MOBILE, Ala. - WALA signed on for the first time on January 14, 1953 asMobile's second television station to go on the air and the oldeststation in the area. The station aired programs from NBC, ABC, CBS,and DuMont. The station was locally owned by W. O. Pape along withWALA 1410 AM. When WEAR-TV signed on, ABC and CBS programming movedthere, and CBS programming would move to WKRG in 1955. As the mostestablished station, WALA got the strongest syndicated programmingand had the top rated newscasts.
Pape sold WALA in 1964 to the Roywood Corporation. In 1969 WALAwould be sold to the Universal Communications Corporation, thetelevision arm of the Detroit News. Through the years, WALA was theleading station in a three-station race.
Gannett bought out Universal Communications in the merger withthe Detroit News' publisher The Evening News Association, but dueto the company's ownership of the Pensacola News Journal andFederal Communications Commission regulations on common ownershipof television stations and newspapers, Gannett owned WALA for oneday in 1986. Gannett sold WALA to Knight Ridder Broadcasting beforesubsequently selling to Burnham Broadcasting in 1989.
FOX Broadcasting wanted to upgrade affiliates in many marketswhen it acquired rights to broadcast NFL Football's NFC games inthe mid-1990s. In 1994, FOX announced affiliation deals with NewWorld Communications stations in larger markets. The deal involvedswitching all the stations which were former Big Three affiliatesto FOX in the fall of 1994. More stations would switch to FOX in1995 when New World bought out two more conglamerate broadcastgroups: Argyle Television and Citicasters. In turn, Newscorppurchased New World to merge it with the Fox Television StationsGroup in 1997.
As a result of FOX's influence on gaining more VHF affiliationsto establish itself as a "Big Four" network, more upgrades werestill sought out -- this time in smaller markets. The formation ofSF Broadcasting with Savoy Broadcasting was the result of thesmaller markets due in part to FOX owning a voting stock in Savvoy.SF then announced the purchase of WALA, along with WVUE in NewOrleans, Louisiana, KHON in Honolulu, Hawaii, and WLUK in GreenBay, Wisconsin. Aside from WVUE, then an ABC affiliate, the otherthree were NBC affiliates. The deal included that all four stationsshould convert to FOX affiliation. Before the sale became final in1995, it was determined that FOX's stock in SF would not beconsidered voting stock.
On January 1, 1996, WALA, along with KHON and WVUE, switched toFOX. WLUK changed its network affiliation back in September 1995.NBC affiliation moved to former Fox affiliate WPMI, owned by ClearChannel Communications. WALA aired Fox Kids Network programmingunlike the New World FOX affiliates. On weekdays where NBC'sdaytime dramas previously aired, Fox Kids would run from 1:00-4:00p.m -- an hour earlier than most of its Fox counterparts. Fox Kidsaired on Saturday mornings in pattern. WALA, now rebranded "FOX10", also expanded its local news on weekdays, to 5:00-8:00 a.m.,12:00-1:00 p.m., 5:00-6:00 p.m., and 9:00-10:00 p.m. Since thenthese times have changed only slightly.
WALA, KHON, WVUE, and WLUK were sold in a group deal to SilverKing/USA Broadcasting in 1997 and then to Emmis Communications in1998. FOX dropped weekday afternoon programming, then running foronly two hours before the end of 2001, and retained its Saturdaymorning programming. In 2002, that was revamped as the Fox Box, andthen in 2003 the programming line-up was renamed 4 Kids TV.
At this point WALA, like most FOX affiliates, would purchasemore talk and reality-based shows to fill timeslots that once had"Big Three" network programming (in WALA's case, NBC). Emmis boughtWBPG, an affiliate of WB Television Network in 2003, creating a newduopoly in the Mobile-Pensacola market.
Emmis put all of its television stations up for sale in 2005.WALA and WBPG were sold to LIN Television in 2005 and 2006respectively. One of WALA's digital subchannels simulcasts WBPG,now a CW affiliate, as WBPG has no digital signal of its own.
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