Affiliations38.1: Ion Television
for others, see § Subchannels
First air date
May 31, 1976 (46 years ago) (1976-05-31)
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog:
  • 38 (UHF, 1976–2009)
  • Digital:
  • 43 (UHF, 2000–2019)
Religious Ind. (1976–1998)
Call sign meaning
"Chicago's Pax"
Technical information
Licensing authority
Facility ID10981
ERP400 kW
HAAT510 m (1,673 ft)
Transmitter coordinates41°52′44″N 87°38′8″W / 41.87889°N 87.63556°W / 41.87889; -87.63556Coordinates: 41°52′44″N 87°38′8″W / 41.87889°N 87.63556°W / 41.87889; -87.63556
Public license information

WCPX-TV (channel 38) is a television station in Chicago, Illinois, United States, broadcasting the Ion Television network. The station is owned and operated by the Ion Media subsidiary of the E. W. Scripps Company, and maintains offices on Des Plaines and Van Buren streets in the Chicago Loop; its transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower.


A construction permit

On October 10, 1964, the Chicago Federation of Labor, owner of WCFL (1000 AM, now WMVP), filed for a construction permit to build a new television station on channel 38 in Chicago. Approval was not granted until June 5, 1968.[1] In the four years between application and construction, Field Communications changed its application for channel 38 to channel 32,[2] while competing applicants included a group known as Chicagoland TV and the Warner Bros. film studio.[3] Warner Bros. had dropped out by the time comparative hearings were held in mid-1966.[4] Early progress was made when the antenna was placed atop the John Hancock Center in 1969,[5] and plans for a general-entertainment independent station and studios were broadly laid out in 1970.[6]

In late 1970, however, the Chicago Federation of Labor opted to sell the WCFL-TV construction permit to another Chicago company: Zenith Radio Corporation. Zenith had one reason for pursuing a TV station in Chicago: it had developed a system for subscription television over-the-air.[7] It was not until 1971 that the transaction was filed with the Federal Communications Commission.[1] The action had one vocal opponent: Chicagoland TV, which had lost in comparative hearing two years prior.[8] When the deal was filed, Chicagoland TV petitioned to deny the transaction and asked for hearings to put its programming proposal against that of Zenith; they argued that subscription television would exclude poorer viewers, important to a group whose own programming plans were for a station targeted at Chicago's minority communities.[9] The transaction lingered so long that Zenith opted out in 1973; it was the second such purchase where Zenith had backed out, after the company had also contracted to buy KWHY-TV in Los Angeles.[10]

With Zenith out of the picture, Chicagoland TV continued to oppose extensions of the WCFL-TV construction permit. On November 18, 1974, the FCC dismissed the Chicago Federation of Labor's request for a time extension; the federation requested the application be reinstated in February 1975.[1]

WCFC-TV, "Shining on Chicago"

Meanwhile, in 1971, Christian Communications of Chicagoland had been founded, when Pastor Owen C. Carr approached his church's board of directors with a desire to begin a Christian television station for the Chicago area. Carr's then-congregation, The Stone Church, raised $135,000 by the end of September 1973, at which point Christian Communications of Chicagoland was incorporated. The First National Bank of Evergreen Park financed $600,000 for the purchase of needed equipment and a studio. Beating out Chicago's city colleges,[11] Christian Communications struck a deal to buy equipment and receive the construction permit from the Chicago Federation of Labor in June 1975,[12] and the FCC granted the transaction in January 1976.[1]

On May 26, the call letters were officially changed to WCFC (standing for "Winning Chicagoland for Christ";[13] a -TV suffix was added two years later),[1] and at 5 p.m. on May 31, 1976, from the Olympic Studios on the city's near west side, WCFC signed on with the Holy Bible opened to the first chapter of Genesis, read by Pastor Carr; this was followed by a broadcast of The 700 Club. Jerry Rose, who previously worked for KXTX-TV in Dallas and helped Pat Robertson build that station, was hired as the station's general manager.[14] However, while KXTX and its sister stations were programmed as family-friendly independent stations with some religious programming, WCFC-TV aired no secular fare.

Initially only broadcasting from 6 to 9 p.m. during the week, and from 12 to 9 p.m. on Sundays, the station gradually expanded its broadcast hours; in the fall of 1976, the station was on the air six hours a day, and by 1977, aired for twelve hours a day. In 1982, WCFC began operating on a 24-hour schedule.[13] The next year, it struck a deal to move to a facility built out for the dismantled Catholic Television Network of Chicago on Wacker Drive, relocating from the Kemper Building.[15] Ten years after launching, WCFC-TV had a budget of $5 million and 65 employees.[14]

A locally produced show called Among Friends, hosted by Rose,[16] aired twice a day on weekdays. The station also ran the live, 90-minute version of The 700 Club from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays, with hour-long rebroadcasts in the evenings and early mornings. It also aired the two-hour PTL Club, repeating the primary hour in the afternoon. WCFC also aired programming from well known national evangelists such as Rex Humbard, Jimmy Swaggart, Kenneth Copeland and Oral Roberts. The station also ran a small amount of Catholic programming.[13] One notable guest on Among Friends was Mother Angelica, whose visit to WCFC inspired her to begin EWTN a couple of years later. The station also ran many Christian children's programs, including among others Joy Junction, Davey and Goliath, Bible Bowl, Sunshine Factory, Circle Square and Superbook, and re-runs of The Roy Rogers Show on Saturday afternoons.


WCFC-TV remained a full-time Christian station well into the 1990s. However, in 1996, Lowell Paxson started shopping for stations to serve as affiliates of his new family-oriented Pax TV network (later renamed i and then Ion Television), and nearly two years into his purchases, he had still not been able to buy a station in Chicago.[17] In January 1998, Paxson Communications struck a deal to purchase WCFC—started in 1976 for just $850,000—for $120 million, with the proceeds from the sale being used to start the Total Living Network (which then began to be carried on WCFC-LP in Rockford, which had been WCFC-TV translator W51CD, as well as KTLN-TV in San Francisco).[18][19] Upon Pax's launch on August 31, 1998, the call letters were changed to WCPX (the television station in Orlando formerly known as WCPX had changed its call sign to WKMG-TV earlier in the year), and the Christian lineup was cut back to 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily to accommodate Pax programming, which aired from 12 p.m. to midnight, and programming from The Worship Network during the overnight hours. The morning Christian programming was gradually cut back from 2002 to 2005; this, as well as cutbacks in Pax's entertainment schedule, had resulted in much of WCPX-TV's schedule, as with Ion's other stations, consisting of infomercials—a situation that has been reversed since 2009, with gradual expansions of Ion's entertainment schedule.

Local programming

Like most Ion stations, WCPX-TV does not air any newscasts; however, it does carry some public affairs programming. WCPX Positive Living airs Tuesday mornings at 5 a.m., and The Calumet Roundtable, produced by students and faculty of the Communication & Creative Arts department at Purdue University Calumet in the Northwest Indiana suburbs, airs Thursday mornings at 5 and 5:30 a.m. During the time NBC was a partner in Pax TV, WCPX carried an encore presentation of WMAQ-TV (channel 5)'s 10 p.m. newscast at 10:30 p.m. before the dissolution of that agreement in the summer of 2005.

Technical information


The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WCPX-TV[20]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
38.1 720p 16:9 ION Ion Television
38.2 Bounce Bounce TV
38.3 480i CourtTV Court TV
38.4 Laff Laff
38.5 Defy TV Defy TV
38.6 SCRIPPS Scripps News
38.7 Jewelry JTV
38.8 HSN HSN

On April 2, 2009, WCPX officially began broadcasting Ion Television programming in high definition (available in the 720p resolution format).

Analog-to-digital conversion

WCPX-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 38, 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 broadcast on its pre-transition UHF channel 43.[21] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 38 (which, in its physical form, is now occupied by the post-transition digital signal of Univision owned-and-operated station WGBO-DT, virtual channel 66). The "WCPX" callsign was also transferred from the former analog channel 38 to digital channel 43, and the "WCPX-DT" callsign was discontinued; the callsign was modified to "WCPX-TV" on June 15.


  1. ^ a b c d e FCC History Cards for WCPX-TV
  2. ^ "Field Plans UHF TV Outlet at Marina City". Chicago Tribune. October 8, 1964. p. 6. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  3. ^ "Hearing Is Set On April 6 For TV Channel 38". Chicago Tribune. February 27, 1965. p. 7. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  4. ^ "Hearings End On Chicago's Channel 38; 2 Groups Seek Last Allowable Outlet". Chicago Tribune. June 25, 1966. p. 9. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  5. ^ Strong, James (September 1, 1969). "U.S. Labor Leaders Give Domestic Goals Top Priority". Chicago Tribune. p. 7. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  6. ^ "When is WCFL-TV..." Chicago Tribune. June 25, 1970. p. 1. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  7. ^ Petersen, Clarence (November 13, 1970). "Pay TV Is Giant Size Maybe". Chicago Tribune. p. 15. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  8. ^ "Back in act" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 30, 1970. p. 5. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  9. ^ "Will subscription TV exclude the poor?" (PDF). Broadcasting. September 27, 1971. pp. 48, 49. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  10. ^ "Zenith again gets cold feet on pay TV" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 18, 1973. pp. 40, 41. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Educators want Channel 38". Chicago Tribune. May 6, 1975. p. 9. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  12. ^ Robison, James (June 7, 1975). "Minister plans religious TV station". Chicago Tribune. p. 23. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  13. ^ a b c Buursma, Bruce (August 28, 1983). "Success helps station preach to multitudes". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  14. ^ a b Boss, Kit (May 23, 1986). "Channel 38 scores with faith in itself". Chicago Tribune. p. 5. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  15. ^ Buursma, Bruce (December 16, 1983). "Channel 38 seeks move into Catholic TV facility". Chicago Tribune. p. 12. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  16. ^ Hart, Marla (January 20, 1991). "Rose preaches Gospel from his Ch. 38 pulpit". Chicago Tribune. pp. TV Week 5, 24. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  17. ^ Jones, Tim (January 28, 1998). "Family network finds spot in the city". Chicago Tribune. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  18. ^ Jones, Tim (June 7, 1998). "Ch. 38 owner has faith in change". Chicago Tribune. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  19. ^ "Paxson acquires Chicago station". Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  20. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WCPX
  21. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.