KAUT-TV, virtual channel 43 (UHF digital channel 40), is an independent television station licensed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media, as part of a duopoly with NBC affiliate KFOR-TV (channel 4). The two stations share studio and transmitter facilities located on East Britton Road (U.S. 77) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City.
The station first signed on the air on September 24, 1980; it was the sixth commercial television station and fourth UHF outlet to sign on in the Oklahoma City market – after KGMC (channel 34, now CW affiliate KOCB), KOKH-TV (channel 25, now a Fox affiliate), and KTVQ (which originally occupied the channel 25 frequency from 1953 to 1956). It was founded by Golden West Broadcasters (owned by actor/singer and Ravia, Oklahoma native Gene Autry), which at the time also owned fellow independent KTLA (now a CW affiliate) in Los Angeles. The station originally operated from a 20,000-square-foot (0.46-acre) studio and office facility located at 11901 North Eastern Avenue, north of Oklahoma City's Britton section. Operating as an independent station, KAUT originally ran a local rolling news format, branded as Newswatch 43, daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Nighttime hours after 5:00 p.m. were filled by Golden West's over-the-air subscription service VEU, which offered a mix of theatrically released feature films (the station subsequently moved VEU's start time to 7:00 p.m. after KAUT expanded its news programming by two hours within a few months after the station's debut).
The station shuttered its news operations when it discontinued Newswatch 43 in late 1981; KAUT temporarily replaced it with older feature film westerns – most of which had starred Autry – during the daytime hours. In early 1982, the station debuted TMC 43, a local afternoon dance program that ran from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Hosted by local personality Les "Boogie" Michaels (who would later serve as a disc jockey at Enid radio station KOFM [103.1 FM]), the show's first episode had only twelve dancers. That number would sharply increase to 117 by the end of the week; by the following Friday, more than 300 kids were dancing in two large rooms. Shortly afterwards, the show began issuing tickets to some of the more popular dancers such as Marty Melton, Tanya Eli and Robyn Church, with all dancers being required to bring a date.
At the same time, the station also debuted the country dance show Oklahoma Country Live, which was broadcast from a local bar and followed TMC 43 each Monday through Friday. Both shows were canceled by that fall after eight-month runs. In the case of TMC 43, mothers picketed at KAUT's Eastern Avenue studio to keep the show on the air, with the spokeswoman for the picketers, Carolyn Pierce, pointing out the show's contribution to the local community by keeping teens off of the street. The final TMC 43 broadcast hosted around 250 teens as Michaels read letters from heartbroken teens and parents.
Some drama series and sitcoms were also added to the schedule. VEU was removed from channel 43's schedule in 1983; the station then began filling nighttime hours with programming from the Financial News Network (which would merge with CNBC in 1989) and the syndicated national evening newscast Independent Network News (which was distributed by eventual KAUT owner Tribune Broadcasting). FNN programming was dropped later that year, and replaced by additional movies in prime time and drama series. In 1984, cartoons were added to the station's morning lineup and an expanded inventory of sitcoms was added during the evening. On June 11, 1985, Golden West sold KAUT to Atlanta-based Rollins Communications.
Fox affiliation and aborted sale to OETA
In the summer of 1986, News Corporation approached Rollins Communications to affiliate KAUT with the Fox Broadcasting Company in advance of the network's launch. Even though KOKH-TV was the leading independent in the market, Reliance Capital Group – which assumed ownership of KOKH's parent company at the time, Blair Broadcasting, to stave off a hostile takeover by minority stockholders – had turned down Fox's offer to affiliate with channel 25. On July 25, Fox announced that it had reached an agreement with Rollins, in which KAUT would serve as the network's Oklahoma City charter affiliate. That same year, Rollins merged with Des Moines, Iowa-based Heritage Broadcasting to form Heritage Media.
KAUT-TV affiliated with Fox when the fledgling network inaugurated programming on October 9, 1986. Though it was technically a network affiliate, Channel 43 continued to be programmed as a de facto independent station as Fox's initial programming lineup consisted solely of a late-night talk show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Even after its programming expanded with the launch of a three-hour Sunday night lineup in April 1987, Fox's prime time lineup aired exclusively on weekends until September 1989, when it began a five-year expansion towards a nightly prime time schedule (Fox would not air prime time programs on all seven nights of the week until January 1993, after KOKH assumed the local affiliation rights to the network). KAUT continued to air a movie at 7:00 p.m. on nights when the network did not offer any programming. Around that time, the station acquired more cartoons for its weekday afternoon lineup, and launched Midnight Shopper, a home shopping program produced by locally based production company Snyder & Co. that aired weekend late nights.
Although Oklahoma City was just barely a top-40 Nielsen market at the time, the number of households in the 34-county market area that owned at least one television set was not nearly large enough for what were essentially three independent stations, nor was there a supply of first-run and acquired programming on the syndication market sufficient enough to completely fill the schedules of channels 25, 34 and 43. An opportunity for KAUT to bow out of the competition among the market's independents would come about through a proposal by Fresno, California-based Pappas Telecasting Companies, which in 1987, approached Gillett Broadcasting – which had recently acquired channel 25 from Blair – about purchasing KOKH, in a three-station transaction that would also involve Heritage Media, Seraphim Media (then owner of KGMC), and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA).
Under the proposal, Pappas would acquire the programming inventories of both KAUT and KGMC (including the rights to the Fox affiliation held by channel 43) and transfer them to channel 25. As a consequence, Heritage would donate the KAUT license to OETA for $1 million, with Pappas entering into a 25-year lease to allow OETA to operate the KAUT transmitter facility for $1 per year. Seraphim, meanwhile, would convert KGMC into a primary affiliate of the Home Shopping Network (HSN) – which was already carried overnights on channel 34 through HSN's Home Shopping Spree service – and acquire some religious programs to fill portions of its schedule that would not be occupied by HSN programming. OETA planned to help fund the conversion of channel 43 through start-up grants, including a $75,000 grant awarded by management from ABC affiliate KOCO-TV (channel 5). A later revision to the plan saw OETA filing an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to purchase KGMC as a contingency measure.
However, objections to the transaction by the state government resulted in the dissolution of Pappas Telecasting's proposal. In 1989, then-Governor Henry Bellmon expressed his disapproval of OETA's involvement in the proposal, noting that authority management had earlier stated that OETA did not have enough funding to operate the state network (which consisted of four full-power stations and 15 translators) adequately. Agreeing with Bellmon's concerns that OETA's resources were too limited for it to be able to run a second television station in Oklahoma City alongside its flagship, KETA-TV (channel 13), the state legislature's OETA funding appropriation bill for FY1990 included stipulations prohibiting the authority from using state funds "for any operational or capital expense of the proposed second educational television channel in Oklahoma City," and from proposing that additional state funding be appropriated to finance the channel 43 acquisition and programming conversion if it did not obtain sufficient private funding to complete the transaction. After the transaction was terminated, KAUT, KOKH and KGMC all continued to compete against each other with their own general entertainment schedules. Though, due to uncertainty over the station's future as the license donation to OETA was in limbo, 16 employees left KAUT to work at Heritage Media stations elsewhere around the U.S., and the station's sales department saw a reduction in advertising purchases.
OETA ownership and PBS membership
OETA would achieve its goal of acquiring a second station in Oklahoma City on April 23, 1991, when Heritage Media announced that it would donate the KAUT license and certain non-license assets (including transmitter facilities and master control equipment) to the public broadcaster. The agreement – which incorporated elements of the aborted Pappas proposal, and made the donation contingent on approval of Heritage's acquisition of KOKH – also included a two-year option for the authority to purchase the station's remaining assets for $1.5 million. Heritage concurrently announced that it would acquire KOKH from the Gillett-controlled Busse Broadcast Holdings, with the intent to move some of KAUT's programming assets to channel 25. OETA's plans for channel 43 post-acquisition included an increase in the authority's telecourse programming by 250%, most of which would be carried by KAUT (at that time, Oklahoma had the highest total of students who obtained their college credit through telecourses); OETA had planned to air an increased amount of telecourse programming on KAUT under the 1987 proposal by Pappas, intending to air 22 additional hours of college telecourses each week to supplement the 8½ weekly hours of such programs carried on the OETA network. OETA solicited $300,000 in private funds for programming acquisitions for the station's conversion into an educational outlet; other operational assumptions and acquisition of the KAUT's North Eastern Avenue studios and transmission tower would require additional funding appropriated by the Oklahoma Legislature, which was more receptive of the authority acquiring KAUT this time around.
Channel 43 became a PBS member station on August 15 of that year – becoming the city's second non-commercial educational station, after KETA-TV – while its Fox affiliation and inventory of syndicated programming migrated to channel 25, in addition to 30 employees, and other equipment and intellectual property from channel 43. The following year, the station's callsign was changed to KTLC to reflect its new branding as "The Literacy Channel" (a relatively contradictory brand as the station's programming, while educational in form, was not entirely focused on literacy). The conversion of the station was part of a national education demonstration initiative formed between OETA's Board of Directors, the OETA Foundation Board of Trustees, and Heritage Media; Sandy Welch, PBS' senior vice president for education services at that time, and management with the Children's Television Workshop collaborated with the consortium in the development of the station's new format, which OETA and PBS intended to use as a model for instructional and educational programming on a national level.
As a PBS station, much of KTLC's programming consisted of same-day rebroadcasts of programs already carried by OETA, although the station also carried some programs from American Public Television and other syndicators to which the PBS member network granted channel 43 the exclusive local broadcast rights. During this period, KTLC aired fitness programs (such as Body Electric, Homestretch and Sit and Be Fit) on weekday mornings from 7:00 to 8:30, and instructional programs and select PBS series (including The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour [later retitled The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 1995]) from late evening until sign-off, with Saturday and Sunday early afternoons and late evenings featuring a broad mix of adult education programs (such as Learn to Read, Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish, Computer Chronicles, GED on TV and Literary Visions). The majority of its lineup, however, consisted of children's programming from PBS and other distributors; these programs filled the mid-morning to early evening schedule – a situation atypical of most PBS stations including its then-parent member network, which usually only schedule children's shows during the daytime hours.
Under OETA ownership, Channel 43 scaled back its broadcast schedule to a 16-hour daily lineup, running from 6:00 a.m. to midnight (the same programming hours that the OETA network itself maintained at the time on Sunday through Thursdays). In September 1995, OETA cut eight hours of morning and early afternoon programming (from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) from KTLC's weekend schedule, substantially abbreviating its broadcast day on Saturdays and Sundays to an eight-hour schedule from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. During the station's off-hours, cable providers throughout central and western Oklahoma carried other networks over KTLC's designated channel slot to fill the missing airtime. In Oklahoma City, Cox Cable simulcast QVC on the station's channel 13 slot; as an aside, KTLC's channel placement on Cox suffered from co-channel interference from, ironically, the VHF analog signal of sister station KETA-TV (the continuing interference issues would eventually result in Cox moving the station's basic tier slot from channel 13 to channel 16 in 2007). OETA eventually ran into funding difficulties in trying to operate two stations in the Oklahoma City market, which resulted in the authority making the decision to put channel 43 up for sale in the fall of 1997.
As a UPN affiliate
On July 21, 1997, the Sinclair Broadcast Group signed an affiliation agreement with Time Warner, under which Sinclair would switch the affiliations of KOCB and four other UPN-affiliated television stations operated by the group – WPTT-TV (now MyNetworkTV affiliate WPNT) in Pittsburgh, WNUV (now a CW affiliate) in Baltimore, WSTR-TV (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in Cincinnati, and KRRT (now CW affiliate KMYS) in San Antonio – to The WB. The United Paramount Network (UPN) attempted to block the affiliation deal through lawsuits, on claims that Sinclair had struck the deal without giving UPN the required written notice that it would terminate the affiliations on the affected stations; a summary judgment issued by the Baltimore City Circuit Court on December 8, 1997, ruled in favor of Sinclair, allowing the stations to begin switching to The WB starting on January 15, 1998.
Scrambling to find a new affiliate in the market, on January 8, 1998 (two weeks prior to KOCB assuming the WB affiliation), UPN co-parent Viacom – through its Paramount Stations Group subsidiary – reached an agreement to purchase KTLC from the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority for $23.5 million; OETA used the proceeds from the sale to fund the construction of KETA-TV's digital broadcast transmitter. The sale to Paramount was possible because OETA maintained the commercial classification of channel 43's broadcast license after the Heritage Media donation. OETA planned to use proceeds from the sale to help fund the construction and sign-on of its digital television signals, which the network was mandated to complete by December 2003 under a directive to public television stations by the Federal Communications Commission. KOCB became the Oklahoma City affiliate of The WB on January 25, 1998; from the network's January 1995 launch until the switch, The WB had been available in the market through the superstation feed of Chicago affiliate (and eventual KAUT sister station) WGN-TV, which was carried on Cox Communications, Multimedia Cablevision, and other cable and satellite providers in the area. While the switch gave The WB an over-the-air presence in the Oklahoma City DMA, it consequently resulted in many area residents that did not have either an outdoor antenna that could receive UPN affiliates from Tulsa or Sulphur or a subscription to satellite provider Dish Network (which carried New York City owned-and-operated station WWOR-TV as a default UPN feed) being unable to view UPN programs within the market for the next six months.
Paramount reverted channel 43 back to a general entertainment station as the market's new UPN affiliate at 5:00 a.m. on June 15, 1998; its callsign was also changed to KPSG (in reference to its new owner, which had earlier applied the base "PSG" call letters on channel 43's new Philadelphia sister station, WPSG-TV [now a CW owned-and-operated station]). The station had intended to join UPN on June 1; however, technical difficulties caused the switch to be postponed until June 13, and then pushed back again to June 15 (the issues leading to the second postponement were unrelated to a tornado outbreak that hit central Oklahoma on the evening of the 13th, and were the result of delays in finalizing the sale to Paramount). Through Viacom's ownership stake in UPN, channel 43 became the first television station in Oklahoma to serve as an owned-and-operated station of a major commercial broadcast network (preceding the conversion of KOPX-TV [channel 62] and its Tulsa sister, KTPX-TV, into charter O&Os of Pax TV by two months).
Most of channel 43's schedule during this time consisted of off-network sitcoms originally aired between the 1950s and the 1980s, select first-run syndicated talk shows and drama series, cartoons and feature films. In addition, under conditions included by the authority in the sale agreement between Paramount Stations Group and OETA, Paramount also agreed to a five-year clause that allowed OETA to lease portions of KPSG's airtime after the station joined UPN; KPSG was required to continue airing PBS educational shows supplied by the member network each weekday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and air simulcast blocks of OETA's "Festival" and "AugustFest" programming for eight hours each weekend during the duration of the March and August pledge drives (the station would drop all OETA-provided children's programming from its schedule in September of that year).
After founder Gene Autry died from lymphoma at age 90 on October 2, 1998, in his honor, the station reverted to its former KAUT call letters (this time, with a "-TV" suffix added) on December 12. In addition, the station also several of Autry's feature films during the week of December 6, which included among others, his debut film, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, The Phantom Empire and Bells of Capistrano. A weekend-long afternoon marathon of several of Autry's films that aired on December 12 and 13, was capped by an hour-long tribute special hosted by longtime friend, Johnny Grant. Channel 43 removed all remaining PBS programming from its lineup in the fall of 2001, at which point KAUT-TV became a general entertainment station full-time. The station gradually replaced many of the classic sitcoms on its weekday afternoon and evening lineup with talk shows and court shows; cartoons were phased out by the fall of 2003, after UPN removed children's programming from its schedule with the discontinuance of the Disney's One Too block, although the station would retain some children's programming in the form of live-action educational series compliant with Children's Television Act regulations on weekdays until September 2008 (when it relegated such programs to Saturday and Sunday mornings).
On June 14, 2005, amid stagnation of the company's stock price, Viacom announced that it would split its assets into two separate companies; CBS, UPN and their owned-and-operated stations, Showtime Networks and other "slow-growth" businesses owned by Viacom became part of the new CBS Corporation, with most of its other assets (most notably, Paramount Pictures, and the MTV Networks and BET Networks cable television units) became part of a newly incorporated company that assumed the Viacom name. In the meantime, CBS – which renamed its broadcast television subsidiary, by then known as Viacom Television Stations Group, to CBS Television Stations following the split – chose to sell KAUT to The New York Times Company, creating a duopoly with NBC affiliate KFOR-TV (channel 4).
As a MyNetworkTV affiliate
On January 24, 2006, the respective parent companies of UPN and The WB, CBS Corporation and the Warner Bros. Entertainment division of Time Warner, announced that they would dissolve the two networks to create The CW Television Network, a joint venture between the two media companies that initially featured programs from its two predecessor networks as well as new series specifically produced for The CW. Subsequently, on February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a network operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television that was created to primarily to provide network programming to UPN and WB stations that The CW decided against affiliating based on their local viewership standing in comparison to the outlet that The CW ultimately chose as its charter outlets, giving these stations another option besides converting to a general entertainment independent format.
When the network released its initial list of stations, The CW erroneously mentioned that KAUT-TV would become its Oklahoma City charter affiliate, despite the fact that CBS had already sold the station to The New York Times Company. On May 2, in a joint announcement by the network and Sinclair Broadcast Group, KOCB was confirmed as The CW's Oklahoma City charter affiliate. Since the network chose its charter stations based on which of them among The WB and UPN's respective affiliate bodies was the highest-rated in each market, KOCB was chosen to join The CW over KAUT as it had been the higher-rated of the two stations at the time of the agreement's signing. The day prior, KAUT became one of a handful of UPN-affiliated stations not owned by Fox Television Stations to remove on-air brand references to UPN – rebranding as simply "43" – and cease promotion of the network's programs. For three months, it was unclear whether KAUT would become an independent station once again or join MyNetworkTV. In an email sent by station management on August 22, just two weeks before the network launched, KAUT was confirmed to be Oklahoma City's MyNetworkTV affiliate.
KAUT-TV remained a UPN affiliate until September 4, 2006, with the network's Sunday late-night repeat block as the final UPN offering to be carried on the station. Channel 43 officially joined MyNetworkTV upon that network's launch on September 5, at which point KAUT changed its branding to "OK 43" – instead of following the "My (channel number)" branding conventions that MyNetworkTV outlined for its affiliates or using a modification of the network's multi-pattern "blue TV" logo (as per a promotional video that aired on New York City flagship WWOR-TV) – a change that was accompanied by a marketing campaign focusing on the station's history and origins with Gene Autry; KOCB remained a WB affiliate until September 17, before affiliating with The CW when that network debuted the following day on September 18. With the new network affiliation, KAUT became one of the few stations in the United States to have been affiliated with both Fox and MyNetworkTV (both now operated by 21st Century Fox).
On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company sold its nine television stations (including KAUT and KFOR-TV) to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners, for $530 million; the sale was finalized on May 7. On April 11, 2011, KAUT rebranded as "[KAUT] Freedom 43 TV", an approach made to cater to, according to a statement by KFOR/KAUT president and general manager Jim Boyer, "all Oklahomans who believe in faith, freedom and patriotism," specifically the large military population in the Oklahoma City market. KFOR-produced newscasts on the station were tweaked to include stories and profiles of interest to conservatives and the military community.
Return to independence
On June 20, 2012, independent station KSBI (channel 52) announced in a promo for its fall 2012 programming slate that was uploaded on its YouTube channel that it would join MyNetworkTV on September 17. The last MyNetworkTV program to air on KAUT-TV was a repeat of Monk on September 14, 2012. KAUT-TV formally reverted to an independent on September 17, 2012, with off-network syndicated sitcoms replacing MyNetworkTV programs during the 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. timeslot. On September 16, KAUT began carrying select classic television programs provided by Antenna TV, which airs mainly on digital subchannels in most of the network's markets (including locally on sister station KFOR-TV, which retained its full-time affiliation with Antenna on its 4.2 subchannel), in certain timeslots (weekday programs from the network were relegated from daytime to the overnight hours in November 2012, and were then cut to weekends only in late December 2013). In KAUT's case, until the arrangement was discontinued in May 2014, the programs were simulcast from Antenna TV's national feed to compensate for current-day syndication rights.
On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its nineteen television stations (including KFOR/KAUT) would be acquired by the Chicago-based Tribune Company for $2.75 billion. Upon the sale's December 27 completion, KAUT became the first independent station to be operated by Tribune Broadcasting since the January 1995 launch of The WB (it would later be joined by Tribune's Chicago flagship WGN-TV, when that station disaffiliated from The CW in September 2016); the acquisition also reunited KAUT with former sister station KTLA, which Golden West sold in 1983 to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which in turn sold that station to Tribune in 1985.
Pending acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group – owner of Fox affiliate KOKH-TV and CW affiliate KOCB – entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. As broadcasters are not currently allowed to legally own more than two full-power television stations in a single market, and KFOR and KOKH rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Oklahoma City market in total day viewership, the companies may be required to sell either the KFOR/KAUT duopoly or the KOKH/KOCB duopoly to another station group in order to comply with FCC ownership rules preceding approval of the acquisition; however, a sale of either duopoly to an independent buyer is dependent on later decisions by the FCC regarding local ownership of broadcast television stations and future acts by Congress.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|43.1||1080i||16:9||KAUT-DT||Main KAUT-TV programming|
On December 24, 2014, KAUT launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 43.2 as an affiliate of This TV; as such, KAUT became the first Tribune-owned television station to affiliate with the network since its purchase of the Local TV group (Tribune assumed original co-owner Weigel Broadcasting's equity share of the network in November 2013, while retaining its structure as a joint venture with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). The network had been absent from the Oklahoma City market for the three weeks preceding the subchannel's launch, as This TV's previous affiliate, KSBI, decommissioned its DT2 subchannel on December 1 – following Griffin Communications' assumption of that station's operations – citing low ratings. In January 2015, KAUT-DT2 was added by Cox Communications, which carries the subchannel on digital channel 220.
On November 16, 2015, Katz Broadcasting announced it had signed an agreement with Tribune Media to carry Escape on stations owned by the group in four markets. KAUT launched a tertiary subchannel on virtual channel 43.3 to serve as an affiliate of Escape on February 1, 2016.
KAUT-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 43, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, using PSIP to display KAUT-TV's virtual channel as 43 on digital television receivers.
As a part of the broadcast frequency repacking process following the 2016-2017 FCC incentive auction, KAUT-TV will relocate its digital signal to UHF channel 19 by 2020, using PSIP to display its virtual channel number as 43.
Syndicated programs broadcast on KAUT-TV as of September 2016 include Maury, Crime Watch Daily, Inside Edition, The Middle, Pawn Stars and How I Met Your Mother. KAUT may occasionally take on the responsibility of running NBC network shows in place of regular programming in the event that extended breaking news or severe weather coverage is carried on KFOR (the first such instance in which this occurred was on May 21, 2013, while KFOR-TV ran extended coverage of the aftermath of an EF5 tornado that struck Moore).
From 2004 to 2014, KAUT-TV maintained a broadcast partnership with the Sooner Sports Network, holding the local over-the-air broadcast rights to Oklahoma Sooners men's and women's college basketball games produced through the University of Oklahoma's sports broadcasting unit; in addition until 2011, Sooner Sports' agreement with channel 43 included the exclusive local rights to the weekly coaches programs for the Sooners' basketball and football teams. From January 2006 until May 2008, KAUT broadcast Oklahoma High School Sports Express, a weekly sports wrap-up program hosted by former KFOR sports reporter Van Shea Iven; the rights to that program moved to KOKH-TV in August 2008, where it would remain until May 2010. Channel 43 also broadcast select Texas Rangers games produced by KDFI/Dallas–Fort Worth during the 2007 Major League Baseball season (these rights would reside with KSBI from 2012 to 2014).
KFOR presently produces 12½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week for KAUT (consisting only of 2½ hours on weekdays); the station does not currently broadcast any news programming on weekends. In addition to airing local newscasts produced by KFOR-TV, channel 43 also will take on the responsibility of simulcasting KFOR-TV's severe weather coverage in place of regular programming in the event that a tornado warning is issued for any part of the station's main over-the-air broadcast area. From July 2004 to September 2010, the station ran the syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz, initially airing from 5:00 to 8:00 a.m.; the third hour of the program was dropped after the station premiered Rise & Shine in the 7:00 a.m. slot (The Daily Buzz moved to KSBI in February 2011, where the program remained until its cancellation in April 2015; KAUT now airs second runs of syndicated programs seen on KFOR during the early morning timeslot).
Locally produced newscasts returned to channel 43 after a 25-year absence once The New York Times Company assumed control of the station. On June 5, 2006, KFOR-TV debuted a half-hour prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. for KAUT under the title Oklahoma's NewsChannel 4 at 9:00 on 43 (the title was altered to correspond with KAUT's rebranding as "OK43" in September of that year). The program – which has aired only on Monday through Friday nights since its premiere – directly competes against an hour-long prime time newscast in that timeslot on Fox affiliate KOKH-TV, which debuted as the market's first local prime time news program when channel 25 launched its current news department ten years earlier in May 1996. The KFOR-produced program would eventually gain additional prime time news competitor on April 5, 2016, when ABC affiliate KOCO-TV began producing a half-hour nightly newscast for its MeTV-affiliated digital subchannel. Originally anchored by Ernie Paulsen and former KOCO weekend evening anchor Cherokee Ballard, the newscast included a commercial-free block leading off the broadcast for the first five years of its run, featuring the day's top headlines and an updated weather forecast segment during the first ten minutes of the program (modeled after the Eleven @ 11:00 late news format).
On September 8, 2008, KFOR began producing a two-hour morning newscast for the station (separate from the traditional morning newscast seen on channel 4), under the title Rise and Shine Oklahoma (later shortened to simply Rise and Shine in April 2012). In addition to airing opposite Today on KFOR-TV, the program – which airs weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. – competes against the third and fourth hours of KOKH's four-hour in-house morning newscast, which premiered in April 2007 as a three-hour broadcast; over time, Rise and Shine evolved into a more irreverent format, infusing more serious news content with light-hearted and humorous news stories and features (formatted similarly to that of Chicago sister station WGN-TV's morning newscast).
On July 12, 2009, KFOR became the first station in the Oklahoma City market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; the KAUT broadcasts were included in the upgrade, and were converted to HD on July 14. With the rebranding as "Freedom 43" in April 2012 (at which time the 9:00 newscast was retitled Freedom 43 News), production of KAUT's newscasts moved from KFOR's main news set to a secondary set (that is designed to resemble army barracks) at the Britton Road facility shared by the two stations; the station also incorporated feature reports focused on Oklahoma's military community during its evening newscasts. KAUT moved production of the 9:00 p.m. newscast to KFOR's main news set in November 2016, when the program was reformatted as a more conventional prime time newscast (eventually restoring the NewsChannel 4 branding to the evening newscast in February 2017).
Other locally produced programs
The station runs a rebroadcast of KFOR-TV's political discussion program Flash Point at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings (two hours after its initial broadcast on KFOR). KAUT also produces 2 Movie Guys, a Saturday prime time movie presentation that features comedic wraparound segments included before and after commercial breaks; the program is hosted by Lucas Ross (who also serves as social media correspondent for Rise and Shine) and Ryan Bellgardt (who also serves as the station's continuity announcer). Ross and Bellgardt also appear together on the Friday edition of Rise and Shine, providing reviews for movies being released in theaters that week. Since 2009, Ross and Bellgardt are also featured in half-hour annual 2 Movie Guys holiday specials that are broadcast each Christmas Day in place of newscasts on KAUT and KFOR (which both preempt all regularly scheduled newscasts airing between 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on that day).
Since 2012, KAUT has also served as the local over-the-air broadcast home of Final Descent Outdoors, a locally produced, nationally syndicated hunting show that airs on the station each Sunday morning at 5:30 and 10:00 a.m. The station also carries Dog Talk, a half-hour program aimed at dog owners that originally aired on KSBI from 2012 to 2014 (when it was discontinued after Griffin Communications purchased that station); the program – which airs on KAUT as part of the station's Saturday morning educational program block – moved to channel 43 in February 2015.
Notable on-air news staff
- Kevin Ogle – weeknight anchor; also reporter
- Linda Cavanaugh – general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
Local program hosts