|Channels||Digital: 16 (UHF)|
|Branding||WTKR News 3|
|Slogan||Taking Action. Getting Results.|
|Affiliations||3.1: CBS (secondary until 1953)|
3.2: Court TV (O&O)
|Owner||E. W. Scripps Company |
(Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC)
First air date
|April 2, 1950|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
4 (VHF, 1950–1952)
3 (VHF, 1952–2009)
40 (UHF, 2002–2020)
Call sign meaning
* Tidewater; Knight Ridder (former owners)
* tribute nod to WTAR (rhyming scheme)
|ERP||625 kW (STA)|
610 kW (CP)
|HAAT||293.6 m (963 ft) (STA)|
375 m (1,230 ft) (CP)
Public license information
WTKR, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 16), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Norfolk, Virginia, United States, serving the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia (comprising the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Virginia Beach and environs), and the Outer Banks region of northeastern North Carolina. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company, as part of a duopoly with Portsmouth-licensed CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27). The two stations share studios on Boush Street in downtown Norfolk; WTKR's transmitter is located in Suffolk, Virginia.
The station began operation on channel 4 on April 2, 1950 as WTAR-TV, Virginia's second television station. It carried programming from all four networks of the time—NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont—but was a primary NBC affiliate. In its first year of operation, when only 600 TV sets existed in the area, it had 19 locally originated programs in addition to network shows. Within a year of the station's debut, it moved into a new radio-TV center at 720 Boush Street.
It was owned by Norfolk Newspapers, publisher of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, along with WTAR radio (AM 790, now on AM 850), Virginia's first radio station, and WTAR-FM. It moved to channel 3 in 1952 in order to avoid interference with WNBW (now WRC-TV) in Washington, D.C.. When WVEC-TV signed on a year later as an NBC affiliate, WTAR-TV became a primary CBS affiliate, retaining its secondary ABC and DuMont affiliations.
WTAR became solely affiliated with CBS in 1957, when WAVY-TV signed on as the ABC affiliate (WAVY and WVEC would swap affiliations in 1959 making the latter station the ABC affiliate). DuMont also shut down in 1956. In 1967, Norfolk Newspapers was reorganized as Landmark Communications, WTAR-AM-FM-TV became the flagship stations. The station was one of several in the country to produce a local version of PM Magazine from the late 1970s to mid-1980s.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began tightening its ownership restrictions in the 1970s, eventually barring common ownership of newspapers and broadcasting outlets. Landmark was able to get grandfathered protection for its flagship Hampton Roads cluster. However, in 1981, it opted to sell channel 3 to Knight-Ridder, who changed the station's calls to WTKR on March 4. The new calls not only reflected the new ownership (FCC rules prohibited TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership from sharing the same callsigns then, hence the modification), but also sounded similar to the old ones. Knight-Ridder sold WTKR and sister station WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island to Narragansett Television in 1989. Narragansett sold WTKR to The New York Times Company in 1995.
Local TV and Tribune ownership
On May 7, 2007; the Times sold its entire broadcasting division, including WTKR, to Local TV. In June 2010, Local TV announced that it would be acquiring CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27) from CBS Corporation's Television stations group. WTKR managed the station through a time brokerage agreement from that point until Local TV closed on the purchase on August 4. This purchase created the market's second co-owned duopoly operation, after the LIN TV-owned combination of WAVY and Fox affiliate WVBT.
On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its 19 stations would be acquired by the Tribune Company, the owner of the Daily Press in Newport News, for $2.75 billion; Since this would conflict with FCC regulations that prohibit newspaper-television cross-ownership within a single market (although Tribune has maintained cross-ownership waivers for its newspaper-television station combinations in four other media markets), Tribune spun off WTKR and WGNT to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, an unrelated company owned by former Tribune Company executive Ed Wilson. Tribune will provide services to the stations through a shared services agreement, and will hold an option to buy back WTKR and WGNT outright in the future. The sale was completed on December 27. Tribune later announced on July 10, 2013 that it would spin off its newspapers (including the Daily Press) into a separate company, the Tribune Publishing Company, in 2014, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group—which has owned MyNetworkTV affiliate WTVZ (channel 33) since 1996—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in Tribune-held debt. While WTKR would not have been in conflict with existing FCC in-market ownership rules and could have been acquired by Sinclair in any event, the group was precluded from acquiring WGNT directly as broadcasters are not currently allowed to legally own more than two full-power television stations in a single market (both WTVZ-TV and WGNT rank below the ratings threshold that forbids common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations by total day viewership in a single market). Given the group's tendency to use such agreements to circumvent FCC ownership rules, Sinclair could have opted to either take over the operations of WTKR/WGNT or transfer ownership of and retain operational responsibilities for WTVZ-TV through a local marketing agreement with one of its partner companies.
Less than one month after the FCC voted to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties (such as KAUT-TV), and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.
Sale to Nexstar Media Group and resale to Scripps
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned WAVY-TV and Fox affiliate WVBT (channel 43) since January 2017—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar was precluded from acquiring WTKR/WGNT directly or indirectly while owning WAVY/WVBT, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. (WAVY and WTKR consistently rank among the top four in terms of total-day viewership in the Norfolk–Virginia Beach–Hampton Roads market, while WVBT and WGNT have occasionally rotated between fourth and fifth place, a situation that allowed for Media General and, later, Nexstar to acquire WVBT directly in their respective group acquisitions involving the WAVY/WVBT duopoly. Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WTKR/WGNT through local marketing or shared services agreements would have been subject to regulatory hurdles that could have delayed completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, on January 31, 2019, Nexstar announced that WTKR and WGNT, along with WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania would be sold to independent third parties in order to address ownership conflicts involving existing Nexstar properties in both markets. On March 20, 2019, the Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps Company announced it would purchase WTKR and WGNT from Nexstar upon consummation of the merger, marking Scripps' entry into Virginia, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Scripps and Tegna Inc. in separate deals worth $1.32 billion. The sale was approved by the FCC on September 16 and was completed on September 19.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WTKR-DT||Main WTKR programming / CBS|
On December 6, 2014, WTKR added its first digital subchannel. This TV, a diginet then co-owned by Tribune Media, was placed on virtual channel 3.2.
WTKR began digital broadcasts on channel 40 on March 11, 2002 at 4:15 p.m. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, using PSIP to display WTKR's virtual channel as 3 on digital television receivers.
The station frequency transitioned to channel 16 on July 2, 2020.
Eastern Shore translator
There is one low-powered translator of WTKR on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, W18EG-D in Onancock. It is owned by the Accomack County government rather than Scripps. WTKR and Scripps do not own any translators located in the Greater Hampton Roads area.
Not surprisingly for a station with roots in a newspaper, channel 3 dominated the news ratings in Hampton Roads for most of its first four decades on the air. However, its ratings slipped after a botched relaunch in 1994. The station has mostly recovered, and now frequently trades the ratings lead with WAVY. WTKR won the noon, 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. timeslots in May 2019.
Over the years, the station expanded its news operation to include about 30 hours of local news production per week. During the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, independent station WSKY-TV aired two weeknight 11 o'clock newscasts from WTKR. WTKR did air late newscasts at midnight when the coverage concluded.
WTKR started the area's first 4 p.m. newscast on September 8, 2009. This is the station's second attempt at a newscast during the 4 p.m. hour, as WTKR had aired a short-lived 4:30 p.m. newscast in 1995.
WTKR began producing and airing its local newscasts in high definition on January 26, 2009 with the 5:00 p.m. broadcast. WTKR is the third station in the Hampton Roads market, after WAVY-TV and WVBT, to begin airing high definition newscasts (as opposed to the upconverted widescreen standard definition format of WVEC's newscasts).
As of August 25, 2011, a two-hour extension of WTKR's weekday morning newscast airs from 7 to 9 a.m. on sister station WGNT. On July 7, 2014, a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast made its debut on WGNT featuring former morning anchor Laila Muhammad, Les Smith and chief meteorologist Patrick Rockey. It is the first and only newscast at that time slot in the Hampton Roads area. Almost a year later, a weeknight 10 p.m. newscast returned to WGNT after 18 years under the name WGNT News at 10 - Powered by NewsChannel 3 on June 29, 2015. This isn't the first attempt at a weeknight 10 p.m. newscast for the station; it ran from 1995 to 1997 (as NewsChannel 3 at 10:00 on UPN 27) when WGNT was a UPN affiliate.
On June 17, 2016, WTKR retired the NewsChannel 3 branding it had used since 1995, returning to the News 3 moniker it used from 1970 to 1992.
Notable current on-air staff
Notable former on-air staff
- Jane Gardner, anchor-reporter from 1990 to 1998, later with Eastern Virginia Medical School, died in 2020.
- Ed Hughes, often called the Walter Cronkite of Hampton Roads, from 1967 (as WTAR) to his death from cancer in 2004.
- Bob McAllister, worked as host on WTAR during the 1950s; later host of Wonderama on WNEW, died in 1998.
- Paula Miller, reporter from 1984 until 1999; later a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
- Judi Moen, reporter during mid-1990s. Previously at WBBM-TV from 1981 until 1994. Later a host on the Travel Channel. Now working as advocate for the disabled.
- Bob Rathbun, sports anchor from 1990 until 1991. Previously at WTAR Radio for 12 years. Now play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Hawks.
- Lyn Vaughn, evening anchor from 1999 until 2001. Previously with Headline News from 1984 until 1997.
- Jim Vicevich, economics reporter until 1980. Now a Connecticut radio talk-show host
- William Whitehurst, reporter for WTAR from 1950 until 1968, served in United States House of Representatives from 1969–87; later an occasional analyst for WTKR and serves on Old Dominion University faculty
- "Nexstar Selling 19 TVs In 15 Markets For .32B". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. March 20, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- "WTAR-TV Marks Its First Year" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 30, 1951. p. 62. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- NY Times CO. Sell TV Group to Equity Firm for $530M; Second equity group to buy a media business in two weeks., NewsInc. (via HighBeam Research), January 8, 2007.
- Channick, Robert (July 1, 2013). "Acquisition to make Tribune Co. largest U.S. TV station operator". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
- Walzer, Phil (July 2, 2013). "Tribune to buy Norfolk stations WTKR and CW27". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
- "Transferee Exhibit 15 Agreements and Summary of Transaction". FCC document. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Company Completes Final Steps of Transaction Announced in July Archived December 28, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Tribune Company, 27 December 2013
- "Tribune Co. to Split in Two". New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- Stephen Battaglio (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion plus debt". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Cynthia Littleton (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast Group Sets $3.9 Billion Deal to Acquire Tribune Media". Variety. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Todd Frankel (May 8, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, giving it control over 215 local TV stations". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, LLC. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Liana Baker; Jessica Toonkel (May 7, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast nears deal for Tribune Media". Reuters. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
- Harry A. Jessell; Mark K. Miller (May 8, 2017). "The New Sinclair: 72% Coverage + WGNA". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media.
- "Tribune Terminates $3.9 Billion Sinclair Merger, Sues Broadcast Rival". The Wall Street Journal. News Corp. August 9, 2018.
- Mark K. Miller (August 9, 2018). "Tribune Kills Sinclair Merger, Files Suit". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media.
- Christopher Dinsmore (August 9, 2018). "Tribune Media pulls out of Sinclair Broadcast merger". Baltimore Sun. Tronc.
- Edmund Lee; Amie Tsang (August 9, 2018). "Tribune Ends Deal With Sinclair, Dashing Plan for Conservative TV Behemoth". The New York Times. The New York Times Company.
- Jon Lafayette (August 9, 2018). "Tribune Ends Deal with Sinclair, Files Breach of Contract Suit". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media.
- Brian Fung; Tony Romm (August 9, 2018). "Tribune withdraws from Sinclair merger, saying it will sue for 'breach of contract'". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings LLC.
- Allabaugh, Denise. "Nexstar plans to sell WNEP-TV". www.citizensvoice.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- "Acquisition of Tribune Media Company" (PDF). Nexstar Media Group. December 3, 2018.
- Mark K. Miller (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar Buying Tribune Media For $6.4 Billion". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media.
- Peter White; Dade Hayes (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar Confirms $4.1B Tribune Media Acquisition To Become Leading Local TV Station Owner". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation.
- Gerry Smith; Nabila Ahmed; Eric Newcomer (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar to buy WGN owner Tribune Media for $4.1 billion". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Bloomberg News.
- Arjun Panchadar; Sonam Rai (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar to buy Tribune Media for $4.1 billion". Reuters.
- Jon Lafayette (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar Announces Deal to Buy Tribune for $6.4B". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media.
- Adam Jacobson (December 3, 2018). "It's Official: Nexstar Takes Tribune In Billion-Dollar Stock Deal". Radio-Television Business Report. Streamline-RBR, Inc.
- Harry A. Jessell; Mark K. Miller (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar To Spin Off $1B In Stations". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media.
- "Nexstar Media Group Enters into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Tribune Media Company for $6.4 Billion in Accretive Transaction Creating the Nation's Largest Local Television Broadcaster and Local Media Company". Nexstar Media Group. December 3, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- "Nexstar Media Group Enters Into Definitive Agreement To Acquire Tribune Media Company". Tribune Media. December 3, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- "Scripps Closes Acquisition of Eight TV Stations from Nexstar-Tribune Merger Divestitures", E. W. Scripps Company, 19 September 2019, Retrieved 4 October 2019.
- Nabila Ahmed; Anousha Sakoui (March 20, 2019). "Nexstar to Sell Stations to Tegna, Scripps for $1.32 Billion". Bloomberg News. Bloomberg, L.P.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WTKR
- List of Digital Full-Power Stations
- "W18EG-D". Federal Communications Commission.
- "Fates and Fortunes: News and Public Affairs" (PDF). American Radio History. Broadcasting Magazine. January 28, 1980. p. 124. Retrieved 20 October 2017.