WBBM-TV manages to screw up a landmark

It’s been a couple of decades since WBBM-TV (“CBS2” in consultant-speak) made much of an impact on the city of Chicago.  It’s ratings have been in the crapper for years.  Its analog signal is barely visible even just a mile away from the transmitter.  And digital?  Forget about it.

As a former CBS -> Westinghouse -> CBS employee, I have a soft spot for the Tiffany Network.  I looked forward to a new age of Eye greatness starting with the opening of the new CBS2 Broadcast Studios at 22 West Washington.  I should have known I would be disappointed.

The Skyline lets us know that CBS has chickened out.  Again.  Instead of giving us an 80-foot-wide video screen wrapping around its corner of Block 37, WBBM-TV will instead have a video screen that’s less than half that wide.  And it doesn’t wrap.  Oh, and it’s shorter, too.

I never worked for CBS in Chicago, but I have several friends who have and do.  They say it’s typical of the way things run there these days — take a big, important, brilliant plan and beat it into a homogenized, non-offensive, piece of who-gives-a-crap.  They say the video screen is emblematic of the state of the news that comes out of there:  small, lackluster, full of potential, but ultimately a child of compromise.

The Trib says there were complaints about the screen.  It’s typical of local television stations to be hyper-sensitive to any little fringe group with an acronym and a word processor, but it’s unclear if that’s the reason CBS changed its great plans into mediocre plans.  Even the architects presented CBS with several dramatic alternatives if a smaller screen must be used.  Not surprisingly, these experts were ignored and the station decided to play architect and stick the screen centered above its studio.

Good job, WBBM-TV.  Once again you’ve proven to Chicago that you’re a non-factor.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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