A History of WTSP

The FCC granted a final license to station WLCY-TV on July 7, 1965. The license was granted after one of the longest and most bitter legal fights for a channel in Florida history. Three principal companies were seeking to own the license -- Florida Gulfcoast Broadcasters, Inc. (headed by St. Petersburg Times editor and president Nelson Poynter); Sunshine Cities Broadcasting Corporation (successful radio station owners in Florida and New York); and Tampa Telecasters, Inc. The City of St. Petersburg was also one of the original applicants for the license.

The first owner was Rahall Communications, owned by the Rahall brothers (known for their car racing) who also owned radio station WLCY in St. Petersburg. They were approved after long and bitter hearings before FCC examiner Millard French in Washington. In 1961, French recommended the Rahalls get the channel. The FCC approved his recommendation on Jan. 19, 1962 -- but the losing applicants weren't ready to quit. The battle went to the U.S. Court of Appeals and it wasn't until mid-July 1965, nearly eight years after their bid for the station, that the first signal was broadcast. The court battles continued through 1966 when the litigants gave up.

WLCY went on the air as an ABC affiliate. Gulf Broadcasting purchased the facility and license from the Rahalls in 1978 and changed the call letters to WTSP. In August 1985, Taft Broadcasting purchased the station from Gulf Broadcasting. Taft later became Great American Broadcasting and then Citicasters. Citicasters sold to Jacor Broadcasting in September. Gannett purchased the station from Jacor on Dec. 9, 1996.

WTSP was known for many technological and news firsts in the market, and in some cases, the nation. In October 1979, Sky 10, Tampa Bay's first news helicopter, took to the air and the airwaves. This orange and yellow helicopter became a symbol for up-to-the-minute newsgathering -- a reputation still owned by WTSP. The station also pioneered the use of the portable microwave transmitter and was the first station to use a computer in weather forecasting. This computer was designed and programmed by meteorologists at the station. WTSP was also the first station in the Southeast U.S. to introduce Storm Seeker Doppler Radar. Another technological first was the addition of Star 10, the first satellite truck in Tampa Bay, that put its first live shot from Plano, Texas, on the air in December 1984.

In November 1980, the first Tampa Bay television investigative unit went on air. And, in 1982, a consumer help line known as Action Line went on the air. This service, staffed by volunteers, helped viewers cut through red tape to solve consumer problems.

In 1983, the station won the prestigious George Foster Peabody award. The tradition of winning continues with a long list of Sigma Delta Chi, AP and Emmy awards through the years.

In 1984, WTSP joined three other TV stations in the state to form Florida News Network. This link between stations throughout Florida was the first of its kind nationally and provided better statewide coverage to area viewers.

In December 1994, the Tampa Bay market went through a major network affiliation switch. Three stations simultaneously changed networks, causing much viewer confusion.

Now the switch is over and WTSP is one of the best-performing CBS affiliates in the country.

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