WJXT, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 42), is an independent television station located in Jacksonville, Florida, United States. The station is owned by the Graham Media Group subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company. WJXT maintains studio facilities located at 4 Broadcast Place on the southbank of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, and its transmitter is located on Eve Drive in the city's Killarney Shores section.
As a CBS affiliate
The station first signed on the air on September 15, 1949 as WMBR-TV; it was the second television station to sign on in the state of Florida (after WTVJ) and the first that was licensed outside of Miami. The station was co-owned alongside WMBR radio (1460 AM, now WQOP; and 96.1 FM, now WEJZ). Though the station was originally a primary CBS affiliate, it also maintained secondary affiliations with NBC, ABC and the DuMont Television Network. In 1953, the WMBR stations were purchased by The Washington Post Company. WMBR-TV dropped the DuMont affiliation in 1955, less than a year before the network ceased operations. Since its only competition in the Jacksonville market came from UHF station WJHP-TV (which signed on in 1953 and went dark three years later), channel 4 had a virtual television monopoly in northern Florida until September 1957, when it lost the NBC affiliation to upstart WFGA (channel 12, now WTLV).
The Washington Post Company sold off WMBR-AM-FM in 1958, while it kept the television station, whose callsign it changed to the current WJXT. WJXT remained a primary CBS and secondary ABC affiliate until WJKS-TV (channel 17, now CW affiliate WCWJ) took the ABC affiliation upon its sign-on in February 1966, leaving WJXT exclusively aligned with CBS. For much of its tenure as a CBS affiliate, WJXT was the only station affiliated with the network that was located between Savannah, Georgia and Orlando, Florida and was thus carried on many cable systems between Jacksonville and Orlando.
In 2001, WJXT was awarded the local broadcast rights to Jacksonville Jaguars preseason football games, replacing WTLV as the official station for the NFL franchise (WTLV had carried preseason games and Jaguars-related programs starting with the team's 1995 inaugural season); the deal also included carriage of the team's coaches show and other Jaguars-related television programs. The station had already been airing Jaguars games since 1998, when CBS gained the national broadcast rights to football games from the NFL's American Football Conference division. That year, speculation arose that WJXT would become an independent station after it had only reached a one-year affiliation renewal with the network, instead of a four- to eight-year affiliation agreement that stations usually obtain from the major broadcast networks.
During negotiations between Post-Newsweek Stations and CBS on a new affiliation agreement in early 2002, CBS supplied Post-Newsweek with a list of demands that would have resulted in WJXT no longer receiving monetary compensation for the carriage of the network's programming (CBS was moving toward a reverse compensation model for its affiliates during this time) and would have required the station to run the entire CBS network schedule in pattern without pre-emptions, except for extended local breaking news and severe weather coverage. Station and Post-Newsweek company management believed these stipulations would come at the expense of local programming. Rather than give in to CBS's demands, Post-Newsweek Stations announced on April 3, 2002 that it would not to renew channel 4's affiliation agreement with CBS, which was set to expire on July 10.
UPN affiliate WTEV-TV (channel 47, now WJAX-TV) – at that time, owned by Clear Channel Communications – subsequently signed an agreement with CBS to become the network's new Jacksonville affiliate two weeks after WJXT’s disaffiliation announcement on April 23, 2002. The affiliation switch became official at 5:00 a.m. on July 15, 2002, ending WJXT's 53-year association with CBS. The shift made Jacksonville one of the only television markets in the United States with all six major broadcast networks at the time (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and The WB) having affiliations with only five stations in a six-station market (which remains the case with UPN and The WB's successors The CW and MyNetworkTV in the present day), the only market in which each affiliate of the Big Four networks are controlled by two companies (the Gannett Company currently owns WTLV and ABC affiliate WJXX (channel 25); at the time, Clear Channel owned both Fox affiliate WAWS (channel 30, now WFOX-TV) and WTEV, Cox Media Group presently owns WFOX outright and operates WJAX under joint sales and shared services agreement), and one of the few markets where an analog-era VHF station has no network affiliation while the market's other commercial stations (one VHF and five UHF) do.
As an independent, WJXT expanded its news programming and began filling daytime, primetime and late night timeslots that were formerly occupied by CBS programs with additional syndicated programming, as well as replacing network sports coverage with SEC college football and basketball telecasts from Jefferson Pilot Sports (now Raycom Sports). WJXT retained rights to Jaguars preseason games for one additional year following the switch, despite the fact that the AFC regular season and playoff football games had moved to WTEV due to national broadcast rights held by CBS and a contract stipulation that reserved the team the right to move local broadcasts of preseason games and other Jaguars programs to another station if WJXT changed its network affiliation. The team cut ties with WJXT after the 2002 NFL preseason and moved its preseason games to WTEV-TV in 2003.
WJXT does not entirely follow the same "Local" branding scheme as its Graham Media sister stations, although it uses the on-air slogan "The Local Station", and in 2014, the station adopted a slanted logo similar to WDIV-TV, but with elements of its previous boxed 4, alongside changing its news branding to News 4 Jax.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||720p||16:9||WJXT-HD||Main WJXT programming|
On June 12, 2009 at 8:55 a.m. (during its broadcast of the weekday morning newscast The Morning Show), WJXT terminated its analog signal, on VHF channel 4, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 42. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WJXT's virtual channel as 4.
WJXT anchor/reporter Melanie Lawson reported live from WJXT's Kilarney Shores transmitter site as a veteran station technician pushed the "plate off" button in the building at the base of the transmitter. The WJXT analog signal had transmitted from that site for over two decades following a failure on the original transmitter tower at the station's 4 Broadcast Place studios. The station's digital transmitter also broadcasts from the same site, alongside the digital transmitters of NBC affiliate WTLV and ABC affiliate WJXX. Several monitors at WJXT's southbank studios were reported by on-camera talent to have gone out upon the digital switchover.
WJXT presently broadcasts 55 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 9½ hours on weekdays, 4½ hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to local news programming, it is the third-highest newscast output among Florida's television stations, behind Fox stations WTVT/Tampa and WSVN/Miami (which respectively broadcast 61 and 61½ hours of newscasts each week). In addition, the station produces the public affairs program This Week in Jacksonville, which airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. and the sports highlight program Sunday Sports Zone, which airs Sunday evenings at 10:30 p.m.
Because of the ownership structure of the Jacksonville market's Big Four network affiliates, WJXT is the only television station in the market whose news department operates independently of the other local stations (WTLV and WJXX have jointly produced their newscasts since WTLV owner Gannett's 2000 purchase of WJXX and the resulting consolidation of their news departments, and WAWS transferred production duties of its news department to SSA partner WTEV following that station's 2002 affiliation switch to CBS).
Channel 4 used the Eyewitness News format for its newscasts for 38 years from 1967 to 2005, when its newscasts were retitled to the current Channel 4 News (from 1997 until the station became independent in 2002, WJXT identified as News Channel 4 for general branding purposes, while the Eyewitness News title continued in use for its newscasts). WJXT has been the dominant news station in Jacksonville for almost half a century, in part because many of its personalities have been at the station for ten years or more. Its evening news team of anchors Tom Wills and Deborah Gianoulis, chief meteorologist George Winterling and sports director Sam Kouvaris were together for 22 years from 1981 until Gianoulis' retirement in 2003 – one of the longest-running anchor teams in the nation at the time. Upon becoming an independent station, channel 4 adopted a news-intensive schedule that retained all existing newscasts, while tacking two additional hours onto its weekday morning program and adding a 6:30 p.m. newscast on weeknights (the former two replacing The Early Show and the CBS Evening News) and a 10:00 p.m. newscast seven nights a week (airing for an hour on weeknights and a half-hour on weekends).
On January 14, 2009 beginning with its noon newscast, WJXT became the first television station in the Jacksonville market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (unlike most stations that transition their newscasts to HD, certain newscasts were not upgraded until later dates: the 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts would not upgrade to HD until two days later on January 16; the weekend newscasts on January 17 and the weekday morning, and 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts respectively upgraded to HD on January 26 and 28). The upgrade saw the introduction of new on-air graphics (opens were designed in-house at Detroit sister station WDIV-TV, while the graphics were designed at Miami sister station WPLG) and news music (commissioning an updated version of the "WJXT News Theme", a customized package that was originally used from 1995 to 1997, and was composed specifically for the station by Gari Media Group), as well as the upgrade to robotic and computer-operated cameras for studio segments within its newscasts, the automation of its control room using the Miranda Vertigo system and Ignite technology.
On April 23, 2009, George Winterling announced he would semi-retire after nearly 47 years as WJXT's chief meteorologist. On May 20, 2009, Winterling stepped down as meteorologist for the station's 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts. Winterling remains with the station in a meteorologist emeritus role, and is seen only during severe and tropical weather coverage and serves as a fill-in for other meteorologists.
On May 21, 2012, Metro Jacksonville, a news and discussion blog on local urban issues, announced that it would enter into a content partnership with WJXT. Under the agreement, Metro Jacksonville will format content for WJXT's News4Jax.com website on a self-branded page. The mutually beneficial partnership provides WJXT with more web content and provides Metro Jacksonville with a wider audience. On October 28, 2013, WJXT expanded its weekday morning newscast to 5½ hours, with the addition of an hour to the program from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Notable current on-air staff
- George Winterling (AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist Seal of Approval) – WJXT's hurricane expert (chief meteorologist from 1962–2009; now semi–retired)
Notable former on-air staff
- Bryan J. Kelly – traffic reporter (now announcer for the WWE and its developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling as "Byron Saxton")
- Steve Kroft – investigative reporter (1975–1977; now with CBS News as correspondent for 60 Minutes)
- Randall Pinkston – reporter (1974–1976; now with Al Jazeera America)
- Toni Yates – weekend anchor (now at WABC-TV in New York City)