WACH, virtual channel 57 (UHF digital channel 48), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Columbia, South Carolina, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WACH maintains studio facilities located on Pickens Street in downtown Columbia, and its transmitter is located on Rush Road (southeast of I-20) in rural southwestern Kershaw County. On cable, the station is available on Time Warner Cable channel 6 and in high definition on digital channel 1206.
After several false starts dating back to 1980, the station first signed on the air on September 1, 1981 as WCCT-TV; founded by Carolina Christian Broadcasting, which also owned WGGS-TV in Greenville, it was the first independent station in Columbia as well as the first commercial television station to sign-on in the market since WIS (channel 10) signed on in September 1953. The station's original studios were located on Sunset Boulevard (US 378) in West Columbia. Initially, it ran religious programming for most of the broadcast day, such as The 700 Club and The PTL Club, and televangelist programs from Richard Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart. It also ran WGGS's locally produced Christian program, Niteline; WCCT eventually began producing its own local version of the show. The rest of the day was taken up by secular syndicated programming, including cartoons, classic sitcoms, westerns, and hunting and sports programs. However, its programming policy was very conservative so as not to offend the sensibilities of its mostly fundamentalist and Pentecostal viewership. Notably, it refused to run any programming that contained any profanity, violence or sexual content.
In 1988, the station was sold to FCVS Communications. On the day FCVS closed on its purchase of channel 57, it changed the call letters to WACH (the WCCT-TV calls are presently used by a CW-affiliated station in Waterbury, Connecticut, serving the Hartford market) and relaunched it as the market's Fox affiliate, branding as "WACH-TV 57" (pronounced as "watch TV 57"). For the first two years of Fox's existence, Columbia residents were only able to watch the network's programming via its Washington, D.C. owned-and-operated station WTTG, which had been available on area cable systems for many years. That station continued to be available on Columbia's two major cable providers, Wometco and TCI, for several years afterward. FCVS significantly upgraded the station's programming, adding somewhat racier programming to the schedule. At first, WACH kept Christian-oriented religious programming on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon and from midnight to 2:00 a.m. per an agreement with Carolina Christian Broadcasting. It also agreed to continue producing and airing Niteline for an hour a day for five years. The program was dropped from the schedule by 1993, along with most of the religious programs. WACH eventually changed its branding to "WACH Fox 57" in the 1990s.
FCVS eventually bought two other stations, WKCH-TV (now WTNZ) in Knoxville, Tennessee and WEVU-TV (now WZVN-TV) in Naples, Florida. FCVS sold its entire television division to Ellis Communications in 1993. Ellis merged with Aflac to form Raycom Media in 1996. Raycom merged with The Liberty Corporation, owner of WIS in 2005. Raycom could not keep both stations because the Federal Communications Commission's duopoly rules forbid the common ownership of two of the four highest-rated television stations in a single market. Additionally, Columbia has only eight full-power stations, too few to permit a duopoly in any case. The FCC requires a market to have eight unique station owners once a duopoly is formed. Ultimately, Raycom opted to keep long-dominant WIS and put WACH on the market. On March 27, 2006, Raycom announced it would sell WACH and 11 other stations to Barrington Broadcasting. The transaction was completed on August 11, 2006.
On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced it would merge with the Sinclair Broadcast Group in a $370 million deal. The sale was completed on November 25.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|57.1||720p||16:9||WACH-DT||Main WACH programming / Fox|
WACH discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 57, 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 48, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 57, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
WACH presently broadcasts 26 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays and a half-hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); WACH is one of the largest Fox affiliates in the country whose primetime newscast does not air for one hour seven days a week (the Saturday and Sunday editions currently run for 30 minutes).
In 1996, NBC affiliate WIS entered into a news share agreement to produce a primetime newscast at 10:00 p.m. for WACH, the first such primetime newscast in the Columbia market and one of the first in South Carolina. For many years, it was one of the highest-rated primetime newscasts in the nation. Under Barrington Broadcasting ownership, the station terminated its news agreement with WIS and established its own in-house news department at its facilities on Pickens Street; WACH assumed production responsibilities for the primetime newscast on March 4, 2007. One month later on April 23, 2007, WACH debuted a three-hour weekday morning newscast from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. titled WACH Fox News Good Day (which was renamed Good Day Columbia in April 2010). In March 2007, longtime 10:00 p.m. co-anchor and managing editor Mike Woolfolk was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Region III of the National Association of Black Journalists.
On September 28, 2009, WACH became the first television station in the Columbia market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in 16:9 widescreen standard definition, alongside the introduction of a new graphics package. Video from within the main studio, field cameras and other station camera feeds are upconverted to a 16:9 widescreen format in the control room. On November 9, 2009, the station debuted a half-hour early evening newscast at 7:30 p.m. weeknights called the WACH Fox Report, which maintained an entertainment-focused format.
In April 2010, WACH introduced a new set and overhauled the graphics for its newscasts; former anchor Arielle Riposta also returned to the station as weeknight co-anchor of the 10:00 p.m. newscast. Woolfolk left WACH in February 2010, with Darryl Hood replacing him as co-anchor of the 10:00 p.m. newscast. In the summer of 2010, Good Day Columbia expanded to four hours with the addition of one hour to the broadcast from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. The WACH Fox Report was concurrently moved to 6:30 and became a more traditional newscast helmed by 10:00 p.m. anchors Darryl Hood and Katie Williams. On July 7, 2011, the station became the fourth and last television station in the Columbia market (and the first Barrington-owned station) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; a new graphics package was phased in over within days of the upgrade. On September 19, 2011, WACH cancelled its 6:30 p.m. newscast, replacing it with syndicated programming. Sinclair's graphics were fully implemented throughout all of WACH's newscasts in October 2015, providing a unified brand and music to the station since the broadcasting group's acquisition.