WLTZ
A blue box and a white box below it. Sitting above all the elements is a white 38 in blue trim. On top is the word "Local".
The CW logo in Red Orange with the word "GA-BAMA" in a black sans serif, right justified, above it.
Channels
BrandingLocal 38; The CW Ga-Bama (DT2)
Programming
Affiliations
Ownership
Owner
OperatorGray Television
WTVM, WXTX
History
First air date
October 29, 1970
(53 years ago)
 (1970-10-29)
Former call signs
WYEA-TV (1970–1981)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 38 (UHF, 1970–2009)
Technical information[1]
Licensing authority
FCC
Facility ID37179
ERP50 kW
HAAT377.2 m (1,238 ft)
Transmitter coordinates32°27′28″N 84°53′8″W / 32.45778°N 84.88556°W / 32.45778; -84.88556
Links
Public license information
Website

WLTZ (channel 38) is a television station in Columbus, Georgia, United States, affiliated with NBC and The CW Plus. It is owned by SagamoreHill Broadcasting, which maintains a shared services agreement (SSA) with Gray Television, owner of ABC affiliate WTVM (channel 9), for the provision of certain services. Gray also operates Fox affiliate WXTX (channel 54) under a separate SSA with owner American Spirit Media. WLTZ's studios and transmitter are located on NBC 38 Drive off Buena Vista Road on the east side of the city. Master control and most internal operations are based at WTVM and WXTX's shared studios on Wynnton Road (GA 22) in the Dinglewood section of Columbus.

WLTZ went on the air in 1970 as WYEA-TV. An NBC affiliate from its first day on air, it had traditionally been a distant third in local news ratings in the Columbus market, despite attempts from several owners—most notably locally based insurer American Family Corporation—to improve the situation. The station aired no regular local news service at all from 1993 to 2007. In 2020, it began to air newscasts produced by WTVM.

History

WYEA-TV: Early years

In late 1966 and early 1967, three groups applied for television stations in Columbus, which at the time had two VHF outlets.[2] One—Coastal Television—amended its application to specify channel 54 and received a construction permit, but it was never built.[3] The other two, the Inland Broadcasting Company (a consortium of Georgia and Alabama residents) and Gala Broadcasting Company (led by Charles F. Grisham, owner of WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Alabama), merged their bids on the latter's application in July, opening the door for a construction permit to be issued in mid-August[4] to what became known as the Eagle Broadcasting Company.[3] It was obvious what the likely programming would be for the station. WTVM was a primary ABC affiliate and had first call rights on NBC programs, though CBS affiliate WRBL-TV (channel 3) also aired some NBC programming on a secondary basis.[4]

A building permit was issued in December 1969 for a site on Buena Vista Road,[5] and ground was broken in early May.[6] While it was intended for the station to start in time for the 1970 World Series, and WTVM had already discontinued airing NBC programs with the start of the new season, the new station, under the call letters WYEA-TV, was not completed on time. The transmitter was not finished by that fall due to a strike at RCA, which was fabricating the antenna; as a result, WTVM had to petition to carry the World Series.[7]

WYEA-TV began broadcasting on October 29, 1970.[8] The station's second-floor offices suffered heavy damage in a January 1975 fire; the newsroom took water damage, and unprocessed news film was lost, but the station was back on the air within a day.[9]

The first newscast aired by the station was a 5:30 p.m. newscast, 1st Edition News, chosen specifically to avoid the 6 p.m. broadcasts from WRBL and WTVM and counterprogram their offerings.[10][11] Over the years, the station focused on counterprogramming the two larger stations and also attempted to lure viewers with personalities that left those stations. In one extreme instance, the team presenting WLTZ's evening newscast in 1976 was the same four people that had presented WTVM's News Hour in 1969.[12]

American Family ownership

A skyscraper with a large A F L A C sign on top
The locally based American Family Corporation, better known today as Aflac (headquarters building pictured), owned WYEA-TV from 1978 to 1981.

The locally based American Family Corporation, the parent of insurer AFLAC, announced in July 1977 that it would buy Eagle Broadcasting for $1.5 million and another $1.7 million in assumption of debts, making WYEA-TV its first broadcasting property with intentions to add more.[13] Under the subsidiary of American Eagle Broadcasting, American Family took ownership on March 1, 1978.[14]

John B. Amos, president of American Family, had been looking into a media buy for some time, having analyzed a possible purchase of WRBL-TV and narrowly missing out on purchasing the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network. WYEA-TV, a station that was a distant third with only five full-time news staffers and just one newscast a day, would prove to be a challenge as the group's first property. It also faced audience erosion from a new tower that had been erected by WSFA, the NBC affiliate in Montgomery, Alabama, which had upgraded its signal to reach some parts of channel 38's viewing area.[15] Under American Family, WYEA-TV opposed a proposed television station licensed to Albany, WJFT-TV (channel 19), which had proposed a transmitting facility that would have also covered Columbus.[16]

Under American Family, the station briefly made a major overhaul of its local news. It adopted the name NewsCenter for its newscasts, and in 1979, it debuted the station's first-ever 11 p.m. newscast.[17] However, many of these changes were later trimmed back for economic reasons after American Family sold the station.[18][19]

Lewis ownership

By the start of 1981, American Family owned six stations—WYEA-TV and five outlets in larger markets. Citing its audience share, market size, and signal strength, as well as its status as the least profitable station in the group,[20] American Family opted to sell WYEA to Julius Curtis Lewis Jr., whose Lewis Broadcasting owned WJCL-TV in its headquarters of Savannah and WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina.[21] Years later, Leroy Paul, who presided over AFLAC's broadcast division, quipped, "We learned we could never become the city's news leader on a UHF station."[22] AFLAC would return to the Columbus market in 1989 with the purchase of WTVM.[20]

Lewis took control on July 1, 1981; the station's 11 p.m. newscast was immediately cut,[18] along with several staff dismissals in the news department.[19] The station changed its call sign to WLTZ, beginning to brand itself as "Z-38", on August 31.[23] The station had better ratings for its entertainment programming in the Columbus metro area than it did in the larger designated market area, which included counties where WRBL and WTVM were received but not WLTZ.[24]

Under Lewis, the station briefly had the first Black anchor on Columbus television: future state senator Ed Harbison, who anchored WLTZ's evening newscast from September 1982 to August 1984.[25][26][27] The lack of a late newscast or weekend newscasts, plus many resources their competitors had and the frequent confusion of their reporters with those from other stations, slighted the channel 38 news staff: Mick Walsh, the television writer for The Columbus Enquirer, called WLTZ "the Rodney Dangerfield of local news".[28] In one instance, WLTZ passed on the opportunity to send a media member to witness an execution because it would have been too late on a Friday to have a story for any newscast; it was the first time that a media representative had failed to show up for an execution in Georgia since 1976.[29] Ratings remained stubbornly low. In February 1993, four percent of Columbus metro households watched WLTZ's 6 p.m. newscast, a sharp contrast to Star Trek: The Next Generation on WXTX (15 share) and the newscasts on WRBL (18 share) and WTVM (52 share).[30]

On November 15, 1993, station management announced the WLTZ news department would be dissolved on November 24, citing low ratings and lack of "wide market acceptance". The news came as a shock to the seven-member news staff, all but one of whom were laid off.[31] The station had no regular local newscasts for the next 14 years. However, it did invite one of the staffers it fired, veteran Columbus newscaster Al Fleming, to produce short news breaks to air during NBC's coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympics.[32]

Lewis announced it would sell WLTZ in 1994 to Piney Creek Broadcasting, headed by Ruth Allen Ollison, which would contract with Jack Pezold, owner of Fox affiliate WXTX, to provide its programs under a local marketing agreement (LMA).[33] Pezold would also finance the sale for Piney Creek. The proposed transaction led to a petitions to deny by WRBL and WTVM.[34][35] While the sale appeared to be "almost a done deal" by February 1995, when the FCC rejected the challenges from the competing local stations,[36] the deal fell through that April after Congress ended a tax certificate program that encouraged the sale of broadcast stations to minorities.[37]

SagamoreHill ownership

Lewis kept WLTZ until 2007, when it was sold to SagamoreHill Broadcasting; it was the last television property owned by Lewis.[38] In November 2007, the station brought back weeknight newscasts (seen at 6, 7, and 11 p.m., or 5, 6, and 10 Central) in partnership with the Independent News Network (INN) of Davenport, Iowa. Originally, the early evening shows aired in traditional half-hour formats, while the late newscast ran for 11 minutes. The Iowa-based news presenters read stories prepared by local reporters in Columbus; WLTZ also partnered with the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper for local coverage.[39]

WLTZ converted to digital-only broadcasting February 17, 2009.[40] That same year, the station added The CW to a subchannel after the network discontinued its relationship with Pappas Telecasting, owner of WLGA (channel 66), then the region's CW affiliate.[41] In 2012, the station restored local news production from Columbus.[42]

In September 2020, SagamoreHill entered into an eight-year shared services agreement with Gray to provide back-office services including master control, engineering services, and promotional services, as well as newscasts for WLTZ.[43] On November 24, 2020, television industry website FTVLive.com reported that WLTZ had produced its final newscast on November 20 and that many employees were then laid off. WLTZ now simulcasts newscasts produced by WTVM.[44]

Technical information

Subchannels

The station's signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WLTZ[45]
Channel Video Aspect Short name Programming
38.1 720p 16:9 NBC NBC
38.2 CW The CW Plus
38.3 480i 4:3 Antenna Antenna TV
38.4 16:9 CourtTV Court TV

References

  1. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WLTZ". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  2. ^ "Third Firm Seeking OK on TV Station". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. February 4, 1967. p. 26. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ a b Capes, Reggie (October 5, 1967). "Eagle Broadcasting Company Applies to FCC: Columbus May Get UHF TV Station Affiliated With NBC". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. p. 15. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ a b "FCC Grants TV Station Channel 38". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. August 17, 1967. p. 29. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Vaughn, Nancy (April 27, 1970). "Purse Strings". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. 18. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "For New TV Station: Ground Is Broken". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. May 7, 1970. p. 27. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "World Series Coverage for Columbus Is Being Requested by WTVM Staff". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. September 12, 1970. p. 22. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "WYEA-TV: New TV Station Now in Operation". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. October 30, 1970. p. 4. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ Harasim, Paul H. (January 20, 1975). "Blaze Hits WYEA Studios". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. A-1, A-6. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Channel 38 Tower Erection Slated". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. September 17, 1970. p. 2. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "All the star studded shows coming soon: Channel 38, WYEA-TV". Sunday Ledger–Enquirer Magazine. Columbus, Georgia. September 13, 1970. p. 28. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Houston, Jim (March 19, 1976). "TV News Team Familiar Faces". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B-1. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ Rowe, William (July 27, 1977). "Owners Plan Sale Of WYEA". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. p. B-1, B-2. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "3 Take American Eagle Posts". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. March 29, 1978. p. B-2. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ Swift, Jack E. (October 23, 1977). "The TV Man". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. p. B-1, B-7. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "WYEA Asks Agency to Deny Erection of Transmitter". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. November 12, 1980. p. 5. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "WYEA Readies Late Newscast". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. April 25, 1979. p. A-5. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ a b Gardner, Greg (July 1, 1981). "New Owners Drop WYEA's 11 p.m. News". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B-1. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ a b Gardner, Greg (July 2, 1981). "More Changes Are Made By WYEA-TV Owner". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B-6. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ a b Walsh, Mick (November 6, 1988). "WTVM is now part of the American Family". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. E-1, E-2. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Birmingham, Nita (February 10, 1981). "American Family Sells WYEA-TV". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. A-3. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Walsh, Mick (November 5, 1995). "WLTZ ready to be 'player' in TV lineup". Ledger-Enquirer. p. D1, D7. Archived from the original on January 15, 2023. Retrieved January 15, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ Okamoto, Sandra (August 30, 1981). "WYEA Makes Changes In Name and Format". Sunday Ledger–Enquirer TV Book. Columbus, Georgia. p. 12. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ Walsh, Mick (January 13, 1989). "UHF status remains a problem for WLTZ". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. C-5. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "Harbison To Anchor WLTZ News". The Columbus Ledger. September 26, 1982. p. B-1. Archived from the original on January 15, 2023. Retrieved January 15, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  26. ^ Quinley, Pat (August 24, 1984). "WLTZ Drops Co-Anchor". Ledger-Enquirer. p. B-1. Archived from the original on January 15, 2023. Retrieved January 15, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  27. ^ Walsh, Mick (January 22, 1986). "Area's 1st Black Anchorman Recalls Days at 38". The Columbus Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. A-11. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  28. ^ "No Respect: WLTZ Feels Like Rodney Dangerfield of Local News". Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. January 22, 1987. p. B-8, B-9. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  29. ^ "WLTZ: Execution Too Late in Week to Cover". The Columbus Ledger. Columbus, Georgia. June 3, 1987. p. B-10. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 12, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  30. ^ Walsh, Mick (April 13, 1993). "Survey turned up 'the Heat' on WLTZ". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. D-1. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  31. ^ Walsh, Mick (November 16, 1993). "Local TV team gets the ax: Channel 38 to drop local news". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. A-1, A-12. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  32. ^ Walsh, Mick (July 24, 1996). "Fleming returns to station that fired him in 1991". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. Olympics 6. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  33. ^ Walsh, Mick (February 4, 1994). "WXTX to run WLTZ's programming: Rival broadcasters make agreement". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. A-1, A-7. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  34. ^ Walsh, Mick (June 8, 1994). "FCC asked to look into sale of WLTZ-TV station". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B6. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  35. ^ Walsh, Mick (July 22, 1994). "Line up to block sale of Channel 38". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B7. Archived from the original on August 23, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  36. ^ Walsh, Mick (February 24, 1995). "Sale of Channel 38 almost a done deal". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. B2. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ Walsh, Mick (April 6, 1995). "Sale of WLTZ falls through". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. C7. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  38. ^ Eggerton, John (April 27, 2007). "WLTZ-TV To Change Hands". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on April 17, 2021. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  39. ^ Adams, Tony (November 12, 2007). "Ledger-Enquirer, WLTZ partner on newscast". Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. p. D1, D3. Archived from the original on August 24, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  40. ^ "Turning Off Analog. WLTZ Goes Digital". WLTZ. February 17, 2009. Archived from the original on February 25, 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2009.
  41. ^ Hernandez, Andrea V. (April 3, 2009). "WLTZ's parent firm to carry CW Network in Columbus". Ledger–Enquirer. Archived from the original on June 18, 2009. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  42. ^ "Armstrong coming back to news?". Ledger-Enquirer. Columbus, Georgia. January 5, 2012. p. B1. Archived from the original on September 23, 2022. Retrieved September 23, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  43. ^ "WLTZ Shared Services Agreement (Redacted)" (PDF). Public Inspection Files. Federal Communications Commission. September 1, 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  44. ^ Redmond, Tyler (November 23, 2020). "Some WTVM News Leader 9 Newscasts Will Be Seen On WLTZ NBC 38". WTVM. Archived from the original on October 20, 2021. Retrieved October 21, 2021.
  45. ^ "RabbitEars TV query for WLTZ". RabbitEars. Archived from the original on March 13, 2020. Retrieved August 12, 2022.