|Channels||Digital: 45 (UHF)
Virtual: 44 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||44.1 Ion Television
44.3 Ion Life
|Owner||Ion Media Networks
(Ion Media License Company, LLC)
|First air date||April 1986|
|Call letters' meaning||PaX TV BirmingHam|
|Former callsigns||WNAL-TV (1986–1998)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
44 (UHF, 1986–2009)
Fox (1986–1996; via WTTO, 1991–1996)
Pax TV (1999–2005)
The WB (1996)
|Transmitter power||225 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WPXH-TV, virtual channel 44 (UHF digital channel 45), is an Ion Television owned-and-operated television station for Birmingham, Alabama, licensed to Gadsden. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks. WPXH maintains offices located on Golden Crest Drive in Birmingham, and its transmitter is located in Oneonta.
In 1984, WDBB (channel 17) in Tuscaloosa had a problem. The two-year-old station was looking to increase its profile in central Alabama, but its signal was nowhere near strong enough to cover the northern half of the market. In the days when cable still didn't have much penetration, WDBB faced the problem of improving its coverage in the vast central Alabama market. This put it at a severe disadvantage to Birmingham's other major independent, WTTO (channel 21), which had early on established itself as one of the strongest independent stations in the Deep South and the nation.
Owner DuBose Broadcasting found a solution when it won a construction permit for a channel 45 allocation in Gadsden. That station signed on in April 1986 as WNAL-TV, serving as a full-time satellite station for the northern half of the market. When WTTO passed on the Fox affiliation for central Alabama, WDBB/WNAL quickly snapped up the affiliation. WDBB further strengthened its hand just months before Fox officially launched on October 6, 1986 by moving its license to Bessemer, 18 miles south of Birmingham, which allowed it to build a stronger tower closer to Birmingham. Despite the stations' relatively strong program lineup, WDBB/WNAL remained. Additionally, neither WNAL nor WDBB had a strong signal reach into Birmingham, and several Birmingham cable companies declined to carry the stations. As a result, WDBB/WNAL was not profitable.
In January 1991, after all efforts to get better cable coverage for WDBB/WNAL failed, Fox moved its Birmingham affiliation to WTTO. Soon afterward, WDBB and WNAL began simulcasting WTTO for all but two hours of the broadcast day. By 1993, WDBB and WNAL operated as full-time satellites of WTTO. The WTTO/WNAL/WDBB combination (which nonetheless branded only as "Fox 21", signifying WTTO's channel allocation) provided a strong combined signal comparable to those of ABC affiliate WBRC-TV (channel 6) and NBC affiliate WVTM-TV (channel 13). It soon became one of the strongest Fox affiliates in the country. In 1995, both WNAL and WDBB began airing separate programming during the daytime hours. That year, WNAL was purchased by Fant Broadcasting.
In 1994, Citicasters sold WBRC to New World Communications. Soon afterward, New World acquired WVTM as part of its merger with Argyle Broadcasting. New World now faced the prospect of being over the FCC-mandated limit of 12 stations that was in effect at the time. However, soon after its purchase of WBRC closed, New World signed a deal with Fox that May to affiliate with twelve of its stations after acquiring the rights to the NFL's National Football Conference television package) Seeing a chance to solve its Birmingham ownership problem, New World opted to sell WBRC directly to Fox, placing channel 6 in an outside trust that would caretake it through the sale. This forced a complicated series of affiliation changes for six central Alabama stations that took effect on September 1, 1996. On that date, WBRC became the sole Fox affiliate for central Alabama (after Fox ran it for a year as an ABC affiliate as its affiliation contract with ABC did not expire until September 1); CBS affiliates WCFT-TV (channel 33) in Tuscaloosa and WJSU-TV (channel 40) in Anniston, became full-power satellites to the Birmingham market’s new ABC affiliate, WBMA-LP (channel 58). WNAL, which prior to the massive affiliation switch had become a secondary affiliate of The WB, became the CBS affiliate for northeast Alabama.
In 1998, the Tuscaloosa and Anniston/Gadsden areas were merged back into the Birmingham market as the result of the 1996 merger of WCFT, WJSU, and WBMA-LP into Birmingham's ABC affiliate, causing it to jump 12 places from 51st to 39th place among the Nielsen media markets. As part of the deal, WNAL dropped CBS, making WBMG (channel 42, now WIAT) the sole CBS affiliate for a much-enlarged market which stretched across nearly the entire width of the state, from the Alabama-Georgia state line westward to the Mississippi-Alabama border.
Around this time, Paxson Communications (now Ion Media Networks) purchased WNAL with the intent of making it a charter owned-and-operated station of Pax TV (later i: Independent Television, now Ion Television) for the Birmingham market. Soon afterwards, the station changed its call letters to WPXH-TV. However, channel 44 remained a CBS affiliate even after Pax TV debuted on August 31, 1998. In May 1999, WPXH dropped its CBS affiliation, and briefly became an independent station targeting Anniston and surrounding areas. The station finally switched to Pax TV in August 1999.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Network|
WPXH-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, 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 45. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 44.
When WPXH (as WNAL-TV) became a CBS affiliate in 1996, it opted not to start its own news department. Instead, the station entered into a news share agreement with WBMG to simulcast its 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts (which were briefly suspended when the station's newscasts were temporarily canceled in early 1998, as its news department was being rebooted due to persistent low ratings); the WIAT news simulcasts were dropped in 1999, when channel 44 became an independent station.
After becoming a Pax TV owned-and-operated station, WPXH entered into a news share agreement with WVTM-TV as part of the network's management agreement with NBC, and began airing rebroadcasts that station's 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts on a half-hour delay (at 6:30 and 10:30 p.m.) starting in 2001; the rebroadcasts were dropped on June 30, 2005, the day prior to Pax's rebranding as i: Independent Television.
- The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says April 26, while the Television and Cable Factbook says April 25.
- "Fox Gains 12 Stations in New World Deal". Chicago Sun-Times. May 23, 1994. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Lafayette, Jon. "Birmingham's WBMG-TV cleans house with news staff." Electronic Media 15 December 1997: 2.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WPXH
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Ion Television website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WPXH
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WPXH-TV