The station first signed on the air at 12:30 p.m. on December 3, 1949 as KRLD-TV; it was founded by the Dallas Times Herald newspaper (now defunct), which also owned KRLD radio (1080 AM, and 92.5 FM, now KZPS). Channel 4 originally operated as a CBS affiliate – having inherited the affiliation through the CBS Radio Network's longtime relationship with KRLD (AM), which became the first radio station in Texas to affiliate with the television network's radio predecessor in 1927. The first program ever broadcast on KRLD-TV on that afternoon was the CBS game show It Pays to Be Ignorant; the first local program aired on the station that day was a college football game in which the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Southern Methodist Mustangs, 27-20.
The station inherited the call letters of its radio sister – which was named after Edwin Kiest, an original investor and later owner of KRLD (AM), and the radio station's founding owner, Radio Laboratories of Dallas. Channel 4 was the third television station to sign on in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, following Dallas-based KBTV (channel 8, now WFAA), which launched three months earlier on September 17; and Fort Worth-licensed WBAP-TV (channel 5, now KXAS-TV), which debuted on September 29, 1948. It was also the fourth Texas-based television station to be granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
KRLD-TV originally produced its programming from a temporary studio facility located north of the Times Herald building, operating at that building until its full-time facilities based at the Times Herald offices at 1101 Patterson Street in downtown Dallas were completed. The original transmitter tower on Griffin Street and San Jacinto Avenue, which provided a signal spanning approximately 90 miles (140 km) from the site, was the tallest free-standing television transmission tower in the world at the time at 586 feet (179 m). In May 1955, the station began construction of a new 1,521 feet (464 m)-tall tower in Cedar Hill. At the time of its completion in October 1955, the structure was considered to be the tallest television broadcast tower in the world (once KRLD-TV moved its transmitter to the Cedar Hill tower in early 1956, the original Griffin Street transmitter remained in use as an auxiliary facility until it was disassembled in 1984; the antenna on which it was installed was torn down in 1995, in order to reduce the load on the tower).
Among the local programs on channel 4 in its early years included O.Kay! Mr. Munn (hosted by an artist drawing visual interpretations of various song lyrics, predating the advent of the music video) and Confessions (a series featuring interviews with incarcerated criminals from the Dallas County Jail revealing why they committed the crimes they were convicted of).
KRLD-TV served as the home base for CBS' network coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, when suspect Lee Harvey Oswald (from an upper-floor window at the Texas School Book Depository) shot his rifle at sniper range at the Presidential motorcade carrying Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally as it had turned onto Elm Street. Eddie Barker, who was KRLD-TV's news director at the time and had been with the station since it signed on fourteen years earlier as one of the original members of its news department staff, was the first person to announce Kennedy's death on television, relaying a message from an official at Parkland Hospital that Kennedy had succumbed from the gunshot wound as doctors conducted emergency surgery. Because of a local press pool arrangement that was put in place that morning to cover Kennedy's speech at the Trade Mart downtown, Barker's scoop appeared live simultaneously on CBS, which had sent correspondent Dan Rather to report from Dealey Plaza, and ABC. Two days later, a KRLD-TV field crew captured footage of Oswald's assassination by nightclub owner Jack Ruby as officers were transferring the former in handcuffs out of the Dallas Police Department's downtown precinct.
CBS also maintained an arrangement with Channel 4 to use the station's remote unit to transmit live programming broadcast by the network during the 1960s and 1970s; in particular, the remote transmission truck was used to relay color broadcasts of CBS's NFL and college football game telecasts held in Texas. In 1964, KDFW moved its operations from the Times Herald's Patterson Street offices into its current, purpose-built studio facility at 400 North Griffin Street (across the street from the former building, at the intersection of Griffin and San Jacinto). In 1968, KDFW's original transmitter site in Cedar Hill was struck by a helicopter, causing substantial damage to the tower.
On May 15, 1970, the Times Herald and the KRLD radio and television stations were sold to the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company for US$30 million. The purchase voided the grandfathered protection from forced divestiture that the FCC granted to the combination of KRLD-AM-TV and the Dallas Times Herald in 1967, when the agency passed legislation prohibiting the common ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market; however, the FCC granted a waiver to Times-Mirror that allowed it to retain ownership of the newspaper and the television station. The sale to Times-Mirror was finalized on July 2, 1970, at which point – due to FCC rules that prohibited separately owned broadcast properties based in the same market from using the same callsign – the station changed its call letters to KDFW-TV, in reference to its service area of Dallas and Fort Worth (the "-TV" suffix was dropped from the callsign in July 1998; the KRLD-TV calls were later used from 1984 to 1986 by channel 33, now KDAF). KRLD radio was sold to Metromedia soon afterward (ironically, KRLD radio was co-owned with channel 33 during the timeframe in which that station was using the KRLD-TV call letters; in another irony, KRLD is now co-owned with present-day CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT (channel 11) through CBS Corporation).
In the spring of 1986, Times-Mirror sold the Times Herald to the MediaNews Group, leaving KDFW as its sole remaining media property in the Metroplex (the newspaper would cease publication five years later in December 1991, after it was purchased by the A.H. Belo Corporation, owners of rival newspaper The Dallas Morning News). A helicopter-tower collision similar to the one that occurred 19 years earlier happened on January 14, 1987, when KDFW's Cedar Hill broadcast tower (which was jointly owned by KDFW and WFAA, via the Hill Tower, Inc. consortium involving their respective corporate parents) was hit by a Navy F-4 Phantom that was performing training exercises as it was on approach to the Dallas Naval Air Station, clipping several guy-wires. The jet's two occupants survived as they had ejected themselves from the aircraft and parachuted to the ground before it crashed. A new 1,400 feet (430 m)-tall tower was constructed a 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) to the southwest, which was completed in 1989 (the former tower – which had its height reduced to 1,240 feet (380 m) due to the removal of the candelabra mast that encompassed the upper 281 feet (86 m) of the structure – was converted into an auxiliary transmitter facility for KDFW, WFAA and radio stations KJMZ (100.3 FM, now KJKK), KMEZ (107.5 FM, now KMVK), KQZY (105.3 FM, now KRLD-FM), KKDA-FM (104.5) and KMGC (102.9 FM, now KDMX).
In March 1993, in order for the company to concentrate on its newspaper and cable television system franchises, Times-Mirror sold KDFW-TV and its three sister stations – fellow CBS affiliate KTBC in Austin, ABC affiliate KTVI in St. Louis and NBC affiliate WVTM-TV in Birmingham – to Argyle Television Holdings in a two-part deal for US$335 million in cash and securities. Under the transaction's purchase option structure, KDFW and KTBC became the last two stations that Argyle sold to New World (which had earlier respectively acquired WVTM and KTVI from the group for $45 million and $35 million); the purchase of the entire group was completed in December of that year following securement of financing for the deal.
In the winter of early 1994, Argyle Television took over management responsibilities for struggling independent station KDFI (channel 27, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station) under a local marketing agreement with its then-owner, Richardson-based Dallas Media Investors Corporation, which was owned by former KDFW station manager John McKay. Through the consolidation of that station's operations with Channel 4, KDFI began airing late-night rebroadcasts of KDFW's 10:00 p.m. newscast each weeknight as well as select syndicated programs seen on that station; during the first months of the LMA, KDFW also produced a daily 30-minute wrap-up of the proceedings in the O. J. Simpson murder case for KDFI – which aired in place of the 10:00 p.m. news rebroadcast – during the summer and fall of 1994.
On May 23, 1994, in an overall deal in which network parent News Corporation also acquired a 20% equity interest in the company, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement with the Fox Broadcasting Company. Under the initial agreement, nine television stations affiliated with either CBS, ABC or NBC – five of the seven that New World acquired through its 1992 purchase of SCI Television, and four others that it acquired on May 5 from Great American Communications (in a separate deal for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants) – would become Fox affiliates once their existing respective affiliation contracts expired. The deal was part of a strategy by Fox to strengthen its affiliate portfolio after the National Football League (NFL) accepted the network's US$1.58 billion bid for the television rights to the National Football Conference (NFC), a four-year contract that began with the 1994 NFL season, on December 18, 1993. At the time, Fox's stations were mostly UHF outlets that had limited to no prior history as major network affiliates; among them was its existing Dallas outlet KDAF (now a CW affiliate), which News Corporation purchased through its May 1985 merger with Metromedia and was among Fox's original group of six owned-and-operated stations when the network launched in October 1986.
On May 26, New World bought the four Argyle Television stations for US$717 million, in a purchase option-structured deal. Under the terms, New World included KDFW, KTBC and KTVI in the group's affiliation agreement with Fox (WVTM, now owned by Hearst Television, remained an NBC affiliate as New World chose to transfer Birmingham ABC affiliate WBRC into a trust company for later sale to Fox Television Stations – an arrangement that was part of a deal also involving ABC affiliate WGHP in High Point, North Carolina to comply with FCC restrictions at the time that prohibited broadcasting companies from owning more than twelve television stations nationwide and, in the case of Birmingham, barred television station duopolies – and was subsequently sold to NBC before being purchased by Media General in 2006). Although the network already owned KDAF, Fox sought the opportunity to align with KDFW because of its stronger market position (the station placed second, behind WFAA, in total day and news viewership at the time) and its operation of a news department; as a result, Fox Television Stations decided to sell KDAF, which would ultimately trade it to Renaissance Broadcasting in exchange for existing Fox affiliate KDVR in Denver.
CBS had a thirteen-month leeway to find a new Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate, as its contract with KDFW did not expire until July 1, 1995; the affiliation contracts for KTBC and KTVI expired around the same time, giving the networks that were already affiliated with the three former Argyle stations slated to switch to Fox a longer grace period to find new affiliates than CBS, NBC and/or ABC were given in most of the other markets affected by the Fox-New World deal (ABC's affiliation contracts with WGHP and WBRC ended even later, respectively expiring in September 1995 and September 1996). CBS first approached longtime NBC affiliate KXAS-TV about negotiating an affiliation deal, ultimately to be turned down by its then-owner LIN Broadcasting; WFAA was eliminated as an option as ABC reached a new long-term agreement with then-owner of the station, Belo, to extend affiliation contracts for WFAA and other Belo-owned stations that were affiliated with the network. This left KTVT as CBS's only viable option among the Metroplex's VHF television stations, particularly as it was the only other English language station in the market that had a news department (at the time, KTVT had been producing a prime time newscast, which debuted in 1990). On September 14, 1994, Gaylord Broadcasting reached an agreement to affiliate KTVT with CBS, in exchange for also switching its sister independent station in Tacoma, Washington, KSTW (now a CW owned-and-operated station), to the network (Time Warner would later file an injunction attempting to dissolve a previous agreement with Gaylord to turn KTVT, KSTW and KHTV (now CW affiliate KIAH) in Houston into charter affiliates of The WB at that network's launch in January 1995).
That month, KDFW began pre-empting The Price Is Right and The Bold and the Beautiful, respectively replacing them with Donahue and an expanded midday newscast; KTVT began carrying the two CBS Daytime programs on a regular basis and also cleared select CBS prime time programs that channel 4 pre-empted in order to run locally produced specials. New World took over the operations of the Argyle stations through time brokerage agreements on January 19, 1995; the group's purchase of the four stations was finalized on April 14, 1995. The last CBS network program to air on KDFW-TV was a repeat of Walker, Texas Ranger at 9:00 p.m. Central Time on July 1; this led into a message by then-station president and general manager David Whitaker shortly before the start of its late-evening newscast (then titled News 4 Texas Nightbeat, which was renamed News 4 Texas at 10:00 after the switch with the implementation of a new graphics package centered partly on imagery of the Texas state flag), informing viewers about the pending network changes.
KDFW switched to Fox on July 2, 1995, ending its relationship with CBS after 45½ years; the remainder of CBS's programming moved on that date to KTVT, which consequently ceased distribution as a regional superstation on cable and satellite providers outside of its viewing area, as many of the markets where a pay television provider carried KTVT already had access to local or out-of-market CBS affiliates (KTBC joined Fox the same day, while KTVI followed suit on August 7). On that date, KDAF – whose sale to Renaissance Broadcasting was finalized the following day on July 3 – became an affiliate of The WB; Christian Broadcasting Network-owned KXTX-TV (channel 39, now a Telemundo owned-and-operated station), which reverted into an independent station, served as the market's original WB outlet during the network's first six months of operation under a temporary arrangement until it could affiliate with KDAF when Fox moved to channel 4.
With Fox switching from UHF to VHF, Dallas-Fort Worth became one of a handful of markets where all of the "Big Four" networks maintained affiliations with VHF stations (along with New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Tucson, Miami, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Honolulu, Boise and Anchorage; Reno joined this distinction in 1996, followed by Portland and Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2002; in both Boise and Honolulu, the Fox affiliation switched from one VHF station to another). KDFW rebranded as "Fox 4 Texas" upon the affiliation switch, but with references to the Fox logo and name limited in most on-air imaging; although as with most of the other New World-owned stations affected by the agreement with Fox, channel 4 retained the news branding it had been using before it joined the network – in its case, News 4 Texas, which the station adopted in November 1990 as a CBS affiliate (the "4 Texas" motif was adopted as a universal brand, extending to weather and sports content produced by KDFW's news department). In addition to expanding its local news programming at the time it joined Fox, the station replaced CBS daytime and late night programs that migrated to KTVT with an expanded slate of syndicated talk shows as well as some documentary-based reality series, and also acquired some movies and off-network drama series for broadcast on weekends; however, unusual for a Fox affiliate, the revamped programming schedule did not include sitcoms and, like New World's other Fox stations, ran children's programs only on weekend mornings.
On July 17, 1996, News Corporation – which separated most of its entertainment holdings into 21st Century Fox in July 2013 – announced that it would acquire New World in an all-stock transaction worth US$2.48 billion; the merger deal also included rights to the LMA with KDFI (the New World Communications name continues in use as a licensing purpose corporation [as "New World Communications of (state/city), Inc." or "NW Communications of (state/city), Inc."] for KDFW and its sister stations under Fox ownership, extending, from 2009 to 2011, to the former New World stations that Fox sold to Local TV in 2007); In January 1997, as other network-owned stations around the United States began adopting similar network-driven branding, KDFW-TV shortened its branding to simply "Fox 4" under the network's branding conventions (with its newscasts concurrently rebranding as Fox 4 News). The purchase by News Corporation was finalized on January 22 of that year, folding New World's ten Fox affiliates into the former's Fox Television Stations subsidiary, making them all owned-and-operated stations of the network. At that time, Channel 4 became the second English language network-owned commercial station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market; Viacom, then-owner of that network's Dallas station KTXA (channel 21, now an independent station), acquired part-ownership of UPN in 1996. It was also one of two stations that switched to Fox under the New World agreement that replaced an existing Fox O&O, only to later be sold to the network itself (in Atlanta, sister station WAGA had earlier replaced WATL as that market's Fox station in December 1994), making Dallas one of a handful of markets more than one station has served as an O&O of the same network.
In April 1998, when NBC affiliate KTEN (which added an additional primary affiliation with Fox in September 1994, partly in order to carry its NFL telecasts) terminated its affiliations with Fox and ABC, KDFW began serving as a default Fox station for portions of the adjacent Sherman-Ada market located south of the Oklahoma-Texas state line (including Gainesville, Durant and Hugo) through its availability on area cable providers (cable subscribers residing on the Oklahoma side of the market primarily received Fox network programs via KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City). Because the market lacked enough commercial television stations to allow the network to maintain an exclusive affiliation, Fox would not regain an affiliate within the market until CBS affiliate KXII launched a Fox-affiliated digital subchannel in September 2006.
In an effort to expand beyond the talk and court shows that KDFW had based its syndicated programming slate around since the July 1995 switch, the station added a few off-network sitcoms between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s – such as Seinfeld (which later moved to KDAF), King of the Hill (which later moved to KTXA), 3rd Rock From the Sun and Malcolm in the Middle – mainly as part of its late-night schedule. After sister station KDFI assumed rights to most of the sitcoms KDFW had previously aired in the 2008-09 season, no off-network comedies aired on KDFW's schedule (a rarity for a Fox station) until September 2013, when the station began airing reruns of Modern Family.
In 2000, News Corporation purchased KDFI from Dallas Media Investors, creating a legal duopoly with KDFW; as a result, the combination became the first television duopoly in the Metroplex and the first duopoly that Fox Television Stations operated (predating the group's acquisition of Chris-Craft/United Television's UPN-affiliated stations later that year). KDFI integrated its operations with KDFW at the latter's downtown studios on North Griffin Street.
On November 16, 2016, MGM Television and Lightworkers Media (respectively headed by the husband-and-wife team of television producer Mark Burnett and actress/producer Roma Downey) announced that it would launch Light TV, a digital multicast network that would feature family-oriented and faith-based entertainment programming. Through an affiliation agreement with Fox Television Stations, KDFW launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 4.2 to serve as an affiliate of the network when it debuted on December 22, 2016.
KDFW shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 35, using PSIP to display KDFW's virtual channel as 4 on digital television receivers.
Through its participation as a SAFER Act "nightlight" broadcaster, KDFW kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Syndicated programs broadcast by KDFW as of September 2016 include Live with Kelly, The Wendy Williams Show, Harry, Divorce Court and The Dr. Oz Show. Since it joined the network in July 1995, KDFW has only aired Fox's prime time, Saturday late night and sports programming, as well as special reports produced by Fox News. As with most of its sister stations under its former New World ownership (with the subverted exception of former sister station KTVI in St. Louis, which assumed rights to the network's children's programs in 1996 and carried the blocks until Fox stopped providing them within its schedule), Channel 4 declined carriage of the children's programming blocks that Fox carried prior to 2008, only having aired fall preview specials and network promotions for those blocks that aired within Fox's prime time lineup during that twelve-year period.
KDFW opted not to run the Fox Kids weekday and Saturday blocks when it affiliated with the network, airing children's programs acquired via syndication on weekend mornings instead (the pre-emptions of Fox Kids by the New World stations led the network to change its carriage policies to allow Fox stations uninterested in carrying the block the right of first refusal to transfer the local rights to another station; by 2001, affiliates were no longer required to run the Fox Kids lineup even if Fox had not secured a substitute carrier). Fox Kids remained on KDAF after it became a WB affiliate in July 1995, before moving to KDFI in September 1997, where it and successor FoxBox/4Kids TV aired until Fox ceased supplying children's programming within its schedule on December 28, 2008; the paid programming block that replaced 4Kids TV, Weekend Marketplace, has aired on KDFI since then. Xploration Station, a live-action educational program block distributed by Steve Rotfeld Productions that is syndicated primarily to Fox stations (including those owned by Fox Television Stations), was similarly passed over to KDFI when that block debuted on September 13, 2014.
In September 1972, the station premiered 4 Country Reporter, a weekly program hosted by Bob Phillips focusing on feature stories about noted points of interest and interesting people from around the state of Texas. After Phillips left KDFW in 1986, he bought the rights to the concept and began selling the show in regional syndication, accordingly retitling it as Texas Country Reporter; the program now airs on stations in each of Texas' 22 television markets. KDFW did not acquire the local rights to the syndicated version, which was instead carried by rival ABC affiliate WFAA (under the title 8 Country Reporter).
KDFW began serving as the primary television station for the Dallas Cowboys as a CBS affiliate in 1962, when the network obtained the television rights to the pre-AFL merger National Football League. The station carried most regional or national Cowboys game telecasts aired by CBS until its contractual rights to the National Football Conference concluded in 1993. To date, the one-year interruption in game coverage after that season, due to the transfer of NFC telecast rights from CBS to Fox, is the only break in network coverage of the team by the station since 1962; for the 1994 season, the team's over-the-air game telecasts aired instead on lame-duck Fox O&O KDAF. Channel 4 resumed its status as the Cowboys' primary local broadcaster two months after it joined Fox, in September 1995; incidentally, that year's NFL season saw the Cowboys compete in Super Bowl XXX (which aired locally on NBC affiliate KXAS-TV), in which they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, to win the championship title.
Unlike in most other NFC markets with a Fox owned-and-operated station in which the station maintains such an arrangement with a local NFL franchise, KDFW does not carry any team-produced analysis or magazine programming; these programs air instead on KTVT through a separate programming agreement with the Cowboys, even though, as a CBS station, its telecasts of Cowboys regular season games are limited to those involving an American Football Conference (AFC) opponent or, since 2014, cross-flexed games declined by Fox that involve opponents in the NFC. Since Fox obtained the partial (now exclusive) over-the-air network television rights to Major League Baseball in 1996, KDFW has also carried certain Texas Rangers games that have been regionally or nationally televised by the network during the league's regular season and postseason. Additionally, from 1998 to 2009, KDFW also served as an alternate carrier of Rangers baseball games produced by co-owned regional sports network Fox Sports Southwest for broadcast on sister station KDFI, which served as the team's official flagship station during that period; KTXA (channel 21) assumed the local over-the-air television rights to the Rangers in 2010.
Since Fox obtained the partial (now exclusive) over-the-air network television rights to the league in 1996, KDFW has carried certain Major League Baseball (MLB) games featuring the Texas Rangers that have been regionally televised (and, since 2013, select national telecasts scheduled during prime time) by the network during the league's regular season and postseason. In addition, from 1995 until Fox lost the broadcast television rights to the National Hockey League (NHL) to ABC in 1999, KDFW carried certain regular season and playoff games featuring the Dallas Stars that Fox televised on a regional basis. Notably, in 1999, the station aired the Stars' first Stanley Cup Finals appearance as a Dallas-based franchise (the third overall, counting their 1981 and 1991 appearances that preceded the former Minnesota North Stars' relocation from Minneapolis in 1993), which saw the franchise defeat the Buffalo Sabres to win its first national championship title (as Fox's NHL contract required it to split the Stanley Cup Finals coverage rights with the league's cable partner, the decisive Game 6 of that series aired instead on ESPN).
KDFW presently broadcasts 47 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with eight hours on weekdays, and 3½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the largest local newscast output among the Dallas-Fort Worth market's broadcast television stations. In addition, KDFW produces the half-hour sports highlight program Fox 4 Sports Sunday, which airs Sundays after the 9:00 p.m. newscast. The station's Sunday 5:00 p.m. newscast is subject to preemption and the Saturday 6:00 p.m. newscast is subject to delay due to overruns by Fox Sports telecasts. KDFW is the only remaining Fox-owned station which does not run its weekday morning newscast during the 9:00 a.m. hour, as it has long ceded that timeslot to Live! with Kelly and its previous incarnations (which, as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, moved to KDFW from KTVT in September 1993).
Appropriate for a station that was founded by a newspaper, local news has always had a strong presence on Channel 4. For the better part of four decades, it was part of a spirited battle for first place among the market's news-producing stations with KXAS and WFAA. In November 1978, the station hired Clarice Tinsley (who joined KDFW from CBS affiliate and eventual sister station WITI in Milwaukee, which also became a Fox affiliate through the New World deal) to serve as anchor of its 10:00 p.m. newscast and conduct special assignment reports, the latter of which (through investigative reports and interviews on which she has been assigned) has earned her several journalism awards over her career with the station (including Associated Press, Emmy and Peabody Awards and a duPont-Columbia Citation for Excellence); as of 2016, she is currently the third longest-tenured overall and the second longest-tenured currently active television news personality in North Texas, and has had the longest tenure of any on-air staff member in KDFW's history (in the former category, Tinsley ranks behind Harold Taft, who served as chief meteorologist at KXAS-TV from its sign-on as WBAP-TV in 1948 until his retirement in 1991, and Roberta "Bobbie" Wygant, who has served as an entertainment reporter for WBAP/KXAS since 1948). Although KDFW has experienced a relative degree of talent turnover over the years (particularly during the 1980s and early 1990s), several anchors and reporters that have been part of Channel 4's news department staff have worked for the station for at least ten years (in addition to Tinsley, these have included Richard Ray, who joined KDFW as a reporter in 1983 and has also served as weekend evening anchor since 1995; Ron Jackson, who served as weekend meteorologist from 1982 until his retirement in 2014; and Becky Oliver, who served as its chief investigative reporter from 1991 until her retirement from broadcasting in 2015).
On January 6, 1980, the station debuted Insights, a weekly public affairs program featuring topical discussions and feature stories focusing on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex's ethnic community, focusing primarily on issues affecting African Americans. The program was originally hosted by Rochelle Brown until 2002, when she relegated herself to an executive producer role and was succeeded by longtime general assignment reporter Shaun Rabb (who also served as weekend evening anchor from 1993 to 1994) for the remainder of its run; the Emmy Award-winning Sunday morning program ended its 29-year run on June 21, 2009.
On May 12, 1986, to inaugurate the rollout of its new satellite news-gathering units, KDFW kicked off an ambitious three-week tour across Texas, in which the station conducted live remotes at different locations around the state each day for its early evening newscasts. As it was returning from Van Horn (the first site of the tour) that evening, a Bell JetRanger used by the station as its newsgathering helicopter crashed after takeoff at Guadalupe Mountains National Park while pilot Irving Patrick attempted to navigate the chopper in strong wind speeds. Patrick and news operations manager Scott "Buster" MacGregor were killed on board; however in the midst of the tragedy, KDFW's news staff chose to continue the cross-state tour as scheduled. In September 1993, KDFW became the first television station in Dallas-Fort Worth to launch a weekend morning newscast, with the debut of a two-hour Saturday broadcast from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. (the program – which, uniformally with the weekday morning newscasts, was retitled Good Day Dallas [now Fox 4 Good Day] in January 1997 – would later move to 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. on April 4, 2010, and was joined by a Sunday edition in that same time period on July 10, 2011).
When KDFW became a Fox affiliate on July 2, 1995, the station sharply expanded its emphasis on local news programming. It retained a news schedule similar to the one it had as a CBS affiliate, while increasing its news output from about 25 hours a week to nearly 40 hours (with its weekday news schedule expanding from 3½ hours to seven hours per day). In its early years with Fox, local news programming on the station ran on weekdays from 5:30 to 9:00 a.m., 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday mornings, weekends from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. and nightly from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. The weekday morning newscast's expansion from 1½ to three hours – with the addition of a two-hour extension from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. – and the consolidation of its half-hour weeknight 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts into a single 90-minute block – although both programs were respectively structured as separate one-hour and half-hour broadcasts – filled timeslots vacated by the removals of CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News from its schedule as Fox, unlike CBS, does not have daily national newscasts. Since Fox does not provide a third hour of network programming within its evening schedule, Channel 4 also added an hour-long prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. to lead into its existing 10:00 p.m. newscast (KDFW is one of several Fox stations that offer newscasts in both the final hour of prime time and the traditional late news time slot – Fox Television Stations started to push news expansion into the latter in 2006 – and one of ten that continued its Big Three-era late-evening newscast after switching to Fox; in contrast, Austin sister station KTBC aired syndicated programming as a lead-in for its existing 10:00 p.m. newscast after it switched to Fox before it moved its late newscast to the 9:00 p.m. hour in August 2000, that station would restore a late newscast in the former slot in September 2014).
On the date of the network switch, KDFW also debuted a 20-minute local sports news program within its 9:00 p.m. newscast, Sports 4 Texas, which also served as a generalized branding for its sports segments until January 1997; the program eventually evolved into its present weekly half-hour format as Fox 4 Sports Sunday in September 1997, when KDFW discontinued the weekend editions of its 10:00 p.m. newscast, relegating that newscast to Monday through Friday evenings (Fox late night programming airs on Saturdays at 10:00 p.m., while Sports Sunday airs Sundays in that time slot). In advance of the switch, KDFW station management offered news department employees a one-month pay bonus as an incentive to agree to stay until or after the affiliation switch. Because Fox did not have a news division – and by association, an affiliate news service – at the time KDFW joined the network (Fox News Channel and the Fox News Edge video service would not launch until August 1996), the station's news department initially relied on external video feeds from CNN Newsource for coverage of national and international news stories; the station also increased its news staff from 80 to 120 employees, through the hiring of 40 additional employees in both on-air and behind-the-scenes roles.
The expansion of the news department as well as other programming changes that occurred when Channel 4 switched to Fox were the subject of a scathing article by writer Brad Bailey in the October 1995 issue of D Magazine, criticizing the news department for a perceived incorporation of sensationalistic reports to fill time within its expanded newscasts and KDFW as a whole for adopting a syndicated programming lineup consisting largely of tabloid talk shows (such as The Maury Povich Show, Geraldo and Jerry Springer, following suit with other New World-owned Fox stations that acquired such programs to bulk up their syndication lineups after joining the network), referring to the station's decision to maintain its status as a "big, legitimate news operation" while operating as a Fox affiliate as conflicting and incompatible courses (before New World started switching most of its stations to Fox in September 1994, Fox stations tended to focus predominately on first-run and off-network syndicated programs and movies, with limited to no local news programming; Miami affiliate WSVN's decision to adopt a news-intensive programming format after switching from NBC to Fox in January 1989 served as the template for the New World and SF Broadcasting stations that switched to Fox between 1994 and 1996, a format that was gradually adopted by many heritage Fox stations that had existing or launched upstart news departments in subsequent years). The article was criticized by KDFW president/general manager David Whitaker, and main evening anchors Clarice Tinsley and John Criswell, the latter of whom (who left KDFW in 1997, after a seven-year tenure at the station) stated that Bailey could not have "accomplished a more reprehensible mass assassination of character with a machine gun or bomb". Although ratings for its newscasts declined in the first couple of months after it joined Fox due to viewer confusion over the switch (which Whitaker acknowledged had also resulted in ratings losses at its competitors at that time), KDFW began regaining some of its news audience starting in the fall of 1995; it has since often beat its English language competitors in the demographic of adults between 25 and 54 years old in certain time slots, particularly in the morning and at 9:00 p.m.
Starting in 2006, the Fox-owned stations began revamping their sets and graphics to be more closely aligned visually with Fox News Channel, along with the adoption of standardized "kitebox" logos. KDFW debuted the new logo, set, graphics and theme music on September 20, 2006, beginning with its 9:00 p.m. newscast. The station also relaunched its website under the "myfox" branding and interface developed by Fox Interactive Media, incorporating more news and video content (the Fox O&O sites have since been migrated to the WorldNow web platform). On February 18, 2009 beginning with its noon newscast, KDFW became the fifth television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. On April 5, 2010, the station expanded its weekday morning newscast to 4½ hours, with the addition of a half-hour at 4:30 a.m.Clarice Tinsley – weeknight anchor