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CityLynchburg, Virginia
BrandingABC 13
FoundedFebruary 8, 1953 (70 years ago) (1953-02-08)
Former call signs
WLVA-TV (1953–1977)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 13 (VHF, 1953–2009)
  • Digital: 34 (UHF, 2003–2009),[1] 13 (VHF, 2009–2020)
  • CBS (1953–1955)
  • ABC (secondary, 1953–1955)
Call sign meaning
"NeWSET 13" (former newscast title)
Technical information[2]
Licensing authority
Facility ID73988
ERP40 kW
HAAT627 m (2,057 ft)
Transmitter coordinates37°18′55″N 79°38′5″W / 37.31528°N 79.63472°W / 37.31528; -79.63472
Translator(s)W05AA-D 5 Roanoke
Public license information
Studios in Lynchburg

WSET-TV (channel 13) is a television station licensed to Lynchburg, Virginia, United States, serving as the ABC affiliate for the Roanoke–Lynchburg market. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, and has studios on Langhorne Road in Lynchburg; its transmitter is located atop Thaxton Mountain, near Thaxton, Virginia.


Channel 13 began operations on February 8, 1953, as WLVA-TV from a transmitter on Tobacco Row Mountain west of Sweet Briar. The station was owned by Lynchburg Broadcasting Corporation, which also owned WLVA radio (580 AM). WLVA-TV also served Charlottesville, where residents reported good reception during testing, from this transmitter site.[3] The station was originally a CBS affiliate, but also carried programs from ABC, NBC, and DuMont as well.[4]

By the end of 1954, Roanoke and Lynchburg had been collapsed into a single market. Accordingly, channel 13 moved its transmitter and tower to Evington, Virginia, in 1954 in an attempt to better serve Roanoke and the western part of the market. Since Roanoke was already served by NBC affiliate WSLS-TV (channel 10), WLVA-TV opted to become a primary ABC affiliate—Virginia's first, and the longest-tenured south of Washington, D.C. WLVA-TV and WSLS-TV split CBS programming until WDBJ-TV (channel 7) signed on from Roanoke in 1955.

For most of its first 30 years on the air, channel 13 provided spotty coverage to the more rugged western part of the market. While its transmitter in Evington provided a city-grade signal to Lynchburg, it was roughly 35 miles (56 km) from Roanoke proper, portions of which were shielded by mountains. The station made numerous requests to move its transmitter closer to the city. However, they were all turned down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) due to concerns about interference with co-channel WLOS-TV in Asheville, North Carolina, and WHTN-TV (now WOWK-TV) in Huntington, West Virginia; in particular, the FCC believed that the Roanoke–Lynchburg and Huntington–Charleston markets were close enough that the two channel 13 transmitters had to be as far apart as possible to avoid interference. Its signal was so weak in Roanoke that ABC granted an affiliation to a second station in the market, WRFT-TV (channel 27), from 1966 through 1975.

In the early 1960s, the station set up translator W05AA to improve its signal in Roanoke. WLVA-TV was not alone in installing low-VHF Roanoke translators; the early 1960s also saw W02AE put on the air to translate WSLS-TV and W04AG put on the air to translate WDBJ-TV. In 1970, WLVA-TV sought to move its transmitter to Poor Mountain overlooking Roanoke, where the other major stations in the market operated their transmitters. This was once again turned down by the FCC, in order to protect WRFT-TV.

In 1965, Lynchburg Broadcasting merged with the Washington Star Company, which also owned WMAL-AM-FM-TV in Washington.[5] Joe Allbritton purchased a controlling interest in the Star in 1975.[6][7] By this time, however, the FCC had tightened its rules on cross-media ownership. Due to the manner in which Allbritton's purchase of the Star Company was structured, the FCC considered it to be an ownership change. It told Allbritton that he had to sell off either the radio or television stations. Allbritton chose to sell off the company's non-television assets, including WLVA radio, in April 1977.[8] He then reorganized the former Star Company television stations as Allbritton Communications.

In September 1977, WLVA-TV changed its call letters to the current WSET-TV to coincide with its new branding, "NeWSET-13". The change was brought on by a now-repealed FCC regulation that stated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership that must have different call signs.[9]

Allbritton immediately set about finding a solution to channel 13's longstanding reception problems in the western portion of the market. In 1980, WSET won FCC approval to relocate its transmitter to Thaxton Mountain near Bedford, halfway between Roanoke and Lynchburg. WSET activated its new transmitter in 1982, which gave the station a clear signal in most of Roanoke for the first time ever. However, the FCC required WSET to significantly conform its signal to protect WOWK. As a result, some areas of the western part of the market, including parts of Roanoke itself, only got a grade B signal; they only got a clear signal from the station until cable arrived in the area a few years later.

WSET's newscasts primarily focus on the eastern part of the Roanoke–Lynchburg market. Beginning in October 2005, it was one of only two ABC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone to air ABC's World News Tonight at 7 p.m.; WSB-TV in Atlanta is the other. However, WSET has returned the national program to the 6:30 p.m. time slot, shifting its local newscast to 7:00 p.m.

WSET was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in suburban Baltimore County, Maryland, in August 2014 as part of Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton Communications.[10][11]

Once and Again controversy[edit]

On March 11, 2002, WSET preempted an episode of Once and Again, "The Gay-Straight Alliance", which contained a scene in which two female characters kiss one another, and ran a prime time infomercial instead.[12] WSET was the only ABC affiliate to preempt the episode. The decision, which station management refused to explain, provoked condemnation from GLAAD.[13]

News operation[edit]

WSET presently broadcasts 27 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours each weekday and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays).

On September 12, 2011, WSET began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, the station is the third in the Roanoke–Lynchburg market to make the transition to HD.

Former Good Morning America co-host and ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson began his television career at the station; he was a reporter/anchor for WLVA-TV during the late 1960s.

Notable current on-air staff[edit]

Notable former on-air staff[edit]

Technical information[edit]


The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WSET-TV[14]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
13.1 720p 16:9 ABC Main WSET-TV programming / ABC
13.2 480i Charge! Charge!
13.3 Comet Comet
13.4 TBD TBD
24.1 1080i 16:9 WZBJ24 MyNetworkTV (WZBJ-CD)
  Broadcast on behalf of another station

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WSET-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009, the official date on which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. In October 2009, the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 34 to VHF channel 13.[15] The station's over-the-air coverage in much of the western part of the market, especially the New River Valley, is somewhat marginal due in part to the mountainous terrain. W05AA was converted to digital operation in late 2009, which helped to fill in coverage holes in Roanoke.



  1. ^ "Lynchburg-based WSET goes on air with digital signal". Archived from the original on September 9, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  2. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WSET-TV". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  3. ^ "Television Station Here Tenatively Planned For Fall". Charlottesville Daily Progress. February 3, 1953. p. 5. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  4. ^ "Radio and TV Programs". The Bee. Danville, VA. August 26, 1954. pp. B-11.
  5. ^ "Washington 'Star' to buy WLVA-AM-TV." Broadcasting, June 21, 1965, pg. 75.
  6. ^ "Houston banker heads to rescue of fallen 'Star'." Broadcasting, April 15, 1974, pp. 17–18. [1][2]
  7. ^ "Allbritton gets his deal for Washington." Broadcasting, December 22, 1975, pp. 19–20. [3][4]
  8. ^ "In brief." Broadcasting, April 18, 1977, pg. 33.
  9. ^ "For the record: Call letters-Grants." Broadcasting, September 5, 1977, pg. 52.
  10. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (July 29, 2013). "Allbritton to sell 7 TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  11. ^ Eggerton, John (July 24, 2014). "FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  12. ^ Armstrong, Mark (March 14, 2002). ""Once & Again" Girl Kiss Yanked". E News. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  13. ^ "Lynchburg ABC Affiliate Refuses to Air Once and Again". GLAAD. March 13, 2002. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2007.
  14. ^ "RabbitEars TV Query for WSET". Archived from the original on September 3, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  15. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2012.

External links[edit]