|Branding||WTKR News 3|
|Affiliations||3.1: CBS (secondary until 1953)|
3.2: Court TV
3.3: Bounce TV
First air date
|April 2, 1950|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
4 (VHF, 1950–1952)
3 (VHF, 1952–2009)
40 (UHF, 2002–2020)
Call sign meaning
* Tidewater; Knight Ridder (former owners)
* tribute nod to WTAR (rhyming scheme)
|HAAT||375 m (1,230 ft)|
|Transmitter coordinates||36°48′31.8″N 76°30′11.3″W / 36.808833°N 76.503139°W|
Public license information
WTKR (channel 3) is a television station licensed to Norfolk, Virginia, United States, serving the Hampton Roads area as an affiliate of CBS. It is owned by E. W. Scripps Company alongside Portsmouth-licensed CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27). Both stations share studios on Boush Street near downtown Norfolk, while WTKR's transmitter is located in Suffolk, Virginia.
The station began operation on channel 4 on April 2, 1950, as WTAR-TV. It was Hampton Roads' first television station and the second television station in Virginia, after WTVR (channel 6) in Richmond. It carried programming from all four networks of the time—NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont—but was a primary NBC affiliate. In its first year of operation, when only 600 TV sets existed in the area, it had 19 locally originated programs in addition to network shows. Within a year of the station's debut, it moved into a new radio-TV center at 720 Boush Street.
It was owned by Norfolk Newspapers, publisher of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, along with WTAR radio (AM 790, now on AM 850), Virginia's first radio station, and WTAR-FM. It moved to channel 3 in 1952 in order to avoid interference with WNBW (now WRC-TV) in Washington, D.C. When WVEC-TV signed on a year later as an NBC affiliate, WTAR-TV became a primary CBS affiliate, retaining its secondary ABC and DuMont affiliations.
WTAR became solely affiliated with CBS in 1957, when WAVY-TV signed on as the ABC affiliate (WAVY and WVEC would swap affiliations in 1959 making the latter station the ABC affiliate). DuMont also shut down in 1956. In 1967, Norfolk Newspapers was reorganized as Landmark Communications, WTAR-AM-FM-TV became the flagship stations. The station was one of several in the country to produce a local version of PM Magazine from the late 1970s to mid-1980s.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began tightening its ownership restrictions in the 1970s, eventually barring common ownership of newspapers and broadcasting outlets. Landmark was able to get grandfathered protection for its flagship Hampton Roads cluster. However, in 1981, it opted to sell channel 3 to Knight-Ridder, who changed the station's calls to WTKR on March 4. The new calls not only reflected the new ownership (FCC rules prohibited TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership from sharing the same callsigns then, hence the modification), but also sounded similar to the old ones. Knight-Ridder sold WTKR and sister station WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island to Narragansett Television in 1989. Narragansett sold WTKR to The New York Times Company in 1995.
On May 7, 2007; the Times sold its entire broadcasting division, including WTKR, to Local TV. In June 2010, Local TV announced that it would be acquiring CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27) from CBS Corporation's Television stations group. WTKR managed the station through a time brokerage agreement from that point until Local TV closed on the purchase on August 4. This purchase created the market's second co-owned duopoly operation, after the LIN TV-owned combination of WAVY and Fox affiliate WVBT.
On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its 19 stations would be acquired by the Tribune Company, the owner of the Daily Press in Newport News, for $2.75 billion; Since this would conflict with FCC regulations that prohibit newspaper-television cross-ownership within a single market (although Tribune has maintained cross-ownership waivers for its newspaper-television station combinations in four other media markets), Tribune spun off WTKR and WGNT to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, an unrelated company owned by former Tribune Company executive Ed Wilson. Tribune provided services to the stations through a shared services agreement, and held an option to buy back WTKR and WGNT outright in the future. The sale was completed on December 27. Tribune later announced on July 10, 2013, that it would spin off its newspapers (including the Daily Press) into a separate company, the Tribune Publishing Company, in 2014, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of MyNetworkTV affiliate WTVZ-TV (channel 33), entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media in 2017. Sinclair would have had to select one of WGNT or WTVZ-TV to keep alongside WTKR; no divestiture plan was announced. However, the transaction was designated in July 2018 for hearing by an FCC administrative law judge, and Tribune moved to terminate the deal in August 2018.
In 2019, Nexstar Media Group, owner of WAVY-TV and WVBT, announced it would acquire Tribune. Nexstar opted to retain its existing stations and sold WTKR–WGNT to the E. W. Scripps Company.
Not surprisingly for a station with roots in a newspaper, channel 3 dominated the news ratings in Hampton Roads for most of its first four decades on the air. However, its ratings slipped after a botched relaunch in 1994. The station has mostly recovered.
Over the years, the station expanded its news operation to include about 30 hours of local news production per week. During the 2009 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, independent station WSKY-TV aired two weeknight 11 o'clock newscasts from WTKR. WTKR did air late newscasts at midnight when the coverage concluded.
WTKR started the area's first 4 p.m. newscast on September 8, 2009. This is the station's second attempt at a newscast during the 4 p.m. hour, as WTKR had aired a short-lived 4:30 p.m. newscast in 1995.
WTKR began producing and airing its local newscasts in high definition on January 26, 2009, with the 5:00 p.m. broadcast. WTKR is the third station in the Hampton Roads market, after WAVY-TV and WVBT, to begin airing high definition newscasts (as opposed to the upconverted widescreen standard definition format of WVEC's newscasts).
As of August 25, 2011, a two-hour extension of WTKR's weekday morning newscast airs from 7 to 9 a.m. on sister station WGNT. On July 7, 2014, a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast made its debut on WGNT featuring former morning anchor Laila Muhammad, Les Smith and chief meteorologist Patrick Rockey. It is the first and only newscast at that time slot in the Hampton Roads area. Almost a year later, a weeknight 10 p.m. newscast returned to WGNT after 18 years under the name WGNT News at 10 - Powered by NewsChannel 3 on June 29, 2015. This was not the first attempt at a weeknight 10 p.m. newscast for the station; a previous incarnation ran from 1995 to 1997 (as NewsChannel 3 at 10:00 on UPN 27) when WGNT was a UPN affiliate.
On June 17, 2016, WTKR retired the NewsChannel 3 branding it had used since 1995, returning to the News 3 moniker it used from 1970 to 1992.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WTKR-DT||Main WTKR programming / CBS|
On December 6, 2014, WTKR added its first digital subchannel. This TV, a diginet then co-owned by Tribune Media, was placed on virtual channel 3.2.
WTKR began digital broadcasts on channel 40 on March 11, 2002, at 4:15 p.m. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, using PSIP to display WTKR's virtual channel as 3 on digital television receivers.
The station frequency transitioned to channel 16 on July 2, 2020.
There is one low-powered translator of WTKR on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, W18EG-D in Onancock. It is owned by the Accomack County government rather than Scripps. WTKR and Scripps do not own any translators located in the Greater Hampton Roads area.
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