|Branding||WLBZ 2 (general)
News Center (newscasts)
|Slogan||Maine's Information Center|
|Channels||Digital: 2 (VHF)|
2.2 Justice Network
|Translators||4 WGCI-LD Skowhegan|
(Pacific and Southern Company, Inc.)
|First air date||September 12, 1954|
|Call letters' meaning||taken from former sister station WLBZ radio|
|Former callsigns||WTWO (1954-1958)
|Former channel number(s)||2 (VHF analog, 1954-2009)
25 (UHF digital)
57 W57AQ Calais
|Former affiliations||Independent (1954-1955)
ABC (secondary, 1959-1965)
NBC Weather Plus (on DT2, 2005-2008)
|Transmitter power||3 kW|
WLBZ is the NBC-affiliated television station for Central and Eastern Maine licensed to Bangor. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 2 from a transmitter on Rider Bluff in Holden. Owned by the Gannett Company, the station has studios on Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor.
Although identifying as a separate station in its own right, WLBZ is considered a semi-satellite of sister station WCSH in Portland. It clears most of that station's syndicated programming, but there are some shown at a different time. There are also programs that only air on WLBZ while some are only seen on WCSH. Syndicated programming exclusive to this station includes CBS Television Distribution's Dr. Phil. WLBZ also airs separate station identifications and commercials. Although WLBZ and WCSH are based in different locations and technically serve separate markets, the two essentially operate as one station. With their combined resources, the stations provide statewide coverage not offered by any other outlet in Maine.
WLBZ serves as the default NBC affiliate for the Presque Isle market, which does not have an affiliate of its own. It is carried on Time Warner Cable's systems in Presque Isle, and is also offered as the NBC affiliate on the Presque Isle Dish Network feed. In addition to its main signal, WLBZ operates low-powered digital repeater WGCI-LD on VHF channel 4. Licensed to Skowhegan, this has a transmitter in Norridgewock's Larone section. WGCI is used to transmit WLBZ programming to Time Warner Cable systems in Skowhegan, Millinocket, and Lincoln. Unlike the main WLBZ signal, it does not air NBC programming in high definition.
|2.1||1080i||16:9||Main WLBZ programming / NBC|
The station began broadcasting on September 12, 1954 as WTWO (sometimes rendered as "W-TWO"), an independent station locally-owned by Murray Carpenter. The following January, it began carrying some CBS programming, becoming a full affiliate by September 1955 (prior to this, CBS programming was seen on WABI-TV (channel 5), which became a primary NBC affiliate). In 1958, WTWO was sold to the Rines family's Maine Broadcasting System, owner of WLBZ radio (620 AM), WCSH-AM-TV in Portland, and WRDO in Augusta. The new ownership changed the station's call letters to WLBZ-TV that June to match its new radio sister (which the Rines had owned since 1944). (The WTWO calls now reside on the NBC affiliate in Terre Haute, Indiana.) The following year, channel 2 swapped affiliations with WABI-TV and joined NBC in order to match WCSH-TV; the two stations also began to share a secondary ABC affiliation (previously, ABC programming was only cleared on WABI). The ABC arrangement remained in place until 1965, when WEMT (channel 7, now WVII-TV) signed on as a full-time ABC affiliate.
In its first decades on the air, channel 2 was best known as the home of Eddie Driscoll. He hosted many programs on the station including: Weird, Dialing for Dollars, The Great Money Movie, and My Backyard. Driscoll was also known for his improvisation skills and sense of humor. He retired from WLBZ-TV in 1986, and died on September 24, 2006 after suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
In the 1970s, WLBZ-TV added a repeater in Calais, W57AQ on channel 57, with a transmitter in Meddybemps shared with W61AO (which repeated WABI-TV). W57AQ allowed cable systems in Atlantic Canada to distribute WLBZ by a microwave link from the border, doubling or even tripling the station's coverage area and viewership. Most Canadian cable systems dropped WLBZ after 1996 once American television signals became available to them by satellite, with the last one doing so in 2010. Although a "flash-cut" to digital on VHF channel 8 was considered, it was instead decided to return the W57AQ license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which deleted it on April 29, 2010.
In 1981, WLBZ radio was sold-off, eventually becoming WZON; in 1997, the -TV suffix was dropped. In 1998, the Maine Broadcasting System (by this time controlled by the Rines-Thompson family) sold WLBZ and WCSH to current owner Gannett. In 2000, the station, for all intents and purposes, began serving as a semi-satellite of WCSH, when commercials and network programming began to be played from Portland. However as early as 1989, WLBZ had been reducing its personnel and consolidating some internal operations with WCSH.
In 2002, WLBZ signed on a digital signal on UHF channel 25, bringing NBC's high definition programming to Eastern and Central Maine. On June 12, 2009, the station terminated its analog operations on channel 2. However, the station kept its digital operations on channel 25 until September 10, when it was moved to the VHF channel 2 space previously occupied by the analog service.
In 2012, WLBZ's station logo was immortalized in a running sketch series for Saturday Night Live called Maine Justice, a parody of courtroom shows featuring a judge and a bailiff with Louisiana accents who "try" to act like New Englanders.
Originally, WLBZ operated its own news department and produced local newscasts from its Bangor studios. The station was a very distant second in Nielsen ratings behind dominant WABI. In 1989, WLBZ began simulcasting some of WCSH's newscasts prepared with a statewide view. Initially, this was limited to morning, noon, and weekend newscasts; however, on June 26, 2000, WLBZ dropped its 5:30 p.m. newscast in favor of WCSH's newscast, with the 11 p.m. newscast following suit on September 11. Since then, WLBZ only airs separate newscasts covering Bangor weeknights at 5 and 6 (which are locally produced at its facilities), with all other newscasts originating from the WCSH studios in Portland. As mentioned, these statewide programs tend to take on a regional feel with coverage from Portland, Bangor, or wherever news occurs around the state. During the 5:30 and 11 p.m. newscasts, WLBZ still produces its own weather forecast segments from Bangor with meteorologist Steve McKay. On August 9, 2010, there was an expansion of the statewide weekday morning show to 4:30 with the new segment being called News Center Early Morning Report.
WLBZ and WCSH have used the News Center branding for their newscasts since the 1970s, even before consolidating. Additionally, both stations featured Frank Gari's "Good News" music package from 1986 until October 22, 2008 when it was dropped (except during "Storm Center" coverage) in favor of standardized music and graphics seen on other Gannett stations.
After then-WB affiliate WPXT in Portland shut down its news department in Fall 2002, WLBZ and WCSH entered into a news share agreement with that station resulting in a nightly prime time newscast. Originally called News Center at 10 on Maine's WB 51, it was seen every night for thirty minutes. On weeknights, news and sports segments originated from WCSH's facilities while WLBZ produced the weather segment from its studios. Weekend broadcasts aired entirely from Portland. News Center at 10 was formatted in a similar manner to the statewide shows simulcasted on WLBZ and WCSH except for having a slight Portland focus since WPXT was that market's WB affiliate. In September 2006, the production became known as News Center at 10 on The CW Portland after WPXT switched to The CW. WLBZ's role in the newscast was eliminated on November 6, 2008 when WCSH moved the prime time broadcast to its "News Center Weather Plus" feed and entirely reoriented the newscast to the Portland market (with WLBZ no longer doing the weather forecast). The "News Center Weather Plus" feed on WLBZ-DT2 and the live video on their websites was replaced with the national Weather Plus service. News Center at 10 was eventually canceled by WCSH after a six year run.
An outdoors and human-interest program called Bill Green's Maine airs Saturday nights at 7 on WCSH and WLBZ. In 2003, WCSH launched 207 (a local lifestyle/entertainment magazine-type show which airs weeknights at 7 PM on both stations simultaneously. The "207" name comes from Maine's telephone area code.
In October 2005, WLBZ and WCSH began offering NBC Weather Plus on new second digital subchannels. Known as "News Center Weather Plus", the service could also seen on the websites of both stations through live streaming video and digital cable. In late-December 2008 as a result of Weather Plus closing on a national level, WLBZ-DT2 and WCSH-DT2 shifted to a format featuring a loop of local news headlines and weather forecasts. The service retained the "News Center Weather Plus" branding and digital cable carriage but the online live video was dropped. WCSH's weeknight meteorologist Joe Cupo can sometimes be seen on "News Center Weather Plus" providing statewide weather forecasts. Like the main signal, WGCI offers "News Center Weather Plus" on its second digital subchannel.
In addition to the main studios in Bangor and Portland, WLBZ and WCSH share two bureaus in the state. This includes the Midcoast Bureau (on Camden Street/US 1) in Rockport and the Lewiston/Auburn Bureau (on Main Street/ME 11/ME 100/US 202) in Lewiston.
- "WLBZ 2 History". WLBZ2.com. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- "WTWO (TV) Joins CBS-TV" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. January 10, 1955. p. 81. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "WTWO (TV) Anniversary" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. September 12, 1955. p. 117. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- Thompson, Frederic L. (2005). The Rines Family Legacy. Charleston, TN: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 128 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. ISBN 0-7385-3882-5. LCCN 2005926756. OCLC 62522312.
- "Bangor Tv, Phoenix Am Sold" (PDF). Broadcasting. March 24, 1958. p. 9. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "Marcoux Appointed to WLBZ-TV" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 30, 1958. p. 84. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1958 (PDF). 1958. p. A-142. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1959 (PDF). 1959. p. B-37. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- Hashemzadeh, Hossein (April 29, 2010). "In re: LPTV/TV Translator Station Of...". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
- Fybush, Scott (January 8, 1998). "Ian Taylor, RIP". North East RadioWatch. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- McGarrigle, Dale (August 3, 2000). "WLBZ to switch anchor teams". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- McGarrigle, Dale (July 1, 2000). "WLBZ-2 to add 5th newscast". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved December 29, 2011. (preview of subscription content)
- Official website (Mobile)
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WLBZ
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WGCI-LD
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WLBZ-TV