WIAT is the CBS affiliate in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa/Anniston, Alabama television market. It is a UHF television station licensed to Birmingham, on digital channel 30, although through the use of PSIP technology the stations channel number is displayed as 42.1. Its transmitter is located on Red Mountain, just by the city's southern edge
|Branding||CBS 42 (general)
CBS 42 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||The Names You Know... The Experience You Trust|
|Channels||Digital: 30 (UHF) Virtual: 42 (PSIP)|
|Subchannels||42.1 CBS 42.2 Untamed Sports TV 42.3 Weather|
|Translators||42 (UHF) Tuscaloosa (construction permit)|
|Owner||New Vision Television, Inc.
(NVT Birmingham Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||October 17, 1965|
|Call letters' meaning||It's About Time (former station slogan)|
|Former callsigns||WBMG (1965-1998)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
|Former affiliations||Secondary:NBC (1965-1970)|
|Transmitter power||1000 kW|
The station signed on October 17, 1965 as WBMG (standing for BirMinGham). It was owned by Bill DuBois, a local investment banker. A minority owner was Southern Broadcasting, owners of radio station WSGN.
As was the case at the time with most UHF stations in markets served by at least two commercial VHF stations--in Birmingham's case, NBC/CBS affiliate WAPI-TV, now WVTM-TV; and then-ABC affiliate WBRC-TV--WBMG experienced considerable competitive disadvantages from the outset. Many households did not have TV sets capable of viewing UHF signals without a converter. Television set manufacturers had only begun including UHF tuning a year earlier, per a 1962 directive from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The station's signal also left much to be desired. This was particularly problematic since central Alabama is a fairly large market geographically, with hilly-to-mountainous terrain. This was a major reason that it took longer for Birmingham to get a third station than other cities of its size; Birmingham had been big enough to support a third station since the 1950s. At the time, UHF stations usually didn't get good coverage in areas with rugged terrain. As a result, only Birmingham itself and some inner-ring suburbs over Red Mountain received channel 42 clearly.
As a result, although on paper WBMG took the CBS affiliation from WAPI, CBS continued to allow channel 13 to air some of its more popular programming. WBMG was left with numerous lower-rated CBS shows, and filled the schedule with some NBC shows that WAPI-TV turned down. One of them was, strangely given its popularity elsewhere in the country, The Tonight Show. Another example is the Heidi Game, the infamous American Football League game played in 1968. One benefit, though, was that the CBS Evening News returned to Birmingham after several years' absence. After the networks expanded their national newscasts to half an hour, NBC's The Huntley-Brinkley Report was the only national newscast seen in Birmingham for much of the 1960s. Both stations listed their affiliation as "CBS/NBC." By 1970, though, WAPI's owners, the Newhouse family, opted for an exclusive contract with NBC, leaving WBMG to take a full CBS affiliation more or less by default.
With a poor signal, the lack of sets with UHF capability and two of the South's oldest and most respected stations as competition, WBMG found the going very difficult. But many of WBMG's problems were of its own making. Its newscasts often—inadvertently or not—became comedy shows. Examples of this include mid-1970s sportscaster (and local radio personality) Tommy Charles wadding up scripts and tossing them over his shoulder after reading them, as well as even letting balloons fly around the set for no apparent reason.
Furthermore, CBS' decision in 1971 to cancel many of its rural-oriented sitcoms and variety shows, especially the country music showcase Hee Haw and shows hosted by Sylacauga native Jim Nabors, in order to comply with the Prime Time Access Rule may have hurt WBMG's ability to attract viewers in rural Alabama, where those programs were highly popular among viewers.
Still, WBMG gained publicity in central Alabama for some local shows, such as live studio wrestling, and the children's show Sergeant Jack, which featured former WSGN radio disc jockey Neal Miller, who donned the uniform of a sheriff's deputy (and actually was sworn in as an honorary deputy by the Jefferson County sheriff himself) and engaged in fanciful banter with puppets. Sergeant Jack ran on weekdays from 1965 to 1976 and on weekends from that point until 1982. Mother Angelica, who would later launch the Christian cable network EWTN from Irondale in 1981, began her career by taping faith-related programs at the WBMG studios for distribution on the station and other cable networks.
Park Communications bought WBMG in 1973. Park significantly boosted the station's signal, erecting a new tower in 1974. It also tried to professionalize the newscasts, with little success. WBMG had no local newscasts at all from 1980 until 1987, aside from hourly cut-ins. During this time, the station broadcast syndicated shows at both 5 and 10 p.m. Even when local news returned in 1987, WBMG had no luck whatsoever competing with WVTM and WBRC. It was perennially one of CBS' weakest affiliates, in marked contrast to its competitors, who were two of their networks' strongest affiliates. It even trailed WTTO, an independent station (and later a Fox affiliate) that had only been on the air since 1982.
Since WBMG's signal was still rather weak after the signal boost, many cable systems in the western and eastern portions of the market wouldn't carry it. As a result, CBS retained affiliation with two other stations in central Alabama, WCFT-TV in Tuscaloosa and WHMA-TV (later WJSU-TV) in Anniston. Both stations, started during WBMG's formative period, reached some Birmingham homes with UHF rooftop antennas. WCFT and WHMA/WJSU regularly trounced WBMG in their respective regions. This was especially true in Anniston since WBMG's signal didn't cover east central Alabama well at all during that period, again because of high elevations from the Appalachian foothills.
By the early 1990s, WBMG was only ahead of WABM in the Birmingham ratings. Despite this, the station managed to make a name for itself while John Harrod was news director. He launched a very aggressive and hard hitting news department, concentrating exclusively on local stories and investigative reporting. During his time as news director from 1990 through 1995, the station won awards from the Associated Press for its reporting. Unfortunately, critical acclaim was not rewarded with a ratings win.
In 1995, Fox purchased WBRC. ABC's affiliation with WBRC did not expire until September 1996, so Fox continued to run WBRC as an ABC affiliate while ABC looked for a new affiliate in the central Alabama area. It first approached WTTO, but broke off talks after WTTO would only offer a secondary affiliation, carrying just prime time and sports. ABC's second choice, WBMG, at least had a news department and ABC even offered to buy the station. Instead, WBMG re-signed a long-term deal with CBS. ABC then opted for a unique arrangement with WCFT and WJSU. The two stations would combine to act as full-powered satellites of WBMA, a low-powered station whose signal did not carry outside of Jefferson and Shelby counties.
The switch took place in September. At that time, CBS decided to affiliate with yet another central Alabama station, WNAL-TV (now WPXH) in Gadsden, which put a fairly decent signal into the eastern portions of the Birmingham area, as well as eastern Alabama. However, WNAL simulcasted WBMG's newscasts during this time.
Park Communications merged with Media General. However, WBMG stayed in the ratings basement with a mere 1% market share, trailing not only WVTM and WBRC but also WTTO and at times even WABM.
After only a few months, new general manager Eric Land had seen enough. On New Year's Day 1998, he canceled all newscasts and fired nearly all of the anchors and reporters. Over the next month, channel 42 rebuilt its news department from scratch. During that time, the station showed a picture of a countdown clock at 5 and 10 p.m. -- the slots where news would air once the product was re-launched. In order to signify a new start, Media General had the station's callsign changed to WIAT, which stood for It's About Time, the station's new slogan. The new format debuted on February 5, 1998—the same day as the start of the Winter Olympics--with a new name, "42 Daily News". Land was seen just before the countdown clock expired speaking to an unseen audience, then throwing a switch that blew up an image of the WBMG logo, with the new WIAT logo emerging.
At first, the station did not have any on-air reporters. All stories were narrated by the anchors, much as was the case for most television stations until the 1960s. Strict time limits were imposed on story lengths, leading to segments such as "Top Story in a Minute," "Weather Minute," "Neighborhood Minute," a "2-Minute Drill" sportscast, etc.
The new anchor team was mostly made up of talent from out of town, except for the two-person sports team. Sports Director Paul Finebaum's established popularity from his highly-opinionated newspaper column and radio show sparked some interest from sports fans. However, his sportscasts were often seen as incomplete since he had only two minutes to convey the day's sports. Weekend sports anchor Sam Smith was the only on-air WBMG staff member to survive the transition to WIAT; however, he soon departed.
Even with the time constraints, WIAT was seen as making a more credible effort at news than ever before. Ratings increased immediately but were still not enough to overtake the competition. However, that year the station received its first two Emmy Awards in station history. The station later updated its image to become "News 42." It also began adding reporters, and gradually eased its strict time limits on story lengths.
In 2003, Bill Ballard, who took over as President and General Manager, created a new path for the station which included numerous changes such as stronger programming like Dr. Phil, Jeopardy!, Entertainment Tonight, and Wendy Williams and a much more aggressive approach to news coverage. The moves which were implemented have dramatically altered the landscape of Central Alabama television.
In April 2006, Media General bought four NBC owned and operated stations, including WVTM. Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not allow one company to own two of the four largest stations in a single market, Media General opted to keep the then higher-rated WVTM and sell WIAT to another owner. On August 2, 2006, New Vision Television, LLC announced its purchase of WIAT and sister station KIMT in Mason City, Iowa for $35 million. The sale was finalized on October 12, 2006.
WIAT has seen some of the largest ratings gains in its history since this sale, posting higher late news ratings than WVTM since 2006. WIAT is now considered one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the nation; only a decade ago, it was one of the weakest. Additionally, CBS' broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football garner higher ratings on WIAT than anywhere else in the nation.
Previous owners of Channel 42
- 1965–1973: William DuBois, Southern Broadcasting
- 1973–1997: Park Communications
- 1997–2006: Media General
- 2006–present: New Vision Television
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|42.1||30.1||1080i||16:9||Main WIAT programming / CBS HD|
|42.2||30.2||480i||4:3||Untamed Sports TV SD|
|42.3||30.3||480i||4:3||CBS 42 Weather SD|
Untamed Sports TV was added on a subchannel in 2009. WIAT promotes 42.2 as a separate channel on the air and the station's website. In addition to Untamed Sports, 42.2 also carries live and tape-delayed local high school sports and the Rick and Bubba show.
On April 5, 2010, the FCC granted WIAT a construction permit for a digital fill-in translator on their pre-analog allotment Channel 42. The translator will serve the Tuscaloosa area.
|This section does not cite any references or sources.Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2010)|
Unlike most CBS affiliates in the Central Time Zone, WIAT does not air local news during the weekday noon timeslot. In October 2005, WIAT teamed with former WB affiliate WTTO, now a CW affiliate (as of September 2006) to begin producing a 9 p.m. newscast. Using the same set and anchors as WIAT and a modified graphics package, the CW21 News at 9 (formerly WB21 News at 9) aired seven days a week. However, the newscasts were discontinued on October 13, 2006, after the finalization of the Media General/New Vision deal, therefore leaving WTTO with no evening newscasts, as WVTM opted not to continue them under the previous Media General agreement.
In 2007 and 2008, WIAT won more Alabama Broadcasters Association Awards than any other station, as well as numerous Associated Press Awards, including the following:
- Best Anchor: Sherri Jackson
- Best Reporter: Stephen Hauck
- Best Website: www.cbs42.com
- Best Feature News Story (twice running)
- Best Station Promotion
- Best Commercial Production (twice running)
- Best Public Service Announcement
- Best Web Journalism
On April 9, 2010, WIAT began broadcasting its local newscasts in High Definition, making WIAT the third station in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston market after WVTM and WBRC to do so. The news set and the graphics were also redesigned in the transition to HD.
WIAT has seen some of the largest ratings gains in its history since this sale, posting higher late news ratings than WVTM since 2006. WIAT is now considered one of the strongest overall CBS affiliates in the nation; only a decade ago, it was one of the weakest. Additionally, CBS' broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football garner higher ratings on WIAT than anywhere else in the nation. The ratings continue to climb in all dayparts, and as the other stations in Central Alabama continually lose household ratings from sign on to sign off, WIAT is the only station to post household growth year to year.
- 42 News (1965-1974 & 1992–1997)
- 42 NewsPlus (1974-1980s)
- Metro News
- Action News Birmingham (1987–1991)
- Action News 42 (1991–1992)
- 42 Daily News (1998–2004)
- News 42 (2004–2007)
- CBS 42 News (2007–2014)
- WIAT 42 News (2014–present)
Current on-air staff
- Trent Butler - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Cynthia Gould - weekend evenings; also executive producer of special projects
- Stephen Hauck - weekday mornings Wake Up Alabama (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Sherri Jackson - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Gina Redmond - weekday mornings on Wake Up Alabama (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Natalie Tejeda - weekend evenings
CBS 42 Weather
- Gene Norman (AMS Certified Broadcast Metorologist Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Mark Prater (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekday mornings on Wake Up Alabama (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Ted McInerney (member, AMS; member, NWA) - meteorologist; weekend evenings
- Patrick Claybon - sports director; Wednesday-Fridays at 6 and 10 p.m., also sports reporter
- Jim Dunaway - sports anchor; Mondays and Tuesdays at 6 and 10 p.m., and weekend evenings
- Lauren Sisler - sports anchor/reporter
- Melissa Kim - sports reporter
- Melissa Crabtree - Jasper bureau reporter/photojournalist
- Leigh (Kim) Garner - Tuscaloosa bureau reporter
- Rick Jackson - weekday morning reporter/photojournalist
- Mike McClanahan - general assignment reporter; also photojournalist
- Kaitlin McCulley - general assignment and health reporter
- Phillip Ohnemus - general assignment reporter; also photojournalist
- Al Ratcliffe - general assignment reporter; also photojournalist
- Tiffany Westry - general assignment reporter; also photojournalist
- Chris Womack - general assignment reporter; also photojournalist
Former on-air staff
- Fred Barnhill - meteorologist (1990s)
- Doug Bell - sports director (1987-1997; husband of WCFT/WJSU news anchor Brenda Ladun; currently doing freelance sports reporting)
- Sarah Black - weekend meteorologist (2005–2007; now at KALB-TV in Alexandra, Louisiana)
- Barbara Bolding - anchor and reporter (1991–1993)
- Bill Bolen - anchor (1965–1969, left to join WBRC-TV, where he remained until his retirement in 2010)
- Declan Cannon - meteorologist (1998–2002)
- Dale Cardwell - investigator reporter (1984-1987; now now has own consumer website called trustdale.com)
- Lynda Cardwell - producer later news anchor (late 1980s)
- Valorie Carter - anchor (1995-1997: currently on WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama)
- Keith Cate - anchor (1998–2000; currently at WFLA-TV in Tampa)
- Tommy Charles - sports anchor (1970s; better known as a local radio personality on WSGN, WYDE, WAQY, WVOK, WRKK/WQUS and WERC)
- Tim Coleman - weekend meteorologist (2001–2004)
- Ki Sanders Corley - news anchor (late 1980s)
- Ken Daily - weekend meteorologist (1996–1997)
- Don Davis - weather anchor later news reporter (1988–1989)
- Hank Erwin - anchor (late 1970s-early 1980s; later became a news reporter on WYDE, formerly a member of the Alabama State Legislature
- Mickey Ferguson - weekend news anchor (1990–1991; now weekday weather anchot at WBRC-TV)
- Paul Finebaum - sports director (1998–2001; currently hosting syndicated sports talk show based at WJOX
- Catherine Gee - weather reporter, then news anchor (1980s-1992)
- Ryan Goswick - meteorolgist (2000–2002; now at The Weather Channel)
- Julie Golden - weather reporter, then news anchor (late 1980s)
- Bob Greene - sports anchor (late-1980s-early 1990s)
- Richard Jacks - weekend meteorogist (mid-1990s, now at WVTM-TV)
- Lily Jang - weekend anchor reporter (1998–2004; now at KCPQ-TV in Tacoma/Seattle, Washington)
- Melony Johnson - weekday evenings anchor (1992–1998)
- David Lamb - anchor (2000–2008; currently co-host of Daytime Alabama on WVTM-TV)
- Tim Lennox - Reporter/News Anchor Host of "Southern Exposure"...weather + feature story, for three years. (1995–1998; now at WAKA-TV in Montgomery)
- Andrea Lindenberg - anchor (1990s currently evening anchor on WVTM-TV)
- Marianne Matthews - anchor (late 1980s)
- Myke Motley - meteorologist and fill-in anchor (1998–2000) (deceased)
- Bonnie McLaughlin - meteorologist (1998–2002; married to former meteorologist Declan Cannon)
- Bill Murray - meteorologist (1991–1995; now in hotel management)
- Richard Ortner - meteorologist (1996–1998)
- Paul Ossmann - meteorologist (late 1980s: formerly of WAGA-TV currently on WXIA-TV and WATL in Atlanta)
- Steve Ross - anchor (late 1980s)
- David Sawyer - meteorologist (2004–2009; now at WNCT-TV in Greenville, North Carolina)
- Chris Schauble - anchor (1996–1998; now at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California)
- Sam Smith - weekend sports anchor (1996–1998)
- Emily Stroud - anchor (late 1980s-1991; now at WBIR-TV in Knoxville)
- Chip Tarkenton - sports anchor (late 1980s; currently at WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia; nephew of former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton)
- Jim Tice - weekend meteorologist (late 1980s-early 1990)
- Regina Waller - morning anchor (1996–1997; now at public relations)
- Tom Whitley - sports anchor (late 1970s)
- Charley Wideman - weather reporter (1960s)
- Herb Winches - sports anchor (2005–2006)
Transmitter The WIAT-TV Tower is a 365.8 meter high guyed mast, located at 30°41'17.0" N and 87°47'54.0" W. The WIAT-TV Tower was built in 1974.
- Listing 1059778 in the FCC Antenna Structure Registration database
- ^ a b Nelson, Bob (2008-10-18). "Call Letter Origins". The Broadcast Archive. http://nelson.oldradio.com/origins.call-list.html. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- ^ Tim Hollis (2008-10-25). "The "Heidi" game in Birmingham". Birmingham Rewound. http://www.birminghamrewound.com/features/heidi.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1975
- ^ I Want 42.2 - WIAT.com
- ^ https://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101360911&formid=346&fac_num=5360
- ^ "CBS 42 Staff Bios". WIAT. http://www.cbs42.com/content/bios/default.aspx. Retrieved 17 July 2010.