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Tri-Cities, Tennessee–Virginia
United States
City of license Kingsport, Tennessee
Branding ABC 19 WKPT (general)
ABC 19 News (newscasts)
My Tri-Cities WAPK (on DT2)
Tri-Cities RTV(on DT3)
Slogan The People You Know, The News You Need (News)
The One Thing in The Tri-Cities to See is ABC 19 WKPT-TV (General)
Channels Digital: 27 (UHF)
Virtual: 19 (PSIP)
Subchannels 19.1 ABC
19.2 MyNetworkTV
19.3 Cozi TV
19.4 Heartland
Affiliations ABC
Owner Glenwood Communications Corporation
(Holston Valley Broadcasting Corporation)
First air date August 20, 1969; 46 years ago (1969-08-20)
Call letters' meaning 'W KingsPort, Tennessee
Former channel number(s) Analog:
19 (UHF, 1969–2009)
Transmitter power 25 kW
Height 695 m
Class DT
Facility ID 27504
Transmitter coordinates 36°25′54″N 82°8′15″W / 36.43167°N 82.13750°W / 36.43167; -82.13750
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website abc19.tv

WKPT-TV, channel 19, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Kingsport, Tennessee, USA and serving the Tri-Cities area of northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. WKPT-TV is owned by owned by the Glenwood Communications Corporation, and is a sister station to Class A stations WAPK-CD and WOPI-CD; and several radio stations, including WKPT (1400 AM). All properties share studios on Commerce Street in downtown Kingsport, and WKPT-TV's transmitter is based on Holston Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest.

Although the station is licensed to and based in Kingsport, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires it to include Johnson City and Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia in its legal on-air identifications. [1]


Logo used by WKPT from April 2007 until August 2008.

WKPT-TV began broadcasting on August 20, 1969, as the Tri-Cities' exclusive ABC affiliate. Previously, the network had been shared between NBC affiliate WCYB-TV (channel 5) and CBS affiliate WJHL-TV (channel 11), each of which picked its own ABC programs to air. However, many viewers in the area could view the entire ABC schedule on nearby WLOS-TV in Asheville, North Carolina. Before WKPT signed on, WLOS included the Tri-Cities as part of its primary coverage area as it was widely available over the air (from a transmitter on Mount Pisgah that provided city-grade picture quality) and on cable.

WKPT has three historical distinctions. First, it is the oldest UHF television station in Tennessee to have maintained continuous operation on the UHF band to the present. Second, it is the second oldest station in Tennessee to have had the same licensee from its inaugural date to the present. WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee is the oldest but only after it was sold to Bahakel Communications. Third, for years it was the only locally owned-and-operated full-power station in the Tri-Cities. However, that was merely by default. Because the antenna heights of its two VHF rivals, WJHL and WCYB, are above the 2,000 ft (610 m) above average terrain full power ceiling height mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), those two could not operate at their full power capacities. WCYB radiated 65,000 watts ERP analog visual while WJHL radiated 245,000 watts ERP analog visual.

WKPT was also one of the first stations in the country to utilize a newly adopted (at the time) FCC rule called must-carry that required local cable companies to black out stations in nearby cities affiliated with the same network that were carried on local cable systems and cover the channel with the local network affiliate. As a result, the easily receivable off-air network signal from WLOS, 110 miles (180 km) away, was always blacked out on cable systems in the Tri-Cities while being covered by the WKPT signal any time both stations were broadcasting ABC programming. Local WLOS programming was not blacked out. After deregulation of the cable industry, stations from adjacent markets were taken off most local cable systems altogether in favor of satellite stations like TBS, WGN America, CNN, and others.

WCYB and WJHL received ABC via traditional ground microwave relay stations provided by AT&T back in the 1950s and 1960s. However when WKPT started in 1969, its owners could not afford to spend a half-million dollars per year for a network feed. As a result, the station developed its own low-cost way of bringing ABC to upper East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia. Before the advent of satellite technology, WKPT utilized a series of private microwave relay stations between Kingsport and Knoxville. As the ABC signal was being transmitted via traditional microwave from AT&T into the studios of then-ABC affiliate WTVK-TV on Sharp's Ridge in Knoxville (now CBS affiliate WVLT-TV), WKPT would literally "grab" the telco signal just as it was going into the WTVK studios.

It then sent the signal via private microwave to a relay station 70 miles (110 km) line-of-sight miles east to Camp Creek Bald on the Tennessee/North Carolina border in Southern Greene County, Tennessee. The ABC signal was then re-transmitted via another WKPT microwave 33 miles (53 km) line-of-sight miles further east to the WKPT transmitter site on Holston Mountain. From the relay point there, it was transmitted by a third WKPT microwave 25 miles (40 km) line-of-sight miles down to the studios in Downtown Kingsport through the station's master control board and then back to Holston Mountain via the station's regular studio-transmitter link and then broadcast on Channel 19.

Private microwave relays of network programming were prevalent before the advent of AT&T commercial microwave. WVVA-TV in Bluefield, West Virginia operated its own private microwave relay that brought NBC to Bluefield from WSLS-TV in Roanoke. In its early days, WSMV-TV, Nashville received its NBC feed from WAVE-TV Louisville, and WSAZ-TV Huntington operated a private microwave to deliver NBC first from WLWT in Cincinnati, then from WLWC-TV (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus.

Whenever any part of WKPT-TV's private microwave relay system malfunctioned, as it did periodically because of heavy snowfall or downed trees, station engineers were forced to broadcast the signal of either WTVK or WLOS whenever network programming was airing. Occasionally, WKPT accidentally aired the local commercials and the station identifications of either WTVK or WLOS being unable to cover them up quickly. When WTVK swapped affiliations with WATE-TV, WKPT merely moved its Knoxville microwave relay 800 ft (240 m) west to WATE's transmitter site, also on Sharp's Ridge, and continued to receive ABC via its privately owned microwave relay system. Ironically, the AT&T network signals for WJHL and WCYB were both delivered from Greenville, South Carolina to the phone company microwave that is also atop Camp Creek Bald that fed the Knoxville television stations.

WKPT's first branding in the 1970s was "WKPT, Tri-Cities' ABC" which featured the first musical station IDs in the area. That concept was later used by WATE when that station became an ABC affiliate in 1979. In 1998, the station re-branded as "ABC 19 WKPT" which marked the first time the station's channel number was actually mentioned on-air since the 1980s.

Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable systems in their market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On December 3, 2008, it was announced that Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), a cable provider serving parts of Eastern Kentucky, announced that it would drop WKPT from their lineup unless an agreement was reached over retransmission consent.[2] According to The Mountain Eagle, this dispute has caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon, where IMC holds the cable television franchise there.[3] The city council in Fleming-Neon have stated that the removal of WKPT would violate IMC's franchise agreement.[3]

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[4]
19.1 720p 16:9 WKPT-HD Main WKPT-TV programming / ABC
19.2 480i WAPK-SD MyNetworkTV
19.3 WOPI-SD Cozi TV
19.4 WKINtnn Heartland

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WKPT-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 19, 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 27.[5][6] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 19.

Out-of-market cable carriage[edit]

In recent years, WKPT has been carried on cable in multiple areas outside of the Tri-Cities media market. That includes cable systems within the Bluefield market in Virginia, the Knoxville, TN market in Kentucky, and the Asheville and Charlotte markets in North Carolina.[7] According to Zap2it, WKPT has been carried on cable in College Grove, which is within the Nashville market.[8]

News operation[edit]

WKPT's first personalities in the early 1970s included news anchors Martin Karant and Bill Freehoff along with weather/sports with Bill Trailer. These distinguished broadcasters had been popular personalities on WKPT-AM 1400 and made the move to television. Karant continued to hold his position on WKPT-AM until his retirement in 1997. Until February 2002, WKPT produced news in-house.[9] However, they never made much headway against WCYB and WJHL.

From February 2002 through September 2006, nightly 6 and 11 o’clock newscasts originated from WJHL and were simulcast on both WKPT and WJHL in a news share agreement. In situations where one station was off (due to network run over or other circumstances), the news was broadcast on the other station at the correct time.

Starting in September 2006, WJHL's nightly 11 o’clock broadcast was repeated on WKPT at or around 1:06 in the morning. In addition, a five-minute news and weather summary was provided at 11:30 P.M. to accommodate for the gap between the end of syndicated programming and the beginning of Nightline. At some point, this programming was dropped. Also, WJHL's weekday Noon show had been repeated on WAPK and WKPT-DT3 / WOPI-CA on a half-hour delay at 12:30. Like all RTV affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, that station also aired Daytime weekday mornings at 9.

In 2009, WKPT began airing local news and weather briefs that were taped in advance using the resources of its sister radio stations. It eventually relaunched a small news department in 2010 with the debut of two weeknight news and weather updates that included a five-minute cut-in at 6:25 and an eight-minute brief at 11. In March 2012, these cut-ins began resembling abbreviated newscasts featuring contributions from the first reporter hired by WKPT, Ashton Bishop. Corresponding with the format change, the early weeknight update moved to 6 preceding ABC World News. In addition, local news and weather cut-ins were added at :25 and :55 past the hour on weekday mornings during Good Morning America (from 7 until 9). All of the aforementioned programming airs in high definition under the branding 19 WKPT News. After hiring more personnel, WKPT resumed traditional full-length newscasts (seen weeknights at 6 and 11) on March 4, 2013, with anchors Jim Bailey and Liz Marrs. In 2013 morning cut-in anchor Ashton Bishop was named as the new co-anchor for the 6 and 11 newscasts with Bailey.[10][11] In August of 2014, WKPT began its 6am newscast with anchors Jessica Larkin and Rachel Elvis.


External links[edit]