WBPX-TV, virtual channel 68 (UHF digital channel 32), is an Ion Television owned-and-operated television station located in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks. WBPX maintains offices, studios, and master control facilities at 1120 Soldiers Field Road in Allston, and its transmitter is located in the Newton Upper Falls district of Newton.
The station is also simulcast on two full-power satellites: WPXG-TV (virtual channel 21, digital channel 33) in Concord, New Hampshire and WDPX-TV (virtual channel 58, digital channel 40) in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts; and two low-power translator stations: WMPX-LP (channel 33) in Dennis and W40BO (channel 40) in Boston.
The station first signed on the air on January 3, 1979 as WQTV, under the ownership of Arlington Broadcasting. It carried programming from the Financial News Network, along with public domain movies and most network programs that were pre-empted by WBZ-TV (channel 4), WCVB-TV (channel 5) and to a lesser extent WNAC-TV (channel 7; later WNEV-TV; now WHDH). Channel 68 was the first UHF television station to employ what is known as "circular polarization" antenna transmission, which was intended to improve signal reception to inner city viewers, many of whom had difficulty receiving television reception due to surrounding tall structures. The station's transmitter, containing its "helical" broadcast antenna, was installed by helicopter in September 1978 on top of the Prudential Tower.
WQTV began running a subscription television service in conjunction with Universal Subscription Television called BEST TV ("BEST" being an acronym for "Broadcast Entertainment Subscription Television"), based in Waltham. By the summer of 1979, the service's name was changed to Starcase, and by late 1981 it was renamed Star TV. Subscription television programming initially began after 7 p.m., with the service's programming gradually expanding to take up most of the broadcast day by 1980. Channel 68 was the answer for many viewers that wanted uncut movies but lived in areas that were not wired for cable television. The lure of uncut movies and late night adult entertainment created many electronic hobbyists eager to "home-brew" their own television descrambling devices.
In February 1983, Universal Subscription Television abruptly went out of business on WQTV due to a significant loss of paying subscribers to prevalent infringement of its subscription television signal. It was very easy to duplicate the signal due to its simplistic scrambling method, known as "gated sync suppression," and its "decoding key" hidden in the audio channel subcarrier. This key was easily defeated with a decoder built around an FM stereo demodulator chip known as the LM1800. All of WQTV's subscribers were transitioned to another area subscription television service known as Preview, operated by Warner Communications's New England Subscription Television on Worcester's WSMW-TV (channel 27, now WUNI). WQTV flipped to a general entertainment format consisting of off-network drama series, old sitcoms, and movies. The station also continued to run most network shows that were preempted by WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV and WNEV-TV.
In 1984, WQTV overextended themselves by adding somewhat stronger programming to the station. These were mostly shows that previously aired on WSBK-TV (channel 38) or WLVI-TV (channel 56) to which those respective stations had lost the rights. Some of the shows run on WQTV included The Honeymooners, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Here's Lucy, I Dream Of Jeannie, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Partridge Family, The Carol Burnett Show, Star Trek, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Sergeant Bilko, Kojak and The Rockford Files.
In the fall of 1985, WQTV dropped the rejected network programs and added more drama series to the lineup. The station began to aggressively market themselves at that point. Unfortunately, the station continued to lose money and experienced severe financial problems by November. Right after Christmas, the station laid off most of its staff and dropped all its cash programming. Arlington Broadcasting (which also owned WTTO in Birmingham, Alabama and WCGV-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) placed the station up for sale and turned the dropped programming back over to the syndicators. A few shows such as The Honeymooners, Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, Perry Mason and Gomer Pyle USMC would move to other stations, while the rest of the shows simply no longer aired in the market. For a few days it was thought that WQTV would go dark, but the station was somehow able to remain on the air. Due to this uncertainty, TV Guide stopped including programming information for WQTV in its listings for several months. WQTV kept a couple of barter shows, public domain movies, and a few religious and minority-targeted shows. They also reinstated all the pre-empted network shows that had previously aired on the station.
The station was sold to the Christian Science Monitor during the summer of 1986, and in the fall, WQTV began broadcasting Christian Science Monitor programming for thirty minutes a day. The following spring, WQTV brought back several previously aired syndicated programs that were not available in the Boston market such as Star Trek, Carol Burnett, and Rockford Files, which aired during the 6 to 11 p.m. timeslots. The rejected network shows and public domain movies remained temporarily. That April, WQTV was relaunched as a family-oriented independent station. The station added a number of shows that other stations lost rights to such as Leave It To Beaver, McHale's Navy and My Three Sons. The station also bought back many of the shows it previously held the local rights during the period from 1983 to 1985. Other programming featured on the station included Captain Kangaroo, Danger Mouse and Disney's Wonderful World. The station also dropped the preempted network programs, which would move to WHLL (now WUNI). WQTV began to brand itself as "The New QTV 68", with an emphasis on family entertainment, billing itself as "Boston's Fastest-Growing Television Station". In addition, the station expanded the time allotted for the Christian Science Monitor programs to two hours.
In the summer of 1989, WQTV condensed the entertainment programming into the late afternoon and evening hours, as the station began to focus on programs produced by the Monitor Channel, which consisted of cultural, religious, news and information programs. By 1990, the station was down to a few hours of entertainment programs during the evening and overnight hours, and by 1992, the Monitor Channel was WQTV's only source of programming. However, the Monitor Channel shut down later that year, which left the station with reruns of the network's programming. In early 1993, the Monitor programs were finally dropped in favor of previously dropped off-network sitcoms and drama series that did not secure rights to air on other stations in the market.
In the fall of 1993, Boston University bought the station and for the third time relaunched it as a commercial general entertainment independent station, under the new call letters WABU. The station's schedule consisted of older cartoons, sitcoms and family dramas, though the retooled station briefly ran a few preempted CBS shows from WHDH-TV. A considerable amount of in-house local programming was added to the schedule during this time, especially during the primetime hours. BU managed to lure prominent local media personalities away from the major stations to host public affairs and news programs; among them were ECU with Gail Harris, Business World with Jim Howell, D.O.C.: Doctors On Call with Dr. Odysseus Argy, The Job Show, Adler Online with Charles Adler, Consider This with Ted O'Brien and Delores Handy, and some children's programming on weekends (such as Lil' Iguana and The Story Shop).
Movies aired under the Cinema 68 umbrella branding, at first airing in primetime after the aforementioned regularly scheduled local shows that aired in the 8 p.m. hour. By 1997, public affairs shows were moved to later weekday time slots, as well as during the day on weekends, with Cinema 68 being moved up to 8 p.m. on weeknights. WABU was also the first Boston station to carry Judge Judy upon its September 1996 debut, where it aired in an hour-long block at 6 p.m. The station was outbid by Viacom the following year for future syndication rights, resulting in Judge Judy moving to Viacom-owned WSBK-TV in September 1997. From April to June 1999, which marked the last few months of BU's ownership, Dana Hersey arrived at WABU to host 68 Film Loft, a revival of the legendary Movie Loft which had been a staple of WSBK's prime time lineup for over two decades. The Movie Loft title could not be adopted since the rights to the name were still owned by, and eventually used again on, WSBK.
WABU built a news department as soon as BU assumed station ownership. Beginning on February 14, 1994, the station broadcast two-minute news updates airing at the top of every hour between 11:58 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. known as Newsbreak 68. Ted O'Brien and Delores Handy were the principal anchors, who always appeared separately, with other on-air staff appearing over time. Kristen Daly (later of WLVI's The Ten O'Clock News) joined the anchor roster in 1998. Occasionally, meteorologists would provide in-depth weather forecasts, but general five-day forecasts were the norm. From 1996 to 1998, WABU was also the over-the-air flagship station of the Boston Red Sox, taking over from longtime Red Sox flagship station WSBK-TV. WFXT (channel 25) sports anchor Butch Stearns first surfaced as a part of Channel 68's Red Sox coverage before he joined the Fox station. All WABU news programming was cancelled in the summer of 1999, during the station's transition into becoming Pax TV affiliate WBPX.
From the beginning, WABU was planning to extend the reach of its programming. On November 30, 1993, not long after BU acquired channel 68, the station announced that it was purchasing WNHT in Concord, New Hampshire, which returned to the air as WNBU on September 1, 1995. The station then purchased WCVX in Vineyard Haven in 1994 and relaunched the station as WZBU.
In 1999, Paxson Communications (the forerunner to Ion Media Networks) bought WABU and its satellites, immediately turning them into part-time affiliates of Pax TV (now Ion Television), while retaining some syndicated programs; the stations' call letters were also respectively changed to WBPX, WPXG and WDPX later that year. Eventually, the syndicated programs were dropped, turning WBPX and its satellites into full-time Pax owned-and-operated stations by 2000.
On May 18, 2016, the Boston Herald reported that NBCUniversal was considering acquiring WBPX to serve as the market's new NBC owned-and-operated station, after announcing in January that it was pulling the affiliation off of WHDH (channel 7). However, NBCUniversal instead purchased WBTS-LD, which would become the network's new owned-and-operated station on January 1, 2017.
In the FCC's incentive auction, WDPX-TV sold its spectrum for $43,467,644 and indicated that it would enter into a post-auction channel sharing agreement. WDPX will channel-share with parent station WBPX-TV; as the WBPX signal does not reach Vineyard Haven, WDPX will change its city of license to Woburn.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Network|
WBPX-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 68, on April 16, 2009. The station's digital signal continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 32. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 68, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
|Station||City of license||Channels|
|First air date||Former callsigns||ERP|
|Facility ID||Transmitter Coordinates|
|WPXG-TV||Concord, New Hampshire||33 (21)||September 1, 1995||WNBU (1995–1999)||100 kW||344 m||48406|
|WDPX-TV||Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts||40 (58)||July 19, 1985||WCVX (1985–1994)|
|300 kW||153 m||6476|
WBPX's signal is also relayed on WMPX-LP (channel 33) in Dennis and W40BO (channel 40) in Boston. On December 15, 2014, Ion reached a deal to donate WMPX-LP and W40BO to Word of God Fellowship, parent company of the Daystar network.
- Channel 68 virtual TV stations in the United States
- Channel 32 digital TV stations in the United States
- List of television stations in Massachusetts
- WNHT (TV) (for information on WPXG prior to 1993)