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WTVF, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 25), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Nashville, Tennessee, United States. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. WTVF's studios are located on James Robertson Parkway in downtown Nashville, and its transmitter is located north of downtown along I-24 near Whites Creek.
WTVF first signed on the air August 6, 1954, as WLAC-TV; it was owned by the Life and Casualty Insurance Company, along with Nashville businessmen Guilford Dudley, Al Beaman, and Thomas Baker. Life and Casualty's chairman of the board Paul Mountcastle and his investment group also holds majority ownership of WATE-TV, Channel 6, in Knoxville, but the two stations were not considered to be co-owned. Ever since its inception, WLAC-TV's analog signal was short-spaced to Memphis' WMC-TV also on VHF channel 5 (coincidentally, WMC-TV began on channel 4 and was immediately short-spaced to WSM-TV in Nashville, now WSMV).
WLAC-TV was owned alongside WLAC radio (1510 AM) and later WLAC-FM (105.9 FM, now WNRQ). The call sign reflected the initials of the insurance company. It immediately took the CBS affiliation from WSIX-TV (channel 8, eventually WKRN-TV on channel 2) because WLAC (AM) had been Nashville's CBS Radio affiliate since 1928. With WLAC-TV, Nashville became one of the smallest cities in the United States to have three fully separate network-affiliated commercial television stations. American General Corporation, a Houston-based insurer, bought L&C and WLAC-AM-FM-TV in the 1960s.
WLAC-TV was sold in 1975 to the Hobby family (owners of KPRC AM-TV and the now-defunct Houston Post), who changed the station's call letters to the current WTVF on December 1 (the call letter change was brought on due to an FCC rule in place at the time forbidding TV and radio stations in the same city but with different owners from sharing the same call letters).
American General/L&C eventually sold WLAC-AM-FM to other interests and the other stations have had several owners over the years. In 1983, the Hobbys reorganized their broadcast holdings as H&C Communications after the Post was sold. Landmark Communications, based in Norfolk, Virginia, bought WTVF from the Hobbys in 1994.
On January 30, 2008, Landmark announced its intention to sell WTVF, along with sister station KLAS-TV in Las Vegas and cable network The Weather Channel. This was followed on July 14, 2008, with an announcement that WTVF would be sold to Bonten Media Group, which already owned 16 broadcast television stations in five states.
However, the deal was called off due to the economic crisis of 2008 as Bonten informed Landmark that it could not close on the purchase after its key financial backer for that purchase, Lehman Brothers, filed for what remains the largest bankruptcy in American history. Landmark Communications changed its name to Landmark Media Enterprises in September 2008.
Although the sale of The Weather Channel and some other assets were eventually completed, Landmark took most of its other properties off the market in October 2008. As a result, WTVF and KLAS remained owned by Landmark. WTVF would have become the largest station owned by Bonten, as well as the first CBS affiliate in its portfolio.
On May 1 and 2, 2010, WTVF's newsroom was flooded with three feet (0.91 m) of water and became non-operational for three months as it was being rebuilt. During the flooding, equipment was hastily moved to other locations around the building to prevent disruption of the station's news operation.
On September 4, 2012, Milwaukee-based Journal Communications announced that it would purchase WTVF from Landmark for $215 million. The FCC approved the sale on October 22, and it was consummated on December 6. With the transaction's completion, WTVF became the largest Journal-owned station by market size (displacing flagship WTMJ-TV, which became the second-largest). It also made WTVF the sister station of KLAS's rival, KTNV-TV.
On July 30, 2014, less than two years after Landmark sold the station to Journal, it was announced that Journal Communications would be bought out by the E. W. Scripps Company in an all-stock transaction. Scripps retained the companies' broadcast holdings, including WTVF, and spun off their print holdings into Journal Media Group.
This marks the second time that Scripps has owned a Tennessee television station, as it owned WMC-TV in Memphis from its 1948 sign-on until 1993. The FCC approved the deal on December 12, 2014. It was approved by the two companies' shareholders on March 11, 2015, and it closed on April 1.
WTVF-DT2, branded as NewsChannel 5 Plus or NewsChannel 5+, is the second digital subchannel of WTVF, operating as an independent station. It broadcasts in standard definition on UHF channel 25.2 (or virtual channel 5.2 via PSIP).
NewsChannel 5+ was introduced and launched in September 1996 as an all-news and information cable-only channel for the Nashville area. In addition to locally produced shows and newscast repeats, NewsChannel 5+ also carried programming from All News Channel until that service folded in September 2002. After that point, the channel's programming schedule relies mostly on original content.
NewsChannel 5+ was relaunched as an over-the-air digital sub-channel on June 21, 2009, nine days after the Digital TV transition of 2009, when WTVF began utilizing digital multi-casting on its digital signal. Since then, News Channel 5+ is being broadcast on digital channel 5.2. In mid-2014, WTVF-DT2's standard definition picture was upgraded to 16:9 SD widescreen to accommodate widescreen TVs.
This channel features locally produced programming, repeats of local news from the main channel, and a few syndicated shows that may not fit on the program schedule of the main channel. There is also live gavel-to-gavel coverage of high-profile criminal trials in the Nashville area including those of Paul Dennis Reid, Perry March, Mary Winkler, Lindsey Lowe, as well as the three suspects in the Holly Bobo case, the latter of which gained national attention in the 2010s.
WTVF-DT2 goes live during severe weather and will sometimes air local newscasts if CBS programming preempts the main channel, such as during the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, which has been a staple in CBS Sports programming since 1982.
Since the Saturday edition of CBS, This Morning does not run on the main channel, it is being carried on WTVF-DT2 on a one-hour delay, so it is being run from 8 to 10 a.m. CT Saturday mornings. CBS Overnight News is also run almost in its entirety during each weekday morning, usually from 1:35 to 3:30 a.m., since the main channel airs certain syndicated programming and doesn't join the overnight news program until 2:37 a.m.
It also carries the full hour of CBS' Face the Nation, since WTVF only shows the first half-hour of the program; the main channel airs religious programming from 10 to 11:00 a.m. Children's educational programming on WTVF-DT2 is a replay of the children's programming block that is run on WTVF-DT3 on Sunday mornings; WTVF-DT2 rebroadcasts that programming on Sunday afternoons.
WTVF-DT2 also replays most, if not all, newscasts and editions of their locally produced show, Talk of the Town. In addition, WTVF-DT2's parent station also produces five hours of newscasts each week for NewsChannel 5+ in the form of an hour-long extension of WTVF's weekday morning newscast airing from 7 to 8 a.m. Supreme Justice and The Dr. Oz Show are the only syndicated programs that are shown on the channel.
Beginning in June 2015, WTVF-DT2 broadcast Union Wrestling Latin America's Lucha libre-like shows under the traditional brokered format of most local wrestling promotions. UWLA specifically targeted the area's Hispanic-American population. This show was removed from programming in late July 2015.
WTVF-DT3, the third digital subchannel, which is also available on Comcast channel 249, was launched as an affiliate of classic movie network This TV on the same day as the over-the-air relaunch of NewsChannel 5+ on WTVF-DT2. On September 24, 2015, it was replaced by Laff, a Katz Broadcasting-operated comedy-oriented multi-cast network.
WTVF shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 56, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 5 for post-transition operations.
Since WTVF's transition to that channel, some viewers in the immediate Nashville area were having reception problems of the VHF digital channel. On July 6, 2009, the station filed an application to operate a low-powered digital translator on UHF channel 50, broadcasting at 100 kW, to serve viewers that could not receive the VHF signal.
The original application to operate this translator has yet to be granted but STAs have been approved. On July 31, 2009, WTVF began multicasting on its digital subchannels the over-the-air relaunch of "NewsChannel 5+" (originally a cable-only channel) on 5.2 and the addition of classic movie network, This TV on 5.3.
On September 7, 2012, WTVF relocated its main digital signal to UHF channel 25; it also shut down its UHF fill-in translator on channel 50 and converted its former full-power operations on VHF channel 5 to a fill-in translator to serve the far fringes of the station's viewing area.
Spectrum incentive auction results
Due to the station's participation in the FCC's 2016–17 spectrum incentive auction, WTVF filed for a construction permit to relocate its digital allocation to UHF channel 36. As a result, WTVF must move to their new frequency due to spectrum repacking. Channels will be changing over a transition period, which in this case, will take place between September 7, 2019, and October 18, 2019. Ion Television O&O station WNPX-TV, which currently broadcasts its digital signal at UHF channel 36, will move its digital signal to UHF channel 32 during the aforementioned transition period.
Syndicated programs broadcast by WTVF include The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Rachael Ray, Inside Edition, Judge Faith, and Supreme Justice with Judge Karen.
From 2017 to 2019, WTVF also produced the syndicated daily talk show Pickler & Ben, featuring country artist Kellie Pickler and comedian Ben Aaron. The program, which the station served as its flagship station, was recorded with a live audience at Skyway Studios, the former north Nashville studio facility of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
In 1998, WTVF became the primary home station for the Tennessee Titans, then still known as the Oilers starting with that season, when the rights to air road games of the National Football League's American Football Conference moved to CBS from NBC. In 2014, the first eight weeks of NFL Network's Thursday Night Football were added to WTVF's sports programming roster due to the new partnership between NFL Network and CBS to simulcast that program.
WTVF began simulcasting any of the Tennessee Titans' TNF appearances in the late half of the season, beginning with the Tennessee Titans-Jacksonville Jaguars game on Thursday, November 19, 2015. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, that duty was previously held by Fox affiliate WZTV until the Fox network became the over-the-air broadcaster of most TNF games. All other CBS Sports programming is featured on the station, including their signature broadcasts of college basketball. Effective the 2018 season, WZTV broadcasts TNF games as part of Fox's rights to the package.
In the mid-1980s, WTVF also held the local broadcast rights to Southeastern Conference basketball games produced by the Lorimar Sports Network until that syndication service dissolved after the 1985-86 season. Beginning January 1987, when Jefferson-Pilot Teleproductions began syndicating those games, WSMV began serving as the package’s Nashville-area rights-holder until WUXP-TV won the local rights for the rest of that package’s run.
The station's Studio A, which was built in 1967 near the Tennessee State Capitol building, was also the home of the hit show Hee Haw for most of its 1968 to 1993 run; its last few years were recorded at The Nashville Network's studios, adjacent to the now-defunct Opryland USA theme park. Additionally, the 1970s syndicated version of Candid Camera originated from the station's facilities for most of its run.
The station's relation to WLAC, which was known for many years for its nighttime soul music programming, led it to air a groundbreaking show on Friday and Saturday nights during the mid-and late-1960s called Night Train hosted by Noble Blackwell (a disc jockey on Nashville soul radio station WVOL (1470 AM)), which featured R&B performances and dancing similar to American Bandstand. From 1972 to 1975, Show Biz, Inc.'s The Bobby Goldsboro Show was recorded at the WLAC-TV/WTVF studios.
In 1984, WTVF launched its locally produced magazine format program, Talk of the Town, hosted by Debbie Alan. Co-hosts Harry Chapman and Joe Case joined the show a few months later. The case also did weather for the show and for the morning and midday newscasts, while Chapman was the station's entertainment reporter.
WTVF aired the CBS daytime lineup out of the pattern in the late 1980s to early '90s. WTVF aired As the World Turns on a delay at 3:00 p.m. for their own local show Talk of the Town at 12:30 p.m. with The Bold and the Beautiful airing at 1:30 p.m. Like many other CBS stations prior to the 1993 debut of Late Show with David Letterman, WLAC/WTVF also did not carry CBS' late-night programming airing their own syndicated programs such as newsmagazines and sitcoms.
WTVF broadcasts 37 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, 5½ hours each on Saturdays and 4 hours on Sundays); in addition, the station produces the half-hour news/interview program Talk of the Town on weekdays at 11 a.m. and a weekly sports wrap-up program Sunday Sports Central on Sundays at 10:22 p.m. as part of the 10 p.m. newscast.
The station also produces five hours of newscasts each week for NewsChannel 5+ in the form of an hour-long extension of WTVF's weekday morning newscast at 7. Weekday morning newscasts last from 4-7 (not counting the extension on NewsChannel 5+) and the 6 p.m. newscasts last for a full hour. Since February 22, 2014, WTVF's weekend morning newscast started at 5, lasting from 5-9 on Saturday mornings and 5-8 on Sunday mornings.
Talk of the Town, the station's primary mid-day show, premiered on WTVF on March 19, 1984. The show features information about upcoming events around middle Tennessee, interviews with local personalities (some national), as well as some recipes are featured on the show. In April 2014, the station celebrated the show's 30th anniversary by airing pieces of old episodes within the past 30 years of the show's run for a few weeks.
With the show still on the air, Talk of The Town was declared the longest locally produced television show in the Nashville television market and the whole nation. It currently airs every weekday at 11 a.m. on the main channel, with replays at various times on WTVF-DT2/NewsChannel 5+.
History of the news department
A full broadcast of August 8, 1974, 6 p.m. newscast exists in the Vanderbilt Television News Archive in Nashville, the result of the Archive's staff inadvertently leaving recording equipment on after taping CBS News' coverage of the events leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon at 5:30 p.m., in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
The broadcast featured interviews with Nashville-area and Tennessee politicians about that day's events in Washington and was anchored by Harry Chapman, with Ron Kaiser doing the weather and Hope Hines the sports. The main anchor Chris Clark filed a telephone report from Washington concerning reaction from the senators and representatives in Tennessee's Congressional delegation.
Since it was not the policy of the Archive to record local newscasts alongside network ones and this occurrence was quite accidental, this may well be the only preserved, full-length Nashville television news broadcast prior to the late 1970s (when videocassette recorders became widely marketed), other than local cut-ins to network election coverage and two 1973 special broadcasts of Today (on WSM-TV).
It is available for public viewing at the Archive, but, because of the equipment at the time, the broadcast was recorded in black and white, although all live television by then was broadcast in color. Before the advent of satellite technology in the 1980s, the Archive taped all CBS News broadcasts from the airwaves of WLAC-TV/WTVF.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the station used the Eyewitness News moniker for its newscasts. The current NewsChannel 5 branding and logo have been in use since August 1989.
In 1974, WLAC became the first network affiliate in the country to use Electronic News Gathering (ENG) to bring live field reports to its viewers. On February 2, 2007, WTVF unveiled a new on-air look complete with a new state-of-the-art news set, weather center, and graphics in tandem its official upgrade to high definition newscasts (becoming the 25th television station in the United States to broadcast its local news programming in high definition and one of only four at the time with an HD weather center and system).
The new set was built in a separate studio from its existing news set minimizing disruptions of news operations. The old, existing news set is now currently used for some original programs aired on NewsChannel 5+, which is broadcast over WTVF-DT2.
WTVF produced daily 90-second news updates for UniMás affiliate WLLC-LP (channel 42), anchored by Eva Melo. It was the only Spanish-language newscast in Nashville, a market consisting of about 4% Spanish-speaking viewers, a fast-growing audience in the Middle Tennessee area. As of 2011 WTVF no longer produces news updates for WLLC, as they were canceled.
WTVF started using Scripps' standardized graphics in May 2016.
On April 16, 1998, WTVF has knocked off the air due to an F3 tornado striking downtown Nashville. This occurred while meteorologists Ron Howes and Joe Case were broadcasting live, showing the actual tornado from the station's SkyCam as it entered downtown Nashville. Before the interruption of the signal, which was caused by winds in excess of 100 miles per hour (161 km/h), the station's weather camera on top of the AT&T Building (then BellSouth Building) captured the tornado as it moved into downtown Nashville during the station's broadcast of wall-to-wall tornado warning coverage that afternoon.
The station returned to the air shortly after that, with Chris Clark and Ron Howes broadcasting weather information from the station’s transmitter, with the help of just a two-way radio and a television camera connected directly to the transmitter for the remainder of the afternoon.
Currently, the station’s weather department utilizes data from five National Weather Service NEXRAD doppler radars (Nashville, Huntsville, Memphis, Paducah, and Louisville). The station also has a policy of broadcasting uninterrupted, wall-to-wall severe weather coverage when a tornado warning is issued for any part of the station’s primary coverage area.
Past on-air staff; awards
As WLAC-TV, the station helped launch the career of a young African-American reporter and local Nashvillian named Oprah Winfrey by making her a regular news anchor in the early 1970s. Behind Winfrey, the station's most notable anchor is Greek-American Chris Clark (real name Christopher Botsaris), who served as the station's main anchor for 41 years from 1966 to 2007, longer than anyone in Nashville television history. In June 2006, Clark reduced his daily anchoring schedule to only the weeknight 6 p.m. newscast and announced his retirement at the end of his contract in 2007. Clark's final broadcast aired on May 23, 2007.
The station ran a number of on-air tributes in the days leading up to Clark's departure. He signed-off with a tribute to his co-workers and friends and gave his closing line a final time: "I'll see you then...", which was the closing line he used at the end of each teaser. Rhodri Johnston, the co-anchor on the weeknight 5 and 10 p.m. broadcasts, succeeded Clark at 6 p.m. Before arriving at WLAC/WTVF, Clark, a graduate of the University of Georgia, worked for stations in his native Georgia in Atlanta and Albany. While at Albany's WALB-TV, Clark interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1998, WTVF-TV hired investigative reporter Phil Williams, who had previously been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize while working at The Tennessean and a recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award while working for WKRN-TV.
As a result, WTVF created one of the country's most highly acclaimed investigative units, which it branded as its NewsChannel 5 Investigates team. As the team expanded, Williams assumed the title of a chief investigative reporter. in 2001, Williams and photojournalist Bryan Staples received the prestigious IRE Medal for an investigation of police corruption that resulted in threats against Williams and his family.
Williams and the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team also exposed questionable contracting by the administration of then-Gov. Don Sundquist, receiving a Peabody Award, a DuPont-Columbia University Award and a George Polk Award.
The team won its second duPont Award in 2010 for an investigation of corruption inside the Davidson County General Sessions Court system and a third duPont in 2012 for its "Policing for Profit" investigation of civil forfeiture abuses. In addition, the team (including Williams and investigative reporter Ben Hall) received a 2013 Peabody Award for its "Questions of Influence" investigation of shady deals by Gov. Bill Haslam's administration. The continuing "Policing for Profit" investigation later received the 2015 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism.
Notable former on-air staff
- Chris Clark - news anchor/reporter (retired; works for Middle Tennessee State University in mass communications.)
- Hope Hines - sports director (retired)
- Charles Kennedy - anchor (later turned actor and comedian on Saturday Night Live, Dumb and Dumber)
- Neil O'Donnell - sports analyst (former NFL quarterback)
- Oprah Winfrey - news anchor/reporter
Viewers residing in several areas outside of the Nashville media market can view WTVF, depending on the cable provider. Carriage of the station's signal outside the Nashville market is subject to Syndication exclusivity, or SyndEx, where the local CBS affiliate's feed substitutes that of WTVF when network and/or syndicated programming is shown on both stations at the same time period.
WTVF is actually a significantly viewed station in the Bowling Green, Kentucky DMA, owing to its transmitter being located on the north side of Nashville. As a result, its signal was strong enough to be received in most of that area. For more than five decades, WTVF had a decades-long monopoly in providing CBS programming to certain counties in south-central Kentucky as that area was originally part of the Nashville market until Bowling Green was collapsed into its own market area in 1978. Even after Bowling Green was collapsed into its own market, CBS was still not locally available in that area.
This came to an end on February 1, 2007, when Bowling Green area NBC affiliate WNKY launched a new second digital subchannel to serve as that area's own CBS affiliate. In spite of the existence of WNKY-DT2, WTVF remains available on several cable systems in the Bowling Green market. Mediacom cable systems currently carry the station's main channel in the Morgantown (Butler County) and Brownsville (Edmonson County) areas.
Charter Spectrum in Bowling Green, along with the on-campus cable system WesternCable at Western Kentucky University, as well as the Glasgow-based cable system of the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative. The SCRTC in Glasgow also has been piping in WLKY, the CBS/MeTV affiliate in Louisville as a secondary option since 1990 (and before that WHAS-TV which was Louisville’s CBS affiliate until then).
Many areas of the Bowling Green market can still pick up WTVF via an outdoor antenna. Some users of indoor antennas in southern Kentucky and the far reaches of the station's coverage area can also pick up the signal thanks to their digital signal upgrade in 2013.
The Glasgow Electric Plant Board also carried WTVF and WSMV as distant CBS and NBC affiliates, respectively. That provider did not drop WTVF or WSMV and its associated subchannels from their lineup until late 2017 when WNKY and WNKY-DT2 claimed market exclusivity on that system.
Mediacom also carries the station's main channel in Caldwell and Crittenden counties, including the communities of Princeton and Marion, both of which are in the Paducah, Kentucky/Cape Girardeau, Missouri/Harrisburg, Illinois media market. The station is also carried on Murray Electric System cable in the Murray area of Calloway County, Kentucky, which is also in the Paducah market. WK&T Telecom also makes WTVF available to its Calloway County customers. WTVF is also carried on cable systems in Muhlenberg and Hopkins Counties, which are in the Evansville, Indiana market.
Other areas of Tennessee
WTVF is carried on several cable systems in other areas outside of the Nashville market and within the state of Tennessee. In Jackson, Tennessee, for instance, WTVF is currently the only Nashville-based station that is carried on Jackson Energy Authority's E-Plus Broadband Cable Service. Other systems in the Jackson market carry the station, including WK&T Telecom's customers (under the Flite label) in the Trenton area of Gibson County, as well as two of the three northwest Tennessee counties within the Paducah market, namely Weakley and Obion, including the Martin/Dresden and Union City/South Fulton areas, respectively.
The station is also available on cable in the Fayetteville area of Lincoln County, the only Middle Tennessee county that is in the Huntsville, Alabama media market. WTVF's main channel is also carried on cable systems in Fentress County (Jamestown), as well as on Spirit Broadband Cable channel 5 for that provider's customers in Cumberland County, Tennessee (including Crossville and Fairfield Glade), which is in the Knoxville media market.
From 1957 until the 1980s, WTVF, along with WSMV, WKRN, and eventually WZTV, were carried on cable systems in northern Alabama, including the Huntsville, Florence, and Decatur areas. As new cable channels launched they were gradually dropped from those systems throughout the 1980s.