Radio-TV Broadcast History

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WBMA-LP is the ABC television affiliate for Birmingham and central Alabama. Its transmitter is located in Birmingham, while its studio is in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham.

The station's brand name, ABC 33/40, comes from its two full-power satellites: WCFT-TV, channel 33 in Tuscaloosa and WJSU-TV, channel 40 in Anniston. Although this makes it appear that WCFT is the main station, low-powered WBMA is officially Birmingham's ABC affiliate. WBMA's signal does not extend outside of the immediate Birmingham area. Many Birmingham viewers and cable providers obtain the signal from the higher-power WCFT/WJSU stations. Their combined power carries the ABC 33/40 signal to all of central Alabama from the Alabama-Georgia state line westward to Columbus, Mississippi.

The station is owned by Allbritton Communications through its subsidiary, TV Alabama, Inc. WJSU was formerly owned by Flagship Broadcasting and operated by Allbritton under a local marketing agreement until Allbritton bought it outright in 2008.

WBMA: Birmingham, AlabamaWCFT: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

WJSU: Anniston, Alabama

Branding ABC 33/40 (general)

ABC 33/40 News (newscasts)

Slogan Alabama's News Leader
Channels Analog:WBMA-LP: 58 (UHF)

Digital: See table below

Affiliations ABC
Owner Allbritton Communications Company

(TV Alabama, Inc.)

First air date September 1, 1996
Call letters' meaning See table below
Former callsigns WBMA: W58CK (1996-1997)WJSU: WHMA-TV (1969-1984)
Former channel number(s) Analog:

WCFT: 33 (1965-2009) WJSU: 40 (1969-2009) Digital: WCFT: 5

Former affiliations WCFT:Independent (1965-1970)

CBS (1970-1996) WJSU: CBS (1969-1996) NBC (secondary, 1969-1970)

Transmitter power See table below
Height See table below
Facility ID See table below
Transmitter coordinates See table below

WCFT/WJSU operates bureaus in Tuscaloosa and Anniston at the locations of the former independent stations.



WCFT started operating as western Alabama's first-ever television station in October 1965, broadcasting on UHF channel 33. The original licensee, Chapman Family Television, was a consortium of eight Tuscaloosa businessmen who saw the benefits of a television station, in both business and community service. WCFT began as an independent station, but because it did not return a profit suitable to the original owners, they sold the station to Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based Service Broadcasters in 1967.

The new owners rejuvenated the station by pumping money into it, purchasing new equipment, and improving the station's image. Like WBMG-TV in Birmingham, WCFT picked up in its first few years CBS and NBC programming not cleared by WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV). In 1970, WCFT became an official CBS affiliate, as did WBMG (and WHMA below, for eastern Alabama). In 1977, Arbitron made Tuscaloosa its own television market, ranking below number 170. Service Broadcasters sold WCFT to Allbritton in 1995. Its transmitter is located near Windham Springs, Alabama, in rural Tuscaloosa County.


On October 26, 1969, WHMA-TV began broadcasting on channel 40 as a primary CBS affiliate with a secondary NBC affiliation. The station was operated by the Anniston Broadcasting Company, which was owned by members of the family of Harry M. Ayers (the station's namesake). The Ayers family also owned the Anniston Star newspaper and WHMA radio (1390 AM and 100.5 FM, now WNNX-FM in Atlanta). The station's inaugural general manager, Harry Mabry, came to Anniston from Birmingham, where he had been news director of WBRC in Birmingham for several years. Mabry already was familiar with Anniston, though, having been an announcer on WHMA-AM over fifteen years earlier.

WHMA-TV ultimately served approximately 100,000 households in east central Alabama, and management fought almost constantly to maintain its own Arbitron market between Birmingham and Atlanta. This was a maneuver critical to the station's survival. Despite being the only station located within the Anniston/East Alabama market (other than Alabama Public Television translator WCIQ), WHMA faced immense competition from the "spill-in" (grade B signal) coverage from larger stations in the nearby larger markets. Its ratings victories garnered it access to numerous national advertisers, a rarity for small-market stations of that time. In 1970, WHMA, along with WBMG and WCFT (above), dropped NBC programming in favor of full-time CBS coverage after WAPI became the sole NBC affiliate for all of central Alabama that year.

In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forced the Ayers family to break up its media empire. Later, in a mid-1980s deal that concerned tax avoidance more than profit, ownership of the station was transferred to the trustees of Jacksonville State University and the call letters were changed to WJSU-TV. The station was ultimately sold in the 1990s to Flagship Broadcasting.

WBMA/WCFT/WJSU, as an ABC affiliate[]

In 1995, Birmingham's longtime ABC affiliate, WBRC, was sold to Fox. However, WBRC's contract with ABC did not expire until September 1996, giving ABC a year to find a new affiliate in Birmingham. ABC reached a unique deal with Allbritton: Both WCFT and WJSU would become ABC affiliates; however there was a snag. Under Nielsen rules, neither station would likely appear in the Birmingham ratings books because they were both considered to be out of market stations (Anniston and Tuscaloosa were considered separate markets.) Allbritton's solution was to purchase W58CK, a low-powered station in Birmingham that began operations 18 November 1994, and designate it as the primary station for Nielsen. While the channel 58 purchase was not a condition of the deal between ABC and Allbritton, it did pave the way for the collapse of Anniston and Tuscaloosa into the Birmingham market. WJSU and WCFT would end separate operations and combine to act as full-powered satellites of W58CK. Both stations also ceded exclusive CBS rights in all of central Alabama to WBMG. Under this arrangement, Allbritton assumed control of WJSU's operations under a local marketing agreement. This lasted until Allbritton bought WJSU outright in 2008.

The new station debuted on September 1, 1996 from studios in the Riverchase office complex in Hoover. Its first slogan was "We're Building Our Station Around You," which was also used on WKYC-TV in Cleveland for some years. Unlike most advertising catchwords, the phrase was quite accurate because the programming consultants of ABC 33/40 surveyed numerous numbers of people across central Alabama about what they wanted in a station. They also literally built a new station in Birmingham from that information they gathered.

W58CK officially changed its call letters to WBMA-LP on September 23, 1997; it had been unofficially using the WBMA calls since it began operations. For a time in the mid-1990s, WCFT served as the default ABC affiliate for the Columbus/Tupelo market.


Station City of license Channels

(Analog/ Digital)



First air date [ Call letters’



(Analog/ Digital)


(Analog/ Digital)

Facility ID Transmitter Coordinates


Birmingham 58 (UHF)11 (VHF) September 6, 1996 AlaBaMA[1] 8.8 kW0.3 kW 255 m

255 m

60214 33°26′28.2″N 86°53′1.5″W / 33.441167°N 86.88375°W / 33.441167; -86.88375


Tuscaloosa none

33 (UHF)

33 October 19654 ChapmanFamilyTelevision

278 kW

657 m

21258 33°28′48.6″N 87°25′49.8″W / 33.480167°N 87.4305°W / 33.480167; -87.4305 (WCFT-TV)


Anniston none

9 (VHF)

40 October 26, 1969 JacksonvilleStateUniversity

15.6 kW

359 m

56642 33°36′24.3″N 86°25′3.1″W / 33.60675°N 86.417528°W / 33.60675; -86.417528 (WJSU-TV)


  • 1: Virtual channel (PSIP).
  • 2. WBMA-LP used the callsign W58CK until 1997.
  • 3. WCFT-TV was an independent station from 1965 to 1970, and a CBS affiliate from 1970 to 1996.
  • 4. The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says WCFT-TV signed on October 27, while the Television and Cable Factbook says it signed on October 29.
  • 5. WJSU-TV used the callsign WHMA-TV from its 1969 inception until 1984. It was a CBS affiliate from 1969 to 1996, with a secondary NBC affiliation from 1969 to 1970.

Digital TV[]

The digital signals of WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV are multiplexed.

Digital channels




RF Channels

Video Aspect Programming
33.1/40.1/58.1 33.1/9.1/11.1 720p 16:9 Main WCFT/WJSU/WBMA programming ABC HD
33.2/40.2 33.2/9.2 480i 4:3 Weather

Analog-to-digital conversion[]

After the analog television shutdown and digital conversion to take place on June 12, 2009 [2], WCFT-TV moved its digital broadcasts back to its former analog channel number, 33 [3], while WJSU is remaining on its pre-transition channel number, 9. [3] However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers will display WJSU's virtual channel as 40. Even though WBMA-LP is not obligated to shut off its analog signal, as the law currently exempts low-powered stations from the switchover, the FCC has encourage low-power stations to vacate from their out-of-core allotments (channels 52 to 69). On January 27, 2010, the FCC granted WBMA a construction permit to flash-cut their analog signal on channel 58 to digital channel 11.[4]


In September 2006, WBMA/WCFT/WJSU moved the popular soap opera All My Children from 10 a.m., where it had aired for many years on tape-delay since WBRC was an ABC affiliate, to 12 Noon. This is the first time since the ABC daytime drama began in 1970, that it has aired at the time of the daily network feed in the Birmingham market.

In 1997, WBMA/WCFT/WJSU refused to air the famous "The Puppy Episode" of Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom, Ellen. The station cited a need to respect the family values of the largely conservative evangelical community in the region as the basis of its decision. Some gay rights and civil libertarian activists decried the decision as a blatant example of censorship; indeed, in response, ABC sent a special satellite feed of the show to a community center in Birmingham and about 1,000 people, mainly local gays, lesbians, and their supporters, watched as DeGeneres came out of the closet. Some cable providers also ran the feed from other out of state ABC affiliates including WSB, Channel 2 in Atlanta.

When the same episode ran as a rerun on the network that same season, WBMA/WCFT/WJSU aired the program.

News operation[]

The station achieved early success with their newscasts after their switch to ABC, due in part to hiring many well-known Birmingham television personalities, including news anchors Brenda Ladun and Linda Mays, sports anchor Mike Raita and meteorologists James Spann and Mark Prater, all of whom had worked at rival WBRC. Later, Pam Huff and Tracy Haynes, former news personalities on WVTM-TV, were hired to anchor the station's early morning newscasts. The station's slogans were modified to "Where News Comes First" and then back to the original "We're Building Our Station Around You" (with the word "always" being inserted on graphics before "building"). The station is now called "Alabama's News Leader."

WBMA/WCFT/WJSU has had a long-standing tradition in that when any county in its DMA is under a tornado warning, the station pre-empts regular programming for live, non-stop coverage, something the competing stations may refuse to do at times.

WBMA/WCFT/WJSU operates a number of Sky Cams throughout the state which send a live shot and weather information from that site. The stations are assisted in this venture by regional banking giant BBVA Compass. There are skycams in Downtown Birmingham, Inverness, Gadsden, Demopolis, Hamilton, Jasper, Mount Cheaha, Tuscaloosa, Cullman, Clanton and Gulf Shores. The Tuscaloosa TowerLink camera, located on the old Channel 33 broadcast tower, caught footage of an F4 tornado that hit Tuscaloosa in December 2000 [1]. TowerLink cameras are also located on WBMA-LP's tower in Birmingham and WJSU's tower in Anniston.

WBMA/WCFT/WJSU offers Spanish-language webcasts online. The brief news updates are anchored on a rotating basis by Vivian Mora and Hernan Prado, two Hispanic business owners in the Birmingham community.


In the 1970s, WCFT had considerably better luck with news than WBMG -- by the early 1980s, WCFT had the leading local newscast in western Alabama (with newscasts called "Eyewitness News"). It not only trounced WBMG, but it beat out Birmingham stations WBRC and WAPI/WVTM as well.

WBMA/WCFT/WJSU is one of the most successful ABC startups that were created during the Fox network affiliation swaps of the mid-1990s. The station debuted ahead of WBMG (now WIAT, channel 42) in the ratings, and within a year, WBMA/WCFT/WJSU's 10 p.m. news scored its first #1 ratings victory.

Nielsen ratings errors[]

Between 26 May 2008 and 23 March 2009, Nielsen Media Research shortchanged the WBMA-WCFT-WJSU system. For ratings purposes, the entire system is rated as WBMA+, but tuning to digital WBMA-WCFT-WJSU or anything that carried it (cable or satellite) was ignored, reducing the recorded ratings tremendously; ratings in Nielsen books were less than half of what station management expected.[5] It later came out that Nielsen had undercounted and overcounted at various times between February 2008 and November 2009, including a time in January 2010 that primetime ratings had been shortchanged (including occasional zero shares). The confusion stemmed from the station's unique physical setup.[6]

News/station presentation[]

Newscast titles[]

  • Eyewitness News (1970s-late 1980s; WCFT)
  • TV-40 News (1980s-1990s; WJSU)
  • (33) Eyewitness News (late 1980s-1996; WCFT)
  • The (time) News on Alabama's ABC 33/40 (general) / The Night Team on Alabama's ABC 33/40 (10 p.m. newscast; 1996-2001)
  • ABC 33/40 News (2001-present)

Station slogans[]

  • West Alabama's News Leader (late 1980s-1996; WCFT slogan)
  • Northeast Alabama's Local TV News Source (early 1980s-1996; WJSU slogan)
  • We're Building Our Station Around You (1996-1998)
  • Where News Comes First (1998-2000)
  • We're Always Building Our Station Around You (2000-2002)
  • Alabama's News Leader (2002-present)

[2] This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.===On-air staff===

Current on-air staff[]

Current Anchors

  • Dave Baird - weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Tracy Haynes - weekday mornings; also "Talk of Alabama" (9-10AM) co-host
  • Pam Huff - weekday mornings and 5 p.m.
  • Brenda Ladun - weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Linda Mays - weekdays at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Storm Alert Weather Team

  • James Spann (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) - Chief Meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Ashley Brand (AMS/NWA Seals of Approval) - Meteorologist; Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 5 and weekends at 10 p.m.
  • Jason Simpson - Meteorologist; weekday mornings and 11 a.m.

Sports Team

  • Mike Raita - Sports Director; weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.; also host of "The Zone" sports talk show with Ray Melick and Doug Segrest of the Birmingham News
  • Jeff Speegle - Sports Anchor; Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 5 and weekends at 10 p.m.; also sports reporter
  • Chris Harris - sports reporter; also fill-in sports anchor and sports producer


  • Nicole Allshouse - co-host of "Talk of Alabama" (9-10AM)
  • Honora Gathings - general assignment reporter
  • Ebony Hall - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Isaiah Harper - general assignment reporter
  • Ana Jasen - general assignment reporter
  • Jeremy King - general assignment reporter (also fill-in anchor)
  • Thomas Lower - technology reporter ("Thomas the Tech Guy")
  • Bryant Somerville - general assignment reporter
  • Kevyn Stewart - general assignment reporter
  • Yenu Wodajo - general assignment reporter

Former on-air staff[]

  • Brian Armentrout - reporter (left for a career in medical public relations)
  • Joy Benedict - reporter (later at WKYC-TV and WEWS-TV in Cleveland)
  • Anastasiya Bolton - reporter (now at KUSA-TV in Denver)
  • Jeremy Campbell - reporter (now at WTVT in Tampa)
  • Valorie Carter (Lawson) - anchor/reporter (now at WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama)
  • Kyle Craig - sports reporter/producer
  • Tiffany Craig - reporter (now at WKRG-TV in Mobile)
  • Shelia Downey - anchor
  • Rebecca Fox - reporter
  • Katie Garrety - reporter (left to pursue a career as an attorney)
  • Jason Gaston - reporter (now a spokesman for Hoover City Schools in Hoover, Alabama)
  • Dixon Hayes - reporter (now a videojournalist at WBRC-TV in Birmingham)
  • Roy Hobbs - general assignment reporter (deceased)
  • Dwann Holmes (Olsen) - reporter (later at WTVF-TV in Nashville, Tennessee; now a marketing consultant in Florida)
  • Laura Howe - reporter (now at American Red Cross, Washington, D.C. Chapter)
  • Kelly Hunter - sports reporter (later in local radio, now appears in local commercials)
  • Casey Jones - anchor/reporter (now at WJCL-TV in Savannah, Georgia)
  • Melissa Lee - sports reporter (now a sports reporter with ESPNU and Comcast Sports)
  • Mike Maher - reporter
  • Jon Mangum - reporter (deceased)
  • Brett Oates - reporter (now local sports talk radio co-host at WATV-AM)
  • Chris Osborne - reporter (now at American Red Cross, Birmingham Chapter)
  • John Oldshue - meteorologist (left to operate a small business)
  • Kimberly Osias - reporter (later at CNN and WPEC)
  • Dyan Patterson (Zedeker) - anchor/reporter (now in media relations at Cape Coral Police Department in Florida)
  • Brian Peters - fill-in meteorologist (continues work for The Weather Company, owned by James Spann)
  • Ike Pigott - reporter (now at Alabama Power)
  • Maggie Poteau - anchor
  • Mark Prater - meteorologist (now Chief Meteorologist at WIAT)
  • Mark Raines - reporter/west Alabama anchor (now nationally award-winning television/film teacher)
  • Melissa Riopka - general assignment reporter (now at WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Ala., as 6pm and 10pm co-anchor)
  • Rachel Rose - reporter (now in public relations in Atlanta, GA)
  • Krista Saari - sports reporter
  • Tamala Savage - producer/morning update anchor (now hosting a local radio show)
  • Mike Schoor - sports reporter (left for a career in financial planning)
  • Keisa Sharpe - anchor (now at Alabama Power)
  • Christopher Sign - reporter (now at KNXV-TV in Phoenix)
  • Bob Symon - meteorologist (later at WLKY-TV in Louisville, Kentucky)
  • Chris Tatum - reporter (later at WSMV-TV in Nashville)
  • Keith Taylor - Sports Producer/Reporter/Anchor
  • Tiffani Taylor (Lupenski) - reporter (later at KUSA-TV in Denver as a producer/Executive Producer, now Executive Producer at KCPQ-TV in Seattle)
  • Josh Thomas - anchor (now at WFLA-TV in Tampa; was seen in the 2004 film The Punisher as a news anchor for WFLA)
  • Deborah Vance - reporter (former Chief of Staff for former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford)
  • Glenda Webb - anchor/reporter
  • Jennifer Webster - reporter (left for a career in pharmaceutical sales)

See also[]


  1. ^ Nelson, Bob (2008-10-18). "Call Letter Origins". The Broadcast Archive. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b CDBS Print
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links[]