WHEC-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 10, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Rochester, New York, United States. The station is owned by Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting. WHEC-TV's studios are located on East Avenue in Downtown Rochester, and its transmitter is located on Pinnacle Hill in Brighton, New York.
In March 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded the construction permit of Rochester's second VHF station to two local firms who competed for the open channel. In what was the first arrangement of its kind, the Gannett Company, then the Rochester-based publisher of the Democrat and Chronicle and the Times-Union and owners of CBS Radio Network affiliate WHEC (1460 AM); and the Veterans Broadcasting Company, owners of WVET radio (1280 AM, now WHTK), were granted shared operation of channel 10; the two separately-owned stations would use the same broadcast license and transmitter, but broadcast from separate studios.
Both stations–Veterans-owned WVET-TV, based at the Central Trust Building; and Gannett-owned WHEC-TV, with studios at the Bank of Rochester building, both in downtown Rochester–commenced operations on November 1, 1953. The combined channel 10 operation carried a primary affiliation with the CBS Television Network, and also carried ABC programs on a secondary basis. The WHEC stations moved from the Bank of Rochester building to WHEC-TV's present location, on East Avenue, in May 1958.
On November 15, 1961, the split-channel, shared-time arrangement ended as Veterans sold its half of channel 10 to Gannett. Veterans subsequently acquired its own, fully owned station, WROC-TV (then on channel 5) from Transcontinent Broadcasting. The completion of the deal made WHEC-TV the sole occupant of the channel 10 frequency in Rochester. The following year WHEC-TV became a full-time CBS affiliate, as the ABC affiliation moved to newly signed-on WOKR (channel 13, now WHAM-TV). In 1966, channel 10 was one of the founding members of the "Love Network" that aired the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon every Labor Day until 2012, when it moved from first-run syndication to ABC and was renamed the MDA Show of Strength, and ended in 2014 when MDA discontinued the event on May 1, 2015. WHEC-TV was the creator of the "cut-ins" that local stations insert into the national telethon, a concept that has since spread across the country.
Gannett split up its radio/TV holdings in 1971 when WHEC radio was sold to Sande Broadcasting, a locally based group (the station is now known as WHIC). Channel 10 was allowed to retain the WHEC-TV call letters, and would remain as the Gannett Company's lone broadcast holding until 1979 when Gannett sold the station in the wake of its purchase of Combined Communications. Gannett feared the FCC, who several years earlier decided to eliminate several small-market print/broadcast ownership combinations, would force it to sell either the television station or the newspaper. Gannett retained both the Democrat and Chronicle and the Times-Union, the latter of which was merged into the former in 1997. Gannett continues to publish the Democrat and Chronicle as of 2019, though the company relocated its headquarters from Rochester to the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 1985 (The Gannett Company would split up its radio/TV and press holdings again in 2015, when the radio/TV unit became part of a company named TEGNA).
The new owners of channel 10 made U.S. television history: WHEC-TV became the first VHF, network-affiliated station to be purchased and wholly owned by an African-American group, led by investor Ragan Henry. Despite the historical connotation, the Henry-led group's stewardship of WHEC-TV would be short-lived. In 1983, the Henry group traded channel 10 to the original Viacom in exchange for a pair of radio stations, WDIA in Memphis and KDIA (now KMKY) in Oakland.
Under Viacom ownership, channel 10 took part in another trade—this one the first (and only) network affiliation switch in Rochester. On April 6, 1989, WHEC-TV announced that it would join the NBC network, replacing WROC-TV (now on channel 8) in the Peacock Network's roster. This move was the result of WROC-TV's poor performance and constant pre-emptions of NBC network programming (NBC was very intolerant of pre-emptions at this time). The swap brought channel 10 in-line with sister stations WNYT in Albany and WVIT in New Britain, Connecticut, which had recently renewed their NBC relationships. In addition, NBC's strong primetime programming—NBC was the most-watched network at the time, while CBS was in a distant third near the midpoint of the Laurence Tisch era—was another major factor. The network switch became official on August 13, 1989.
Viacom purchased Paramount Pictures in 1994, and merged its five-station group (WHEC-TV, WNYT, WVIT, KMOV in St. Louis, and KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana) into the Paramount Stations Group. Shortly thereafter, the merged company decided to divest itself of all of its major network affiliates to focus on stations that carried its then-upstart United Paramount Network (UPN). In June 1996, Viacom/Paramount agreed to trade WHEC-TV and WNYT to Hubbard Broadcasting in return for UPN affiliate WTOG in St. Petersburg, Florida.
WHEC-TV's digital signal on UHF channel 58 signed-on September 27, 2002 under a special temporary authority. For many years WHEC-TV was one of three Rochester area stations offered on cable in the Ottawa–Gatineau and Eastern Ontario regions. The Rochester area stations were replaced with Detroit stations when the microwave relay system that provided these signals was discontinued. WHEC-TV and other Rochester stations were available on cable in several communities along the north shore of Lake Ontario such as Belleville and Cobourg, Ontario. All Rochester affiliates with the exception of Fox affiliate WUHF (channel 31) were replaced with Buffalo stations in January 2009.
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|WGCE-CD 6 (Heartland) |
WROC 8 (CBS)
WHEC 10 (NBC)
WHAM 13 (ABC)
WXXI 21 (PBS)
WUHF 31 (Fox)
WBGT-CD 46 (MNTV)