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Cny central 2012.png
Rome, New York
United States
City of license Syracuse
Branding CBS 5 (general)
CBS 5 News (newscasts)
CNY Central
Slogan We Know What's
Central to You
Channels Digital: 47 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Subchannels 5.1 CBS
5.2 Grit
Affiliations CBS (primary until 1962; exclusive 1962-present)
Grit TV (2015-Present)
Owner Granite Broadcasting Corporation
(operated through JSA/SSA by Sinclair Broadcast Group)
(WTVH License, Inc.)
First air date December 1, 1948 (1948-12-01)
Call letters' meaning TeleVision H (from
its time as WHEN)
Sister station(s) WBNG-TV, WSTM-TV, WSTQ-LP
Former callsigns WHEN-TV (1948–1976)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
8 (VHF, 1948–1961)
5 (VHF, 1961–2009)
Former affiliations All secondary:[1]
NBC (1948–1950)
ABC (1948–1962)
DuMont (1948–1955)
Transmitter power 500 kW
Height 290.1 m
Class DT
Facility ID 74151
Transmitter coordinates 42°57′19.3″N 76°6′33.3″W / 42.955361°N 76.109250°W / 42.955361; -76.109250
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website cnycentral.com

WTVH is the CBS-affiliated television station for Central Upstate New York that is licensed to Syracuse. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 47 (or virtual channel 5.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Onondaga. Owned by the Granite Broadcasting Corporation, the station is operated through joint sales and shared services agreements by Sinclair Broadcast Group (owner of NBC affiliate WSTM-TV and low-powered CW affiliate WSTQ-LP). All three outlets share studios on James Street (NY 290) in the Near Northeast section of Syracuse.


The station debuted on December 1, 1948 as WHEN-TV on channel 8. It went on-the-air as Syracuse's first television station. The channel was the first station owned-and-operated by the Meredith Corporation and was the 47th station to launch in the United States. Meredith simultaneously entered the television field in several Midwestern cities including Omaha and Kansas City. In 1954, it purchased WAGE radio (620 AM) and changed that station's call letters to WHEN (AM); it also switched the station's network affiliation to CBS Radio in 1956, matching it with other Meredith-owned outlets.[2]

The station became a primary CBS affiliate on January 1, 1949,[3] and also carried secondary affiliations with NBC, ABC, and DuMont. When the original WSYR-TV (now WSTM-TV) signed-on in 1950, WHEN shared ABC with that channel until WNYS-TV (channel 9, later WIXT and now the present WSYR-TV) signed-on in 1962. The affiliation with DuMont ended in 1956 when that network ceased operations.

In July 1961 WHEN-TV moved to channel 5, swapping channel locations with WROC-TV in Rochester as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised the upstate New York allocation table to provide more VHF service in the two cities.[4] In 1963, the WHEN stations moved from their original Court Street studios into a new state-of-the-art facility on James Street, near WSYR-AM-FM-TV's studios. Popular national radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey originated his late-morning CBS network radio show from the new WHEN studios on the day the facility opened to help Meredith celebrate.

In 1976, the company sold WHEN radio to Park Communications but retained WHEN-TV. Since the radio station kept the WHEN call letters, Meredith had to change channel 5's call sign. It originally wanted the new call letters WTVF (TeleVision Five referring the station's on-air identity) but those had already been claimed by a station in Nashville, Tennessee. At this point, Meredith chose WTVH as the new calls with "H" being a link to its WHEN heritage.[5] In June 1993, Meredith announced the sale of WTVH and sister station KSEE-TV in Fresno, California to Granite Broadcasting, with the sale closing on December 23 of that year.

Granite soon increased its Northeastern holdings with the purchase of WKBW-TV in Buffalo in 1995 and WBNG-TV in Binghamton in July 2006. As part of the WBNG purchase, Les Vann (formerly President and General Manager of WTVH) was promoted to Executive Vice President of Central and Southern New York operations with regional responsibilities at both WBNG and WTVH. At the same time, Matthew Rosenfeld was promoted to Vice President and Station Manager of this channel after holding the General Sales Manager position since 2004.

WTVH was featured in the film Bruce Almighty in 2003. It is portrayed as the rival station of WKBW in Buffalo mainly because the common ownership of both stations made gaining rights to use them in the movie easier. It is also said that WKBW's real-life rival, WIVB-TV, refused to allow its branding to be used in the film resulting in WTVH being substituted.

In April 2008, Matthew Rosenfeld was appointed to the position of President and General Manager of WTVH and its Binghamton sister stations (WBNG and "WBXI"). On April 6, 2008, Jean Daugherty died at age 84. She was known to many baby boomer children as "The Play Lady" on this station's locally produced children program, The Magic Toy Shop, from 1955 until 1982. Jean wrote more than 6,000 episodes of the program, which after ending its run, was the longest running local kid show in the country.

On March 2, 2009 as a result of low ratings, slow advertising sales, and the loss of the Ithaca area to WENY-DT2, it was announced that WTVH would enter into joint sales and shared services agreements with rivals WSTM and WSTQ.[6][7][8] Initially, WTVH continued to operate out of its own facilities on James Street but eventually moved into WSTM's studios a block away.[9] Its website was not updated after the announcement and was eventually integrated with WSTM's web address. The original holders of the WTVH calls from 1953 to 1965, WHOI in Peoria, Illinois, had an equivalent deal announced the very same day between the same two companies. That Barrington Broadcasting-owned station is now managed by WTVH's Granite sister station WEEK-TV.[10] WTVH's studios were put up for lease in Summer 2009, but so far, no takers have come forward.

On September 6, 2009, its transmitter was damaged after a power failure. While Granite Broadcasting worked to fix the signal, WSTM's third digital subchannel (normally a 24-hour local weather channel) carried WTVH.[11] WSTM-DT3 broadcasts from a transmitter in the Sentinel Heights section of Onondaga and can also be seen on Verizon FiOS digital channel 460 as well as Time Warner digital channel 864. As of September 12, its signal was restored even though, as late as November 12, over-the-air viewers continued to experience breakup of the signal.[12]

On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced the sale of its entire group, including WSTM-TV and WSTQ-LP, to Sinclair Broadcast Group.[13] The existing LMA for WTVH is included in the deal; however, Granite will retain ownership of WTVH's license assets. WSTM will continue to operate the station until March 2016 (the agreement was to last until March 2017, but the Federal Communications Commission later voted to outlaw all existing joint sales agreements by 2016). The group deal also resulted in Sinclair selling its existing Syracuse market station WSYT and the LMA and purchase option for WNYS-TV to Cunningham Broadcasting. However, in an updated filing that August, Sinclair would instead sell WSYT and the LMA for WNYS to Bristlecone Broadcasting, a company owned by Stainless Broadcasting Company owner Brian Brady. Sinclair will continue to operate WSYT and WNYS through a transitional services agreement for six months after the sale is consummated. Those transactions were finalized on November 25.[14]

With the sale of KSEE to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group in February 2013 and the announced sales of most of Granite's remaining stations to the E. W. Scripps Company and Quincy Newspapers in February 2014, WTVH is one of the two Granite stations (along with KOFY-TV in San Francisco, California) that remain unsold.

Utica market[edit]

Since 1956 when CBS ended a secondary affiliation with WKTV after a dispute, WTVH has been serving as the de facto affiliate for the majority of the Utica market namely Herkimer County and that area's portion of Oneida County (Otsego County has WBNG as its default). In past years, WTVH was extremely protective of this status having barred current ABC affiliate WUTR from affiliating with CBS on at least one occasion. Under Granite's ownership, this status has not necessarily been taken advantage of in terms of advertising and targeting towards the Utica area. Portions of that area lost access to WTVH's over-the-air broadcasts as a result of the 2009 digital television transition.[15]

NFL controversy[edit]

In 1997, CBS gained the rights to the American Football Conference of the National Football League. The league determined that portions of Yates County, a fairly narrow location only a few miles wide at certain points, was within 75 miles (121 km) of Ralph Wilson Stadium home of the Buffalo Bills. That area is on the far western fringe of the Syracuse market and it has bounced between the Syracuse and Rochester markets a couple of times. Therefore, WTVH is forced to blackout Buffalo Bills games if they do not sell out. With this station's control over the Utica market, unless the Bills are hosting a National Football Conference team or the game is on Sunday or Monday nights, it would be blacked out there as well.

This was not the case when NBC held the rights to AFC games. WSTM was allowed to broadcast Bills games even when they did not sell out. However, the NFL and Bills apparently had not checked the regional television market boundaries for a number of years before the switch from NBC to CBS. Bills games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario are not subject to blackout restrictions in Syracuse as no part of the area is within 75 miles (121 km) of Toronto.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[16]
5.1 1080i 16:9 WTVH-DT Main WTVH programming / CBS
5.2 480i 16:9 Grit-TV Grit

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WTVH shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 47.[17] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.

In January 2015, WTVH's sub-channel 5.2 began carrying Grit TV.


Syndicated programming on WTVH includes Celebrity Name Game, Live with Kelly and Michael, The Meredith Vieira Show, and Extra among others.

News operation[edit]

CBS 5 News open seen weeknights at 11.

For most of its first forty years on-air, the station was the dominant news channel in Central New York. However, it fell into gradual decline beginning in the 1980s which accelerated under subsequent owners. Ever since the mid-1990s, WTVH's newscasts have struggled in the Nielsen ratings running a distant third behind WSYR and WSTM. This precipitous decline in its local news viewership contributed to Meredith's decision to sell the station in 1993 (WTVH was battling WSTM for second place behind WSYR at the time of the sale). Ratings plummeted even further after popular longtime anchor Ron Curtis retired in December 2000. Even the strength of CBS's prime time network programming failed to lift it out of the ratings basement.

In 2000, WSTM declined to renew its news share agreement with Fox affiliate WSYT that featured a nightly half-hour prime time newscast on the latter. As a result, WSYT partnered with WTVH to keep the broadcasts continuing. Now known as Fox 68 Eyewitness News at 10, this effort was eventually joined by an hour-long weekday morning show called Fox 68 Eyewitness News at 7 (both shows maintained the same branding as WTVH's operation did at the time). Meanwhile, in 2003, WSTM brought back a nightly prime time show at 10 for its newly acquired sister station WSTQ.

In April 2006, WTVH ceased producing news programming for WSYT in order to focus on its own third place ranked newscasts. However, the 10 o'clock broadcasts were WTVH's most successful having soundly beat WSTQ. Since dropping news programming from this CBS outlet, WSYT remains one of a handful of big four network-affiliated stations throughout the country that do not produce or air local newscasts. Pending the consummation of Sinclair gaining control of WTVH/WSTM/WSTQ and assuming the operations of Cunningham-owned WSYT, perhaps there may be a new prime time news program at 10 in the future for the Fox affiliate.

On December 22, 2006, one of the area's most popular long-time journalists, Nancy Duffy died. Duffy began her television career at Ch 5. Throughout her career, Duffy led the way for women in journalism. She became the first woman police reporter in Central New York after joining the Syracuse Herald-Journal in 1966. She was Syracuse’s first female television reporter when she moved to channel 5 in 1967. She became the first woman to join the Syracuse Press Club and later served as its President. In 1970, Duffy served as press secretary at Syracuse City Hall for then-mayor Lee Alexander. She returned to the station after a year and moved to WNYS-TV/WIXT as a reporter and weekday morning news anchor in 1977.

In 2007, the station fired Ron Curtis' longtime anchor desk partner, Maureen Green, a 22-year veteran of the station.

After becoming operated by WSTM, WTVH shut down its news department and merged it with the NBC outlet. This resulted in the elimination of forty jobs at this station. Michael Benny was retained to solo-anchor the weeknight newscasts on WTVH from its separate studios using other personalities from WSTM for all other content. The system set up by this CBS affiliate to use all videotaped footage (including interviews) shot by WSTM was filled with problems with staffers from WSTM walking to WTVH's old studios to deliver raw video to be edited for its newscasts. Neither station have attempted to offer news shows outside traditional time slots to compete with WSYR (such as weekdays at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., or weeknights at 4 and 7) despite a plan originally announced. [9][18] However, WSTQ's weeknight newscast was expanded to an hour on August 30, 2010.

Eventually in October 2009, Barrington Broadcasting began to produce separate weeknight newscasts on WTVH from a new secondary set at WSTM's facility. Otherwise, the CBS and NBC stations simulcast each other weekday mornings (except the first hour at 4 a.m. on WSTM), weekdays at noon, and weekend evenings (these broadcasts air under the entire news operation's branding, CNY Central). There can be a pre-emption or delay on one channel due to network obligations, especially on weekends. Although WTVH retains unique branding, music, and graphic aspects of the separately produced news broadcasts on weeknights, coverage is essentially the same with re-purposed and packaged stories from the NBC affiliate airing on this CBS station. WSTM will usually feature more live reports from the field during a breaking news event. [19]

In mid-December 2010, WSTM became the first in the market to offer local newscasts in 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen with the shows on WTVH being included. Although not truly high definition, the broadcasts match the aspect ratio of HD television screens. Rival WSYR upgraded to full high definition on January 29, 2011.

Notable former on-air staff[edit]


  1. ^ Jim Ellwanger. "TV Guide: Lake Ontario Edition". Ellwanger.tv. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Syracuse affiliates switch." Broadcasting - Telecasting, March 12, 1956, pg. 84. [1]
  3. ^ "New CBS TVs; four affiliates added." Broadcasting - Telecasting, January 10, 1949, pg. 35. [2]
  4. ^ "Final orders add vhf to three markets." Broadcasting - Telecasting, August 7, 1961, pg. 55. [3]
  5. ^ "Media briefs: New call for pioneer." Broadcasting, August 23, 1976, pg. 64. [4]
  6. ^ Fybush, Scott. A Great Voice is Stilled. NorthEast Radio Watch. March 2, 2009.
  7. ^ [Syracuse's Channel 5 cuts at least 40 workers, guts news division] [5]
  8. ^ [Central New York television stations join forces] [6]
  9. ^ a b Michelle Breidenbach / The Post-Standard. "Syracuse's Channel 5 shuts down its newsroom". syracuse.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Tarter, Steve. "WEEK-TV taking over WHOI operations – Peoria, IL". pjstar.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Latest local news, weather and sports for Syracuse and Central New York". Cnycentral.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  12. ^ "WTVH's broadcast signal has been restored : Entertainment". CNYcentral.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  13. ^ Malone, Michael (February 28, 2013). "Sinclair's Chesapeake TV Acquires Barrington Stations". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  14. ^ http://www.sbgi.net/site_mgr/temp/Barrington%20Closes.pdf
  15. ^ FCC coverage maps for Syracuse-market station audiences impacted by DTV transition, Dec 2008
  16. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WTVH
  17. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  18. ^ "Central New York television stations join forces : News". CNYcentral.com. March 2, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  19. ^ http://radiodiscussions.com/smf/index.php?topic=171703.0;wap2

External links[edit]