WCOV-TV
In blue, from top left: the Fox network logo and a numeral 20 in white. Beneath in white on red is the text "WCOV • Montgomery".
Channels
BrandingFox 20; WCOV News at Nine
Programming
Affiliations
Ownership
Owner
WALE-LD, WIYC
History
First air date
April 17, 1953
(70 years ago)
 (1953-04-17)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 20 (UHF, 1953–2009)
  • Digital: 16 (UHF, 2001–2009), 20 (UHF, 2009–2020)
  • CBS (1953–1985)
  • NBC (secondary, 1953–1954)
  • DuMont (secondary, 1953–1956)
  • ABC (secondary, 1953–1960)
  • NTA (secondary, 1956–1961)
  • Independent (January–October 1986)
Call sign meaning
Will Covington (founding owner of WCOV radio)
Technical information[2]
Licensing authority
FCC
Facility ID73642
ERP670 kW
HAAT528 m (1,732 ft)
Transmitter coordinates31°58′29″N 86°9′44″W / 31.97472°N 86.16222°W / 31.97472; -86.16222
Links
Public license information
Websitewww.wcov.com

WCOV-TV (channel 20) is a television station in Montgomery, Alabama, United States, affiliated with the Fox network. It is owned by Allen Media Broadcasting alongside Troy-licensed Cozi TV affiliate WIYC (channel 48) and low-power local weather station WALE-LD (channel 17). The stations share studios on WCOV Avenue in the Normandale section of Montgomery, while WCOV-TV's transmitter is located southeast of Grady along the MontgomeryCrenshaw county line.

WCOV-TV was the first television station to be built in Montgomery, beginning broadcasting on April 17, 1953. It was an affiliate of CBS; however, it was on the new ultra high frequency (UHF) band. When Montgomery's allocated very high frequency (VHF) station, WSFA-TV, began in late 1954, it immediately came to dominate the Montgomery market. WCOV owners attempted to have the playing field leveled by proposing either a move of WSFA-TV to UHF or of WCOV-TV to VHF, but neither was approved. In 1964, Gay-Bell Broadcasting acquired WCOV-TV and its associated radio stations; seeking to bolster its position, it attempted to buy WSLA, a VHF station in Selma and another CBS affiliate, but no sale ever materialized.

In 1985, WSLA changed its call sign to WAKA and added Montgomery to its coverage area. Despite prior reassurances from CBS, the network informed WCOV-TV that it would discontinue its affiliation with channel 20. Gay-Bell sold the station to Woods Communications, which operated it as an independent station and discontinued its local newscasts before adding the new Fox network in October 1986. The station initially struggled before Fox programming attracted significant ratings. A 1996 tornado destroyed the tower from which the station broadcast in Montgomery; WCOV-TV did not return to full power until the next year.

Allen Media acquired WCOV-TV, WIYC, and WALE-LD in 2023 from Woods Communications. The station airs a 9 p.m. local newscast produced by WAKA.

History

Early years

On December 31, 1951, the owners of radio station WCOV (1170 AM)—the First National Bank of Montgomery and the estate of G. W. Covington, Jr.—filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a new television station on very high frequency (VHF) channel 12 in Montgomery.[3] Six months later, after the commission lifted its freeze on television applications, WCOV amended its application to specify channel 20 in the new ultra high frequency (UHF) band—to the surprise of others—after radio station WSFA also filed for channel 12.[4] The FCC granted the Covington interests—which had reorganized as the Capitol Broadcasting Company[5]—a construction permit on September 17, 1952.[3] Later, WCOV-TV would claim that it was forced to apply for channel 20 when it learned RCA could not deliver a VHF transmitter, but had a UHF transmitter on hand.[6]

WCOV-TV was the first television station in Montgomery, making its first broadcast on April 17, 1953.[7] It operated from a 400-foot (122 m) tower near its studios.[6] Commercial programs started five days later; the station was a primary CBS affiliate but carried secondary affiliations with the other three major networks of the day—NBC, ABC, and DuMont.[8] During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.[9]

Christmas Day 1954 brought Montgomery a second television station, this time on VHF, when WSFA-TV began broadcasting as an NBC affiliate on channel 12.[10] The arrival of VHF television in Montgomery created an economic and viewership inequality between the city's two television stations.[11] On August 5, 1955, WCOV's studios were badly damaged by a fire, knocking both stations off the air. The fire was caused by a short circuit inside an electric clock, which lost an estimated $500,000 total in damages. The station returned on the air one week later.[12] In 1959, WCOV-TV filed to have channel 8 moved from Selma to Montgomery to put it on an equal footing.[13] When that failed, the station instead proposed that WSFA be moved to the UHF band, an idea that drew protests from viewers—such as those in Butler County—which were served only by channel 12 and which could not receive channel 20.[14] The FCC voted not to pursue deintermixture in Montgomery and other markets in 1962.[15] 1962 also brought the arrival of full three-network service, when channel 32 signed on as ABC affiliate WCCB-TV.[16]

The Covington family sold WCOV radio and television in 1964 for $1.225 million to Gay-Bell Broadcasting, which owned WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky.[17][18] The new owners built a new 793-foot (242 m) tower at the site of its predecessor.[6] Gay-Bell, however, continued to grapple with its UHF problem in Montgomery. In 1968, it attempted to buy the channel 8 station in Selma, WSLA-TV, which was silent at the time following its destruction by fire,[19] but nothing ever materialized. Channel 20 also continued fighting against multiple attempts by channel 8 to improve its facilities; WCOV-TV had petitioned against applications by WSLA-TV's ownership dating back to 1954.[20]

In 1976, WSLA-TV filed once more for an application to build a maximum-powered site, this time from a tall tower near Lowndesboro.[21] WCOV-TV objected to the proposal and again advocated for the deintermixture of the Selma and Montgomery markets to make all stations UHF; in 1978, it proposed moving channel 8 to Tuscaloosa for educational use and channel 12 to Columbus,[22] with WSFA being reassigned channel 45.[23] The FCC denied the WCOV-TV proposal in May 1980;[24] in July, it then proceeded to approve the WSLA application.[25] Appeals from WCOV and WKAB dragged on for several more years[26] until final approval from the FCC was granted in 1983[27] and a federal appeals court denied further pleas from the UHF stations the next year.[28]

From CBS to Fox

WSLA-TV's power increase, according to the FCC administrative law judge that had approved the application in 1981, would not jeopardize the service of Montgomery's two UHF television stations.[21] However, much was on the line for WCOV-TV, as the Selma station was also a CBS affiliate. The network had previously reassured channel 20 that it would remain in the network fold, but CBS went back on those claims and informed the station in March 1985 that WAKA would become its sole affiliate in Montgomery the next year,[29] though this was not stated publicly for another two months.[30]

The affiliation uncertainty came the same month as Gay-Bell reached a deal to sell the station to Woods Communications, led by David Woods, son of longtime Alabama broadcaster Charles Woods, for an estimated $4 million;[31] Gay-Bell had also spun off the radio station the year before, and both sales gave the company capital to improve its flagship property in Kentucky.[32] Woods was aware of the impending loss of CBS when he agreed to buy WCOV-TV.[30] CBS was not required to transfer the affiliation to Woods, who closed on the purchase in early December 1985; the network opted to let WCOV-TV remain an affiliate through December 31 as a "courtesy".[29]

If we were drag racing, they all have V-8s and I'm an old four-cylinder. I have an 800-foot tower, and they all have 2,000-foot towers.

David Woods, in 1990[33]

WCOV-TV's 32-year affiliation with CBS officially ended on January 1, 1986. It intended to soldier on as Montgomery's first independent station. However, within a few months, the burden of having to buy an additional 18 hours of programming per day had channel 20 on the brink of closure. Years later, Woods recalled that he "didn't even have money to buy toilet paper" and advertisers were shying away.[33] A solution came in the form of a Fox affiliation; WCOV-TV joined the upstart network when it launched in the fall of 1986.[34] Fox proved to be a lifeline to channel 20, despite its technical inferiority to other market stations and having axed its local newscasts; network programs boosted the station's ratings and finances.[33] In the 1990s, the station produced a local version of the Fox show Cops, known as MPD, which was among the highest-rated shows in the city.[35]

WCOV-TV's tower in the Normandale area of Montgomery was destroyed by a massive tornado on March 6, 1996.[36] The station was able to restore service for cable customers later that afternoon with help from WSFA and AT&T Cable (later to become Charter; now Spectrum). One month later, WCOV returned to the air on a temporary 350-foot (107 m) tower. The station applied to the FCC to resume full-power operations using space on WSFA's 1,630-foot (497 m) tower in Grady, with a power increase from 617 to 2,667 kilowatts. The FCC granted the request and issued a construction permit. In January 1997, the station activated its new transmission facility, which doubled channel 20's coverage area and secured it positions on 23 additional cable systems in the Montgomery market.[37]

Sale to Allen Media Group

On December 15, 2021, it was announced that Allen Media Group, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios, would purchase WCOV-TV, WIYC and WALE-LD for $28.5 million.[1] The sale was completed on April 14, 2023.[38]

Newscasts

Further information: WAKA (TV) § News operation

News logo.

As a CBS affiliate, WCOV operated its own news department, known during its latter years as Eyewitness News. It spent most of its history as a distant runner-up to WSFA. The station shut down its news department in September 1986, nine months after losing the CBS affiliation and shortly before joining Fox. In its last ratings book, channel 20's newscasts were a solid, if distant, runner-up to WSFA, with more viewers than WAKA and WKAB combined. However, Woods said the "tremendous financial drain" of sustaining a newscast without network support was not worth the effort.[39] In 2006, the station began airing the morning newscast of WBRC, the Fox affiliate in Birmingham.[40]

On January 7, 2008, Woods Communications contracted with NBC affiliate WSFA (owned by Raycom Media) to air a half-hour 9 p.m. broadcast in conjunction with another Fox affiliate and Raycom-owned station in Dothan, WDFX-TV.[41] This newscast was later replaced with one produced by WAKA.[42]

Technical information

Subchannels

The station's signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WCOV-TV[43]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
20.1 720p 16:9 WCOV-DT Main WCOV-TV programming / Fox
20.2 480i 4:3 ANTENNA Antenna TV
20.3 THIS-TV This TV

Analog-to-digital conversion

WCOV-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 20, on February 20, 2009. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 16 to channel 20.[44] WCOV relocated its signal from channel 20 to channel 22 on September 6, 2019, as a result of the 2016 United States wireless spectrum auction.[45]

References

  1. ^ a b "Allen Media Buying Three Montgomery, Ala., Stations For $28.5M". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. December 15, 2021. Archived from the original on December 16, 2021. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  2. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WCOV-TV". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  3. ^ a b FCC History Cards for WCOV-TV
  4. ^ Bates, Bill (June 13, 1952). "Fight Shapes Up In Scramble For TV Permit". The Montgomery Advertiser. p. 1B. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "Radio Station Transfer Application To Be Filed". The Montgomery Advertiser. March 2, 1952. p. 4C. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ a b c "Our History". WCOV-TV. 2023. Archived from the original on February 22, 2023. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
  7. ^ "Test Pattern Opens For TV Station Here". Alabama Journal. April 18, 1953. p. 1-A. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Montgomery Steps Out Of Fringe Area TV Reception Today With WCOV Beginning Operations As City's First Station". Alabama Journal. April 22, 1953. pp. 1-B, 5-B. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "104 Sign Up for NTA Film Network, Due to Begin Operations on Oct. 15". Broadcasting. September 17, 1956. pp. 56, 58. ProQuest 1285731096.
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  11. ^ "Write FCC Protesting TV Change". The Greenville Advocate. October 26, 1961. p. 8. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
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  13. ^ "WCOV-TV Seeks Channel 8: Economic Variance Is Cited". July 16, 1959. p. 1-B. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "Write FCC Protesting TV Change". The Greenville Advocate. October 26, 1961. p. 8. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
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  20. ^ FCC (September 3, 1958). "In re Application of Deep South Broadcasting Co. (WSLA), Selma, Ala". pp. 824–845. Archived from the original on April 25, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Benn, Alvin (July 9, 1981). "Selma TV station eyes Montgomery". Montgomery Advertiser. p. 9. Archived from the original on February 17, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ "Removal farfetched, says Bond". Selma Times-Journal. March 24, 1978. p. 3. Archived from the original on February 17, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ Roberson, Peggy (August 26, 1979). "FCC to hear TV stations' dispute". Montgomery Advertiser. pp. 1, 2. Archived from the original on February 17, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
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  30. ^ a b Locker, Ray (June 1, 1985). "WCOV manager says station will lose CBS ties". The Montgomery Advertiser. p. 2A. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
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  33. ^ a b c Weinstein, Steve (May 5, 1990). "'Simpsons' Help Fox Send a Signal". Los Angeles Times. pp. F1, F13. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  34. ^ Sims, Bob (October 22, 1986). "WCOV-TV Pins Hopes On Rivers, Fox Network". The Montgomery Advertiser. p. 8A. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  35. ^ Jaffe, Greg (October 18, 1999). "In Montgomery, Ala., People Enjoy Seeing Neighbors Arrested — Local TV Station's Version Of 'Cops' Is a Bit Grainy, But Big in the Ratings". The Wall Street Journal. ProQuest 398720929.
  36. ^ "Terrible dawn: Twisters batter area; 6 killed". The Montgomery Advertiser. March 7, 1996. pp. 1A, 10A. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ Thompson, Richard (January 31, 1997). "New Fox transmitter packing more power". The Montgomery Advertiser. p. 5B. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
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  39. ^ Creamer, Jamie (September 16, 1986). "WCOV-TV Cancels Local News Programs To Relieve 'Tremendous Financial Drain'". The Montgomery Advertiser. p. 1C. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  40. ^ Bachman, Katy (September 4, 2006). "Secondhand News". Mediaweek. p. 8. ProQuest 213653276.
  41. ^ Tankersley, Mike (January 20, 2008). "Braves' TV package not available in Montgomery, at least not yet". Montgomery Advertiser. p. 12B. Archived from the original on July 17, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  42. ^ Jacobson, Adam (November 27, 2017). "Woods Seeks A 'Failing' TV Station In Alabama". Radio + Television Business Report. Archived from the original on October 28, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  43. ^ "TV Query for WCOV". RabbitEars. Archived from the original on April 19, 2023. Retrieved July 16, 2023.
  44. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. May 23, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  45. ^ "FCC TV Spectrum Phase Assignment Table" (CSV). Federal Communications Commission. April 13, 2017. Archived from the original on April 17, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.