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Column: Changing channels causes confusion

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There are but two certainties in life. The first is that eventually it will end. The second is that while it continues, things will change. Then things will change again … and again.

Sometimes, such as when you become a parent, change can be a good thing. Other times, such as when one of your parents dies, change can be a bad thing.

And sometimes change can simply be confusing.

Confusion is what I’m going to feel come Jan. 1, when WISH-TV, Channel 8, is no longer the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis.

In case you haven’t heard, come January CBS is moving from Channel 8 to WTTV, Channel 4. Though WISH hasn’t commented, published news reports indicate the station and CBS couldn’t come to terms on the fees paid to the network. So CBS is leaving WISH after 58 years and moving to WTTV.

As someone who grew up in the Indianapolis TV market, I find this change somewhat shocking.

Channel 4 a CBS affiliate? Who would have thunk it? It will be difficult for me to ever think of WTTV as anything but the outsider.

When I was growing up, we had access to just four TV channels, 4, 6, 8 and 13. That’s right, kiddies, four. The TV listings in the newspaper didn’t require a whole lot of space.

It was easy, even for a child, to remember that 6 was NBC, 8 was CBS, 13 was ABC and 4 was an independent, with no network affiliation.

At my house in Speedway, we really had access to only 3.5 stations, as Channel 4’s signal did not come in very well, and all its programs were full of what, in the old days of TV, was referred to as “snow.”

We didn’t care all that much, since there wasn’t a whole lot worth watching on Channel 4 in those days. There were a few exceptions, of course, such as Cowboy Bob, Popeye and Janie, Sammy Terry, wrestling, IU basketball games and old movies … lots of old movies.

For the most part, TV life was good.

But in 1979, Channels 6 and 13 decided to swap networks. That trade still confuses me, 35 years later. To this day when I hear or read that a program is going to air on NBC, I think of Channel 6. When I hear ABC, I think Channel 13.

If I’m still confused by the 6/13 network swap 35 years later, it’s a safe bet I’ll be dead before I figure out this latest switch.

But at least here in the 21st century Channel 4 comes in as clearly as every other channel. I can, therefore, take comfort in knowing that if I want to watch the Thursday night NFL game on CBS, I won’t have to stand in front of the TV for three hours while holding the foil wrapped around the rabbit ears.

I can’t help but wonder what will happen to WISH, a station that’s been on the air in Indianapolis since I was barely a year old and a CBS affiliate since I was 3. I’m no business expert by any means, but on the surface, giving up its network affiliation sounds like a risky proposition at best.

What will now air on Channel 8? Cowboy Bob and Janie are retired. Sammy Terry and Dick the Bruiser are dead.

Whatever WISH decides to broadcast, I hope I like it, because I’m sure I’ll keep punching in 8 on my remote when I want to watch “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory” or the NCAA Final Four.

At least for the next 35 years.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

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