WTVF, also known as "NewsChannel 5", is the CBS television network affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee. The station is owned by Landmark Communications. Its transmitter is located in Nashville.
WTVF also owns and operates NewsChannel 5+, a spinoff cable channel, viewable on Channel 50 on most of Middle Tennessee's cable systems. Along with their website, newschannel5.com, the stations promote themselves under the umbrella branding NewsChannel 5 Network.
As of February 4, 2007, WTVF became the first station in Tennessee to broadcast local news in HDTV. Its sister station, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada, also broadcasts in this format.
On January 30, 2008, Landmark announced its intention to sell WTVF, along with its other TV station KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. This was followed on July 14, 2008 with an announcement that the station would be sold to Bonten Media Group.
WTVF signed on the air on August 6
, owned by the Life and Casualty Insurance Company
and Nashville businessman Guilford Dudley. Ever since its inception, the signal of WLAC/WTVF has been short-spaced to Memphis' WMC-TV
Channel 5 was part of a triopoly along with WLAC-AM 1510, and later WLAC-FM (now WNRQ-FM). The callsign, of course, reflected the initials of the insurance company. It immediately took the CBS affiliation from WSIX-TV (channel 8, now WKRN-TV, channel 2) because WLAC-AM had been Nashville's CBS radio affiliate since 1928. With WLAC-TV, Nashville became the smallest city in the U.S. to have three network-affiliated commercial television stations. American General Corporation, a Houston-based insurer, bought L&C and WLAC-AM-FM-TV in the 1960s.
WLAC-TV was sold to the Hobby family, owners of the now-defunct Houston Post, in 1975, who changed the station's callsign to WTVF; American General/L&C eventually sold WLAC-AM-FM to other interests; the stations have had several owners over the years. In 1983, the Hobbys reorganized their broadcast holdings as H&C Communications after their flagship property, the Post, was sold. Landmark bought WTVF from the Hobbys in 1994.
In 2008 Landmark Communications decided to sell its Properties including WTVF, KLAS, and The Weather Channel. WTVF was purchased by Bonten Media Group LLC, a firm that owns 16 conventional broadcast and digital stations in five states. WTVF is the biggest station that Bonten will own and the first CBS affiliate in its portfolio.
Famous programs and personalities
During its years as WLAC-TV, the station helped launch the career of a young African-American reporter and native Nashvillian named Oprah Winfrey
by making her a regular news anchor
in the early 1970s. The station's Studio A, which was built in 1967 near the Tennessee State Capitol building, was also the home of the hit show Hee Haw
for most of its 1968–1993 run (its last few years were recorded at The Nashville Network
's studios adjacent to the now-defunct Opryland USA
theme park). Channel 5's relation to WLAC-AM, which was known for many years for its nighttime soul music
programming, led it to air a groundbreaking show on Friday and Saturday nights during the mid- and late-1960s called Night Train,
which featured R&B performances and dancing, similar to American Bandstand.
Rumor has it that Don Cornelius
, then a Chicago
TV host, may have used it as a model for his successful Soul Train
WTVF has long battled with WSMV
--which itself started as WSM-TV, the television arm of another Nashville heritage radio station, WSM-AM
--for the top spot in the Nashville ratings. Generally speaking, Channel 5 is more popular in the city of Nashville itself than in the more conservative suburbs (e.g., Williamson
counties) because of its emphasis on hard news
and investigative reports, as opposed to WSMV's emphasis on softer stories. Amazingly, the reverse was true some 15 to 20 years ago, as WSMV earned numerous awards for hard-hitting investigative and government affairs coverage (while still targeting a more upscale suburban demographic), while WTVF did not make many waves, relying mainly on newscast staples like crime coverage (which reflected its urban lead).
During the 1970s and 1980s, the station used the "Eyewitness News" moniker; it has used the branding "NewsChannel5" since 1989.
In 1974, WLAC became the first non-network-owned television station in the country to use Electronic News Gathering (ENG) to bring live field reports to its viewers.
On February 2
, WTVF rolled out its new on-air look, complete with a new state-of-the-art news set, weather center, and graphics in tandem with NewsChannel 5's official HD debut. The new set was completely built in a separate studio from its existing set, keeping disruptions of news operations to a minimum. As of February 4
, WTVF is the 25th television station in the U.S. to air local news in High Definition, and one of only four television stations at the time with an HD weather center and system.
The previous day, February 1, marked the end of the decades-long monopoly WTVF had in providing CBS programming to some counties in southern Kentucky. Bowling Green's WNKY-TV, an NBC affiliate, launched another station on its digital subchannel, a full CBS affiliate. WTVF was removed from a number of southern Kentucky cable systems as a result, due to FCC rules against duplication of network programming on different cable channels.
Chris Clark, four-decade anchor
Behind Winfrey, the station's most notable anchor is Chris Clark
. He served as the station's main anchor from 1966 to 2007, longer than anyone in Nashville television history — and quite possibly in American television history also, for a single station. Clark, a Greek-American
whose real name is Christopher Botsaris, signed his final five-year contract in 2002. In June 2006, Clark reduced his daily anchoring schedule to one newscast — NewsChannel 5 at 6 p.m.
— and announced he would retire in 2007. Clark's final broadcast (after 41 years) took place on the final day of the May "sweeps" ratings period — Wednesday, May 23
at 6 p.m. The station ran a number of on-air tributes in the days leading up to Clark's departure. Clark signed off with a touching tribute to his co-workers and many friends, then uttered his famous closing line one last time: "I'll see tou then..." (one fitting tribute to Clark: WTVF swept the competition in the May ratings period, winning every newscast). Rhori Johnston
, the co-anchor on the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts, succeeded Clark at 6 p.m.
Before arriving at WLAC/WTVF, Clark worked for stations in his native Georgia, in Atlanta and Albany. He graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens. While at Albany's WALB-TV, Clark managed to interview Martin Luther King, Jr.
NewsChannel 5+ airs replays of the mother station's news broadcasts, as well as original and exclusive call-in and interview shows. NC5+ has also carried live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of high-profile criminal trials in the Nashville area, such as those of Paul Dennis Reid
, Perry March
and Mary Winkler
. NC5+ regularly goes live during severe weather, and will sometimes air local news live if CBS programming pre-empts WTVF's regular local news time slot, such as during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
After the analog television shutdown scheduled for February 17, 2009 , WTVF will return to channel 5.
WTVF also produces daily 90-second news updates for local Telefutura
, anchored by Eva Melo. This newscast is the only Spanish-language newscast in Nashville, a market consisting of about 4% Spanish-speaking viewers, a fast-growing audience in the middle Tennessee area.
Notable station alumni
- Debbie Alan, Anchor/Reporter and co-creator/original host of "Talk of the Town"
- Alex Cabrero, News Reporter (2001-2004) Won National Emmy in 2003. Now at KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Joe Case, Weathercaster (later with WZTV; now Senior Pastor at UpRising Church in Bellevue, Tennessee)
- Kristin Calpino, Morning Traffic Reporter (2006-2008)
- Harry Chapman, Anchor & Host of "Talk of the Town" (retired; now works for Belmont University)
- Scott Couch, Anchor/Reporter (now at WZTV, Nashville, Tennessee)
- Roy Hobbs, Anchor (now at WBMA/WCFT/WJSU in Birmingham, Alabama)
- Steve Irvin, Anchor/Reporter (now at KNXV-TV, Phoenix)
- Dana Kaye, Reporter (died of cancer in 2006)
- Charles Kennedy, Anchor (later turned actor and comedian on Saturday Night Live, Dumb and Dumber)
- Ruth Ann Leach, Anchor/Reporter (now, as Ruth Ann Harnisch, is President of the Harnisch Family Foundation)
- Lyra Manning, Reporter (now morning and noon anchor at WBTW, Myrtle Beach/Florence, South Carolina)
- Mark Howard, Sports Anchor/Reporter 19 years (now a sportstalk show host at WGFX and works on the broadcasts for the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators as well as play by play for the State High School football and basketball Championships)
- Amy Marsalis, Anchor/Medical Reporter (retired) - returned briefly in July 2007 to fill in for Kristin Priesol, while on maternity leave.
- Jennifer Mills, Co-host of "Talk of the Town" (now lives in Shreveport, Louisiana)
- Neil O'Donnell, Sports Analyst (former NFL Quarterback)
- Jamie Reese, Anchor/Reporter (now at KMSP-TV, Minneapolis)
- Jan Ryan, Anchor/Reporter, now President of News Power Online and Managing Partner of Global Artisan Showcase
- Greg Starddard, reporter, back-up anchor, 1991-1992
- Oprah Winfrey, Anchor/Reporter (now worldwide entertainment icon)
- Middle Tennessee's first live news helicopter debuted on the NewsChannel5 Network on May 15, 2006. NewsChannel 5 reporter Phil Jones reports stories from the chopper for most newscasts. SKY 5's pilot is Ray Martin. WSMV-TV channel 4 debuted its own helicopter a year later. WTVF had used a chopper for newsgathering in the 1970s, but it was unable to broadcast live pictures.
- Former NFL quarterback Neil O'Donnell worked for the station as a Tennessee Titans analyst from 2005 to 2007.
- The station's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, is considered to be one of the best in the country. In 2002, Williams began a series called Friends in High Places, which launched an investigation into insider state contracts secured during the administration of Don Sundquist, who was governor of Tennessee from 1995 to 2003. A state and federal investigation from the story led to contract reform on the state's Capitol Hill and resulted in indictments and/or jail sentences for several top Sundquist Administration officials. The story earned Williams his second Peabody Award and a duPont-Columbia Award, the station's fifth. One Nashville political strategist said about Williams:
- "If the press calls, call your PR person. If Phil Williams calls, call your lawyer because you're in trouble."