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Fox (1986–present)

Fox 53 (general) Channel 11 News (WPXI-produced newscasts)

Digital: 43 (UHF) Virtual: 53 (PSIP)

53.1 Fox 53.2 Antenna TV 53.3 Charge!

Sinclair Broadcast Group (WPGH Licensee, LLC)

WPGH-TV, virtual channel 53 (UHF digital channel 43), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WPNT (channel 22). The two stations share studios located on Ivory Avenue in the city's Summer Hill section, where WPGH-TV's transmitter is also located. On cable, WPGH is carried on Comcast channels 7 (channel 6 in Monroeville and channel 8 in Bethel Park) (standard definition) and 803 (high definition), and on Verizon FiOS channels 7 (standard definition) and 507 (high definition).


Early history of channel 53

The station originally signed on the air on July 14, 1953, as WKJF-TV, it was Pittsburgh's first NBC affiliate before later becoming an independent station more than a decade and a half later. Despite being a network affiliate, the station was plagued by financial woes from the start.

Additionally, southwestern Pennsylvania is a very rugged dissected plateau, and UHF stations typically do not get good reception in rugged terrain. At the time, UHF stations could only be seen with a converter (television sets were not required to have UHF tuners until 1964, following the passage of the All-Channel Receiver Act), and even then the picture quality was spotty at best. WKJF-TV was certainly no exception to this, especially with Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs receiving better reception from Johnstown's NBC affiliate, WJAC-TV, a VHF station which had been on the air for about four years by this time.

As a result, the station never thrived against the more established VHF station, WDTV (channel 2, now KDKA-TV). It finally went off the air in August 1954.

WKJF-TV and its then-sister radio station, WKJF-FM, were located on Grandview Avenue in Pittsburgh's Mount Washington section at that point in time. The radio station today is called KDKA-FM.

Channel 53 remained silent for 15 years, as the FCC was not willing to delete UHF licenses at the time. It returned to the air under new owners U.S. Communications in February 1969 as WPGH-TV. The station signed on as an independent, as WIIC had signed on three years after WKJF-TV had shut down, with WIIC taking WKJF-TV's NBC affiliation. The new WPGH-TV signed on from its new studio location at 750 Ivory Avenue, just north of the city of Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, this location had been the home of another Pittsburgh station, WENS-TV, which went off the air in 1957. WPGH-TV still broadcasts from this location today.

Despite a well-programmed lineup, financial problems continued to plague the station again, largely arising from U.S. Communications President Donald Overmyer's failed United Network and its resulting debt. WPGH-TV was finally forced off-the-air on August 16, 1971.

As an independent station

Under technical leadership of chief engineer Robert Boyd, broadcast engineer James G. Miller, and others, the station was repaired and updated in 1973. WPGH-TV was finally back on-air for good on January 14, 1974, after being sold again in December 1973 to Pittsburgh Telecasting, Inc., a company headed by Leon Crosby, who had acquired San Francisco-based KEMO-TV (now KOFY-TV) just two years before. Crosby had been working on the deal for more than a year before the sale was finalized. Coincidentally, KEMO-TV, like WPGH-TV, had been a U.S. Communications property until the collapse of The United Network.

Initially, the station broadcast for 10 hours daily, beginning at around 2pm. The station gradually added more hours to its programming lineup, broadcasting about 18 hours a day by the end of the decade.

The deep bass and melodious voice of announcer William C. Trushel II was often heard during station identification and other audio spots. It was a typical independent station airing cartoons, off-network sitcoms and dramas, movies, and religious programs

WPGH-TV also became known for some locally produced programming fare. Using a similar strategy for producing local programs on KEMO-TV, Crosby believed in creative types willing to cross-train and work cheap very early in their careers, and packaged the shows in a way to make them more attractive to advertisers.

Among the more successful programs included a Polka dance show videotaped at the WPGH-TV studios, and attempting to copy the popular "Chiller Theater" program on NBC competitor WIIC-TV, it aired "Thing Theater"; a show produced around B-grade horror movies, hosted by a man calling himself "Scorpio". The show aired Saturday afternoon until the station began clearing college bowl games. In its early years, the station also cleared CBS, ABC, and NBC programs that KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV (channel 4), and WIIC-TV (channel 11, now WPXI) passed on. For a time, WPGH-TV also aired locally produced newscasts anchored by Tom Peterson, Mavis Logan, Tim Sohier and others, with varying degrees of success.

The Meredith Corporation purchased WPGH-TV in 1978 and added stronger shows and some first-run syndicated talk shows to the station. It also gradually added more recent off-network sitcoms. With WPTT-TV (channel 22, now WPNT) now in the competition, WPGH-TV put in very high bids for programming and even overpaid for some in order to prevent shows from ending up on WPTT-TV. That practice, however, caused the station to become unprofitable despite its high ratings. As a result, Meredith put WPGH-TV up for sale in 1985. Sinclair Broadcast Group (owner of WPTT-TV) put in a bid so it could combine assets and sell WPTT-TV to the Home Shopping Network (HSN). However, it was outbid by Lorimar-Telepictures which took over the station in 1986.

Fox affiliation

WPGH-TV became Pittsburgh's charter Fox affiliate upon the network's October 6, 1986 launch; the station was sold to Renaissance Broadcasting in 1987 after Lorimar-Telepictures reduced the purchase price from $35 million to $21.5 million. As a Fox affiliate, WPGH-TV continued to receive very high ratings. However, it also continued to overpay for programming, keeping it in the red. It was put up for sale again in 1990, and this time, Sinclair was the successful buyer. However, the group struggled to obtain financing, so it worked out a deal to sell WPTT-TV to its general manager and longtime employee Eddie Edwards. Sinclair took over operations of WPGH-TV through a local marketing agreement (one of the earliest such LMAs to be formed) in the fall of 1991 and moved the best programming on WPTT-TV's schedule to WPGH-TV. The former then became a full-time Home Shopping Network affiliate at midnight on August 30, 1991, with plans of gradually adding entertainment programming.

WPGH-TV had a huge inventory of programming, but with Fox stepping up its programming, it soon ran out of timeslots to run a large amount of it. So beginning on January 6, 1992, WPGH-TV began running shows on WPTT-TV that it lacked the time to run itself. WPGH-TV bought the 3 p.m. to midnight time period on WPTT-TV. That station continued running HSN for fifteen hours a day. In 1993, WPGH-TV programmed WPTT-TV daily from noon to midnight. Beginning in 1995, it controlled the entire day's programming on WPTT-TV, except for a few hours in the overnight. WPGH-TV then added more first-run syndicated talk and reality shows along with recent cartoons, and sitcoms, while WPTT-TV ran older classic sitcoms, cartoons, movies, drama shows, and some recent sitcoms. WPGH-TV and WPTT-TV (the latter having changed its call letters to WCWB after gaining the WB affiliation from WNPA, channel 19) moved into the same building in 1997 and eventually became officially co-owned by Sinclair in 2000 after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed its media ownership rules to allow one company to own two television stations in the same market, provided the market has at least eight full-power stations and that neither of the two stations involved in the duopoly is among the four highest-rated.

By 2002, WPGH-TV was no longer running cartoons after the Fox Kids weekday lineup was discontinued around the country. It focused now on court shows, talk shows, reality shows, and off-network sitcoms along with Fox programming. Until 2007, the station served as the de facto affiliate for the Wheeling, West Virginia/Steubenville, Ohio market. Although it is still carried on area cable systems, CBS affiliate WTRF-TV added a primary Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliation on a new digital subchannel; sister station WTOV-TV later acquired the Fox affiliation for their second subchannel in 2014. It can also be seen in some parts of the Clarksburg/Weston/Morgantown, West Virginia market, even though that area is served by WVFX.

On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WPGH-TV, allowing them to continue carrying Fox programming through 2017.

Since acquiring the rights to the NFL's NFC broadcast rights in 1994, WPGH-TV normally broadcasts two Pittsburgh Steelers games each season (when they host an NFC team at Heinz Field). A change in the NFL broadcasting contracts for the 2014 NFL season allowing cross-network flex-scheduling allows WPGH-TV the opportunity to broadcast more Steelers games, but as of 2016, the NFL has not yet cross-flexed a Steelers game from CBS (KDKA-TV, in turn) to Fox (and to WPGH, in turn). Due to their nationwide fanbase, CBS has shown preference for airing as many Steelers games as possible.

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

Analog-to-digital conversion

Along with all Sinclair-owned stations, WPGH-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 53, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (the deadline was later extended to June 12). The station's digital signal continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 43. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 53, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition. It was one of three stations in Pittsburgh to discontinue normal programming on their analog signals on the original transition date, alongside sister station WPNT and then-WQED-owned WQEX.

As part of the SAFER Act, WPGH-TV and WPNT kept their analog signals on the air until March 19 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters. Due to the early sign-off, this made WPGH-TV one of the only stations broadcasting among channels 52-69 participating in the SAFER Act as that part of the spectrum would be removed from broadcasting use immediately after June 12 to be freed up for other uses.


Syndicated programming on WPGH-TV includes Jerry Springer, its sister show Steve Wilkos, Divorce Court, and Maury among others.

News operation

WPGH-TV established a news department on January 28, 1996, with the debut of a nightly prime time newscast called the Fox 53 Ten O'Clock News. This program was launched to compete with NBC affiliate WPXI's Pittsburgh Cable News Channel (PCNC), which also offered a 10 p.m. news broadcast in that timeslot. In August 2001, UPN affiliate WNPA launched Pittsburgh's third 10 p.m. newscast, produced by CBS station KDKA-TV.

One of the more notable alumni of WPGH-TV's news department was 1996 Olympic gold medalist and Mt. Lebanon native Kurt Angle, who served as a sportscaster for a year after winning two gold medals in freestyle wrestling, before moving on to a successful career in professional wrestling with the WWE and currently TNA Wrestling.

Sinclair downsized and converted WPGH-TV's news operation into its controversial, centralized News Central production on August 16, 2004. As a result, the station's weather department was shut down. National news headlines, weather forecasts, and some sports segments originated from Sinclair's corporate headquarters on Beaver Dam Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland. However, local news and sports segments remained based at WPGH-TV's studios. The station also aired "The Point", a one-minute conservative political commentary feature, that was also controversial and a requirement of all Sinclair-owned stations with newscasts until the program was discontinued.

On January 12, 2006, WPGH-TV shuttered its in-house news department and entered into a news share agreement with WPXI-TV (owned by Cox Enterprises) to take over production of the primetime newscast on WPGH. Essentially, PCNC's 10 p.m. show moved over to WPGH-TV. All of WPGH-TV's locally based news staff, except for sportscaster Alby Oxenreiter, were laid-off as a result. The news share agreement with WPXI resulted in WPGH-TV becoming the largest Fox station by market size that outsources its local news programming in lieu of producing its own newscasts. Channel 11 News on Fox 53 debuted just over two weeks later on January 30; the program originates from WPXI's studios on Evergreen Road in Pittsburgh's Summer Hill neighborhood, next to the US 19 Truck/I-279 interchange. It airs Sunday through Friday nights for 45 minutes, followed by a fifteen-minute sports highlight show called Ox on Fox Sports Extra (hosted by Alby Oxenreiter). On Saturdays, the newscast is 30 minutes long. On October 6, 2007, WPXI began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, the WPGH-TV shows were included in the upgrade.

Notable current on-air staff

  • Lisa Sylvester – anchor
  • Kevin Benson (AMS Seal of Approval) – meteorologist
  • References

    WPGH-TV Wikipedia

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