The History of Roanoke Television


In 1950s, the Federal Communications Commission allocated channels 7, 10, and 27 for Roanoke and 13 for nearby Lynchburg, Virginia. Shenandoah Life Insurance Company (the owners of WSLS radio) obtained the channel 10 license and launched WSLS-TV on December 11, 1952. For more on the history of WSLS-TV Click Here. To view the online Scrapbook - Click Here.


Roanoke Radio, Inc. (owners of WROV radio) signed on WROV-TV Channel 27 on February 13, 1953. The station operated from a converted WROV radio studio at the Mountain Trust Bank building, using a transmitter atop Mill Mountain. Operating with one camera from poorly lit studios, WROV-TV relied heavily on personnel such as Lee Garrett and Coleman Austin who were shared with the established radio station. WROV-TV was affliated with CBS.

Coleman Austin (left) was an original WROV announcer. He was also seen on WROV-TV doing shows such as Teen Talk. As TV manufacturers were not required at the time to include UHF tuners in new TV's, few could receive the station. According to Lee Garrett, "we couldn't get the sponsors because we didn't have the programs and we couldn't get the programs because we didn't have the sponsors. A Catch 22. And we voluntarily surrendered its permit to the FCC". WROV-TV became the first UHF station in the country to go dark July 15, 1953. The Times World Corporation, which operated WDBJ radio, was seeking the channel 7 allocation for WDBJ-TV. Roanoke Radio was also seeking channel 7. WROV ultimately dropped its application for channel 7 in return for being able to recover its expenses by selling the WROV-TV facilities to WDBJ.


Bill & Mary Reid and the Melody Mountaineers - Curley Garner, played electric guitar, Curley Lambert played mandolin and Joe Meadows played fiddle.WLVA-TV was founded February 4, 1953 by Edward and Phillip Allen operating as Lynchburg Broadcast Corporation. WLVA-TV, the first station in Virginia to operate with maximum authorized power and coverage was originally a CBS affiliate before changing over to ABC in 1954. The first studio was located at 925 Church Street before expanding to the 2320 Langhorne Road location. In 1965, the Allen's sold the stations to the Washington Star Broadcast Group, who sold their holdings (WMAL-TV, WMAL-AM, WMAL-FM, The Washington Star Newspaper, and WCIV-TV) in 1976 to Mr. Joe L. Allbritton, hence the beginning of ACC. In 1977, WLVA Radio was sold and the WLVA-TV call letters were changed to WSET-TV. Through the decades, WSET-TV has expanded its facilities on Langhorne Road by adding bureaus in Roanoke (10/1/79) and Danville (9/1/83). Increased coverage of the over-the-air signal occurred in 1983 when the transmitter was moved from Johnson Mountain in Campbell County to Thaxton's Flat Top Mountain in Bedford County. WSET-TV began simulcasting in digital in 2003, and transitioned to digital channel 13 only in 2009.


WDBJ-TV —Roanoke's third-oldest—first went to the air on October 3, 1955 under the ownership of the Times-World Corporation, owners of the Roanoke Times and Roanoke World-News newspapers along with WDBJ radio (AM 960, now WFIR; and FM 94.9, now WSLC). It has always been a CBS affiliate, owing to WDBJ-AM's long affiliation with CBS Radio. Before the station signed on, CBS had been available part-time on ABC affiliate WLVA-TV (now WSET-TV). During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. For more on the history of WDBJ-TV Click Here.


Check out these other sites : The WROV History Website · The History of Roanoke Radio.