AM Technical Profile: WATV

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Adult R&B
Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] [street view] In the Pratt City community of Birmingham, off Pratt Highway near where it intersects Sheridan Road.
Power (ERP):
Day: 845 watts
Night: 158 watts
1 tower
Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files
[Aircheck - offsite link] This is a 31 minute recording of WATV from December 1982.  It showcases the Kahn-Hazletine ISB stereo format, and includes audio that is not restricted to 10 kHz under the NSRC-1B mask that is in use in the USA today.  It is graciously hosted by the Meduci company, purveyor of quality C-Quam AM Stereo radios and decoders.  Go to the site and scroll down on the main page to read all about this fine recording. (31'32" - 73 MB m4a audio)
[Studio] Street View imagery of the station's studio on the corner of Avenue V and Ensley-Five Points Ave in Central Park.
[Website] Website of Chris Coleman, who is programming the station.
Stereo (inactive)
Owned by G. Courtney French
// W235BS Birmingham, AL
// W225DA Birmingham, AL
RDS logo :
Text-(song) by (artist) on V94.9
PTY-Rhythm & Blues
Courier Broadcasting Services, Inc. was granted an original construction permit for a new station in Birmingham in 1944.  At first, the frequency of 1260 kHz was sought; then 1250 kHz. Both would have been authorized just 250 watts but ran 24 hours a day.  Instead, the permit was amended a third time, to 900 kHz but with 1,000 watts as a daytime-only operation.  Originally they sought a transmitter site on what is now Railroad Park in downtown (between 16th and 17th Streets, on Powell Avenue by the railroad tracks.)  The transmitter site was amended to be 21st Street and 2nd Place North, just off Finley Boulevard, instead.  When the station finally signed on in 1946, they used a Gates BC-1-E transmitter, and operated it remotely from studios located at 1710 6th Avenue North.  Almost immediately after signing on, the station applied to move to 1140 kHz as a full time operator, but that was denied by the FCC.

In 1951, the station was sold to WLBS, Inc. (Garnett G. and Fay N. Puett) and the calls, unsurprisingly, changed to WLBS.  In 1952, the station was granted a permit to relocate the transmitter to a site near Arkadelphia Road, on 10th Street West, but it appears after many permit extensions, it was never built out.  After the death of Garnett Puett in 1956, the estate transferred the license to American Electronix, Inc. in 1958. They changed the call sign to the current WATV in either 1959 or 1960.

In 1961, they moved the studios to what was then called the Thomas Jefferson Hotel at 2nd Street and 17th Street north.  It was likely around this time that the station had a classy-sounding Easy Listening format, with CBS network affiliation, and no real ratings to speak of.  The license was transferred to Satellite Broadcasting Company (Guy L. and Martha C. Seymour) in 1964. 

The station's license was transferred to Crescendo Broadcasting, Inc. in 1972.  Under their ownership, the Broadcasting Yearbook lists the format as All News, until a seismic shift came in 1977.  That year, prominent black businessman A. G. Gaston bought the highly successful black-oriented WENN radio station and fired the white General Manager, Joe Lackey.  In protest, most of the staff walked out in solidarity with the GM.  They all found a new home here, flipping the station to the same kind of Contemporary R&B format that WENN had.  The popular hosts had a big following, and many of those people migrated to this station, following their favorite personalities.  Despite still being a daytime only outlet, the station became a dominant player in Birmingham radio, especially among the black community. 

The NAB listed the station as broadcasting in the Kahn stereo system in 1985, however at some point they converted to the more popular Motorola C-QUAM stereo system.  The station was acquired by one of the announcers, Shelly "The Playboy" Stewart (via Birmingham Ebony Broadcasting) in 1988. 

note from a big contributor to the site: "I got the biggest kick out of their old sign-off, basically saying "the whiteys in Congress make us go off the air" - never mind the station was a daytimer long before R&B found its way to that dial position!"

Though the 90's, the station continued to air Contemporary R&B music along with community affairs and religious programming, until the dominance of FM was complete.  By the late 90's, the station had segued into a Classic R&B format, while keeping the religious programming on weekends. 
Early in 2000 the station received a permit to move to a new transmitter site, about 2 miles west of their old location on Finley Blvd. The old transmitter tower has deteriorated beyond repair. It has come down since the new site has been fired up. I might add that their coverage has gotten a little better, too.
In September 2004 this station was sold to Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcasting for $1.5 million; they quickly switched it from its longtime R&B Oldies music to a satellite Black Gospel format called "The Light". With the gospel competition running red hot, the station didn't do well, and eventually switched back to "900 Gold" with R&B Oldies.
On 27 April 2011 a tornado tore through the Birmingham area and devastated the Pratt City neighborhood, taking the WATV tower down in the process.  The station returned to the air from makeshift alternate facilities on 20 May 2011, using a T-style wire antenna at the existing (but destroyed) tower site. The station applied for a Special Temporary Authority to remain off the air for a period of over thirty days shortly after the tornado hit.  In October 2011 the station came back on with a longwire-T antenna.  They broadcast from that until 6 May 2013, when their new tower went online.  Note that the pictures from the map link, above, have been updated to show tornado damage and the tower is no longer visible.  Use street view or the Bing bird's eye links to see the old tower.
In October 2016 Sheridan Broadcasting sold the station for $300,000 to Birmingham area lawyer Courtney French. He put local DJ Chris Coleman in charge of programming and on 1 June 2017 they flipped the format from Adult R&B as "V-900".
The station acquired translator W235BS from Red Mountain Broadcasting in late July 2017.  It took until the second week of November for iHeart's alternative rock format to migrate elsewhere, but as of 12 November 2017, the translator has still not rebroadcast WATV.  It won't until the FCC approves the sale of the translator.  That happened in 2018, and the station began being heard on the translator on 1 February 2018.  With that, the station began branding itself as "V 94.9".