WBIR-TV, channel 10, is the NBC affiliated television station for East Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky, Swain County, North Carolina and Lee County, Virginia, located in Knoxville, Tennessee. WBIR-TV is owned by Tegna, its studios are located at 1513 Bill Williams Avenue in the Belle Morris section of the city, and transmitter on the broadcasting antenna farm on Sharp's Ridge in Knoxville.

History

WBIR-TV signed on the air on August 12, 1956, as a CBS affiliate, taking that affiliation away from WTVK (channel 26, now WVLT-TV on channel 8). During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.[2] WBIR-TV was originally owned by a consortium headed by J. Lindsay Nunn and his son, Gilmore Nunn, owners of WBIR radio (1240 AM, now WIFA; and FM 103.5, now WIMZ-FM). The station's call letters come from Jesse W. "Jay" Birdwell, who founded WBIR radio in 1941; Birdwell sold the station to the Nunns in 1944.[3] The Nunns shared ownership with WBIR general manager John P. Hart; Knoxville residents Robert and Martha Ashe, and the Taft family of Cincinnati.[4] In October 1959 the Tafts' broadcast subsidiary, Radio Cincinnati, Inc., purchased the remaining 70 percent of the WBIR stations outright from the other parties.[5]

In January 1961 the Tafts sold WBIR-AM-FM-TV to the News-Piedmont Company of Greenville, South Carolina, owner of WFBC-AM-FM-TV in its hometown.[6][7] In 1967, News-Piedmont merged with Southern Broadcasting to form the Southeastern Broadcasting Corporation. Soon afterward, Southeastern sold off most of its radio stations (including WBIR-AM-FM), purchased four more television stations and changed its name to Multimedia, Inc.[9] WBIR shared flagship status with WFBC-TV.

On September 10, 1988,[10] WBIR became an NBC affiliate, swapping affiliations with WTVK just before it moved to channel 8 as WKXT-TV. Ironically, this marked CBS' return to its original affiliate in Knoxville. At the time, NBC was the top-rated network while CBS was in third place near the midpoint of the Laurence Tisch period of that network's history. The biggest reason was that most of Multimedia's stations were NBC affiliates. Companies that own several stations affiliated with the same network generally have more clout with that network. NBC was more than willing to make the switch, since WTVK had been one of its weakest affiliates while WBIR was a solid runner-up to WATE-TV. With the switch, channel 10 became the last major commercial station in Knoxville to change affiliations. The switch also made channel 10 the third station in Knoxville to carry NBC; the network had previously aired on WATE from 1953 to 1979 before moving to WTVK in 1979. Multimedia merged with Gannett in 1995.

For a time in the 1980s, WBIR was seen on several ten-watt translators across East Tennessee and even Virginia. One of them, W04BM, was licensed to LaFollette, Tennessee and operated on channel 4.

In 2008, WBIR-TV debuted new graphics and news music. On June 1, 2011, WBIR-TV and Fox affiliate WTNZ-TV, for whom WBIR-TV was producing a 10 p.m. newscast, debuted a new high-definition news set and weather studio and a full makeover of branding. However, WBIR-TV retained their logo by adding the HD symbol to the right of the logo.

Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WBIR. Gannett threatened to pull WBIR from Dish should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement (WTNZ was not involved in the dispute, as the station is owned by Raycom Media, rather than by Gannett, which continues to produce its newscasts via WBIR).[11][12] The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.[13]

In 2013, WBIR and WTNZ debuted new on air graphics and new music and New logos.

On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WBIR was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.[14]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[15]
10.11080i16:9WBIR-HDMain WBIR-TV programming / NBC
10.2480i4:3WBIR-MEMeTV
10.3Justice Network

The national NBC Weather Plus network is defunct as of December 1, 2008, and was revamped as an affiliate of NBC Plus, utilizing the same graphics as Weather Plus (and is now a computer-updated loop of regional satellite/radar images, current temperatures, and daily forecasts) and without the national on-camera meteorologist segments (though the local OCM segments remained). In late 2011, it was replaced with The Local AccuWeather Channel, branded as "10 Weather Now". On October 8, 2012, it was replaced with MeTV.[16] In early 2015, WBIR added a third digital channel (channel 10.3), which currently broadcasts the Justice Network.

Analog-to-digital conversion

WBIR-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 10, 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 relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 31 to VHF channel 10.[17]

Mobile DTV channel

ChannelPSIP Short NameProgramming
10.10 [18]WBIR-HDMobile DTV Simulcast of 4.1

Programming

Syndicated programming on WBIR-TV includes Dr. Phil, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Doctors, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!.[19]

The Heartland Series

The Heartland Series, hosted by Bill Landry, was a popular documentary series produced by WBIR from 1984 until 2009. It was conceived in 1984 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It continued to celebrate the people and the land of the entire Appalachian region, presenting re-enactments of historic events and feature stories about regional culture.[20] In February 2009, WBIR announced that it would suspend production of the series in September 2009, but would continue to show the hundreds of episodes already produced "for as long as the viewers like them."[20] The last episode was taped at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris on August 8, 2009 before an audience estimated at 10,000 people, one of the largest crowds in the museum's history.[21][3]

During its 25-year history, The Heartland Series received several awards, including four Emmy Awards[3] United States embassies around the world keep tapes of The Heartland Series broadcasts as an information resource on life in Appalachia.[3]

Our Stories

In 2006, WBIR celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special report on some of the past stories captured on WBIR for the past 50 years. These reports were called "Our Stories" and included retrospectives on events such as U.S. Presidents visiting Knoxville and East Tennessee, major crimes and even the 25th Anniversary of the 1982 World's Fair.

Friends Across the Mountains Telethon

WBIR co-produces a yearly telethon with Asheville, North Carolina ABC affiliate WLOS, benefiting Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The proceeds from the telethon help support critical programs and projects in the park. It is co-hosted by WBIR Anchor Emeritus Bill Williams and WLOS anchor Larry Blunt.

News operation

WBIR has been the market leader in East Tennessee for more than 30 years. Specifically, the morning and 6 p.m. newscasts normally get better ratings than WATE and WVLT's newscasts combined. Currently, WBIR has the largest news team in East Tennessee and produces the most news programming in the area.

Prior to September 15, 2008, this show was aired at 5 p.m. on weekdays under the title LIVE at Five. The program focused on community events and celebrity interviews. In 2008, the show was moved to 4 p.m. and was temporarily renamed LIVE at Five at Four with WBIR asking for viewers' opinions on a new name. The quirky temporary name, however, was embraced by viewers and LIVE at Five at Four has remained the brand for the 4 p.m. program. In 2010, LIVE at Five at Four debuted new graphics to better reflect programming shown on the newscast.

Until late March 2011, WBIR-TV produced a 10 p.m. newscast for CW affiliate WBXX-TV. On March 28, WBIR-TV began producing a nightly 10 p.m. newscast for Fox affiliate WTNZ (channel 43). WBIR also begin producing a weekday morning news show at 7 a.m. that begin in June 2012 for that station. Both stations' newscasts began airing in high definition on June 1, 2011, making WBIR and WTNZ the second and third stations in Knoxville to make the upgrade.[3]

On October 28, 2013, WBIR expanded their 10 News weekday noon newscast from 25 minutes to one full hour.

Notable current on-air staff

Former on-air staff

Out of Market Coverage

WBIR is carried on cable television systems in southeast Kentucky, including Community Telecom Services in the Monticello area of Wayne County, Kentucky.[3] The station is also available on Zito Media Cable systems in Knox and Whitley Counties.[3] WBIR-TV is the only Knoxville-based broadcast outlet available on Time Warner Cable systems in the Somerset/Pulaski County area.