WAFM-TV

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WAFM-TV ("Television Alabama") was a predecessor of today's NBC 13 (WVTM) and the first television station to broadcast in the Birmingham area.

WAFM was a sister station to the well-established WAPI-AM and the two-year-old WAFM-FM, working together as the "Voice of Alabama" under president Thad Holt. Engineers James Evans, James Hall, Norman Hurley and William Wells, Jr outfitted the station's equipment to braodcast at 26,000 watts from an RCA 6-bay "Superturnstile" antenna. The station shared a 1,000 foot tower at Vulcan Park with WSGN-FM and the proposed WSGN-TV.

The station was launched in the summer of 1949 with a test pattern debuting in early June and the first network programs going out over the air on July 1. Through the summer most programs aired during the business day so that potential customers for television receivers could see the product in operation at radio shops and department stores. A special demonstration was made during the 1949 East-West Game at Rickwood Field. The high-school double header benefitting sight conservation was Alabama's first televised baseball game.

Full regular programming, a mixture of content from the ABC and CBS television networks, began on October 1. Until the city was connected by cable to the New York broadcast centers, programs were filmed from live broadcasts in other cities, then trucked to Birmingham to be broadcast on the station's equipment.

In January 1953 the Federal Communications Commission approved an increase from 26,000 to 316,000 watts, coinciding with the station's plans to begin an around-the-clock broadcast schedule. Later that same year, all three stations were sold to the Birmingham News.

In 1954 WAFM swapped networks with WBRC and took on NBC programming. The call letters were changed briefly to WABT before changing to WAPI-TV in 1958, after the News was purchased by Newhouse. WAPI became WVTM in 1980 when Newhouse sold the station to Times-Mirror Broadcasting.

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