The Boston TV Dial: WLVI-TV

Who, What, Where

Community: Cambridge
Digital channel: 41
PSIP: 56-1: main program
Ownership: WLVI, Inc.
(Sunbeam Television Corp./Edmund N. Ansin)
Studio: 75 Morrissey Boulevard
Dorchester, MA 02125-3397
Transmitter: ATC Needham (UHF Candelabra)
142 Cabot Street
Needham, MA 02194-2802
Phones:
Receptionist +1 617 725 0777
Newsroom 725 0770
Network: The CW

Technical Parameters

WLVI-TV transmits in ATSC digital on channel 41 with 550 kW average ERP (19.1 kW transmitter output) from 346 meters (1135 feet) above average terrain, using a Dielectric TFU-24DSB side-mount slot antenna with 1.5 degrees of electrical beam-tilt. WLVI operates from the “UHF Candelabra” in Needham.

Station History

Channel 56, one of Boston's heritage UHF stations, started operation on September 27, 1953, as WTAO-TV—sister to WTAO(AM) 740 of Cambridge (now WJIB). WTAO-TV was affiliated with the ill-fated DuMont network, and had a secondary affiliation with ABC. Nobody watched, and the station was written off as a failure and shut down in late January of 1956 for lack of funds.

In 1962, channel 56 was reactivated as WXHR-TV, broadcasting from the WXHR-FM facilities on Zion Hill on the Winchester/Woburn line, for a six-month FCC study to determine if UHF broadcasting was viable in large urban areas. (A better-known station operated for the same study was WUHF-TV, channel 31 in New York, which became WNYC-TV and is now WPXN.) In 1965, the WXHR combo was purchased by a partnership of Kaiser Broadcasting and the Boston Globe, and one year later, in October of 1966, channel 56 was reactivated with color facilities as WKBG-TV. (Since 96.9 FM and channel 56 left the site on Zion Hill, it has been abandoned as a broadcasting site and is now used as a cable headend and two-way radio facility.)

In May of 1974, the call letters were changed to WLVI (LVI being fifty-six in Roman numerals). In September of 1977, the station was sold to Field Communications out of Chicago; six years later it was sold to media conglomerate Gannett (who changed the callsign to WLVI-TV). Finally, in 1994, the station was sold to Tribune, which announced that, like most of its other stations, WLVI would become an affiliate of the fledgling WB (Warner Bros.) network, a partnership of Warner and Tribune.

In early August, 1998, a crane erecting a new STL tower at a nearby office building toppled, crashing into the WLVI studios and doing several hundred thousand dollars in damage. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, and the most serious damage was confined to the office portion of the building. WLVI's “Ten O'Clock News” was able to make it on the air in time to report on the accident, by borrowing a production studio from WCVB in Needham.

Time Warner and CBS joined forces in January, 2006, agreeing to dissolve their existing networks, The WB and UPN, and form a new network, The CW. In most markets where Tribune owned stations, including Boston, the new CW affiliation went to the existing Tribune WB affiliate, but Tribune did not acquire an ownership stake in the new network. In September, 2006, Tribune agreed to sell WLVI to Sunbeam Television, owner of WHDH-TV, for $113.7 million. The sale was approved by the FCC in November, and consummated on December 19, 2006. Sunbeam closed WLVI's newsroom and studios, moving all operations to WHDH's downtown Boston studios; most of WLVI's staff were fired. “7News at 10 on CW56” launched the same day.

WLVI constructed its permanent digital facilities on channel 41 in February, 2007. The analog channel 56 signal was turned off at 11:56 p.m. on Friday, June 12, 2009; prior to that, WLVI transmitted in analog with 2240 kW peak visual ERP from a horizontally-polarized antenna 360 m (1181 ft) above average terrain, from the same tower as the current digital facility.

Historical information provided by Peter George.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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