About WIBW 13The station first signed on the air on November 15, 1953. WIBW-TV was the first television station to sign on in the Topeka market, and the third to sign on in the state of Kansas (after KCTY in Kansas City, which operated a transmitter in Overland Park, which signed on in June 1953. Channel 13 signed on the same day as KTVH (now KWCH-DT) in Wichita; it is the second-oldest surviving television station in Kansas (behind KWCH, as KCTY ceased operations in February 1954). The television station originally operated from studio facilities located on 6th Street and Wanamaker Road in west Topeka, near the Menninger Clinic, where it shared the facility with co-owned WIBW radio (AM 580). The facility, which was later abandoned, was severely damaged by fire on January 5, 2012.
Channel 13 was originally owned by the family of the late Kansas Senator Arthur Capper, and was co-owned with the Topeka Daily Capital and WIBW radio. The station originally also carried programming from all four other major networks of the time (CBS, NBC, ABC and the DuMont Television Network), but has always been a primary CBS affiliate. On the day of its sign-on, following an introductory program presented by the station's staff, WIBW-TV aired its first program, a DuMont network broadcast of an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.
WIBW-TV was the only commercial television station in the Topeka market for fifteen years. This was largely because the only other VHF frequency in the Topeka area, channel 11, had been designated for non-commercial broadcasting use; that allocation eventually was occupied by KTWU, which signed on the air in October 1965. However, area residents did not have to worry about missing their favorite network programs since the Kansas City stations all provided decent signal coverage within Topeka; they have been available on the area's local cable providers since the 1960s. Although Topeka was originally part of the Kansas City market, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made Topeka a separate market in 1963. While the city itself and its close-in suburbs receive strong signals from the Kansas City stations, some parts of northeastern Kansas to the west of the city only get a marginal signal at best.
In September 1954, the station relocated its transmitter facilities to a 950-foot (290 m) broadcast tower located 500 yards (457 m) west of the original tower (the tower was later leased to Washburn University when KTWU signed on). In 1961, WIBW-AM-TV were joined by a second radio sister, WIBW-FM (94.5 FM). The station lost the DuMont affiliation when that network ceased operations in August 1956.
WIBW-TV is one of the few television stations located west of the Mississippi River that utilizes a call sign that begins with the letter "W". Capper purchased the license to a radio station in Logansport, Indiana in 1927, and added a "W" to the initials of the Indiana station's owner, Indiana Broadcast Works. However, AM 580 signed on before the "W/K" divide for call signs was shifted to the Mississippi River by the FCC. Kansas was located on the eastern side of the original call divide, so it would have been acceptable to have a "W" in Kansas in any event.
In 1957, Capper Publications merged with Stauffer Publications, owner of Topeka's other newspaper, the Topeka State Journal. In 1966, WIBW-TV became the first television station in Topeka to broadcast in color. The station lost its NBC affiliation when KTSB (channel 27, now KSNT) signed on in December 1967.