TV Technical Profile: WNHT-LD

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Channel:
4
Programming:
4.1 - Independent // WBQP-LD Pensacola, FL
4.2 - One America Plus
4.3 - Music // WJLD-AM Fairfield
Transmitter Location:
[map] On the WTTO-TV pickle fork tower located on Golden Crest Drive, atop Red Mountain.
Power (ERP):
2.9 kW
Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT):
1,102 feet AGL (Above Ground Level)
Antenna:
Non directional
Other Information:
43 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC. 

[FCC]
[FCCdata]
[RabbitEars.info]
[Wikipedia]

Owned By:
Richardson Broadcasting Corporation
History:
The original construction permit for this station dates back to an application filed by Richardson Broadcasting Corporation, owners of WJLD radio in Birmingham, for a new low power digital station on RF channel 4 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Filed in August 2010, the FCC granted the permit in September 2011.  The facility in Montgomery would have transmitted with 300 watts non-directional from a transmitter site just off Mt. Meigs Road in Montgomery behind Horton Wholesale. 

In June 2014, the station was granted a permit to move the antenna to a site just north of Cobbs Ford Road near I-65 in Prattville, with a highly directional antenna and just 40 watts.  The station filed a license to cover for this facility in November 2015, but it's unclear if it ever actually broadcasted for any length of time.  This would be the first in a series of slow moves up I-65 towards Birmingham (*** - see the bottom of the history for some detail on this).  The next move came in January 2016, when a permit was issued for the station to relocate to a site in Clanton, in Chilton County, with 3 kW, still highly directional.  A license to cover was filed for this facility in July 2016 but again, it was never confirmed to actually be on air by any viewers in the area.

The next move towards Birmingham happened in August 2016, when the station was granted a permit to move to a cell phone tower off CR-26 and CR-313 in rural Shelby County, halfway between Alabaster and Columbiana.  Again, the station would run low power (150 watts) with a highly directional antenna.  Before that could be "built" they got yet another permit, this time for 3 kW (highly directional) from the hilltop near the intersection of CR-11 and US-31 in Alabaster, granted in August 2019.  A license to cover was filed for this facility in October 2020.  Just like before, it's unclear if the station was actually on the air or not, as no one in the area ever reported seeing it over the air.

In August 2022, the final move to Birmingham was granted when the FCC issued a permit for the current facility, listed above, transmitting from atop Red Mountain.  The facility was reported on the air by local viewers around the same time the license to cover was filed in April 2023.  At the start, the station was relaying WJLD's music and talk formats on the .1 subchannel, with a static station logo image.  Pensacola's local independent black-owned TV station, WBQP-LD, was being simulcast on the .4 subchannel while the .2 and .3 channels were not transmitted.  WBQP-LD later moved to the .3 subchannel, followed by the debut of One America News' "One America Plus" over-the-air service on the .2 subchannel in May 2023.  That same month, WBQP-LD and WJLD swapped places, with the music moving to the .3 subchannel and the Pensacola station moving to .1.

*** - It's worth explaining what's going on with stations like this that slowly move from one market to another.  The process is known as "hopping" and to make it work, stations have to game the FCC rules about minor modifications. The FCC considers a change of facilities for a low power TV station "minor" as long as the change has the new and old facilities showing some overlap over their coverage areas.  In other words, a transmitter site can only be located so far, depending on power levels and whether a directional antenna is being used.  With low power stations like this, a highly directional antenna is employed in the applications to maximize the distance the station can move in one "hop".  In this station's case, the move from Montgomery to Prattville was almost completely within the station's original predicted coverage area.  But going from Prattville to Clanton, up I-65, required a north/south directional array, and between the two applications, there was a little signal overlap between the two, making it a perfectly valid minor modification to the license.  The same thing would happen again between Clanton and Alabaster, then again later between Alabaster and the current site atop Red Mountain. Because the FCC frowns upon station owners abusing the rules, they also require that stations be constructed and licensed for a certain amount of time, which is why this station took over eight years to move less than 100 miles up I-65.  This sort of "hopping" happens routinely with both low power television station licenses, as well as low power FM translator licenses.  Finally, and sadly, less scrupulous broadcasters will abuse this ability by never even constructing the interim facilities, only filing a fake "license to cover" knowing the chances the FCC will check are slim.  Unless someone can put eyes on an antenna, or pick up the signals, there's really no way to know who is cheating as who isn't.  I'm also not implying Richardson Broadcasting cheated, as they are a respected longtime broadcaster in Birmingham, but it does happen more than people probably realize.