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Ann Arbor/Detroit, Michigan
United States
City of license Ann Arbor, Michigan
Branding Ion Television
Slogan Positively Entertaining
Channels Digital: 50 (UHF)
Virtual: 31 (PSIP)
Subchannels 31.1 Ion Television
31.2 Qubo
31.3 Ion Life
31.4 iShop
31.5 QVC
31.6 HSN
Affiliations Ion Television
Owner Ion Media Networks, Inc.
(Ion Media License Company, LLC)
First air date January 13, 1981
Call letters' meaning PaX TV Detroit
(reference to former affiliation)
Former callsigns WRHT (January–February 1981)
WIHT (February 1981–1989)
WBSX (1989–1998)
Former channel number(s) Analog: 31 (UHF, 1981–2009)
Digital: 33 (UHF, 200?–2009)
31 (UHF, 2009–2012)
Former affiliations independent (1981–1989)
Satellite Program Network/Financial News Network/IT (1981–1983)
HSN (1989–1998)
Pax TV (1998–2005)
i (2005–2007)
Transmitter power 345 kW
Height 328 metres (1,076 ft)
Facility ID 5800
Transmitter coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website iontelevision.com
WPXD-TV offices.

WPXD-TV, virtual channel 31 (UHF digital channel 50), is an Ion Television owned-and-operated television station serving Detroit, Michigan, United States that is licensed to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks. WPXD maintains studios and transmitter facilities are located on West 11 Mile Road in Southfield.


In 1973, Ann Arbor resident Gershom Morningstar acquired a license from the FCC to operate a local station on UHF channel 31, but lack of funds meant that Morningstar was unable to construct the station. In January 1980, Morningstar sold the license to Satellite Syndicated Systems (SSS) of Oklahoma. SSS gave the station the call letters WRHT, with studios in Chelsea, Michigan.[1]

WRHT signed on the air on January 13, 1981, originally operating as an independent station. The first program broadcast on the station was a college basketball game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears from the TVS Television Network, a national syndicated sports network. This was done largely to test the satellite equipment, which would be utilized further after the switch to In-Home Theatre (see below). Most of channel 31's early programming, was either locally produced or outsourced by other production companies; it also carried business news programming from the Financial News Network (which later merged with CNBC in 1989), as well as some programs from the Satellite Program Network.[2]

The station's original transmitter facilities were located on Highway M-52 in Lyndon Township, 7 miles (11 km) north of Chelsea. The transmitter, which was 1,079 feet (329 m) tall, was actually located closer to Lansing and Jackson than it was to Detroit, and was 55 miles (89 km) away from downtown Detroit. It was located further west than the other Detroit stations in order to remain within 15 miles of its city of license, Ann Arbor (as required by FCC rules). The channel 31 analog signal could be received as far away as St. Johns, Flint, and Owosso, with its fringe range reaching close to Battle Creek, Coldwater and Toledo.

The station's call letters were changed to WIHT on February 1, 1981, in reference to its affiliation with the over-the-air subscription television service In-Home Theater (also known as "IT"). WXON (channel 20, now WMYD) offered a similar service, ONTV, at that time – but unlike that service, which was generally broadcast during the evening hours on channel 20, WIHT ran In-Home Theater programming at least 14 hours a day, and had a wider selection of movies.[3] However, while IT was available in Lansing, Jackson and Flint, it was not available in the eastern Detroit suburbs or Windsor, Ontario, due to the transmitter's location and signal power.

Non-subscribers that tuned into WIHT during In-Home Theater's airtime instead heard an audio feed of Onondaga-based NOAA Weather Radio station WXK-81. IT and ON-TV both faded away in 1983 as cable television became more prevalent in the Detroit area (allowing access to premium channels such as HBO and Showtime).

In 1989, the station was purchased by Blackstar Television; it then changed its call letters to WBSX on July 14 of that year. Locally produced and syndicated programming was phased out in favor of programming from the Home Shopping Network. On February 4, 1998, Paxson Communications (the forerunner of Ion Media Networks, whose founder Lowell "Bud" Paxson founded the Home Shopping Network) purchased WBSX. The station subsequently changed its call letters to the current WPXD-TV, after Paxson changed the callsigns of most of its stations to include "PX" in them. WPXD-TV became a charter station of Paxson's new family-oriented broadcast network Pax TV (renamed i: Independent Television on July 1, 2005 and to the current Ion Television on January 29, 2007) when it launched on August 31, 1998. The station moved its offices from its original facility in Ann Arbor, to a building in downtown Detroit, before later moving back to Ann Arbor. Despite the analog signal reaching close to those two cities, Comcast systems in Lansing and Jackson received Pax/i/Ion programming from Battle Creek sister station WZPX-TV. The latter station's transmitter is actually located in western Eaton County, placing it within the Lansing/Jackson market.

Digital television

Digital channels

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Network
31.1 720p 16:9 ION Ion Television
31.2 480i 4:3 qubo Qubo
31.3 IONLife Ion Life
31.4 Shop Ion Shop
31.5 QVC QVC
31.6 HSN HSN


WPXD-TV also has plans for a Mobile DTV feed of subchannel 31.1.[5][6]

Analog-to-digital conversion

During October 2008, the Federal Communications Commission accepted WPXD-TV's petition to move its digital signal to channel 19 on February 17, 2009, broadcasting at 1,000 kilowatts from the Southfield transmitter tower used by WKBD-TV, vastly increasing its signal coverage in Metro Detroit and Windsor.[7] However, on March 20, 2009, the FCC and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) denied the application to move the channel 19 allocation from Ann Arbor to Detroit and to move its transmitter to Southfield, in order to protect CKXT-DT-2 in London, Ontario, which also broadcast on channel 19[8] (the potential co-channel interference issued would later be rendered moot as CKXT permanently shut down on November 1, 2011). Due to the Canadian government rejecting the channel relocation, WPXD remained on UHF channel 31.

WPXD-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 31, on February 17, 2009, the original target date for full-power television stations in the United States to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which Congress had moved the previous month to June 12). The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 33[9] to UHF channel 50 (which was previously occupied by the analog signal of WKBD-TV) for post-transition operations on July 24, 2012.[10] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 31. As a result, WPXD and WMYD were the only commercial television stations in the Detroit market to terminate their analog signals before June 12, the date which Congress chose to reschedule the completion of the digital transition.[11]

The original channel 33 digital transmitter operated at a relatively low wattage (110 kW), and originated from the same tower as WPXD's analog signal in Lyndon Township; this resulted in interference with low-power Class A station W33BY, which also broadcast on UHF channel 33. On or about May 11, 2009, a new application to modify a digital allotment was filed by the FCC, to allow WPXD to broadcast its digital signal on channel 50 from the Southfield tower at a radiated power of 345 kW, which was approved by the FCC and the CRTC.[12] On October 21, 2009, the FCC granted a construction permit for the construction of WPXD's digital facilities in Southfield; the station estimated that the stronger signal would reach an additional 1.8 million viewers.[12]

On January 31, 2012, the station began testing its new transmitter in Southfield, keeping its UHF 31 transmitter in Chelsea operational as a temporary fill-in transmitter. The channel 50 transmitter abruptly ended transmissions less than two days later, leaving only its channel 31 digital signal and its analog translator W48AV. On May 23, 2012, the station again turned on its transmitter on UHF channel 50, but ceased transmission the following day. On July 24, 2012, WPXD began permanent digital transmitter operations in Southfield, broadcasting on UHF channel 50. The transmitter in Chelsea remained active until noon on August 20, 2012,[12] though starting on the morning of August 6, 2012, the Chelsea transmitter replaced normal programming with SMPTE color bars and a scrolling message regarding this "technical change", noting for viewers to re-scan their converter boxes and sets and aim their antennas towards Southfield. The former Lyndon Township site has since been repurposed as a transmitter site for MyNetworkTV affiliate WHTV in Lansing.[13]


Channel 31's programming was previously repeated on low-power translator station W48AV (channel 48) in St. Clair Shores. The translator was originally designed to bring channel 31's programming to the immediate Detroit area, in areas where the main channel 31 signal had poor, or even no, reception. However, W48AV would experience some co-channel interference from WMNT-CA in Toledo, Ohio, which also broadcasts on UHF channel 48.

On December 29, 2008, Paxson Communications/ION Media had requested their construction permit to flash-cut to digital on UHF 48 be cancelled (and was approved as submitted) by the FCC.[14][15] This would later be replaced with an application for displacement to UHF 25 (and to convert to digital operations there). This application was granted on July 11, 2012.[16][17]

On December 15, 2014, Ion reached a deal to donate W48AV to Word of God Fellowship, parent company of the Daystar network.[18] W48AV currently has an application to flash-cut to digital.[19] Ion chose to part with W48AV, as it was made redundant following the relocation of WPXD's transmitter from Lyndon Township to Southfield. As part of the transaction, Daystar requested a special temporary authority for it to relocate to UHF 23 (the channel of its currently-operating station, WUDT-LD); this was granted.[20][21] W48AV was the last remaining American television station in the greater Detroit area to convert to digital.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Radio-Info: "RETRO: Detroit, Monday 7/6/1981", November 22, 2009.
  3. Per TV Guide ads at Vintage Toledo TV
  4. RabbitEars TV Query for WPXD
  5. http://www.rabbitears.info/market.php?request=atscmph
  6. http://www.mdtvsignalmap.com/
  7. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in regard to WPXD
  8. "FCC Ruling Docket 08-101" (pdf). Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 2000-03-20. Retrieved 2009-04-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "FCC info WPXD". Fjallfoss.fcc.gov. Retrieved 2009-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "List of stations turning off their analog signals before or on February 17th" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. p. 13. Retrieved 2009-02-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-09-1510A1.pdf
  13. FCC's TV station database for WHTV
  14. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_det.pl?Application_id=1120759
  15. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/prefill_and_display.pl?Application_id=1120759&Service=LD&Form_id=346&Facility_id=68544
  16. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_det.pl?Application_id=1482356
  17. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/prefill_and_display.pl?Application_id=1482356&Service=LD&Form_id=346&Facility_id=68544
  18. "APPLICATION FOR TRANSFER OF CONTROL OF A CORPORATE LICENSEE OR PERMITTEE, OR FOR ASSIGNMENT OF LICENSE OR PERMIT OF TV OR FM TRANSLATOR STATION OR LOW POWER TELEVISION STATION (W48AV)". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "CDBS Print". Fjallfoss.fcc.gov. Retrieved 2009-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_det.pl?Application_id=1675613
  21. http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/prefill_and_display.pl?Application_id=1675613&Service=LD&Form_id=911&Facility_id=68544

External links