WYCC’s imminent shutdown costs 12 more jobs


As WYCC-Channel 20 prepares to cease broadcast operations in two weeks, 12 more employees have received termination notices from the City Colleges of Chicago public television station. They include staffers in programming, production, engineering and membership.

Out of 26 employees on the payroll last year, only four will remain when the station goes dark November 27. A creative services director, a videographer and two video editors will continue to work for the district marketing unit producing in-house video content from the production center at Kennedy-King College, sources said.

WYCC’s impending shutdown after 34 years was prompted by the sale of the station’s broadcast frequency in the Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction earlier this year.

Despite an official government estimate that WYCC’s piece of the spectrum could fetch as much as $474 million for wireless mobile use, it drew only $15.9 million. Among five other Chicago area stations in the auction, Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50 sold for $160.7 million and Telemundo Chicago WSNS-Channel 44 sold for $141.6 million. Insiders said City Colleges failed to maximize the value of its license by not consulting with industry experts before the auction.

Since October 26, when WYCC dropped its affiliation with PBS and lost most of its programming lineup, the station has been airing Megahertz Worldview, an independent, public television network, originating in Falls Church, Virginia, that broadcasts newscasts and other programs from around the world.

Juan Salgado

City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado told staffers in September that talks had been initiated with Window to the World Communications, parent company of WTTW-Channel 11, to transfer WYCC’s license to the other public television station. Under a channel sharing arrangement, it was proposed that WTTW would continue to broadcast Megahertz Worldview.

The two stations have until November 24 to finalize a deal or WYCC will cease to exist in any form. Sources said Friday those talks appear to have failed, although Anne Gleason, senior vice president of marketing and digital media for WTTW, said the matter is “still in discussions.”

It’s not clear what will become of the lease for WYCC’s transmitter atop the John Hancock Center. Sources said the deal with Boston-based American Tower Corp. still has more than 10 years to go.

Here is the text of a Facebook message posted by WYCC staff:

As things wind down here at WYCC, we are grateful for the feedback from our audience about the exceptional programming we have brought into your homes over the years. While many of us are saddened by the loss of this station, we are also excited to have received multiple Emmy nominations this year through the Chicago/Midwest Chapter National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Congratulations to our entire team and thank you, our viewers, for your continued support.

Friday’s best comment: Mark Quinn: "Family Classics" with Frazier Thomas was a big part of my childhood and those of multitudes of us of a certain vintage who grew up in Chicago. But why did the intro music have to be so depressing? I, however, digress. It's good to see it back, even if for a one-off, and to see Dean Richards hosting. I wonder, though, if, in our post-literate society, anyone will watch.