On January 1, 1955, WEAT-TV signed on at Channel 12 (after a struggle to obtain that frequency) from their brand new studios in West Palm Beach, Florida as South Florida’s ABC affiliate (WPLG had not yet signed on).
Read for full WPEC biography after the jump!
In September of 1962 they became the first South Florida TV station to have a 24 hour schedule. Aside from doing 15 minute local newscasts (sponsored by the Town of North Palm Beach), the station also produced other local entertainment such as the local version of the game show Twenty Questions. WEAT even created a show called “Night Life on the Gold Coast” which was hosted by Palm Beacher Ward Wilson. Once a week on Monday nights he would broadcast from various social night spots along the Gold Coast (in color!) discussing the social affaires that engulfed the wealthy lifestyle of those in South Florida in the 1950s and 60s.
Nineteen years after they signed on, in January of 1974, they would change their call letters to WPEC after John D. MacArthur sold the station to the Photo Electronics Corporation, which was based in West Palm Beach and owned by Alexander Dreyfoos. They also relocated from their Congress Ave studios to PECs Mangonia Park offices. In June of 1982, the station made a huge commitment to sports and also became the West Palm Beach affiliate for CNN. During this time, CNN 2 (now Headline News) produced a 30 minute sports program that could be syndicated by their local affiliates.
In 1988, WPEC made an unsuccessful attempt to lure Ralph Renick, who had just a few years before left his long time position at WTVJ in Miami. Renick inevitably would be hired by CBS at WCIX (now WFOR). On its 34th anniversary, January 1, 1989, WPEC was wrapped into the “big switch” which involved several West Palm Beach and Miami market television stations. CBS had persuaded WPEC to become a CBS affiliate since the new CBS owned and operated station (WCIX) in Miami would not have powerful enough of a signal to reach most Broward County viewers, and WPEC’s signal was near perfect in Broward. WPEC received CBS affiliation from WTVX, a station based in Ft Pierce and had a rocky relationship with CBS since it signed on in April of 1962. ABC affiliation that WPEC had went to new sign on WPBF in Palm Beach Gardens (who is celebrating its 21st birthday today!)
The new affiliation came with a new logo and new strive for local news. When Krypton Broadcasting purchased WTVX in the late 1980s they had eliminated most of their staff (including the news department). At this time WPEC was quick to hire several WTVX talents including Chris Farrell and Curt Fonger.
WPEC continued to struggle against market leader WPTV, and in 1996, WPEC’s parent company closed up shop. Freedom Broadcasting purchased WPEC and its facilities and made WPEC its flagship station. In the late 1990s CBS acquired WTVX and made it a UPN owned and operated station. WPEC quickly became worried when word got out that CBS had considered moving its main programming back to WTVX and hubbing it in sister station WFORs studios in Doral area of Miami-Dade County. WPEC immediately made its self what every network wishes its affiliates would do. They aired 100% of CBS’s schedule, and completely increased CBS localized branding for their local campaigns and news. In the end CBS renewed affiliation with WPEC and eventually sold WTVX in 2006 to Utah based Four Points Media.
WPEC has since gained a YouTube following because of its consistent, often humorous, mistakes. But, WPEC surprised us all on January 31, 2008 when the station debut as the 2nd station in ALL of South Florida to launch its newscasts in High Definition (behind WPTV). The station debut a new set, new graphics, and a new logo which further emphasized their CBS affiliation. Their look was a complete mirror to that of fellow CBS O&O KTVT in Dallas, Texas. In May of that same year WPEC beat its main competitor, WPTV, in the overall ratings for the first time in its then 53 years of broadcasting. Today it continues to run neck and neck with WPTV and WPBF continues to grow closer everyday. Despite Freedom Communications recent Bankruptcy declaration, WPEC continues to strive and grow everyday along with the community that is Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. While their parent companies future remains uncertain, one thing is certain, WPEC will continue at full power in providing the people of South Florida the news in the best way they know how!
Happy Birthday WPEC!