|Charleston/Huntington, West Virginia
|Branding||WVAH Fox 11 (general)
Fox 11 Eyewitness News (newscasts)
|Slogan||West Virginia's Source for News|
|Channels||Digital: 19 (UHF)
Virtual: 11 (PSIP)
(operated through LMA by Sinclair Broadcast Group)
(WVAH Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||September 19, 1982|
|Call letters' meaning||West Virginia
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
23 (UHF, 1982-1989)
11 (VHF, 1989-2009)
|Transmitter power||475 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WVAH-TV is the Fox-affiliated television station for Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia which is the second-largest market in terms of area east of the Mississippi River. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 19 from a transmitter south of Scott Depot along the Putnam and Kanawha County line.
Owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, WVAH is operated through a local marketing agreement (LMA) by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. This makes it sister to ABC affiliate WCHS-TV and the two share studios on Piedmont Road in Charleston along I-64/I-77. Syndicated programming on the station currently includes Family Feud, Two and a Half Men, The Steve Wilkos Show, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, The Jerry Springer Show, Maury, Arsenio and Judge Mathis.
The station was founded on September 19, 1982 and aired an analog signal on UHF channel 23. It was owned by the newly created Meridian Communications based out of Pittsburgh, which won the license after the West Virginia General Assembly forced West Virginia Public Broadcasting to withdraw its own application for the channel. It was the first Independent station in West Virginia, as well as the first new commercial station in the market since what is now WOWK-TV signed-on in 1955, and the first commercial UHF station in the state since WKNA-TV in Charleston went off-the-air in 1955. Studios were located on Mount Vernon Road in Teays Valley, an unincorporated area halfway between Huntington and Charleston, though its mailing address said Hurricane (the two areas share a zip code). It became a charter Fox affiliate on October 6, 1986. Act III Broadcasting bought the station in 1987.
Soon after buying control, Act III applied to move the station to the VHF band. Despite broadcasting from a 2,000 foot tower with the maximum five million watts of power, WVAH had considerable difficulty penetrating the market. The Charleston/Huntington market covers 61 counties in Central West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and Southern Ohio. Most of this area is a very rugged dissected plateau, and as a result, UHF stations usually do not get good reception in this kind of terrain. Some areas of the market were among the few where cable television still wasn't available. As a result, WVAH was permitted to switch to VHF channel 11 in 1989, three years after Fox's launch. However, the station was short-spaced to WPXI in Pittsburgh and WJHL-TV in Johnson City, Tennessee. It then had to conform its signal to protect WJHL. As a result, it did not provide a clear over-the-air signal to the southwestern part of the market.
Act III merged with Abry Communications in 1994. That company, in turn, was merged into the Sinclair Broadcast Group later in 1994. In 1997, Sinclair purchased the broadcasting properties of Heritage Media, which included WCHS (the remainder of Heritage Media went to News Corporation). It could not keep both WCHS and WVAH due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules in effect at the time forbidding duopolies. Sinclair opted to keep the longer-established WCHS and sold WVAH to Glencairn, Ltd. which was headed by former Sinclair executive Edwin Edwards. However, nearly all of Sinclair's stock was held by the Smith family, owners and founders of Sinclair. In effect, Sinclair still owned WVAH. Sinclair further circumvented the rules by signing a local marketing agreement with Glencairn that allowed it to continue operating WVAH. While WVAH retained its own studios in Teays Valley, most of its operations were merged into WCHS' studios in Charleston.
On January 16, 1995, WVAH began airing UPN programming during overnight hours. However, the station could not clear the entire schedule and dropped the network in early-2000. In 2001, Sinclair tried to acquire Glencairn outright, but the FCC did not allow Sinclair to re-acquire WVAH because it does not allow common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in a single market. As a result, Glencairn kept WVAH and changed its name to Cunningham Broadcasting. However, nearly all of Cunningham's stock is controlled by trusts in the name of the Smith family. There is virtually irrefutable evidence that Cunningham is a shell corporation that Sinclair operates to circumvent FCC ownership limits.
Following a tower collapse in 2002, WVAH moved its transmitter and almost all of its facilities to WCHS' studios in Charleston. However, its main studios remained in Teays Valley until late-2009.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WVAH-TV, allowing them to continue carrying the network's programming until 2017.
In Summer 2006, Charter Communications streamlined its operations which included selling off portions of its cable system which were "geographically non-strategic". Charter accounts in WCHS's market area were purchased by Suddenlink Communications (formerly known as Cebridge). Sinclair requested a $40 million one time fee and a $1 per sub per month fee from Suddenlink for retransmission rights of WVAH and WCHS on the Suddenlink cable system. This led to a protracted media battle and smear campaign between the two companies, and Sinclair pulled the two stations off-the-air in the Beckley market. After several weeks of negotiations, the two companies reached an agreement allowing WVAH and WCHS to continue transmission over the Suddenlink cable system. The terms of the agreement were not released to the public.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||720p||16:9||WVAH-DT||Main WVAH-TV programming / Fox|
WVAH-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 19. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 11.
As part of the SAFER Act, WVAH-TV kept its analog signal on the air until June 26 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Transition to Local HD
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Pre HD Transition
WCHS/WVAH started the switch over to High Definition in June 2012 by first installing a new HD Master Control room. In July 2012 the station started to remove the set from the studio that was installed in the late 90's. The old news desk, backdrop, monitors and the chroma key wall was moved to a small conference room in the station until the transition of HD news was completed. In late July 2012 the new set arrived from Devlin Design Group based out of Crested Butte, CO. During the entire month of August the new set was installed. New lighting, chroma key wall, HD cameras and rehearsing happened into the month of September.
Local High Definition News
On September 29, 2012 WCHS/WVAH became the third station in the market to launch high definition newscasts. Following in the footsteps of WOWK became 2nd station in the market to launch high definition newscasts on May 5, 2012 and WSAZ launching high definition newscasts on June 26, 2011.
WCHS has its main facility based in Charleston. As a result, there is a noticeable focus on West Virginia's Capitol and surrounding areas but there is coverage provided to the western vicinities as well. WCHS currently uses the Eyewitness News branding for its news operation and produces three newscasts for sister station WVAH. This includes Eyewitness News This Morning on Fox 11 seen for an hour on weekday mornings from 7:00-8:00 a.m. There is also an hour long nightly prime time broadcast known as Eyewitness News at 10 on Fox 11.
For many years, WVAH's 10:00 p.m. news broadcast was the market's only hour-long late evening newscast. This changed on March 31, 2014 when WSAZ moved their 10:00 p.m. newscast from MyNetworkTV affiliate WSAZ-DT2 to sister station and CW affiliate WQCW and expanded the broadcast from a half hour to a full hour.
Notable current on-air staff
- Mark Martin - Sports Director; weeknights at 10:00 p.m.; also "Scholar-Athlete of the Week" segment producer
- Mark E. Hyman - Sinclair Vice President for Corporate Relations and Behind the Headlines host
- Armstrong Williams - The Right Side host
- Sinclair Reups With Fox, Gets WUTB Option, TVNewsCheck, May 15, 2012.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WVAH
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- CDBS Print
- "UPDATED List of Participants in the Analog Nightlight Program" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. June 12, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- WSAZ 10 P.M. News Moves To WQCW