WTAT-TV

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WTAT-TV
FOX 24 Station ID.png
Charleston, South Carolina
United States
Branding Fox 24 (general)
Fox 24 News (newscasts)
Slogan So Fox 24 (general)
The News You Want
When You Want It
Channels Digital: 24 (UHF)
(to move to 17 (UHF))
Virtual: 24 (PSIP)
Subchannels 24.1 Fox
24.2 Justice Network
24.3 Comet TV
Affiliations Fox (1986–present)
Owner Cunningham Broadcasting
(WTAT Licensee, LLC)
Operator Sinclair Broadcast Group
First air date September 7, 1985 (32 years ago) (1985-09-07)
Sister station(s) WCIV, WACH, WPDE, WWMB, WLOS, WMYA-TV, WTGS
Former channel number(s) Analog:
24 (UHF, 1985–2009)
Digital:
40 (UHF, until 2009)
Former affiliations Primary:
Independent (1985–1986)
Secondary:
UPN (1995–1997)
Transmitter power 1,000 kW
625 kW (CP)
Height 583.3 m (1,914 ft)
Class DT
Facility ID 416
Transmitter coordinates 32°56′24.7″N 79°41′43.5″W / 32.940194°N 79.695417°W / 32.940194; -79.695417
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website foxcharleston.com

WTAT-TV is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Charleston, South Carolina, United States and serving the Lowcountry area. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and UHF channel 24 from a transmitter in unincorporated Charleston County near Woodville. The station is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting; the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns MyNetworkTV/ABC affiliate WCIV (channel 36), operates WTAT under a local marketing agreement (LMA). However, Sinclair effectively owns WTAT as the majority of Cunningham's stock is owned by the family of deceased group founder Julian Smith. WTAT's studios are located on Arco Lane in North Charleston (with a Charleston postal address); master control and some internal operations are based at WCIV's studios on Allbritton Boulevard along US 17/US 701 (Johnnie Dodds Boulevard) in Mount Pleasant.

WTAT is carried on cable channel 6 in most parts of the market.

History[edit]

The station began operations on September 7, 1985 as Charleston's first Independent outlet under the ownership of Act III Broadcasting. It aired an analog signal on UHF channel 24 from a transmitter near Awendaw. A local group originally held its construction permit but sold it to Act III before the station went on-the-air. On October 6, 1986 as part of a corporate deal between Act III and News Corporation, it became a charter affiliate of the fledgling Fox network. It should be noted, however, that WTAT would have been the obvious choice as Charleston's Fox affiliate even without the Act III affiliation deal, as it was the area's only general-entertainment independent station at the time.

Abry Communications bought the Act III group in early 1994. Abry merged with Sinclair later that year, but WTAT and WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio were sold to Sullivan Broadcasting in compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits of the time. Sullivan, in turn, outsourced the operation of its entire station group (including WTAT) back to Sinclair. In 1995, WTAT picked up UPN as a secondary affiliate until 1997 when former WB affiliate WMMP joined UPN.

By the time Sinclair tried to acquire Sullivan's stations outright in 2001, it already owned WMMP, which it had purchased outright from Max Media Properties (a company partially related to the present-day Max Media) in July 1998. Sinclair could not legally keep both WTAT and WMMP because Charleston has only six full-power stations—too few to legally permit a duopoly. Although WTAT was longer-established, Sinclair opted to keep WMMP and sold WTAT to Glencairn, Ltd. That company was owned by Edwin Edwards, a former Sinclair executive, and appeared to be a minority-owned company. However, nearly all of Glencairn's stock was controlled by the Smith family, founders of Sinclair. In effect, Sinclair now had a duopoly in the Charleston market in violation of FCC regulations. Glencairn and Sinclair further circumvented the rules by crafting a local marketing agreement with WMMP as the senior partner, allowing Sinclair to continue operating WTAT.

In 2001, the FCC fined Sinclair $40,000 for illegally controlling Glencairn. Later that year, this was renamed Cunningham Broadcasting. However, nearly all of Cunningham's stock is still controlled by trusts in the names of the children of the Smith brothers. Then as now, all of Cunningham's stations are located in markets where Sinclair cannot legally form a duopoly, and are operated by Sinclair stations via LMAs. Glencairn, and later Cunningham, have been accused of serving as a shell corporation that allows Sinclair to circumvent FCC ownership rules. On May 15, 2012, Sinclair and Fox agreed to a five-year extension of the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WTAT, allowing them to continue carrying Fox programming until at least 2017.[1]

On March 20, 2014, as part of a restructuring of Sinclair's August 2013 deal to purchase Allbritton Communications (owner of ABC affiliate WCIV, channel 4) in order to address ownership conflicts with the deal involving WMMP's local marketing agreement with WTAT, Sinclair announced that it planned to terminate the shared services agreement with Cunningham Broadcasting (which would have made WTAT the first Cunningham station in which Sinclair would not hold any operational interest). Cunningham, which was to have acquired the non-license assets of WTAT, sought a shared services agreement with the prospective owner of WMMP, which Sinclair was to have sold in order to receive approval of its purchase of WCIV.[2][3] This plan never materialized as Sinclair retained WWMP (now WCIV), and WTAT remains operated by Sinclair as of June 2018.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[4]
24.1 720p 16:9 WTATFOX Main WTAT-TV programming / Fox
24.2 480i Justice Justice Network
24.3 GET-TV Comet TV

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WTAT-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 24, on February 17, 2009, to conclude the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[5] The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 40 to channel 24.

Programming[edit]

Outside of the Fox network schedule, syndicated programming currently broadcast by WTAT-TV includes Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, The People's Court, TMZ, and Two and a Half Men. Since September 2016, Xploration Station has aired on WTAT-TV after moving from WCSC-TV's digital subchannel. It airs Saturday mornings beginning at 10 a.m., the time specified for Fox's East Coast affiliates.

News operation[edit]

This is the current look of the FOX 24 News set after leaving WCSC's studios.

In the early-1990s, Fox required most of its major market affiliates to add local newscasts or face disaffiliation. As a result, WTAT entered into a news share agreement with CBS affiliate WCSC-TV (channel 5, then owned by Crump Communications). The partnership resulted in a nightly half-hour prime time broadcast to debut on this station (currently titled The Fox 24 News at 10).

That program was one of the first prime time newscasts in South Carolina along with fellow Fox affiliate WACH in Columbia which established a similar outsourcing arrangement with NBC affiliate WIS in that market several years later. Eventually, an hour-long extension of WCSC's weekday morning show was added to WTAT. Known as The Fox 24 News at 7, this was seen until 8 offering the area's only local alternative to the national morning broadcasts aired on the big three networks.

FOX 24 Anchor Leyla Gulen during a primetime News at 10pm broadcast

WTAT's shows had no WCSC branding and originated from the CBS affiliate's studio (studio 2) on Charlie Hall Boulevard in Charleston's West Ashley section along Glenn McConnell Parkway. The music package and graphics scheme used on all newscasts can be seen on other Sinclair-owned television stations that operate their own in-house news departments. Although WTAT featured the majority of WCSC's on-air personnel, this station maintained a separate second news anchor on weeknights that also contributes to WCSC. This outlet was one of many company-owned stations (including WGME, WICS, WLOS, and KGAN along with others) that did not participate in the wider implementation of Sinclair's now-defunct, controversial News Central format. This centralized operation had national news segments, all weather forecasts, and some sports coverage based at company headquarters on Beaver Dam Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland that supplemented local content at most of Sinclair's in-house news departments. WTAT did air The Point (a one-minute conservative political commentary) that was also controversial and a requirement of all company-owned stations with newscasts until the series was discontinued in December 2006.

On September 29, 2008, WCSC set a broadcasting benchmark in the area when it became the first television outlet to offer newscasts in high definition. The upgrade included new custom Raycom Media corporate graphics, a re-designed HD logo, and updated music package. The WTAT broadcasts at that time, however, were still only aired in pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition as this station lacked a high definition-capable master control at its separate facility in order to receive the newscast in HD.

On August 31, 2009, the weeknight prime time show at 10 was expanded to an hour while the weekend edition remained 35 minutes in length. It would not be until January 24, 2011 when the station completed a master control upgrade allowing the reception and transmission of local programming, including local news, in high definition. During weather forecasts, WTAT features WCSC's own Collins ADC Doppler weather radar (known as "Live Super Doppler MAX") in addition to NOAA's National Weather Service radar images from several regional sites.

Since January 1, 2016, WTAT's newscasts have been produced by WCIV. This change also came with a new anchor for the 10 p.m. news hour and an expanded morning news (7–9 a.m.).

On January 9, 2017, WTAT's newscasts expanded to include a traditional newscast at 6:30 p.m. and a news magazine-type program at 11 p.m. (FOX 24 News NOW) which is broadcast from their studios on Arco Lane in North Charleston.

Counties that WTAT-TV covers[edit]

Sometimes WTAT will cover the following counties. (EX: Severe storm coverage, or breaking news from one of the following counties.)

References[edit]

External links[edit]