Public service campaigns take a major role on ABC7, focusing on issues and concerns to Chicago area viewers, such as Operation Save A Life in cooperation with the Chicago Fire Department, anti-drug messages in cooperation with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, announcements saluting Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month and a variety of fundraising, promotional messages for Multiple Sclerosis, the Boys and Girls Club and the March of Dimes.
Experimental television station W9XBK began operation in the fall of 1939, as the first television station in Chicago and the third in America. At the time the station telecast fifteen minutes per day. The program consisted solely of a newscast and a film short. Often, in the place of a test pattern, a camera was aimed at the Wrigley Building and the Chicago River. Today, there is twenty-four hour programming.
In August 1943, W9XBK obtained an FCC license and a construction permit for a commercial television station and two months later, on October 13, 1943, newly titled WBKB-TV made its debut on Ch.4. In 1948, WENR-TV/Ch.7, an ABC-owned station, signed on in Chicago.In 1953, United Paramount Theaters, Inc., owners of the Balaban/Katz Corporation, merged with the American Broadcasting Company to form American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, Inc. Balaban and Katz-owned WBKB merged with WENR and then became one of the five-owned stations of the American Broadcasting Company. The FCC prohibited two stations in the same market to be owned by one company so WBKB-TV (channel 4) was sold to CBS, which renamed it WBBM-TV. WENR-TV (channel 7) was renamed WBKB-TV. WBBM-TV got old WBKB-TV's talent. New WBKB-TV got old WBKB-TV's management.The combined station facilities assumed the WBKB call letters and broadcasts the signal on Ch.7. The attorney for Balaban & Katz, Leonard Goldenson, remained with the company and eventually became founder and Chairman of the Board of ABC. In October 1968, another milestone occurred when the FCC authorized the change of call letters from WBKB-TV to WLS-TV. In 1986, Leonard Goldenson, sold the company to Capital Cities, Inc. and the new company Capital Cities/ABC became the premiere broadcasting/media company in the country. With the change in FCC regulations, more station were added to the "owned station group," which is currently made up of ten stations across the country. In January 1996, Capital Cities/ABC was sold to The Walt Disney Company and became the largest entertainment company in the world combining the television station division, the ABC Television Network, ABC News, publishing, radio stations and radio networks, cable and international holdings of ABC with The Walt Disney Company, a family entertainment company engaged in animated and live-action film and television production, cable and broadcast television, theme parks and resorts, character merchandise licensing, consumer product retailing and book and music publishing.