WFXR News (newscasts)
CW Virginia (on DT2)
|Slogan||Putting Virginia First (newscasts)
Dare To Defy (on DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 17 (UHF) &
WWCW-DT 21.2 (PSIP)
Virtual: 27 (PSIP)
27.2 The CW
27.3 Bounce TV
|Owner||Nexstar Broadcasting Group
(Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.)
|First air date||March 10, 1986|
|Call letters' meaning||We're FoX Roanoke|
|Former callsigns||WVFT (1986–1993)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
27 (UHF, 1986–2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1986–1990)|
|Transmitter power||695 kW
916 kW (WWCW-DT2)
|Public license information:||Profile
WFXR, virtual channel 27 (UHF digital channel 17), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Roanoke, Virginia, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group, as part of a duopoly with CW affiliate WWCW (channel 21). The two stations share studio facilities at the Valleypointe office park on Valleypoint Parkway in Hollins (near Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport); WFXR maintains transmitter facilities located on Poor Mountain in unincorporated Southwestern Roanoke County. On cable, the station is available in standard definition on Comcast and Cox channel 8, and in high definition on Comcast digital channel 213 and Cox digital channel 1008.
Even though WFXR maintains a digital signal of its own, the signal's full-powered broadcasting radius does not cover much of the western portions of the Roanoke-Lynchburg market. Therefore, the station is simulcast in standard definition over WWCW's second digital subchannel in order to reach the entire market. This signal can be seen on UHF channel 20.4 (or virtual channel 21.2 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Thaxton Mountain in unincorporated Bedford County.
Early history of UHF channel 27 in Roanoke
The UHF channel 27 frequency in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market was originally occupied by WROV-TV, which operated for less than five months from February to July 1953. It was the first UHF television station in the United States to cease operation. Southwestern Virginia is very mountainous and the difficulties faced by UHF stations at the time due to the lack of television sets manufactured with built-in UHF tuners (which was not made a requirement until the Federal Communications Commission passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961) were magnified by the area's rugged terrain. Its facilities were eventually sold to the Times-World Corporation to launch its new station, WDBJ-TV (channel 7), in October 1955.
Later occupying the channel 27 frequency was WRFT, which operated as the market's secondary ABC affiliate from 1966 to 1974. At the time, the area's primary ABC affiliate, WLVA-TV (channel 13, now WSET-TV) in Lynchburg, provided only marginal signal coverage in Roanoke.
WFXR station history
The current incarnation of channel 27 signed on the air on March 10, 1986 as WVFT, a Christian-oriented independent station that was originally owned by Roanoke Christian Television. Initially, the station ran only religious programming; soon after its sign-on, the station was sold to Family Group Television. Beginning that fall, the station began transitioning towards a general entertainment programming format; by 1987, WVFT had become a conventional independent station. The station originally operated from studio facilities located on Colonial Avenue Southwest (along I-581/U.S. 220) in Roanoke's Franklin-Colonial section.
Merger with WJPR/WWCW
At the time WVFT signed on, the Roanoke-Lynchburg market was too small to support what were essentially two independent stations – WJPR (channel 21, now WWCW) had joined Fox at its inception on October 6, 1986, although the network would not air a full week's worth of programming until September 1993 – and both channels 21 and 27 suffered from the tight competition between one another. However, by 1990, WVFT's financial problems were more pronounced; the station suffered from declining viewership and was unable to pay for the rights to acquire stronger syndicated programming.
In 1991, the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, then-owner of WJPR, proposed to merge WVFT's stronger programming inventory onto WJPR's schedule and turn WVFT into a full-time satellite station of WJPR. Family Group readily accepted the offer, and WJPR and WVFT began their joint simulcast later that year, at which time the stations began collectively branding as "Fox 21/27". The two stations provided a strong combined signal throughout the market with 60% overlap, providing a strong signal to provide Fox programming throughout the market. Although channel 21 decently covers Roanoke, its analog signal provided anywhere from Grade B coverage to absolutely no reception at all in the New River Valley (despite having an effective radiated power of 4.1 million watts). Some areas of the New River Valley, along with other rural portions of the market, were among the few regions of the country where cable television service was still not readily available.
On September 15, 1993, WVFT and WJPR were purchased by the Grant Broadcasting System, owned by UHF television pioneer Milton Grant. The simulcast between the two stations continued, although WVFT began serving as the main station. In October 1993, WVFT had its call letters changed to WFXR-TV. It was also announced at that time that the simulcast between WFXR and WJPR would eventually end, with one station being converted into an independent station; however, this plan never materialized during the remainder of the history of the two stations' analog broadcasts.
In January 1995, WFXR/WJPR acquired a secondary affiliation with the newly launched United Paramount Network (UPN), running the network's programs on weekends and in some late-night time periods on weeknights. In the spring of 1997, the market's UPN affiliation moved to Danville-based WDRG-TV (channel 24, now Cozi TV affiliate WFFP-TV), at which time WFXR/WJPR picked up a secondary affiliation with The WB. This paved the way for WFXR and WJPR to start the area's cable-only WB affiliate on September 21, 1998, as a member of The WeB (subsequently renamed The WB 100+ Station Group) known by the fictional calls "WBVA-TV" and branded on-air as "WB 5", in reference to its cable position on Cox Communications channel 5.
Plans were still underway by this time to separate WFXR and WJPR's programming schedules, with the intent to move the "WB 5" intellectual unit and WBVA-TV call letters to WJPR in October 2001, leaving Fox exclusively affiliated with WFXR, although the two stations would still share some syndicated programs. However, the separation plan was aborted due to concerns about reception issues in areas totaling about 40% of the market that were only received over-the-air reception of only one of the two stations. Many of these areas still did not have access to cable, and neither DirecTV nor Dish Network had much subscriber penetration in the market at the time.
When WJPR signed on its digital signal in April 2002, that station only carried programming from "WBVA" on its sole main channel. Fox programming was added to the digital signal in January 2003, with "WBVA" being relegated to a new secondary digital subchannel on virtual channel 21.3 (the WB affiliate was also available locally on DirecTV and Dish Network). When WFXR began transmitting its own digital signal began in December of that same year, it carried Fox network and syndicated programming seen on the station's analog signal as well as "WBVA"'s programming in the same arrangement as WJPR.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. Entertainment unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On March 28, 2006, it was announced that WBVA would become the market's CW affiliate. To reflect this, the fictional WBVA calls were changed to "WCW5-TV" in June 2006. The CW began broadcasting on September 18, 2006; the cable-only station concurrently changed its on-air branding to "CW 5".
On June 30, 2006, WJPR changed its call letters to WWCW, to reflect that station's pending affiliation with The CW, which was carried on the second digital subchannels of both stations. This immediately led to speculation that channel 21 would split off from WFXR and become the area's CW affiliate; however, Fox programming continued to air on the analog and digital signals of both WFXR and WWCW until the analog signals ceased operations upon the digital television transition in June 2009. At that point, the two stations were effectively (though not entirely) separated, with WWCW's primary digital channel now airing CW programming in high definition, with Fox programming airing in standard definition on WWCW's 21.2 subchannel. Conversely, WFXR carries Fox programming in HD on its primary signal, with CW programming airing in SD on WFXR's subchannel on 27.2. This is common practice for many duopolies in which the signal of one of the two stations is weaker in some portions of their home market. Even while transmitting in digital, WWCW's signal is still marginal in some portions of the western part of the market.
Acquisition by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group
On November 6, 2013, the Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant stations, including WFXR and WWCW, for $87.5 million. The sale was approved by the FCC on November 3, 2014, and was finalized one month later on December 1.
In March 2015, Joseph McNamara – who was appointed as vice president for the stations three months earlier in December 2014 – announced that Nexstar planned to move WFXR/WWCW's operations and staff into a new, larger 14,830-square-foot (0.3-acre) studio facility at the Valleypointe office park in northeastern Roanoke County, near Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport. WFXR and WWCW migrated their operations into the new facility – which cost $3 million to build – during the week of September 14, 2015.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|27.1||720p||16:9||WFXR-HD||Main WFXR programming / Fox|
|27.2||WCW5||Simulcast of WWCW|
WFXR discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 27, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations 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 17, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 27.
In addition to carrying the entire Fox network programming lineup, syndicated programs broadcast on WFXR (as of September 2015[update]) include TMZ on TV, Divorce Court, The Big Bang Theory, Maury, Jerry Springer, Modern Family, Family Feud, Mike and Molly and Judge Judy.
As of October 2015[update], WFXR presently broadcasts 27 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays).
In 1996, WFXR/WJPR entered into a news share agreement with NBC affiliate WSLS-TV (channel 10), allowing the station to produce a 10:00 p.m. newscast for the stations. The agreement formally began when The Fox 10 O'Clock News premiered on October 28, 1996; the newscast originally aired for a half-hour seven nights a week, with the weeknight editions expanding to one hour in 2002. The program originated from a secondary set at the WSLS studios on 3rd Street in Downtown Roanoke.
In August 2007, WSLS began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the market's first Big Three network affiliate to upgrade its newscasts to the format; WFXR's nightly prime time show was included in the upgrade. On March 12, 2012, WFXR launched a two-hour weekday morning newscast from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.; the program was originally anchored by former WDBJ anchor Bob Grebe and Patrick McKee providing weather updates.
With the March 2015 announcement that WFXR and WWCW would migrate their operations into new studio facilities near Hollins, Nexstar also announced that WFXR would assume production responsibilities for its newscasts and establish an in-house news department for the station, resulting in the eventual termination of its news share agreement with WSLS after 19 years. On September 17, 2015, WFXR announced that the news department would launch on October 1, with the expansion of its weekday morning news program – which was retitled Good Day Virginia – from two hours to four (with the premiere of an additional two-hour broadcast from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., which replaced religious programming in that time period) and the weekend editions of its 10:00 p.m. newscast – retitled WFXR News First at 10 – to one hour, which both continue to be produced in high definition with the start of in-house news operations. Subsequently in November, the station will debut a half-hour local sports highlight program on Friday nights, that will follow the 10:00 p.m. newscast.
The formation of the news department and concurrent move to the Valleypoint Parkway facility resulted in the hiring of 33 news and production employees to WFXR's staff, in addition to certain on-air staff employed by WFXR/WWCW for the WSLS-produced newscasts that remained with the station after WFXR took over newscast production responsibilities (including 10:00 p.m. co-anchor Becky Freemal and morning anchor Tara Wheeler).
- Jessica Seid (January 24, 2006). "'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September". CNNMoney.com (Time Warner).
- Bill Carter (January 24, 2006). "UPN and WB to Combine, Forming New TV Network". The New York Times (The New York Times Company).
- Michael Malone (November 6, 2013). "Nexstar to Acquire Seven Grant Stations For $87.5 Million". Broadcasting & Cable (NewBay Media). Retrieved November 6, 2013.
- "Nexstar To Pay $87.5M For 7 Grant Stations". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. November 6, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "At Last, FCC OKs Nexstar Buy Of Grant TVs". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. November 3, 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "Consummation Notice". CDBS Public Access. U.S. Federal Communications Commission. December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- Ralph Berrier Jr. (March 12, 2015). "Roanoke's Fox 21/27 plans big changes". The Roanoke Times (BH Media). Retrieved March 13, 2015.
- Ralph Berrier Jr. (September 17, 2015). "Fox 21/27 moves into new studio, plans more news programs". The Roanoke Times (BH Media). Retrieved September 18, 2015.
- "Nexstar Completes New Facility In Roanoke". TVNewsCheck (NewsCheck Media). September 17, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
- "RabbitEars TV Query for WFXR". RabbitEars. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "WFXR schedule". Titan TV. Broadcast Interactive Media, LLC.
- Merrill Knox (February 1, 2012). "Bob Grebe Leaves WDBJ to Anchor at Rival WFXR". TVSpy. Mediabistro Holdings. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "WFXR's commitment to local news". WFXR (Nexstar Broadcasting Group). October 1, 2015.