WHLT is the CBS-affiliated television station for Southeastern Mississippi's Pine Belt that is licensed to Hattiesburg. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 from a transmitter in northeastern unincorporated Forrest County. The station can also be seen on Comcast channel 10 and in high definition on digital channel 433. Owned by Media General, WHLT maintains studios on U.S. 49 in Hattiesburg. Syndicated programming on the station includes Divorce Court, Family Feud, Andy Griffith, and Cash Cab among others.
While identified as a separate station in its own right, WHLT is actually operated as a semi-satellite of WJTV in Jackson. As such, it clears all network programming as provided by its parent. The station airs some of the same syndicated shows as WJTV but at a different time. In addition, WHLT airs its own local commercials during all programming and legal identifications. Its second and third digital subchannels carry programming from The CW (via The CW Plus) and Ion Television, respectively.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|22.1||1080i||16:9||WHLT-HD||Main WHLT programming / CBS|
|22.2||480i||4:3||THE CW||Hub City CW|
|22.3||ION TV||Ion Television|
In February 1987, the News-Press & Gazette Company (then owner of WJTV) launched WHLT in order to take advantage of local advertising and news opportunities in the Pine Belt region. It also allowed the Jackson-based station's signal coverage area to be expanded in Southeastern Mississippi. In 1993, News-Press & Gazette sold several of its outlets (including WHLT and WJTV) to the first incarnation of New Vision Television.
In turn, the company sold its entire station group to Ellis Communications in 1995. Ellis was subsequently merged into Raycom Media in 1996 after it was bought out by a media group led by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (who bought Aflac's broadcasting group a few months earlier). In 1997, current owner Media General acquired WHLT and WJTV (as well as Savannah, Georgia's WSAV-TV) from Raycom in a swap for Richmond, Virginia's WTVR-TV.
The trade was made in part due to Raycom's acquisition of rival WDAM-TV in Laurel and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules of the time did not permit duopolies. On April 16, 2009, WHLT "flash-cut" its signal after discontinuing analog broadcasts and began digital-only transmission. It originally applied to flash-cut earlier on February 17 but the FCC denied the station's request.
As part of a long-term affiliation renewal with The CW, Media General announced on December 23, 2014 that WHLT will add the network to their digital subchannel. This will displace The CW's previous home on WHPM-DT2. Comcast offers WHLT-DT2 in high definition on channel 1024 for Hattiesburg viewers; although, the high definition Comcast feed for WHLT-DT2 appears to be cable-only, as the feed continues to be broadcast in 480i 4:3 standard definition over-the-air.
In February, 1987, the station launched its fledgling 2 man news operation, covering a major local news story, a deadly tornado in neighboring Jones county. That small beginning led to personnel growth and the production of half-hour newscasts airing weekdays at 6 and 10pm. This evolution grew out of the station's early practice of gathering local news stories and feeding them to sister station WJTV daily (via the back haul of a terrestrial microwave link) for inclusion in one block of WJTV's 6 and 10 PM newscasts. WHLT (in 1998) relaunched a full news department with shows known as 22 Daily News, had the same branding and slogan ("It's About Time") as the product at sister station WIAT in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite attaining decent ratings and winning numerous awards, it was unable to attract local advertising through consistent viewership. As a result, its newscasts were canceled after just two years.
As a semi-satellite of WJTV, WHLT only simulcasts its parent outlet's weekday morning show. The weeknight edition of the CBS Evening News is shown taped-delayed at 6 as opposed to the regular time slot like other CBS affiliates in the Central Time Zone.
On October 2013, WHLT began offering a thirty-minute local newscast which airs weeknights at 10PM. This program features three personalities based out of its Hattiesburg facility that share multimedia journalist responsibilities such as editing video and producing. During the second block, there is local weather weather segment (branded as "Storm Team 22") focusing on the Pine Belt that originates from WJTV's Jackson studios.