In 1953, the Birmingham News bought the Voice of Alabama and changed WAFM-TV's calls to WABT (for Alabama's Best Television). A year later, WABT swapped primary affiliations with WBRC-TV and became an NBC affiliate. In 1956, the Newhouse newspaper chain bought the News.
The station changed call signs again in 1958 when it became WAPI-TV to match its sister radio stations. (The calls stood for Alabama Polytechnic Institute, who owned WAPI from 1925 through 1932.)
When WBRC-TV took the ABC affiliation on a full-time basis in 1961, WAPI-TV decided to shoehorn both NBC and CBS programs into its schedule. This was rather unusual, since in most two-station markets both stations either divided up the ABC programming, or one station carried ABC as a secondary affiliation.
While channel 13 tried to carry the most popular NBC and CBS shows, a lot of quite popular shows did not air in Birmingham because of this arrangement. One of the more popular shows that WAPI-TV did not carry was The Ed Sullivan Show, meaning that north-central Alabama viewers missed The Beatles' American debut unless they were lucky enough to pick up stations in Atlanta, Georgia, Huntsville or Montgomery. Oddly, one of the NBC shows that channel 13 turned down was The Tonight Show. WAPI-TV strongly favored NBC for news, so when CBS and NBC expanded their news programs to 30 minutes in the early 1960s, Walter Cronkite on CBS was not seen on Birmingham-area television screens for several years. This was due, of course, to both networks' feeding their newscasts to affiliates at 5:30 p.m. Central Time (like today). Channel 13 had its local newscast at 6 p.m. Central time, and prior to 1971, prime-time network programming began at 6:30 p.m. Central time. This left no room on the schedule for the CBS Evening News to air, even if the station management had wanted to broadcast it. This meant that, for some years, NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report was the only national evening television newscast available to central Alabama viewers, since WBRC-TV did not carry ABC's evening news at the time (and would not for some years to come).
When WBMG-TV (channel 42, now WIAT) started telecasting in 1965, it nominally had a CBS affiliation, but CBS allowed WAPI-TV to continue airing its higher-rated programming. This was largely because WBMG had only started one year after the Federal Communications Commission required that new television sets include all-channel tuning. To fill out the schedule, WBMG aired some NBC programming that WAPI-TV turned down (such as The Tonight Show). Both stations listed "CBS/NBC" as their affiliation. However, in May 1970, for a number of reasons, WAPI-TV became the exclusive NBC affiliate, sending all of CBS's programming to WBMG. At the same time that channel 13 became an exclusive affiliate of NBC and WBMG aligned with CBS, WCFT in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and WHMA in Anniston, Alabama also affiliated with CBS. Prior to that time, the primetime schedule of WCFT and WHMA virtually mirrored that of WBMG.
The Newhouse company, Advance Publications, withdrew from broadcasting in the early 1980s. WAPI-TV was sold to Times-Mirror Broadcasting in 1980, and as a result the station became WVTM (for Vulcan Times-Mirror), and remains with those call letters to this day.
In the early 1990s, the station was purchased by Argyle Broadcasting. In 1994, New World Communications, which had recently cut an affiliation deal with Fox Broadcasting Company, agreed to purchase WVTM along with its sister stations KTVI in St. Louis, Missouri, KDFW in Dallas, Texas, and KTBC in Austin, Texas. However, New World also decided to purchase Great American Broadcasting, which owned WBRC. Great American agreed to exclude WBRC from its deal with New World, and to sell WBRC directly to Fox instead. As such, WVTM retained its NBC affiliation, while KTVI (the former St. Louis ABC affiliate), KDFW (the former Dallas/Fort Worth CBS affiliate), and KTBC (the former Austin CBS affiliate) became Fox affiliates. Fox operated WBRC as an ABC affiliate until 1996.
The station also went through numerous name changes from NewsCenter13, to NewsWatch13 and its AM newscast 13 Alive to 13 Action News and then 13 and You, an ode to NBC and You to Alabama's 13, People Who Care, NBC13, We've Got You Covered, to today's NBC13, Accuracy Matters. WVTM, currently known on air as NBC13, runs more than 35 hours of local news a week along with NBC network news.
Also, in 2004, WVTM became the first television station in Alabama to obtain a 1-million watt Doppler weather radar system originally dubbed "Skywatch Doppler One Million", now called "WeatherPlus Doppler One Million", located on Bald Rock Mountain in St. Clair County, Alabama.
WVTM was one of four NBC owned & operated in smaller markets that were put up for sale on January 9, 2006, along with WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and WNCN in Raleigh, North Carolina. On April 6, 2006, NBC Universal and Media General announced that Media General would purchase WVTM-TV as part of a $600 million four-station deal between the two companies Media General has announced that it will sell its existing station in Birmingham, WIAT, since the FCC does not allow for one company to own two of the four largest stations in a single market. Media General closed the deal on all four stations on June 26, 2006 - after the FCC granted the company a temporary waiver allowing it to keep both WVTM and WIAT for six months. On August 2, it was announced that Media General sold WIAT to New Vision Television.
For several months after Media General acquired the stations from NBC Universal, WVTM's Web site and those of the other three stations remained in the format used by the Web sites of NBC owned & operated stations. In December 2006, the Web sites for all four of the stations were redesigned. They now credit Media General in their copyright notices, and they are no longer operated by the Internet Broadcasting company.
In 2008, WVTM announced it would add the Retro Television Network to one of its digital channels.
|Network||ERP (W)||Altitude||RCAGL||Tx Latitude/Longitude||Owner||29 May 1949||WAFM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||CBS/ABC||The Voice of Alabama, Inc.||July 1953||WABT||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||CBS/ABC||The Birmingham News Company||1954||WABT||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC/ABC||316000||311 m||154 m||The Birmingham News Company||26 Jan 1956||WABT||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC/ABC||316000||Advance Publications||1958||WAPI-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC/ABC||316000||Advance Publications||1961||WAPI-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC/CBS||316000||Advance Publications||6 Dec 1965||WAPI-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||Advance Publications||28 March 1980||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||Times-Mirror Company||24 June 1981||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||297 m||303 m||Times-Mirror Company||14 May 1993||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||297 m||303 m||Argyle Television Holding||1 April 1995||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||297 m||303 m||New World Communications||27 July 1996||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||297 m||303 m||NBC||23 June 2006||WVTM-TV||13||Birmingham||Birmingham||NBC||316000||297 m||303 m||Media General|