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Fox 6 or WBRC, is a Fox-affiliated television station serving Tuscaloosa, Anniston and in Birmingham, Alabama. The station is owned by Raycom Media. It airs short news events.
WBRC, virtual channel 6 (UHF digital channel 29), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Birmingham, Alabama, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. WBRC’s studios and transmitter are located atop Red Mountain, between Vulcan Trail and Valley View Drive, in southeastern Birmingham (to the immediate west of the studios of NBC affiliate WVTM-TV, channel 13); the station shares its transmitter tower with local NOAA Weather Radio station KIH54.
On cable, WBRC is available on Charter Spectrum channel 7, and Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 6.
WBRC presently broadcasts 64½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 11 hours each weekday, 4½ hours on Saturdays and five hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output in the state of Alabama. In addition, the station produces Fox 6 Sideline, a high school football program that debuted in September 1989 as an ABC affiliate, which airs Friday nights after the 10 p.m. newscasts during the fall. The station has the largest news staff of any television station in Alabama, with around half of its approximately 160 employees employed with the news department in on-air, administrative and production positions.
News department history
WBRC has been the ratings leader in the market for most of the last half-century, dating back to its tenure as an ABC affiliate. Its newscasts were also among the highest-rated local news programs in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s; WBRC had won practically every news timeslot for many years, with WAPI-TV/WVTM-TV coming in at a distant second until the mid-2000s; CBS affiliate WBMG/WIAT was not a factor for either station for most of its history (to the point where it did not even air any newscasts at three different periods between the early 1980s and February 1998). As a Fox station, WBRC has continued to maintain higher viewership than the other television news outlets in the market, although it has experienced tighter competition since the early 2000s against WBMA-LD and a resurgent WIAT (both of which currently engage in a spirited competition for second place); WBRC’s 9 p.m. newscast has consistently ranked as one of the most-watched prime time newscasts in the U.S. for most of its run since its debut in 1996.
WBRC television’s news operations began with the launch of the station in 1949, originally consisting of five-minute-long newscasts at sign-on and sign-off that were originally anchored by operations manager M.D. Smith III, who read wire copies of local news headlines over a slide of the station’s logo. In September 1950, at which time newscasts were expanded to 15 minutes, anchor segments began to be conducted in-studio after it acquired camera equipment to recorded live programming; kinescopes of 16-mm film footage shot by a photographer for local stories and still photographs for illustration of national and international stories were used for story content. The station launched a full-scale news department in 1952, when it began operating from the former studios of the original WBRC-FM. Several members of the news department staff in its early years started at WBRC radio including news anchors Harry Mabry and Joe Langston (the latter of whom would also take on a management role as its director of news and editorial policy in 1969), and sports anchor Tom York. In 1969, former WSGN radio anchor Bill Bolen joined WBRC to replace Harry Mabry as the station’s main news anchor; Bolen would remain a fixture at channel 6 (eventually becoming anchor of the station’s weekday morning newscast in 1990) for 42 years until his retirement in 2010. In 1978, WBRC became the first television station in the Birmingham market to acquire a microwave truck for electronic news-gathering purposes, and became the first to provide live breaking news coverage on-scene.
The station would not begin producing half-hour evening newscasts until 1979, eleven years after ABC expanded its national evening newscast to 30 minutes. Station management declined ABC’s insistence that WBRC expand its 6:00 p.m. newscast to match the length of the ABC Evening News; however, the 15-minute local newscast beat The Huntley-Brinkley Report on WAPI-TV/WVTM and the CBS Evening News on WBMG in the ratings. In 1979, channel 6 became the first television station in Alabama to acquire a helicopter for newsgathering, “Chopper 6”. In 1983, Bev Montgomery made history as the first African American to anchor a newscast in the Birmingham market when he was appointed anchor of the station’s weekend evening newscasts. In 1988, the station acquired satellite news-gathering vehicles, “Skylink 6”, to conduct and beam live remote footage transmitted to the studio via satellite.
After WBRC became a Fox station in September 1996, the station shifted its programming focus heavily towards local news, increasing its output from about 25 hours a week to around 40 hours. The station retained all of the newscasts that existed during its final years as an ABC affiliate, but expanded its weekday morning newscast from one to three hours (with the addition of a two-hour extension, known for most of its run as Good Day Alabama, from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.), and bridged the separate 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts on Monday through Friday nights to form a 90-minute early-evening news block (by adding a half-hour newscast at 5:30). Channel 6 also launched a prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. to compensate for the lack of prime time programming provided by Fox during that hour; however, it filled the 9:30 p.m. half-hour with syndicated programs (originally reruns of Seinfeld, then from 1997 afterward, Jeopardy!) as a tentpole between the 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts from the September 1996 switch until September 2002, when it expanded the prime time newscast to one hour (WBRC is one of several Fox stations that offer newscasts in both the final hour of prime time and the traditional late news timeslot, one of the few affiliated with the network that runs a nightly newscast in the latter slot and one of the few to continue its Big Three-era late-evening newscast after switching to Fox). In addition to compensating for the absence of daily national morning and evening newscasts on Fox’s schedule, the expansion of WBRC’s news lineup also filled timeslots vacated by the departures of Good Morning America and World News Tonight through the discontinuance of its ABC affiliation. WBRC also lost several longtime anchors and reporters to the W58CK/WCFT/WJSU trimulcast at that time, including news anchors Linda Mays and Brenda Ladun, meteorologists James Spann (who himself reportedly left WBRC due to his disapproval over the edgier content of Fox’s programming) and Mark Prater, and sports anchor Mike Raita.
In 2009, WBRC became a founding member station of the Raycom News Network, a service created to allow the sharing of news resources among the four Raycom-owned television stations that serve Alabama – including NBC affiliate WSFA in Montgomery, NBC affiliate WAFF in Huntsville and ABC affiliate WTVM in Columbus, Georgia (the latter of which includes a portion of eastern Alabama in its service area) – which combined, cover almost half of Alabama’s population. The service allows the stations to pool story content seen on the stations’ newscasts and websites, as well as share information and newsgathering equipment (such as satellite trucks). The four stations also comprise the Raycom Weather Network and the Raycom Alabama Weather Blog, where meteorologists from all four stations post forecasts and storm reports, and which provide live feeds from cameras and Doppler weather radar systems that each of the stations operate (the only Raycom-owned station in Alabama that does not participate in the arrangement is fellow Fox affiliate WDFX-TV in Dothan, whose news programming is produced by WSFA under a news share agreement).
On July 14, 2009, the station eliminated its Saturday evening 5:00 p.m. newscast due to budget cutbacks at the station spurred by the economic downturn. On October 26, 2009, WBRC became the second television station in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston market (after WVTM-TV) – and the third station in Alabama – to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; the news set and the graphics were also redesigned as part of the transition.
On September 12, 2016, the station debuted a 4:00 p.m. newscast, placing the station in competition with WVTM and WBMA, which have both aired 4:00 p.m. newscasts for several years.