WBNA, virtual channel 21 (VHF digital channel 8), is an affiliate of the Ion Television network, located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The station is owned by local (Pentecostal) megachurch Evangel World Prayer Center. WBNA maintains offices located on Fern Valley Road (just north of State Route 1747) in Okolona, and its transmitter located off Oakcrest Drive in Shepherdsville (as such, WBNA – along with CW affiliate WBKI-TV (channel 34) – are the only full-power television stations in the Louisville market whose transmitter facilities are not based at the Kentuckiana tower farm in Floyds Knobs, Indiana). On cable, WBNA is available on Time Warner Cable and Comcast channel 21, and in high definition on Time Warner Cable digital channel 916.
WBNA-TV's sign-on marked the first signal on analog Channel 21 in Louisville since the demise of WKLO-TV (ABC-DuMont) in July, 1953. The station first signed on the air on April 2, 1986, as the second full-power independent station in the Louisville market. WBNA originally offered mostly local and national religious programming. When WDRB (channel 41) joined Fox eleven months later in May 1987, WBNA became the only independent in Louisville until WFTE (channel 58, now WMYO) signed on in March 1994. It gradually mixed in some secular programs as well, mostly consisting of older movies.
The station became a charter affiliate of The WB when the network launched on January 11, 1995. However, Evangel felt chagrin at The WB's decision to pick up several programs that it believed offended the sensibilities of channel 21's mostly fundamentalist and Pentecostal viewership, such as nighttime soap Savannah, supernatural dramas Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and sitcom Unhappily Ever After. WBNA opted to pre-empt these programs and fill these timeslots with syndicated or religious programming. The WB soon regretted aligning with a conservative religious station, and began making plans to move its programming elsewhere. In 1998, Campbellsville-based WGRB (channel 34, now WBKI), which had been serving as the WB affiliate for the southern portion of the Louisville market for just over a year, became the market's primary WB affiliate. At the same time, it announced plans to build a new transmitter tower (which was activated in 2000) that would not only improve its coverage within Louisville itself and some adjacent areas, but give it at least grade B signal coverage in most of Kentucky. WBNA then became a charter affiliate of the new family-oriented network Pax TV—later i and now Ion—in September 1998, shortly after the network launched.
WBNA is one of the few stations that carries programming from Ion Television as an affiliate of the network, instead of being an owned-and-operated station. It is the largest Ion Television station by market size that is not owned by network parent Ion Media Networks. In addition, the station is licensed to Louisville proper rather than an outer-ring suburb, as is the usual case with Ion stations. Due to Evangel's commitment to the network, WBNA is free to carry additional networks on its digital signal's bandwidth (as described below) rather than being beholden to carrying all of the five networks (Ion, Qubo, Ion Life, infomercial service Ion Shop, QVC and the Home Shopping Network) that are carried on Ion-owned stations.
WBNA does not carry the full Ion schedule, and has not cleared additional broadcast hours that have been added by the network since 2008 (the network currently airs general entertainment programming daily from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. in the Eastern Time Zone; however, religious and secular programs pre-empt much of the network's daytime schedule on WBNA). For instance, the early afternoon schedule includes a repeat of NBC affiliate WAVE-TV (channel 3)'s 11:00 a.m. newscast at 1:00 p.m., and syndicated programs distributed by Debmar-Mercury, including Supreme Justice with Judge Karen Mills, Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, in timeslots normally slotted for general entertainment programs carried by Ion. During the early evening hours, the station also airs a rebroadcast of Lexington NBC affiliate WLEX-TV's 6:00 p.m. newscast and other local programs (also in lieu of Ion's entertainment programming in the 7:00 p.m. hour). The station also splits the network's Qubo block (which counts towards FCC E/I requirements) over two days; one half-hour of the block airs on Friday mornings in its recommended timeslot, while two additional 90-minute blocks air respectively on Saturday mornings and afternoons on a tape delay.
Syndicated programs broadcast on WBNA include Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, Supreme Justice with Judge Karen Mills and The Beverly Hillbillies. In addition, WBNA broadcasts collegiate basketball games involving the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Those game broadcasts originate from the Bowling Green-based Hilltopper IMG Sports Network's television division.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|21.1||720p||16:9||WBNA-DT||Main WBNA programming / Ion|
|21.3||WBNA-D3||God TV / The Light|
In contrast to Ion Television's owned-and-operated stations, which only carry the five Ion-transmitted networks, WBNA also carries programming from the Retro Television Network, GOD TV and GetTV on additional subchannels as it only serves as an affiliate of Ion. Daystar programming was previously carried on WBNA during overnight and some daytime timeslots, in place of Ion's paid programming and programs such as the weekend Knife Show home shopping block. Some of Ion's late night programming (past 11:00 p.m.) is carried on the Retro TV subchannel, while the main WBNA channel carries overnight religious programming.
In late July 2009, WBNA replaced the Ion-provided feed of The Worship Network on digital subchannel 21.4 with the Retro Television Network. In October 2009, WBNA launched "The Light" on a sixth digital subchannel; the locally programmed service carries a mix of local church services and other worship programming, originally intermixed within the Daystar schedule, especially during time periods in which Daystar programming aired over the station's main channel.
Several changes occurred in late April 2011 in order to accommodate technical upgrades to transmit the station's main channel in 720p high definition: WBNA dropped Daystar and Ion Life, as well as their respective subchannel slots on 21.5 and 21.6; it also began carrying GOD TV programming over "The Light" and integrating the service onto digital channel 21.3. GOD TV and "The Light" programming now airs on WBNA's main channel during timeslots where Daystar programming previously aired, while in some early afternoon periods, the main channel carried RTV programming, which was eventually replaced with the rebroadcast of WAVE's midday newscast and Debmar-Mercury-distributed syndicated programs. The station has additionally refused all of Ion's teleshopping channels, which include Ion Shop and QVC and HSN's over the air simulcasts that air on Ion's owned stations.
WBNA discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 21, 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 VHF channel 8. Channel 8, however, has been problematic for many digital TV stations. WBNA's lower power signal and shorter antenna tower in Bullitt County, KY, delivers a much weaker city signal than the other full-power DTVs (and many Class A and LPTVs), which transmit from the 900+ foot bluffs of Floyds Knobs, IN. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 21. WBNA is only one of two Louisville television stations that broadcasts its post-transition digital signal on the VHF band, along with WHAS-TV (channel 11).
As part of the SAFER Act, WBNA kept its analog signal on the air until June 26 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.