WPMT, virtual channel 43 (UHF digital channel 36), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to York, Pennsylvania, United States and serving the Susquehanna Valley region (Harrisburg–Lancaster–Lebanon–York). The station is owned by the Tegna Inc. subsidiary of the Gannett Company. WPMT's studios are located on South Queen Street in Spring Garden Township (with a York mailing address), and it shares transmitter facilities with Harrisburg-licensed PBS member station WITF-TV (channel 33) in Susquehanna Township, next to the transmitter of CBS affiliate WHP-TV (channel 21). On cable, WPMT is available on Comcast Xfinity cable channel 5 and in high definition on digital channel 804.
The station first signed on the air on December 21, 1952 as WSBA-TV, originally operating as an ABC affiliate. It was owned by the Susquehanna Radio Corporation, a subsidiary of the Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff conglomerate, along with radio station WSBA (910 AM). It was one of the first commercially licensed UHF television stations in the United States, signing on the air just over three months after KPTV in Portland, Oregon which originally broadcast on channel 27 when it signed on in 1952, before moving to VHF channel 12 five years later. This makes WPMT the second-oldest continuously broadcasting UHF station in the country, only behind WSBT-TV in South Bend, Indiana (although WSBT moved from its original channel 34 to channel 22 in the late 1950s, making WPMT the oldest UHF station that broadcasts continuously on the same virtual channel number to this day).
In 1961, the station became a CBS affiliate and joined WHP-TV (channel 21) in Harrisburg and WLYH-TV (channel 15) in Lebanon to form the Keystone Network. The three stations provided a strong combined signal with about 55% overlap. Initially, WHP-TV, WLYH and WSBA aired the same programming despite separate ownership. By the late 1960s, while all three stations ran most of the CBS programming schedule, WHP-TV ran different local programming during non-network hours, while WLYH and WSBA continued to simulcast for nearly the entire broadcast day. WHP ran CBS shows that WSBA and WLYH preempted, while the latter two stations ran programming that WHP preempted, allowing most of the market to view the entire CBS schedule. All three ran most of the CBS lineup, duplicating over three-quarters of the network's programs. This arrangement was necessary in the days before cable gained significant penetration.
In April 1983, Susquehanna sold WSBA-TV to Idaho-based Mohawk Broadcasting, who changed its call letters to the current WPMT. The station signed off in August and returned to the air the following month as the Susquehanna Valley's first general entertainment independent station. Until then, the only over-the-air source of non-network programming in South Central Pennsylvania was WGCB-TV (channel 49) in Red Lion, a religious station that had been on the air since 1979. WPMT was a typical UHF independent with a schedule heavy on cartoons, sitcoms, movies, dramas, sports and westerns.
As a Fox affiliate
In 1986, Mohawk sold the station to Renaissance Broadcasting. On October 6, 1986, WPMT became one of the charter affiliates of the newly launched Fox network. From 1990 to 2004, WPMT featured original children's programming hosted by the station's mascot, a clown named Pete McTee (a play on the station's call letters). The station was acquired by Tribune Broadcasting following the company's purchase of Renaissance in 1996. A year earlier, WPMT had added programming from The WB, half-owned by Tribune, in off-hours. However, cable customers could watch the full WB schedule on sister station WPHL-TV from Philadelphia.
The station's newscasts were seen in a fictional sense in the 2010 film Unstoppable, which is set in the station's market area.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group—which has owned WHP-TV since 2012, through its acquisition of several television stations owned by Newport Television—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. However, Sinclair was precluded from acquiring WPMT directly, as both WHP and WPMT rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Harrisburg–Lancaster–Lebanon–York market in total day viewership, and there are too few independently owned full-power stations in the Susquehanna Valley area to permit legal duopolies in any event. On April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that it would sell WPMT and eight other stations – Sinclair-operated KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, WRLH-TV in Richmond, KDSM-TV in Des Moines, WOLF-TV (along with LMA partners WSWB and WQMY) in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and WXLV-TV in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, and Tribune-owned WXMI in Grand Rapids—to Standard Media Group (an independent broadcast holding company formed by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving the aforementioned stations) for $441.1 million.
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Standard Media's purchases of WPMT and the other six Tribune- and Sinclair-operated stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group and resale to Tegna
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned ABC affiliate WHTM-TV (channel 27) since January 2017—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WPMT directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the same media market. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WPMT through local marketing or shared services agreements may be subject to regulatory hurdles that could delay completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar will be required to sell either WPMT or WHTM to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict. On March 20, 2019, McLean, Virginia-based Tegna Inc. announced it would purchase WPMT from Nexstar upon consummation of the merger, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Tegna and the E. W. Scripps Company in separate deals worth $1.32 billion; along with Scranton sister station WNEP-TV (which will also be acquired by Tegna as part of the spin-offs), this would make WPMT among the first television properties in Pennsylvania for Tegna.
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
|TV stations in the Susquehanna Valley, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York|
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