WGXA, virtual channel 24 (UHFdigital channel 16), is a Fox-affiliatedtelevision station located in Macon, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. WGXA maintains studio facilities located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (GA 11/GA 22/GA 49/U.S. 80/U.S. 129) in Downtown Macon,[3] and its transmitter is located on GA 87/U.S. 23/U.S. 129 Alternate (Golden Isles Highway), along the Twiggs-Bibb County line. On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications channel 2 and in high definition on digital channel 702.

History

As a primary ABC affiliate

The station first signed on the air on April 21, 1982 as an ABC affiliate. WGXA was the third television station to be affiliated with a major network to sign on in Middle Georgia, after CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV (channel 13, which signed on in September 1953) and NBC affiliate WCWB-TV (channel 41, now WMGT-TV; which signed on in September 1968). Prior to its start, ABC programming was only available to area residents either during the off-CBS hours (via tape delay) on WMAZ or on affiliates from nearby markets such as Atlanta (WXIA-TV until 1980, and then on WSB-TV thereafter) or Columbus (WTVM). This made Macon one of the last markets in the country to receive full-time affiliates of the "Big Three" networks.

During its years as an ABC affiliate, WGXA preempted various network news programs such as the Saturday and Sunday editions of World News Tonight (opting to show syndicated reruns of various shows instead), ABC World News This Morning (opting to air cartoons), Nightline (instead showing The Arsenio Hall Show during the early 1990s), and This Week with David Brinkley. When Fox assumed the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference television package from CBS in 1994, WGXA carried Fox's NFLtelecasts on Sunday afternoons until December 1994, three months before WPGA-TV (channel 58) signed on as the area's first Fox affiliate. The station was purchased by GOCOM Communications in July 1994.

As a Fox and digital-only ABC affiliate

On September 10, 1995, GOCOM Media announced that it had signed an agreement with Fox to move its affiliation to WGXA, effectively ending WPGA's tenure with the network at the end of that year (after only ten months as a Fox station). Shortly afterward, Register Communications signed an affiliation agreement to make WPGA the Macon market's new ABC affiliate. The affiliation swap took place on January 1, 1996, ending WGXA's fourteen-year tenure with ABC.[4]

On October 29, 2009, WPGA owner Register Communications announced it would drop ABC and become an independent station effective January 1, 2010. The company cited that ABC had aired programming that is not "family-friendly", specifically including homosexual content, that conflicted with the station's programming focus as its reason for dropping the network.[6] Shortly afterward, WGXA entered into a long-term agreement with ABC to carry the network's programming on a new second digital subchannel. In effect, this resulted in the station rejoining the network after fourteen years.[8][10][12]

Cox had intended to remove WPGA from its lineup and place WGXA-DT2 on channel 6 with its high definition feed being placed on digital channel 706 (both replacing WGXA's standard definition and high definition feeds). However, on December 22, WPGA was granted a temporary restraining order requiring Cox to continue to carry that station on those channels. As a result, WGXA-DT2 was instead placed on channel 15, taking over the channel space previously occupied by The Inspiration Network, until Cox's channel placement issues with WPGA were settled.[13] On April 30, 2010, the court dismissed WPGA's case; while this would have allowed Cox to move WGXA-DT2 to channels 6 and 706 while WPGA moved to another channel, Register filed an appeal. In light of this, a judge ordered Cox to leave WPGA on its existing SD and HD channel slots until an appeals court heard the case. In addition, Register also filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the status of WPGA.[14]

On June 23, 2011, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that would enable Cox to drop WPGA from its lineup, effective July 28. On that date, WGXA-DT2 would begin to be carried on both channel 6 and its existing channel 15 position; with the subchannel being carried exclusively on channel 6 starting August 28 (channel 15 would then be taken out of service and its bandwidth would be reserved for the system's high-definition channels).[3] On July 12, 2011, Register filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, seeking an injunction to prevent Cox from not only dropping WPGA but from giving the channel 6 slot to WGXA-DT2. However, Cox announced that it would go forward with the channel shuffle despite the complaint, as the previous court case authorized the provider to make the changes.[3] The FCC ruled on December 5, 2011 that WPGA's contract with Cox rendered it a station that elected retransmission consent.[17]

On January 1, 2011, Dish Network removed WGXA and its "ABC-16" subchannel from its lineup due to a dispute with the satellite provider over retransmission fees.[3] Both channels has since been restored on Dish Network. On March 24, 2014, Frontier Radio Management reached a deal to sell WGXA to the Sinclair Broadcast Group for $33 million;[19][3] the sale was completed on September 3, 2014.[21]

On October 19, 2015 WGXA is slated to carry the new Comet TV network on digital channel 24.3, the network is planned to launch on October 31, 2015

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[3]
24.1720p16:9WGXA-D1Main WGXA programming / Fox
24.2WGXA-D2"ABC 16"
24.3480iCometComet TV

Analog-to-digital conversion

WGXA discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 24, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 16,[3][3] using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 24.

News operation

WGXA presently broadcasts 21 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours on weekdays and 30 minutes each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station produces 15 hours of newscasts each week (with three hours on weekdays) for WGXA-DT2.

Within a few months following its sign-on, WGXA's newscasts surged to second place in the market behind WMAZ, because its news product was far more modern than that of the newscasts seen on WCWB. For a brief time in the mid-1990s as an ABC affiliate, the station rebroadcast its weeknight 6:00 p.m. broadcast was repeated at 10:00 p.m. on then-UPN affiliate WGNM (channel 45). After WGXA became a Fox affiliate in 1996, the station expanded its weekday morning newscast from one to three hours (with two hours added from 7-9 a.m.), dropped its early evening newscasts, and moved its 11:00 p.m. newscast to 10:00 and expanded it to one hour. The station expanded its 10:00 pm. newscast to weekend evenings on January 5, 2008.

WGXA began producing half-hour evening newscasts at 7:00 and 11:00 p.m. each weeknight (the former of which competes with a newscast in the same timeslot on the MyNetworkTV-affiliated second digital subchannel of WMGT-TV (channel 41)), along with weekday morning weather cut-ins during Good Morning America (which air concurrently with WGXA's two-hour morning newscast from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.), on March 1, 2010; this resulted in an expansion of the station's news department personnel. With the launch of the broadcasts, WGXA rebranded its newscasts under the umbrellaNewsCentral brand (no relation to the now-defunct newscast format used by future owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's stations from 2002 to 2006). These newscasts originally used anchor teams separate from those seen on the main channel's newscasts, but utilize the same reporting staff, weather and sports personnel; eventually, the evening newscasts began using the same anchors that appear on the evening newscasts seen on the main channel. That same day, the station also launched a half-hour early evening newscast, airing at 5:30 p.m. each weeknight on its main channel.

On May 28, 2010, The Macon Telegraph reported that WPGA-TV would drop its weekday morning news/talk/information/entertainment program, which was simulcast on WPGA-FM (100.9) after the July 20 broadcast; the program, hosted by Kenny Burgamy, Charles Richardson and Liz Fabian, began airing on WGXA through a simulcast partnership with WMAC (940 AM) on July 26, airing weekdays from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. on WGXA-DT2 and from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. (airing in simulcast with WGXA-DT2 during the first hour) on the station's main channel.[4] Known as NewsTalk Central, it aired each weekday from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. on WGXA-DT2 and from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. (airing in simulcast with WGXA-DT2 during the first hour) on the station's main channel.

In the summer of 2012, WGXA began producing a half-hour 6:00 p.m. newscast for WGXA-DT2; the station also expanded the early evening newscast on its main channel to one hour and moved it to 5:00 p.m. On October 1, 2012, WGXA launched a new weekday morning newscast (replacing NewsTalk Central, which ended on September 29, 2012); the first 90 minutes of the program airs on WGXA-DT2 from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. with the final two hours airing afterward on the main channel. On September 18, 2013, WGXA rebranded its local newscasts as WGXA News, although it had been used by WGXA's anchor and reporter staff vocally on-air as well as the opening of the station's newscasts alongside the previous NewsCentral title until September 18. On July 27, 2015 the newscast on WGXA-DT2 has been renamed separately "ABC 16 News", while the newscast on the main channel retains the current "WGXA News" title.