The Bingham family, owner of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times newspapers, as well as WHAS-AM, launched WHAS-TV in 1950. It was Louisville’s second TV station.
The station originally aired over Channel 9, but moved to Channel 11 in 1953. It also increased its power to the 316,000-watt maximum allowed by the FCC.
WHAS-TV was a primary CBS affiliate, due to WHAS-AM’s longtime CBS affiliation. Channel 11 also carried a secondary ABC affiliation. ABC went to WLKY-TV when it launched in 1961, leaving WHAS-TV a full-time CBS affiliate.
WHAS-TV originated the first TV broadcast of the Kentucky Derby in 1950. As a CBS affiliate, the station carried the Derby through 1974. ABC picked up the rights in 1975, but gave WHAS-TV permission to produce its own local coverage of the race. The Triple Crown races moved to NBC in the 1990s, and WHAS lost the rights to produce its own local coverage of the Derby itself.
The station established a reputation in the area for its “WHAS Crusade for Children.” The annual telethon over WHAS-TV and WHAS-AM benefits children’s charities in the region. Here’s a selection of clips from the 1975 Crusade broadcast:
Barry Bingham, Sr., handed over control of the company to his son, but years of family squabbles led the patriarch to sell off the media holdings in 1986. WHAS-AM and WAMZ-FM went to Clear Channel Communications. Gannett Company purchased the newspapers. The Providence Journal Company purchased WHAS-TV.
WHAS-TV became an ABC affiliate when it swapped affiliations with WLKY-TV in 1990.
The Journal Company merged with Belo in 1997. Gannett announced in 2013 it was acquiring Belo. Gannett’s ownership of The Courier-Journal prompted the company to spin off WHAS-TV to Sander Media, which is owned by a former Belo executive. Gannett operates WHAS-TV under a shared services agreement.
In the early days of Louisville TV, WAVE-TV was the dominant local news operation. WHAS-TV surpassed it in the late 1970s with it’s “Action 11 News.” It renamed its newscasts “Kentuckiana’s News Channel, WHAS 11” in 1991 and “WHAS 11 News” in 1999.
In recent years, WHAS and WLKY typically trade the top spot in the local news race.
Here’s part of a 1976 WHAS-TV newscast:
Here is a clip of WHAS-TV’s coverage of the 1978 blizzard:
A YouTube user has a collection of WHAS-TV newscasts from the 1980s:
…as well as a collection of WHAS-TV severe weather coverage airchecks:
Source: Wikipedia (WHAS-TV)