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Logo of WJLA-TV.png

Washington, D.C.
Branding ABC 7 (general)
ABC 7 News (newscasts)
Slogan On Your Side
Channels Digital: 7 (VHF)
Virtual: 7 (PSIP)
Subchannels 7.1 ABC
7.2 Me-TV
7.3 Live Well Network
Affiliations ABC
Owner Allbritton Communications Company
(sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group pending)
(ACC Licensee, Inc.)
First air date October 3, 1947; 66 years ago (1947-10-03)
Call letters' meaning Joe L. Allbritton
(founder of parent company)
Sister station(s) NewsChannel 8
Former callsigns WTVW (1947)
WMAL-TV (1947–1977)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
7 (VHF, 1947–2009)
39 (UHF, 2000–2009)
Former affiliations CBS (1947–1949, secondary from 1948)
Transmitter power 52 kW
Height 235.6 m
Facility ID 1051
Transmitter coordinates 38°57′1″N 77°4′47″W / 38.95028°N 77.07972°W / 38.95028; -77.07972
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.wjla.com

WJLA-TV, channel 7, is the ABC-affiliated television station located in the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. It is the flagship station of the Allbritton Communications Company, which also operates local "24/7" all-the-time local news cable channel NewsChannel 8. The two stations share broadcast facilities in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Virginia across the Potomac River from the National Capital. WJLA-TV's transmitter is located in the Tenleytown section of northwest Washington, D.C. (sharing a tower with CBS affiliate WUSA, Channel 9).


The District of Columbia's third television station began broadcasting on October 3, 1947 as WTVW, owned by the Washington Star, along with WMAL radio (630 AM and 107.3 FM, now WRQX). It was the first Band III VHF television station (channels 7-13) in the United States. A few months later, the station changed its callsign to WMAL-TV after its radio sisters (the WTVW call letters now reside on the CW affiliate in Evansville, Indiana, which also broadcasts on channel 7 and was also an ABC affiliate from its 1956 sign-on until 1995).

WMAL radio had been an affiliate of the former NBC Blue Network since 1933, and remained with the radio network after it was spun off by NBC and evolved eventually into the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) for first radio, then television programming. However, Channel 7 started briefly as a CBS station since ABC had not yet established its television network. When ABC was launched on television in 1948, WMAL-TV became ABC's third primary affiliate. It continued to carry some CBS programming until WOIC-TV (Channel 9, later WTOP-TV for several decades, owned by "The Washington Post" and now WUSA) signed on in 1949, though up to 1977 the station carried a few CBS daytime programs (mostly some CBS daytime game shows) that were not carried by the then CBS Washington, D.C. station affiliate. During the late 1950's, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.[1]

In 1975, Houston businessman Joe L. Allbritton, the owner of Washington-based Riggs Bank, purchased a controlling interest in the oldest National Capital daily newspaper, "The Washington Star"'s media properties, which by that time also included WLVA radio and WLVA-TV (now WSET-TV) in Lynchburg, Virginia; and WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina.[2] As a condition of the purchase, Allbritton was given three years to break up the Washington newspaper/broadcast combination, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was seeking to prohibit under the tightening of its concentration of media ownership policy.[3] WMAL-TV was separated first from its radio sisters when ABC purchased WMAL-AM-FM in March 1977.[4] Upon the radio transfer, channel 7 changed its call letters to the current WJLA-TV, after the owner's initials.[5] In April 1977, Allbritton negotiated a deal to trade the station to Combined Communications Corporation in return for KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City,[6] but called off the deal due to last-minute complications in spite of receiving FCC approval.[7] Allbritton instead sold the Washington Star to Time, Inc. in January 1978, and retained WJLA-TV and the Lynchburg and Charleston television stations for what would eventually become Allbritton Communications.[8]

Rumors abounded from the mid-1990s onward that ABC might buy WJLA-TV, effectively reuniting it with its former radio sisters. Indeed, in the summer of 1998, ABC's corporate parent The Walt Disney Company discussed about a possible acquisition of Allbritton Communications with Allbritton executives. The sale failed to materialize.[9] ABC eventually sold most of its radio properties, including WMAL and WRQX, to Citadel Broadcasting Corporation in June 2007. Even so, WJLA remains an ABC affiliate to this day under Allbritton because the company has an exclusive affiliation deal with the network. After WJZ-TV in Baltimore switched to CBS in 1995, WJLA became ABC's longest-tenured affiliate.

On May 1, 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations so it can put more of its focus on running its political website Politico. Though it was initially reported that WJLA would be sold in a separate process from the rest of the company's stations.[10] On July 29, Allbritton announced that it would sell all of its stations, including WJLA, to Hunt Valley-based Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.[11]

Logos and Imaging[edit]

WJLA-TV's Circle 7 from 1975 to 2001

Since 1970, WMAL-TV/WJLA has used a variation of the Circle 7 logo, which has long been primarily associated with ABC affiliates. From 1970 to 2001, WMAL/WJLA used its own version of the logo, with the "7" modified to accommodate the circle. In 1984, it saw a minor update with rounded ends on the "7" being modified to use sharp, straight edges, like the logo later used by Australia's Seven Network. This version of the logo was probably the longest continuously used numeric logo in Washington's television history. The only real modification came in 1998, after it began calling itself "ABC 7" on-air and added the ABC logo to the left side. In 2001, WJLA adopted the standard version of the "Circle 7" logo, refueling speculation that ABC would purchase the station. WJLA-TV is the largest ABC affiliate to use the Circle 7 that is not an ABC owned-and-operated station. In addition, sister station KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, has used the standard Circle 7 since the 1960s, longer than all WJLA versions combined.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[12]
7.1 720p 16:9 WJLA-HD Main WJLA-TV programming / ABC
7.2 480i 4:3 WJLA-WX Me-TV[13]
7.3 WJLARTN Live Well Network

In December 2007, WJLA began simulcasting WTOP-FM on its "Weather Now" digital sub-channel; this continued through late July 2009. Until July 28, 2008, WJLA-TV offered Local Point TV on 7.2, which was a local version of Current, featuring five-minute video segments created by area residents. Abby Fenton, the station's Director of Community Relations said in an interview with "Broadcasting & Cable" media industry magazine that "the station likes the "Local Point" programming and is pondering where else it might fit".[14] Retro Television Network, ("Retro TV"), a new syndicated digital national broadcast network with older re-runs of classic television series from the 1950's, 60's, and 70's replaced Local Point TV at 10:00 a.m. on July 28, 2008.[15]

In late October 2008, WJLA began simulcasting on local low-powered station WWTD-LP; the station continued to broadcast an analog feed of WJLA after the digital transition. In late July 2009, WJLA dropped its locally produced "WeatherNow" channel for The Local AccuWeather Channel on its DT2 subchannel under the "Doug Hill's WeatherNow" brand. On March 13, 2012, WJLA dropped the Local AccuWeather Channel in favor of forecasts from their own meteorologists. With that, the name of the channel was slightly changed to "ABC7's WeatherNow". WJLA began carrying "Me-TV", a competing syndicated digital broadcast TV network with older classic and re-runs of television series on March 2013 on WJLA's digital subchannel 7.2, replacing the previously carried syndicated Retro TV channel airing since 2008 on Channel 7.2.[13]

On May 1, 2012, WJLA-TV announced it would add the Disney-ABC-owned Live Well Network to digital subchannel 7.3 on July 1, 2012, replacing RTV.[16]

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

On June 12, 2009, WJLA-TV terminated its analog signal, on VHF channel 7, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[17] The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 39 to VHF channel 7 for post-transition operations. While 90% of the station's viewers received WJLA's signal via cable or satellite, many of the over-the-air viewers had problems after the final transition. Some needed to rescan, and others needed a VHF antenna.[18]

WJLA applied on August 29, 2009 for special authorization by the FCC to increase its effective radiated power (ERP) to 52 kW. The power increase was put into effect on September 18, 2009. WJLA already ran 30 kW of ERP, which was higher than the other three VHF stations in the area: WUSA (12.6 kW), WBAL-TV (5 kW), and WJZ-TV (28.8 kW) (post transition power levels).[19]


Syndicated programs seen on WJLA include Jeopardy!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune and Live! with Kelly and Michael. As one of the largest ABC stations not owned-and-operated by the network, the station generally clears all ABC programming. However, locally produced sports and election specials preempt the first hour of the network's primetime lineup on a few days in late summer and early fall, while the low-rated Saturday night network lineup is occasionally preempted during the summer months in favor of a feature film broadcast. If needed, WJLA reschedules network programming at its earliest convenience, usually during the overnight hours. In most cases, any preempted network programming can be seen on Baltimore's WMAR-TV, which is receivable in Washington and its close suburbs with a rooftop antenna.

WJLA airs Clean Skies Sunday, a program on energy issues produced by the American Clean Skies Foundation,[20] a non-profit run by natural-gas billionaire Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy.[21]

News operation[edit]

WJLA-TV presently broadcasts a total of 30½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and 1½ hours on Sundays). The station has the largest news team in the Washington area, which includes around 40 on-air staff members. As the flagship station of the Allbritton Communications station group, WJLA provides national news headlines for other Allbritton-owned stations.

Prior to 2001, WJLA's newscasts had long placed third in the market's news ratings, behind WUSA and NBC-owned WRC-TV. The station scored a major coup in 1999, when it hired Maureen Bunyan, former longtime anchor at WUSA. In 2003, former CNN anchor Leon Harris joined the station as an anchor. In 2004, WJLA hired Bunyan's former anchor desk partner, Gordon Peterson; the two have since been reunited as anchors for the 6:00 p.m. newscast. These personnel moves, combined with WUSA's recent ratings troubles, have led to a resurgence in the ratings. In the May 2010 sweeps, it placed number one at 5:00 p.m. in total viewers, and in the 25–54 demo.

WJLA became the second television station in the Washington, D.C. market (behind CBS affiliate WUSA) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition on December 8, 2008. The upgrade included the introduction of a new on-air graphics package as well a made minor changes to the news desk for better viewing quality with high definition. Field reports and promotions for WJLA's newscasts continued to be broadcast in standard definition until the end of March 2013, when the station upgraded to HD field cameras for field shots and some news promotions.

On January 23, 2009, WJLA laid off 26 staff members, including several on-air reporters due to financial constraints. The laid off reporters include Andrea McCarren, Sarah C. Lee, Alisa Parenti, Emily Schmidt, Jennefer Donelan, and weekend sports anchor Greg Toland. Most of the dismissals took effect immediately, but some were allowed to serve out their contracts. WJLA also announced a 4.9% salary cut for all remaining staff and a halt to company contributions to 401(k) retirement plans.[22]

News team[edit]

Current on-air staff[23][edit]

  • Leon Harris - weeknights at 5 and 11 p.m.
  • Autria Godfrey - weekday mornings on "Good Morning Washington"; and weekdays at noon.
  • Jummy Olbanji - weekday mornings on "Good Morning Washington"; and weekdays at noon.
  • Alison Starling - weeknights at 5 and 11 p.m.
  • Maureen Bunyan - weeknights at 6 p.m.
  • Gordon Peterson - weeknights at 6p.m.; also host of Inside Washington
  • Kendis Gibson - Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 6:30 and weekends at 11 p.m.
Weather team
  • Doug Hill - (AMS Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.

All meteorologists provide weather forecasts for WTOP-FM.

Sports team
  • Tim Brant - sports director; weeknights at 6 and 11 p.m.
  • Britt McHenry - sports reporter; also fill-in sports anchor

Notable former staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films". Boxoffice: 13. November 10, 1956. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Houston's Allbritton buys into 'Star-News' parent company, is expected to take active role." Broadcasting, July 22, 1974, pg. 22. [1]
  3. ^ "Allbritton gets his deal for Washington." Broadcasting, December 22, 1975, pp. 19-20. [2][3]
  4. ^ "ABC will buy Washington's WMAL-AM-FM for $16 million." Broadcasting, October 10, 1976, pg. 40. [4]
  5. ^ "His name in lights." Broadcasting, May 16, 1977, pg. 45
  6. ^ "WMAL-TV fetches $100 million, trading record." Broadcasting, April 4, 1977, pp. 28-29. [5][6]
  7. ^ "Allbritton backs out of WJLA-TV deal." Broadcasting, March 27, 1978, pg. 27. [7]
  8. ^ Hershey, Robert (December 12, 2012). "Joe Allbritton, TV and Banking Titan, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Farhi, Paul (July 25, 1998). "Disney Ends Talks to Buy WJLA". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 March 2013.   – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  10. ^ Wemple, Erik. "Allbritton exploring sale of TV assets". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (July 29, 2013). "Allbritton to sell 7 TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WJLA
  13. ^ a b Where to Watch Me-TV
  14. ^ WJLA Washington, D.C. Going Retro
  15. ^ WJLA Going Retro with Retro Television Network
  16. ^ WJLA Washington Adds Live Well Network, TVNewsCheck, May 1, 2012.
  17. ^ List of Digital Full-Power Stations
  18. ^ Eggerton, John (2009-06-23). "WJLA Says It Is Taking Care OF DTV Business". Multichannel News. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  19. ^ FCC TV Query: WJLA
  20. ^ "Clean Skies Sunday" Energy & Environmental News
  21. ^ American Clean Skies Foundation Chairman Aubrey McClendon to Announce Launch Date...
  22. ^ Tucker, Neely (Jan 24, 2009). "Citing Economy, WJLA Fires 26 Staffers". Washington Post. p. C1. 
  23. ^ ABC7 Talent Bios, WJLA.com. Retrieved January 23, 2012.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Paul Berry and Associates". Paul L. Berry & Associates. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  25. ^ "Jack Conaty". WFLD-TV/FOX Television Stations Group. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  26. ^ "Anchors & Reporters - Carol Costello". CNN. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  27. ^ "Nancy Cordes". CBS. 2007-03-20. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  28. ^ "ABC News - Charles Gibson". American Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  29. ^ http://stage-v2.wtopnews.com/?nid=73&sid=844834
  30. ^ "Dan Lewis". KOMO-TV. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  31. ^ "Marilyn Mitzel Resume". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  32. ^ "Lori Stokes bio". Retrieved 10 March 2013. 

External links[edit]