Bristol, Tennessee– Virginia
|City||Johnson City, Tennessee|
ABC Tri-Cities (on DT2)
|Slogan||In your corner.|
Digital: 11 (
(to move to 9 (VHF))
Virtual: 11 ( PSIP)
Nexstar Media Group|
(Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.)
|First air date||October 26, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||John H. Lancaster|
(founder of WJHL radio)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
11 (VHF, 1953–2009)
58 ( UHF, 1998–2009)
|Former affiliations||All secondary:|
38 kW ( CP)
|Height||708 m (2,323 ft)|
703.2 m (2,307 ft) (CP)
|Public license information:||
WJHL-TV is a dual CBS/ ABC- affiliated television station licensed to Johnson City, Tennessee, United States, serving the Tri-Cities area of northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 11 from a transmitter on Holston Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. Owned by Nexstar Media Group, WJHL maintains studios on East Main Street in downtown Johnson City. On cable, the station can be seen on Comcast Xfinity channel 6 and Charter Spectrum channel 11.
WJHL-TV began broadcasting on October 26, 1953.  It was owned by Hanes Lancaster, Sr. his son Hanes, Jr. and Jesse W. "Jay" Birdwell along with WJHL radio (910 AM, now WJCW; and FM 101.5, now WQUT).
The call letters stood for John H. Lancaster, Hanes, Sr.'s father and Hanes, Jr.'s grandfather, who had founded the AM station in 1938.  Hanes, Jr., who was the radio station's sales manager, was intrigued by the potential of television, and pushed hard for building a television counterpart to WJHL radio. Hanes, Sr. was skeptical, but Hanes, Jr. lined up enough potential investors to persuade his father to take the project under his wing. 
The Lancaster-Birdwell interests applied for a license in 1948, only to be derailed by the nationwide license freeze that had been imposed a few months earlier. After a four-and-a-half year wait, they were granted a license in January 1953. 
In the summer of 1953, WJHL-TV was on track to be the first television station to sign on in East Tennessee, projecting to begin operations on October 17. At the time, the station's original transmission tower was being constructed on Tannery Knob in downtown Johnson City. With just a few weeks before sign-on, the guy wires snapped, sending the 550-foot (170 m) tower and its antenna crashing to the ground, falling just three inches from the transmission equipment. Despite the damage, only two people were injured.  This enabled WROL-TV in Knoxville (now WATE-TV) to beat WJHL-TV to the air by almost a month. Since many advertisers and banks were already skeptical about television's viability (the tower crash did not help), the Lancasters had to scramble for funding. They were able to get the station on-the-air but had to side-mount a much smaller replacement antenna on a wooden power pole the Johnson City Power Board installed at the last minute.
In 1955, Birdwell sold his interests in WJHL-AM-FM-TV, which ended his involvement in broadcasting. Birdwell had already sold WBIR in Knoxville (now WIFA) eleven years earlier to a Cincinnati-based consortium, which retained the call letters Birdwell initiated, reflecting the first three letters of his name. In 1956, that same consortium launched WBIR-TV, which retains Birdwell's original call letters to this day.
Originally, WJHL-TV was affiliated with all four television networks of the time—CBS, NBC, ABC, and DuMont. However, its primary affiliation has always been with CBS, due to that network's long-time affiliation with WJHL radio. In 1954, the WJHL-TV transmitter was relocated to Buffalo Mountain southwest of Johnson City, which is 1,200 feet (366 m) higher than Tannery Knob. From that location, the station was able to better reach Bristol, Kingsport and other areas of Eastern Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia, and Western North Carolina. To this day, WQUT-FM (the former WJHL-FM) still broadcasts from WJHL-TV's old tower on Buffalo Mountain. Meanwhile, NBC moved to WCYB-TV in Bristol when that station signed-on in 1956. WJHL lost Dumont soon afterward when that network shut down. WJHL and WCYB shared ABC until 1969 when WKPT-TV in Kingsport signed-on and became the market's ABC affiliate.
The Lancasters sold off their radio interests in 1960, and in turn sold WJHL-TV to Roy H. Park Broadcasting in 1964--earning a handsome return on John H. Lancaster's original investment from 26 years earlier.  Around this time, the station adopted a logo featuring a U.S. highway sign with an "11" inside it, which remained in use until around 1987. The logo was already well known in the area, since alternate routes of U.S. Highway 11, U.S. Highways 11-E and 11-W pass through most of the major cities and towns in the Tri-Cities. The shields were, and still are, quite prevalent in the area and became an instant promotional link for the station. Park Broadcasting was renamed Park Communications in the 1970s.
Hanes Lancaster, Jr. had succeeded his father as station manager in 1954, and remained as station manager after the sale to Park. In 1989, Lancaster, Jr. was succeeded by Jack Dempsey, who held the post until June 2012, when he went to crosstown rival WCYB. Dan Cates was appointed General Manager of WJHL in August 2012, after being the news director of sister station WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Many of its employees have stayed on for thirty years or more, which is unusual for such a small market (it is currently the 93rd market, the smallest in the state with three full big three affiliates).
Some of the more well-known TV anchors and personalities on WJHL include: Dick Ellis, Al Gregory, Red Kirk, Kathryn Willis, Eddie McKinney, Bob Carlton, Ed Carter, Bob Lewis, Don Garland, Ron Rankins, Claude Wood, Judy Rothe, Ray Stockard, Tony Treadway, Mary Ellen Plubell (Miller), Mark Reynolds, Jim Bailey, Kenny Hawkins, and Tim Cable.
In 1969, WJHL moved its transmitter once again 800 feet (240 m) higher and further east, this time side-by-side with WKPT on the lower end of Holston High Point on Holston Mountain. With an antenna now at 2,224 feet (678 m) above average terrain, it was necessary to reduce full power analog visual to 245,000 watts from the normal 316,000 watts allocated to stations between VHF channel 7 to 13 with antennas below 2,000 feet (610 m) above average terrain.
Media General acquired Park Communications and WJHL in 1997 and dropped its longtime brand of "TV 11" in favor of "NewsChannel 11". The station began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 58 in 1998. In May 2009, WJHL switched its branding from "NewsChannel 11" to "11 Connects." WJHL reverted to the NewsChannel 11 branding in October 2012.
Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable systems in their market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On December 3, 2008, it was announced that Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), a cable provider serving parts of Eastern Kentucky, announced that it would drop WJHL from its lineup unless an agreement was reached over retransmission consent.  According to The Mountain Eagle, this dispute has caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon where IMC holds the cable television franchise there.  The city council in Fleming-Neon has stated that the removal of WJHL will violate IMC's franchise agreement. 
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming |
|11.1||1080i||16:9||WJHL-HD||Main WJHL-TV programming / CBS|
|11.2||720p||WJHL .2||WJHL-DT2 / ABC|
WJHL-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 58, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 11. 
WJHL-DT2 was established in late 2006 as a simulcast of its 24-hour cable weather channel. In August 2011, WJHL-DT2 established a general entertainment format as a MeTV affiliate.
On January 4, 2016, Media General and ABC announced that WJHL-DT2 would become the Tri-Cities' ABC affiliate on February 1 of that year, branded as ABC Tri-Cities, ending that network's affiliation in the Tri-Cities on WKPT-TV and MeTV's affiliation with WJHL-DT2. The move reunited the network with WJHL, which had a secondary affiliation with ABC until WKPT's launch in 1969. MeTV was promptly picked up by WKPT's sister station WAPK-CD, while that station's MyNetworkTV affiliation moved to WKPT.   
Shortly after launching, WJHL-DT2 had to wait a year to carry the Saturday morning Litton's Weekend Adventure children’s educational programming block designed mainly for carriage by ABC affiliates, as it was under a syndication contract and WKPT retained their rights to carry it after disaffiliating from ABC. It moved to WJHL-DT2 in April 2017, after WKPT voided all syndication contracts to carry Cozi TV, and to honor existing commitments to the former syndicated E/I programming WJHL-DT2 carried instead to fulfill their requirements.
In recent years, WJHL has been carried on cable in multiple areas outside of the Tri-Cities media market. That includes cable systems within the Knoxville market in Kentucky, and the Asheville and Charlotte markets in North Carolina.  According to Zap2it, WJHL has been carried on cable in College Grove, which is within the Nashville market. 
WJHL's newscasts were simulcast on WKPT for four years. That station shut down its news department in February 2002. The simulcasts ceased in September 2006 (WKPT later restarted its own news operation, which itself shut down January 29, 2016). In late 2006, WJHL-TV launched a 24-hour cable weather channel. It was seen on most cable outlets in the area via digital cable and on digital channel 11.3; in 2015, the channel was replaced by Ion Television as a result of an affiliation deal between Media General and Ion. On August 11, 2008, Channel 11 debuted a new daytime show, Daytime Tri-Cities. The show is hosted by Morgan King (a former weatherman at WKPT and WCYB) and Amy Lynn (who was an anchor at WCYB). In the November 2008 ratings period, WJHL's 11 p.m. news took over the ratings lead from WCYB for the first time in thirty years.
On April 21, 2010, WJHL management announced that the station will convert Channel 11 newscasts to high definition.  On October 4, 2010, WJHL became the second station in the Tri-Cities market to convert its newscast in high definition. 
WJHL-TV is in what the media industry calls a converged newsroom, meaning Media General online print ( The Bristol Herald Courier) and broadcast (WJHL) operations work together closely. Herald Courier reporters are trained to occasionally deliver webcasts of Bristol news, conduct TV "talk-backs" with WJHL and gather audio for daily stories. News Channel 11 reporters often have bylined stories that appear in the Herald Courier news pages. Both operations provide content for TriCities.com, a subsidiary of Media General's Digital Media Department.
When WJHL-DT2 switched from MeTV to ABC on February 1, 2016, WJHL's morning, 11 p.m., and weekend newscasts began simulcasting on the subchannel. In addition, WJHL-DT2 airs newscasts at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with ABC World News Tonight broadcast in between the two newscasts on a 30-minute tape delay at 7 p.m. The newscasts are branded ABC Tri-Cities News and are exclusive to WJHL-DT2.
In addition to its Johnson City studios and newsroom, WJHL operates news bureaus in the Progress Building in downtown Kingsport, and on State Street in Bristol, Tennessee.
- Television Factbook #49, 1980 Edition, page 787-B, WJHL-TV
- "Eight stations, 5 VHF, 3 UHF, begin commercial operation." Broadcasting - Telecasting, November 2, 1953, pg. 64. [ permanent dead link]
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1940 page 154
- WJHL: Celebrating 60 Years! (Television Production). United States: WJHL-TV. 2013.
- "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, January 20, 1964, pg. 48. [ permanent dead link]
- "WKPT, WCYB & WJHL Possible Programming Issue For 2009". Inter Mountain Cable. 2008-12-03. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- Farley, William (2009-01-14). "Neon council upset by threat of TV changes". The Mountain Eagle. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WJHL
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "WKPT, WAPK announce new programming plan". Kingsport Times-News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- "Media General Announces ABC Affiliation in Tri-Cities DMA," Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. press release via Yahoo!, 1/4/2016
- "WKPT's affiliation with ABC coming to an end". Retrieved January 4, 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 2, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- "11 Connects first to announce local news to be telecast in HD for viewing area". Tricities.com. 2010-04-21.