Taft Broadcasting

Taft Broadcasting Company
Industry television and radio network
Fate Acquired by Clear Channel Communications
Successor iHeartMedia[lower-alpha 1]
Founded 1939 (1939)
Defunct 1999 (1999)
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio

The Taft Broadcasting Company (also known as Taft Television and Radio Company, Incorporated), was an American media conglomerate based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The company is rooted in the family of William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States. In 1879, William Howard's brother, Charles Phelps Taft, purchased two afternoon newspapers in Cincinnati, The Times and The Cincinnati Daily Star, merging them into the Cincinnati Times-Star in 1880. It was during the tenure of the merged paper's second publisher, Hulbert Taft Sr., son of Charles and William Howard's half-brother, Peter Rawson Taft II, that the newspaper also became involved in broadcasting.

The company was the owner of such major media and entertainment properties as Hanna-Barbera Productions, Worldvision Enterprises, Ruby-Spears Productions, KECO Entertainment and many television and radio stations. It also owned 50% of CIC Video's Australian operations, CIC-Taft Home Video.

The company went through a huge reorganization period starting in the late 1980s with its acquisition by Carl Lindner, Jr. to become Great American Broadcasting. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy in 1993, it became Citicasters and was in 1999, acquired by Clear Channel Communications, which was renamed iHeartMedia in 2014. Taft — as Citicasters — is still incorporated as a holding company within iHeartMedia.[1]



The Taft family's involvement in broadcasting began in 1939 as Radio Cincinnati, Inc., when the Cincinnati Times-Star purchased WKRC radio from CBS.[2][3]

In April 1949 Taft's first TV station, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati began broadcasting.

In 1951, in its first expansion outside Ohio, Radio Cincinnati acquired a 20 percent interest in WBIR-AM-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee from father-and-son owners J. Lindsay and Gilmore Nunn.[4] A year-and-a-half later, the Taft family increased its stake to 30 percent when the Nunns sold additional shares in that station to Martha and Robert Ashe, John P. Hart, and Radio Cincinnati.[5]

In 1953, Radio Cincinnati purchased WTVN-TV (now WSYX) in Columbus, Ohio, from Picture-Waves, Inc., controlled by Toledo attorney and broadcaster Edward Lamb.[6][7][8]

In 1954, the company bought WHKC radio in Columbus from United Broadcasting, then-owners of WHK in Cleveland; WHKC is renamed WTVN.[9]

In August 1956 WBIR-TV in Knoxville began broadcasting, under the same ownership structure as the WBIR radio stations.

In 1957, Radio Cincinnati purchased WBRC-AM-FM-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, from Storer Broadcasting.[10]

In 1958, the Cincinnati Times-Star was merged into the Cincinnati Post, published by the E.W. Scripps Company. Radio Cincinnati also purchased WKXP-TV in Lexington, Kentucky, from local interests and changed its call letters to WKYT-TV.[11]

In 1959, the company acquired the remaining 70 percent of WBIR-AM-FM-TV in Knoxville.[12] Also in 1959, the Taft family merged its broadcasting subsidiaries into one, using the Taft Broadcasting Company name.[13][14][15]


The Taft logo from 1959 to 1974.

In 1960 Taft launched WTVN-FM in Columbus (it is now WLVQ). A year later the company sold the WBIR stations in Knoxville to WMRC, Inc. (later to become Multimedia Inc.) of Greenville, South Carolina.[16][17]

In 1963, Taft purchased several stations from Transcontinent Television Corporation: WDAF-AM-FM-TV in Kansas City, Missouri, WGR-AM-FM-TV in Buffalo, New York, and WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[18][19]

In October 1966 Taft purchased the Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio from its founders, Joseph Barbera, William Hanna and George Sidney.[20] Several months later in April 1967, the firm sold WKYT-TV to a subsidiary of Kentucky Central Life Insurance Company.[21]

On November 10, 1967, Taft Broadcasting president and chairman Hulbert Taft Jr. died in natural gas-related explosion at his home in the Cincinnati suburbs. Days after his death, his eldest son Dudley S. Taft replaced him on the firm's board of directors, and he eventually became head of the company.

In 1969, Taft purchased WIBF-TV in Philadelphia and changed its call letters to WTAF-TV.[22] The FCC initially granted Taft a waiver to keep both WTAF-TV and WNEP-TV, but later reversed itself in 1973 (four years later), and Taft sold the Scranton outlet to the station's management, who formed NEP Communications.[23]

In 1970, Taft formed Rhodes Productions, a television syndication arm for various independent TV programs, including those of Hanna-Barbera.

In 1972, Taft opened its first theme park, Kings Island, outside of Cincinnati. Taft owned five other theme parks through is KECO Entertainment division. WBRC radio and WBRC-FM in Birmingham are sold to Mooney Broadcasting.[24]

In 1974, Taft acquired Top 40 station KQV and rock outlet WDVE, both in Pittsburgh, from ABC Radio.[25]

In 1975, Rhodes Productions was sold to Filmways. Taft, H-B Program Sales and Taft, H-B International were established as the new domestic and overseas television distribution arms.

In 1979, Taft purchased WDCA-TV in Washington, D.C. from the Superior Tube Company.[26][27] Around this same period, Taft also acquired independent distributor Worldvision Enterprises (formerly a division of ABC) and production company QM Productions.


In 1980, Taft acquired Sunn Classic Pictures and two additional Schick divisions. Sunn Classic was reincorporated as Taft International Pictures as well as QM Productions reincorporated into Taft Entertainment Television, although the QM name and logo continued to be used on-screen and for copyright purposes until 1983.

In 1981, Taft acquired Ruby-Spears Productions from Filmways. Around this time, Taft split its operation into two "subdivisions": the "Taft Entertainment Company" (which included Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Worldvision, the theme parks, Taft International Pictures, and Taft Entertainment Television). The other was the "Taft Television & Radio Co, Inc.". Also in 1981, Taft, in partnership with The Great-West Life Assurance Company or Winnipeg and Denver, opened Canada's Wonderland, a theme park in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[28]

In 1982, KQV in Pittsburgh was sold to its general manager Robert W. Dickey and newspaper publisher Richard Mellon Scaife, under the "Calvary, Inc." banner.[29]

In 1983, Taft exchanged WGR-TV in Buffalo to General Cinema Corporation's Coral Television subsidiary in return for WCIX in Miami.[30]

In 1985 Taft purchased Gulf Broadcasting, which includes KTXA in Fort Worth; KTXH in Houston; WTSP in St. Petersburg, Florida; KTSP-TV (now KSAZ-TV) in Phoenix; KESQ-TV in Palm Springs, California; and WGHP in High Point, North Carolina.[31][32] As a result, Taft sold several radio stations to CBS to comply with FCC rules.[33] KESQ-TV was spun off to former Gulf Broadcasting executive E. Grant Fitts.[34]

In October 1986, WTAF-TV in Philadelphia and WCIX in Miami became charter affiliates of the Fox Broadcasting Company.[35] One month later, Taft announced the sale of both of those stations along with its three independent stations (WDCA-TV, KTXA, and KTXH) to the TVX Broadcast Group; the sale was completed in April 1987.[36][37] Taft also sold WGR radio and WRLT-FM (the former WGR-FM) in Buffalo to Rich Communications, a subsidiary of Buffalo-based Rich Products.[38]

Taft Broadcasting Company was purchased by TFBA Limited Patnership, which included Robert M. Bass as a partner, in April 1987 for $1.43 billion taking the company private.[39]

Successor companies

Later in 1987, Cincinnati-based businessman Carl Lindner, Jr. became Taft's majority stockholder in a hostile takeover and renamed the company Great American Broadcasting (also known as Great American Communications) following a major restructuring of its operations. The new name came from Linder's insurance company, Great American Insurance. The FCC considered this restructuring to be an ownership change, and told Lindner he could not keep both WTVN-TV and WKRC-TV. As a result, Great American spun off WTVN-TV to Anchor Media, a new firm composed of former Taft Broadcasting board members led by Robert Bass. (The two stations have since been reunited under the Sinclair Broadcast Group, with cross-ownership rules having since been relaxed.) Another new company, led by former Taft Broadcasting president Dudley S. Taft Sr., took the Taft Broadcasting name. This new company retained WGHP and later purchases another Philadelphia station, WPHL-TV.[40][41]

In 1988, Great American Broadcasting sold Worldvision to Aaron Spelling Productions. Included with Worldvision were outright ownership of all of Great American's programming assets (including the remnants of Taft International Pictures and Taft Entertainment Television), except for the Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears libraries, which remained owned by Great American for the time being. However, Worldvision continued to hold syndication rights until the two animation studios found new owners.

In 1991, Hanna-Barbera, along with much of the original Ruby-Spears library, was acquired by Turner Broadcasting, which became part of Time Warner in 1996. As part of this deal, syndication rights to the libraries were passed to Turner Program Services (via Turner Entertainment Co.) prior to Time Warner's purchase of Turner. Eventually, TPS was folded into Warner Bros. Television Distribution. The Ruby-Spears studio was spun off and bought back by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, and operated as an independent operation from then forward.[42]

In 1992, KECO Entertainment, Great American's theme park division, was sold to Paramount Communications (the parent of Paramount Pictures; the parent company was formerly known as Gulf+Western) and became Paramount Parks, later to be acquired by Viacom. (These parks were sold to Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. by CBS in 2006.) Great American also reacquired WGHP from Dudley Taft.

In 1993, Great American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and renamed to Citicasters Communications. It also sold WKRC radio to Jacor Communications and shut down Electra, a teletext service operated as a joint venture between Taft, Zenith, and Turner Broadcasting's WTBS (now WPCH-TV) in Atlanta.

In 1994, Citicasters sold most of its TV stations, including WDAF-TV and KSAZ-TV to New World Communications, and WBRC and WGHP to the News Corporation's Fox Television Stations unit, which would later acquire the New World chain.

In 1996, Citicasters, by then the owner of two television stations, five AM radio stations and 14 FM radio stations, merged with Jacor, which became a subsidiary of Citicasters. Three months after the merger was completed, Jacor exchanged WTSP to Gannett in return for Gannett's radio stations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tampa. In 1997, as a condition of the merger, Jacor sold WKRQ and the original WDAF-FM (by then KYYS, now KCKC) to American Radio Systems, which would become acquired by Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio) in 1998. Also in 1997, Jacor sold WDAF-AM (now KCSP) to Entercom Communications.

In 1997, the Worldvision properties that had previously been under Taft and Great American (with the exception of the Hanna-Barbera and most of the Ruby-Spears material) were incorporated into Republic Pictures (today part of CBS Television Studios).

In 1999, Clear Channel Communications acquired Citicasters and Jacor. The Citicasters name lives on as a holding company and licensee under the Clear Channel corporate structure.[1]

Stations formerly owned by Taft Broadcasting and its successors

Stations are arranged in alphabetical order by state and city of license.


Television stations

City of license / Market Station Channel
Years Owned Current Ownership Status
Birmingham - Tuscaloosa - Anniston WBRC-TV 6 (50) 1957–1995 Fox affiliate owned by Raycom Media
Phoenix KTSP-TV 10 (10) 1985–1994 Fox owned-and-operated (O&O), KSAZ-TV
Washington, D.C. WDCA-TV 20 (35) 1979–1987 MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated (O&O)
Miami - Fort Lauderdale WCIX 6 (now 4 (22)) 1983–1987 CBS owned-and-operated (O&O), WFOR-TV
St. Petersburg - Tampa WTSP 10 (10) 1985–1996 CBS affiliate owned by Tegna, Inc.
Lexington, Kentucky WKYT-TV 27 (36) 1958–1967 CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television
Kansas City, Missouri WDAF-TV 4 (34) 1964–1994 Fox affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting
Buffalo, New York WGR-TV 2 (33) 1964–1983 NBC affiliate, WGRZ, owned by Tegna, Inc.
High Point - Greensboro -
WGHP 8 (35) 1985–1995 Fox affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting
Cincinnati WKRC-TV ** 12 (12) 1949–1996 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Columbus, Ohio WTVN-TV 6 (48) 1953–1987 ABC affiliate, WSYX, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Philadelphia WTAF-TV 29 (42) 1969–1987 Fox owned-and-operated (O&O), WTXF-TV
WPHL-TV 17 (17) 1987–1992 MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting
Scranton - Wilkes-Barre, PA WNEP-TV 16 (50) 1964–1973 ABC affiliate owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, LLC
(operated through a SSA by Tribune Broadcasting)
Knoxville, Tennessee WBIR-TV 10 (10) 1959–1961
(also held a 30% stake
from 1956 to 1959)
NBC affiliate owned by Tegna, Inc.
Fort Worth - Dallas KTXA 21 (29) 1985–1987 Independent owned by CBS Corporation
Houston KTXH 20 (19) 1985–1987 MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated (O&O)

Radio stations

(a partial listing)

AM Stations FM Stations
City of license/Market Station/frequency Years owned Current ownership
Birmingham, Alabama WBRC–960
(now WERC)
1957–1972 IHeartMedia, Inc.
(now WBPT)
1957–1972 Cox Radio
Kansas City, Missouri WDAF–610
(now KCSP)
1964–1987 Entercom Communications
(now KCKC)
1964–1987 Wilks Broadcasting
Buffalo, New York WGR–550 1964–1987 Entercom Communications
(now WGRF)
1964–1987 Cumulus Media
Cincinnati WKRC–550 1939–1987 IHeartMedia, Inc.
WKRC-FM–101.9 **
(now WKRQ)
1947–1987 Hubbard Broadcasting
Columbus, Ohio WTVN–610 1954–1987 IHeartMedia, Inc.
WTVN-FM–96.3 **
(now WLVQ)
1960–1987 Wilks Broadcasting
Pittsburgh KQV–1410 1974–1982 Calvary, Inc.
WDVE–102.5 1974–1987 IHeartMedia, Inc.
Knoxville, Tennessee WBIR–1240
(now WIFA)
(also held a 20% stake from 1951 to 1953,
increased to 30% from 1953 to 1959)
Progressive Media, Inc.
(now WIMZ-FM)
(also held a 20% stake from 1951 to 1953,
increased to 30% from 1953 to 1959)
Midwest Communications


  1. Other large owners of former Taft assets include National Amusements through CBS Corporation and Viacom (some TV and radio stations, as well as most of the programming assets once owned by Taft), 21st Century Fox (some TV stations), and Time Warner (most of Taft's animated library, including the Hanna-Barbera library).


  1. 1 2 Albiniak, Paige (November 25, 2001). "A Cloud Over Clear Channel; Petition says it controls stations through 'fronts,' including Ohio FM it seeks to buy". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  2. "Times-Star buys WKRC, Cincinnati." Broadcasting - Broadcast Advertising, September 1, 1939, pg. 34.
  3. "WKRC's transfer approved by FCC." Broadcasting - Broadcast Advertising, December 1, 1939, pg. 36.
  4. "Taft gets WBIR interest." Broadcasting - Telecasting, September 17, 1951, pg. 4.
  5. "FCC okays ownership shifts for KTHT, WBIR." Broadcasting - Telecasting, April 13, 1953, pg. 52.
  6. "TV station is purchased." The New York Times, January 13, 1953, pg. 32.
  7. "Taft buys WTVN for $1.5 million." Broadcasting, January 19, 1953, pg. 56.
  8. "FCC approves WTVN (TV) sale from Lamb to Taft family." Broadcasting, March 2, 1953, pg. 54.
  9. "WHKC bought by WTVN (TV), WKRC interests for $158,000." Broadcasting - Telecasting, April 19, 1954, pg. 7.
  10. "This week's receipts: $26 million." Broadcasting - Telecasting, April 8, 1957, pp. 31-32.
  11. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, May 19, 1958, pp. 88, 90
  12. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, October 12, 1959, pg. 54
  13. "Taft files with SEC to sell common stock." Broadcasting, June 15, 1959, pg. 66.
  14. "For the record." Broadcasting, June 29, 1959, pg. 92: Subsidiaries WBRC, Inc. (WBRC-AM-FM-TV), WTVN, Inc. (WTVN-TV), Radio Cincinnati, Inc. (WKRC-AM-FM-TV and WKYT-TV), and Radio Columbus, Inc. (WTVN-AM-FM) were merged into Taft Broadcasting Co., announced June 23, 1959.
  15. "For the record." Broadcasting, February 8, 1960, pg. 98: Subsidiary WBIR, Inc. (WBIR-AM-FM-TV) was merged into Taft Broadcasting Co., announced February 1, 1960.
  16. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, September 26, 1960, pg. 50
  17. "Principals complete WBIR-AM-TV transfer." Broadcasting, January 16, 1961, pg. 53.
  18. "Transcontinent sale: Last of its kind?" Broadcasting, February 24, 1964, pp. 27-28.
  19. "Radio-TV concern to sell stations." The New York Times, Aug. 3, 1963, pg. 21.
  20. "Yogi and friends going to Taft." Broadcasting, October 31, 1966, pg. 78.
  21. "Station sales total $10.7 million." Broadcasting, May 1, 1967, pg. 58.
  22. "$20 million in TV sales approved." Broadcasting, May 12, 1969, pg. 48.
  23. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, November 26, 1973, pg. 28
  24. "Taft's WBRC-AM-FM sold for $2 million." Broadcasting, January 24, 1972, pg. 29.
  25. "Taft in, ABC out of Pittsburgh radio." Broadcasting, April 1, 1974, pg. 22.
  26. "Taft's turn to buy WDCA-TV; price this time is $13.5 million." Broadcasting, May 1, 1978, pg. 50.
  27. "FCC stays on course, just barely, with top-50 policy; grants waiver for Taft buy of WDCA-TV." Broadcasting, August 20, 1979, pp. 25-26.
  28. "A THEME PARK CALLED WONDERLAND OPENS NEAR TORONTO". The New York Times. 1981-05-24. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  29. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, April 12, 1982, pg. 98
  30. "$110 million deal for Miami independent." Broadcasting, August 2, 1982, pg. 24.
  31. "Taft buys Gulf." Broadcasting, February 4, 1985, pg. 38
  32. "In brief." Broadcasting, June 3, 1985, pg. 128
  33. "CBS's audio concentration." Broadcasting, May 6, 1985, pg. 40
  34. Broadcasting Yearbook, 1987, pg. 353
  35. "Fox network begins to take shape." Broadcasting, August 4, 1986, pg. 44.
  36. "Taft's TV's go to TVX for $240 million." Broadcasting, November 24, 1986, pg. 41.
  37. "McDonald paints a bright picture for TVX." Broadcasting, May 11, 1987, pg. 37.
  38. "Changing hands." Broadcasting, February 23, 1987, pg. 64
  39. Applebome, Peter (June 5, 1988). "TEXAS DEAL MAKER: Robert M. Bass; A Younger Brother Steps Out on His Own". New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  40. "Taft Broadcasting now Taft-less." Broadcasting, February 2, 1987, pg. 43.
  41. "Green light expected for Taft sale." Broadcasting, September 28, 1987, pp. 36-37.
  42. Shostak, Stu (01-16-2013). "Interview with Joe Ruby and Ken Spears". Stu's Show. Retrieved 03-18-2013.
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