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WYKE Enters the Picture - The Story of Channel America: Pt. II

2nd February, 2024

[Disclaimer: WYKE was previously owned by an organization for the disabled that used what we would consider to be outdated terminology today. To get the full picture, I will be presenting this information uncensored with no ill intent. Thank you for understanding.]

In my previous post, we tackled Channel America, the first television network in the United States to consist of low-power stations. Now, for an affiliate that I found particularly noteworthy!

WYKE-CD, channel 47. A low-power station licensed to Inglis/Yankeetown, Florida. A translator station of WCLF, the flagship station of the Christian Television Network. It sounds like your average high-UHF religious station that you gloss over when channel surfing, only to stumble onto it at two in the morning and become completely enamored by the weirdness of the preachy televangelist world. But if you’re me, you know there’s a story to every station, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.

When I was doing my research for Channel America early last year, I stumbled onto another Florida station as one of the affiliates, namely W42AM in Daytona Beach. The Wikipedia page for it claims that it signed on in 1998 with no proof to back it up, although a Channel America ident from 1989 has it right in the channel list.

Video of Channel America station identification taken from a commercial break. The background is blue with affiliates listed in text, notably Daytona, FL station W42AM near the bottom.

By 1991, however, W42AM and the Daytona station were off the list for good. This got me thinking. If no one knew this station existed for ten years and no one had a single lead on it, what else was out there? Enter W69AX in Perry, Florida. I knew it was part of the Channel America network and wanted to dig deeper, but couldn’t find much info aside from a forum post in 2003 from someone who briefly worked at the station. Even the Wikipedia article was just as lost as I was.

Wikipedia affiliations list for W69AX. It reads, 'Former Affiliations: Unknown (1998-19??), Pax TV (19??-20??), Ion Television (20??-2014).

From there, my research spread. I learned more about the Channel America network, growing obsessive as I scoured the internet for every little piece of information. I read LPTV-related magazines and newsletters and searched for anything relating to the network. Do I go out thrifting again and buy up even more blank tapes, hoping to find something from thirty years ago that confirms that I’m not crazy? Did this Daytona station ever even air, or was it in the ident and part of the network, but never actually made it on the air? Channel America really was the tip of the iceberg, as I was learning about the undocumented world of LPTV. A community, long gone and pushed aside by the profitability of draining Christian broadcasting and made obsolete by more powerful media outlets.

Then, a few things caught my eye in Volume 3, Issue 10 of The LPTV Report.

Channel America, 24 West 57th Street, Suite 804, New York, NY 10019, (212) 262-5353, Contact: David Post, Robert Mauro

First was Channel America’s address, which had been featured in a few promos for the network encouraging viewer mail.

The following LPTV stations recieved license renewals on the dates shown. Station call sign, location, and the name of the licensee are also given.
W69AX Perry, FL. Perry Channel 69 TV, Inc., 9/30/88.

Next was the license renewal for the Perry station, which was apparently part of the Channel America network.

W49AI Inglis/Yankeetown, FL. Transfer of control granted from Robert Thomas as 80% shareholder to Citrus County Association for Retarded Children, Inc. on 10/3/88.
W59AI Orlando, FL. Voluntary assignment of per-... (Text cuts off at bottom.)

The final was for W49AI, which… caught me a bit off guard.

Originally owned by the Citrus County Association for Retarded Children (only fully changing their name in 2019), W49AI, a common naming structure for smaller translator stations, had up until 1991 been a translator for Orlando’s WOFL. Today, WOFL is known for being an owned-and-operated Fox station, becoming one when the network began on October 9, 1986. And, as luck would have it, they were a part of some of the Channel America-like stations after the Fox translator period!

A 1991 Channel America ident lists W49AI as one of their stations. 1991, the year they stopped translating, was when the station became a Channel America affiliate. I noted it down, noticing that the Wikipedia page was incorrect and missing information, as much of the Channel America affiliate pages were. By 1995, it seemed like W49AI stopped showing Channel America programming and changed its call letters to WYKE-LP, named after the Key Training Center where the organization’s patients learned employment skills. From then on, it delved into… more religious programming.

I couldn’t find more info on WYKE-LP. The Wikipedia page states that they were affiliated with America One throughout its twenty-year history, but who knows? The issue with low-power stations is that the vast majority of them have gone undocumented over the years. The problem even extends as far as to shroud a larger network in mystery, as it had a complete focus on LPTV. Maybe one day I’ll go further north and record a bit of WYKE-CD (as it’s known in the digital age), but I think the current programming would be a bore. Without individuality and with a million digital subchannels carrying various networks, most religious, all of these smaller stations seem to blend into each other these days. I wouldn’t complain about another Channel America-like network rising to the top again when it seems like there’s nothing interesting to watch anymore.

Even the dullest things are made interesting by a good mystery, after all.

- Lcd101