ABC 7 News
|Slogan||On Your Side|
|Channels||Digital: 7 (VHF)|
Virtual: 7 (PSIP)
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
(ACC Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||October 3, 1947|
|Call letters' meaning||Joe L. Allbritton|
(founder of Allbritton Communications, former owner of station)
|Former callsigns||WTVW (1947)|
|Former channel number(s)|
|Transmitter power||52 kW|
|Height||235.6 m (773 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
WJLA-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. The station is owned by the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also operates local cable channel WJLA 24/7 News. The two outlets share studios on Wilson Boulevard in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Virginia; WJLA-TV's transmitter is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood of northwest Washington.
On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 27 in Washington, D.C. (NBCSN is carried on cable channel 7) and channel 7 in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and on Cox Communications, RCN and Verizon FiOS channel 7.
The District of Columbia's third television station began broadcasting on October 3, 1947 as WTVW, owned by the Washington Star, along with WMAL radio (630 AM and 107.3 FM, now WLVW). It was the first high-band VHF television station (channels 7-13) in the United States. A few months later, the station changed its call letters to WMAL-TV after its radio sisters. WMAL radio had been an affiliate of the NBC Blue Network since 1933, and remained with the network after it was spun off by NBC and evolved into ABC. However, channel 7 started as a CBS station since ABC had not yet established its television network. When ABC launched on television in 1948, WMAL-TV became ABC's third primary affiliate; the station continued to carry some CBS programming until WOIC (channel 9, now WUSA) signed on in 1949. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. (Note: The WTVW call letters were later picked up by what is now WISN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when it signed on in 1954. Today, the callsign resides in Evansville, Indiana on a CW-affiliated station that is also on channel 7.)
In 1975, Houston businessman Joe Allbritton, the owner of Washington-based Riggs Bank, purchased a controlling interest in the Star's media properties, which by that time also included WLVA radio and WLVA-TV (now WSET-TV) in Lynchburg, Virginia; and WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina. As a condition of the purchase, Allbritton was given three years to break up the Washington newspaper/broadcast combination, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was seeking to prohibit under the tightening of its concentration of media ownership policy. WMAL-TV was separated first from its radio sisters when ABC purchased WMAL-AM-FM in March 1977. Upon the radio transfer, channel 7, per FCC regulations at the time that forbade TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership groups from sharing the same call letters, changed theirs to the current WJLA-TV, after the owner's initials. In April 1977, Allbritton negotiated a deal to trade the station to Combined Communications Corporation in return for KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, but called off the deal due to last-minute complications despite receiving FCC approval. Allbritton instead sold the Washington Star to Time Inc. in January 1978, and retained WJLA-TV and the Lynchburg and Charleston television stations for what would eventually become Allbritton Communications.
Rumors abounded from the mid-1990s onward that ABC might buy WJLA-TV, effectively reuniting it with its former radio sisters. Indeed, in the summer of 1998, ABC's corporate parent the Walt Disney Company discussed a possible acquisition of Allbritton Communications, but a sale agreement failed to materialize. ABC eventually sold most of its radio properties, including WMAL and its FM sister station (by then WRQX), to Citadel Broadcasting Corporation in June 2007. Even so, WJLA remained an ABC affiliate under Allbritton's ownership because the company had an exclusive affiliation deal with the network. After WJZ-TV in Baltimore switched to CBS in 1995, WJLA became ABC's longest-tenured television affiliate.
As of July 2008, WJLA had a independent weather channel, Weather Now, under meteorologist Doug Hill. Until July 28, 2008, WJLA-TV offered Local Point TV on 7.2 featuring five-minute video segments created by area residents. Abby Fenton, the station's Director of Community Relations said in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable media industry magazine that "the station likes the 'Local Point' programming and is pondering where else it might fit". Retro Television Network ("Retro TV") replaced Local Point TV.
In late October 2008, WJLA began simulcasting on local low-powered station WWTD-LP; the station continued to broadcast an analog feed of WJLA after the digital transition. In late July 2009, WJLA dropped its locally produced "WeatherNow" channel for The Local AccuWeather Channel on its second subchannel under the "Doug Hill's WeatherNow" brand. On March 13, 2012, WJLA dropped the Local AccuWeather Channel in favor of forecasts from their own meteorologists. With that, the name of the channel was slightly changed to "ABC7's WeatherNow".
WJLA-TV stopped transmitting on its analog signal, over VHF channel 7, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 39 to VHF channel 7 for post-transition operations. While 90% of the station's viewers received WJLA's signal via cable or satellite, many of the over-the-air viewers had problems after the final transition. Some needed to rescan, and others needed a VHF antenna. WJLA applied on August 29, 2009 for special authorization by the FCC to increase its effective radiated power (ERP) to 52 kW. The power increase was put into effect on September 18, 2009. WJLA already ran 30 kW of ERP, which was higher than the other three VHF stations in the area: WUSA (12.6 kW), WBAL-TV (5 kW), and WJZ-TV (28.8 kW) (post transition power levels).
On May 1, 2012, WJLA-TV announced it would add the Disney-ABC-owned Live Well Network to digital subchannel 7.3 on July 1, 2012, replacing RTV. WJLA began carrying MeTV, a competing classic digital broadcast TV network on March 1, 2013 on WJLA's second subchannel, replacing WeatherNow.
On May 1, 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations so it could put more of its focus on running its political website Politico. Allbritton announced nearly three months later that it would sell all of its stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million. After nearly a year of delays, the deal was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014. The deal was finalized on August 1, 2014.
The station's second digital subchannel was an initial but secondary affiliate of the American Sports Network with its first broadcast on August 30, 2014. The station switched its subchannels over to Sinclair's owned digital networks, Charge! on .2, Comet on .3 and TBD on .4.
Logos and imaging
Since 1970, WMAL-TV/WJLA has used a variation of the Circle 7 logo, which has long been primarily associated with ABC affiliates located on Channel 7. From 1970 to 2001, WMAL/WJLA used its own version of the logo, with the "7" modified to accommodate the circle. In 1984, it saw a minor update with rounded ends on the "7" being modified to use sharp, straight edges, like the logo later used by Australia's Seven Network. This version of the logo was probably the longest continuously used numeric logo in Washington's television history. The only real modification came in 1998, after it began calling itself "ABC 7" on-air and added the ABC logo to the left side. In 2001, WJLA adopted the standard version of the "Circle 7" logo, refueling speculation that ABC would purchase the station, a deal that would never come to pass. WJLA-TV is the largest ABC affiliate to use the Circle 7 that is not an ABC owned-and-operated station. In addition, sister station KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, has used the standard Circle 7 since the 1960s, longer than all WJLA versions combined.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|7.1||720p||16:9||WJLA-HD||Main WJLA-TV programming / ABC|
Beginning in September 1984, WJLA became the Washington-area affiliate for Atlantic Coast Conference football and men's basketball along a syndicated network that was operated by Jefferson-Pilot Communications and eventually jointly produced with Raycom Sports; WJLA would carry ACC telecasts through the 1994 season.
In 2015, D.C. United of Major League Soccer reached a new multi-year deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group to broadcast all 26 of the team's regional matches on WJLA-TV and NewsChannel 8 (now WJLA 24/7 News), succeeding CSN Mid-Atlantic.
WJLA-TV presently broadcasts a total of 34 hours, 55 minutes of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6 hours, 35 minutes each weekday; and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). The station has the largest news team in the Washington area, which includes around 40 on-air staff members. As the flagship station of the Allbritton Communications station group, WJLA provided national news headlines for other Allbritton-owned stations.
Prior to 2001, WJLA's newscasts had long placed third in the market's news ratings, behind WUSA and NBC-owned WRC-TV. The station hired Maureen Bunyan, former longtime anchor at WUSA, and in 2003, former CNN anchor Leon Harris joined the station as an anchor. In 2004, WJLA hired Bunyan's former anchor desk partner, Gordon Peterson; and reunited the two as anchors for the 6:00 p.m. newscast. These personnel moves, combined with WUSA's recent ratings troubles, led to a resurgence in the ratings. In the May 2010 sweeps, it placed number one at 5:00 p.m. in total viewers, and in the 25–54 demo.
WJLA became the second television station in the Washington, D.C. market (behind CBS affiliate WUSA) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition on December 8, 2008. The upgrade included the introduction of a new on-air graphics package as well as minor changes made to the news desk for better viewing quality with high definition. Field reports and promotions for WJLA's newscasts continued to be broadcast in standard definition until the end of March 2013, when the station upgraded to HD field cameras for field shots and some news promotions.
On January 23, 2009, WJLA laid off 26 staff members, including several on-air reporters, due to financial constraints. The laid off reporters included Andrea McCarren, Sarah C. Lee, Alisa Parenti, Emily Schmidt, Jennefer Donelan, and weekend sports anchor Greg Toland. Most of the dismissals took effect immediately, but some were allowed to serve out their contracts. WJLA also announced a 4.9% salary cut for all remaining staff and a halt to company contributions to 401(k) retirement plans.
Post-acquisition, concerns began to emerge surrounding how Sinclair's historic right-wing slant may affect WJLA's news coverage. After Sinclair took over the station, WJLA began to air conservative commentaries by Sinclair executive Mark E. Hyman, along with stories from Sinclair's Washington bureau—all of which were critical of the Obama administration. The station also partnered with the conservative Washington Times to feature its weekly "Golden Hammer" award—highlighting "the most egregious examples of government waste, fraud and abuse", as a segment during its newscasts. WJLA staff members felt that it was inappropriate for a station in Washington, D.C. to air stories that are critical of the federal government; one employee told The Washington Post that with these changes, the station may "lose the trust they built up with people over years and years. We've told people, 'We're just like you,' not, 'We're looking out for the tea party.'"
On January 26, 2015, the station made changes to its news set and also debuted a fresh new on-air look along with new theme music for its newscasts.
On November 2, 2015, WJLA debuted an entirely new set for its newscasts, replacing the previous set that had been used since its relocation to its current Rosslyn studios in September 2002. On December 21, 2015, WJLA became the last of the four English-language local broadcast stations in the Washington, D.C. market to have its newscasts switched to a 16:9 letterbox format, with a revised graphics package optimized for the 16:9 format. Concurrently, its sister local cable news channel, NewsChannel 8 (now WJLA 24/7 News), also switched to the same 16:9 letterbox format.
Notable current on-air staff
- Nancy Chen: anchor
- Lisa Fletcher: investigative reporter
- Erin Hawksworth: sports anchor (2015–present)
- Alison Starling: anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Paul Berry (retired in 1999)
- Tim Brant (left station in May 2015 after his contract was not renewed)
- Maureen Bunyan (left station in January 2017)
- Kendis Gibson (now at NBC News/MSNBC)
- Leon Harris (left station in October 2016; now at WRC-TV)
- Doug Hill – (AMS seal of approval) – chief meteorologist
- Megyn Kelly (was at NBC News)
- Kathleen Matthews (now the Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party)
- Britt McHenry (was at ESPN until April 26, 2017)
- Gordon Peterson (retired in December 2014; also host of Inside Washington)
- Lori Stokes (now at WNYW in New York City)
- Joe Witte (now a researcher at the Goddard Space Flight Center)
- "Digital TV Listing for WJLA". RabbitEars.Info. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
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- "Allbritton gets his deal for Washington." Broadcasting, December 22, 1975, pp. 19-20. 
- "ABC will buy Washington's WMAL-AM-FM for $16 million." Broadcasting, October 10, 1976, pg. 40. 
- "His name in lights." Broadcasting, May 16, 1977, pg. 45
- "WMAL-TV fetches $100 million, trading record." Broadcasting, April 4, 1977, pp. 28-29. 
- "Allbritton backs out of WJLA-TV deal." Broadcasting, March 27, 1978, pg. 27. 
- Hershey, Robert (December 12, 2012). "Joe Allbritton, TV and Banking Titan, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
- Farhi, Paul (July 25, 1998). "Disney Ends Talks to Buy WJLA". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2013. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
- Eggerton, John (July 25, 2008). "WJLA Washington, D.C., Goes Retro". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on August 24, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- Eggerton, John (June 23, 2009). "WJLA Says It Is Taking Care OF DTV Business". Multichannel News. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
- FCC TV Query: WJLA
- Marcucci, Carl (January 23, 2013). "Me-TV signs with WJLA-TV DC". Radio & Television Business Report. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- "WJLA Washington Adds Live Well Network". TV News Check. May 1, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Wemple, Erik. "Allbritton exploring sale of TV assets". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (July 29, 2013). "Allbritton to sell 7 TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- Eggerton, John (July 24, 2014). "FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- Sinclair's Deal For Allbritton Closes, Broadcasting & Cable, August 1, 2014, Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- "D.C. United matches to appear on NewsChannel 8, ABC7". Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
- Tucker, Neely (January 24, 2009). "Citing Economy, WJLA Fires 26 Staffers". Washington Post. p. C1.
- "Under new ownership, WJLA-TV takes a slight turn to the right". The Washington Post. September 16, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2014.