|Tampa–St. Petersburg, Florida|
|City of license||Tampa, Florida|
8 Prime (DT2)
|Slogan||On Your Side|
|Channels||Digital: 7 (VHF)
Virtual: 8 (PSIP)
(Media General Communications Holdings, LLC)
|First air date||February 14, 1955|
|Call letters' meaning||Taken from former sister radio station WFLA|
|Former callsigns||WXFL (1983–1988)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
8 (VHF, 1955–2009)
|Transmitter power||32 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WFLA-TV, channel 8, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Tampa, Florida, United States, and also serves the city of St. Petersburg. It is the flagship television station of owner Media General. WFLA's studios and offices are co-located with former sister properties The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com on Parker and Keller Streets in Tampa, and its transmitter is located in Riverview.
- 1 Digital television
- 2 History
- 3 Programming
- 4 News operation
- 5 Controversy and criticism
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||WFLA-HD||Main WFLA-TV programming / NBC|
WFLA-TV replaced the Retro Television Network with Me-TV on digital subchannel 8.2 on September 26, 2011, as part of a groupwide affiliation agreement with Media General; the Weigel Broadcasting-owned Me-TV network also replaced RTV on some Media General-owned stations in other markets.
WFLA-TV shut down its analog signal on June 12, 2009, as part of the transition from analog to digital television. The station remained on its pre-transition channel 7, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as 8.
The station first signed on the air on February 14, 1955, with a live broadcast of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. The station was owned by The Tampa Tribune, along with WFLA radio (AM 970 and FM 93.3, now WFLZ). WFLA has been an NBC affiliate since the television station's inception. Largely because of its newspaper background, it was the early ratings leader in the Tampa market until WTVT passed it in 1962.
In 1966, Richmond Newspapers, publishers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and part-owner of the Tribune, acquired full control of the paper and WFLA-AM-FM-TV. Three years later, Richmond Newspapers renamed itself Media General, and WFLA-TV, the first television station owned and operated by the company, has been its flagship television station since then.
The station's callsign was changed to WXFL on January 19, 1983, after the WFLA radio stations were sold (both radio stations are currently owned by Clear Channel Communications). At the time, Federal Communications Commission cross-ownership regulations forced Media General to sell the radio stations; however, the company was granted a permanent waiver permitting it to keep the Tampa Bay Tribune and the television station. Channel 8 reverted to its original call letters on January 1, 1989. That same year, it surged to first place in the Tampa Bay ratings and has stayed there for most of that time, led by one of the most popular anchor teams in the country.
In the midst of a market shake-up in 1994, which saw many of the Tampa area stations swapping network affiliations (CBS affiliate WTVT switching to Fox, ABC affiliate WTSP switching to CBS and Fox affiliate WFTS switching to ABC), WFLA was one of the few major stations in the market that did not change its network affiliation. As a result it became the highest-rated station in the market, a position formerly held by WTVT, which saw its ratings drop after switching from CBS to Fox. However, since NBC's ill-fated primetime experiment with The Jay Leno Show from September 2009 to January 2010, WTVT regained the number one spot.
WFLA and the Tampa Bay Tribune remained corporate siblings until Media General sold the newspaper to Tampa Media Group, Inc. in October 2012, as part of a sale of Media General's newspaper holdings as part of a corporate reorganization due to a substantial debt load (with the exception of the Tribune, the company's other newspapers went to World Media Enterprises). Despite the split, the two outlets will continue their long-standing partnership. In January 2013, WFLA became Media General's first station to migrate to a new website powered by Worldnow, as part of a group deal with the website hosting service.
Syndicated programming seen on WFLA-TV includes Rachael Ray, The Doctors, Extra, Entertainment Tonight and The Dr. Oz Show. WFLA serves as the NBC affiliate for the Tampa area, and thus clears the network's entire programming lineup.
The station produces a lifestyle and entertainment program called Daytime, which airs weekday mornings at 10 a.m.; the program features regular correspondents and contributors for various topics. In 2003, WFLA and Daytime caused a controversy after The New York Times reported of its "pay for play" practices. The article revealed that businesses were charged several thousand dollars to appear on the show, effectively making their segments "paid segments". Many people saw this as payola, a practice that is illegal under a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling. After much dispute, WFLA agreed to ID each paid segment as such to avoid an intervention from Congress.
Original hosts Debra Schrills and Brian Fasulo left the show in 2005. The current hosts are Cyndi Edwards and Jerry Penacoli, a former correspondent for Hard Copy and Extra. From 2008 to September 2011, the show aired nationally on the Retro Television Network as part of Media General's affiliation deal with the network, but was dropped by RTV when Media General switched most of its stations' subchannel affiliations to Weigel's Me-TV. National broadcasts of the show are currently aired by My Family TV.
|This section requires expansion with: further information on the history of WFLA's news department. (October 2010)|
WFLA presently broadcasts 33½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and three hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). Arch Deal and Bill Henry were the prominent faces of WFLA's newscasts in the 1960s. Arch Deal's tenure was abruptly cut short in 1975, when he suffered injuries during a parachute accident. Bob Koop served as the evening anchor from 1977 to 1979. Longtime anchorman Bob Hite came to the anchor desk in 1979. The station began using a helicopter for newsgathering called "Eagle 8" in October 1985.
Bill Ratliff, who was brought in to anchor the evening newscasts in 1982 and had been morning and noon anchor since 1985, retired from WFLA on June 25, 2009. Ratliff was previously at rival WTSP as a political contributor. Ratliff passed away on May 8, 2012. WFLA began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition in early 2007. Following Bob Hite's November 2007 retirement after 30 years, Keith Cate assumed anchor duties of the 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts along with veteran anchor Gayle Sierens.
In the February 2012 sweeps period, WFLA was the clear ratings winner for early morning news, evening news and late news. It was also was the only station in the market to gain audience for its primetime newscast even after lackluster NBC programming. On July 30, 2012, WFLA debuted a new weeknight 7:00 p.m. newscast – this was the first newscast in that timeslot in the Tampa market since WFLA produced a similar newscast for WXPX-TV from 2000 to 2002. On August 26, 2013, WFLA launched the market's first new 4:00 p.m. newscast since 2003, when WTSP launched a 4:00 p.m. newscast of its own until they dropped it in 2010. The newscast called NewsChannel 8, First at 4:00 will be anchored by Stacie Schaible, who will continue to anchor the weeknight news at 5:30 p.m. To make the change happen, WFLA dropped the 11:30 a.m. midday newscast on August 23, the second time WFLA dropped the newscast, but hopes to bring the midday newscast back in September 2014. 
- Channel 8 News (1955–1960)
- The Big News/TV-8 News (1960-1964)
- Channel 8 Reports (1964–1975)
- Newswatch 8 (1975–1993)
- NewsChannel 8 (1993–present)
- "8 Country" (1970-1975)
- "Part Of Your Life" (1975–1979)
- "The Look. Alive." (1981–1982)
- "The Spirit of Tampa Bay" (general slogan)/"Newswatching Out for You" (news slogan; 1982–1985)
- "Helping You Win!" (1985–1989)
- "Tampa Bay's Fastest Growing News" (1987–1992)
- "In Touch with Tampa Bay" (1989–1992)
- "On Your Side" (1992–present)
- NewsChannel 8 Today - 4:30-7:00 a.m.
- NewsChannel 8, First at 4:00 - 4:00-5:00 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 5:00 - 5:00-5:30 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 5:30 - 5:30-6:00 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 6:00 - 6:00-6:30 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 7:00 - 7:00-7:30 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 11:00 - 11:00-11:35 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 Today - 9:00-10:00 a.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at Noon - 12:00-1:00 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 6:00 - 6:00-6:30 p.m.
- NewsChannel 8 at 11:00 - 11:00-11:30 p.m.
Current on-air staff
- Rod Carter - weekday mornings on NewsChannel 8 Today (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Keith Cate - weeknights at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Yolanda Fernandez - weekend mornings on NewsChannel 8 Today (9:00-10:00 a.m.) and weekends at noon; also reporter
- Gayle Guyardo - weekday mornings on NewsChannel 8 Today (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Jennifer Leigh - weeknights at 7:00 p.m.
- Stacie Schaible - weekdays at 4:00 and weeknights at 5:30 p.m.
- Gayle Sierens - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Josh Thomas - weekends at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.; also reporter
Storm Team 8
- Steve Jerve (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weekdays at 4:00 and weeknights at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 7:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Leigh Spann (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekday mornings on NewsChannel 8 Today (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Bryan Bennett - meteorologist; weekend mornings on NewsChannel 8 Today (9:00-10:00 a.m.) and weekends at noon
- Julie Phillips (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; weekends at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Dan Lucas - sports anchor; weeknights at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Jason Jennings - sports anchor; weekends at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Joline Roberts - sports producer
- Steve Andrews - investigative reporter; also fill-in anchor
- Melissa Beckman - general assignment reporter
- Shannon Behnken - real estate/property rights/consumer reporter
- Peter Bernard - general assignment reporter
- Judd Chapin - Eagle 8 pilot/reporter
- Mark Douglas - investigative reporter
- Josh Green - general assignment reporter
- Dave Kraut - Hernando/Pasco bureau reporter
- Leslee Lacey - weekday morning traffic reporter (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Jennifer Leigh - Polk bureau reporter; also fill-in anchor
- Rogelio Mares - general assignment reporter
- Lauren Mayk - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
- Chip Osowski - general assignment reporter
- Jeff Patterson - general assignment reporter
- Adrienne Pedersen - general assignment reporter
- John Rogers - Bradenton/Sarasota bureau reporter
- Natalie Shepard - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Suzanne Bates - anchor (1981–1984)
- Dick Crippen - sports director (1981–1999)
- Rich Fields - meteorology intern (2000–2002; now at KCBS/KCAL in Los Angeles; previously an announcer for The Price is Right)
- Paul Fischer - weekend anchor (1976–1978)
- Brooks Garner - weekend evening meteorologist (2010-2013; now at KHOU in Houston)
- David Grant - chief meteorologist (1986–1999)
- Jack Harris - noon host (1989–1992); "Harris and Company Live" (1992–2000)
- Chris Hansen - reporter (1981–1983; now with NBC News)
- Bobby Hicks - fishing and hunting studio anchor (1956–1966; deceased)
- Bob Hite - news anchor (1977–2007, now retired)
- Tom Korun - weekend sports anchor (1987–1997; now at WFTS-TV)
- John Mannelli - anchor (mid-1970s; later programmer of major market radio stations in Los Angeles and New York City)
- Tom McEwen - weekend sports analyst (1965–1968)
- Mace Michaels - weekend meteorologist (2000–2008; then at KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, now at WeatherNation TV)
- John Muller - reporter (1989–2001; now with ABC News)
- Steve Overton - morning/weekend anchor/consumer reporter (1983–2000)
- Don Paul - meteorologist (1978–1979)
- Byron Pitts - reporter (1988–1990; now with ABC News)
- Steve Porter - anchor/news director (1960s; later NBC Radio Network News senior correspondent and White House correspondent for NBC News)
- Bill Ratliff - morning and midday anchor (1982–2009), later Political Contrtibutor with rival WTSP-TV; died May 8, 2012
- Randy Scott - sports director (1979–1981)
- Don Starr - Pinellas County anchor (1962–1967)
- Mike Walter - morning anchor (1998–2000)
- Lance Williams - reporter (1987–2005)
- John Winter - morning meteorologist (1994–2007; deceased)
- Laura York - weekend meteorologist (1988-1995)
- Tony Zappone - news correspondent (1965–1977)
- Pat Moore - Morning Meteorologist 1973-1976. Nine-time NASTAR Age Group National Champion in Ski and Snowboard Racing.
Controversy and criticism
On June 27, 2009, WFLA aired an hour-long documentary, Silencing Christians, which dealt with the Christian position of condemning homosexuality as a sin, and claims of the gay community's drive to make all criticism of homosexuality as hate speech, in the name of political correctness. The documentary, presented as a paid program from the American Family Association, was televised at 7 p.m. that evening, on the same day that St. Petersburg held the city's pride parade, St. Pete Pride, on the weekend of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Prior to the telecast, the station was swamped with numerous phone calls and e-mails against the station showing the program; however, the station decided to present the documentary anyway. After the program ended, the station logged hundreds of phone calls and over 1000 e-mails, all in protest against the show. General manager Mike Pumo refused to elaborate on the decision, other than the show's content did not "raise the red flag" during pre-screening. Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, considered the show as hate speech, saying, "I think this program is a piece of homophobic propaganda and it has no place on a major network like NBC."
On July 15, 2009, 70 to 100 protesters gathered outside of WFLA's studios to protest against the special and the station's attitude towards the community – the station, however, remained firm on its decision to show the program.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WFLA
- Where to Watch Me-TV:WFLA
- Me-TV Beefs Up Roster With 10 New Stations, TVNewsCheck, September 15, 2011.
- CDBS Print
- FCC document: "APPENDIX B: ALL FULL-POWER TELEVISION STATIONS BY DMA, INDICATING THOSE TERMINATING ANALOG SERVICE BEFORE ON OR FEBRUARY 17, 2009."
- ABC News: "The Tampa Tribune Sold to Private Equity Firm", October 8, 2012.
- "Media General Taps WorldNow CMS". NetNewsCheck. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- O'Brien, Bobbie (December 2, 2003). "TV's Version of Payola Draws FCC Interest". All Things Considered. NPR.
- Crabtree, Susan (November 5, 2003). "McCain, FCC seek input on payola". Variety.
- Eggerton, John (November 9, 2003). "WFLA-TV Will ID Paid Segments". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
- "Newspaper Archives – tampabay.com - St. Petersburg Times".
- Tampa Bay Times: "After calls about an online job description, WFLA-Ch. 8 admits it plans a 7 p.m. newscast", July 17, 2012.
- WFLA - Ch. 8 announces 4 p.m. newscast, moving Dr. Oz to 3 p.m. weekdays Tampa Bay Times, July 24, 2013.
- "Chris Hansen Biography". NBC News. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- About "Speechless: Silencing the Christians" (the weekly serial version), fron their Official website.
- Tampa Tribune: "'Silencing Christians' paid program draws protest calls, e-mails", 6/27/2009.
- St. Petersburg Times: "Demonstrators protest anti-gay-rights program aired by WFLA-Ch. 8", 7/16/2009.
- Tampa Tribune: "Gay-/rights groups protest outside News Channel 8", 7/16/2009.
- WFLA.com - Official WFLA-TV website
- MeTVTampa.com - Official Me-TV Tampa website
- Photos of WFLA's news set
- Daytime website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WFLA
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WFLA-TV