|Columbia, South Carolina|
|Channels||Digital: 7 (VHF)|
|Branding||ABC Columbia (general)|
ABC Columbia News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Live from Main and Gervais|
|Owner||Bahakel Communications |
(South Carolina Broadcasting Partners)
First air date
|May 1, 1953 (first incarnation)|
October 1, 1961 (second and current incarnation)
Last air date
|January 21, 1956; 2 years, 265 days (first incarnation)|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
25 (UHF, 1961–2009)
8 (VHF, 2000–2020)
|NBC (May–November 1953)|
CBS (secondary, May–September 1953)
|HAAT||530 m (1,739 ft)|
Public license information
WOLO-TV, virtual channel 25 (VHF digital channel 7), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Columbia, South Carolina, United States. The station is owned by Bahakel Communications. WOLO-TV's studios and business offices are located on Shakespeare Road in Arcadia Lakes (with a Columbia mailing address); its news department operates from a separate studio facility at Gervais (US 1/US 378) and Main Streets (across from the South Carolina State House) in downtown Columbia. The station's transmitter is located on Rush Road in unincorporated southwestern Kershaw County, near Camden. Master control and some internal operations are based at the facilities of CW affiliate and Bahakel flagship WCCB (channel 18) off Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Prior channel 25
Channel 25 in Columbia first signed on the air on May 1, 1953 as WCOS-TV; founded by Columbia Radio, owners of WCOS radio (1400 AM and 97.9 FM, now 97.5), it was the first television station to sign on in South Carolina. The station carried programming from all three major networks–NBC, CBS and ABC–but was originally a primary NBC affiliate. The station's original facilities were located in a Quonset hut near the station's current business offices, in what was then unincorporated Richland County (Arcadia Lakes did not become an incorporated community until 1959).
WCOS-TV had very modern equipment by 1950s small market standards. However, UHF stations always found it difficult in those days to gain viewership traction as television set manufacturers were not required to equip televisions with UHF tuners until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961; even then, UHF tuners were not included on all newer sets until 1964. During the 1950s, viewers had to purchase separate converters in order to watch UHF stations. Even with them, the picture quality left much to be desired.
The problem really manifested itself in the fall of 1953. First in September, channel 25 lost CBS to WNOK-TV (channel 67, now WLTX on channel 19). Then in November, Liberty Life Insurance Company, owner of longtime NBC radio affiliate WIS, signed on WIS-TV (channel 10) as the first (and during the analog television era, only) VHF station in the city. More or less by default, WCOS-TV was left with ABC, becoming the first primary affiliate of the network in the Carolinas.
Even though channel 25's fate was sealed when WIS-TV signed on, the station limped along until 1956, when WNOK-TV offered to pay Charles W. Pittman, president of Columbia Radio, to take the struggling station off the air. Pittman, who had put much of his own money into WCOS-TV, accepted and shut the station down on January 21, 1956. The station surrendered its construction permit to the FCC that same month.
On August 5, 1960, a group of local investors organized as the First Carolina Corporation applied for a construction permit to build a new station on channel 25. The application was granted June 1, 1961, and on October 1, the new station took to the air as ABC affiliate WCCA-TV. In 1964, Cy Bahakel bought the station and changed its call letters to WOLO-TV. Bahakel bought fellow ABC affiliate WCCB-TV (later a Fox affiliate, now a CW affiliate) in Charlotte, 100 miles (160 km) north of Columbia, in the same year. WOLO's ownership by the Bahakel family is the longest of any of the Columbia market's television stations, with president Beverly Poston taking over as president of Bahakel Communications after her father's death in 2006.
In 2001, WOLO activated a new transmitter tower along I-20 outside Camden, one of the tallest structures in South Carolina at almost 1,800 feet (550 m). Prior to then, the station had long been plagued by a weak signal. Although it decently covered Columbia and its inner suburbs in Richland and Lexington counties, it only provided grade B signal coverage of the second-largest city in the market, Sumter, and was all but unviewable in the outlying areas. As such, many areas within the market were unable to receive a decent signal from channel 25 until cable television arrived in Columbia in the 1970s. Many residents in the western part of the market received a better signal from WJBF in Augusta (which often carried ABC programs that were preempted by WOLO). The new tower, in contrast, gave WOLO at least secondary coverage of 24 counties.
In the fall of 2005, WOLO changed its on-air branding from "ABC 25" to "ABC Columbia" (this was similar to sister station WCCB's 2002 rebranding from "Fox 18" to "Fox Charlotte"). Beginning in 2014, WOLO began a major expansion of its studio at Main and Gervais. This included the building of a new weather center and an interview set. During the summer of 2015, the station rebuilt the street-side studio set, incorporating multiple monitors and an improved light-control window system. The graphics and music were revamped in October 2015 when John Farley, formerly of WIS, was announced as the Chief Meteorologist for WOLO-TV.
In 2002, the station became the second commercial television station in the Columbia market to sign on a digital signal. WOLO's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|25.1||720p||16:9||WOLO-DT||Main WOLO-TV programming / ABC|
|25.5||WOLO-HI||Heroes & Icons|
WOLO-TV presently broadcasts 23½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 4½ hours on weekdays and a half-hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). Unlike most ABC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, WOLO-TV does not carry local newscasts during the early evenings on weekends.
WOLO has experienced several firsts, including hiring the first certified meteorologist and introducing the first color weather radar system in South Carolina (in 1978) and the first live satellite-uplinked broadcast (in 1980). In the early 1980s, the station hired Elizabeth Snite to co-anchor the station's evening newscasts, becoming the first female news anchor in the market. WOLO was the first television station to utilize handheld video cameras (acquiring a Sony Mini-Cam); sports director/reporter Jerry Emanuel was the first to use that camera to tape feature stories as opposed to breaking news stories.
For most of the first four decades of its current incarnation, WOLO was the third station in what was essentially a two-station market, in large part due to its weak signal. Its local newscasts languished in a distant third place, well behind WIS and WLTX. In 1997, WOLO hired Jim Blue and Leslie Mouton (then Leslie Mattox) to anchor its evening newscasts, and rebranded its news operation as 25 Eyewitness News. The station also expanded its news programming to include an hour-long weekday morning newscast titled Good Morning Columbia and a 5:00 p.m. newscast.
In 2002, Bahakel migrated WOLO's operations—including production of its newscasts—to the studio facilities of sister station WCCB in Charlotte. Newsgathering continued to be based in Columbia, maintaining a news director and reporters to produce the daily newscasts. With the move, WOLO cancelled its weekday morning and weekend newscasts (WCCB produces its own local newscast on weekday mornings), retaining only the weeknight 6:00 and nightly 11:00 p.m. newscasts, and laid off several Columbia-based employees. This was one of the first examples of "centralcasting" (the practice of housing master control and/or other operations for multiple stations out of one facility) in the United States.
In the fall of 2005, Bahakel Communications moved production of WOLO's newscasts back to Columbia, from a new purpose-built streetside news studio located across from the State House. While it is still well behind WIS and WLTX in the ratings, WOLO has become a more competitive station ratings-wise since it moved its news and weather operations back to Columbia. It has reaped some of the benefits of its technical upgrades of the previous decade and the digital transition.
On September 21, 2009, WOLO became the first television station in the Columbia market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, accompanied by the introduction of a new graphics and music package. Footage shot in-studio is broadcast in high definition, while all news video from on-remote locations was initially broadcast in standard definition. However, it became the first television station in the market to provide news video from the field in true high definition in February 2010, as WOLO upgraded its ENG vehicles, satellite truck, studio and field cameras and other equipment in order to broadcast news footage from the field in high definition, in addition to segments broadcast from the main studio. On October 12, 2010, the station became the first in the market to broadcast live video from the field in HD. On November 2, 2010, WOLO became the first television station in Columbia to stream live webcasts and breaking news coverage on Apple iOS devices.
On August 1, 2011, WOLO restored a weekday morning newscast to its schedule after nine years with the debut of an hour-long program at 6:00 a.m. titled Good Morning Columbia, and the return of a noon newscast. On August 19, 2013, Good Morning Columbia expanded to two hours, with the addition of an hour to the broadcast from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m.
In 2015, the station garnered attention when it first hired the popular former WIS anchor Ben Hoover to its evening newscasts in August after his departure from the NBC affiliate back in 2014. In October, former WIS Chief Meteorologist John Farley was hired to replace the longtime Chief Meteorologist Reg Taylor, who retired from television at the end of September. The new anchor team was widely promoted in social media as well as the local newspaper and the South Carolina State Fair. The station launched a new look, music, and a finalized studio for the debut in mid-October, with scenes of the capital city and the State House being particularly prominent in its imagery, tying to its unique location at the intersection of Main and Gervais streets.
Notable former on-air staff
- "Three new VHF starters..." (PDF). Television Digest. January 21, 1956. p. 8 (66). Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- "For the Record" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 13, 1956. p. 119. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
- FCC History Cards for WOLO-TV
- WOLO To Launch Morning, Noon Newscasts, TVNewsCheck, May 3, 2011.
- Ben Hoover back on TV Wednesday, co-anchoring at WOLO, The State, August 5, 2015.
- After controversial WIS exit, Ben Hoover launches new media venture, The State, December 17, 2014
- John Farley reunites with Ben Hoover on WOLO newscasts, The State, October 18, 2015.