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Lynchburg - Roanoke, Virginia
United States
City of license Lynchburg, Virginia
Branding ABC 13 (general)
ABC 13 News (newscasts)
Slogan The heart of Virginia (general)
Coverage you can count on (news)
Channels Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
Subchannels 13.1 ABC
13.2 RTV
13.3 WeatherNation TV
Translators W05AA-D 5 Roanoke
Affiliations ABC (secondary until 1954)
Owner Sinclair Broadcast Group
(WSET Licensee, LLC)
First air date February 8, 1953 (1953-02-08)
Call letters' meaning NeWSET 13
Former callsigns WLVA-TV (1953–1977)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
13 (VHF, 1953–2009)
34 (UHF, 2004–2009)[1]
Former affiliations CBS (1953–1954)
Transmitter power 28.7 kW
Height 625 m (2,051 ft)
Facility ID 73988
Transmitter coordinates
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website .com.wsetwww

WSET-TV, channel 13, is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA, owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WSET's studios and offices are located on Langhorne Road in Lynchburg, and its transmitter is located atop Thaxton Mountain, near Thaxton, Virginia.


  • History 1
  • Digital television 2
    • Digital channels 2.1
    • Analog-to-digital conversion 2.2
  • Out-of-market coverage 3
  • Once and Again controversy 4
  • News operation 5
    • Notable current on-air staff 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Channel 13 began operations on February 8, 1953 as WLVA-TV (W-Lynchburg-VirginiA) from a transmitter on Tobacco Row Mountain. The station was owned by Lynchburg Broadcasting Corporation, which also owned WLVA radio (580 AM). WLVA-TV was the first station in Virginia to operate at full power, and served the Charlottesville area as well. The station was originally a CBS affiliate, but also carried programs from ABC, NBC, and DuMont as well.[2] By the end of 1954, Roanoke and Lynchburg had been collapsed into a single market. Accordingly, channel 13 moved its transmitter and tower to Evington, Virginia in 1954 in an attempt to better serve Roanoke and the western part of the market. Since Roanoke was already served by NBC affiliate WSLS-TV (channel 10), WLVA-TV opted to become a primary ABC affiliate—Virginia's first, and the longest-tenured south of Washington, D.C.. WLVA-TV and WSLS-TV split CBS programming until WDBJ-TV (channel 7) signed on from Roanoke in 1955.

In the early 1960s, the station set up translator W05AA to help cover Roanoke, since its main signal did poorly in many parts of the city. WLVA-TV was not alone in installing low-VHF Roanoke translators; the early 1960s also saw W02AE put on the air to translate WSLS-TV and W04AG put on the air to translate WDBJ-TV.

In 1965 Lynchburg Broadcasting sold the WLVA stations to the Washington Star Company, which also owned the Washington Star newspaper and WMAL-AM-FM-TV in Washington.[3] Joe Allbritton purchased a controlling interest in the Star in 1975[4][5] and sold off the company's non-television assets, including WLVA radio in April 1977.[6] In September 1977 WLVA-TV changed its call letters to the current WSET-TV to coincide with its new branding, "NeWSET-13."[7]

For most of its first 30 years on the air, channel 13 provided spotty coverage to the western part of the market because it is sandwiched between WLOS-TV in Asheville, North Carolina and WOWK-TV in Huntington, West Virginia. The station made numerous requests to move its transmitter closer to Roanoke. However, they were all turned down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) each time due to concerns about interference, principally with WOWK. This was despite the fact that the Roanoke–Lynchburg and Huntington–Charleston markets do not border each other. However, the FCC believed that the two markets were close enough that the two channel 13 transmitters had to be as far apart as possible to avoid interference. Its signal was so weak in Roanoke that ABC actually granted an affiliation to a second station in the market, WRFT-TV (channel 27, frequency now occupied by WFXR), for much of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1970, channel 13 sought to move its transmitter to Poor Mountain near Roanoke, where the other major stations in the market operated their transmitters, but was turned down by the FCC even though Poor Mountain is over 220 miles from WOWK's transmitter. In 1980, WSET won FCC approval to relocate its transmitter to Thaxton Mountain near Bedford, halfway between Roanoke and Lynchburg. WSET activated its new transmitter in 1982, for the first time providing a clear signal to most of Roanoke. However, the FCC required WSET to significantly conform its signal to protect WOWK. As a result, some areas of the western part of the market, including parts of Roanoke itself, only got a grade B signal.

WSET's newscasts primarily focus on the eastern part of the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. Beginning in October 2005, it was one of only two ABC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone to air ABC's World News Tonight at 7 p.m.; WSB-TV in Atlanta is the other. However, WSET has returned the national program to the 6:30 p.m. time slot, shifting its local newscast to 7:00 p.m.

WSET was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in suburban Baltimore County, Maryland, in August 2014 as part of Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton Communications.[8] [9]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[10]
13.1 720p 16:9 WSET-HD Main WSET-TV programming / ABC
13.2 480i 4:3 WSET-RT Retro Television Network
13.3 16:9 WSET-WX WeatherNation TV

Analog-to-digital conversion

WSET-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, 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. Since October 2009, the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 34 to VHF channel 13.[11] The station's over-the-air coverage in much of the western part of the market, especially the New River Valley, is somewhat marginal due in part to the mountainous terrain. W05AA was converted to digital operation in late 2009, which helped to fill in coverage holes in Roanoke.

Out-of-market coverage

WSET is carried in Roxboro, North Carolina on Charter Cable and DirecTV. It is also picked up in Yanceyville, North Carolina on Comcast Cable.

Once and Again controversy

On March 11, 2002, WSET pre-empted an episode of Once and Again which contained a scene in which two female characters kiss one another, and ran a prime-time infomercial instead.[12] WSET was the only ABC affiliate to pre-empt the episode. The decision, which station management refused to explain, provoked condemnation from GLAAD[13] and praise from Lynchburg resident Jerry Falwell.[14]

News operation

On September 12, 2011, WSET began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, the station is the third in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market to make the transition to HD.

Former Good Morning America co-host and ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson began his television career at the station; he was a reporter/anchor for WLVA-TV during the late 1960s.

Notable current on-air staff


  1. ^ Lynchburg-based WSET goes on air with digital signal
  2. ^ "Radio and TV Programs". The Bee (Danville, VA). 1954-08-26. pp. B–11. 
  3. ^ "Washington 'Star' to buy WLVA-AM-TV." Broadcasting, June 21, 1965, pg. 75.
  4. ^ "Houston banker heads to rescue of fallen 'Star'." Broadcasting, April 15, 1974, pp. 17-18. [5][6]
  5. ^ "Allbritton gets his deal for Washington." Broadcasting, December 22, 1975, pp. 19-20. [7][8]
  6. ^ "In brief." Broadcasting, April 18, 1977, pg. 33.
  7. ^ "For the record: Call letters-Grants." Broadcasting, September 5, 1977, pg. 52.
  8. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (July 29, 2013). "Allbritton to sell 7 TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ Eggerton, John (24 July 2014). "FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  10. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WSET
  11. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  12. ^ "ABC Affiliate Pulls 'Once and Again' Episode",, 2002-03-12. Retrieved on 2007-03-07.
  13. ^ " Lynchburg ABC Affiliate Refuses to Air Once and Again",, 2002-03-13. Retrieved on 2007-03-07.
  14. ^ Jerry Falwell, "A hero in our midst",, 2002-03-16. Retrieved on 2007-03-07.

External links

  • WSET-TV website
  • RabbitEars.Info: Roanoke-Lynchburg Stations
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WSET
  • Query TV Fool's coverage map for WSET
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for W05AA
  • BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WSET-TV
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