|Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas
|City||Kansas City, Missouri|
|Branding||KCTV 5 (general)
KCTV 5 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||KCTV 5 Stands for Kansas City|
|Channels||Digital: 24 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
|First air date||September 27, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||Kansas City's TeleVision|
|Former callsigns||KCMO-TV (1953-1983)|
|Former channel number(s)||
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW|
|Height||344 m (1,129 ft)|
|Public license information:||Profile
KCTV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 24), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Kansas City, Missouri, United States and also serving Kansas City, Kansas. The station is owned by the Meredith Local Media subsidiary of the Meredith Corporation, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KSMO-TV (channel 62). The two stations share studios on Shawnee Mission Parkway (U.S. 56/U.S. 169) in Fairway, Kansas; KCTV's transmitter is located on East 31st Street in the Union Hill section of Kansas City, Missouri (adjacent to the studios of PBS member station KCPT (channel 19)). On cable, KCTV is available on Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity and Consolidated Communications channel 3, and Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse channel 5. There is a high definition feed provided on Spectrum digital channel 1209, Xfinity channel 803, Consolidated channel 620 and U-verse channel 1005.
KCTV previously served as the default CBS affiliate for the St. Joseph market (which borders the northern portions of the Kansas City Designated Market Area) from June 1967--when KQTV (channel 2, then KFEQ-TV) disaffiliated from CBS after a 14-year tenure as a primary affiliate of the network to become a full-time ABC affiliate--until June 1, 2017, when locally based KBJO-LD (channel 30, which concurrently became KCJO-LD) switched its primary affiliation from Telemundo to CBS. KCTV remains available in that market on cable providers (including Suddenlink Communications) and on satellite via DirecTV and Dish Network; its transmitter also produces a city-grade signal that reaches St. Joseph proper and rural areas in the market's central and southern counties.
The station first signed on the air on September 27, 1953 as KCMO-TV (for Kansas City, MissOuri). Founded by the KCMO Broadcasting Corporation, owners of radio stations KCMO (then at 810 AM, now at 710 AM) and KCMO-FM (94.9), from which the television station acquired its original call letters. It originally served as a primary affiliate of ABC and a secondary affiliate of the DuMont Television Network, both of which had been affiliated with WDAF-TV (channel 4) on a part-time basis since that station signed on as the Kansas City market's first television station in October 1949. The station originally operated from studio facilities located on East 31st Street in Kansas City, Missouri's Union Hill neighborhood. On October 2, six days after channel 5 made its debut, Meredith Engineering purchased the KCMO radio and television stations from KCMO Broadcasting; the sale was completed less than two months later in December 1953.
In January 1955, Meredith signed a multi-year agreement with CBS to affiliate five of the television stations that the former owned at the time with the network. As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona losing its affiliation with the network (KPHO became an independent station after CBS moved its programming to KOOL-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV), from which it would re-assume the network's Phoenix affiliation 39 years later in December 1994). CBS moved its Kansas City affiliation to channel 5 from KMBC-TV (channel 9) in September of that year; KMBC, meanwhile, would assume the local rights to the ABC affiliation.
While it changed its primary network affiliation, KCMO-TV remained a secondary affiliate of DuMont; it would disaffiliate from that network when it ceased operations on August 6, 1956, resulting in CBS becoming the station's sole network affiliation. For most of its first decade on the air, KCMO-TV branded on-air as "Television 5"; subsequently in 1966, the station's branding was simplified to "TV 5", a moniker which remained in use until the callsign change to KCTV in 1983 (around the time the latter brand was first adopted, it also began using a logo similar to that used at that period by NBC-affiliated sister station WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan).
Meredith sold the KCMO radio stations to Richard Fairbanks in 1983, but retained ownership of KCMO-TV. On March 7 of that year, the company changed the station's call letters to KCTV (standing for Kansas City's TeleVision, which also served as the station's on-air slogan from that year on until February 1994), based on the familiarity of the "TV 5" branding. It also relocated its operations across the Missouri-Kansas state line from its original studio facilities on East 31st Street to a new facility on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway, Kansas. The station's original studio building in Union Hill now houses the offices and production facilities of PBS member station KCPT (channel 19), although KCTV's transmitter antenna continues to operate from an adjacent tower located on the studio grounds (see below). The "TV 5" branding that had gradually been phased out from on-air usage following the callsign changeover in favor of the "KCTV 5" moniker was discontinued completely in 1990; however, KCTV's logo has continued to subtly reference the now-defunct brand, by changing the font of the "TV" lettering (as done from 1990 to 1999), rendering the "TV" lettering in bold type (as done from 1999 to 2002) or connecting the "T" and "V" (as done from 2002 to 2011).
On May 23, 1994, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation and financing agreement with News Corporation, in which New World agreed to switch the network affiliations of five of its seven existing television stations and eight additional stations that the company was in the process of acquiring through separate deals with Great American Communications and Argyle Television Holdings (the latter of which sold its four stations to New World in a purchase option-structured deal on May 26 for $717 million) to Fox, in exchange for allowing News Corporation to acquire a 20% equity interest in the group. The stations involved in the agreement - which was motivated by the December 18, 1993 announcement that the National Football League (NFL) would award the rights to the National Football Conference television package to Fox effective with the 1994 season, ending the NFC's 38-year relationship with CBS - would disaffiliate from either of the three major broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) and join Fox once individual affiliation contracts with their existing respective network partners expired. One of the stations involved in the deal was NBC affiliate WDAF-TV, which was among the four television stations that Great American Communications sold to New World - along with CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, and ABC affiliates WBRC in Birmingham and WGHP in High Point, North Carolina - two weeks earlier on May 5 for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants.
With Channel 4's contract with the network set to expire in five months, NBC quickly approached other area stations to replace WDAF-TV as its Kansas City affiliate. It first entered into discussions with KCTV management about becoming an NBC affiliate. The prospect of one of its strongest affiliates being courted by a rival Big Three network concerned CBS; New World planned to displace the network from stronger-performing VHF affiliates that the group had already owned or was in the process of purchasing in eight other markets to Fox, a situation that in most cases would force CBS to affiliate with either a former Fox affiliate or a lower-profile independent station. Many of the NBC- and ABC-affiliated stations and - with the exception of Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix - some higher-rated independents it approached for deals rejected CBS' offers to move its programming to those stations as the loss of NFL rights hampered its choices of replacement affiliates, exacerbating its existing problem of having a program slate that skewed towards an older audience than the other major broadcast networks that aided in CBS' ratings slide to third place nationally.
To prevent such a situation from happening in Kansas City, CBS negotiated a deal with Meredith executives conditional on agreeing to keep the CBS affiliation on channel 5, in which the company would agree to switch WNEM-TV and KPHO-TV to the network. Meredith and CBS would reach an agreement on the proposal on June 29, 1994. With CBS staving off another affiliate defection in a New World market, NBC's choices for finding an affiliate to replace WDAF were narrowed further. KMBC-TV was in the middle of a long-term affiliation agreement between ABC and that station's owner, Hearst Broadcasting, leaving NBC's only viable option being soon-to-be-former Fox station KSHB-TV (channel 41), which - through its owner, Scripps-Howard Broadcasting - agreed to affiliate with the network on August 1, 1994.
On November 12, 2004, Meredith purchased WB affiliate KSMO-TV (channel 62, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) from the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group for $33.5 million ($26.8 million for the non-license assets and $6.7 million for the license itself). Under the terms of the deal, Meredith assumed responsibility for KSMO's advertising sales and administrative operations under a joint sales agreement that continued until the sale's closure. When the deal was finalized on September 29, 2005 through permission of a "failing station" waiver, KCTV and KSMO became the third television station duopoly in the Kansas City market (after KMBC and KCWE (channel 29), the latter of which Hearst purchased KCWE outright in 2001 but continued to operate under a local marketing agreement through an indirect subsidiary of the company for nine years after the company, and KSHB-TV and KMCI-TV (channel 38), the latter of which Scripps had purchased from Miller Television in 2002). KSMO subsequently migrated its operations from its original studio facility in Kansas City, Kansas, into KCTV's Fairway studios following the transaction's completion.
On September 8, 2015, Richmond, Virginia-based Media General announced that it would acquire the Meredith Corporation for $2.4 billion, with the intention to name the combined group Meredith Media General once the sale was finalized. The sale would have marked the first change in ownership for the station since it was purchased by Meredith in 1953 and would have put KCTV and KSMO-TV under common ownership with Media General's existing virtual triopoly in the adjacent Topeka market between NBC affiliate KSNT, Fox affiliate KTMJ-CD and ABC affiliate KTKA-TV. However, on September 28, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group (now-former owner of ABC affiliate KQTV (channel 2) in St. Joseph) made an unsolicited cash-and-stock merger offer for Media General, originally valued at $14.50 per share.
On November 16, following opposition to the merger with Meredith by minority shareholders Oppenheimer Holdings and Starboard Capital - primarily because Meredith's magazine properties were included in the deal, which would have re-entered Media General into publishing after it sold its newspapers to BH Media in 2012 to reduce debt - and the rejection of Nexstar's initial offer by company management, Media General agreed to enter into negotiations with Nexstar on a suitable counter deal, while the Meredith merger proposal remained active; the two eventually concluded negotiations on January 6, 2016, reaching a merger agreement for valued at $17.14 per share (an evaluation of $4.6 billion, plus the assumption of $2.3 billion in debt). On January 27, Meredith formally broke off the proposed merger with Media General and accepted the termination fee of $60 million that was previously negotiated under the original merger proposal; Media General subsequently signed an agreement to be acquired by Nexstar (with the combined company to be known as Nexstar Media Group), in exchange for giving Meredith right of first refusal to acquire any broadcast or digital properties that may be divested.
KCTV maintains transmitter facilities on a 1,042-foot (318 m) transmission tower located at its former studio facility on East 31st Street on Union Hill (south of downtown). The tower has become a widely recognized Kansas City landmark, in large part because of the string lights that adorn the four corners of the structure's frame, which can be seen for miles around the immediate metropolitan area at night. It is so recognized that KCTV incorporated the "tall tower" - as the station referred to it on-air - into the logo it adopted as part of an imaging revamp in November 1999 (at which time, it also adopted the current KCTV 5 News identity as the title for its newscasts), which remained in use until May 2002. The tower itself is similar in structure to the 750-foot (228.6 m) transmission tower on which ABC affiliate KQTV upstate in St. Joseph (which, coincidentally, also began broadcasting on the date KCTV commenced operations, September 27, 1953) maintains its transmitter antenna.
From the 1970s until 2001, the tower also served as a weather beacon to signal residents and visitors of inclement weather affecting Kansas City and its immediate surrounding communities. For this purpose, station engineers switched individual sets of lights on the tower and moded them to flash when a severe weather watch or warning was issued for any county in the immediate Kansas City area by the local National Weather Service Forecast Office or the National Severe Storms Forecast Center/Storm Prediction Center, activating them in descending order - in one or more of three sections - in pertinence to the specific weather situation:
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon on September 11, 2001, as symbols of American patriotism were heavily embraced in their immediate aftermath, KCTV engineers installed LED lights on the tower to correspond to the colors of the United States flag, placing red lights on the top third, white lights on the middle third and blue lights on the bottom third of the structure.
In 2004, the lights on the tower were turned off entirely until all of the bulbs could be replaced; the lights on the tower were reactivated on July 1, 2006, with white lights having been installed on all of its sections, as had originally been standard until the 1970s. Since then, the lights have not flashed for the purpose of being a notifier of inclement weather conditions as they did prior to September 11, 2001. In June 2010, the analog antenna was disassembled from the tower structure to allow the installation of a new top-mounted digital antenna, which would transmit at 1,000 kilowatts to improve the coverage of KCTV's digital signal in the outer edges of the market.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KCTV-DT||Main KCTV programming / CBS|
From 2005 to 2008, KCTV operated digital subchannels on virtual channels 5.2 and 5.3 on a part-time basis, which the station used to act as overflow game feeds during the early rounds of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. In 2008, when CBS restricted its stations to transmit only one multicast feed for overflow telecasts, the station aired the additional game broadcast over KCTV-DT2. The need for CBS stations to carry early-round tournament games on multicast feeds ended in 2011, as CBS began sharing the broadcast rights to the tournament with the Turner Broadcasting System (through three of its cable channels, TBS, TNT and TruTV). In January 2017, KCTV added its first full-time subchannel, with programming from Sinclair Broadcast Group and MGM's science fiction-themed Comet network (the use of subchannels previously varied among Meredith's stations, often either being used only for a local weather service or not being used at all; however since 2015, Meredith-owned stations in several markets now carry subchannels affiliated with traditional and subchannel-exclusive networks).
KCTV signed on its digital signal on November 8, 2003, transmitting on UHF channel 24 and initially broadcasting only CBS programming in the network's 1080i high-definition resolution, with local newscasts, syndicated programs and paid programming relayed from the station's analog signal being upconverted to 1080i at all other times; since September 2011, KCTV transmits all local, network and syndicated programming in HD, with infomercials transmitted exclusively in the 480i standard-definition format preferred by most direct response production units.
KCTV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at 9 a.m. 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 24. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
Syndicated programs broadcast by KCTV (as of September 2017 ) include Dr. Phil, Inside Edition, Dish Nation, Blue Bloods (which also airs first-run episodes on the station through CBS) and CSI: Miami. The station also produces the talk and lifestyle program Better Kansas City, which airs weekday mornings at 9:00 a.m. and is produced independently from the station's news department; the hour-long show - which debuted on September 10, 2012 - is formatted similarly to the Meredith-distributed lifestyle program Better, which aired locally on sister station KSMO-TV from September 2006 until the syndicated series ended its nine-year run in September 2015. The program was placed on a summer hiatus on June 6, 2013 for "retooling", temporarily being replaced by the national Better program before the local iteration returned in its revised format on September 9.
KCTV currently carries the entire CBS network schedule; however, the station airs certain programs out of pattern to make room for its local weekend morning newscasts. As several CBS affiliates in other markets have done since the program's April 2014 expansion into a one-hour broadcast, the station airs Face the Nation in separate half-hour blocks; the first half-hour typically airs on Sunday mornings and the second half-hour airs in late night on each edition's original airdate to accommodate a 90-minute Sunday edition of KCTV 5 News This Morning (during the NFL season, the full hour-long edition is often shown in the late-night slot to accommodate Kansas City Chiefs team programs that supplant both it and KCTV 5 News This Morning in the show's morning slot; sister station KSMO-TV regularly airs Face the Nation in its entirety on late Sunday evenings). KCTV also carries the first two hours of the CBS Dream Team block on a two-hour delay from the "live" network feed to accommodate CBS This Morning Saturday and an hour-long edition of its morning newscast, and defers the third hour to Sundays, preceding CBS News Sunday Morning (although college football and basketball games with late-morning start times that CBS is scheduled to air on certain Saturdays during the fall and winter may subject programs normally aired in the 11:00 a.m. hour on that day to be deferred to Sunday mornings to fulfill educational programming obligations).
Over the years, KCTV had preempted moderate amounts of CBS programming in favor of airing local or syndicated programs. Among the preemptions were certain morning game shows that aired during the network's daytime lineup (such as The $25,000 Pyramid, which the station preempted for its first two seasons on CBS before clearing the program in September 1985, and the network versions of Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune); some talk shows, The CBS Late Movie presentations and drama reruns that aired within the network's late night schedule prior to the September 1993 premiere of the Late Show with David Letterman; a couple of Saturday morning cartoons and the entire Sunday morning cartoon block. Channel 5 also occasionally preempted certain prime time shows in favor of locally produced or syndicated specials. KCTV would eventually begin clearing the full CBS lineup by the early 1990s, although it would continue to air certain programs out of pattern. Notably, it aired The Late Late Show on tape delay from its network-recommended 11:37 p.m. slot starting at the program's debut in September 1995; the talk show initially aired on a 2½-hour delay during its first two seasons under original host Tom Snyder, in favor of airing a mix of off-network sitcoms and first-run syndicated series after the Late Show; the delay gap was shortened to one hour in September 1997, before KCTV moved the program to its "live" network slot in September 2004.
During the 1970s and 1980s, KCMO-TV/KCTV produced several locally produced shows such as Saturday Science Fiction Theatre, a weekly late-night showcase of classic science fiction films. Another of its most popular shows during this period was the horror film showcase Friday Fright Night, which was known for an opening sequence featuring a skull, with an announcer giving the lead-in of the program in both a spooky tone of voice and dialogue only to leave the shot with a prolonged sequence including a sound bite of hysterical laughter. The station chose to preempt the program in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic August 1979 walkway collapse at the Hyatt Regency Kansas City, out of sensitivity to avoid further traumatization of viewers already in shock over the disaster. At least two other shows competed in the genre with Friday Fright Night by the early 1980s including two film showcases aired at that time by KSHB, Creature Features with Crematia Mortem and All Night Live! with Edward Musacare (who hosted the show in character as Uncle Ed) and "Caffeina the Cat", and later Dick Wilson. However, Musacare had previously hosted various spook shows in other markets dating back to the 1960s. One of the most common copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special comes from KCTV, which can be found as first to third generation bootleg copies.
Since September 1998, KCTV has served as flagship television station of the Kansas City Chiefs, a status that it assumed by way of NBC's former contract with the American Football Conference (AFC) from KSHB-TV, which had carried the team's games from September 1994 (when NBC moved to channel 41 from WDAF-TV) until NBC's broadcast rights to the NFL conference expired after the 1997 season. Since CBS took over the AFC television contract, in addition to carrying most network-televised regular season games and occasional playoff games, KCTV has maintained a broadcast partnership with the team's Chiefs Television Network unit under which it holds the exclusive local rights to various weekly analysis and magazine programs (including the coaches show Chiefs Kingdom, analysis shows Chiefs Insider and Chiefs Rewind, and the local pre-game show Price Chopper Game Day). Since 2002, KCTV has also served as the local broadcaster of Kansas City Chiefs preseason games that the team syndicates to other television stations in the Midwestern United States, which WDAF had been carrying since 1997.
Prior to 1998, regular season Chiefs game telecasts on KCMO-TV/KCTV were limited to regionally televised interconference games against opponents in the National Football Conference (NFC), primarily those held at Arrowhead Stadium, under the network's previous contractual rights to that conference that expired after the 1993 season, as well as the team's two Super Bowl appearances in 1967 and 1970, the latter of which was the team's only championship victory to date, when the Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Over-the-air broadcasts of Chiefs regular season games not televised by CBS are split locally between KMBC-TV (which airs Monday Night Football broadcasts featuring the team sublicensed by ESPN) and WDAF (which, through Fox's rights to the NFC, carries the team's interconference games as well as AFC-exclusive games to which CBS passed over the rights to Fox under the cross-flexing arrangement implemented by the NFL in 2014); KSHB also carries certain regular season games via NBC's rights to the Sunday Night Football package on occasions when a game involving the Chiefs is scheduled.
From 1990 to 1993, Channel 5 also carried certain regular season Major League Baseball (MLB) games featuring the Kansas City Royals that were televised by CBS during the network's third contractual relationship with the league (most Royals games aired locally on broadcast television during this period were carried by WDAF under a local broadcasting agreement between that station and the Royals, which lasted until the 1992 season).
KCTV presently broadcasts 34 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). KCTV also produces seven hours a week of local newscasts for sister station KSMO-TV (consisting of half-hour evening broadcasts at 6:30 and 9:00 p.m., which air seven nights a week). In addition, the station also produces the sports discussion program Off the Bench With Michael Coleman, which debuted on April 25, 2010, and airs Sundays after the 10:00 p.m. newscast.
From 1979 to 1994, the team of Wendall Anschutz and Anne Peterson - who both served as the main anchors of KCTV's weekday evening newscasts - led the station's newscasts to first place among the Kansas City market's three main local television news outlets of the time period. During the 1980s and early 1990s, KCTV was engaged in very competitive race for first place in news viewership with KMBC and WDAF-TV, frequently trading places with both stations in certain time periods; in total viewership, KCTV battled WDAF for first place during this period. Viewership for the station's newscasts fell to third place following WDAF's switch to Fox in September 1994, as KMBC concurrently underwent a resurgence to overtake both stations to become the most watched television news operation in Kansas City. In 1994, KCTV began leasing a helicopter to provide aerial coverage of breaking news and weather events; branded as "NewsHawk 5", the helicopter was grounded citing budget concerns in 1998. The station would eventually acquire a new helicopter for aerial newsgathering purposes, branded as "Chopper 5", in May 2006.
KCTV's news presentation underwent a major overhaul under Kirk Black (a former general manager at sister station WNEM-TV, who was hired by Meredith's broadcasting division to serve in that position at KCTV in July 2001, leaving the station in August 2009 for Atlanta sister WGCL-TV) and Regent Ducas (who was hired as its news director in April 2002), who launched a major effort to reshape its newscasts to overtake KMBC as the top-rated television news operation in Kansas City. Among the major changes included the assignment of the station's news anchors to conduct field reports, the expansion of its weekday morning newscast to 4:30 a.m. (roughly ten years before morning news expansions into that early slot became commonplace elsewhere in the U.S.) in December 2001, and the debut of a late-afternoon newscast to 4:30 p.m. on March 4, 2002. During the 2000s, KCTV and Ducas came under fire for incorporating a perceived tabloid style of journalism to the market, with a particular emphasis on crime stories and sensationalized feature reports; although, during this period, the station also placed a signifianct emphasis on investigative journalism. As part of this shift, six months after Ducas's hiring, KCTV adopted "Live. Latebreaking. Investigative." (which was also used by Phoenix sister station KPHO in that timeframe) as its new slogan in September 2002.
Another radical change occurred on November 17, 2003, when the station announced that it would shut down its in-house sports department and entered into an outsourcing agreement with local sports cable channel Metro Sports (now Spectrum Sports), utilizing its staff at the channel's Swope Park facility to cover local professional, college and high school sports events. Under the terms of the deal, the channel would produce sports segments seen on KCTV's evening newscasts seven nights a week, and sports specials and Kansas City Chiefs-related programs produced for the station. Sports anchors William Jackson and Leif Lisec, and sports reporter Neal Jones were terminated by KCTV after sports production transferred to Metro Sports on February 9, 2004. Though Kirk Black cited research that indicated that most news viewers were not interested in sports, the move was criticized by many local sports radio hosts, who thought that Black's decision to shutter the sports department showed his lack of understanding the market's rabid sports fanbase.
As a result of the station's "new direction," several high-profile anchors and reporters - with some of the affected main personalities having been with KCTV since the late 1960s - left the station including Anne Peterson, Russell Kinsaul (now working at CBS-affiliated sister station KMOV across the state in St. Louis) and Dave Helling, joining those who had earlier left after accepting voluntary retirement packages (including Anschutz, longtime "Call for Action" consumer reporter Stan Cramer and weekend sports anchor Jack Harry) that were offered to 170 Meredith employees in April 2001.
Helling - who joined KCTV in 1999 following a six-year tenure as weekend evening anchor and reporter at WDAF-TV - was the partial subject of a March 2005 column in the Columbia Journalism Review, which chastised KCTV for a report that aired in December 2004 about the lax regulations that could allow consumers to purchase ammonium nitrate - a product used in making homemade improvised explosive devices - in violation of a law passed by the Kansas State Legislature after the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City that prohibit the packaged sale of the substance. For the investigative report, Helling went to seven Kansas City-area farmers' supply stores attempting to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate and insinuated that he was able to purchase twelve 40-pound bags of that fertilizer's pure form (totaling 500 pounds (227 kg)) from Tonganoxie, Kansas-based McGraw's Fertilizer without further vetting; however, a Tonganoxie Mirror investigation uncovered that he had actually bought 20-10-10, a far less dangerous, commonly sold type of fertilizer named for the respective percentages of ammonium nitrogen (at levels significantly lower than the 70% needed to be considered of the pure form), phosphorus and potash in the blend. Although the controversy did generate local backlash, it is unclear whether Helling or KCTV station management had ever issued a correction to the story and/or an apology to the store owner.
The emphasis on investigative reporting overall helped KCTV win the coveted 10:00 p.m. news slot during the November 2004 sweeps period, unseating KMBC-TV in late news for the first time in a decade. However, in November 2006, KCTV dropped back to second place at 10:00, whilst remaining in third place at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. behind KMBC and WDAF. In February 2007, KCTV regained the #1 spot at 10:00 p.m., with ratings also increasing for most of its other newscasts that month. The fortunes that the station accrued during this time, however, came amid turmoil within the news department, which were chronicled in an May 26, 2007 Kansas City Star article that revealed the turbulence behind KCTV's move to become the #1 news station in the market. A lawsuit filed that same year by a longtime newscast director - which was cited by the Star in their report - alleged that the Meredith Corporation engaged in systematic harassment and dismissal of older employees. A judge denied KCTV's move to dismiss the suit; station management later reached a monetary settlement with the plaintiff.
On October 10, 2005, following the closure of Meredith's purchase of that station from Sinclair Broadcast Group, KCTV began producing a nightly half-hour newscast at 9:00 p.m. for then-WB affiliate KSMO-TV to directly compete against WDAF's established hour-long prime time newscast, which had become the ratings leader in that time slot in the years since that program's debut upon Channel 4's September 1994 switch to Fox. On October 20, 2008, beginning with its 4:00 p.m. newscast, KCTV became the third television station in the Kansas City market (after KSHB-TV and KMBC-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; the KSMO newscasts were included in the upgrade. In February 2009, KCTV announced that it would not renew its production outsourcing agreement with Metro Sports past its initial three-year term in a mutual decision, with the station suspending the sports segments within its newscasts and Metro Sports continuing produce Chiefs preseason telecasts seen on channel 5. On August 5, 2009, KCTV entered into an agreement with sports talk radio station WHB (810 AM), in which that station's on-air personalities would provide reporting and game analysis for the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas Jayhawks basketball. KCTV would resume in-house production of sports segments when it reinstated a full-fledged sports department on April 25, 2010, hiring Lawrence, Kansas native Michael Coleman (who joined the station from News 12 Long Island) to serve as the new department's inaugural sports director and host of a new half-hour sports magazine program, Off the Bench; Coleman remained with the station until April 4, 2017, after KCTV declined to renew his contract.
On September 13, 2010, KCTV expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours, with the addition of a half-hour at 4:30 a.m. The following month on October 12, KCTV announced that it would begin airing obituaries in a new segment that would air during both its noon newscast on channel 5 and a then-forthcoming extension of its weekday morning newscast, then titled More in the Morning, for sister station KSMO-TV (the latter of which premiered as an hour-long program from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. on February 7, 2011 and aired until December 30 of that year), citing concerns regarding their visibility to local media consumers stemming from the decline of newspaper circulation in recent years in favor of online news outlets. KCTV and corporate parent Meredith Corporation also launched two companion websites, ObitMissouri.com and ObitKansas.com, to provide detailed online obituaries and memorial service information to Kansas City-area residents.
On January 4, 2011, KCTV entered into a multi-year content partnership with The Kansas City Star - which formally took effect on the following day, supplanting an existing content sharing agreement that the newspaper had maintained with NBC affiliate KSHB-TV - to collaborate on coverage of local news stories and investigative reports, and to also provide the Star with forecast data compiled by KCTV's team of meteorologists for the paper's weather page (incidentally, the Star founded rival WDAF-TV in September 1949 and owned that station until a prior Justice Department antitrust ruling over advertising sales collusion between the two properties and their then-radio sister WDAF (810 AM, now KCSP) forced its sale of channel 4 to National-Missouri Broadcasters in May 1958). In the February 2011 sweeps period, KCTV had dropped to third place among Kansas City's television news outlets (behind WDAF-TV and KMBC-TV); however, the station beat WDAF-TV's midday newscast in the noon timeslot, and its late newscast finished in second place behind ratings leader KMBC-TV at 10:00 p.m. On August 4, 2014, KCTV began producing a half-hour newscast at 6:30 p.m. for KSMO.
KCTV's news department has not shied away from reporting on controversial topics, with two notable investigative pieces receiving national attention when they were covered by CBS News. In February 2004, Channel 5 aired a seven-part series of reports during its late-evening newscast that exposed the dangers that children can face on internet chat rooms. Portland, Oregon-based Perverted Justice - a group specializing in operations uncovering online sexual solicitation of minors by paedophiles, which NBC News later partnered with as the basis for Dateline NBCs To Catch A Predator series - partnered with KCTV to conduct a sting, in which several of its staffers posed as teenagers and preteens below the age of consent in chat rooms and waited for adult men to proposition them to engage in sexual acts or intercourse. The "minors" then invited the men to meet them at a house where a KCTV news crew had set up to wait on the men who were baited. After the series aired, local law enforcement officials concerted a new effort to police chat rooms and prosecute adults who attempt to meet minors for sex through the internet. None of the 16 people "stung" by KCTV could be subjected to criminal charges in these instances as the operation was done without police involvement, however three filed defamation complaints (one of the men, through his attorney, claimed that he terminated his online chat without finding out where the teen with whom he thought he had conversed had lived, only to be baited again after receiving a phone call from a woman employed with Perverted Justice pretending to be the teen) and one filed a lawsuit against KCTV, Meredith and Perverted Justice on an entrapment complaint.
In June 2005, KCTV exposed a Kansas City-area doctor's negligent handling of private medical records. A scavenger gave the station a computer that was found at the curb of a Mission Hills, Kansas home owned by a plastic surgeon who claimed that he had erased the patient information database from its hard drive, which would have mitigated the risk of identity theft. However, only the computer's random access memory was removed and the hard drive within the terminal was intact, containing photographs and files on many patients. KCTV attempted to contact several of the patients whose information was found on the discarded computer. The surgeon filed a lawsuit against the station on the basis that the investigative unit's decision to interview the patients about the discovery was a violation of medical confidentiality laws; the judge presiding over the suit ruled in favor of the doctor, although KCTV management took the case to a federal district court in Kansas City, Kansas. The doctor later withdrew the suit, clearing the way for the story to make it to air on June 30. As a result of the findings, several of the surgeon's patients filed a class action lawsuit against him for negligent handling of their confidential records.
Following a management change that the station had undergone in early 2010, rumors speculated that KCTV was considering shutting down its entire investigative reporting unit. However, in March of that year, Stacey Cameron (who left KCTV in 2014), a former attorney and reporter who had joined the station from fellow CBS affiliate WRAL-TV (now an NBC affiliate) in Raleigh, North Carolina, was hired by the station to serve as its lead investigative reporter. Later that same month, the KCTV investigative unit was honored with several journalism awards, most pertinently having won Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative journalism (the KCTV news staff was also honored that year with Murrow and Mid-America Emmy Awards for overall news excellence, as well as multiple Emmys for its investigative reports).
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Ammonium nitrate," said KCTV 5 reporter Dave Helling. "It's a cheap and common fertilizer and when mixed with diesel fuel in the right proportions ... it could cause an explosion.