WCLF, virtual channel 22 (UHF digital channel 21), is a CTN owned-and-operated television station serving Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, United States that is licensed to Clearwater. The station is owned by the Christian Television Network. WCLF maintains studio facilities located on 142nd Avenue in nearby Largo, and its transmitter is located near Riverview.
WCLF operates as the flagship station of the nationwide Christian Television Network, which has owned-and-operated and affiliated stations throughout the Southeastern and the Midwestern United States. WCLF and CTN present programs produced in-house, such as the long-running children's show Joy Junction (which, in the early-1980s, had their version of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" as its theme) and the late-night discussion and call-in show, You and Me. In the late 1980s, the station used outdated equipment to produce these shows but nonetheless some of WCLF's programming are also seen on other networks such as TBN and Daystar, while WCLF and CTN presents programs from other religious broadcasters such as The 700 Club.
The station was founded by businessmen headed by Bob D'Andrea, a local electric contractor who became a born again Christian when he was 18. The group, which included representatives from the Lakeland First Assembly of God church, initially sought for the channel 28 allocation in Tampa, but failed when faced with competing applications for the channel, including one for what would become WFTS-TV.
After the original group disbanded, D'Andrea formed another group, Christian Television, Inc., and pursued another open channel allocation in the Tampa Bay area, channel 22 in Clearwater. In the interim while awaiting approval by the Federal Communications Commission, the group began production of original programming, which was initially seen in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area on WKID-TV (now WSCV) during prime-time, with the time bought from the station; the group also produced television programs for Tampa Bay area churches that were seen on other stations. After approval was obtained by the FCC, the group began construction of new studio facilities on land donated by the Florida Beacon College, a local Christian college of whom D'Andrea was also president. The station would eventually sign on the air on October 24, 1979, initially in temporary quarters while its studios, which opened in January 1980, were being completed.
The station's first program director was Bob Wells, who relocated from Cleveland, Ohio after a long stint as weatherman and comedy personality for WJW-TV. Wells and his wife, Barbara, also co-hosted an evening 90-minute Christian-themed interview, music and news program on WCLF called Horizons 22. According to Wells, after a board member of WCLF objected to them on the show as lacking in spirituality (saying, "They look good, they sound good, but I just don't feel The Spirit moving there"), Wells and his wife were let go from WCLF after only three months. Later, John Wesley Fletcher, a founding member of the board of WCLF (and the one who objected to the Wells), was implicated in sex scandals involving PTL Club co-host Jim Bakker. Wells has expressed relief that he and his wife were no longer involved with the station by that time.
Prior to the 2009 digital transition, when it moved its transmitter to the Riverview antenna farm, the station broadcast its signal from the transmitter facilities at 4217 Stewart Avenue in Holiday in southwestern Pasco County previously used by WTSP (channel 10).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|22.1||1080i||16:9||WCLF TV||Main WCLF programming / CTN|
|22.2||480i||4:3||CTNi||CTNi (Christian programming in Spanish)|
|22.3||CTN||CTN national feed|
|22.4||Lifesty||LifeStyle Family TV (Christian-based family entertainment)|
On area cable providers, only the main WCLF feed is offered; all of its digital subchannels are only available over-the-air.
WCLF shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 22, on February 17, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television (which Congress had moved the previous month to June 12). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 21, using PSIP to display WCLF's virtual channel as 22 on digital television receivers.