WAFF is the NBC television network affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama. This station broadcasts on UHF channel 48, the station serves the northern portion of Alabama and several counties in southern Tennessee.
|Huntsville, Ala, & Decatur, Ala.|
|Slogan||The Heart of The Valley
We Track Storms (weather)
|Channels||Digital: 49 (UHF)
Virtual: 48 (PSIP)
48.2 This TV
|Affiliations||National Broadcasting Company|
(WAFF License Subsidiary, LLC)
|First air date||July 4, 1954|
|Call letters' meaning||American
Families' Finest (the old slogan of the former owner AFLAC)
|Former callsigns||WMSL-TV (1954 - '75)
WYUR-TV (1975 - '78)
|Former channel number(s)||23 (UHF analog, 1954 - '69)
48 (UHF analog, 1969 - 2009)
|Transmitter power||41 kW (digital)|
|Height||552 m (digital)|
Decatur years, 1954 - '69
The station first began broadcasting from studios and transmitters in Decatur (30 miles / 50 km west of Huntsville) on July 4, 1954, as WMSL-TV, channel 23. It was owned by Frank Whisenant, a Decatur businessman who also owned the radio station WMSL-AM. WAFF originally carried programming from all four networks of the time - NBC, CBS, ABC and the DuMont Network - but was a primary NBC affiliate. It lost the DuMont Network when that one began closing down in 1955; it lost ABC when WAAY-TV started in Huntsville in 1959 as an ABC affiliate; and at lost CBS when WHNT-TV began transmitting as a CBS affiliate in 1963.
Until the early 1960s, Decatur was the largest city in the viewing area, and it was centrally located - thus making it a good location for the Tennessee Valley region's first TV station. However, when Huntsville became the region's largest city due to the exponential growth of U.S. Army Missile Command and NASA installations, Whisenant decided to move the transmitter for WMSL - TV there. However, because the station's original channel assignment, channel 23, was too close in frequency to a nearby transmitter of Alabama Public Television, WHIQ - TV, channel 25 in Huntsville, the F.C.C. told WMSL - TV to move to channel 48 as a condition on its permit to relocate its city of license. WMSL-TV began broadcasting on channel 48 on January 7, 1969, while simultaneously continuing to transmit on channel 23 for several days afterwards. Then channel 23 in Decatur went dark. Some weeks later, Whisenant closed the station's studios in Decatur when the new studios opened in Huntsville. In the meantime, Whisenant sold the WMSL radio station to Clete Quick, another Decatur businessman. This radio station now uses the call letters WWTM.
Early years in Huntsville, 1969 - 74
In January 1968, about a year before moving to Huntsville, WMSL-TV lost the NBC affiliation to rival WAAY, which had built a greater audience in northern Alabama and thus was more attractive to the network. Still, the new channel 48, which got the ABC affiliation by default, made persistent efforts to serve its greatly expanded viewing area, which now included most of The Shoals region of northwestern Alabama.
Perhaps most notable (and surely most beloved) of WMSL-TV's local programs was the weekday children's show hosted by station general manager Benny Carle (born Benny Digesu), a Birmingham native who honed his talents for many years on WBRC-TV there. The show was typical for its day, featuring about 10 to 15 school-aged children in the studio with the host, who conducted party games, told stories, and engaged in clownish behavior; cartoons were shown during the one-hour (later 30-minute) late-afternoon (later mid-morning) program. He began the show in the mid-1960s, while the station was still in Decatur, and continued it until 1975, when ABC's Good Morning America took over its morning time slot. Carle now owns radio station WBCF and low-power TV station WBCF-LP in Florence, Alabama, which he established after leaving channel 48. Another notable program during that period was a Saturday-afternoon teenage dance show, which ran after the similar American Bandstand (although the local show resembled Soul Train more closely), that holds the honor of being the first television program exclusively aimed at northern Alabama's African-American population. The program was hosted by Nat Tate, who until his December 2007 death worked for radio stations in the Decatur area and served as a Baptist minister.
Call sign and ownership changes
In 1974, Whisenant sold the station to a Vermont-based company, which renamed the station WYUR-TV on March 9, 1975. Despite more aggressive attempts to promote its newscast, WYUR-TV's ratings were far behind WAAY and CBS affiliate WHNT. Then, in 1978, AFLAC, then known by its full name of American Family Life Assurance Company, bought the station, re-christening it WAFF-TV. Some months earlier, on December 11, 1977, WAAY decided to return to ABC, as that network had become the nation's most popular, in prime timeprogramming especially; this left channel 48 with the then-less-desirable NBC affiliation. AFLAC did not immediately turn the corner with WAFF-TV; the station kept fine-tuning its newscasts and acquiring some nationally popular syndicated programs, but very little seemed to work.
Still, the station pressed forward; around 1980 or 1981 a new tower was constructed on the south end of Monte Sano, adjacent to the station's studios. The tower measured some 1,476 feet in height and was constructed in an effort to provide better reception to viewers across northern Alabama and southern middle Tennessee. The weather forecaster at the time, Glenn Bracken, held a coloring contest for schoolchildren across the viewing area, whereby they could depict their scenes of the new "tall tower" and incorporate WAFF's marketing message "New Tall Tower Means More Picture Power" and have their drawing and name presented during the nightly weather forecast (which usually took place on a balcony outside the news studio's doors). Also, during this period, WAFF began airing promotional spots showing various scenes of its news personalities interacting with residents of its viewing area, along with its news helicopter, "Sky48," to a song titled "We're Your Kind of People."
1982 studio fire and aftermath
On the evening of March 24, 1982, the station's building, situated on the side of Monte Sano overlooking Huntsville proper, caught fire and burned to the ground. Local firefighters could not control the blaze since the fire hydrant at the end of the driveway had not yet been connected to the water main and the water pressure at nearby hydrants was particularly low; this situation would later prompt competitor WHNT to relocate to downtown Huntsville, some years later. It was only a few days, however, before WAFF-TV began broadcasting again through the auspices of local cable companies, who provided NBC programming feeds from WSMV-TV in Nashville and WVTM-TV in Birmingham, both of which were available in their own rights on many northern Alabama cable systems prior to 1990. Eventually, WAFF-TV would rebuild at a new location, occupying a former jewelry store on North Memorial Parkway, some miles away from Monte Sano; microwave links connected the studios to the transmitter and tower. The fire would also prompt Huntsville city officials to repair the water pressure situation and build a new fire station atop Monte Sano, which sits directly across from WAAY's studios.
Beginnings of success, 1980s
The disaster may have proved to be a blessing in disguise, as AFLAC began investing money in developing talent and production facilities, enabling WAFF-TV to start making a serious ratings impact for the first time. Not only did the station benefit from the renewed popularity of NBC in the mid-1980s, but its acquisitions of highly popular syndicated shows like Oprah, Jeopardy!, and Wheel of Fortune made it a hit with viewers in the Tennessee Valley region. Since that time, the station has experienced continued success.
As with the other two major-network Huntsville stations, weather forecasting became a very high priority for WAFF-TV in the 1990s, especially after the city experienced a devastating tornado in November 1989. The station constructed a doppler radar and began to use highly sophisticated meteorological equipment.
Notable news personalities over the years have included Newman Milwee, Bob Gord, Hans Sitarz, Paul Buxton, Robert Lane, Greg McCambell, Tom Kennemer, Missy Ming, Bob Baron, Kelly Cooper,Bruce Cunningham, Roy Ackland, Tony Troiano, Janette Smith, Jay Prater, Mark Thornhill, Kimberly Essex, Lee Marshall, Liz Hurley, Rudy Koski, Amy Witte, Tim Hall, Michael Gibson, Glenn Bracken, Brad Travis, Will Kennedy, Gasia Mikaelian, Ryan Korsgard, Varion Walton, Kristin Tallent, and Rachad Hollis.
WAFF received national media attention on July 29, 2010 when a report aired on July 28 became a viral video. The video features the reaction of Antoine Dodson in response to a rape attempt on his sister, Kelly Dodson.
At 4:30 a.m. on October 25, 2010, WAFF began broadcasting its news programming in high definition, making it the first station in the Huntsville television market to do so. However, while the station's studio shots are in high definition, much of WAFF's field video has remained in standard definition even after rival WHNT-TV upgraded to full high-definition newscasts in February 2011.
Raycom News Network and Raycom Weather Network
WAFF is part of the Raycom News Network, a system designed to rapidly share information among Raycom's widespread group of television stations and websites. A regional network has developed among Columbus/Phenix City's WTVM News Leader 9, Montgomery's WSFA 12 News , and Birmingham's FOX 6 News WBRC in which stations share information, equipment such as satellite trucks or even reporters' stories. Between them, these four stations cover the state of Alabama. The four stations also comprise the Raycom Weather Network and the Raycom Alabama Weather Blog, where meteorologists from all four stations post forecasts and storm reports, as well as live feeds from all of the cameras that the four stations operate. The site also has live feeds of TrueView Doppler 9 (WTVM), Doppler 12 StormVision (WSFA), FOX 6 VIPIR (WBRC) and Live Doppler 48 (WAFF).
The station's digital channel:
|48.1 / 49.1||main WAFF/NBC programming|
|48.2 / 49.2||This TV|
WAFF ended programming on its analog signal, on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition in the United States, it, according to an FCC filing, was to move back to channel 48 and increase power. However, this move did not take place and WAFF-TV remains on RF channel 49 with a low-powered signal.
- Your Esso Reporter (1954-1960)
- The Valley Report (1960-1963)
- The Gibson/Bracken Report (1963-1970)
- Newsnight (1970-1974)
- Valley News at 10 O'Clock (1974-1975)
- Region Report (1970s)
- News 48/News 48 Update (1970s–1980s)
- First News 48 (1980s)
- WAFF 48 News (1980s, 1980s–1992 & 1995/6–present)
- The News: WAFF 48 (1980s)
- The Tennessee Valley NewsChannel (1992–1995/96)
- WAFF TV-48, Proud as a Peacock! (1979-1981, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- 48, Our Pride is Showing (1981-1982; local version of NBC ad campaign)
- We're 48, Just Watch Us Now (1982-1983; local version of NBC ad campaign)
- 48 There, Be There (1983-1984; local version of NBC ad campaign)
- We're Your Kind of People (1980s)
- 48, Let's All Be There (1984-1986; local version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come Home to 48 (1986-1987, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come on Home to 48 (1987-1988; local version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come Home to the Best, Only on 48/Come Home to the Best, WAFF (1988-1990, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- WAFF, The Place to Be! (1990-1992, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- It's A Whole New WAFF (1992-1993, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- The Tennessee Valley's NewsChannel (1992–1995)
- The Stars Are Back on 48 (1993-1994, local version of NBC ad campaign)
- Dedicated, Determined, Dependable (1995/96–?)
- The Heart of The Valley (1997–present)
- We Track Storms (2004-present, weather slogan)
- Mark Thornhill - Weeknights 5, 6, and 10 p.m.
- Kim Essex - Weeknights 6 and 10 p.m.
- Liz Hurley - Weeknights 5 p.m.
- Karla Redditte - Weekdays "Today"
- Jim Abath - Weekdays "Today" and Noon
- Eric Sollman - Weekends 5 and 10 p.m.
- Monica Rix - Saturday "Today"
- WAFF 48 Storm Team
- Brad Travis - Chief Meteorologist
- Jeff Castle
- Brian Fowler
- Sports anchors
- Scott Theisen
- Carl Prather
- Traffic reporter
- Dave Kent
- Trang Do
- Elizabeth Gentle
- Monica Rix
- Margo Gray
- Nick Lough - Shoals Bureau
- Stephen McLamb - Sand Mountain Bureau
- Jeanie Powell
- Karla Redditte
- Bobby Shuttleworth - Decatur Bureau
- Eric Sollman
- ^ "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films" ([dead link]), Boxoffice: 13, November 10, 1956
- ^ http://www.bestweekever.tv/2010-07-29/dear-vh1-give-this-man-a-show-hell-give-him-this-blog/
- ^ http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-08-2302A1.pdf