The ABC5 story can be traced back to our roots in radio at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) in Ames over 80 years ago. On April 28, 1922 WOI-AM signed on as the first radio station in central Iowa and one of the first in the country.
The official story is that ABC5 received its call letters randomly. However, legend has it two Iowa State faculty members happen to notice "Iowa State College" in reverse through a frosted glass window on an office door while completing the original application for a radio license. They came up with "WOI" which was the first three letters in IOWA in reverse. This was of course before the current FCC rule that call letters for stations west of the Mississippi River must start with a "K".
Continuing the tradition of WOI being Iowa's broadcasting leader, the college station became the first in the state to start transmitting with frequency modulation (FM) in July of 1949. Less then a year later, on February 21, 1950 WOI-TV signed on the air to become the first television station in central Iowa.
Competitor WHO-TV didn't sign on until 1954 and KRNT (now KCCI) wasn't broadcasting until 1955. Since ABC5 was the only station during the early years, programming was taken from all the national networks of the time (ABC, CBS, NBC, and the now defunct Dumont Network). Originally assigned to channel 4, ABC5 was extremely unique in the early 1950's because it was the only educationally owned television station in the country.
Over the next four decades ABC5 would become a sole affiliate of ABC and be home to numerous popular local shows such as "The Magic Window" with long time host Betty Lou Varnum. The show ran continuously from 1951 through 1994 making it America's longest running local children's program.
In addition to be being the first television station in central Iowa, ABC5 is proud of other "firsts". The station was the first in the Des Moines market to produce a live local newscast . On October 10, 1981 ABC5 became the first local station in the country to originate a live broadcast of a NCAA athletic event via satellite for the Iowa State vs. San Diego football game. And in 1984 ABC5 was the first station in Des Moines to produce a live broadcast of the Iowa State Fair parade.
In September of 1991 the Iowa Board of Regents made the decision to sell the television side of WOI and retain only the license for WOI radio. On March 1, 1994 ownership of ABC5 was transferred to Capital Communications Co., Inc.
Later that same year the station relocated from the ISU campus to a temporary location at 300 East Locust in downtown Des Moines. Then in 1998 ABC5 moved again to its permanent new home at 3903 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. ABC5's transmitter and 2,000-foot-tall broadcast tower have always remained about 15 miles north of Des Moines in Alleman.
Today, ABC5 along with the ABC Television Network broadcast a variety of news, information, sports and entertainment programming. From special live coverage of Iowa State athletics to ABC World News Tonight, there's something for everyone. ABC5 News alone broadcasts more then 19 hours of local news, sports, and weather each week.
ABC5 continues to work hard to be your one source for news and quality entertainment programming in central Iowa. The station's recent expansion into digital broadcasting on ABC5-DT Channel 50/5.1 is an example of ABC5's continued commitment to central Iowa.