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WLTX, virtual channel 19 (UHF digital channel 17), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Columbia, South Carolina, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. WLTX's studios are located on Garners Ferry Road (U.S. 76 and 378) in southeastern Columbia, and its transmitter is located on Screaming Eagle Road (southeast of I-20) in rural northeast Richland County. On cable, the station is available on Charter Spectrum channel 9 in both standard and high definition.

HistoryEdit

The station first signed on the air on September 1, 1953 as WNOK-TV, originally broadcasting on UHF channel 67. It is the second oldest continuously operating television station in South Carolina, having signed on two months before WIS-TV (channel 10). The station has always been a CBS affiliate, but carried a secondary affiliation with the DuMont Television Network until 1955, one year before that network ceased operations. The station originally maintained studio facilities located in the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Columbia, where it was based alongside sister radio property WNOK (1230 AM, now WPCO, and 104.7 FM). On June 30, 1961, the station switched channel positions, moving to UHF channel 19. In June 1967, WNOK-AM-FM-TV moved to a new studio facility on Garners Ferry Road, located 5 miles (8.0 km) east of downtown Columbia and 1 mile (1.6 km) from I-77 and the campus of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. In 1977, the station was sold to Lewis Broadcasting and changed its call letters to WLTX.

Historically, channel 19 was well behind long-dominant WIS in the ratings, especially in news programming. This was partly because the station was hampered by a weak signal. Although channel 19 decently covered Columbia itself as well as Lexington and Sumter counties, it was practically unviewable in the outlying areas of the market. Until cable television arrived in the Columbia market in the 1970s, viewers in the outlying portions of the market had to rely on grade B signals from WRDW-TV in Augusta or WBTV in Charlotte. However, in 1985, WLTX activated a new tall transmission tower in Lugoff that nearly doubled the station's signal and expanded its over-the-air coverage to 24 counties.

In January 1995, WLTX became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN); it carried the network's programming on a secondary basis during weekend afternoon timeslots when CBS had only limited sports programming (namely PGA Tour golf, tennis, NASCAR auto racing, and an expanded college basketball schedule). The station dropped UPN programming after Sumter-licensed WQHB (channel 63, now a primary CW and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate) signed on in September 1997.

In 1998, Lewis Broadcasting sold WLTX to the Gannett Company. Gannett invested heavily in WLTX, doubling the size of the station in 2001 and providing the staff with all new news gathering equipment. Soon after taking control, Gannett hired longtime WIS meteorologist Jim Gandy to serve as the station's chief meteorologist; however since Gandy was initially prohibited from appearing on the station's newscasts until a one-year non-compete clause in his WIS contract expired, Gannett used him as a consultant at WLTX and to serve as a substitute meteorologist at the company's other stations, including WXIA-TV in Atlanta and WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C. In 2002, WLTX became the flagship broadcaster of the South Carolina Education Lottery.

In May 2002, the station was the first commercial station in Columbia to broadcast in digital. WLTX's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.

In October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WLTX. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (such as WLTX) should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.

On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WLTX was retained by the latter company, named Tegna.


TV stations in South Carolina
WLTX, Columbia

WSPA, Spartanburg
WCSC, Charleston
WBTW, Florence

TV stations in the Midlands of South Carolina, including Columbia
WIS 10 (NBC)
WLTX 19 (CBS)
WOLO 25 (ABC)
WRJA 27 (PBS)
WRLK 35 (PBS)
WZRB 47 (Ion)
WKDC-LD 50 (Daystar)
WACH 57 (Fox)
WKTC 63 (CW/MNTV)
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