by Peter Q. George
Channel 46 began its short life as WRYT at 12 noon on Saturday, December 6, 1986. The facilities were modest, at best. They were using an old TTC TV transmitter, designed for translator use, with an antenna perched high above the transmitter site on a 300 foot self-supporting tower. There was no live camera facilities; the "studios" consisted of the transmitter, two U-matic video tape decks, an audio mixer, a satellite receiver, a Quanta character generator (very primitive) and an EBS unit. That was it. It was located inside of an old bathroom of a video store in Hanover, MA, just off of Route 3. The tower and antenna are still there, though the station has long since moved away. The total output power (ERP) was 6,000 watts and the transmitter was only capable of 800 watts. It was the minimum facility for a "full-powered" TV station. That would be the status for channel 46 until April 1988. At that time, WRYT became WHRC from a new temporary Brockton site with 952,000 watts of visual power from high above Cary Hill on Bedford Street. The station was "state-of-the-art" with a new 60kw UHF transmitter, 12 U-Matic decks, several satellite receivers and other assorted sundry items. The new channel 46 had fairly good cable coverage as well, including Boston and the suburbs.
However, all that changed in November 1988 when WHRC was forced to leave the Brockton site due to the weight of the antenna, which was side mounted toward Boston. The tower owners were concerned of ice forming on the antenna and possibility of a tower collapse due to the extra weight. The station was silent for two months until a new site was arranged in Foxborough and equipment installed. A major problem with the new site was that it was not wired for "three-phase" voltage, so channel 46 had to improvise with a diesel generator. UHF transmitters use a lot of juice to run, and the generators (all three of them) took a beating. It was just too much for them to handle this high powered transmitter. One by one, they failed.
Technically, the entire station was a disaster (half the time, the color signal was non-existent). The station was not in good economic straits from day one: Even though all of the independents in the Boston market were UHFs, WHRC was in competition with WXNE/25, WHLL/27, WSBK/38, WLVI/56, and WQTV/68 for syndicated programming and resorted to running movies for a large part of the broadcast day. Those movies weren't exactly the cream of the crop either ... one Monday evening in 1988 found channel 46 running a triple feature of "Devil's Nightmare", "Naval Battle of 1894" and "Tender Warrior". While that first movie aired from 6:00 to 8:00pm, viewers could also have chosen to watch Different Strokes and WKRP in Cincinnati on 25, The Untouchables on 27, Cheers and Barney Miller on 38, Laverne and Shirley and Three's Company on 56, or Star Trek on 68. (See below.) And they generally did choose one of those alternatives. Even on Sundays, WHRC attracted very little paid religious programming, and that small amount all ran in the evening. Weekdays had a few syndicated titles that are still remembered today -- Hooked On Aerobics, New Zoo Revue, Hit Video USA, Showtime at the Apollo and The Froozles -- plus more bad movies like "The Goby That Soared Through the Rain" and assorted no-cost filler films.
Slowly but surely, by the summer of 1989, it was all falling apart. Program distributors were not being paid and other creditors not being paid, as well. The owner was going through a messy divorce in California (a 50/50 ownership state), which didn't help matters much. The station was on the block with several suitors wanting to buy, but the owner never got the price he wanted. Meanwhile, paychecks were bouncing.
Finally, the diesel fuel supplier said "enough is enough." With that in mind, at 1:13pm on September 19, 1989, the generator drank its last drop of diesel. The operator on-duty -- yours truly -- knew what happened. After the transmitter went silent, I turned off the console for the last time, put my key on the rack, put on my coat and locked the building and left. I never did get paid for my last eight weeks worth of work.
Interestingly enough, WHRC was shown as "not on air, target date unknown" in the Broadcasting Yearbook all during its existence, and consistently listed the facilities as 2937.6kw visual ERP and 293.76kw aural (although it also showed a CP for the odd ERP combination of 706kw visual/660w aural).
The license for channel 46 was sold in 1991 to Two If By Sea Broadcasting -- which also came close to purchasing WHCT-TV/18 in Hartford CT two years later -- but remained dark until September 15, 1996, when it resumed operation running Paxson Communications' inTV infomercial network; it became WBPX after being acquired May 22, 1997 by Paxson itself. (I had the distinct pleasure of being one of the first Master Control Operators under Paxson.) As WBPX, channel 46 was originally part of the Pax TV network when it signed on, but reverted back to broadcasting the inTV feed as WWDP June 14, 1999 when Paxson acquired WABU (the former WQTV) and moved the WBPX calls and Pax programming there, transferring ownership of channel 46 to Paxson's son Devon. On September 18, 2000, WWDP began broadcasting the Spanish network Telemundo during most of the broadcast day under a local marketing agreement as a satellite of WTMU-LP/32, switched to broadcasting home shopping channel America's Collectibles Network on July 1, 2002 (when NBC moved the Telemundo affiliation to its recently acquired WNEU/60 Merrimack NH), and switched again the following year to the ShopNBC home shopping service (now called ShopHQ, operated by current channel 46 owner ValueVision Media). It continues to air that network today.
This article originally appeared in the author's "UHF Morgue" at his former RadioDXer site and is republished here with his permission. Reformatting and editing, plus information on programming and 1990s ownership, by K.M. Richards.
Site concept © Clarke Ingram. Site design by K.M. Richards.