WGCL-TV - History


Channel 46 first went on the air on June 6, 1971. It was originally owned by the Continental Broadcasting Network, an arm of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. Its original broadcast callsign was WHAE-TV, which stood for "Heaven And Earth". It originally was programmed for a six-hour broadcast day. It also had a low-budget lineup consisting of an hour to two of general entertainment and another few hours of religious shows per day. It ran only religious programming on Sundays. In 1972, the station expanded to 8 hours a day with another 2 hours a day of entertainment shows consisting of stuff higher rated stations and Ted Turner's WTCG passed on. In April 1973, The station expanded the broadcast day to 12 hours a day with a few more secular shows. That Summer, the station began signing on at 9 a.m. and added many more shows such as old feature films and cartoons. From 1974 to 1976, the station would sign on for a few months at 7 a.m., other months at 9 or 10 a.m.

By 1976, the station had expanded to a 20-hour broadcast day, airing cartoons like the made for TV Popeye episodes, the pre-1941 Porky Pig shorts, and the post-1948 Bugs Bunny shorts; classic sitcoms like Dennis the Menace, Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch (the latter two would move to WTCG/WTBS in the 80s), family dramas, westerns, and religious programming (including The 700 Club twice a day) on weekdays. Children's programming, westerns and movies were shown on Saturdays and the station continued to air strictly religious programming on Sundays until the fall of 1980. At that time, it began to run general entertainment programming during the afternoon. In 1977, it changed calls to WANX-TV, which stood for "Atlanta IN Christ (X)". It also began offering more mainstream programming. However, its programming policy was somewhat more conservative than its two main rivals at the time, WTBS (channel 17, now WPCH-TV) and WATL. It didn't air any programming that would offend the sensibilities of its mostly fundamentalist and Pentecostal audience.

The station was bought by Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting in 1984. Tribune changed its call letters once again, this time to WGNX, named after then-sister station in Chicago WGN-TV: it took WGN, and added an X from the previous callsign (essentially WGN + WANX). The 700 Club was now only broadcast once a day, before being dropped altogether until 2007, when WGCL picked it up again. The station significantly upgraded its programming, picking up more racier programming than it had aired under CBN ownership. When Tribune partnered with Time Warner to form the new WB Network, WGNX was slated to become the new network's Atlanta outlet upon that new network's launch in January 1995. However, those plans were suddenly altered on May 22, 1994. On that day, New World Communications announced an affiliation agreement with the Fox Broadcasting Company, months after Fox won the broadcast rights to NFC football games. This resulted in most of its stations set to become Fox affiliates. One of the stations due to switch was Atlanta's longtime CBS affiliate, WAGA-TV (channel 5). CBS needed to find a new affiliate in what had become the nation's 9th largest market, and approached all of Atlanta's major stations, including WGNX. However, none were interested at first.

By October 1994—only a month before WAGA was slated to join Fox—CBS faced the prospect of having to pipe in WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, WRBL in Columbus and WMAZ-TV in Macon for cable customers until it could find a new affiliate in Atlanta. Almost out of desperation, CBS made a deal to buy WVEU, a low-rated station on channel 69 with the weakest signal of Atlanta's full-power stations. Around the same time that the WB launched, another new network, the United Paramount Network (UPN), co-owned by Paramount Pictures/Viacom and Chris-Craft Industries, was set to launch, with WATL as the most likely pick to be that network's Atlanta affiliate. However, CBS still wanted to affiliate with a station that people were more familiar with (and that had a functioning news department). It continued to negotiate with Tribune, who finally relented in November and allowed WGNX to become a CBS affiliate.

This move left WGNX with cartoons and sitcoms that it would no longer have time to air as a CBS affiliate, so it sold some of its syndicated programming to WVEU, which became the UPN affiliate (while WATL joined the WB), and was later sold to Viacom, who changed its calls to WUPA.

The affiliation switch became official on December 11, 1994. It would have originally occurred on November 27, but Fox, New World and CBS were still ironing out the final details. As a CBS station, it began airing more syndicated talk and reality shows; it also began calling itself "CBS46", though these references were mostly verbal; graphics continued to refer to "channel 46".

With the move to WGNX, however, CBS lost significant viewership in the northern portion of the Atlanta market. This area is somewhat mountainous, and despite its 5 million-watt analog signal, WGNX didn't penetrate nearly as far into this area as WAGA did. Much of this region was among the few areas where cable still wasn't readily available. CBS didn't return over-the-air to this area until the following August, when WNEG-TV (channel 32, now WUGA-TV) in Toccoa joined CBS. Although it was located in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, WNEG served as the de facto CBS affiliate for the far northern portion of the Atlanta market until that station's sale to the University of Georgia in 2008. By this time, increased cable and satellite availability in this area increased channel 46's footprint in the area.

Tribune began to manage the station in tandem with WATL in 1996 under a local marketing agreement. In 1998, Tribune swapped WGNX to Meredith Corporation in a three-way deal that saw Tribune acquire KCPQ in Seattle from Kelly Broadcasting; that deal allowed Tribune to buy WATL outright the next year. Also around the same time, WGNX began branding as "CBS Atlanta". The station changed its calls to WGCL-TV in 2000 to reflect its new branding tagline, We're Georgia's CLear TV, along with "Clear News", a soft news concept. A few months later, WGCL was "CBS Atlanta" again, then two years later readopted the "CBS 46" moniker.

On June 20, 2007, WGCL's website underwent a redesign as part of a partnership between Meredith Corporation and Internet Broadcasting, following the successful testing of the websites of five of its sister stations, which had joined Internet Broadcasting the year before. WGCL's website was the sixth Meredith station website to switch from WorldNow to Internet Broadcasting. Meredith's contract with IB will expire in June 2011, and the Meredith station sites will be operated by WorldNow again. WGCL and Fox-affiliated sister station WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina, were the first two stations to relaunch new WorldNow-operated sites on June 6, 2011.

In March 2009, Meredith announced that WGCL would begin handling the master control operations of WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, and WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina. The new hub operation began operations in Fall 2009. Three other stations—KCTV in Kansas City, Missouri, WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw, Michigan—were later added to the WGCL hub; those three stations are slated to go online at the hub sometime in 2010. A similar hub is planned at sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, to handle stations in Portland, Oregon (KPTV and KPDX) and Las Vegas (KVVU-TV).

In late 2010, due to a lack of original content from WGCL's website, the station decided to copy and paste the "history" section off Wikipedia. It is no longer available at WGCL's website.

On March 12, 2011, WSB-TV and WGCL-TV turned on their ATSC-M/H signals for the first time, becoming the first stations in the Atlanta area to offer Mobile DTV broadcasts.

On January 18, 2011, Meredith Corporation, owner of WGCL would take over full operation of Ted Turner's WPCH-TV under a local marketing agreement, with Turner/Time Warner retaining the over the air broadcast license; the deal ended up giving Meredith a de facto television duopoly in Atlanta. In addition, production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South. This marketing agreement with Meredith apparently also ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" beginning in 2011. Ironically, WPCH-TV (then WTCG till 1980 and WTBS till 2004) over the years was a stronger local station until the late 1980s and now that station is the subordinate station in this arrangement. The entire operations of Channel 17 WPCH TV would move into WGCL's facilities and out of the original facilities for TBS. TBS Superstation satellite channel remains with Turner.

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