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In June 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the proposal made by the Cook/Midland venture, and awarded the individual licenses for which the two companies had applied.
Channel 9 first signed on the air as a shared operation on August 2 of that year.
Hearst-Argyle Television continued to maintain operational responsibilities for KCWE until 2001, when its parent company, the Hearst Corporation, bought the channel 29 license outright by way of an indirect subsidiary (doing business as "KCWE-TV Company") separate from its broadcasting division.
In July 2005, Hearst-Argyle announced plans to construct a new 53,000-square-foot (4,900 m) facility at the Winchester Business Center (located at 6455 Winchester Avenue, near Swope Park) in southeastern Kansas City, Missouri to house the operations of KMBC and KCWE.
As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV (channel 5, now KCTV) with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona (which rejoined CBS in September 1994) losing its affiliation with the network to KOOL-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV).
KMBC-TV subsequently signed an affiliation agreement with ABC, granting it assumption of the Kansas City affiliation rights to that network from KCMO-TV, which had carried the network since its September 1953 sign-on in a dual-affiliation arrangement (KCMO also initially carried select programs from the Du Mont Television Network on a part-time basis until the network ceased operations in August 1956).
Channel 9 formally switched to ABC, becoming the market's first full-time affiliate of that network, in September of that year.
The prospective licensees in question were the Cook Paint and Varnish Company and the Midland Broadcasting Company, which had respectively owned two of the area's AM radio stations – Cook was the operator of WHB (then at 710 AM, now at 810 AM), while Midland owned KMBC (980 AM, now KMBZ).
The two stations share studio facilities located at the Winchester Business Center on Winchester Avenue and East 63rd Street (near Swope Park, off of I-435) in southeastern Kansas City, Missouri; KMBC-TV maintains transmitter facilities located near the Blue River in eastern Kansas City.
On cable, KMBC-TV is available on Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity and Consolidated Communications channel 12, and Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse channel 9.
In April 1954, Cook Paint and Varnish purchased Midland Broadcasting's television and radio holdings – KMBC-TV, KMBC radio and sister radio station KFRM (550 AM) in Concordia, Kansas – in a deal that transferred the rights to Midland's lease to the Victoria Theatre, at the intersection of East 18th Street and Central Avenue in Downtown Kansas City, to Cook.
After Cook formally assumed ownership of the station on June 14 of that year, KMBC-TV began occupying channel 9 full-time, absorbing WHB-TV's share of the operation and the lease to the Victoria Theatre, wherein Midland had rented space in the lower floors beneath the building's performance stage since it purchased the facility in 1947 to house the operations of KMBC radio and later KMBC-TV.
The licensees borrowed the call letters of their shared television station from their respective radio properties: the Midland-owned station was assigned the call letters KMBC-TV and the Cook-owned station was assigned the calls WHB-TV.