WCTV is the CBS-affiliated television station for the Big Bend of Florida and South Georgia in the United States. Licensed to Thomasville, Georgia, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 46 (or virtual channel 6 via PSIP) from a transmitter in unincorporated Thomas County, Georgia, southeast of Metcalf, along the Florida state line. Owned by Gray Television (effectively serving as the flagship station of the company), WCTV has studios on Halstead Boulevard in Tallahassee, Florida (along I-10).
WCTV was Tallahassee and southwest Georgia's first, and until 1960 (WFSU-TV), only television station. The station first signed on on September 15, 1955, using channel 6, from studios on North Monroe Street in Tallahassee. WCTV was originally owned by John H. Phipps. Although it has always considered itself a Tallahassee station, it was licensed to Thomasville because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had allocated only one VHF channel to Tallahassee, channel 11.
Florida State University had managed to have the FCC reserve that channel for noncommercial use so it could put WFSU-TV on the air. UHF was not considered viable at the time. Until the 1964 FCC requirement that all new sets have all-channel capability, UHF stations were un-viewable without a converter, and even with one, the picture quality was marginal at best. Additionally, the FCC had just collapsed a large portion of southwest Georgia into the Tallahassee market, and UHF stations have never carried well across large areas.
Hoyt Wimpy, owner and founder of WPAX radio in Thomasville, persuaded the FCC to grant the Phipps family a license for channel 6 in Thomasville, the nearest city to Tallahassee that had a VHF allocation available. This could provide city-grade coverage of Tallahassee and north central Florida as well as southwestern Georgia. By this time, the FCC had changed its regulations to allow a station to operate its main studio outside its city of license. As a result, WCTV has been a Tallahassee station from the very beginning. However, it operated a live studio in Thomasville for many years.
The station originally carried programming from all three networks, but was a primarily an NBC affiliate. After only a year on the air, it switched to CBS and has been affiliated with that network ever since. However, it carried a secondary ABC affiliation. It is still the only commercial VHF station in the market (the only other VHF stations are PBS members WFSU-TV, still on channel 11, and Georgia Public Broadcasting's WXGA-TV on channel 8). It was the only commercial station in the area until WECA-TV (now WTXL-TV) began operations in 1976 and took the ABC affiliation.
It was owned by the Phipps family until being sold to Gray Communications, now Gray Television, in 1996. Gray's purchase of WCTV forced the company to sell WALB-TV, its flagship station in Albany, because WALB's signal has city-grade quality in most of the Georgia side of the market (including Thomasville and Valdosta). WALB had doubled as the NBC affiliate for Tallahassee until WTWC signed on in 1983. In 2004, Gray purchased WSWG in Valdosta, a UPN affiliate for the Albany market. The station dropped UPN in September of that year and is now a CBS affiliate as a semi-satellite of WCTV (see below). The acquisition created a strong combined signal with just under 50% overlap. WCTV had been the default CBS affiliate for Albany for many years.
In March 2006, WCTV moved from its longtime studios on County Road 12 in northern Leon County (approximately midway between Tallahassee and Thomasville) to new facilities on Halstead Boulevard in Tallahassee. The location formerly housed the now-defunct Florida's News Channel, a cable-only operation. On February 17, 2009, WCTV shut off its analog signal on channel 6, and became digital-exclusive on UHF channel 46.
WSWG, in Valdosta, Georgia, operates as a semi-satellite of WCTV. As such, that station transmits all CBS programming and most local newscasts (see below) as provided by its parent but airs separate commercials and legal identifications. Syndicated programming differences between WCTV and WSWG include the airing of The Meredith Vieira Show at 3 p.m. (as opposed to WSWG showing the program at 4) and The Dr. Oz Show at 4 o'clock (while WSWG broadcasts it at 5 p.m.). Although master control and most internal operations of WSWG are based within WCTV's facilities, that outlet does maintain an advertising sales office on 2nd Avenue Southwest in Moultrie, Georgia.
Even though WSWG technically serves as the CBS affiliate for the Albany, Georgia market, its over-the-air broadcasting radius reaches just short of Albany proper. This forces the station to rely on cable and satellite for most of its viewership. Ironically, WCTV's more powerful digital signal does reach into Albany itself. Despite WSWG being a semi-satellite of WCTV, it operates two digital subchannels (serving as the MyNetworkTV/MeTV and CW affiliates for the Albany market) that are programmed separately.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|6.1||1080i||16:9||WCTV-DT||Main WCTV programming / CBS|
|6.2||480i||4:3||WCTVDT2||MyNetworkTV & Decades|
WCTV has traditionally been the market's dominant station in the ratings due in part to the fact that it was the only commercial station in the area until WTXL's launch. WTWC has never been a contender in the market because its two attempts to air local newscasts were both unsuccessful. The second news department operated by that station (lasting from 1997 until 2000) was ultimately shuttered due to poor viewership and budget cuts.
WSWG transmits all local newscasts from WCTV, except for weeknights at 5 and 5:30. Although that station does not produce any separate southwestern-Georgia-specific segments during the simulcasted shows, WCTV operates a news bureau in Valdosta on East Central Avenue/U.S. 84/U.S. 221. It formerly maintained bureaus in Thomasville on North Broad Street, and in Moultrie at WSWG's sales office.
WCTV's reporter assigned to southwest Georgia does not use any localized WSWG identification. Ironically, there is no actual news coverage of Albany itself provided by WCTV despite WSWG technically being its CBS affiliate. There is, however, severe weather coverage for all of the Albany market when conditions warrant (such as during a tornado warning). WCTV upgraded its news production to high definition level on August 3, 2009 and the simulcasts on WSWG were included in the switch.
Through a news-share agreement, WCTV produces local newscasts for the area's Fox affiliate WTWC-DT2 (owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group). This includes an hour-long weekday show known as Fox 49 Morning News (seen from 7 until 8 a.m.) that offers a local alternative to the national broadcasts airing on the big three networks. There is also a nightly thirty-minute prime time newscast known as Fox 49 News at 10. All news programming can be seen in high definition (down-converted to air in WTWC-DT2's 720p format) featuring a different graphics package and music theme than WCTV. The shows originate from this station's primary set at its studios but with unique duratrans indicating the Fox-branded shows.