The station signed on March 1, 1953 as WFBG-TV. The call letters came from the initials of the station's founder, William F. B. Gable, owner of Gable's Department Store in Altoona. Gable also owned WFBG radio (AM 1290 and 98.1 FM, now WFGY). In those early days, all programs were produced and transmitted live from the studios on Wopsononock Mountain in Altoona. Channel 10 was one of the strongest stations in the entire country, utilizing over 300,000 watts to serve its coverage area (most of which is a very rugged dissected plateau).
In 1955, WFBG affiliated with CBS. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, it also carried a secondary affiliation with ABC, usually carrying some of ABC's higher-rated shows. While ABC had an affiliate in the area, WOPC-TV (channel 38, now WATM-TV on channel 23), its signal was hit-or-miss even in Altoona itself.
In 1956, WFBG was sold to the Annenberg family's Triangle Publications. Triangle, after selling off most of its media properties between 1969 and 1971, sold WFBG to Gateway Communications in 1973. Gateway changed the station's call letters to the present-day WTAJ-TV (which stands for We're Television for Altoona and Johnstown). The new calls were chosen to acknowledge channel 10's large viewership in Johnstown. Although Johnstown had a CBS affiliate of its own, WJNL-TV (channel 19), that station's signal was always painfully weak and Johnstown viewers actually got a better signal from channel 10. The station also reached eastern parts of the Pittsburgh market and was available on many Pittsburgh-area cable systems. This was necessary because Pittsburgh's CBS affiliate, KDKA-TV, preempted a decent amount of CBS shows and most of the preempted shows aired on WTAJ.
Prior to 1982, Johnstown and Altoona/State College were separate markets. After the Altoona/State College and Johnstown DMAs were collapsed into a single market that year, WTAJ became the exclusive CBS affiliate for the enlarged market. WJNL's signal was marginal at best in the eastern part of the market; it barely reached Altoona and just missed State College. WJNL (which changed its calls to WFAT) struggled as a low-rated independent station for a decade before going dark in 1991; it eventually returned to the air and is now Pittsburgh CW station WPCW.
Gateway Communications merged with SJL Broadcasting in December 2000. SJL transferred WTAJ's license to its subsidiary Television Station Group License Subsidiary, LLC in 2004. SJL changed its name to Montecito Broadcast Group in 2005. Montecito put WTAJ and two of its other stations in the Northeast--Binghamton, New York's WBNG-TV and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's WLYH-TV--up for sale shortly after it purchased four television stations (KHON-TV in Honolulu, Hawaii; KOIN in Portland, Oregon; KSNT in Topeka, Kansas and KSNW in Wichita, Kansas) from Emmis Communications. Granite Broadcasting has since purchased WBNG, and on July 26, 2006, Nexstar Broadcasting Group purchased WTAJ and WLYH for $56 million. Nexstar's acquisition was completed on December 29, 2006.
In late May 2007, WTAJ launched a redesigned website. On January 28, 2008, the station unvield a new logo, slogan, and a re-designed set to replace the old set that had been used since 1995. The station also has announced plans to enlarge its coverage in Johnstown since WWCP-TV and WATM have shut down their news department. Plans include a new Cambria County newsroom. WTAJ has already hired former FOX 8/abc 23 reporter and anchor Sean Dreher to cover the Cambria County region.
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Money talks for WTAJ-TV. (Altoona, Pennsylvania)(Three on Top of the News)(Special Radio and Television News Directors Association Report)
Oct 07, 1996; It is no accident that WTAJ-TV Altoona, Pa., a perennial number-two in the Johnstown-Altoona market, surged to number-one...