WLUC-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station for Michigan's Central Upper Peninsula licensed to Marquette. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 35 (PSIP virtual channel 6.1) from a transmitter on South Helen Lake Road southeast of Republic in rural Marquette County. The station can also be seen on Charter channel 6 and in high definition on digital channel 785. Owned by Gray Television, WLUC has studios on US 41/M-28 in Negaunee Township.
On April 28, 1956, Channel 6 signed in as WDMJ-TV, the Upper Peninsula's first television station. The station carried programming from all three networks offered at that time, but was a primary CBS affiliate. WDMJ was owned by the Daily Mining Journal along with WDMJ radio (1320 AM). Its studios were on the top floor of the Mining Journal building on Washington Street in Downtown Marquette. The station quickly outgrew its facilities. In 1959, the station moved into its current studios in Negaunee. In 1964, it was sold to Post Corporation, owners of WLUK-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who changed the calls to WLUC-TV to match its moniker at the time "Lucky 6". Some locals would say it actually meant "With Luck You C TV"). WLUC first aired network programs in color in 1963, and with the purchase of color video tape equipment, it began broadcasting all locally produced programs in color in 1969. The station moved its transmitter to southeast of Republic in 1980 and dismantled the original one near its current studios in Negaunee.
WLUC has been affected several times by television shakeups in Green Bay, since rival station WJMN-TV in Escanaba is a semi-satellite of Green Bay-based WFRV-TV. For example, it dropped NBC programming in 1969 when WJMN signed on. In 1983, when WJMN-TV (along with parent station WFRV-TV) switched from NBC to ABC, WLUC took a secondary NBC affiliation. When CBS bought WFRV in 1992 and switched it from ABC, WLUC became a primary ABC station with secondary NBC affiliation. It became solely NBC in 1995 when WLUK and WGBA-TV exchanged affiliations. As a result, it is one of the few stations in the country to have been with all of the big three networks. WLUC also carried some Fox programs in the early 1990s before WLUK switched to the network.
WLUC-DT2 signed-on at some point in late-2005 (under Raycom Media ownership) carrying The Tube Music Network. After that network shut down on October 1, 2007, due to a lack of advertising, NBC Weather Plus was added. Later, Weather Plus was dropped in favor of Universal Sports. Throughout its association with those three services, WLUC-DT2 was carried on Charter digital channel 306. In late 2005 following Raycom's purchase of The Liberty Corporation, the company announced WLUC would be sold along with fellow NBC station WPBN-TV and full-time satellite WTOM-TV serving the Northern Lower and Eastern Upper Peninsula. The sale was necessary to help meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restrictions on station ownership. On March 27, 2006, Raycom sold 12 of its stations (including WLUC) to Barrington Broadcasting. The FCC approved the deal in June 2006 and the purchase closed August 11. WLUC joined WPBN/WTOM, Saginaw's WEYI-TV, and Toledo's WNWO-TV as part of Barrington's family of stations in and around Michigan.
Like many other Barrington-owned stations (including WTOM), WLUC operates a rather low-powered (83 kW) UHF signal which has a much smaller coverage footprint than its former analog station. Its over-the-air digital signal covers less than half of the designated market area (DMA). Therefore, WLUC relies on cable as well as satellite carriers DirecTV and Dish Network to distribute programming to the entire area.
In July of that year, WLUC announced it would begin carrying Fox on its second digital subchannel starting August 17. It replaced Universal Sports which was relegated to late-night hours while programming from America One was added in a secondary nature. The subchannel replaced WZMQ (formerly WMQF) as the area's Fox affiliate after it temporarily suspended programming when its previous owner Equity Media Holdings declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. WZMQ is now back on-the-air after it was sold to new owners, switching to This TV, and moving MyNetworkTV to a new second digital subchannel.
Although subject to blackout restrictions, WLUC-DT2 was scheduled to carry 12 Green Bay Packers and eight Detroit Lions football games during the 2009 season. In addition to the Fox subchannel from WLUC, the network is available in the Upper Peninsula over-the-air from WLUK in Menominee County and via a low powered digital translator of that station in Escanaba. WLUK is carried by Charter in the West and Central Upper Peninsula along with WLUC-DT2 except in Gogebic County which is covered by KQDS-TV from Duluth, Minnesota. The Eastern Upper Peninsula is covered by WWUP-DT 10.2 (a standard definition digital simulcast of WFQX-TV in Cadillac).
In August 2012, WLUC and Fox UP became the official affiliates of the Green Bay Packers Television Network for the Marquette–Escanaba market, taking over for WJMN, which lost the rights to team programming as the last contract ended, which was included as a part of WFRV's official station status in the Green Bay market. The station carries preseason games on the "state network" (as the Packers Television Network has been traditionally called), along with the team's Tuesday night coach's show and other official team programming.
On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced the sale of its entire group, including WLUC, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. The sale was completed on November 25. After 30 years of separate ownership, WLUC and WLUK in Green Bay were briefly reunited as sister stations on December 19, 2014, when Sinclair purchased WLUK and WCWF as part of required sales of stations by LIN Media in order to merge with Media General, which already owned Green Bay's WBAY-TV.
On October 1, 2015, Gray Television announced that it would acquire WLUC-TV from Sinclair; in return, Sinclair would receive WSBT-TV in South Bend, Indiana from Gray. The swap, part of Gray's acquisition of the broadcasting assets of Schurz Communications (owner of WSBT), was necessary as Gray already owns WNDU-TV in South Bend. The sale was completed on February 16, 2016. A few months later, Gray acquired Green Bay station WBAY-TV and, should that deal close, that will result in a new sister station in that market for WLUC.
With 16% of the area's population of Finnish descent (down from about 25% in the 1960s), WLUC produced the only Finnish-language program in the United States, Finland Calling (Finnish: Suomi Kutsuu). The station started the show on March 27, 1962, at the suggestion of a local travel agent who sought to boost travel to Scandinavian countries. Since its beginning, the show was hosted by Carl Pellonpaa, then a newsman at the station. Pellonpaa retired from news operations but continued to host the show. Early editions of the show were produced live and featured books, photographs, and Finnish music. Camera operators had to learn a few words of Finnish just to be able to follow the show.
The one-hour weekly Sunday morning program regularly featured Finnish visitors to the region including two Presidents of Finland, the Prime Minister, a number of ambassadors, consuls general of Finland, members of the country's parliament, numerous entertainers, choirs, teachers, and students among others. Pellonpaa hosted 22 tours to Finland and dozens of dances featuring Finnish music. In 1988, he was awarded the Order of the White Rose from then President Mauno Koivisto for hosting the program and for the number of tourists that the program inspired to visit Finland.
WLUC used the same multicolored "6" logo for many years from as early as the early 1990s until September 2008. From about 1989 until 1992, a similar metallic-looking "6" was used with a rainbow slash underneath. The rainbow, while used with on-air promos and the news open, was never used on mic flags during this time. From the time WLUC went on the air in 1956, network logos were always separate from the channel logo. That changed in 1992 when the ABC ball was lodged inside the "6".
When the station switched to primary NBC in 1995, it simply replaced the ABC logo with the letters "NBC" rather than place the network's peacock alongside the "6" as many NBC affiliates do. The logo design, however, became somewhat dated at that point and as the years went on. From this point until abandoning the rainbow "6", one may have accidentally thought WLUC was an ABC affiliate. On September 8, 2008, it phased out its "multicolored" 6 logo and went with the letters "TV 6" inside an oval tilted to the right. It also changed its longtime slogan from "Someplace Special" (used since 1992) to "Upper Michigan's Source".
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||1080i||16:9||WLUCNBC||Main WLUC-TV programming / NBC|
WLUC-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, 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 35, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 6.
WLUC is rebroadcast on W14EM-D (formerly W07DB) channel 7 in Marquette in order to extend its primary signal; the translator is used for areas of Marquette that get a poor reception from the station's main transmitter.
For its entire existence, WLUC has held the number-one spot in local Nielsen ratings by a wide margin. Its news has won awards including two Certificates of Merit from the Good News Awards in 2012. WLUC has a much larger news department than either of its competitors; ABC affiliate WBUP has only been airing newscasts continuously since 2004 (an earlier attempt was abandoned due to low ratings and budget cuts), and CBS affiliate WJMN-TV did not offer coverage of its home territory until April 21, 2014. Prior to that date, WJMN did not employ any news personnel in the state of Michigan. WJMN did air brief Upper Peninsula-specific news and weather updates produced at WFRV's facilities in Green Bay.
After WLUC-DT2 initially added Fox, it offered a nationally syndicated newscast weeknights at 6:30. The program was produced for America One by the Independent News Network from studios on Tremont Avenue in Davenport, Iowa. This was eventually dropped in favor syndicated programming as the subchannel developed more. Starting September 8, 2009, WLUC-DT2 began airing a local weeknight prime time broadcast (known as Your Fox UP News in Primetime) from a new secondary set. New segments such as viewer feedback, daily polls, and other features were introduced. There is no regular sports segment seen in the show although a quick update can be given on teams with local and regional interest. The broadcast competes with one airing at the same time on CW affiliate WBKP (produced by WBUP).
Unlike most NBC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, WLUC does not air a midday news or broadcasts weeknights at 5:30. In addition to its main studios, the station operates bureaus in Escanaba (on Ludington Street), Iron Mountain (on South Stephenson Avenue/US 2/US 141), and Houghton (on Shelden Avenue/US 41). The Iron Mountain Bureau also serves Kingsford while the Houghton Bureau also serves Hancock. Although there is no weekend morning show, WLUC repeats the previous night's late news on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
WLUC began broadcasting its news in 16:9 widescreen in April 2013. WLUC indicated that it had installed new cameras and upgraded its equipment. The station also rolled out a new intro and graphics package which gives it a feel of larger market TV stations.