WFMZ-TV, virtual channel 69 (UHF digital channel 46), is an independent television station licensed to Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the locally based Maranatha Broadcasting Company, as part of a duopoly with Wilmington, Delaware-licensed MeTV affiliate KJWP. WFMZ maintains studios and transmitter facilities located on South Mountain in Allentown.
WFMZ mainly serves the Lehigh Valley region (including Warren County, New Jersey in the New York City market) and Berks County, though it has significant cable coverage in much of the Philadelphia area (including Trenton, New Jersey); the Lehigh Valley is part of the Philadelphia television market. The station's over-the-air signal is moderately receivable in some counties in northwestern New Jersey that are part of the New York City market, and is carried on some cable companies in the area as well. WFMZ also provides local news coverage to and has cable carriage in Carbon, Monroe, Luzerne, and Schuylkill counties within the Wilkes-Barre–Scranton television market.
Prior to the debut of channel 69, an earlier television station that held the WFMZ callsign, which was also based in Allentown, operated on UHF channel 67 for approximately five months from December 1954 to April 1955. However, it never really thrived, in part because of the difficulties of UHF broadcasting at the time. UHF stations have never covered rugged terrain very well.
The current incarnation of WFMZ on UHF channel 69 first signed on the air on November 25, 1976, with its initial programming featuring a mix of religious and general entertainment programming, as well as two daily local newscasts. The station was on the air about 15 hours a day. Initially, the station ran religious shows like the PTL Club and The 700 Club from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m. Afternoons the station ran a mix of family type drama shows and classic sitcoms. In prime time the station ran a newscast and the Phil Donahue Show. Religious shows ran late night. Saturdays the station ran a couple hours of children's shows, specialty shows, and some religious shows. On Sundays, the station aired mostly religious shows.
News was always a part of the station. In the 1990s, the station began running less religious shows and more sitcoms, talk shows, and reality shows. News gradually expanded on the station as well, and by 2000, the station was running 3 hours of local news a day and a mix of comedy shows and talk/reality and court shows. Today the station runs about 6 hours a day of news as well as talk and reality shows.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|69.1||720p||16:9||WFMZ-HD||Main WFMZ-TV programming|
|69.2||480i||WFMZ-AW||The 69 News AccuWeather Channel|
|69.3||WFMZ-HI||Heroes & Icons|
Retro TV was carried on a subchannel of WFMZ starting after the digital conversion in 2009. On July 4, 2011 Me-TV was broadcast by WFMZ, but on January 24, 2014, Me-TV announced that it would move its Philadelphia-market affiliation from WFMZ-TV's 69.3 subchannel to KJWP (channel 2), which has carried Me-TV programming in addition to the WFMZ subchannel since November 2013. In April 2014, Atlanta-based Tuff TV officially replaced Me-TV on the 69.3 subchannel; in December 2014, the signal began carrying the Heroes & Icons network feed.
WFMZ-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 69, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 46. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 69, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
WFMZ's standalone signal was sold in the 2017 broadcast spectrum auction. It will enter a channel-sharing agreement with an unnamed other station when its signal signs off the air. To relieve any congestion related to the channel sharing, some of WFMZ's subchannels will move to KJWP, which WFMZ purchased in a separate transaction with the proceeds from the spectrum sale.
The 69 News AccuWeather Channel
WFMZ debuted The 69 News AccuWeather Channel on February 5, 2001. It is broadcast on WFMZ's second digital subchannel and is available through digital cable within the Allentown area, broadcasting 24 hours a day, and according to WFMZ, was the first 24-hour local weather channel in the United States. Local weather updates are provided every 15 minutes from members of WFMZ's on-air weather staff, with a rotation of live local camera views from around the station's coverage area, radar/satellite images, graphical and text forecasts, current conditions, and weather trivia airing at other times. Advertising appears in the form of icons in one corner of the screen, and audio announcements. The channel is also streamed live on the internet through the station's website, and is simulcast during the overnight hours on WFMZ's primary subchannel. This channel is entirely locally produced, unlike The Local AccuWeather Channel associated with other AccuWeather-affiliated stations. The channel's format is similar to The Weather Channel's Local on the 8s.
WFMZ-TV presently broadcasts 46.5 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with eight and half hours on weekdays, three hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays). Although the station's newscasts primarily focus on Allentown and southeastern Pennsylvania, WFMZ's 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. newscasts on weeknights focus primarily on news stories in neighboring Berks County and its county seat of Reading; they are branded as 69 News Berks Edition. WFMZ was awarded two Regional Emmy Awards for "Best Newscast," respectively in 2004 and 2012.
The station's news department debuted with WFMZ itself on November 25, 1976 and originally featured two daily newscasts at 7 and 10 p.m. under the title Newspulse. The news programs would be retitled as Channel 69 News by 1987 until finally being shortened to 69 News in 1999. Those two newscasts eventually expanded to include additional local newscasts on weekday mornings, weekdays at noon and 5 p.m. and every night at 6 p.m., while the 7 p.m. newscast was dropped. In February 2003, the station debuted a half-hour Spanish-language nightly newscast at 11 p.m. – becoming one of the few English-language stations (if not the only one) to offer a news program in another language; an additional half-hour Spanish newscast at 8 p.m. debuted in 2007, but was canceled two years later, leaving the 11 p.m. edition as the only newscast on WFMZ that is produced in Spanish. In 2014, the Spanish newscast expanded to 6:30 p.m. on WFMZ-DT4 and WBPH-TV 60.
In 2005, WFMZ formed a broadcast partnership with Philadelphia's ABC owned-and-operated station WPVI-TV (channel 6) that allows the two stations to cooperate in newsgathering for local stories. The most recent set for WFMZ's newscasts debuted in April 2006, and it was replaced by the current set on November 15, 2017. On May 1, 2008, WFMZ became the fourth television station in the Philadelphia market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Until it expanded the program to 5 a.m. in 2012, WFMZ was the only news-producing television station in the Philadelphia market – and effectively the largest news-producing station in the United States by market size due to Allentown being part of the Philadelphia market – whose weekday morning newscast continued to maintain a post-5 a.m. timeslot (starting at 5:30 a.m.). On October 15, 2014, WFMZ added an hour-long newscast at 4:00 p.m., making it the third station in the Philly market (after WCAU 10 and WPVI 6) to broadcast local news in that timeslot. On February 16, 2015, WFMZ debuted its new street-level studio inside the PPL Center sports arena in Center City Allentown; the noon newscast will be broadcast from the location.
Other locally-produced programming
- The American Law Journal – debuted in 1990 and is hosted by attorney Christopher Naughton, who is joined by various attorneys who answer questions about law-related topics. The program features calls from viewers seeking free advice from any of the attorneys about the topic of the week.
- Animal Doctor – This program, hosted by weeknight 6 p.m. weather anchor Kathy Craine, features veterinarians from around the region discussing various animal- and pet-related issues.
- The Big Ticket – This program is a high school football highlight show that airs every Friday at 11 p.m. (in place of the Spanish-language Edición en Español newscast, which airs at 6:30 pm on WFMZ-DT4 instead) during the fall season. The Big Ticket features highlights from local games featuring Lehigh Valley and Berks County schools, along with interviews from players and coaches. It debuted in 1995 and is currently hosted by sports anchors Jim Vaughn and Dan Moscaritolo, with reports from sports reporter Dave Lesko.
- Business Matters – This discussion program, hosted by Tony Iannelli, features a panel of experts gathering to discuss various business issues.
- The Freddy Awards – The Freddy Awards, which debuted in 2003, are modeled after the Tony Awards ceremony awarding Broadway plays. A panel of evaluators view musical performances from participating high schools. The best are honored in a ceremony that is broadcast live on WFMZ each year. Ed Hanna and Shelley Brown host the ceremony from the State Theatre in Easton.
- Lehigh Sports Magazine – This sports program, which debuted in 1994 and airs during the fall season, is currently hosted by Jim Vaughn; it features interviews with Lehigh University coaches and players.
- Talk With Your Doctor – The program debuted on January 17, 2000, and is currently hosted by Doug Eberhart. Eberhart is joined by a panel of doctors from St. Luke's Hospital, who discuss various health-related issues and also features calls from viewers seeking medical advice.
- The Peak – This program debuted on September 30, 2012, and is hosted by Ashley Russo and Mike Mittman. Each episode features the latest medical innovations, nutritious recipes, as well as interesting events happening in the area.
- WFMZ Documentary Unit - The station has a partnership with Julian Farris Films to create documentaries of interest focused on local events and people. This partnership has earned several honors for its work on projects like the Emmy nominated documentaries "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 the talents of WFMZ Executive Producer Amy Unger, both of whom also play a role at Julian Farris Films.
Out-of-market cable, satellite and over-the-air coverage
In New Jersey, WFMZ is carried on basic cable in Phillipsburg and Milford (which are located in the western part of the New York City market). WFMZ is carried on cable providers in Schuylkill County (Tamaqua, Pottsville, and surrounding areas), Carbon County, Monroe County, and Luzerne County (all located in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market). In northwestern New Jersey, it is available on digital cable on Comcast's Port Murray system alongside CBS owned-and-operated station KYW-TV (channel 3), Fox O&O WTXF-TV (channel 29) and NBC O&O WCAU (channel 10). It is not carried on satellite in portions of the market lying within the New York City market. Over-the-air reception from its main transmitter begins to decrease past US Highway 206.