WCMH-TV, channel 4, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Columbus, Ohio, USA. Owned by Media General, the station's studios are located on Olentangy River Road near the Ohio State University campus, and its transmitter is based on Twin Rivers Drive, west of downtown Columbus.
Columbus' first television station began operations on April 3, 1949 as WLWC on channel 3. The station's original owner was the Cincinnati-based Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, a division of the Avco Company. Crosley also owned WLW radio and WLWT television in Cincinnati, as well as WLWD television (now WDTN) in Dayton. Together these stations comprised the "WLW Television Network", a regional group of inter-connected stations. Until the early 1960s, they emphasized their connection to each other within their on-air branding; the Columbus station was known as WLW-C. The station's studios were originally located in the Seneca Hotel in downtown Columbus before WLWC moved into their present facility on Olentangy River Road, five months after the station signed-on.
Like all of the WLW television stations in Ohio, WLWC was an NBC affiliate, though it carried some programming from the DuMont network until WTVN-TV (now WSYX) took the DuMont affiliation when that station launched in September 1949. In 1952, following the release of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Sixth Report and Order which ended the four-year freeze on station license awards, a VHF frequency realignment resulted in WLWC being forced to move to channel 4, trading channels with NBC-owned WNBK (now WKYC-TV) in Cleveland; the switch took place in June 1953.
The Crosley TV station group would later grow to include WLWI (now WTHR) in Indianapolis, WOAI-TV in San Antonio, and WLWA (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta. Along with NBC programming, the Crosley stations in Ohio and Indianapolis also aired common programming, including The Paul Dixon Show, Midwestern Hayride, The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club (later to become The Bob Braun Show), The Phil Donahue Show, and telecasts of Cincinnati Reds baseball. The Crosley broadcast division took the name of its parent company in 1968, becoming Avco Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1969 the FCC enacted its "one-to-a-market" rule, which prohibited common ownership of AM radio and television stations with overlapping coverage areas under certain conditions while grandfathering some already existing instances. WLWC's channel 4 coverage area covered portions of the Dayton and Cincinnati markets, and Avco's ownership of WLWC, WLWT, WLWD, and WLW radio (a 50,000-watt, clear-channel station which can also be heard throughout much of eastern North America at night) was granted protection under the clause. In 1975, Avco announced the sale of its broadcasting outlets; channel 4 was sold in February 1976 to the Providence, Rhode Island-based Outlet Company, who changed the station's call letters to the current WCMH-TV. The call letters were selected to match the ATA airport code for Port Columbus International Airport, "CMH".
Outlet merged with NBC in 1996, and channel 4 became an NBC owned-and-operated station, spending much of the next decade as one of two stations in the market to hold such status; the other was UPN's WWHO (owned by that network from 1997 to 2005; it was later sold to LIN TV and is now owned by Manhan Media and controlled by WSYX's owner Sinclair Broadcast Group).
WCMH-TV was placed up for sale by NBC-Universal on January 9, 2006, along with sister stations WJAR-TV in Providence, WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, and WNCN-TV in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Media General, the Richmond, Virginia-based company which already owned five NBC affiliates in the southeastern United States, announced it would purchase the four stations on April 6, 2006; the sale was finalized on June 26, 2006. As a result, channel 4 became Media General's first station in the Great Lakes region.
For several months after the sale closed, WCMH's website and those of the other three stations remained in the format used by the websites of NBC-owned stations. In December 2006, WNCN and WJAR launched redesigned websites, which are no longer powered by Internet Broadcasting. On December 11, 2006, WVTM's website followed suit, followed by WCMH on December 14. Media General has since located the master control for all Media General NBC affiliates at its Columbus studios. In 2013, Media General migrated its television station web sites to Worldnow (who provided video services to the company's in-house web site operations prior to the hosting deal). Following the company's takeover by the principal staff of LIN, the Media General station web sites are now hosted by WordPress.com.
With subsequent sales and affiliation switches involving the other three stations NBC sold to Media General in 2006, WCMH is the only one of the four that has both the same owner and the same network affiliation that it has had since 2006. (WJAR and WVTM were sold to Sinclair and Hearst Television, respectively, in 2014, while WNCN switched its network affiliation from NBC to CBS in 2016.)
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||1080i||16:9||WCMH-DT||Main WCMH-TV programming / NBC|
|4.3||16:9||ION TV||Ion Television|
The station's digital signal is multiplexed. WCMH replaced RTV with MeTV on September 26, 2011, as part of a groupwide affiliation agreement with Media General; the channel replaced RTV on some Media General-owned stations in other markets.
WCMH-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 14, using PSIP to display WCMH-TV's virtual channel as 4 on digital television receivers.
For most of its history, WLWC/WCMH-TV has been second in the Columbus ratings, except for the station's 11:00 p.m. news, which occasionally beats market leader WBNS-TV.
News programming is also on the subchannel during the time that its primary channel is air network programming.
From 1957 to 1980 Hugh DeMoss anchored channel 4's evening newscasts, called The DeMoss Report; following the sale of the station to Outlet, the broadcasts were rebranded as NewsWatch 4. By the late 1970s into the early 1980s, however, the NBC affiliate languished in third place. In 1983, the station brought in veteran news anchor Doug Adair and his then-wife, reporter Mona Scott, from WKYC-TV in Cleveland as the station's main anchoring team. They brought a "happy talk" format to the market for the first time, as well as launching the 5:30 p.m. newscast. WCMH began a slow rise that would result in the station overcoming WBNS to reach number-one in the market, and in the process, the mid-1980s NewsWatch 4 team of Adair, Scott, meteorologist Jym Ganahl (with the station since 1979), and sportscaster Jimmy Crum (who joined the station shortly after its 1949 debut) became the most popular anchor team in Columbus television history. This also coincided with NBC's becoming the number one network during that time.
The 1990s brought changes to the normally stable WCMH-TV. In 1990, personal reasons forced Mona Scott to leave channel 4, and she was replaced at the anchor desk by Angela Pace. Pace would leave for WBNS-TV in 1992, and Doug Adair and Jimmy Crum both retired in 1994. WCMH's new anchoring team featured Colleen Marshall, who had been a reporter for the station since the mid-1980s; and Cabot Rea, a former weekend sports anchor and weekday features reporter. The pair helmed WCMH-TV's evening newscasts until Rea's retirement on December 18, 2015. Marshall and Rea worked together overall for 23 years, the longest tenured co-anchoring team in Columbus television history.
The changes resulted in an earlier audience fall-off, but channel 4 once again passed WBNS-TV for the overall lead for a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and often won 11 o'clock news ratings over WBNS (due to NBC winning prime time and late night ratings over CBS during those years). For a few years, from 2000 until 2003 WCMH also won the morning news race with the combined anchor team of Tylar Bacome, Anietra Hamper, Bob Nunally and Beth Dalponte/Kellie Hanna covering traffic. WCMH would win the morning news ratings again in 2004-2007 with Andy Dominianni, Hamper, Nunally and Hanna, but the ratings dropped precipitously after the broadcast was moved into a downtown studio location in 2008.
On January 4, 2008 WCMH became the second major Columbus station to begin broadcasting local newscasts in high definition. Prior to the opening of NBC 4 on the Square on May 27, channel 4 had planned to move its entire news operation to that facility. However, when those plans fell through, WCMH's main studio was upgraded to high definition. (Ultimately, NBC 4 on the Square was used only for some of the station's weekday morning shows.) Like most other stations with high-definition newscasts, WCMH relied mostly on upconverted 16:9 widescreen standard definition footage for its remote field reports until the summer of 2014 where all remote field operations were upgrade to 16:9 1080i HD. On May 11, 2011, NBC 4 on the Square came to an end due to dismal ratings (it has remained a distant second to WBNS-TV on weekday mornings ever since NBC4 on the Square was founded), with the morning newscast productions returning to the main WCMH facility full-time, and the downtown space was soon leased to WBNS-TV.
In January 2011, the station debuted a new rounded logo and new image promos emphasizing its long-time personalities and community involvement.
- Doug Adair (anchor, 1983-1994; retired)
- Leon Bibb (now at WEWS-TV in Cleveland, Ohio)
- Diann Burns (last with WBBM-TV in Chicago)
- Robin Meade (now morning anchor with CNN Headline News)
- Larry Mendte (last at KYW-TV in Philadelphia; now at WPIX in New York City)
- André Moreau (now an anchor at WAFB in Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
- Erin Moriarty lawyer, news reporter and correspondent for 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and formerly co-anchor of PM Magazine while in Columbus in 1979-1980. She has also been seen narrating recent episodes of 48 Hours Mystery.
- Marty Reid (last with ESPN)
- Nick Clooney - host of The Nick Clooney Show
- Clark Smith - weatherman, staff announcer and sidekick on The Spook Beckman Show
- Bill Hindman - news anchor and later a stage actor
- Cabot Rea- Now retired after 30 years