WISN-TV, virtual channel 12.1 (UHF digital channel 34), is a television station located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin serving as an affiliate of the ABC television network. Its signal covers most of southeastern Wisconsin and parts of northeastern Illinois, including Racine, Kenosha, Sheboygan and Waukesha. Its studio facilities are located at North 19th and West Wells Streets, at the west end of the Marquette University campus, with the station's transmitter located within Lincoln Park in the northeastern part of Milwaukee, next to the Weigel Broadcasting tower which is used by CBS affiliate WDJT-TV (Channel 58) and its sister operations.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Branding WISN 12 (general) 12 News (newscasts)
Slogan Leading the Way with Important Local Coverage (news) WISN 12: Start Here (general)
Channels Digital: 34 (UHF)

Virtual: 12 (PSIP)

Affiliations ABC (1954-1961 and since 1977)
Owner Hearst Television, Inc.

(WISN Hearst Television, Inc.)

First air date October 27, 1954
Call letters' meaning The WISconsin News(former Milwaukee newspaper owned by Hearst, that merged with The Milwaukee Sentinel)
Former callsigns WTVW (1954-1955)
Former channel number(s) Analog:12 (VHF) (1954-2009)
Former affiliations CBS (1961-1977)

DuMont (secondary 1954-1955)

Transmitter power 1000 kW
Height 302.7 m
Facility ID 65680
Transmitter coordinates 43°6′42.1″N 87°55′42.3″W

WISN is one of three flagship stations of Hearst Television and the second-oldest television station to remain with the company in all of its various iterations.


WISN first signed on the air on October 27, 1954 with the call letters WTVW and branded itself as Wisconsin's TeleVision Window. By 1955 it had changed to WISN, after being bought by the Hearst Corporation, which transferred the call letters from its radio station, WISN (AM). The former WTVW calls are now used on the Fox affiliate on channel 7 in Evansville, Indiana. The station was originally affiliated with both ABC and DuMont.[1] When DuMont ceased operations in 1956, WISN-TV was left with just ABC.

WTVW's transmitter building was built under a tent, as rains threatened to delay construction. After the building was finished, a second tent was erected, and used for live automobile commercials, until it collapsed one day in early 1955.

In 1958, WISN-TV became the flagship of the short-lived local Badger Television Network, a three-station television network in Wisconsin. The other two stations were WFRV-TV (Green Bay channel 5), and WKOW-TV (Madison channel 27).[1] Programs broadcast by the network included Homemaker's Holiday, a quiz show hosted by Charlie Hanson; Good Housekeeping, hosted by Trudy Beilfuss using the name of the Hearst magazine of the same name; and Pretzel Party, a variety program originally hosted by Larry Clark. All three programs originated from WISN-TV's studios. During March 1958, the network also aired Senate Investigating Committee hearings during late-night hours. The Badger Network was launched in January 1958 and ceased operations on August 8 of that year.[1]

In 1961, WISN would undergo an affiliation switch; CBS, then carried by WITI (channel 6, now a Fox affiliate), desired to affiliate with WISN, since the station's radio stations were already affiliated with the network. As a result, WISN and WITI swapped affiliations on April 2, 1961. During that tenure, WISN cleared most of the CBS shows, even though by the early 1970s it would drop "Search for Tomorrow" so it could expand its talk show "Dialing for Dollars" in the daytime and pre-empt or delay several prime-time programs for Marquette University and Milwaukee Bucks basketball games.

Hearst kept WISN-TV and WISN (AM) in 1962 after it sold the Milwaukee Sentinel to Journal Communications that year (owners of the Milwaukee Journal), due to Journal already owning WTMJ-TV (channel 4) and WTMJ (AM) (620).

The switch was reversed in 1977. WITI's owner at the time, Storer Broadcasting, had a bitter relationship with ABC, stemming from the network's departure from Storer's San Diego UHF station, KCST (channel 39), a station the network was forced de facto to affiliate with after KCST fought successfully to have ABC affiliation stripped from Tijuana, Mexico-based XETV (channel 6). At the same time, Storer had a strong relationship with CBS in other markets where it owned stations. Hence, it dropped ABC from WITI to take the CBS affiliation from WISN. Without hesitation, WISN aligned with ABC again, by then the top network in the country, and the home network of Milwaukee-set sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, which were the top two A.C. Nielsen-rated programs at the time of the exchange (ironically, the rights to the Happy Days franchise are now owned by CBS). WISN even used Happy Days character Arthur Fonzerelli to herald its return to ABC with the slogan "Happy Days are Here Again" in ad and print campaigns leading up to the switch, which occurred on Sunday, March 27, 1977 at 6 p.m. CT after the conclusion of the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon. To this day, WISN is one of ABC's most successful affiliates, and bills itself thus in promotions.

WISN was the first commercial station in the market to produce an HDTV broadcast, airing the Summerfest "Big Bang" fireworks show in the format on June 29, 2006.[2] Milwaukee Public Television assisted WISN in the production of the broadcast, and have continued to do so each year since, with additional help from sister stations KCRA and WCVB in later years.

Former sister radio stations WISN (1130) and WRNW (formerly WLTQ/WQBW, 97.3) are now owned by Clear Channel, and all ties between the stations and Channel 12 were severed as of July 27, 2009, when a weather/news carriage agreement began with WITI (Channel 6) at the end of a longtime agreement with WISN to provide forecasts to Clear Channel's six local stations.[3] After the expiration of that deal, WISN-TV now provides news, weather and sports content to the five-station Milwaukee cluster (WKLH, WHQG, WJMR, WJYI, and WZBK) of Saga Communications.[4] This has an effect of having WISN-TV's news staff disclaim on-air and through their social networking channels that their station has no connections with WISN radio's conservative talk format and only holds the same calls, a point of contention and confusion during events such as live shots at the Wisconsin State Capitol for the 2011 state budget debate [5].

Digital television

As part of the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, WISN-TV shut down its analog transmitter at 8:30 a.m. on June 12, 2009 coming out of a Good Morning America local news brief with a station history narrated by Jerry Taff, followed by a still of digital transition information staying on the air until 12 noon, and conitnued to broadcast on its pre-transition digital channel 34, and immediately took the WISN-TV calls from the former analog channel.[6][7] However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WISN's virtual channel as 12. The signal space for channel 12 was subsequently re-used by CBS for owned-and-operated WBBM-TV in Chicago for its digital signal.

On May 17, 2010, WISN-TV filed an application to upgrade its digital transmitter to a power level of 1 million watts, mainly to place the station's digital antenna at the taller height of the dormant analog antenna, which would be replaced by a new digital unit.[8] The analog antenna was removed in September 2010, and the digital antenna was activated from the new placement in early October 2010.


Channel 12 clears all of the ABC schedule, and until it was dropped by ABC on August 28, 2010, it preempted ABC Kids airings of the Power Rangers series which had been done since September 2006 due to lack of E/I content, as have all Hearst ABC stations; the station unusually aired Kim Possible and Power Rangers SPD early Monday mornings before World News Now in the 2005-2006 season for the same reason. Since July 31, 2010 due to the extension of its weekend morning newscasts, WISN split up the ABC Kids lineup over the course of two days, with the regular Saturday block airing from 9-11 a.m. and an additional hour on Sundays from 11 a.m.-noon.

The station airs most of the highest-rated programs in syndication and because of this usually has had very light schedule turnover each fall for the last few years, with Live with Regis and Kelly after Good Morning America, The Nate Berkus Show before the ABC soap opera lineup, and Dr. Phil and Oprah paired up in mid-afternoons together. Entertainment Tonight airs before primetime. Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live are delayed a half-hour to facilitate WISN's hour-long newscast. Channel 12's local and select ABC programming is also available on Time Warner Cable's "Start Over" service, allowing viewing of a program after it has already started.

Channel 12 also airs Green Bay Packers Monday Night Football games originating on ESPN [9] simulcasting the 720p ESPNHD feed. The same arrangement was in place for the 2007 NFL Network game against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium the Thursday after Thanksgiving, and the station also airs the Donald Driver-hosted Inside the Huddle from Fox affiliate WLUK-TV (channel 11) in Green Bay. ESPN is 20% owned by Hearst, owners of Channel 12.

On September 8, 2008, Channel 12 became the first Milwaukee station to air non-network syndicated HD programming daily, and now carries all of their weekday syndicated programming in the format.. Later in the year, the station became the first in the market with HD tape-delay and character generator capabilities.

WISN makes the claim based on Nielsen Media Research numbers that it is among the top-rated ABC affiliates in the nation (an honor that was shared with fellow ABC station WPTA-TV (channel 21) in Fort Wayne, IN), which is based on market size and household ratings percentages.[10] In fact, the three highest-rated ABC affiliates in the nation are all Hearst stations (WISN, plus KOCO (channel 5) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and KMBC (channel 9) in Kansas City, Missouri). "One of America's Leading ABC Stations" had been the station's slogan until September 24, 2007, when in conjunction with ABC's new image campaign, Channel 12 launched the new "Start here" slogan, which signified both Channel 12's broadcast channel and the station's website, which was relaunched in August 2007 to move away from Hearst Argyle's "LocalChannel" strategy to focus on WISN's local content and emphasize the station's call letters in the web address. The top-rated station claim returned in late 2009 to being voiced out.

Notable programming

  • In 1977, WISN launched the "Hello Milwaukee" promos, praising the City of Milwaukee through a montage of videos and a song specially commissioned and written for WISN by Frank Gari.
  • WISN was the flagship station for the Wisconsin Lottery from the agency's inception in 1989, playing host to the state lottery drawings and the weekly Wisconsin Lottery Money Game game show (later known as The Super Money Game Show). The lottery discontinued theMoney Game at the end of 2003 due to budget cuts, and televised drawings at the same time, moving the drawings to the state lottery offices in Madison. WISN continues to announce the lottery numbers on-screen after being drawn in a bottom-screen ticker duringEntertainment Tonight (on Saturday, during the station's 6:00pm newscast and Sunday's 6:30pm ABC programming) and during the 10:30pm newscast, and also broadcasts most Powerball drawings with a jackpot over $125,000,000 (WMLW (Channel 41) airs all Powerball drawings).

News operation

WISN's news open until April 21, 2009.

Currently, WISN-TV broadcasts a total of 31½ hours of local news per week (with 4½ hours each weekday, 4½ hours on Saturdays and Sundays); unlike most ABC affiliates in the Central and Mountain time zones, WISN does not carry a newscast in the weekday midday timeslot, though it offers a lunchtime news capsule segment on their website. WISN has added more newscasts to its schedule since 2007, and is unusual in programming hour-long newscasts Saturday at 6 p.m., and Sunday at 10 p.m. On July 30, 2010, WISN, like most of its Hearst-owned ABC affiliate sister stations did on that date, added a one-hour extension of its weekend morning newscast from 8-9 a.m., which competes directly against the weekend morning newscast on NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV (channel 4). On September 6, 2010 WISN expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours, now airing from 4:30-7 a.m.[11]

Longtime anchor Jerry Taff retired in May 2005, and WISN's newscasts began to climb in the ratings. It success stems from hiring popular local anchors and reporters released from other stations, a stronger ABC schedule, and a period of change at rival WTMJ due to weaker NBC ratings and newsroom changes. The station's biggest acquisition from WTMJ was the dean of Milwaukee television journalism, Mike Gousha in late 2007, a year after he retired as the anchor of WTMJ's main newscasts in order to focus on a new position as a distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University.[12] Gousha currently analyzes political events for the station with other political experts, and hosts UpFront with Mike Gousha, a Sunday morning program which is a mix of the interview segments familiar to viewers of his former WTMJ program Sunday Night, and local political analysis.[13] The show has been syndicated to other stations statewide by Hearst, and in August 2010 all of the stations involved (along with MPTV, which provided technical assistance with HD production) broadcast a Gousha-moderated forum for the Republican candidates for Wisconsin governor called the " UpFront Town Hall Challenge" from Marquette's new law building, which was purposefully structured to avoid classification as a traditional debate where either candidate could use the format to "sell" themselves. The format was repeated in October 2010 between the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor and US Senate.

Although Hearst-owned stations in several other markets broadcast local news in HD, it is currently unknown if and when WISN will launch newscasts in this format, and the station has deliberately implemented 16:9 graphical elements such as weather banners, news tickers and logo bugs slowly as it has learned from the launches of WTMJ and WITI's operations in the format, with the only HD segments as of 2011 airing during newscasts on the day of the Summerfest "Big Bang" fireworks show in late June, usually scenic and human interest pieces, along with MPTV co-productions.

On April 21, 2009, the station transitioned to the Hearst HD graphics package and a permanent pillarbox with the station logo in the left pillar and calls in the right for standard definition programming,[14] but has not of yet broadcast its newscasts in high definition. In March 2010 the station unveiled 16:9-optimized weather graphics to allow the station to continue to show programming in HD rather than force a downscale to a modified 4:3 mode where the program was displayed in 3:3 (to much viewer complaint over the years, especially with ABC primetime programming), with the weather warnings taking up the remainder of the screen. On October 10, 2010, WISN-TV converted their newscast presentation to 16:9 widescreen, though remaining in standard definition for all aspects for the time being, and also removing the decorative pillarboxes.

On January 24, 2011, WISN-TV expanded its 10 p.m. newscast to one hour in length, becoming the third Hearst-owned station with an hour-long late local newscast (Albuquerque sister station KOAT and Honolulu sister station KITV also carry hour-long newscasts after ABC primetime).[15] A consequence of this was WISN choosing to moving longtime 10:30 p.m. slotholder Access Hollywood to 12:30 a.m., and program producer NBC Universal Television Distribution asking for an early release from their contract so that the show could move to 6:30 p.m. on WTMJ as of April 11, 2011.[16]

WISN also hosts its video stories on YouTube as part of a content agreement between Hearst-Argyle and YouTube, and in April 2010 unveiled an iPhone application in the iTunes App Store.[17] The station's website is the only Milwaukee station website currently offering in-story commenting features.


According to the local Nielsen ratings for May 2010, WISN-TV was the #1 market station from sign-on to sign-off for the fifth consecutive year with a 3.7 rating for the month – the only station to show an increase in viewership for the broadcast day. In local news, WISN won first place in weekday and weekend morning news, and its 10 p.m. newscast showed a viewership increase and remained the #1 late newscast in the Milwaukee area. The early evening newscasts ranked #1, with a 7.1 share for the 5 p.m. newscast, and a 6.8 share for the 6 p.m. newscast; the station also ranked #1 in primetime for the May sweeps period, averaging a 7.0 rating.[18]

For July 2010, WISN was #1 among the area's early evening newscasts with the 5 p.m. showing a 10% increase in viewers over the same time in 2009 to lead with a 6.8 rating; the station's 6 p.m. newscast ratings increased 26% with a 7.6 rating share. The station was also #1 among weekday and weekend morning news. The 10 p.m. newscast also grew 25% to an 8.1 share despite transmitter problems due to flooding on July 22, though the station earned a 7.2 share to win the 10 p.m. slot that night despite only 40% of homes in the market receiving WISN's signal that evening.[19]

News/station presentation

Newscast titles

  • Telenews 12 (1968–1973)
  • 12's Eyewitness News (1973–1976)
  • Channel 12 Action News (1976–1984; the station's consumer news/investigation segments continue to be called "Action 12")[20]
  • Channel 12 News (1984–1990s)
  • (WISN) 12 News (1990s–present)

Station slogans

  • "Hello Milwaukee" (1977–1985; during period station used Frank Gari's "Hello News")
  • "Channel 12's Still the One" (1977–1978; localized version of ABC ad campaign, used alternately during network programming)
  • "We're The One You Can Turn To, Channel 12" (1978-1979; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "You and Me and Channel 12" (1980-1981; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Now is the Time, Channel 12 is the Place" (1981-1982; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Come on Along with Channel 12" (1982-1983; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "That Special Feeling on Channel 12" (1983-1984; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "We're With You on Channel 12" (1984-1985; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "You'll Love it on Channel 12" (1985–1986; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Together on Channel 12" (1986-1987; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Something's Happening on Channel 12" (1987-1989; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Together, We're Making a Difference" (1989–1996; during period station used Frank Gari's "Making a Difference")
  • "Your 24-Hour News Service" (1989–1996; WTMJ-TV also used a "24 Hour News Source" format from 1990–1992)[21]
  • "Millwaukee's Watching WISN" (1990-1992; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "If It's Millwaukee, It Must Be Channel 12" (1992-1993; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Watch By More Southeast Wisconsin, Channel 12, ABC" (1993-1994; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Nobody Does It Like Channel 12" (1996-1997; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Live. Local. Latebreaking." (1996–2004)
  • "TV is Good, on Channel 12" (1997-1998; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "We Love TV, on Channel 12" (1998-1999; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
  • "Leading the Way with Important Local Coverage" (2004–present; news slogan)
  • "One of America's Leading ABC Stations" (2004–2010)[22]
  • "WISN 12: Start Here" (2007–present; non-news programming, localized version of current ABC ad campaign)
  • "Your Breaking News Leader" (2010-present; news slogan)

On-air staff

Current on-air staff (as of January 19, 2011)


  • Shelby Croft - Sundays at 5:30 and 10 p.m.; also weeknight 5 and 6 p.m. reporter
  • Marianne Lyles - weekend mornings "12 News This Morning"
  • Kathy Mykleby - weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Jason Newton - Saturdays at 5 and 6, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10 p.m.; also reporter
  • Patrick Paolantonio - weekday mornings "12 News This Morning"
  • Terry Sater - weeknights at 6 p.m.
  • Toya Washington - weeknights at 5 and 10 p.m.
  • Portia Young - weekday mornings "12 News This Morning"

Weather Watch 12

  • Mark Baden (AMS Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Nelson (AMS Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; Saturdays at 5 and 6, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10 p.m.; also fill-in
  • Luke Sampe (AMS Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; weekend mornings "12 News This Morning"
  • Sally Severson - meteorologist; weekday mornings "12 News This Morning"

BIG 12 Sport

  • Dan Needles - sports director; weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Dario Melendez - sports anchor; Saturdays at 5 and 6, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10 p.m.
  • Stephanie Sutton - sports reporter


  • Mike Anderson - general assignment reporter
  • Nick Bohr - general assignment reporter
  • Brendan Conway - general assignment reporter
  • Joyce Garbaciak - contributing news correspondent
  • Mike Gousha - political analyst; also host of UpFront with Mike Gousha
  • Colleen Henry - investigative reporter
  • Abe Lubetkin - general assignment reporter
  • Hillary Mintz - morning reporter
  • Kent Wainscott - investigative and political reporter
  • Matt Salemme - traffic reporter

Hearst Television Washington Bureau

  • Sally Kidd - Washington D.C. bureau reporter
  • Nikole Killion - Washington D.C. bureau reporter
  • Kate Amara - Washington D.C. bureau reporter

Notable former on-air staff

  • Marty Burns-Wolfe - anchor (retired)
  • Jason DeRusha - anchor (2000–2003; currently at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul)
  • Tammy Elliott - anchor (2000?-2006; currently at WFRV-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin)
  • Duane Gay - anchor/reporter (1993-April 26, 2003; deceased)
  • Joe Gehl - weather forecaster; (currently at KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara, California)
  • Vince Gibbens - anchor (1978–1981; later anchored at rival WITI-TV in Milwaukee and WBAL-TV in Baltimore; died in 1995)
  • Eleanor Hayes - anchor (1984–1987; currently at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio)
  • Lance Hill - weather forecaster; (1999–2009; later forecasted at WTMJ-TV for less than a year, then later WDJT-TV from 2011-2016; now forecasting at Spectrum News 1)
  • John Hogan - anchor (1967–1971; later anchored at WDIV-TV in Detroit, Michigan and WTLV-TV in Jacksonville, Florida; died in 2000)
  • Jessica Jallings - anchor (2001–2004)
  • Barry Judge - anchor (1976–1978; was at WITI (1974–1976), later anchored at KDFW in Dallas-Ft. Worth)
  • Joel Kleefisch - anchor (1994–2004; currently the Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly in the 38th Assembly District since 2004)
  • Rebecca Kleefisch - anchor (1999–2004; left to be a full-time mom)
  • Dan Lewis - anchor (1982–1985; currently an anchor for KOMO-TV in Seattle, Washington)
  • John Malan - weather forecaster (1979–1993; now at WTMJ-TV)
  • DeMarco Morgan - anchor (currently at WNBC-TV in New York)
  • Harvian ("Bunny") Raasch-Hooten - program host, anchor and former news director (1971–1982; currently on the Board of Directors at Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra)
  • Shaun Robinson - anchor (currently co-anchor of Access Hollywood)
  • Tom Sutton - sportscaster (1981–2003; retired)
  • Jerry Taff - anchor (1979–2005; retired)
  • Ben Tracy - anchor (currently a correspondent for CBS News in Los Angeles, California)


WISN is one of a few select stations which uses permanent digital logo bugs of its station logo in all of its programming (excepting paid programming), including ABC network programs, which varies with presentation style. The newer style logo with the "12" logo tilted to the left in a box is used for syndicated programming in a larger form, while being placed next to the ABC logo in a smaller form in entertainment programming. The original '12' logo in straight form is utilized for both ABC Kids and ABC News programs for readability purposes. On days when WISN is broadcasting a Packers MNF game, the logo is colored gold inside a green box, denoting the team's colors.


  1. ^ a b c Golembiewski, Dick (2008). Milwaukee Television History: The Analog Years. Marquette University Press. pp. 213–270. ISBN 0-87462-055-4.
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  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ CDBS Print
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  12. ^ Michael R. Gousha - Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy
  13. ^ UpFront with Mike Gousha
  14. ^
  15. ^ WISN-TV expands 10 p.m. news to one hour, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, December 14, 2010. Retrieved 12-15-2010.
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External links

  • WISN-TV Official Homepage
  • WISN-TV logos through the years
  • Hearst-Argyle Television
  • WISN's Channel on YouTube
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WISN
  • BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WISN-TV
  • Program Information for WISN at