WFLD to launch 4 p.m. newscast

Fox-owned station adds another hour to weekday newscast

[Editor’s Note: This post has been updated at 3:24 p.m.] 

Fox 32 (WFLD) is jumping into the 4 p.m. news race.

Starting August 3, the Fox-owned station is launching First at Four, a new newscast anchored by Anthony Ponce and Sally Schulze with Tia Ewing reporting from “Studio 32”.

“Chicagoans deserve more than just sound bites to understand the unprecedented news currently affecting them,” said WFLD/WPWR VP/News director Matt Piacente. “We will continue to deliver the news of the day, but with deeper explanations and perspectives from our experts, viewers, and journalists.”

Plans include interviewing experts on local and national stories and a more in-depth analysis on major news stories of the day.

Fox 32 joins a crowded 4 p.m. news race with ABC 7 (WLS-TV), NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV) and independent WGN-TV already airing news, the latter two taking on ratings-leader ABC 7 since 2014 and 2016, respectively. The expansion is notable given Fox 32 was the last Fox-owned station to launch a 5 p.m. newscast, doing so  four years ago.

The newscast expansion replaces the last half-hour of TMZ Live and TMZ. The extra hour of news fills a gap that would have been occupied by Nick Cannon’s new syndicated talk show, which has now been delayed a year mainly due to the pandemic. Earlier this week, Cannon was caught making anti-Semitic remarks on his podcast, forcing his departure from the cable TV show Wild N’ Out after ViacomCBS fired him. 

With the expansion, WFLD now airs 55 hours of news programming a week but still lower than what WGN produces on a per-week-basis (71.5). The move also leaves CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) as the only news station in town without a 4 p.m. newscast as the station airs a double-run of Judge Judy. With Judy wrapping up production after next season, it is possible CBS 2 launches a 4 p.m. newscast, though no plans have been announced.

One of the reasons for the news expansion is simple: with election season slated to shift into to full gear after Labor Day, Fox 32 adding a another hour of news make sense as local news attracts tons of political advertising – especially with the pandemic hurting revenue at local television stations nationwide. On the other hand, we get another station at 4 p.m. reporting on Covid news and the city’s violence epidemic. But that’s how local news works in Chicago, whether we like it or not.

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