WEAR-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 17), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Pensacola, Florida, United States, and also serving Mobile, Alabama. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Fort Walton Beach-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WFGX (channel 35); Sinclair also operates Mobile-licensed NBC affiliate WPMI-TV (channel 15) and Pensacola-licensed independent station WJTC (channel 44) under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with owner Deerfield Media.
WEAR and WFGX share studios—which also housemaster control and some internal operations for WPMI and WJTC—on Mobile Highway (US 90) in unincorporated Escambia County, Florida (with a Pensacola mailing address); WEAR and WFGX also share transmitter facilities in unincorporated Baldwin County, Alabama (east of Rosinton). On cable, WEAR is available on Comcast Xfinity, Mediacom, and Cox channel 3.
The station first signed on the air on January 13, 1954. Broadcasting on VHF channel 3, it was founded by Charles Smith and Mel Wheeler, who also owned WEAR radio (1230 AM, now WDWR). Initially, the station was a primary CBS affiliate with a secondary ABC affiliation. Shortly after WEAR signed on, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collapsed Mobile and Pensacola into a single market. In early 1955, channel 3 activated a new tower in Baldwin County. Shortly afterward, WKRG-TV (channel 5) signed on as the CBS affiliate for the enlarged market, and WEAR became an exclusive ABC affiliate. In 1959, it was sold to Rollins Telecasting, which in turn merged with Heritage Broadcasting to form Heritage Media in 1987.
In October 1997, WEAR and the other Heritage stations were sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group just as the remainder of Heritage Media was merging with News Corporation (the then-parent company of Fox). This sale also protected former longtime NBC affiliate WALA-TV (channel 10) as the market's Fox outlet; otherwise WEAR would have been forced to switch its network affiliation to Fox.
Sinclair prohibited its ABC affiliates, including WEAR, from airing a Nightline broadcast in 2004 that featured a segment displaying the names of those who died in the war in Iraq, because the company felt it was anti-war rhetoric against the invasion.
In late 2006, Sinclair entered into negotiations with Mediacom, the main cable provider for parts of the Florida side of the market (including Santa Rosa County and Pensacola Beach). The two companies could not reach an agreement over retransmission fees. As a result, Mediacom pulled all of Sinclair's stations (including WEAR) from its systems on January 6, 2007. The dispute ended on February 2, when the two sides reached an agreement that restored WEAR to Mediacom systems.
Upon the expiration of the 2007 agreement on January 1, 2010, Mediacom was prepared to drop the station once again from its systems. Sinclair agreed to a temporary extension until January 8 in order to allow the Bowl Championship Series college football games to be viewed on Sinclair's ABC and Fox affiliates over Mediacom. Eventually, a one-year agreement was reached which would keep Sinclair stations on the cable television provider until 2011.
In 2012, Newport Television sold five of its stations, including WPMI and WJTC, to Sinclair. However, since Sinclair already owns WEAR and WFGX, WPMI and WJTC were sold to Deerfield Media, while Sinclair operates the two stations under local marketing agreements. The sale created one of the few instances where two "Big Three" stations are operated by the same company. However, the two duopolies maintain separate operations.
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