2 (25) KDKA-TV Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: CBS Corporation
DuMont Television Network signed WDTV (Channel 3) on the air in 1949 and was the third and final DuMont owned station to go on the air. A one-hour local program aired from the Syria Mosque with another few hours devoted to live segments from DuMont, CBS, NBC and ABC. WDTV was one of the last stations to be granted a license before a four-year freeze was imposed by the FCC. After the freeze was over in 1952, DuMont had to move to channel 2 to end interference with nearby stations on the same frequency. Competition didn’t come locally to WDTV until 1953 with two UHF stations which quickly failed. Westinghouse bought the station in 1955 from a failing DuMont Network and changed the calls to KDKA-TV, the same as its heritage radio station. Initially, KDKA-TV was an NBC affiliate like the radio station, but not long after it became a CBS affiliate with NBC and ABC serving as secondaries. KDKA’s digital allocation is 25 and is located at the original Channel 2 tower site along Perrysville Avenue. It has applications for two repeaters to cover areas once covered by the analog Channel 2. Morgantown’s Channel 31 and Johnstown’s Channel 40. The Johnstown transmitter would sit on a tower once used by sister station WPCW when it served the area
4 (51) WTAE Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Hearst Television, Inc.
WTAE is the “youngest” of all Pittsburgh-licensed VHF stations and is one of three flagship stations for Hearst Television. It was originally licensed to Irwin in Westmoreland County but was moved in 1958 when Pittsburgh’s mayor, David L. Lawrence continuously petitioned the FCC for a fourth VHF channel. WTAE was “short-spaced” in amongst other Channels 4 in Columbus, Buffalo, and Washington, D.C. As such, the transmitter had to be located in Buena Vista which is southeast of the city in the very southern end of Allegheny County. WTAE is one of the strongest ABC affiliates and has served surrounding markets as the soul ABC affiliate with a B-grade signal. WTAE’s digital allocation is 51 and it operates from the same site as analog Channel 4. However, much long its analog predecessor, Channel 51 had trouble navigating the terrain thereby making it to the northern regions. The FCC granted a repeater station for WTAE which operates on Channel 22 (WPMY’s old analog allocation) from WQED’s Oakland tower site.
11 (48) WPXI Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Cox Media Group
WIIC-TV signed on in 1957 as Pittsburgh’s third VHF station. The licensee was WIIC Incorporated which was a cooperative of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (owner of WWSW) and Pittsburgh Radio Supply House (owner of WJAS). The license was issued in 1955, but sign on was delayed because WENS-TV’s application for the license had been denied and the decision was being challenged. Meanwhile CBS had signed with WIIC to be its exclusive network. The delayed sign-on led to CBS going full time on KDKA-TV and NBC signing with WIIC. It was at this time that NBC’s radio arm purchased WJAS-AM/FM to fulfill all conditions of the license. Bill Cardille signed the station on the air September 1, 1957 and he became the face of the station hosting many programs as well as serving as a weather man. WIIC was sold to Cox Enterprises in 1964. In 1981, the calls were changed to WPXI (Pittsburgh XI – Roman Number “11″). For the first 50 years, Channel 11 was located atop a hill in Fineview on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The location became known as “Television Hill” and “11 Television Hill” became the de facto address for what is actually 341 Rising Main Avenue. WPXI built a LEED-certified TV station up the road in the neighborhood known as Summer Hill. The station moved in in 2007. The original intention was to move the transmission tower as well, but neighbors complained because of the proximity of the WPGH and KDKA-TV towers. The WPXI transmitter remains atop “Television Hill” but most of the former studios were razed leaving the transmitter building for the TV station. The tower also houses transmission antennae for WWSW-FM (94.5) and WSHH-FM (99.7). In 2013, WPXI activated a translator signal on Channel 33 in New Castle to improve reception to the region.
WQED signed on in 1954 after Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence suggested at 12 percent of United States TV stations should be assigned for non-commercial, educational purposes. The FCC granted Lawrence the permit at a time when there was a freeze on new licenses. They made the exception so long as the money could be raised to purchase equipment and operate the station. Meanwhile, Westinghouse was bidding on channel 13 for their proposed KDKA-TV and they offered to share time with the new WQED. Eventually, Westinghouse gave up and even donated some equipment to the new station. Shortly thereafter, Westinghouse would purchase WDTV from DuMont and replaced it with KDKA. When it signed on in 1954, WQED was the first educational television station in the country and eventually help launch NET – National Educational Television Network, the forerunner to today’s PBS. Over the years, WQED has produced some well-known programming including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and National Geographic. For years, in addition to their normal pledge periods, the station hosted a week-long television auction which would pre-empt regular programming. The station is also home to Rick Sebak who has produced many documentaries local and national. WQED’s digital allocation is 13 making it the only station in Pittsburgh to have the same channel number for both the analog and digital incarnations. While the analog station was still on the air, WQED used channel 38 as its digital outlet, but had it reassigned to former sister station WQEX.
16 (26-38) WINP Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Ion Media of Scranton
Originally, channel 16 signed on as WENS-TV, a commercially-licensed station, in the early 1950s. It apparently served as Pittsburgh’s first ABC affiliate. The station lasted only a few years having suffered in the ratings and signed off due to transmission tower damage. In 1959, it would return as WQEX a second station for WQED to broadcast educational programming. It signed off again in 1961 not to return until 1963. The station was among the last to convert from black and white to color in 1985 when the black and white transmitter failed to the extent of no return. Having a short time to get the station back on the air before license forfeiture, WQED pledge dollars were put toward getting Channel 16 back on. They built offices, technical space and air studios inside the small Studio C at the WQED building in Oakland. As time went on, WQEX went from being completely automated using Betacam technology. The program lineup resembled that of independent stations and came complete with hosts introducing programs throughout the day. After funding was cut in 1997, WQEX began simulcasting its sister station WQED and as the following years progressed, WQED had many failed attempts at selling Channel 16 because of the educational license. Although there were some who were committed to keeping the station going as a public station, the capital couldn’t be raised to pay for the station. Therefore, the license was converted to commercial to make the sale easier, but it still took some time. WQED leased the station to two home shopping networks – America’s Store and Shop NBC – between 2004 and 2011. Finally in 2011 the station was sold to ION Networks who ironically had made an offer to buy the station when it was PAX Networks some years before. The station is now owned by Ion Networks and airs the ION Network as WINP-TV. During the new digital age, Channel 16′s signal was on digital channel 26 while sister WQED’s was on 38. WQED would become the only station in Pittsburgh to maintain the same channel allocation for digital as it did for analog. Therefore once ‘QED switched from Channel 38 back to 13, WQEX moved from Channel 26 to 38.
19 (49-11) WPCW Jeannette, Pennsylvania
Owner: CBS Corporation
Originally serving Johnstown on Channel 56, WARD-TV signed on in 1953 it was co-owned with an AM/FM combo and served as the area’s CBS affiliate with ABC as a secondary network. Jonel Construction Company bought the TV stations and its radio sisters in the late-1960s/early-70s and changed their calls to WJNL. The TV station moved to channel 19 which is a stronger UHF signal. Despite the stronger channel allocation, the station had a weak signal for the terrain surrounding it. WTAJ and WJAC maintained television stronghold in the region before the Johnstown and Altoona markets were not yet combined. The only reason Channel 19 was still on the air was due to the successes of its sister FM, then at 96.5. When the Johnstown market and the Altoona/State College market were combined in 1982, WTAJ received soul CBS affiliation. WJNL could not reach State College and became an independent station and was sold to Leon Crosby who changed it to WFAT. But programming had to be purchased for much of the day and WPGH and other Pittsburgh independent stations were available via cable. WWCP-TV signed on in 1986 and took even more wind out of WFAT’s sails. In 1988, the calls changed to WPTJ and transmitter problems would take it off the air frequently sometimes not to return for days. The station declared bankruptcy and shut down in 1991. In 1995, Venture Technologies bought the dormant license and put it back on the air in 1997 as WTWB-TV. Channel 19 served as a full-power outlet to relay Venture’s WBPA-LP (low power) out of Pittsburgh. But in order for WTWB (a Warner Brothers affiliate) to get on cable in Pittsburgh, the licence was transferred to Jeannette. Meanwhile Channel 22 picked up the WB Network and 19 turned to UPN with the calls WNPA. Viacom bought WNPA in 1998 and when Viacom and CBS merged two years later, WNPA and KDKA-TV became sisters. The operations moved to Gateway Center. In 2006, with the merger of the WB and UPN networks, the station became the combined “CW” affiliate and changed its calls to WPCW. WPCW’s digital allocation is Channel 11 (used by WPXI in analog era) and it’s transmitter is on KDKA-TV’s tower along Perrysville Avenue. The station used Channel 49 as its digital home before the analog shut-off in 2009.
22 (42) WPMY Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Sinclair Broadcast Group
Network: My Network TV
Originally the Channel 22 Construction Permit was assigned to WPCB-TV. WPFO had the Construction Permit for Greensburg-licensed Channel 40. In 1977, Commercial Radio Institute sued WPCB and to avoid a legal battle, WPCB sold the permit for Channel 22 to WPFO for nearly $207,000 in exchange for consideration for the Channel 40 permit. Once the permits were exchanged, WPFO became WPTT. It was 1978 when WPTT (Pittsburgh Twenty-Two) signed on for the first time and was owned by Commercial Radio Institute which would later become Sinclair. It was the city’s second independent station showing 50s and 60s sitcoms, old movies and occasionally network programming dropped by “The Big 3″ stations in town. Early on, WPTT had low ratings because it could never obtain the newer programming that WPGH-TV 53 had a very aggressive programming strategy after it was purchased by Meredith Corporation in 1978. When WPGH was put up for sale in the early 1990s, Sinclair won the bid but had to sell WPTT in order to fund the purchase. General Manager Eddie Edwards bought the station and ran it for many years. WPTT finally obtained a network affiliation in 1995 with UPN. In 1997, WPTT moved into the WPGH studios on Ivory Avenue in Summer Hill. In 1998, WPTT dropped its UPN affiliation and joined with the WB Network. The calls were changed to WCWB reflecting the new affiliation. (The WPTT calls went to AM 1360.) Sinclair bought the station back from Edwards in 2000 when the FCC allowed a company to own two TV stations per market. When the WB Network and UPN announced their merger to CW in 2006, Channel 19 took the new CW. Channel 22 took the My Network TV affiliation adopting the WPMY calls. The only time the station refers to its virtual channel number (22) is during legal identification. 42 is the digital allocation.
29 WIIC-LP Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Abacus Television Network
Network: Independent (Silent)
W29AV signed on in 1989 as a low-power signal airing “The Box” network until 2001. That’s when Viacom bought The Box and changed everything over to MTV2. In the mid 2000s, WIIC-LP took on the NOYZ channel, but the station went dark in 2007 and the license was cancelled by the FCC in 2010. Abacus filed a petition or reconsideration and WIIC’s license was reissued in 2011.
35 WBYD-CA Pittsburgh*, Pennsylvania
Owner: Benjamin Perez/Abacus Television Network
Network: Shop at Home
W35AZ signed on in the 1990s as a Network One affiliate. When that network failed, the station joined America’s Collectibles Network. In 2001, the callsign was changed to WONT with live programming from the former Eastland Mall in North Versailles. A notable program was “WANTV” – a live auction of salvage merchandise running every evening. That show would later be called Live Auction Television and became an affiliate Shop at Home Network. The license was moved from Johnstown to Pittsburgh* but the FCC says otherwise. Joe Krinock, the technical director for Abacus told PBRTV several years ago, “(according to the FCC), it was moved from there (Johnstown) due to economic reasons, and is operating on a STA (special temporary authority) in Pittsburgh. Someday they’ll acknowledge Channel 35 has been in Pittsburgh for 8 years.”
40 (50) WPCB Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Owner: Cornerstone Television, Inc.
Network: Cornerstone Television
The Rev. Russ Bixler once came across WYAH-TV and its Christian programming while vacationing in Virginia Beach. Bixler felt the same was needed for Pittsburgh and in the 1970s applied for Channel 22. In the mid-1970s, Bixler found himself in a lawsuit with Commercial Radio Institute who held the Construction Permit for Greensburg-licensed Channel 40, WPFO. To avoid a massive legal battle, Western Pennsylvania Christian Broadcasting (the forerunner to Cornerstone) sold the permit for Channel 22 to Commercial Radio Institute for $206,523.18 in exchange for consideration and the permit for Channel 40. WPCB went on the air on Easter Day 1979 after Bixler worked hard to get the equipment and sell airtime to various Christian organizations. The initial broadcast day was 15 hours, but it went to 24 hours the following year. Much of the day’s lineup would consist of programming produced by Christian Broadcasting Network for the CBN Cable channel and local church programming. Cornerstone was one of several bidders for non-commercial WQEX when it was for sale. Had the sale gone through PAX TV (now ION Networks) was prepared to buy Channel 40. However, the FCC did not consider WPCB’s programming to fall under the guise of the “Educational License” and Cornerstone withdrew the offer. WPCB’s digital home is Channel 50.
53 (43) WPGH Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Sinclair Broadcast Group
Channel 53′s first incarnation was as WKJF-TV in 1953. Sister to WKJF-FM at 93.7, the pair operated from studios located on Mount Washington. Bad finances and few people with UHF receivers led to the station’s sign off a year later. Fifteen years would pass before U.S. Communications put it back on the air in 1969 as WPGH. But this time the station lasted two years. It would return in 1974 after several passionate engineers took the time to repair and update equipment. The Meredith Corporation bought WPGH in 1978 and bid high for programs to air on the station so that new cross-town rival WPTT wouldn’t be able to get them. Lorimar-Telepictures was the next to own the station beginning in 1986. That was the year that WPGH became a Fox affiliate but was sold off to Renaissance Broadcasting in 1987. The practice of overpaying for programming continued even as a Fox affiliate and was again sold. Sinclair bought the station and sold WPTT off to General Manager Eddie Edwards who made WPTT a Home Shopping Network station. However, Sinclair still held rights to air programming on WPTT and would use it as a “roll-over” channel when faced with an overabundance of programs to air. Sinclair would buy back WPTT in 1997 when the FCC relaxed the ownership rules. In 1996, WPGH established a news department and began a nightly 10:00 newscast. From the start, Alby Oxenreiter moved over from WTAE-TV to serve as the station’s sports director, but the anchors were virtual unknowns. Later the station would hire Jay Harris from WAMO-FM and Sheila Hyland from WTAE-TV to be the anchors. In 2004, Sinclair combined the local news with its own centralized “News Central” with national news headlines and weather forecasts coming from Hunt Valley, Maryland. The controversial move would prove “fatal” to the newscast and in 2006, WPGH developed a news share with WPXI-TV. The only airstaffer to survive the move was Alby Oxenreiter who was hired by WPXI and who went on to serve as that station’s sports director. Oxenreiter is still featured prominently on the nightly WPGH broadcast.
59 (16) WBGN-CD Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Bruno Goodworth Network
Signing on in 1995 as W59BT, WBGN has quickly grown broadcasting a variety of programming ranging from first-run shows to reruns of classic sitcoms. It also produces local programming and brief newscasts and weather segments. WBGN is carried over Verizon’s FiOS system and has 9 stations simulcasting throughout the market. They are: WPCP-CD (27) New Castle; WNNB-CD (30) Beaver; WJMB-CD (17) Butler; WKHU-CA (44) Kittanning; WEMW-CA (19) Greensburg; WWLM-CA (20) Washington; WWKH-CA (47) Uniontown; WJPW-CA (18) Weirton, West Virginia and WVTX-CA (28) Bridgeport, Ohio. WBGN began broadcasting in digital transmission via Channel 16 in 2009. WBGN operates out of Green Tree studios.
63 (39) W63AU Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Nancy Hahn/Bon-Tele Network, Inc.
Founded in 1985, this station once operated as WNEU and has applied for a digital license on channel 39.
69 (32) WPTG-LP Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owner: Abacus Television Network
Operated by Abacus with an application for digital allocation on Channel 32.
PCNC – Pittsburgh Cable News Channel
Owner: Cox Enterprises/Comcast Cable
January 1994, WPXI-TV and the area’s largest cable provider of the time, TCI, forged a partnership to create the first and only 24-hour cable news channel. Originally the channel provided the area with its first 10:00 p.m. newscast. That lasted until 2006 when Sinclair’s WPGH signed a news share agreement with WPXI to provide its 10:00 newscast. John McIntire was the original host of NightTalk which preceded the 10:00 news.