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Roanoke, Virginia
Channels Analog: 27 (UHF)
Affiliations silent
Owner Roanoke Radio
First air date February 15, 1953
Last air date July 13, 1953
Call letters' meaning W
ROanoke VA
Sister station(s) WROV, WROV-FM
Former affiliations Ind

WROV-TV, UHF Channel 27 in Roanoke, Virginia, was the second-oldest TV station in Roanoke (having signed on shortly after WSLS-TV). Established February 15, 1953, it left the air on July 13, 1953, becoming the first UHF television station in the United States to have ceased operations.


In 1950s, the Federal Communications Commission had allocated channels 7, 10, and 27 for Roanoke and 13 for nearby Lynchburg, Virginia. Shenandoah Life Insurance Company (the owners of WSLS radio) obtained the channel 10 license and launched WSLS-TV on December 11, 1952; Roanoke Radio (owners of WROV radio) signed on soon after with Channel 27.[1] Lynchburg Broadcasting signed on Channel 13, WLVA, on February 8, 1953.[2]

The station operated from a converted WROV radio studio at the Mountain Trust Bank building, using a transmitter atop Mill Mountain. Operating with one camera from poorly lit studios, WROV-TV relied heavily on personnel such as Lee Garrett and Coleman Austin who were shared with the established radio station.

As TV manufacturers were not required at the time to include UHF tuners in new TV's, few could receive the station. According to Lee Garrett, "we couldn't get the sponsors because we didn't have the programs and we couldn't get the programs because we didn't have the sponsors. A Catch 22. And we were the first and as far as I know the only station in the country who has ever voluntarily surrendered its permit to the FCC. We gave it up."[3]

WROV-TV became the first UHF station in the country to go dark in 1953;[4] its owners becoming competing applicants for the last available local VHF allocation, channel 7.

Times World, a newspaper publisher which operated WDBJ radio, was seeking the channel 7 allocation for WDBJ-TV.[5] WROV ultimately was to drop its application for channel 7 in return for being able to recover its expenses by selling the WROV-TV facilities to WDBJ.[6] Frank Koehler, formerly in charge of WROV, was to leave the station to work for WDBJ.

Radio Roanoke stations WROV AM 1240 and WROV-FM 103.7 were ultimately sold to other investors as Times World, which already owned WDBJ AM 960 and WDBJ-FM 94.9, was unable to take on additional radio stations on the same bands in the same market.


Of the 130 pioneering UHF TV stations in US operation at the beginning of 1954, only a minority were to survive. Stations such as WBES-TV in Buffalo, New York and KCTY in Kansas City would soon follow WROV-TV into perpetual silence. UHF TV's outlook was to remain poor until the All-Channel Receiver Act finally required UHF tuners in new TV sets sold in or after 1964.

A later attempt was made to launch ABC affiliate WRFT on channel 27 Roanoke; this short-lived station, launched in 1966, left the air in 1974 due to competition from the stronger Lynchburg station. The channel would then remain vacant until 1986, when a third station would launch as WVFT; originally a religious broadcaster, it had become an independent commercial station within a year and soon became a successful Fox TV affiliate, WFXR.[7]


  1. ^ Billboard magazine news capsules for November 15 1952 list WROV-TV's intended sign-on date as Dec 15, 1952 as an ABC affiliate; in practice, stronger VHF stations in small markets would cherry-pick the strongest programmes from all of the multiple networks to the detriment of the UHF stations.
  2. ^ WROV history
  3. ^ http://www.roanokeradio.com/pioneers/lgarrett/index.html
  4. ^ DuMont historical website, Clarke Ingram, http://www.dumonthistory.tv/6.html and http://www.dumonthistory.tv/a12.html
  5. ^ http://www.wdbj7.com/Global/story.asp?S=3384887
  6. ^ http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/Almanac/tv_history/tv_studios/wdbj/studio_wdbj.htm
  7. ^ http://www.fybush.com/sites/2008/site-081031.html