On Tuesday, September 1, 1953, WNOK-TV, Channel 67 signed on the air as a CBS/Dumont affiliate with studios located in the old Jefferson Hotel in downtown Columbia. This was the Golden Age of television as viewers tuned into programs like Art Linkletter's House Party, The Arthur Godfrey Show, The Red Skelton Show, and of course, I Love Lucy. Soon after signing on, WNOK-TV began broadcasting the Sunday services of The First Baptist Church. Those live broadcasts, still on the air today, represent one of the longest continually running local programs in the USA. WNOK-TV was also the first Midlands television station to air a live, local baseball game (the Columbia Reds).
In the early 1960's, the station changed channel numbers by moving to the much stronger Channel 19. In 1969, a new facility was constructed on Garners Ferry Road for both WNOK-TV and WNOK-AM and FM. In 1977, Lewis Broadcasting purchased WNOK-TV and changed the call letters to WLTX-TV. At the same time, WNOK radio was sold. In 1985, WLTX-TV constructed a new 1,780 foot tall tower that nearly doubled the signal strength of the station and delivered a signal into 24 counties. In April of 1998, Gannett purchased WLTX-TV and an immediate effort was undertaken to grow the station's news operations into one of the premiere news departments in the Southeast. In November 1999, a morning edition of News 19 was added from 5am - 7am. The 5am start was a first for The Midlands. On December 31, 1999, WLTX ushered in the new millennium with the addition of Jim Gandy, the most trusted name in South Carolina weather. Soon thereafter, News 19's live Double Doppler was introduced with one location atop the Lexington Medical Center and the other location in Atlanta. The Double Doppler sweeps of the Georgia/Carolina skies meant that WLTX viewers were protected by the most advanced severe weather warning system in the state.
The extensive growth of News 19 was recognized in June of 2000 by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when WLTX-TV won the prestigious EMMY Award for Outstanding Daily Newscast in a competition that covered the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. In 2001, News19 was recognized with seven major awards from the Associated Press. In addition, WLTX was presented with a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for journalism excellence, plus another EMMY. Late in 2001, the South Carolina Broadcasters Association named WLTX-TV their Television Station of the Year! To accentuate our commitment to news, WLTX-TV completed a construction project that doubled the size of the station and added a new and much larger newsroom for News19, along with news support facilities, and a new studio control room. On May 3, 2003, WLTX-DT became the first commercial station in Columbia to sign on with a digital signal. WLTX-TV broadcasts on Channel 17, but digital receivers receive it as Channel 19-1, 19-2 and 19-3. CBS' The Price is Right was the first program to be broadcast in digital and the first true HDTV program (High Definition Television) was The Young and The Restless. WLTX-TV is on the air 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. WLTX was one of the first stations in the country to broadcast all games of the March Madness Tournament. Through the use of digital technology, WLTX broadcast up to 4 games, simultaneously, using the analog channel 19 plus digital channels 19-1, 19-2 and 19-3. In November of 2005, WLTX launched News 19 Weather Now, the only all-local 24/7 weather channel in Columbia. News 19 Weather Now is broadcast on digital channel 19-3 which is Channel 112 on Time Warner Cable. WLTX's website, www.wltx.com, is a major source of information and is one of the most-visited news websites in South Carolina. The site is updated continuously and features news, weather, and sports along with streaming video covering a variety of topics. wltx.com also features interactive weather radar, along with regular news, weather and sports online updates. The mobile version of wltx.com is a powerful on-the-go companion to anyone with a smart phone.
On January 24, 2011, WLTX began originating all News 19 broadcasts in high definition. The transition to local HD origination meant viewers were treated to the best possible video. On July 1, 2013, News 19 expanded to include a 4:30am Newscast. In 2015, Gannett spun its publishing properties from its broadcast and digital properties, making WLTX part of TEGNA Media, one of the largest most geographically diverse broadcasters in the U.S. WLTX now produces over 30 hours of News each week. The WLTX Facebook site has the largest following of any station in South Carolina and is a vital source for the discussion of news and information. WLTX breaks all news first via Twitter and users in the Columbia area rely on News 19's Twitter feed for the latest breaking news. The WLTX tablet APP is a rich source for News, Weather, and Sports. Today, WLTX is more than just a television station. WLTX is a digital media center, utilizing all the newest technology available to distribute news, information and entertainment, including digital television on channels 19.1, 19.2, and 19.3.
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