WSET-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Lynchburg, Virginia, United States and also serving Roanoke. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WSET's studios and offices are located on Langhorne Road in Lynchburg, and its transmitter is located atop Thaxton Mountain, near Thaxton, Virginia.
Channel 13 began operations on February 8, 1953 as WLVA-TV from a transmitter on Tobacco Row Mountain west of Sweet Briar. The station was owned by Lynchburg Broadcasting Corporation, which also owned WLVA radio (580 AM). WLVA-TV also served Charlottesville, where residents reported good reception during testing, from this transmitter site. The station was originally a CBS affiliate, but also carried programs from ABC, NBC, and DuMont as well.
By the end of 1954, Roanoke and Lynchburg had been collapsed into a single market. Accordingly, channel 13 moved its transmitter and tower to Evington, Virginia in 1954 in an attempt to better serve Roanoke and the western part of the market. Since Roanoke was already served by NBC affiliate WSLS-TV (channel 10), WLVA-TV opted to become a primary ABC affiliate—Virginia's first, and the longest-tenured south of Washington, D.C. WLVA-TV and WSLS-TV split CBS programming until WDBJ-TV (channel 7) signed on from Roanoke in 1955.
For most of its first 30 years on the air, channel 13 provided spotty coverage to the western part of the market because it is sandwiched between WLOS-TV in Asheville, North Carolina and WOWK-TV in Huntington, West Virginia. The station made numerous requests to move its transmitter closer to Roanoke. However, they were all turned down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) each time due to concerns about interference, principally with WOWK. This was despite the fact that the Roanoke/Lynchburg and Huntington/Charleston markets do not border each other. However, the FCC believed that the two markets were close enough that the two channel 13 transmitters had to be as far apart as possible to avoid interference. Its signal was so weak in Roanoke that ABC actually granted an affiliation to a second station in the market, WRFT-TV (channel 27, frequency now occupied by WFXR), for much of the 1960s and 1970s.
In the early 1960s, the station set up translator W05AA to improve its signal in Roanoke. WLVA-TV was not alone in installing low-VHF Roanoke translators; the early 1960s also saw W02AE put on the air to translate WSLS-TV and W04AG put on the air to translate WDBJ-TV. In 1970, WLVA-TV sought to move its transmitter to Poor Mountain near Roanoke, where the other major stations in the market operated their transmitters. This would have given channel 13 increased coverage in Roanoke but was turned down by the FCC even though Poor Mountain is over 220 miles (354 km) from WOWK's transmitter.
In 1965, Lynchburg Broadcasting sold the WLVA stations to the Washington Star Company, which also owned WMAL-AM-FM-TV in Washington. Joe Allbritton purchased a controlling interest in the Star in 1975. By this time, however, the FCC had tightened its rules on cross-media ownership. Due to the manner in which Allbritton's purchase of the Star Company was structured, the FCC considered it to be an ownership change. It told Allbritton that he had to sell off either the radio or television stations. Allbritton chose to sell off the company's non-television assets, including WLVA radio, in April 1977. In September 1977 WLVA-TV changed its call letters to the current WSET-TV to coincide with its new branding, "NeWSET-13." The change was brought on by a now-repealed FCC regulation that stated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership that must have different callsigns. The television station became part of the newly-established Allbritton Communications.
Allbritton immediately set about finding a solution to the reception problem. In 1980, WSET won FCC approval to relocate its transmitter to Thaxton Mountain near Bedford, halfway between Roanoke and Lynchburg. WSET activated its new transmitter in 1982, which gave the station a clear signal in most of Roanoke for the first time ever. However, the FCC required WSET to significantly conform its signal to protect WOWK. As a result, some areas of the western part of the market, including parts of Roanoke itself, only got a grade B signal; they only got a clear signal from the station until cable arrived in the area a few years later.
WSET's newscasts primarily focus on the eastern part of the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. Beginning in October 2005, it was one of only two ABC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone to air ABC's World News Tonight at 7 p.m.; WSB-TV in Atlanta is the other. However, WSET has returned the national program to the 6:30 p.m. time slot, shifting its local newscast to 7:00 p.m.
WSET was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in suburban Baltimore County, Maryland, in August 2014 as part of Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton Communications.
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
|WVEC, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in Roanoke/Lynchburg, including the New River Valley, Southside, and surrounding areas|
| WDBJ 7 (CBS)|
WSLS 10 (NBC)
WSET 13 (ABC)
WBRA 15 (PBS)
WWCW 21 (CW)
WZBJ 24 (MNTV)
WFXR 27 (FOX)
WPXR 38 (Ion)
WMDV-LD 44 (IND)