TV Technical Profile: WIAT


Channel:
30
Programming:
42.1 - CBS
42.2 - Escape
42.3 - Justice Network
42.4 - Laff
Transmitter Location:
[map] [street view] On Red Mountain, 4th tower down from Vulcan, if you're looking from Birmingham. It's the red-white striped one, next to the new American General multi-pronged doohickey.
Power (ERP):
1 MW
Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT):
1,397 feet
Antenna:
Directional
Other Information:
41 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC.
[FCC]
[FCCdata]
[RabbitEars]
[Wikipedia]
[Facebook] WIAT's News page
[Facebook] WIAT's Weather page
Owned by Nexstar Media Group, Inc.
[Bhamwiki] Information for the station from the WSGN era
[Bhamwiki] Information for the station from the WBMG era
[Bhamwiki] Information for the station as WIAT
[Studio] Google Photos picture of the studio atop Red Mountain.
Owned by LIN Broadcasting, operated by Nexstar Broadcasting.
History:
Originally on the air in 1953 as WSGN-TV, the station didn't do very well against dominant VHF stations in the market, and was sold to Johnston Broadcasting. A big contributor to my site had this to say about it: "According to Broadcasting Yearbook, there's a mention of a station sale of what was then WSGN-TV to Johnston Broadcasting, then licensee of WJLD-AM/WJLN-FM. The station changed to WJLN-TV and vanished by the late 50's." Oddly, TV Guides from the mid-50's don't mention either WSGN-TV or WJLN-TV, so questions still remain as to whether WSGN-TV even got on the air at all!
 
WIAT came on the air on October 17, 1965 as WBMG (BirMinGham), by Bill DuBois and minority owned by Southern Broadcasting. Prior to that time, the programming from the three major networks was cherry-picked by the only two commercial stations in the market, WBRC-6 and WAPI-13 (Now WVTM). The area lacked a CBS affiliate, which is what this station tried to become when it went on the air. WBMG and WAPI both had CBS/NBC dual affiliation in the mid-60's, mainly because WAPI didn't stop carrying CBS programming when this new UHF station came on the air.
 
WBMG has always struggled as a UHF battling two VHF competitors. The news never made ripples in the market, even when Tommy Charles anchored their newscasts in the 70's!  The situation came to a head in 1997 when the new owners acknowledged a 1% share of the market audience during their newscasts. It ranked dead last, behind reruns. So, it was time to stop and start over with a new staff and a new image. For about a one month period, the station stopped airing local news. During those time periods (5 and 10 pm) the station ran a clock. Yes, a clock. Once a new staff was assembled, the calls changed to WIAT and local news resumed. The calls coincide with the station's new slogan (It's About Time). Despite the changes, WIAT still lagged behind the other established newscasts in the city until probably late 2008, when it finally began making ratings inroads.
 
This station elected to keep analog broadcasts on until the new June 12th deadline.  At the end of March they added "Untamed Sports TV" to the 42.2 subchannel, bumping the weather info to 42.3.  In the early summer of 2009 the station upgraded facilities and began showing prerecorded syndicated programming in HD.  In September 2009 some in-house recorded HD promos began showing up on the air as well, and by the end of the year the station had debuted HD newscasts.
 
In early April 2010 this station received a construction permit for a companion digital LPTV facility, to be located on the old WDBB tower off Jug Factory Road in Tuscaloosa.  This station will have the calls WIAT-LD and appears to offer supplemental service on RF channel 42 for the west side of Tuscaloosa.  That permit expired in April 2013; it's unknown if the facility ever went on the air or not.  In May 2012 it was announced that previous owners New Vision were selling WIAT and 29 other stations to LIN TV.  That deal was finished in the fall of 2012.  Two years later, LIN TV was acquired by Media General, resulting in another ownership change as of December 2014.
The station was one of the earliest in the market to embrace adding a second over the air digital network, in the form of the Untamed Sports Network on -.2 subchannel; sometimes in either late 2015 or early 2016 they removed the weather radar from -/3 subchannel and replaced it with the Justice Network.  Untamed Sports was dropped in the fall of 2017 for Escape; they also added a fourth subchannel carrying Laff around the same time.