WCNC-TV

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WCNC-TV
NBC Charlotte.png
Charlotte, North Carolina
BrandingNBC Charlotte (general)
NBC Charlotte News (newscasts)
SloganLooking Out For You
ChannelsDigital: 22 (UHF)
Virtual: 36 (PSIP)
TranslatorsW30CR-D Biscoe
W24AY-D Lilesville
AffiliationsNBC
Live Well Network (DT2)
OwnerBelo Corp.
(sale to Gannett Company pending)
(WCNC-TV, Inc.)
First air dateJuly 9, 1967
Call letters' meaningCharlotte, North Carolina
(and Carolinas' News Channel)
Former callsignsWCTU-TV (1967-1971)
WRET-TV (1971-1980)
WPCQ-TV (1980-1989)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
36 (UHF, 1967-2009)
Former affiliationsindependent (1967-1978)
Transmitter power791 kW
Height577 m
Facility ID32326
Transmitter coordinates35°20′49″N 81°10′15″W / 35.34694°N 81.17083°W / 35.34694; -81.17083
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license information:Profile
CDBS
Websitewww.wcnc.com
 
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WCNC-TV
NBC Charlotte.png
Charlotte, North Carolina
BrandingNBC Charlotte (general)
NBC Charlotte News (newscasts)
SloganLooking Out For You
ChannelsDigital: 22 (UHF)
Virtual: 36 (PSIP)
TranslatorsW30CR-D Biscoe
W24AY-D Lilesville
AffiliationsNBC
Live Well Network (DT2)
OwnerBelo Corp.
(sale to Gannett Company pending)
(WCNC-TV, Inc.)
First air dateJuly 9, 1967
Call letters' meaningCharlotte, North Carolina
(and Carolinas' News Channel)
Former callsignsWCTU-TV (1967-1971)
WRET-TV (1971-1980)
WPCQ-TV (1980-1989)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
36 (UHF, 1967-2009)
Former affiliationsindependent (1967-1978)
Transmitter power791 kW
Height577 m
Facility ID32326
Transmitter coordinates35°20′49″N 81°10′15″W / 35.34694°N 81.17083°W / 35.34694; -81.17083
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license information:Profile
CDBS
Websitewww.wcnc.com

WCNC-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station in Charlotte, North Carolina. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 (virtual channel 36.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter in north-central Gaston County, North Carolina. Owned by Belo, WCNC maintains studios in the Wood Ridge Center office park, off Billy Graham Parkway in south Charlotte just east of the Billy Graham Library (adjacent to the headquarters of NBC News' satellite news service NBC News Channel). Its signal is relayed on low-powered translators W30CR-D in Biscoe and W24AY-D in Lilesville. Syndicated programming on WCNC-TV includes Judge Judy, The Doctors, Jeopardy!, and Wheel of Fortune.

History[edit]

Original Channel 36 allocation[edit]

The first station on the channel 36 frequency in Charlotte signed on in December 1953, and was known as WAYS-TV and then WQMC-TV. However, it made no headway against WBTV (channel 3) because television set manufacturers were not required to include UHF tuning capability. It left the air in March 1955. A plan to return it to the air under different ownership in 1957 was unsuccessful. Cy Bahakel bought the station's license in 1964 and returned it to the air as WCCB, which broadcast on channel 36 before moving to its final analog location on channel 18 in 1966.

Early history[edit]

The current incarnation of channel 36 debuted on July 9, 1967, as WCTU-TV, owned by Twisdale-Steel Stations. It was North Carolina's first independent station, beating Hickory's WHKY-TV by only a few months.

WCTU was a typical UHF independent, airing a lineup of cartoons, sitcoms, old movies and sports. It was also the original home of Jim Bakker's television ministry after he broke off from Pat Robertson and CBN. The station hit hard times financially and was sold to Ted Turner in 1970. Turner renamed it WRET-TV (after his initials, Robert Edward Turner). He significantly upgraded the station's programming and made it profitable almost immediately, as he did in Atlanta with what became WTCG, and later WTBS (the station is now owned by the Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary of Time Warner, and is now operated by the Meredith Corporation through a local marketing agreement with CBS affiliate WGCL-TV). Briefly, Turner tried putting WRET on cable systems outside the immediate Charlotte area, as he did with his Atlanta station, via microwave transmission; this effort was not quite as successful as WTCG's was in states adjacent to Georgia.

WRET-TV logo from the 1970s.

In 1978, ABC moved its Charlotte affiliation from WCCB to the higher-rated WSOC-TV (channel 9). Conventional wisdom suggested that the longer-established WCCB should have taken the NBC affiliation from WSOC-TV. However, in a considerable upset, NBC moved its affiliation to WRET-TV, even though channel 36 had been on the verge of closing down earlier in the decade. NBC chose WRET over WCCB as its new affiliate on the basis of a commitment by Turner to invest $2.5 million in upgrading the station, increasing its signal strength and launching a local news department comparable in size to channel 9's, and twice the size of WCCB's existing small-scale operation. WCCB's owner, Cy Bahakel, was not willing to spend the money required to make the upgrades NBC wanted.[1] (This was the first news operation ever owned by the future founder of CNN.) Within a few months, Action News 36 had become competitive with longer-established WBTV and WSOC-TV. Robert D. Raiford was the first news anchor. Upon becoming a network affiliate, Turner sold about half of WRET-TV's programming to WCCB, including older sitcoms, movies and most of its inventory of syndicated cartoons.

Group W era[edit]

Former logo under Group W ownership

Turner's ambitious ownership of the station would not last long, however. In 1980, he sold WRET-TV to Westinghouse Broadcasting (also known as Group W), using the proceeds to start CNN. The $20 million sales price was then the highest ever paid for a UHF station. Westinghouse changed the call letters to WPCQ-TV (People [of the] Carolinas [and the] Queen [City]), and added more syndicated game shows and talk shows to its lineup. It was Group W's only station on UHF, and at the time the only one not located in a top-25 market (however, due to the area's large population growth since then, Nielsen Media Research ranks Charlotte the 23rd-largest market as of fall 2010).

Under Westinghouse, channel 36 went into a ratings slump that lasted for almost two decades. Despite the record purchase price, Group W did not have much interest in financing the station. The news department was significantly cut back. Group W immediately dropped the station's weekend news programs, and moved the 11 p.m. newscast to 12:30 a.m. before canceling it altogether in 1981. The early evening newscast was shifted between the 5:30 and 6 p.m. time slots until the fall of 1982, when it was canceled as well. For the remainder of Group W's ownership, the station's only remaining local news programming consisted of a half-hour broadcast at noon, hourly cut-ins, five-minute local inserts during the Today show, a weekly magazine program and occasional specials. Network news also suffered; WPCQ dropped NBC Nightly News on weekends in 1980, and on weeknights in 1982 (making it the only NBC affiliate not to carry Nightly News). The David Brinkley-anchored NBC Magazine, an early-1980s attempt to compete with 60 Minutes, was bumped from its prime-time network time slot to Sunday at midnight in Charlotte. Even Westinghouse's own productions were not guaranteed an audience on the station; Group W's nationally popular PM Magazine had been seen on WBTV since before Westinghouse's purchase of WPCQ, while Hour Magazine moved to WBTV after being canceled due to low ratings on WPCQ.

By the fall of 1982, and for the rest of Group W's ownership, the station's programming lineup and on-air look resembled those of an independent station rather than a major-network affiliate. In addition to airing minimal news programming, the station pre-empted significant amounts of NBC's schedule, probably figuring that local ad revenues would be much higher than network payments, which were comparatively small due to low ratings. Its daytime and late afternoon lineup consisted mostly of syndicated cartoons (long after other major-network affiliates in markets of Charlotte's size dropped cartoons from their daytime schedules) and reruns of 1960s and 1970s situation comedies. Local pre-emptions of network programs were common practice for Group W's affiliates, even though NBC was historically far less tolerant of this than the other networks at the time. However, in contrast to WPCQ, most of Group W's other stations (including its two NBC affiliates) turned profits, ran full-time newscasts, and aired Group W's syndicated programs but still aired most of their network's programming.

Not long after Group W took over, it reduced channel 36's transmitter power to only 100,000 watts, far lower than expected for a major-network affiliate on UHF. It only provided grade B coverage of many inner-ring suburbs (such as Gastonia and Rock Hill) and was virtually unviewable over-the-air in much of the South Carolina and western portions of the market.

For most of the 1980s, WPCQ was the third station in what was essentially a two-station market, even though this was a very prosperous period for NBC as a whole. Besides having to compete with WBTV and WSOC-TV, it also lost significant audience share to WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, WIS-TV in Columbia and WFBC-TV/WYFF in Greenville, all of which were much longer-established NBC affiliates on the VHF band and whose grade B signals reached into the outer portions of the Charlotte market. For instance, many viewers on the South Carolina side of the market got a better signal from Columbia's WIS, whose transmitter is 80 miles south of Charlotte, even though WPCQ's transmitter was only 20 miles north of the state line.

Renaissance and Journal[edit]

WCNC-TV's former news logo, used from 1996 to 2006

Renaissance Broadcasting bought the station from Group W in 1984. NBC Nightly News returned to the schedule in the spring of 1985, but the local newscast at noon was discontinued. It also dropped cartoons from the weekday schedule, though syndicated reruns continued to make up a significant portion of the station's daytime programming. In September 1986, WPCQ relaunched a full-fledged news department. At first, the station scheduled its early-evening newscast for 5:30 p.m., knowing at the time that it couldn't hope to compete with WBTV and WSOC-TV at 6 p.m. After a few fits and starts, it became the first truly successful attempt at a drive-time newscast in the Charlotte market. In 1987, WPCQ expanded the 5:30 news to one hour, and added a 6 p.m. newscast on weekends.

Renaissance gave WPCQ a significant technical facelift. For many years, WPCQ had operated from a transmitter and tower located at its studio in the Hickory Grove neighborhood of northeast Charlotte. However, in 1987 it built a more powerful transmitter and tower in Dallas, near WBTV's tower. It boosted the signal to 2.1 million watts. Not long afterward came another power boost to 5 million watts, the maximum power allowed for a UHF station by the FCC. This gave it a coverage area comparable to WBTV and WSOC-TV. WPCQ heavily promoted its stronger signal, billing itself as "Coming in Proud and Clear!" For a brief time, it was the most powerful station in Charlotte, until WJZY (channel 46) signed on from a nearby tower later in 1987.

Renaissance sold WPCQ to The Providence Journal Company in 1988. Journal Broadcasting renamed the station WCNC-TV (for Charlotte, North Carolina) on September 3, 1989 and added a distinct 6 p.m. newscast to the weeknight schedule. On the same day of the call letter change, it moved to channel 6 on all Charlotte area cable systems, and began promoting itself as "WCNC-TV 36, Cable 6." In 1991, the station moved to its current studios. From 1995 to 2003, the station was known on-air as NBC6, after its cable location. It continued to call itself "channel 6," using the branding WCNC 6, until 2007, four years after dropping the NBC6 moniker.

Despite making a more credible effort at news than ever before, WCNC continued to drag along in the ratings until Journal Broadcasting merged with Belo in 1997.

Belo ownership[edit]

WCNC-TV's news logo from 2006 to 2008.
WCNC-TV's "NewsChannel 36" logo from 2008-2012.

When Belo took over in 1997, it invested large amounts of money in the station. Among the improvements were new sets, a news helicopter, a powerful live Doppler weather radar system and other equipment. Following its sale to Belo, WCNC began poaching talent from the other major stations. The first major hire came when Terri Bennett moved from WSOC-TV. Bennett had been in the running for the chief meteorologist spot upon Ray Boylan's retirement, but channel 9 opted instead to hire Steve Udelson, chief weatherman at WFLA-TV in Tampa. Bennett left the station in the fall of 2007 when her contract was not renewed; Boylan filled in at WCNC until Bennett's non-compete clause was up. Sonja Gantt, formerly of WBTV, was lured back to her hometown from Chicago, where she had been working at WGN-TV.

On October 30, 2009, WCNC broke the record for most Halloween costume changes during a local news program, during its weekday morning newscast, with 11 costumes worn by the station's morning anchor team. Jeff Campbell, Colleen Odegaard, producer Natalie Ridley and Larry Sprinkle were involved in setting the record.[2]

In 2008, after one year of referring to itself simply with its call letters, WCNC changed its branding to "NewsChannel 36." In 2012, the branding was changed once again to "NBC Charlotte." WCNC's reasoning for the change was that few people actually watched the station on channel 36.[3] On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo.[4]

Digital television[edit]

WCNC-TV's advertisement for a DTV test transmission.
ChannelPSIP Short NameVideoAspectProgramming
36.1WCNC-HD1080i16:9Main WCNC-TV programming / NBC
36.2WCNC-LW480iLive Well Network

WCNC 36.2 had carried NBC Weather Plus; national network feeds for this service ceased operation in December 2008. In January 2009, it became known as the First Warn Storm Channel, an in-house version of NBC Weather Plus. On November 8, 2010, First Warn Storm Channel was replaced with Live Well Network.

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WCNC-TV ended analog operations on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition in the United States.[5] The station now broadcasts on channel 22.

News operation[edit]

WCNC-TV's "NewsChannel 36" logo used until fall 2012.

In recent years, WCNC has been one of the country's most frequent recipients of Regional Emmy and Edward R. Murrow Awards. In 2011, WCNC won an award for its investigative reporting. Critical acclaim has not been rewarded with a ratings win, however; for most of the time since relaunching a full-fledged news department in 1986, the station has been in third place.

For much of the 2000s, it waged a spirited battle with WBTV for second place behind WSOC-TV, though it has recently returned to a distant third place in most timeslots. However, it almost ties WBTV at 6 a.m. WCCB's 10 p.m. newscast also draws a larger audience than WCNC's at 11 p.m. [1] WCNC receives its highest viewership in Mecklenburg County (home to Charlotte itself), and it actually leads WSOC and WBTV in higher income neighborhoods in Charlotte (as opposed to the outlying suburbs and rural counties).

In late 2005, WCNC debuted the Charlotte market's first 4:30 p.m. newscast, creating a two-hour local news block from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. In 2007, the station phased out its longtime brand of 6News and rebranded itself as "WCNC, the Carolinas' News Connection." In August 2008, it rebranded once again to NewsChannel 36, making it the first time that WCNC had used its over-the-air channel number in its branding in 12 years. In September 2008, WCNC moved its 4:30 p.m. newscast to 4 p.m., with Judge Judy filling the newscast's former timeslot; the program later expanded to one hour in January 2012, while simultaneoutly shortening its hour-long noon newscast to a half-hour.

On May 18, 2009, WCNC began broadcasting its local newscasts in 16:9 widescreen standard definition; this change came alongside the revamping of the station's on-air news graphics. WCNC is the only Charlotte station which broadcasts its local newscasts in widescreen but has not yet upgraded to full high definition. On July 16, 2012, during the station's 4 p.m. newscast, WCNC debuted a new state-of-the-art news set that features 21 monitors, interactive areas and an "electronically based" weather center; the set can also change themes for the appropriate time.[6] In 1999, the station's news department was chronicled in a five-part PBS documentary series Local News.

Newscast Schedule[edit]

Weekdays
Saturdays
Sundays

News staff[edit]

Current on-air staff & Shows [7][edit]

'Name''Main Role''Time Frame''Other Roles'
Chris ClarkChief Sports ReporterWeekdays 11-11:35pmFriday Night Football 11:13-11:35pm Friday's
Amy CowmanMorning News Anchor Weekends5-7am & 9-10amField Reporter
Ira CroninMorning News Anchor4:30-7am Monday-Friday
Meghan DanaheyMeteorologist6-6:30pm & 11-11:35pm WeekendsFill-in Traffic Reporter
Anjanette FlowersEvening News Anchor5-5:30pm Monday-FridayMillion Dollar Mansion segment/ Digital Media Center Fill-In
Sonja GanttEvening Anchor4-5pm & 6-6:30pm Monday-Friday
Ramona HollowayCharlotte Today Anchor11am-12pm Monday-Friday107.9 Anchor 3-7pm Weekdays
Dion LimEvening News Anchor5-5:30pm & 11-11:35pmField Reporter / Coming Up & Dion's Daily Deals during 4pm newscast
Bill McGintyEvening News Anchor5-5:30pmGet McGinty during all newscast's
Colleen OdegaardAnchor Charlotte Today11am-12pm Monday-FridayToday's Take during 4pm
Russ OwensSports Reporter6-6:30 & 11-11:35pm Weekends
Brad PanovichChief Meteorologist4-6:30pm & 11-11:35pm
Erin PowellDigital Media Center 4pm-6:30pm newscast's
Heather SheldonTraffic Reporter4:30-7am Monday-FridayFreelance 4pm-6:30pm Traffic Reporter
Larry SprinkleForecaster4:30-7am & 12-12:30pm Monday-FridayLarry's Look during 4pm Newscast/ Field Reporter
Ben ThompsonEvening News Anchor6-6:30pm & 11-11:35pm WeekendsWeekday Reporter
Dave WagnerEvening News Anchor5-5:30pm, 6-6:30pm & 11-11:35pm Monday-FridayHost of Flashpoint Sunday's 11-11:30am/ World News during 4pm Show
John WendelMeteorologist5-7am & 9-10am WeekendsUNCC Teacher

Other Team Members:

Notable former on-air staff[edit]

Out-of-market cable carriage[edit]

In recent years, WCNC has been carried on cable in multiple areas outside of the Charlotte media market. That includes cable systems within the Greensboro market in North Carolina, the Greenville and Myrtle Beach markets in South Carolina, and the Tri-Cities market in Tennessee.[12]

References[edit]

External links[edit]