WGCL-TV, virtual channel 46 (UHF digital channel 19), is a CBS-affiliated television station located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by the Meredith Corporation; Meredith also operates independent station WPCH-TV (channel 17) under a local marketing agreement with owner and Time Warner subsidiary Turner Broadcasting System. The two stations share a studio located on 14th Street in northwestern Atlanta; WGCL-TV's transmitter is located near North Druid Hills. WGCL-TV is the second-largest CBS-affiliated station by market size (WUSA being the largest) that is not owned and operated by the network. On air, the network and news division operates under the brand "CBS 46 Atlanta" with Sharon Reed and Ben Swann as the anchors of the local news broadcasts.
Channel 46 first went on the air on June 6, 1971 as WHAE-TV (standing for "Heaven And Earth"), originally owned by the Continental Broadcasting Network arm of evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. The station originally broadcast for six hours each day, and offered a low-budget lineup consisting of one to two hours of general entertainment programs, mixed with religious programming (the latter of which also constituted the entire Sunday schedule). In 1972, the station expanded to an eight-hour-a-day schedule, with an additional two hours of entertainment shows daily, mainly programs that higher-rated stations and Ted Turner's WTCG passed on.
By 1976, the station had expanded to a 20-hour daily schedule, airing secular syndicated shows and religious programming (including twice daily airings of The 700 Club). In the fall of 1977, the station changed its call letters to WANX-TV (standing for "Atlanta IN Christ (X)"). While it began offering more secular programming around this time, its programming policies were considerably more conservative than the other two major Atlanta independents, WTCG/WTBS (now WPCH-TV) and WATL (channel 36). Because of Robertson's beliefs, it did not air any programming that would offend the sensibilities of its mostly fundamentalist and Pentecostal audiences. This policy would also guide programming choices for CBN during the 1980s and 1990s.
Tribune ownership and CBS affiliation
Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting acquired Channel 46 in late 1983, after which its call letters were changed once again on March 15, 1984, this time to WGNX; the new callsign reflected a connection with Tribune's Chicago flagship station, WGN-TV (whose own callsign refers to the slogan of the Chicago Tribune, "World's Greatest Newspaper"). Airings of The 700 Club on the station were reduced to once per day, before the show was dropped altogether – until channel 46 acquired the local rights to the program again in 2007. Under Tribune ownership, the new WGNX significantly upgraded its programming, picking up more racier programs than those allowed to air on the station under CBN ownership. The station formed a news department in 1989, airing a 10 p.m. newscast on weeknights, alongside the Tribune-distributed syndicated newscast Independent Network News.
On November 2, 1993, Time Warner's Warner Bros. Television division and the Tribune Company announced the formation of The WB Television Network. As part of the deal, Tribune announced its then-seven independent stations, including WGNX, would join the new network as charter affiliates. WGNX was slated to join The WB upon that network's launch on January 11, 1995. Around the same time that The WB launched, the United Paramount Network (originally owned by Chris-Craft Industries, before becoming a joint venture with Paramount Pictures/Viacom in 1996) was set to launch as a competitor to The WB, with WATL as the most likely choice to be that network's Atlanta affiliate.
However, those plans were suddenly altered on May 22, 1994, when New World Communications signed an affiliation agreement with the Fox Broadcasting Company, months after Fox won the NFL broadcast contract to run football games from the league's National Football Conference. Most of the New World stations became Fox affiliates as a result, including Atlanta's longtime CBS affiliate, WAGA-TV (channel 5). CBS needed to find a new affiliate in what had become the nation's ninth largest media market, and approached all of Atlanta's major stations, including WGNX. However, none of them were interested at first.
By October 1994 – only a month before WAGA-TV was slated to join Fox – CBS faced the prospect of having to pipe in WRBL in Columbus, and WMAZ-TV in Macon, WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, South Carolina and WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee for cable customers until it found a new Atlanta-area affiliate. Almost out of desperation, CBS made a deal to buy WVEU, a low-rated station on channel 69 with the weakest signal of Atlanta's full-power stations. However, this was only a contingency, since CBS preferred to move its programming to a higher-profile station. It continued to negotiate with Tribune, especially since WGNX was the only non-Big Three station in Atlanta with a functioning news department. Tribune relented in November and allowed WGNX to become a CBS affiliate.
The affiliation switch became official on December 11, 1994. It was originally slated to occur on November 27, but Fox, New World and CBS were still ironing out the final details. Upon becoming a CBS affiliate, the station began airing more syndicated talk and reality shows; it also began branding itself as "CBS46" (these references were mostly verbal as on-air graphics continued to refer to the station as "channel 46"). It also significantly increased its news output. The move to CBS left WGNX with a large number of syndicated cartoons and sitcoms it no longer had time to air. It sold most of its syndicated programs to WVEU, which became the market's UPN affiliate (and was later sold to Viacom, who changed that station's callsign to WUPA). The WB affiliation was ultimately taken by WATL.
With the switch from WAGA to WGNX, CBS lost significant viewership in the northern portion of the Atlanta market. Despite its five million-watt analog signal, WGNX did not penetrate nearly as far into this area as WAGA did because of the relatively mountainous terrain that is found in that part of northern Georgia. Much of this region was among the few areas in the United States where cable was still not readily available. CBS did not return over-the-air to this area until Toccoa's WNEG-TV (channel 32, now WGTA) joined CBS the following August. Although it was located in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, WNEG served as the de facto CBS affiliate for the far northern portion of the Atlanta market as well as the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market's western fringes until that station's sale to the University of Georgia in 2008. By this time, increased cable and satellite availability in this area increased channel 46's footprint in the area. Tribune began to manage the station in tandem with WATL in 1996 under a local marketing agreement.
Meredith Corporation ownership
In 1998, Tribune Broadcasting traded WGNX to the Meredith Corporation in a three-way deal that saw Tribune acquire Tacoma, Washington's KCPQ from Kelly Broadcasting; that deal allowed Tribune to buy WATL outright the next year. Around the same time, WGNX changed its branding to "CBS Atlanta". The station changed its callsign to WGCL-TV on July 4, 2000 to reflect its new slogan, "We're Georgia's CLear TV", along with a soft news concept called Clear News. After two years, WGCL rebranded as "CBS Atlanta" again, before re-adopting the "CBS 46" moniker only several months later.
On June 20, 2007, WGCL's website underwent a redesign because of a partnership between Meredith and Internet Broadcasting, following the successful testing of the websites of five of its sister stations, which had joined the Internet Broadcasting platform the year before. WGCL's website was the sixth Meredith station website to switch from being run by WorldNow to Internet Broadcasting. Meredith's contract with IB expired in June 2011, with the Meredith station sites becoming operated by WorldNow again. WGCL and Fox-affiliated sister station WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina, were the first Meredith-owned stations to relaunch with the new WorldNow-operated sites on June 6, 2011.
In March 2009, Meredith announced that WGCL would begin handling the master control operations of both WHNS and Nashville's WSMV-TV. The new master control hub began operations in the fall of 2009. Three other Meredith-owned stations, in Kansas City, Hartford-New Haven and Bay City, Michigan, were later added to the WGCL hub in 2010. Meredith operates a similar hub at KPHO-TV in Phoenix to handle its Las Vegas and Portland stations. On March 12, 2011, WGCL-TV, as well as WSB-TV, became the first stations in the Atlanta area to begin offering Mobile DTV broadcasts.
On January 18, 2011, Meredith Corporation entered into a local marketing agreement with the Turner Broadcasting System (owner of WPCH-TV) that would result in WPCH vacating its studios on Techwood Drive and merging its operations with WGCL at its studios in the city's Home Park neighborhood. Production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was also transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South as a result. The LMA with Meredith ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" in 2011. Ironically, while WPCH is the junior partner in the arrangement, the station (formerly known as WTCG until 1980 and WTBS from 1980 to 2004) was the stronger of the two stations until the late 1980s.
The change in ownership didn't make much of a difference in WGCL's ratings. It has spent the last two decades since the affiliation switch as one of CBS' weakest affiliates and has usually been the weakest "Big Four" affiliate in Atlanta, a significant change from the days when WAGA was one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the nation. The ratings struggles have continued even as Atlanta's growth made WGCL the network's largest affiliate (i. e., the largest CBS station in terms of market size not owned and operated by the network). Although it usually rates fourth behind WSB-TV, WAGA and WXIA-TV (channel 11), in recent years it has challenged WXIA for third place.
On September 8, 2015, Media General announced it would acquire Meredith and take the name "Meredith Media General". The deal would have brought WGCL under common ownership with NBC affiliate WSAV-TV in Savannah, ABC affiliate WJBF in Augusta, and fellow CBS affiliate WRBL in Columbus. However, on January 27, 2016, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General, resulting in the termination of Meredith's acquisition by Media General.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|46.1||1080i||16:9||WGCLDTV||Main WGCL-TV programming / CBS|
|46.3||4:3||WGCLDT3||Grit (TV network)|
WGCL-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 46, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 19, using PSIP to display WGCL-TV's virtual channel as 46 on digital television receivers. Although the DTV Delay Act extended the mandatory shutdown of analog television until June 12, WGCL-TV applied to the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to shut down the analog signal on the original deadline of February 17. However, the station did not appear on the FCC list of such stations, which was released on February 11 (WATC (digital channel 57) and WGTV (digital channel 8) were the other local stations on this list). The station applied to be an "analog nightlight" station, ending its regular programming on June 12 as required by law, but continuing to broadcast information regarding the digital transition for an additional two weeks until June 26.
After this, WYGA-CA may be allowed to increase its analog low-power signal on adjacent channel 45, as it was forced from channel 55 by MediaFLO, and has been operating on special temporary authority at very low power to protect adjacent-channel WGCL from signal interference. WSB-TV 39 (2.x) may be also allowed to begin transmitting a co-channel digital fill-in translator from south of Gainesville. Both are pending FCC approval of their applications, and WSB also filed for an STA to begin as soon as possible after WGCL ended analog transmissions.
WGCL-TV has multiplexed additional digital subchannels on its over-the-air transmitter during the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship period during select days and time periods in March. This is done in order to broadcast several basketball games in progress simultaneously carried by CBS Sports. The subchannels, which can number as many as three, have a typical video resolution of 480i at 4:3 aspect ratio. In March 2009, only one subchannel (46.2, labeled WGCLDT2) was used. Since then, no subchannels have been needed because the additional games in progress are now broadcast on TBS and TNT because of a deal between CBS, the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting.
Although WGCL operates WPCH-TV under a local marketing agreement, effectively making them sister stations, WGCL may air CBS network programs whenever it is unable to air them in the event of extended breaking news or severe weather coverage, or locally scheduled special event programming on CW owned-and-operated station WUPA instead as time permits (one such example being during WGCL's August 24, 2013 broadcast of an NFL preseason game between the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams). WGCL was the home for the Atlanta Falcons preseason games in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, the Falcons' preseason games moved to WUPA.
On March 20, 2015, Meredith announced the eventual addition of Grit, a network mainly airing western and action programming to channel 46.3. Three days later, NBC Owned Television Stations and Meredith announced the addition of their classic network Cozi TV to WGCL, which eventually began to air on WGCL-DT2.
Notable current on-air staff
Notable former on-air staff
- John Doyle – weathercaster (1997–2005)
- Tony Harris – anchor (2003–2004); now on-air at Al Jazeera
- Dagmar Midcap – weather anchor/reporter (2007–2010), now at KNSD-TV/San Diego
- Toni Neal – traffic reporter (2004)
- Chau Nguyen – general assignment reporter (2000–2003)
- Jane Robelot – anchor (1999–2003); now reporter/substitute anchor at WYFF-TV/Greenville, South Carolina
- Brandon Rudat – anchor (2010–2013), now anchor at KTVK/Phoenix, Arizona