WTAE-TV is the ABC affiliated television station for Western Pennsylvania that is licensed toPittsburgh, broadcasting on UHF channel 51 and identifying via PSIP as channel 4 (its historic analog allocation). It also serves as an ABC affiliate for the Wheeling/Steubenville and Clarksburg/Weston, West Virginia market areas. Its transmitter is located in Buena Vista, Pennsylvania and its studios are located in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania.
|Channels||Digital: 51 (UHF)Virtual: 4 (PSIP)|
|Subchannels||4.1 ABC4.2 This TV|
|Translators||22 (UHF) (4.3) Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood|
|Owner||Hearst Television, Inc.
(WTAE Hearst Television, Inc.)
|First air date||September 14, 1958|
|Call letters' meaning||Television sister to the former WCAE, now WDDZ|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:4 (1958–2009)|
|Transmitter power||1000 kW|
|Transmitter coordinates||40°16′49″N 79°48′11″W|
Channel 4, originally allocated to Irwin, Pennsylvania (in Westmoreland County), was moved to Pittsburgh in the mid 1950s. This came about because Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence had petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relentlessly for a fourth VHF channel in the area. In the analog age, WTAE was thus short-spaced to other channel 4 stations in Columbus, Ohio (WCMH-TV, which is NBC),Buffalo, New York (WIVB-TV, which is CBS), and Washington, D.C. (WRC-TV, an NBC owned-and-operated station), with the tower located southeast of the city as a result.
WTAE-TV signed on the air on September 14, 1958 as Pittsburgh's ABC affiliate. From the beginning, it has been owned by the Hearst Corporation, which purchased the station's former sister radio station, WCAE/WTAE Radio, in 1931. (The radio station is now WDDZ, and is owned by ABC/Disney as part of the Radio Disney network.) WTAE is the only TV station affiliated with a major network in Pittsburgh to have not changed hands in ownership: Hearst owned 50 percent of the television station when it was launched and became its sole owner in 1962. The station itself is now run by Hearst's wholly owned subsidiary television unit Hearst Television, of which it serves as one of the three flagship stations for the unit, alongside WBAL-TV in Baltimore and WCVB-TV in Boston.
In the early years, Channel 4 was best known in the market for its locally originated entertainment programming, most notably the after-school children's shows:
- Ricki & Copper;
- Paul Shannon's Adventure Time; and
- Hank Stohl's Rodney 'n' Knish (Knish being a mop-shaped puppet with a light-bulb for a nose).
In 1958, Shock Theatre premiered late at night on WTAE. The show was locally produced and hosted by Bob Drews who portrayed Sir Rodger (often misspelled as Sir Roger). Drews was a former Pittsburgh radio disc jockey who also wrote a satire magazine called Thimk. Shock Theatre featured monster movies such as The Invisible Man and Frankenstein. Drews interspersed comedic live-action skits within the movie and also was famous for his haircut, the Sir Rodger Clip. (Little is known of what became of Drews after the show left the air in the early 1960s.)
On April 24, 1980, WTAE personality Nick Perry, who hosted Bowling for Dollars and also called the lottery drawings for the Pennsylvania Lottery, fixed the PA Lottery's Daily Number so that the drawing could come up as "666". Perry served jail time, and the drawings were moved from WTAE to WHP-TV in Harrisburg a year later. This resulted in lotteries now being audited and monitored with "witnesses" from the government and/or accounting firms hired by them, and also inspired the movie Lucky Numbers. KDKA aired the PA Lottery drawings in the Pittsburgh market after this incident until 2009 when they moved back to WTAE, which now has a two year contract with the Pennsylvania Lottery.
In 1986, WTAE partnered with the Salvation Army and started Project Bundle Up, an operation to make sure that children and seniors get warm clothing. WTAE has run the Project Bundle Up Auction which is an auction where local businesses donate products to be auctioned off, and the Project Bundle Up Telethon a traditional telethon where viewers call in to donate money, businesses donate money and all of the proceeds from the auction and telethon benefit the Salvation Army. In 2007, WTAE moved the auction to the Internet.
Although it was the only ABC affiliate in the region when it signed on at the time, WTAE also pre-empted and/or delayed a handful of ABC programs, most notably its daytime lineup from the 1960s to the late 1990s. One of these shows was One Life to Live, which it passed on from its 1968 debut up until 1978, when the serial went to an hour-long format. Those that did not air on channel 4 ended up on either WPGH-TV or WPTT. Today, WTAE runs nearly the entire ABC schedule. The station cut back its Saturday morning newscast to three hours, but it still runs a news-intensive schedule, alongside its top-rated syndicated first-run talk shows. WTAE has carried Live with Regis and Kelly (and Kathie Lee) since its national debut in 1988 and Entertainment Tonight since 1989. For an ABC affiliate that is owned by a company that does not own a network, WTAE has the local rights to CBS Television Distribution's The Rachael Ray Show, ET, Oprah, and Inside Editioninstead of CBS O&O KDKA, which is rare in several television markets where a network O&O would air shows produced by its sister company, since WTAE's parent company had made long-term contract deals for these programs before CBS took over syndication rights.
At various times, WTAE has also served as the ABC affiliate for the Johnstown/Altoona, Wheeling, West Virginia/Steubenville, Ohio, andClarksburg/Weston, West Virginia television markets (all of which could receive WTAE as a grade B signal). With WTAE having long been one of ABC's strongest affiliates, both parties reportedly resisted efforts by other TV stations in those cities to obtain a full-time ABC affiliation. Since then, one station was eventually granted affiliation in Altoona (WATM-TV), while WBOY-TV in Clarksburg and WTRF-TV in Wheeling (both owned by West Virginia Media Holdings, the former briefly being a sister station to WTAE in 2001) launched ABC stations on one of their digital subchannels in August 2008 on Your ABC and ABC Ohio Valley, respectively. WTAE is still available on cable in all of those markets today. In addition to those areas, WTAE can also be seen on several out-of-market cable systems throughout northwestern and central Pennsylvania, and several locations in eastern and northeast Ohio.
WTAE was also one of many ABC stations that pre-empted the special showing of Saving Private Ryan late in 2004 because they were concerned that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would impose a fine on them if they had aired the World War II movie due to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy earlier that year. It was later determined that the movie showing was not a violation of FCC regulations.
Over the years, WTAE has aired Pittsburgh Steelers games that air nationally on ESPN, since due to NFL broadcasting rules all cable games must air on a broadcast network in the home markets of the teams participating (WTAE's parent Hearst owns a 20% stake in ESPN), though the broadcast in the home team's primary market may be blacked out if the game doesn't sell out 72 hours before kick-off (this has not been a problem for the Steelers, who have a sell-out streak dating to 1972 - the last year that even sold-out home games could not be locally televised). Since 2006, ABC has not had NFL broadcasting rights, and with local games airing mostly on KDKA-TV (via the NFL on CBS and occasionally the NFL Network) as well as on occasion WPGH-TV (via the NFL on Fox) and WPXI (via NBC Sunday Night Football), this is the only way in the foreseeable future of WTAE airing Steelers games.
|4.1||51.1||1080i||16:9||main WTAE-TV programming / ABC HD|
|4.2||51.2||480i||4:3||This TV Pittsburgh|
In March 2009, WTAE applied for FCC authorization to build a 9250-watt digital broadcast translator on channel 22 to cover portions of the northern Pittsburgh area which are currently unable to receive channel 4's digital signal. WTAE must wait for WPMY, which had been operating in analog nightlight mode after terminating regular analogue UHF 22 programming on the original February 17th deadline, to leave the channel entirely on March 19th.
On August 3, 2009, WTAE converted its traffic/weather digital subchannel into a This TV affiliate due to the success of Retro Television Network airing on WPXI-DT2. The channel is known as This TV Pittsburgh.
WTAE is one of a handful of ABC-affiliated stations and one of four Hearst-owned ABC affiliates (the other three are WCVB-TV in Boston, KMBC-TV in Kansas City and KETV in Omaha) that broadcast their HDTV signals in 1080i rather than the 720p format of most other ABC stations.
- Channel 4 Action Sports Sunday (sports wrap-up show Sundays at 11:30 p.m. - midnight)
- Steelers Primetime - extended Steelers coverage during NFL season
- Project Bundle-Up Telethon, seasonal partnership with Salvation Army
Aside from local news and ABC lineup, WTAE's other offerings include Live With Regis And Kelly at 9 a.m. and Rachael Ray at 10 a.m.,Access Hollywood at 12:30 p.m., The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4 p.m., and Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight during the 7-to-8 p.m. hour.
Like its NBC rival, WIIC-TV, Channel 4 was not a major player in terms of news coverage in those early years, as the Pittsburgh market was dominated by KDKA-TV and anchor Bill Burns. That changed, however, in 1969, when longtime KDKA radio-and-TV newscaster Paul Long was brought in, along with his KDKA meteorologist-sidekick Joe DeNardo. From then on the market was competitive, and Long would continue to be Channel 4's lead news presence well into the 1980s before easing into a more "senior" role. WTAE was also known for the "legendary" news crew of Paul Long and Don Cannon from the late 1960s into the 1990s.
Sports has also been a major division at WTAE. One big memory in Pittsburgh was in 1972, WTAE sportscaster Myron Cope coined the phrase "The Immaculate Reception" to describe Franco Harris' miraculous, running shoestring catch that gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a 13-7 playoff victory over the Oakland Raiders. WTAE and its channel 4 logo was immortalized in the 1979 basketball comedy film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, whose fictional sportscaster "Murray Sports" (played by Harry Shearer) was also patterned after Cope. The last sports director was Andrew Stockey, who left the position in 2006 to become an news anchor. The sports department is currently headed by Guy Junker and John Meyer with Tim Benz of ESPN radio filling in occasionally.
In June 1992, the station expanded its news production, adding a Saturday morning newscast from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (matching WPXI's Saturday morning newscast of the same length which began in 1990) and a three-hour Sunday morning newscast. The station also extended its weekday early evening newscast to begin at 5 p.m., and began to air a weekday morning newscast from 5 to 7 a.m. In 1997, the station expanded its Sunday morning newscast by an hour and began to air its Saturday morning newscast from 6 to 10 a.m. Today, WTAE offers four-and-a-half hours of live news each day.
In 2002, Jean Connelly became the first woman from Western PA to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In doing so, she joined ranks with Paul Long, David Crantz, and Fred Young. Connelly is famous for producing and hosting her own talk show, The Jean Connelly Show.
On Monday, September 15, 2008, WTAE became the second station in the market to launch local news and weather in High Definition; however, as of August 2010, field reports are still in 4:3.
Over the past decade, Pittsburgh has been a perennially competitive market for local news, with news ratings usually differing by less than a full ratings point. During the May 2008 Nielsen ratings period, WTAE had the largest audience at 5 a.m, maintained a strong lead a 5 and 6 p.m., and has also tied WPXI at 11.
Awards and honors
In April 2008, that same effort resulted in a Peabody Award for the station, in recognition of "station`s relentless legal campaign to obtain public records of a state-run student loan program" which "netted evidence of financial misconduct and pushed the state to rewrite an antiquated right-to-know law."
- News & Views with John B. Hughes (1950s-1960s)
- The Channel 4 News (1970s)
- Channel 4 Action News (1970s-1989)
- WTAE 4 News (1989-1995)
- Channel 4 Action News (1995-2014)
- Pittsburgh's Action News 4 (2014-present)
- Four's-A-Poppin' (1964-1965)
- Catch 4 (1975-1977; during period station used Frank Gari's "Catch 5")
- We're Still having fun, Channel 4's The One (1977-1878; localized version of the ABC ad campaign)
- Hello Pittsburgh (1977-1982; during period station used Frank Gari's "Hello News")
- You and Me and Channel 4 (1980-1981; localized version of the ABC ad campaign; also incorporated with Frank Gari's Hello Pittsburgh campaign)
- Come on Along with Channel 4 (1982–1983; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- That Special Feeling on Channel 4 (1983-1984; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- We're with You on Channel 4 (1984–1985; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- You'll Love It! On Channel 4! (1985–1986; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- Action News is Everywhere (mid 1980s-1989 & 1995–2001)
- Together on Channel 4 (1986-1987; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- Something's Happening on WTAE! (1988–1990; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- News 4 People (1989-1992)
- Pittsburgh's Watching WTAE! (1990–1992; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- It Must Be WTAE/If it`s WTAE, It Must Be ABC (1992–1993; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- Joe Said it Would (1986–1995; used in weather promos for former chief meteorologist Joe DeNardo)
- Taking Action for You (2001–2004)
- Where the News Comes First (2004–2006 and 2008–2014)
- Where YOU Come First (2006–2008)
- WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, in HD (2008-2010)
- Taking Action For You (2010-2014)
Current on-air staff
- Wendy Bell - weeknights at 5 and 11 p.m. (1998–present)
- Mike Clark - weekday mornings (4:30-7 a.m.) and noon (1995–present)
- Kelly Frey - weekday mornings (4:30-7 a.m.); also weeknight reporter (2000–present)
- Janelle Hall - weekend mornings; also weeknight reporter (2004–present)
- Shannon Perrine - weekends at 6 and 11 p.m.; also weeknight reporter (1999–present)
- Andrew Stockey - weeknights at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. (1995–present)
- Sally Wiggin - weekdays at noon (1980–present)
- Michelle Wright - weeknights at 6 p.m. (1994–present)
Pittsburgh's Action Weather 4
- Mike Harvey (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and NWA Seals of Approval) - Chief Meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. (2010-present)
- Demetrius Ivory - Meteorologist; weekday mornings and noon (2005–present)
- Erin Kienzle (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - Meteorologist; weekend mornings (2006–present)
Pittsburgh's Action Sport 4
- Guy Junker - Sports Director; weeknights at 6 and 11 p.m. (1984–1990; 2006–present)
- John Meyer - Sports anchor; weekends at 6 and 11 p.m. (2009-present)
- Tim Benz - fill-in sports anchor (2007–present)
- Bill Hillgrove - "Steelers Insider" reporter
Pittsburgh's Action 'Traffic 4
- Scott Stiller - morning traffic reporter (2000-present)
- Sam Hall - "Sky 4" reporter (2008-present)
- Marcie Cipriani - general assignment reporter (2000–present)
- Ari Hait - general assignment reporter (2006–present)
- Ashlie Hardway - general assignment reporter (2009-present)
- Sheldon Ingram - general assignment reporter (1992–present)
- Keith Jones - general assignment reporter (2010-present)
- Bob Mayo - general assignment reporter (1994–present)
- Jennifer Miele - Westmoreland County Bureau chief (2004–present)
- Amber Nicotra - general assignment reporter (2008–present)
- Jim Parsons - "Team 4" investigative reporter (1998–present)
- Paul Van Osdol - "Team 4" investigative reporter (1999–present)
Hearst Television Washington Bureau
- Sally Kidd - Washington bureau reporter
- Nikole Killion - Washington bureau reporter
- Laurie Kinney - Washington bureau reporter
Former on-air staff
- ^ Ohio Media Watch
- ^ FCC Application ID#1290721, WTAE HEARST-ARGYLE TELEVISION, Channel 22 PITTSBURGH PA DTV REPLACEMENT TRANSLATOR
- ^ NorthEast Radio Watch, Scott Fybush, March 2, 2009
- ^ http://community.post-gazette.com/blogs/tunedin/archive/2009/07/30/wtae-drops-weather-channel-adds-movie-channel.aspx
- ^ WTAE's PHEAA coverage honored, a March 2008 article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- ^ 67th Annual Peabody Awards Winners Announced, from the Peabody Awards website at the University of Georgia
- ^ http://www.pbrtv.com/blog/index.html
- ^ http://community.post-gazette.com/blogs/tunedin/archive/2009/06/15/wtae-names-sports-anchor-makes-hire.aspx
- ^ http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/wtaenewsteam/301750/detail.html
- ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09206/986202-67.stm