|City||Silver Spring, Maryland|
|Channels||Digital: 9 (VHF)|
(shared with WUSA)
Virtual: 68 (PSIP)
|Affiliations||SonLife Broadcasting Network|
(Entravision Holdings, LLC)
|First air date||August 1, 1984|
(in Hagerstown, Maryland; license moved to Silver Spring in 2017)
|Sister station(s)||WFDC-DT, WMDO-CD|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
68 (UHF, 1984-2009)
16 (UHF, 2005-2009)
39 (UHF, 2009-2017)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1984-1995, 1998-2017)|
The WB (1995-1998)
|Transmitter power||52 kW|
|Height||235.6 m (773 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
WJAL, virtual channel 68 (VHF digital channel 9), is a SonLife Broadcasting Network-affiliated television station serving the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia that is licensed to Silver Spring, Maryland. Owned by Entravision Communications, it is a sister station to Washington-licensed low-power, Class A UniMás affiliate WMDO-CD (channel 47); Entravision also operates Arlington, Virginia-licensed Univision-owned station WFDC-DT (channel 14) under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with the Univision Local Media subsidiary of Univision Communications. WJAL's offices are located on Swamp Fox Road in southeastern Hagerstown, Maryland, and it shares transmitter facilities with Washington-licensed CBS affiliate WUSA (channel 9) on Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenleytown section of northwest Washington.
The station first broadcast on August 1, 1984, originally licensed to Hagerstown, Maryland as that city's third television station (after WHAG-TV and WWPB). It was also the fourth independent station in the Washington DMA (after WTTG, WDCA, and WCQR) and the first independent in the market outside the core city of Washington. Despite being licensed to Hagerstown (and assigned by Nielsen to the Washington television market), WJAL's offices were located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (within the Harrisburg market), and its transmitter was located 15 miles (24 km) west of Chambersburg, atop Tuscarora Mountain near the town of McConnellsburg.
WJAL was the Washington market's charter WB affiliate when the network launched on January 11, 1995. Six weeks later, The WB added WFTY (channel 50, now CW affiliate WDCW), based in Washington proper. As WJAL had a largely rural coverage area far from Washington, both stations aired the network's programming. The station ended its WB affiliation on September 14, 1998, as management felt its programming did not fit with their family-friendly image.
In 2001, Good Companion Broadcasting, a Christian broadcasting non-profit organization, sold WJAL-TV to Entravision for $10.3 million. The main impetus of the purchase of WJAL for Entravision was to attempt to move the station's license to Silver Spring, Maryland as a replacement for its low-power WMDO-CA (now digital WMDO-CD), which at the time was a Univision affiliate. WJAL first attempted to move its then-proposed digital signal on channel 16 to Silver Spring in 2002. The application was denied as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined local television service to Hagerstown would be unfairly affected. The proposed signal would also cause unacceptable interference to adjacent channel 17, which is used for public safety services in Washington. Entravision submitted an appeal in 2006, as it had changed WJAL's choice for its post-digital-transition channel from 16 to 39. By this time, the FCC had decided to stop considering the relocation of a station's city of license in preparation for the 2009 digital television transition. After the freeze, the FCC decided it would no longer support such a move and dismissed the application in 2012. Thus, WJAL continued to run a family-friendly English format for Hagerstown, a market with a traditionally low need for a Spanish-language outlet.
In the FCC's incentive auction, WJAL sold its channel 39 allocation for $25,492,333 and indicated that it would enter into a post-auction channel sharing agreement. On July 28, 2017, WJAL submitted a channel-sharing agreement with WUSA (channel 9). WJAL retained its existing callsign and virtual channel number, but moved its city of license to Silver Spring, Maryland. The over-the-air signal from Tuscarora Mountain went dark at midnight on September 30, 2017, and the station immediately moved to WUSA's transmitter in the early morning of October 1.
Although Entravision's stated goal was to convert WJAL to a UniMas affiliate, WJAL broadcast LATV instead. Entravision and Univision Communications entered into a 16-year joint sales agreement on January 1, 2006, under which Entravision operates Univision affiliate WFDC (channel 14). Current UniMás affiliate WMDO-CD (channel 47) is additionally bound to the network until the contract's expiration on December 31, 2021. A provision prohibiting Entravision from operating another station with a "Spanish-language format" in the Washington market was removed in a revision that took effect on the first weekday after the channel-share was implemented, October 2, 2017, allowing WJAL to air LATV.
In May 2018, WJAL switched its affiliation to the Heartland network. LATV has since returned to its previous location on WMDO-CD's second subchannel. WJAL flipped again to the brokered SonLife Broadcasting Network on June 15, joining WWTD-LD as the second SBN station in Washington.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|68.1||720p||16:9||LATV||SonLife Broadcasting Network|
WJAL shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 68, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 39. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 68, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
Until 2016, the station also carried West Virginia Tonight from WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, West Virginia; the program moved to WHAG-TV after WHAG's owner, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, acquired the West Virginia Media Holdings stations.