First air date
|June 6, 1971|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|Georgia's Clear News|
|HAAT||329 m (1,079 ft)|
Public license information
WGCL-TV (channel 46) is a television station in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, affiliated with CBS. It is the flagship property of locally based Gray Television, and is co-owned with independent station WPCH-TV (channel 17) and low-power, Class A Telemundo affiliate WKTB-CD (channel 47). WGCL-TV and WPCH-TV share studios on 14th Street Northwest in Atlanta's Atlantic Station district, while WGCL-TV's transmitter is located in the city's Woodland Hills section.
WGCL-TV is the largest CBS-affiliated station by market size that is not owned and operated by the network (with KHOU in Houston being the second-largest and WUSA in Washington, D.C. being the third-largest, both owned by Tegna, owner of Atlanta's rival NBC affiliate WXIA-TV, channel 11).
Channel 46 first went on the air on June 6, 1971, as WHAE-TV (standing for "Heaven and Earth"), originally owned by the Continental Broadcasting Network arm of evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. The station originally broadcast for six hours each day, and offered a low-budget lineup consisting of one to two hours of general entertainment programs, mixed with religious programming (the latter of which also constituted the entire Sunday schedule). In 1972, the station expanded to an eight-hour-a-day schedule, with an additional two hours of entertainment shows daily, mainly programs that higher-rated stations and Ted Turner's WTCG (channel 17, later WTBS and now sister station WPCH-TV) passed on.
By 1976, the station had expanded to a 20-hour daily schedule, airing secular syndicated shows and religious programming (including twice daily airings of The 700 Club). In the fall of 1977, the station changed its call letters to WANX-TV (standing for "Atlanta in Christ (X)"). While it began offering more secular programming around this time, its programming policies were considerably more conservative than the other two major Atlanta independents, WTCG/WTBS and WATL (channel 36). Because of Robertson's beliefs, it did not air any programming that would offend the sensibilities of its mostly fundamentalist and Pentecostal audiences. This policy would also guide programming choices for CBN during the 1980s and 1990s.
Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting acquired Channel 46 in late 1983, after which its call letters were changed once again on March 15, 1984, this time to WGNX; the new callsign reflected a connection with Tribune's Chicago flagship station, WGN-TV (whose own callsign refers to the slogan of the Chicago Tribune, "World's Greatest Newspaper"). Airings of The 700 Club on the station were reduced to once per day, before the show was dropped altogether—until channel 46 acquired the local rights to the program again in 2007. Under Tribune ownership, the newly-rechristened WGNX significantly upgraded its programming, picking up more racier programs than those allowed to air on the station under CBN ownership. The station formed a news department on January 16, 1989, airing a 10 p.m. newscast on weeknights, alongside the Tribune-distributed syndicated newscast Independent Network News.
On November 2, 1993, the Warner Bros. Television division of Time Warner and the Tribune Company announced the formation of The WB Television Network; through its part-ownership of the network, Tribune announced that the company's seven independent stations would become charter affiliates of the new network. Among those stations was WGNX, which was slated to join The WB upon that network's launch in January 1995. Concurring with The WB's planned launch, Chris-Craft Industries and its programming partner in the venture, Paramount/Viacom (which acquired partial ownership of the network in 1996), had announced plans to launch the United Paramount Network (UPN). That network's choice for its Atlanta affiliate was less clear; WTBS was automatically not an option as UPN's programming would have encountered scheduling conflicts with its sports programming as well as because of its national superstation status, while WATL was already aligned with the Fox network (and owned by its broadcasting subsidiary, Fox Television Stations, at the time) and independent station WVEU (channel 69, now CW owned-and-operated station WUPA) had the weakest signal and viewership among Atlanta's full-power television stations.
The station's plans to join The WB were suddenly altered on May 23, 1994, when New World Communications signed a long-term agreement to affiliate its nine CBS-, ABC- or NBC-affiliated television stations with Fox, which sought to strengthen its affiliate portfolio after the National Football League (NFL) accepted the network's $1.58 billion bid for the television rights to the National Football Conference (NFC) – a four-year contract that began with the 1994 NFL season – on December 18, 1993. Fox parent News Corporation also acquired a 20% equity interest in New World. At the time, Fox's owned-and-operated and affiliate stations were mostly UHF outlets that had limited to no prior history as major network affiliates, among them its existing Atlanta outlet WATL.
One of the stations involved in the agreement was Atlanta's WAGA-TV (channel 5), which had been affiliated with CBS since it signed on in March 1949. It was slated to switch to Fox along with four of its existing CBS-affiliated sister stations — WITI-TV in Milwaukee, WJBK-TV in Detroit, WJW-TV in Cleveland and WTVT in Tampa — and four additional stations — CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, ABC affiliates WBRC-TV in Birmingham and WGHP in Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point, North Carolina, and NBC affiliate WDAF-TV in Kansas City — that were part of New World's concurrent $360-million acquisition of Great American Communications's television properties.
Needing to find a new affiliate in what had become the nation's ninth largest media market, CBS approached all of Atlanta's major stations, including WGNX. However, none of them were interested at first. CBS first approached WXIA-TV; however, its then-owner Gannett Broadcasting subsequently signed a long-term affiliation deal renewing its contract with WXIA and its sister NBC affiliates in Jacksonville, Minneapolis–St. Paul and Phoenix; this deal would result in a major affiliation switch in Denver the following year, where KUSA affiliated with NBC as a result of a complex trade agreement with Westinghouse Broadcasting that saw KCNC-TV become a CBS owned-and-operated station. WSB-TV (channel 2) was later eliminated as an option as its Atlanta-based owner, Cox Enterprises, would reach a new long-term agreement with ABC to retain its affiliation with that network. WATL was eventually eliminated as Qwest Broadcasting (a joint venture between music producer Quincy Jones, former NFL defensive end Willie Davis, television producer Don Cornelius, television host Geraldo Rivera, and Tribune) announced in November that it would purchase WATL from Fox Television Stations as part of a two station, $167-million deal, intending to affiliate that station with The WB.
By September 1994, with only a little more than two months left before WAGA-TV was slated to join Fox, CBS faced the prospect of having to pipe in WRBL in Columbus, WMAZ-TV in Macon, WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, South Carolina and WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee for Atlanta-area cable customers until it found a new affiliate in the market. Almost out of desperation, on September 26, CBS made a deal to buy WVEU for $46 million. However, this was only a contingency, since CBS preferred to move its programming to a higher-profile station. It continued to negotiate with Tribune Broadcasting to reach a deal to affiliate with WGNX, which was especially attractive for the network since channel 46 was the only non-Big Three station in the Atlanta market that had a functioning news department. That November, Tribune relented and signed a deal with CBS to convert WGNX into the network's new Atlanta affiliate. As a consequence of the WGNX deal, CBS reached an agreement to sell WVEU to Viacom from Broadcasting Corp. of Georgia for $27 million, in a deal that saw it sell CBS affiliate KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana to Ellis Communications (owned by Atlanta-based businessman Bert Ellis) to comply with FCC ownership rules in coincidence with Viacom's divestitures of its major network-affiliated television stations to focus on its UPN charter outlets.
WGNX officially became a CBS affiliate on December 11, 1994, when the network's programming lineup moved to the station as WAGA-TV took over the Fox affiliation; the first CBS network program to air on the station as a full-time affiliate was CBS News Sunday Morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time that morning. (The affiliation switch was originally slated to occur on November 27, but was delayed two weeks in order to allow Fox, New World and CBS to iron out the final details.) It also began branding itself as "CBS46" (these references were mostly verbal, as the station continued to be identified as "channel 46" in on-air promotional graphics). WATL — whose sale to Qwest Broadcasting would not be finalized until December 1995 — formally assumed the WB affiliation when that network launched on January 11, 1995. Even though it was now a "Big Three" affiliate, during its first year with CBS, WGNX's lineup of syndicated shows that aired outside of local newscasts and network programs – consisting mainly of off-network sitcoms held over from its existence as an independent (such as Doogie Howser, M.D., The Cosby Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Roseanne) – more closely resembled an inventory normally offered by an independent or minor network-affiliated station. The move to CBS left WGNX with a large number of syndicated cartoons, drama series and sitcoms it no longer had time to air; much of the aforementioned syndicated series that WGNX was forced to divest to accommodate CBS' network-dominated programming lineup were acquired by WVEU (which had become a UPN affiliate when that network launched on January 16, 1995), although a few were acquired by WATL. Over time, channel 46's schedule began to incorporate more syndicated talk and reality shows and also began to significantly increase its reliance on local newscasts.
With the switch from WAGA to WGNX, CBS lost significant viewership in the northern portion of the Atlanta market. Despite its five million-watt analog signal, WGNX did not penetrate nearly as far into this area as WAGA did because of the relatively mountainous terrain that is found in that part of northern Georgia. Much of this region was among the few areas in the United States where cable had yet to gain significant penetration. CBS did not return over-the-air to this area until Toccoa's WNEG-TV (channel 32, now WGTA) joined CBS the following August. Although it was located in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, WNEG served as the de facto CBS affiliate for the far northern portion of the Atlanta market as well as the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market's western fringes until that station's sale to the University of Georgia in 2008. By this time, increased cable and satellite availability improved channel 46's footprint in the area. Tribune began to manage the station in tandem with WATL in 1996 under a local marketing agreement.
On August 23, 1998, Tribune Broadcasting announced it would sell WGNX to the Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation for $370 million, as a three-way exchange deal in which Tribune would concurrently acquire Fox affiliate KCPQ in Tacoma, Washington from Kelly Broadcasting – which was in the process of exiting from television, with the concurrent sale of NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento to Hearst-Argyle Television – for $370 million. The sale to Meredith, ironically, cleared a potential ownership conflict that allowed Tribune to buy WATL outright in November 1999, as part of its $95-million buyout of a 67% interest of its partners in then-WATL owner Qwest Broadcasting. Around the same time, WGNX changed its branding to "CBS Atlanta". The station changed its callsign to WGCL-TV on July 4, 2000 to reflect its new slogan, "We're Georgia's Clear TV", along with a soft news concept called Clear News. After two years, WGCL rebranded as "CBS Atlanta" again, before re-adopting the "CBS 46" moniker only several months later.
On June 20, 2007, WGCL's website underwent a redesign because of a partnership between Meredith and Internet Broadcasting, following the successful testing of the websites of five of its sister stations, which had joined the Internet Broadcasting platform the year before. WGCL's website was the sixth Meredith station website to switch from being run by WorldNow to Internet Broadcasting. Meredith's contract with IB expired in June 2011, with the Meredith station sites becoming operated by WorldNow again. WGCL and Fox-affiliated sister station WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina, were the first Meredith-owned stations to relaunch with the new WorldNow-operated sites on June 6, 2011.
In March 2009, Meredith announced that WGCL would begin handling the master control operations of both WHNS and Nashville's WSMV-TV. The new master control hub began operations in the fall of 2009. Three other Meredith-owned stations—KCTV in Kansas City, WFSB in Hartford–New Haven and WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan—were later added to the WGCL hub in 2010. Meredith operates a similar hub at KPHO-TV in Phoenix to handle KVVU-TV in Las Vegas and KPTV in Portland, Oregon. On March 12, 2011, WGCL-TV, as well as WSB-TV, became the first stations in the Atlanta area to begin offering Mobile DTV broadcasts.
On January 18, 2011, Meredith Corporation entered into a local marketing agreement with the Turner Broadcasting System (owner of WPCH-TV) that would result in WPCH vacating its studios on Techwood Drive and merging its operations with WGCL at its studios in the city's Home Park neighborhood. Production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was also transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South as a result. The LMA with Meredith ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" in 2011. Ironically, while WPCH is the junior partner in the arrangement, the station (formerly known as WTCG until 1979 and WTBS from 1979 to 2007) was the stronger of the two stations until the late 1980s.
On September 8, 2015, Media General announced it would acquire Meredith and take the name "Meredith Media General". The deal would have brought WGCL under common ownership with NBC affiliate WSAV-TV in Savannah, ABC affiliate WJBF in Augusta, and fellow CBS affiliate WRBL in Columbus. However, on January 27, 2016, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General, resulting in the termination of Meredith's acquisition by Media General.
On February 20, 2017, Meredith announced that it would purchase WPCH-TV outright from Turner Broadcasting for $70 million, in an effort to potentially avoid a FCC review of the proposed acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of Turner Broadcasting, by AT&T. The sale was approved by the FCC on April 17, 2017, and was finalized on April 21, forming a duopoly between WGCL-TV and WPCH-TV.
On May 3, 2021, locally based Gray Television announced its intent to purchase the Meredith Local Media division, including WGCL and WPCH, for $2.7 billion. The sale was completed on December 1. As a result, WGCL became Gray's flagship property and largest station (by market size). WGCL and WPCH also gained sister stations in nearby markets, including fellow CBS affiliate WTOC in Savannah, CBS/NBC affiliates WRDW-TV and WAGT-CD in Augusta, NBC/ABC affiliate WALB in Albany, ABC affiliate WTVM in Columbus and Fox affiliate WBRC in Birmingham. Gray now owns stations in every Georgia TV market except for Macon and the Georgia portions of the Chattanooga and Jacksonville markets. WGCL and WPCH also became the second group of locally-owned stations in the Atlanta market, joining Cox Media Group-owned WSB-TV.
WGCL-TV carries select Atlanta Falcons games via the NFL on CBS (normally Sunday afternoon games when they are hosting an AFC team, but since 2014, any games that have the Falcons playing another NFC team can air on WGCL-TV through the 'cross-flex' broadcast rules), and Georgia Bulldogs football through the network's SEC coverage. WGCL was the home for Falcons preseason games in 2012 and 2013 (the team's preseason games moved to WUPA in 2014). WGCL-TV was also the local broadcaster of Super Bowl LIII, held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Although WGCL and WPCH-TV are now sister stations, occasionally as time permits, CW owned-and-operated station WUPA may air CBS network programs whenever WGCL is unable to in the event of extended breaking news or severe weather coverage, or locally scheduled special event programming (one such example being during WGCL's August 24, 2013, broadcast of an NFL preseason game between the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams).
WGCL-TV presently broadcasts 37 hours, 55 minutes of locally produced newscasts each week (with 7 hours, 35 minutes each weekday, three hours on Saturdays and two hours on Sundays); in addition, the station also produces the sports highlight program Sports Saturday/Sunday, which airs weekends at 11:30 p.m. following the late newscast.
The station usually trails in local news ratings, behind WSB, WAGA and WXIA.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|46.1||1080i||16:9||WGCL||Main WGCL-TV programming / CBS|
|47.1||WKTB||Simulcast of WKTB-CD2 / Telemundo|
WGCL-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 46, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 19, using PSIP to display WGCL-TV's virtual channel as 46 on digital television receivers.
Although the DTV Delay Act extended the mandatory shutdown of analog television until June 12, WGCL-TV applied to the FCC to allow it to shut down the analog signal on the original deadline of February 17. However, the station did not appear on the FCC list of such stations, which was released on February 11 (WATC (digital channel 57) and WGTV (digital channel 8) were the other local stations on this list). The station applied to be an "analog nightlight" station, ending its regular programming on June 12 as required by law, but continuing to broadcast information regarding the digital transition for an additional two weeks until June 26.
Before adding permanent digital subchannels in 2015, WGCL would activate up to three temporary subchannels in late March to carry coverage of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament in the mid and late 2000s, and 2010, in full which were in turn picked up by Comcast and other local providers during the tournament (DirecTV had their own paid package, Mega March Madness). This ended in 2011, when the current March Madness coverage arrangement between CBS and Turner Sports went into effect.
On March 20, 2015, Meredith announced the upcoming addition of Grit to the station's third subchannel, though there was no news about what would fill the station's second subchannel at the time. Three days later, NBC Owned Television Stations and Meredith confirmed Cozi TV would fill WGCL-DT2.