WTVC is the ABC television affiliate in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 9 from a transmitter on Signal Mountain in the town of Walden. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the station has studios on Benton Drive in Chattanooga. Sinclair also operates This TV/Comet affiliate WDSI-TV (owned by New Age Media) and CW/MyNetworkTV affiliate WFLI-TV (owned by MPS Media);
On Comcast cable systems, the station is aired on channel 10. On EPB Fiber Optics, it airs on channel 9 and 309.
The station signed on-the-air in 1953 as WROM-TV, a NBC affiliate licensed to Rome, Georgia, with signal coverage that originally favored Chattanooga. It transmitted a full-powered analog signal on VHF channel 9 at 316,000 watts from a tower on Horseleg Mountain west of Rome. WROM-TV also had secondary affiliations with CBS, the ABC, and the DuMont Television Network. The station lost CBS when WDEF-TV signed on in 1954. WROM-TV then carried NBC, ABC, and DuMont until 1956 when Dumont went off-the-air and WRGP-TV (now WRCB-TV) signed on and took the NBC affiliation. At that time, ABC opted for secondary affiliations with WDEF and WRGP because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had reduced WROM-TV's Grade A signal, which had made it difficult to be picked up in Chattanooga. WROM-TV continued as an independent station until late 1957. During its tenure as a Rome station, it claimed to be "Dixie's Largest Independent." The station ran a late-afternoon and prime-time schedule of old movies, "hillbilly" music performances (which were common on southern TV stations in the 1950s) and occasionally, ABC TV network fare such as "Omnibus."
Martin Theaters of Georgia, Inc. (forerunner of Carmike Cinemas) bought the station in 1957 and in December of that year, took it off the air to move the transmitter 70 miles (110 km) north to Chattanooga. Martin Theaters had petitioned the FCC and was granted permission to operate on a new Channel 9 allocation in Columbus, Georgia, but ran into government regulations. FCC rules mandated a certain amount of separation for stations on the same channel and WROM's Grade-B signal reached Columbus. The FCC normally did not allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping signals, and the move to Chattanooga by WROM-TV satisfied the co-channel restriction.
The Chattanooga-Columbus channel reallocation was part of the last huge FCC national channel reallocation that saw channel numbers in the Southeast switch not only in Chattanooga and Columbus, but also in Dothan and Montgomery, Alabama; Greenwood, Tupelo, and Laurel, Mississippi; Florence, South Carolina and High Point, North Carolina.
Ironically, Rome lost a second television frequency 40 years later, when WZGA (UHF channel 14, now today's WPXA-TV) moved its operations to Atlanta after several years of operation. However, unlike WROM-TV, channel 14 still has its license in Rome. WROM is still on the air on AM 710. WPXA (now carried on digital channel 31, but still virtually mapped to 14) is still licensed to Rome, while a digital fill-in translator for WSB-TV from Atlanta is licensed to Rome on digital channel 14, but mapped virtually to channel 2.
Channel 9 returned to full-power as ABC affiliate WTVC in Chattanooga on February 11, 1958. Until the 2009 digital television transition, it continued to operate under WROM's old FCC license. Chattanooga also became one of the smallest television markets in the country to have three VHF stations. The station is the only station in Chattanooga to have never had a secondary affiliation with another network.
WTVC developed a strong reputation for local programming in its early years. Among the shows that WTVC pioneered was the children's educational show Funtime with Marcia Kling. Shock Theater which aired on Saturday nights developed a cult following with WTVC Programming Director Tommy Reynolds dressed up as Dracula with the moniker "Doctor Shock" alongside his irreverent sidekick "Dingbat". The Bob Brandy Show which aired in the afternoons featured cartoons and kids activities hosted by WTVC advertising executive Bob Brandy, his wife Ingrid, and their horse Rebel.
In 1969, Martin Theaters was sold to Augusta, Georgia businessman J.B. Fuqua. Fuqua also owned WJBF-TV in Augusta, WTVW in Evansville, Indiana, and KTHI-TV (now KVLY-TV) in Fargo, North Dakota. Over the next few years each station was sold with WTVC being purchased in 1980 by the Belo Corporation of Dallas, Texas. In 1984, Freedom Communications bought the station along with KFDM in Beaumont, marking the newspaper chain's second television acquisition. Belo had to put WTVC and KFDM on the market after it announced plans to purchase Corinthian Broadcasting from Dun & Bradstreet in order to comply with the FCC-mandated ownership limit of five VHF television stations which was in effect at the time.
The first studios for WTVC were located at its transmitter site on Signal Mountain. In 1960, it moved to new facilities in the Golden Gateway Shopping Center in downtown Chattanooga next to a Zayre department store. Over the years, however, the station outgrew the building. In 2000, WTVC moved into new digitally-equipped 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) studios located adjacent to the Highway 58 / Highway 153 interchange.
Following the purchase of non-license assets from Fox affiliate WDSI-TV by Sinclair, its Fox affiliation and programming moved to WTVC's second digital subchannel.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|9.1||720p||16:9||WTVCABC||Main WTVC programming / ABC|
WTVC shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, 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 35 to VHF channel 9 for post-transition operations.
Currently, WTVC airs 24 hours and 30 minutes of news each week. That includes five hours and 30 minutes each weekday, and 2 hours on weekends. In the event of special sports coverage overlapping news time, the station streams a live newscast on its website. The station also airs a public affairs show, "This-N-That". Longtime personality Don Welch hosted the show until his retirement in 2014. Brian Smith was named the new host for the show that airs at 12:30 weekdays, which has a weather segment and news updates whenever necessary.
Through the late-1960s and mid-1970s, WTVC branded its newscasts under the Eyewitness News label. In 1975, this switched to Action News. In the late-1980s, it was one of the first stations in the country to adopt the NewsChannel branding.
In the early 1990s, WTVC produced a 10 P.M. newscast for then-independent WFLI-TV but that was eventually cancelled. In 1994, the station began airing a nightly 10 o'clock broadcast on Fox affiliate WDSI-TV using station meteorologists, sports anchors, news reporters and news video, while WDSI provided separate news anchors. In 2000, that station launched its own news department and aired local news on weekday mornings, weekday afternoons at 4, and nightly at 10. In 2004, the news department at WDSI closed down and a news share agreement with WTVC was re-established. Since then, this station has been producing Fox 61 First At 10 on WDSI. With the acquisition of WDSI-TV and Fox programming, the 10 PM newscast is now branded "First at 10 on Fox Chattanooga."
From the 1960s through the 1970s, WTVC newscasts were usually in last place, but it was not until new owners Belo took over, that the ratings began to favor WTVC. Since the mid-1980s, WTVC had waged a spirited battle with WRCB for first place in the local news ratings weekdays, while WDEF has usually trailed both stations. On March 1, 2014, WTVC launched the area's second-only weekend morning newscast. Named Good Morning Chattanooga Weekend, the broadcasts will air from 6:00-7:00 and from 8:00-9:00 a.m. The weekend editions of Good Morning America will be sandwiched in between at 7:00 a.m.