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WUSA, virtual and VHF digital channel 9, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. Owned by the Gannett Company (based in the Virginia suburb of McLean), it effectively serves as the flagship television property of the company. WUSA's studios and transmitter are located at Broadcast House on Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood on the northwestern side of Washington. WUSA is the largest NBC affiliate by market size (Graham's KPRC in Houston being the second-largest and Sunbeam's WHDH in Boston being the third-largest) that is not owned and operated by the network.

The station's signal is relayed on a low-powered digital translator station, W50BD-D, in Moorefield, West Virginia[4] (which is owned by Valley TV Cooperative, Inc.). It also maintains a channel-sharing agreement with Silver Spring, Maryland-licensed WJAL (channel 68, owned by Entravision Communications).

On cable, WUSA is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 29 in Washington, D.C. (ESPN is carried on cable channel 9) and channel 9 in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and on Cox Communications and RCN channel 9.

HistoryEdit

Early years (1949–1978)Edit

The station first went on the air on January 11, 1949 as WOIC, and began full-time operations on January 16. The fourth-oldest station in the nation's capital, channel 9 was originally owned by the Bamberger Broadcasting Service, a subsidiary of R. H. Macy and Company.[5] Bamberger also owned WOR-AM-FM in New York City, and was working to put WOR-TV (channel 9, now WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey) on the air at the same time. Nine days later, WOIC broadcast the first televised American presidential inaugural address, given by President Harry S. Truman. WOIC picked up the CBS affiliation upon signing on, replacing WMAL-TV (channel 7, now WJLA-TV) as the network's Washington outlet. However, WOR was a shareholder in the Mutual Radio Network, which had plans to enter television with WOIC and WOR-TV as the flagship stations of its network; these plans never came to fruition. At the start of 1950, Bamberger Broadcasting changed its name to General Teleradio.[6]

In June 1950, a joint venture of CBS and The Washington Post purchased WOIC from Bamberger/Macy's for $1.4 million. The new owners, WTOP Incorporated (the Post owned 55%, with CBS holding the remaining 45% stake), changed the station's call sign to WTOP-TV, after its new sister station WTOP radio (then at 1500 AM).[7] Since WTOP took the callsign from the radio partners at the time, the callsign was a coincidence under ownership of the publisher, since they never stood for "WashingTOn Post"; they instead stood for the fact that what was then known as WTOP was "at the TOP of [the city's] radio dial" (WTOP has been known as WFED since 2006, and is now owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, not by the Post). In July 1950, WTOP-TV became the first television station in Washington authorized to broadcast color television in the 405-line field sequential color standard, which was incompatible with the black-and-white 525-line NTSC standard. Color broadcasts continued for nearly 30 months, when regulatory and commercial pressures forced the FCC to rescind its original color standard and begin the process of adopting the 525-line NTSC-3 standard, developed by RCA to be backwards compatible with the existing black-and-white televisions.

In 1954, the WTOP stations moved into a new facility, known as "Broadcast House", at 40th and Brandywine Streets NW in Washington. The building was the first in the country designed as a unified radio and television facility. Its name was in honor of Broadcasting House, home of the BBC in London. The building was well known to WTOP's president, since he had spent much of World War II assigned to the BBC. Previous to the move to Broadcast House, the radio stations operated out of the Earle Building (now the Warner Building, home of the Warner Theatre), and WTOP-TV had operated out of the small WOIC studios at the same location. When Broadcast House was completed and the new television studios were inaugurated, the old studio became the garage for Broadcast House and the old master control room became both the master control and transmitter room for channel 9, since Broadcast House had been built around the station's original, four-sided tower. The building with the tower remains in the middle at the same location, although it is now an office building and retail store front.

The WTOP-TV tower was known in Washington for two things. First, at Christmas time, the tower was strung with Christmas lights and glowed brightly on top of Mount Reno, the tallest point in the District of Columbia. Second, the tower tended to sway much more than three-sided towers. In a strong wind, the tower could be seen swaying back-and-forth, and during the winter ice from the tower fell quite often on the streets below.

In October 1954, CBS sold its share of WTOP Inc. to the Washington Post to comply with the FCC's new seven-station-per-group ownership rule. CBS's partial ownership of WTOP radio, KQV radio in Pittsburgh and WCCO radio in Minneapolis exceeded the FCC's limit for AM radio stations.[8] CBS opted to sell its share of WTOP, which it had purchased in whole in 1932 before selling controlling interest to the Post in 1949.

After the sale closed, the Post merged the WTOP stations with its other broadcast property, WMBR-AM-TV in Jacksonville, Florida and changed the name of the licensee from "WTOP Inc." to "Post Stations, Inc." WMBR radio was sold off in 1958, and WMBR-TV became WJXT. The Post renamed its broadcasting group "Post-Newsweek Stations" in 1961 after the Post bought Newsweek magazine. Post-Newsweek acquired its third television station, WLBW-TV (now WPLG) in Miami in 1970 and in 1974 added WTIC-TV (now WFSB) in Hartford, Connecticut to the group. In 1972, WTOP-TV joined with the Evening Star Broadcasting Company (owned by the Post's rival, the now-defunct Washington Star and licensee of WMAL-TV) to build the Joint Tower, a 1,040-foot (320 m), three-sided tower across the alley from Broadcast House at 4010 Chesapeake Street NW. Transmission lines were extended from Broadcast House's transmitter area to the new tower for both WTOP-TV and WHUR-FM (the former WTOP-FM, which had been donated by Post-Newsweek to Howard University in 1971). The old tower continued to serve as the backup antenna for channel 9 until the station sold Broadcast House in 1996.

In 1974, WTOP and the other Post-Newsweek stations adopted the slogan "The One and Only". The moniker was part of a trend toward group identification of stations, with each station being "The One and Only Channel (channel number)". Staff members from the "One and Only" period usually refer to themselves as "the one and onlies" as a source of pride. The slogan was dropped from active use in the late 1990s and has not been used as part of an image campaign since 1996. The slogan no longer appears on-air, but was revived in a sense when channel 9 adopted its slogan in the mid 2000s, First and Only with Local News in HDTV.

Later years (1978–2000)Edit

On June 26, 1978,[9] Post-Newsweek exchanged WTOP-TV with the Evening News Association's WWJ-TV (now WDIV-TV) in Detroit. That same day, WTOP-TV changed its call letters to WDVM-TV, with the new call letters representing the initials of the areas which channel 9 serves: District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. Post-Newsweek parent the Washington Post Company, and the Evening News Association, which published the Detroit News, decided to swap their stations for fear that the FCC would force them to sell the stations at unfavorable terms or revoke their very valuable licenses because the FCC at the time was considering forbidding ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market.[10][11] The call letter was changed as per a now-repealed FCC rule stating that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership had to use different callsigns.

In 1985, the Gannett Company purchased the Evening News Association.[12][nb 1] On July 4, 1986, Gannett changed WDVM's call letters to WUSA both in honor of the station being located in the nation's capital and Gannett's ownership of USA Today.[14] The WUSA callsign had previously been used by Gannett's station in Minneapolis, which changed its callsign to KARE. The WDVM-TV callsign is now in use on an unrelated station in Hagerstown, Maryland.

At the time, particularly in Gannett press releases, the station's callsign was commonly printed as "W★USA". However, the asterisk or star between the "W" and "U" is not part of the call sign. The star device was used to denote its connection to USA Today. The star was replaced on-air with the CBS Eye Device, which is also not part of the call sign, in the late 1990s as CBS began to considerably relax their formerly strict branding guidelines for their affiliates (which had not allowed blending the logo into call letters), and to reduce confusion with the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association, which was also visually represented as "W★USA" within their logo.

WUSA moved to a new Broadcast House at 4100 Wisconsin Avenue NW in January 1992. WTOP-FM had left the old Broadcast House in 1971, but kept its transmitter there. WTOP radio departed in 1978; the Post had sold it a year earlier to the Outlet Company. The move to the more modern building was tinged with sadness due to the death from a brain tumor of popular sportcaster Glenn Brenner just days before the move. In 1998, WUSA launched its website, wusatv9.com, but later removed the "TV" reference in the domain name to become wusa9.com.

Switch from CBS to NBC (2000-present)Edit

On May 11, 2000, The Walt Disney Company signed an affiliation agreement with Hearst-Argyle Television, which resulted in most of Hearst's stations disaffiliating from NBC, ABC or CBS and joining The Disney Network. Meanwhile, CBS, dissatisfied with operating WCCO-TV (channel 4) in Minneapolis-St. Paul, decided to approach another station in the market to serve as its Twin Cities affiliate.

Having put WCCO on sale, CBS approached the area's NBC affiliate, KARE, to affiliate with the network. The prospect of one of its strongest affiliates being courted by a rival Big Three network concerned NBC; Hearst also planned to displace the network from stronger-performing VHF affiliates that the group had already owned or was in the process of purchasing in several markets to TDN.

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