|Branding||ABC 7 (general)|
ABC 7 News (newscasts)
|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)
|Sister station(s)||WJLA 24/7 News|
Baltimore: WBFF, WNUV, WUTB
|Former callsigns||WTVW (1947)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
7 (VHF, 1947-2009)
39 (UHF, 2000-2009)
Local Point TV (?-2008)
Retro TV (2008-2009)
Retro TV (2009-2012)
|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 WRQX). 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 Stars 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 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.
In December 2007, WJLA began simulcasting WTOP-FM on its "Weather Now" digital sub-channel; this continued through late July 2009. Until July 28, 2008, WJLA-TV offered Local Point TV on 7.2, which was a local version of Current, 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"), a new syndicated digital national broadcast network with older re-runs of classic television series from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s replaced Local Point TV at 10:00 a.m. on July 28, 2008.
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 DT2 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 began carrying "MeTV", a competing syndicated digital broadcast TV network with older classic and re-runs of television series on March 2013 on WJLA's digital subchannel 7.2, replacing "ABC7's WeatherNow" on Channel 7.2.
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, 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 new ownership meant that WJLA by default became the Washington affiliate of Sinclair's American Sports Network which launched in the same month; however on the main signal, ABC's sports coverage from ESPN takes preference over ASN's lower-tier conference rights and it is generally carried over the station's 7.2 and 7.3 subchannels instead.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media - owner of CW affiliate WDCW (channel 50) - for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Had the acquisition received regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, it would have resulted in the formation of a duopoly between WDCW and WJLA-TV (in addition to NewsChannel 8) as the market would have more than eight independent television station owners had channel 50 become a Sinclair property. However, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced that it would terminate the Sinclair deal.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|7.1||720p||16:9||WJLA-HD||Main WJLA-TV programming / ABC|
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.
As one of the largest ABC stations not owned-and-operated by the network, the station generally clears all ABC programming. However, locally produced sports and election specials preempt the first hour of the network's prime time lineup on a few days in late summer and early fall, while the low-rated Saturday night network lineup is occasionally preempted during the summer months in favor of a feature film broadcast, back when the station was owned by Allbriton. If needed, WJLA reschedules network programming at its earliest convenience, usually during the overnight hours. In most cases, any preempted network programming can be seen on Baltimore's WMAR-TV, which is receivable in Washington and its close suburbs with a rooftop antenna. WJLA was the last ABC affiliate to clear Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Syndicated programming broadcast by WJLA-TV includes Live with Kelly and Ryan, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, among others. WJLA serves as a flagship station for the program The McLaughlin Group. The former show is produced by ABC's New York City flagship station WABC-TV and is distributed by ABC's corporate sibling Disney-ABC Domestic Television. WJLA also airs Sinclair-required program Full Measure.
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, 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 on weekdays; and 1 hour 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.