Plattsburgh, New York/
|Channels||Digital: 20 (UHF)|
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
|Branding||WCAX Channel 3 (general)|
The Channel 3 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||First in News|
3.3: Circle (O&O)
3.4: Start TV
3.5: Ion Television
|Owner||Gray Television |
(Gray Television Licensee, LLC)
First air date
|September 26, 1954|
(in Montpelier, Vermont; license moved to Burlington in 1955)
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
3 (VHF, 1954–2009)
22 (UHF, 2006–2019)
Fox (NFL games, 1994–1997)
Call sign meaning
|derived from former sister station WCAX radio (now WVMT)|
|HAAT||845 m (2,772 ft)|
|Translator(s)||20 W20CS-D Rutland VT|
Public license information
WCAX-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 20), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Burlington, Vermont, United States, serving Northern Vermont's Champlain Valley and Upstate New York's North Country, including Plattsburgh. The station is owned by Gray Television, as part of a duopoly with Saranac Lake, New York-licensed primary Heroes & Icons and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate WYCI (channel 40). WCAX-TV's studios are located on Joy Drive in South Burlington, and its transmitter is located on Vermont's highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
Like other network stations serving Burlington and Plattsburgh, WCAX-TV has a large audience in Southern Quebec, Canada. This includes Montreal, a city 10 times more populous than the station's entire U.S. viewing area. Most Vidéotron cable systems in Southern Quebec carry WCAX-TV as their CBS affiliate. The station is also available on every cable system in Vermont, and statewide on DirecTV and Dish Network.
Vermont's first television station, channel 3 first signed on the air on September 26, 1954 as WMVT, originally licensed to the capital city of Montpelier. It was owned by Charles P. Hasbrook, former publisher of the now-defunct Burlington Daily News and owner of WCAX radio (620 AM, now WVMT), which he purchased in 1939 and sold in 1963. In December 1954, the stations' parent company, WCAX Broadcasting Corporation, was renamed Mount Mansfield Television, after the location of channel 3's transmitter and tower.
In May 1955, WMVT moved its community of license from Montpelier to Burlington, the state's largest city, and just a few miles from Mount Mansfield. One month later, the station's call letters were changed to WCAX-TV to match its radio sister station. In 1958, Hasbrook turned over the station's ownership to his stepson, Dr. Stuart T. "Red" Martin Jr., an engineer by trade who assisted his stepfather in building the station from the ground-up. Red Martin had already been serving as general manager since the station signed on. Red Martin continued to own the station until his death in 2005, and was succeeded by his oldest son, Peter R. Martin.
Through WCAX radio's affiliation with the CBS Radio Network, channel 3 became a CBS television affiliate and has been with the network ever since. As such, until 2017, WCAX-TV was one of the few stations in the United States (not counting network owned-and-operated stations) that has had the same owner, channel number, and primary network affiliation throughout its history. The station did hold a secondary Fox affiliation from 1994 through 1997, carrying that network's sports and children's programming; through this arrangement, WCAX-TV was able to carry Fox's NFL coverage, which consisted of the rights to NFC games that had been held by CBS (and thus aired on WCAX-TV) until 1994. Cable and satellite viewers received the rest of Fox's programming via the Foxnet cable service in northern Vermont, New York City-based superstation WNYW in most areas of the New York side of the market (except for the far southern reaches, which were served by Albany affiliate WXXA-TV), and Rochester affiliate WUHF and later Buffalo affiliate WUTV in southwestern Quebec. The secondary Fox affiliation ended when WFFF-TV (channel 44) signed on in 1997. On October 25, 2006, WCAX-TV upgraded its digital signal to broadcast CBS programming in high definition.
On May 4, 2017, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced its intent to acquire WCAX-TV for $29 million–a handsome return on Charles Hasbrook's purchase of WCAX radio in 1939. Gray assumed operational control of the station on June 1, 2017 under a local marketing agreement. The sale was completed on August 1, ending the Hasbrook/Martin family's 62-year-long stewardship of the station.
2019 transmitter fire
On November 19, 2019, WCAX-TV, NBC affiliate WPTZ (channel 5) and CW+ affiliate WNNE (channel 31) were knocked off the air by a fire at their shared transmitter tower. The cause of the fire was unknown. The outage affects over-the-air and satellite viewers; cable subscribers in Vermont and New York continued to receive the three stations via direct fiber feeds, while Vidéotron in Quebec temporarily replaced WCAX with Detroit CBS owned-and-operated station WWJ-TV.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WCAX-HD||Main WCAX-TV programming / CBS|
In 2007, WCAX-TV began to operate a 24-hour local weather and news channel on a new digital subchannel. Originally called "Weather 3.2", and later "WCAXtra", it featured news updates and live local weather along with the FCC-required three hours of E/I-compliant children programming per week. On weekends, if sports events ran long, the news could be found on the secondary channel, though that practice ended a few years later. A 10 p.m. newscast was seen for a while exclusively on 3.2. After it was cancelled, the 5:30 program The :30 was run as a repeat in that timeslot. On April 30, 2015, the channel was replaced with the Movies! network. On digital cable, WCAX-DT2 can be seen on Comcast channel 331, Burlington Telecom channel 303, and Spectrum channel 295 or 165.
WCAX-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station moved its digital signal from its pre-transition UHF channel 53, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to UHF channel 22 (formerly the analog channel position for ABC affiliate WVNY which now broadcasts on channel 13). Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
As a part of the repacking process following the 2016 United States wireless spectrum auction, WCAX-TV was relocated to UHF channel 20 on October 24, 2019, using PSIP to display its virtual channel number as 3.
WCAX-TV clears the entire CBS network schedule, albeit with some network programs airing out of pattern. The CBS Dream Team block airs an hour later than on most CBS affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, and also airs over two days (the first two hours of the block air on Saturdays and the remaining hour airs on Sunday mornings, one program airing each at different times, respectively). The CBS Evening News airs on a half-hour tape delay at 7:00 p.m. because of the hour-long 6:00 p.m. newscast unlike most CBS stations in the Eastern Time Zone which usually airs the network's newscast at 6:30 p.m. Syndicated programs broadcast on WCAX-TV include Rachael Ray, Family Feud, Entertainment Tonight, and The Doctors.
WCAX's longest-running local programs (both dating to the founding of the station) are a daily twenty-minute agricultural information program entitled Across the Fence, produced in association with the University of Vermont Extension Service, and a thirty-minute weekly public affairs show called You Can Quote Me. In September 2006, WCAX-TV introduced its third local program called Late Night Saturday. It was produced in conjunction with Champlain College for its Media Arts Department. The program was hosted by Tim Kavanagh and aired weekly on Saturday nights. It offered local musicians and artists a chance to perform in front of a live studio audience and showcase their work. It also featured local celebrities such as Rusty DeWees and national celebrities such as Luis Guzman. It ended after three seasons.
WCAX-TV grew out of a newspaper and has long been committed to local coverage. It has more of a Vermont focus compared with WPTZ which is based across Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York. In 1997, WCAX-TV launched its weekday morning show that originally ran for one hour. It later expanded to a full two-hour broadcast. Overnight, it has been carrying CBS News' Up to the Minute since October 2005 following thirteen years of not airing it. In August 2006, it launched the first website designed for mobile phone browsers.
Starting July 16, 2007, WCAX-TV began to produce a weeknight 10 o'clock broadcast on "WCAXtra" known as Channel 3 News at 10. Although it was the first prime time show in the area, Fox affiliate WFFF-TV started a 10 p.m. newscast in 2008. In 2010, WCAX-TV put the 10PM newscasts on a hiatus, due to the majority of viewers not receiving WCAXtra Digital Channel 3.2 through their cable companies. On November 14[when?], WCAX-TV relaunched its newscasts with a new look and became the first broadcaster in the area to air local news in 16:9 widescreen enhanced standard definition. However, this was not true high definition unlike WFFF-TV which has been airing its broadcasts in full 1080i resolution. In addition to its main studios, the station operates four news bureaus. An outpost in Montpelier was established in 1964 and is located on State Street (U.S. 2) in Vermont's state capital. That was followed by bureaus located in Rutland, Vermont (on North Main Street opened in 1967), Plattsburgh (opened in 1973) and West Lebanon, New Hampshire (launched in 2002).
On December 2, 2008, the station laid off three of its employees and cut two vacant jobs. Although it declined to identify the laid-off employees, station officials stated that they were both on-air and off-air personnel. Shawna Lidsky (weekday morning sports anchor and sports reporter) and Rachael Morrow (weekday morning news producer and reporter) were two on-air personnel that were laid-off. Also, longtime "photog" Steve Longchamp was among the personalities let go. Owner Peter Martin said that declining advertising revenues along with the economic crisis caused the layoffs. Those were the first job cuts seen in the station's history.
On January 19, 2009, WCAX-TV announced that it had laid off several more employees. It specifically mentioned declining automotive commercial revenue, which is a major source of advertising for the station, as the cause of the second round of layoffs.
On May 12, 2009, at the end of the weeknight 6 o'clock broadcast, Marselis Parsons announced that he would be retiring as weeknight anchor and News Director. He stepped down as News Director at the end of May but continued anchoring the 6 p.m. newscast throughout the summer. Parsons was with WCAX-TV since 1967 and was News Director and weeknight anchor from 1984 until 2009. The station had won dozens of awards under his direction including the Radio and Television News Director Association's "Best Television Newscast in the United States" in 2003. Parsons continued with the station as a part-time features reporter until his death in 2015. Former WCAX-TV news reporter Anson Tebbetts took over as News Director at the end of May 2009 and Senior Reporter Darren Perron began anchoring the broadcast when Parsons vacated the position.
On June 23, 2009, WCAX-TV upgraded its local news to high definition. The station switched its studio cameras to high definition (field cameras made the transition to HD later in the Fall). New graphics, flags, and intros were also put in place. The previous graphics had been used in all of its newscasts since 2000. On September 16, 2009, WCAX-TV announced that it would be hiring a full-time news reporter for the re-opening of its bureau in Rutland. During Summer 2010, WCAX-TV announced that it will be starting a weeknight 5 o'clock newscast beginning September 13. Weeknights at 5:30, a talk show was introduced, called The :30 (it has since been converted into a traditional newscast, Channel 3 News at 5:30). WCAX-TV also re-opened its Plattsburgh Bureau full-time. Although it had previously not aired newscasts in the weeknight 5 p.m. hour, WCAX-TV delays the CBS Evening News until 7 because it still airs an hour-long show weeknights at 6.
On September 7, 2013, WCAX-TV launched the area's second weekend morning newscast. The newscast airs on Saturday from 6:00–8:00 a.m. and Sunday from 8:00–9:00 a.m.
Viewership in Canada
The station has long had significant viewership in Montreal, which is more than ten times as large as its American coverage area. In the past, it has identified itself as serving "Burlington/Plattsburgh/Montreal" to acknowledge its Canadian viewership, though this practice largely ended in the 1990s.
Like other Champlain Valley stations, WCAX-TV once made a significant portion of its advertising sales across the border. However, Canadian advertising business has nearly dried up mostly due to the arrival of English-language station CKMI-DT-1, coupled with the Canadian simultaneous substitution regulations and the carriage of network affiliates from other United States markets (such as Boston and Detroit) on Canadian satellite and cable systems. Canada also discourages Canadian-based businesses from advertising on U.S.-based stations by not allowing tax deductions for commercials placed on stations outside of Canada.
In popular culture
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- "For the record: Actions of the FCC–Existing TV stations–Call letters assigned." Broadcasting - Telecasting, June 27, 1955, pg. 114.
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- "New Business: 1997". Business People—Vermont. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
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- Murray, Elizabeth (November 20, 2019). "Transmitter fire on Mt. Mansfield knocks out NBC5, WCAX broadcast. When will they be back?". Burlington Free Press. Gannett Company. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
- Balderston, Michael (November 22, 2019). "Tower Fire Keeping Vermont's WCAX, WPTZ Off The Air". TV Technology. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
- Faguy, Steve (November 23, 2019). "Media News Digest: GCM heads toward coop, WCAX catches fire, CBC North backtracks on merging newscasts". Fagstein. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WCAX
- "Jack Cuzzi on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "Searchable Clearinghouse". www.nab.org. National Association of Broadcasters. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
- Totten, Shay (October 16, 2006). "Up late: New local TV program puts best of Vermont on stage". Vermont Guardian. Archived from the original on October 16, 2006.
- Media Note: WCAX Expanding News Programming to Weekend Mornings Seven Days, July 10, 2013.
- "'Grace Under Pressure' linernotes and lyrics". Power Windows. February 1, 1998. Archived from the original on November 21, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2016.