About WIBW 13On November 15, 1953, the station went on the air for the first time. WIBW-TV was the first television station to go on in the Topeka market, and the third in Kansas (following KCTY in Kansas City, which had a transmitter in Overland Park and turned on in June 1953). Channel 13 was founded on the same day as KTVH (now KWCH-DT) in Wichita, and it is Kansas' second-oldest surviving television station (behind KWCH, as KCTY ceased operations in February 1954). The television station began operations from studios on 6th Street and Wanamaker Road in west Topeka, near the Menninger Clinic, where it shared space with co-owned WIBW radio (AM 580). On January 5, 2012, a fire seriously destroyed the plant, which was eventually abandoned.
Channel 13 was co-owned with the Topeka Daily Capital and WIBW radio by the family of the late Kansas Senator Arthur Capper. Originally, the station offered programs from all four major networks at the time (CBS, NBC, ABC, and the DuMont Television Network), although it has always been primarily a CBS affiliate. WIBW-TV aired its debut program, a DuMont network broadcast of an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns, on the day of its sign-on, following an introduction show provided by the station's employees.
For fifteen years, WIBW-TV was the sole commercial television station in the Topeka market. This was primarily due to the fact that channel 11, the only other VHF frequency in the Topeka region, had been earmarked for non-commercial broadcasting usage; that allocation was subsequently held by KTWU, which went on the air in October 1965. However, people in the area did not have to worry about missing their favorite network shows because the Kansas City stations all had enough signal coverage within Topeka and had been available on the city's local cable providers since the 1960s. Topeka was previously part of the Kansas City market, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) separated it in 1963. While the city and its surrounding suburbs receive strong signals from Kansas City stations, several areas of northeastern Kansas to the west of the city receive just a mediocre signal at best.
The station's transmitter facilities were relocated to a 950-foot (290 m) broadcast tower 500 yards (457 m) west of the old tower in September 1954. (the tower was later leased to Washburn University when KTWU signed on). WIBW-AM-TV was joined in 1961 by a second radio sibling, WIBW-FM (94.5 FM). When the DuMont network went out of business in August 1956, the station lost its connection.
WIBW-TV is one of the few television stations situated west of the Mississippi River that employs a call sign that begins with the letter "W". In 1927, Capper obtained a radio station license in Logansport, Indiana, and added a "W" to the letters of the station's owner, Indiana Broadcast Works. However, AM 580 signed on before the FCC changed the "W/K" division for call letters to the Mississippi River. Kansas was on the eastern side of the original call split, therefore a "W" in Kansas would have been appropriate in any case.
Capper Publications amalgamated with Stauffer Publications, which owned Topeka's second daily, the Topeka State Journal, in 1957. WIBW-TV was the first television station in Topeka to transmit in color in 1966. When KTSB (channel 27, now KSNT) started on in December 1967, the station lost its NBC affiliation.