AM Technical Profile: WATV


Frequency:
900
Format:
Urban Adult Contemporary
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
Antenna:
1 tower
Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files
[FCC]
[FCCData.org]
[Radio-Locator]
[Wikipedia]
[Bhamwiki]
[Facebook]
[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
History:
Began in 1946 according to the Radio Annual.  For many years, was a classy sounding easy listening station, with CBS affiliation. The calls were WLBS, and the studio was in the old Cabana Motel for some period in the late 70's and early 80's.  Had no real ratings to speak of. Calls changed to WATV at one point... In the mid 70's, it was "taken over" by the general manager and staff of WENN's AM outlet and switched to the black format. (The white GM of WENN (Joe Lackey) was fired by it's new black owners and the entire staff walked out with him, going to WATV.) Up to that time, the WENN DJs had developed quite a following in the community and was a dominant market force. That popularity went to WATV, which became a high rated station (unheard of for a daytimer!) and remained so until FM took over. The station, now owned by local man Shelly Stewart, plays a mix of black oldies and black adult contemporary. Shelly was a WENN DJ whose on air name was "Shelly the Playboy". According to the NAB, in 1985 the station was broadcasting in stereo with the Kahn system, but in more recent years used the Motorola C-QUAM system.  Stereo was turned off when the transmitter site moved to its present location from Finley Blvd.
 
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 converage has gotten a little better, too.
 
Finally, this 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!"
 
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 as it has 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 urban oldies to urban adult contemporary/variety hits 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".