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Flagship (television)

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Flagship (television)

In broadcasting, a flagship (also known as a flagship station) is the broadcast which originates a television network, or a particular radio show or TV show, primarily in the United States and Canada. This includes both direct network feeds and broadcast syndication, but generally not backhauls. Not all networks or shows have a flagship station, as some originate from a dedicated radio studio or TV studio.

The term derives from the naval custom where the commanding officer of a group of naval ships would fly a distinguishing flag (see flagship - naval term). In common parlance, "flagship" is now used to mean the most important or leading member of a group, hence its various uses in broadcasting.







A flagship radio station is a radio network's principal station from which programs are fed to affiliates (The term "flagship station" is also used in television, see Television flagship stations).

Radio network flagship stations

In the United States, traditional radio networks currently operate without flagship stations as defined in this article. Network operations and those of the local owned and operated or affiliated stations in the same city are now separate and may come under different corporate entities.

In the US, ABC Radio programming is produced by ABC News and distributed by Cumulus Media, which owns and operates WABC in New York and KABC in Los Angeles (among other stations). CBS Radio produces programming for distribution by Westwood One but local stations WCBS and WINS in New York and KNX and KFWB in Los Angeles are operated separately from the network radio news operation. Clear Channel Communications follows a similar model: flagship stations WOR/New York (acquired in 2012) and KFI/Los Angeles are both operated mostly separately from its syndication wing, Premiere Networks (Premiere does produce some limited programming, including The Jesus Christ Show, The Tech Guy and Handel on the Law, through KFI).

WWRL in New York was an affiliate of the now-defunct Air America Radio and carries some of its programs (along with those from other distributors) but is separately owned and operated and does not produce any programs for the network. Originally, Air America Radio leased WLIB (also in New York) as its flagship station; the station was completely automated and produced no local programming. The network would later lease WZAA in Washington, D.C. as its lone self-operated station.

Fox Sports Radio's flagship station is KLAC in Los Angeles, with which it merged operations in 2009. Yahoo! Sports Radio is flagshipped at KGOW in Houston; its predecessor, Sporting News Radio, was previously flagshipped at WIDB in Chicago. CBS Sports Radio is flagshipped at WFAN (although that station does not produce programming for the network). Neither NBC Sports Radio nor ESPN Radio have definitive flagship stations.

Former flagship stations for now-defunct networks in American radio's "Big Four" era of the 1940s–1980s were:

WNBC 660, New York (now WFAN)
WYNY FM 97.1, New York (now WQHT)
KNBR AM 680, San Francisco
KYUU FM 99.7, San Francisco (now KMVQ-FM)
WOR AM 710, New York
WGN AM 720, Chicago
KHJ AM 930, Los Angeles

In Canada, current CBC/Radio-Canada flagships are CBLA-FM 99.1 Toronto (in English) and CBF-FM 95.1 Montréal (in French). Both are former AM clear channel operations which have moved to FM.

Former flagship stations for now-defunct networks were:

While CJBC remains on-air on its original frequency, it is now a French-language Radio-Canada owned-and-operated station.

The CKO network's Toronto frequency was re-issued to CBL (as CBLA-FM 99.1) but the namesake CKO (AM) flagship in Montréal is silent; the frequency remains vacant.

Syndicated radio program flagship stations

For syndicated radio programs, it refers to the originating station from which a program is fed by satellite or other means to stations nationwide, although the show may also originate elsewhere or from a home studio via an ISDN line. Some programs such as Imus in the Morning are simulcast on television (Fox Business Network in this case). Others are simulcasted on XM Satellite Radio and / or Sirius Satellite Radio. Flagship stations of prominent syndicated radio programs currently include:

Notable former flagship radio stations

  • WXRK 92.3 FM in New York was the flagship station of The Howard Stern Show from 1985 until 2005. The show is now on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 100 (a.k.a. Howard 100).
  • WOR 710 AM in New York was the flagship station of the syndicated programs of Jay Severin, Bob Grant, The Dolans and Joey Reynolds produced in-house with its own network.
  • WGN 720 AM in Chicago was considered the originating station for Paul Harvey's News and Comment and The Rest of the Story for the ABC Radio Network.
  • KABC 790 AM Los Angeles was the home base of Larry Elder until the show ended its run in 2009.
  • WABC had been the original flagship of The Rush Limbaugh Show before Limbaugh moved to West Palm Beach, Florida and a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications began distributing the program. Limbaugh continues to air on WABC but is expected to jump to WOR as a result of a contract expiration at the end of 2013.
  • KNEW was the flagship of The Savage Nation from 2003 to 2009.
  • WNBC and WFAN were the flagships of Imus in the Morning from 1971-2007. He was dropped after his controversial remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team but picked up by WABC later that year.
  • KPTK (1090 AM) in Seattle was the flagship of Ron Reagan's syndicated show on Air America Media before the network went bankrupt. It was one of the few shows on the network that did not originate from the network's New York studios.
  • WWVA (1170 AM) flagshipped the Wheeling Jamboree from 1933 until the late 2000s.


In sports broadcasting, the flagship radio station is the sports team's primary station in the team's home market that produces game broadcasts and feeds them to affiliates. For example, WBAL (AM) is the radio flagship station of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, which feeds Orioles' games to 20 stations in Maryland and adjacent states.


A flagship television station is the principal television station of a television network in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.[1]

In the late 1920s, network owned-and-operated stations (or "O&O") for radio in New York began producing live entertainment and news programs, fed by telephone lines to affiliate. These eventually were dubbed flagship stations.

When television networks were formed in the United States in the late 1940s and grew during the early 1950s, television network-owned stations in New York became the production centers for programs originating on the East Coast, feeding affiliates of ABC, CBS, and NBC in the eastern three-fourths of the country. Stations in Los Angeles similarly started producing programs on the West Coast, feeding affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone, Alaska, and Hawaii. Consequently, the networks' New York stations became known as the "East Coast flagships" of their respective networks and the networks' Los Angeles stations became known as the "West Coast flagships".

However before the 1950s, San Francisco was also considered a West Coast flagship market for the networks, with much of the CBS and NBC network's West Coast news programming originating from that city. This is seen the calls of CBS's KCBS (AM) being based in their original city of San Francisco instead of Los Angeles (the use of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles only dating back to 1984), while KNBR (which was subsequently sold to another party by NBC in 1987) was formerly known as KNBC before the network moved those calls to KRCA-TV in Los Angeles in 1962.

ABC, CBS, and NBC are headquartered in New York, which is the largest television market in the U.S., so their respective New York radio and television stations are considered the overall network flagship stations. As programming schedules increased and modern technology improved transmission to affiliates, the networks set up operations centers in New York (for the East Coast feed) and Los Angeles (for the West Coast feed). Los Angeles is the second largest television market in the U.S., and traditional home to the motion picture industry and its pool of popular talent, one of the reasons the radio networks set up operations there in the 1930s and 1940s.

This arrangement is reversed for the Fox Broadcasting Company. When Fox was launched in 1986, its network operations center was (and still is) based in Los Angeles. However, Fox's parent company, the News Corporation, is headquartered in New York, along with their news division. Fox-owned WNYW in New York is considered the network's overall flagship, while sister station KTTV in Los Angeles is considered a second flagship station.

The term is also used for stations that operate satellite stations in other cities. For example, KSNW in Wichita, Kansas is the flagship station of the Kansas State Network, a chain of NBC affiliates in western Kansas.

It is also used to identify a station in terms of ownership. A flagship can be located in the market where the owner is located, or in the largest market where that owner operates. For example, WSB-TV in Atlanta is the flagship of Cox Enterprises, because Cox's headquarters is located in Atlanta (although Cox owns KTVU in San Francisco/Oakland, which is larger than Atlanta). Gannett lists three flagship stations (WXIA Atlanta, WUSA Washington, and KUSA-TV Denver). Likewise, WFAA is the flagship station for Belo, as its headquarters are located in Dallas.

Flagship television stations of nationwide networks

United States

Network East Coast flagship West Coast flagship
WPSG (Philadelphia)
KBCW (San Francisco)
WPXM-TV (Miami)
WPXP (W. Palm Beach)
Telemundo WSCV (Miami) KVEA
Univision WXTV
WLTV-DT (Miami)
UniMás/TeleFutura WAMI-DT (Miami) KFTR-DT
  • Notes: East Coast flagships are located in the New York designated market area (DMA), while the West Coast flagships are located in the Los Angeles area. The CW's Philadelphia & San Francisco stations are listed as the largest CW stations owned by CBS Corporation (and thus are directly owned), while Tribune owns KTLA and WPIX. Miami stations are listed for Univision, Telemundo, and UniMás (formerly TeleFutura) due to their operations being major production bases for those networks. The Miami area stations for Ion Television are also listed due to their parent company being based out of West Palm Beach; however none of the Ion stations listed originate programming for the national Ion network.

While the Virginia-based Public Broadcasting Service in the United States does not have an official "flagship" television station, WNET in the New York area held an official primary role with Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) predecessor, National Educational Television (NET). There are no network owned-and-operated stations (O&O) in the Public Broadcasting Service; individual PBS stations are typically owned by local non-profit groups (WPBS-TV), universities (KPBS) or state-level entities (WNJN-TV, WGPB-TV) and are called a state network. The system itself is owned collectively by the local PBS member stations. A station's importance to the system is built as much or more on the programming it produces for national distribution (a metric which places WNET as a strong third-place contender behind WGBH Boston and WETA Washington, D.C.) instead of local media market size.[2]


In sports broadcasting, the flagship television station is the sports team's primary station in the team's home market that produces game telecasts and feeds them to affiliates. For example, WXYZ-TV in Detroit is the flagship station of The Detroit Lions Television Network, which feeds Detroit Lions pre-season football games to 6 affiliates in Michigan.[3] However, the "sports flagship television station" is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, with the growing popularity of cable and satellite only regional sports networks such as Fox Sports Net and Comcast SportsNet who hold exclusive broadcast rights to several teams in their market, with the exception being the NFL, where the flagship television station is also the broadcast television station that airs that team's Thursday and Monday games in that market in compliance with the league's anti-siphoning policy.

Religious networks


Network Eastern flagship West Coast flagship
TVA CFTM-DT (None, Quebec only)
  • Notes: English language eastern flagships are located in Toronto, while most French-language network programming originates in Montreal. West Coast flagships are located in Vancouver (with the exception of Citytv, whose West Coast flagship is located in Calgary). Secondary French-language networks such as TVA and V are not carried terrestrially in Western Canada, although they are available on cable. CIII-DT-41 had always been considered the flagship station of Global in Toronto despite being a technical satellite station of CIII-DT, which transmits from Paris, Ontario. However since July 2009, the CRTC has considered CIII-DT-41 "the originating station" of Global Ontario.[4]


Network Station
Televisa XEW-TV (Canal de las Estrellas)
XHTV (Foro TV)
XHGC (Canal 5)
XEQ-TV (Galavision)

Note: All flagships are located in Mexico City.


Flagships of main networks are located in Buenos Aires (América, TV Pública, Canal 9, Telefe, Canal 13).


Flagships of main networks are located in Santiago de Chile (La Red, TVN, Mega, CHV, Canal 13).

United Kingdom

Channel Network Station
2 BBC Two
4 C4TC Channel 4

Note: All flagships are located in London.


Network Station
Seven ATN
Nine TCN

Note: All flagship stations are located in Sydney.


Network Key station (Kantō) Sub-key station (Kinki) 'Flagship station (Chūkyō) Ref.
Nippon News Network
Nippon Television (NTV) Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation (ytv) Chūkyō Television Broadcasting (CTV) [5]
Japan News Network
Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS) Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting (CBC) [6]
Fuji News Network
Fuji Television (CX) Kansai Telecasting Corporation (KTV) Tōkai Television Broadcasting (THK) [7]
All-Nippon News Network
TV Asahi (EX) Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Nagoya Broadcasting Network (Mētere・NBN) [6]
TV Tokyo Network
TV Tokyo (TX) Television Osaka (TVO) Aichi Television Broadcasting (TVA) [8]

Notable American flagship stations of syndicated television programs


  • The popular nationally syndicated program Live! with Kelly and Michael is produced at WABC-TV in New York.
  • The popular nationally syndicated show At The Movies was produced at WLS-TV in Chicago. Successor program Roger Ebert presents At the Movies originated from WTTW in Chicago.
  • Although later produced by Harpo Studios, The Oprah Winfrey Show considered WLS-TV its flagship as the program concept as hosted by Winfrey originated in 1983 as part of WLS's mid-morning show, and Oprah was always aired first in the nation at 9am local time on WLS.
  • The show View from the Bay is produced at KGO-TV in San Francisco and syndicated to ABC owned and operated stations and Live Well HD Network nationwide.


  • Until the consolidation of the ITV franchises during the 1990s, the majority of primetime programming on the ITV network originated from a group of franchises known as "The Big Five" (Thames Television, LWT, ATV/ Central, Yorkshire, and Granada)

Station group flagship stations

In the United States, the term "flagship station" may also be used in the broadcasting industry to refer to a station which is co-located with the headquarters of its station group and considered the company's most important station. (Such a station may or may not be affiliated with one of the major networks.) For example, WDIV-TV in Detroit, affiliated with NBC, is the flagship station of Post-Newsweek Stations; and WGN-TV in Chicago is the flagship station of Tribune Broadcasting.

See also


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