels edit

WFMZ offers three subchannels on a multiplex shared with WBPH-TV, WLVT-TV, and WPPT. One is the 69 News Weather Channel, a continuous loop of regional weather information, traffic cameras, and news headlines. 69 News Weather Channel launched February 5, 2001, and is the first such multicast service in the United States; unlike other AccuWeather affiliates, who generally used the Local AccuWeather Channel service that mixed nationally-oriented segments produced by AccuWeather with local content, WFMZ's service has always been entirely local.[18] Another subchannel offers a simulcast of WDPN-TV's MeTV channel.

Subchannels of WFMZ-TV[19]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
69.1 720p 16:9 WFMZ-HD Main WFMZ-TV programming
69.2 480i WFMZ-WC The 69 News Weather Channel
  Simulcast of subchannels of another station

Translators edit

The WBPH-WFMZ-WLVT-WPPT multiplex is broadcast on two digital replacement translators that improve reception in areas to the south of Allentown, including Philadelphia:

Location Channel ERP HAAT Transmitter coordinates
Boyertown 27 10 kW 110.8 m (364 ft) 40°19′03.0″N 75°38′59.0″W / 40.317500°N 75.649722°W / 40.317500; -75.649722 (WFMZ-TV (Boyertown DRT))
Philadelphia 7 0.04 kW 40°2′33.0″N 75°14′32.0″W / 40.042500°N 75.242222°W / 40.042500; -75.242222 (WFMZ-TV (Philadelphia DRT))

A third digital replacement translator for WFMZ-TV on UHF channel 24 in Allentown, as well as separately licensed translator W24CS-D in Reading, offer a different mix of channels with two additional subchannels from WDPN-TV, but none from WBPH, WLVT, or WPPT.

Subchannels of WFMZ-TV (Allentown/Reading UHF)[20]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
69.1 720p 16:9 WFMZ-HD Main WFMZ-TV programming
69.2 480i WFMZ-WC The 69 News Weather Channel
2.1 720p 2-MeTV MeTV (WDPN-TV)
2.4 480i 2-H&I Heroes & Icons (WDPN-TV)
2.6 2-DECAD Catchy Comedy (WDPN-TV)

In 2009, WFMZ began carrying Retro TV as a WFMZ subchannel. On January 24, 2014, however, MeTV announced that it would move its Philadelphia-market affiliation from WFMZ-TV's 69.3 subchannel to KJWP (channel 2), which has carried MeTV programming in addition to the WFMZ subchannel since November 2013.[21][22] In April 2014, Atlanta-based Tuff TV officially replaced MeTV on the 69.3 subchannel;[23] in December 2014, the signal began carrying the Heroes & Icons network feed. On October 1, 2019, WFMZ re-added MeTV as a simulcast of WDPN-TV on the 69.3 subchannel;[24] H&I is still seen in the market on WDPN's fourth subchannel.

Analog-to-digital conversion edit

WFMZ-TV shut down its analog signal over UHF channel 69 on June 12, 2009, the official date on which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal regulations. WFMZ's digital signal continued broadcasting its pre-transition UHF channel 46,[25] using virtual channel 69.

WFMZ's standalone signal was sold in the 2017 broadcast spectrum auction. It entered into a channel-sharing agreement with WBPH-TV.[26] To relieve any congestion related to the channel sharing, some of WFMZ's subchannels moved to KJWP, which WFMZ purchased in a separate transaction with the proceeds from the spectrum sale.[27][28]

Out-of-market cable carriage edit

In New Jersey, WFMZ is carried on basic cable in Phillipsburg and Milford, which are both part of the New York City media market. WFMZ is carried on cable providers in Schuylkill County, including Tamaqua, Pottsville, and the surrounding areas of Carbon County, Monroe County, and Luzerne County, each of which is located in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre media market. In northwestern New Jersey, WFMZ is also available on digital cable on Xfinity's Port Murray system alongside Philadelphia stations KYW-TV, WTXF-TV, and WCAU.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Modification of a Licensed Facility for DTV Application". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  2. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WFMZ-TV". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  3. ^ "Two L.V. commercial TV licenses are sought". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. June 14, 1975. p. 5. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  4. ^ FCC History Cards for WFMZ-TV
  5. ^ "Salisbury site: WFMZ plans TV affiliate". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. April 15, 1976. p. 23. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  6. ^ a b WFMZ-TV: The First 40 Years. WFMZ-TV. Retrieved February 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Lawler, Sylvia (November 21, 1976). "Channel 69 makes debut on Thursday". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. B-9. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  8. ^ Lezin, Sophia (July 16, 1997). "City radio station WFMZ being sold for $23 million". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. B1, B6. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  9. ^ "TV station in the L.V. goes on air". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. November 26, 1976. p. 14. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  10. ^ Lawler, Sylvia (September 7, 1989). "Allentown actor's toughest role—own wedding". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. D1, D2. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  11. ^ Lawler, Sylvia (August 19, 1997). "WFMZ-69 drops 7 p.m. newscast for 6 p.m. version starting Sept. 8". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. D2. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  12. ^ Shope, Dan (March 22, 1998). "No garbage on airwaves at WFMZ-TV". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. D1. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  13. ^ "Bulletin: Channel 69 hits record highs with on-air staff, newscasts". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. November 1, 1998. p. F1, F2. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  14. ^ Fisher, Barry; Rinehart, Brad (March 19, 2003). "News in Spanish aids transition". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. p. B02. Retrieved February 26, 2022 – via
  15. ^ "Lehigh Sports Magazine debuted in 1994 and airs during the fall season".
  16. ^ "The PEAK TV".
  17. ^ ""The Peak" Premieres on Sunday, September 30 at 6:30 pm on WFMZ-TV".
  18. ^ Frassinelli, Mike (February 6, 2001). "Valley gets its own TV weather channel". The Morning Call. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013.
  19. ^ "RabbitEars.Info".
  20. ^ "Digital Market Listing for WFMZ-AB".
  21. ^ Downey, Kevin (January 24, 2014). "Me-TV Picks Up Big-Market Primary Slots". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  22. ^ Malone, Michael (January 27, 2014). "Me-TV Inks New Deals in New York, Philly". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  23. ^ "Tuff TV Affiliates". Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  24. ^ "MeTV Affiliates". Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  25. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  26. ^ "NERW Extra: Big $ for NBC, WGBH in Spectrum Auction". April 13, 2017.
  27. ^ "WFMZ-TV expansion fueled by FCC auction". April 14, 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  28. ^ "DTV Transition - WFMZ-TV-DTV 69News - WFMZ". Archived from the original on June 22, 2018.

External links edit