WAAY-TV - History of Smith Broadcasting

(v 9.90506) For Internet Web Page

Written by M.D. Smith, III


M.D. Smith, Jr. bought WBRC Radio (Bell Radio Corporation = WBRC) in Birmingham, from J.C. Bell for $2,000.00. The station operated four hours a day on a frequency of 950 kc with a power of 10 watts. The transmitter and studios were in the home of Bell, which was located in Fountain Heights.


Transmitter was moved to a location behind the Birmingham Awning and Tent Works, at the corner of 12th Avenue and 27th Street North. Power was increased to 500 watts. The studios were moved to the Old Athletic Club. WBRC began operating 12 hours a day. Les Conners was hired as the Station's first salesman.


WBRC increased its power to 5000 watts and moved the studios to the Temple Theater on the mezzanine floor. The all-glass enclosure was known as The Crystal Studio. The transmitter was moved to a remote location in North Birmingham, known as Kilocycle, Alabama. Bill Young was hired as a second salesman and John Connerly was hired as chief announcer.

The station was incorporated, and J.C. Bell bought 25 percent of the stock, Glenn Marshal bought 25 percent, and M.D. Smith, Jr. and wife had 50 percent.


Studio and offices were moved to the Bankhead Hotel. In December 1932, WBRC paid its first dividend of $5,000 to its stockholders. Radio had become a profitable business.


Due to the rapid expansion of the radio business, WBRC moved to their present location on the corner of 19th Street and 2nd Avenue North. The staff had increased to 20 and WBRC became affiliated with the NBC network.


M.D. Smith, Jr. died at the age of 48 (from blood poisoning he got from a cut) and Eloise Haney Smith took control of Bell Radio Corporation (WBRC).


Eloise Smith bought out Glenn Marshal's stock for $25,000 and took over the reins of the Corporation as President and General Manager. In 1940, J.C. Bell died and Eloise Smith purchased Mrs. Bell's stock for $35,000.

In 1940, Eloise married Dr. Hanna and changed her legal name to Eloise H. Hanna.


December 6 - M.D. Smith, IV was born.


During the war years, Eloise H. Hanna joined the Motor Corps and rendered valuable service transporting our troops to and from arrival and departure points. She was also a member of the American Red Cross.

During the war years, there was much talk about FM radio. It was believed that after the war, all AM stations would convert to FM.

added by Kirby Jones Smith (Mrs. M.D. Smith, III)

M.D. Smith, III was in business as Birmingham Awning & Tent Co. After Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) , the Quartermaster came to see us about war work, since we made tents, awnings, and taupolines at Birmingham Awning and Tent, and practically said we had to go in war work.


We sold most of the commercial sewing machines, but kept some and when white material was starting to be made again, we bought white broadcloth and made 1,000 white shirts for Arrow. We paid for cloth, labor, thread, buttons, and everything. We did make a little, but decided MD III would go back to WBRC Radio. When he went back to WBRC, I stayed and refurbished Birmingham Awning and ran it.


Anita was born (May 10, 1946) the first year, so we sold Birmingham Awning and Tent and Venetian Blind to Guarantee Awning in Birmingham for $7500.

(end of Mrs. Smith III's comments)


Mrs. Hanna applied for, and received, a construction permit to put WBRC-FM on the air. It was the world's most powerful FM station, operating with a power of 500,000 watts. During 1947, her son, M.D. Smith III, joined WBRC-AM and FM as salesman. Smith was later promoted to Program Director and Vice President of WBRC.


FM radio did not sweep the country as expected, and due to large losses, the FM station was taken off the air in June of 1948. Mrs. Hanna then turned her attention to the emerging medium of television. Many felt that TV, like FM, was just a flash in the pan and would never be anything more than just a novelty. Mrs. Hanna had never lost her pioneering spirit though, so she borrowed $150,000 and put WBRC-TV on the air on July 4, 1949.


When WBRC TV went on the air, there were only 12 TV sets in Birmingham, and they were in dealers' show windows. M.D. Smith III was appointed as Operations Manager of TV. Oliver Naylor was salesman; Evelyn Allen, Traffic; Bob Farris, Film Editor; Felix Lewis, Cameraman; and Hardy Carl, Chief Engineer. Nora Harrimontrec was Artist. So with a staff of seven, we were off and running.

We were affiliated with the DuMont & NBC Television Networks. However, there was no cable connecting us with New York, so all network programs came to us on kinescope or film.

Mrs. Hanna continued to add equipment and personnel to the TV station. Live studio cameras were added in 1950, and by 1953 the staff had grown to 15. Today WBRC TV, Channel 6, employs more than 150 people.


In this year, Mrs. Hanna decided to retire and sold WBRC TV/AM-FM to Storer Broadcasting for $2.3 million.

(By Kirby Jones Smith) After a year, we started our own broadcast station and formed a corporation.

Written by M.D. Smith, IV - March 1992


M.D. Smith, III and wife Kirby Jones Smith, put radio station WBYE AM on the air in Calera, Alabama. Built from scratch. On 1370 kc with a power of 500 watts, daytime-only license. One of the sales mottos was, "Your Best Buy By Far Is Bye." It was the first top 40 radio station in the area. M. D. Smith, IV worked one summer in 1956 at the station as music librarian, assistant book keeper and remote technician (set up remote mics for Sunday Church remote broadcasts).


M.D. Smith III bought WJIG AM, already on the air on 1200(?) kc with a power of 1000 watts daytime, and nighttime power of (250) watts. Henry Beam, who worked as a salesman for a beer company, became General Manager/Sales Manager.

M.D. Smith, III resigned from Storer Broadcasting to devote full time to the radio business and the two stations.


M.D. Smith III buys WHBS AM, 1550 AM, (5,000 watts day and 500 watts, directional antenna at night) from the Huntsville Times, changes call to WAAY, and changes format from Adult Listening music to Rock and Roll Top 40. A petition is circulated to boycott the radio station and run new sound out of town. Several employees quit that cannot tolerate Rock and Roll music. Dick Essner becomes Chief Engineer as well as Disk Jockey. M.D. Smith IV, who has been working as Record Librarian, also began some Disk Jockey duties in the summer of 1958, filling vacation shifts.


M.D. Smith, III, at the strong urging of his wife, Kirby Jones Smith, buys WFWB in Ft. Walton Beach, FL and changes call letters to WNUE, the "Nue" station in town with the Top 40 format that's always "Nue". Station was on 940 Kcs Daytime. By changing frequency to 1400, station was able to go night-time and broadcast 24 hours a day. Power was 1,000 watts day and 500 watts night. Kirby Smith also is involved with the bookeeping, accounting, record list, music, contests and promotions.


M.D. Smith, IV graduates from college in June and works for WAAY-Radio as Merchandising Director, engineer and disk jockey. We are planning to put a TV station on the air on Channel 25. Charles Grisham plans to put one on the air on Channel 19. The lone station, WAFG, Channel 31, which has been struggling, decides to get out of the business faced with the impending competition (Sign on Car for ch. 25) and in the Summer of 1963 offers to sell it to Smith Broadcasting for $500,000.00 That is about what was planned to be spent on Channel 25, so it is decided to take their offer. Jim Beasley from Sweet Sue in Athens is the majority stockholder who confirmed the sale. The minor stockholders in Huntsville did not want to sell, but had no choice. The deal was concluded in July and we apply to the FCC for an ownership change. Meanwhile, Channel 19 begins construction on property next to channel 31. Channel 25 is later awarded to the Alabama Educational Television authority. Robert (Cactus) Gay (age 23) is one of the engineers employed by WAFG-TV when it is bought by Smith and stays with the company until the present time. The station was broadcasting on a 125 foot tower with 240,000 watts. Call letters are changed to WAAY-TV.
First mascot was a beagle hound.

November - The FCC finally approves the sale and the Smiths take over Channel 31 with a staff of 17 people. M.D. Smith, IV is Operations Manager. Maury Farrell is Sales Manager and MDS, III is a remote General Manager. Channel 31 (WAAY-TV) is affiliated with the ABC television network. Channel 19 (WHNT)also goes on the air in November with a 250 foot tower and 600,000 watts. Channel 31 had ONE Video Tape Machine. It was an Ampex, VR-1000. It used 2" tape. It was monochrome (or course). It took up a space of 4 feet, by 4 feet by 6 feet and that did NOT include the TWO 6 foot high equipment racks of electronics (all tubes) to run the machine. It had massive power supplies and tubes had to be changed every day to keep it running. Only one spot on a break could be on Video Tape since there was no way to splice or edit tapes together. The other commercials had to be Slides and Audio Tape. A picture of Master Control with projectors and slide chain in the foreground and the operator (Lamar Gilbert) at the "switcher" in the background.

When we bought the station, they were reading all commercials LIVE from the announce booth. The first thing we did was put in Audio Cart Machines with trip cues for the slides to eliminate the announcer and the switcher didn't have to read along with the copy and trip the slides at the right time. There was a Live Romper Room show every weekday morning. It was the major production of the day. We used two, mismatched B/W studio cameras. One was a General Electric Image Orthicon camera with a 3 lens turret and the other was a General Electric Videcon camera with a zoom lens. We liked the zoom lens a lot and eventually replaced the turret with another very expensive "Zoomar" zoom lens (as seen in photo) we bought used at a good price. In the photo, M.D. Smith, III is running Camera 3.

The slides for commercials were shot on Black&White "reversal" film. When it was processed it was a slide ready to show, rather than a negative to make a print from. That station had a very small, old B/W film processor that processed 16mm B/W film for the nightly newscast at 6 and 10. It ran slowly at 4 feet per minute and it took 100 feet of film for less than 3 minutes of film, much of which would be edited out and thrown away. However, we tried to only shoot what we wanted to use to save on film costs. If a photographer could get 2 or 3 stories on one 100' roll of film, we thought he was great. Our 6 and 10 P.M. News Casts were called "The WAAY of the World". The station also owned one OLD Auricon sound 16mm camera. It was an optical sound track and the electronics (tubes) used numerous batteries for the filament voltage, plate voltage and motor power.

Late November - Just two weeks later, President Kennedy is shot and ALL TV stations cease broadcasting commercials for 5 days. This is tough for a struggling new TV station.

WAAY Radio, meanwhile, is making a lot of money as the dominant radio station in Huntsville and the revenue is used to pay the losses at channel 31 during these first few struggling years.


January - WAAY-TV broadcasts the first of the ANNUAL C-P Telethons from our studios. Running the camera is M.D. Smith, III and in front of it is Maury Farrell. "Cactus Gay" also takes a turn on camera, as does almost everyone in the station during this event.


March - M.D. Smith, IV AND M.D. Smith, III both get pilot's licenses. The first aircraft owned by WAAY Radio and TV was a Cessna 172 SkyHawk. Here is a photo of the tail of that aircraft with the "NewsHound" logo that has been in use at the radio stations for 9 years. Aerial film of tornado damage in parts of Western Alabama are shot later that month.

August - Anita Smith and Wayne Johnson are married. Wayne goes to work at WAAY Radio in June of 1966 after getting a degree in Marketing at U of A.


Channel 31 builds a new 400 foot tower (the old was 125 feet tall) and increases power from 240,000 watts to 1,240,000 watts in order to serve Florence. With this tower and power improvement we are able to convince NBC we would be a far better affiliate to have than WMSL, channel 23 located in Decatur. The Network agrees. In January 1968, Channel 31 switches to NBC to improve ratings. Maury Farrell and M.D. Smith, IV have picture taken in front of Giant Floral Peacock in studio.

M.D. Smith, III heard a song in another town, and found out that the music was available for purchase and a special pressing of a 45 RPM Record. The company would either write your song lyrics or you could do them yourself. Mr. Smith decided to have the record made for Huntsville and Ft. Walton Beach (Home of WNUE Radio). He wrote the lyrics for both songs and the TV station pilot (M.D. Smith, IV) flew the company airplane for the aerial shots of the two cities. A month later, "Huntsville, My Home Town" was born.

August - After both Smith's get Multi-Engine ratings, the station converts to it's first of four Piper Aztec Twin Engine Airplanes. This is the Piper PA-250 (N31TV) with engines of 250 horsepower each. It is 60 miles an hour faster than the Cessna 172.


February - Channel 31 Signs an agreement with Jackson Way Baptist Church to begin televising the Sunday worship service with the first LIVE microwave remote in the valley. Maury Farrell and M.D. Smith, IV look on as Rev. Jim Dorriety signs the agreement. The broadcasts begin in June of 1968.

April - Channel 31 converts to Color Video Tape and Color studio cameras. Having bought a used color film chain/island from WTOP in Washington, DC in 1965 and the first station to broadcasting anything local in color. The Two new 2", Quad rotating head tape recorders (RCA TR-70 and an RCA TR-22 (used but "high-banded" for color)) were a major improvement. Before we only had one Black&White Ampex VR-1000, all tube video tape recorder. It was a monster and good to retire it. It sat in storage for a year with no one wanting it, and was finally sold for a few hundred dollars as parts. The big RCA TK-42 Color Studio cameras were huge. They each had one 3" Image Orthicon tube for the picture and three 1" vidicon tubes for the 3 color guns. The cameras cost $50,000 each. A complete set of replacement tubes was $12,000 per camera. As the first station to broadcast live newscasts in color, we were very proud. Channel 19 had a ratings edge over us, even in B/W, but they also bought new color cameras about 8 months later.


August - After 6 years working for WNUE ( 1 yr.) and WAAY (5 yrs.) Radio, Dan Whitsett, takes Maury Farrell's place as General Sales Manager of Ch. 31. At that time the TV station was gross billing about $300,000 a year with about 25 employees.


ABC signs up with WMSL, Channel 23 who get a frequency (Channel 48) moved to Huntsville and move from channel 23 in Decatur to channel 48 in Huntsville. They build a 900 foot tower, but are on a mountain that is 500 feet lower than Monte Sano, so their antenna is not that high above average terrain. Maury Farrell is their new general manager working for Frank Wisnett of Decatur. Their new call letters are WYUR ("Your" TV station). They are bought years later by American Family Life Insurance company and change calls again to WAFF (American Family's Finest).


Channel 31 decided to convert from B/W film for the TV news to Kodak's new color news film. We install a high speed color processor and tanks of color chemicals. The old processor operated at 4 feet of film per minute. We felt the new 20 foot per minute processor was a speed demon. It certainly used up a lot of color film at $10.00 per 100 foot roll (about 2 1/2 minutes of film). We processed and used about 10 rolls per day for the newscasts. This was a major expense to our station (about $5,000 a month).


January - For a year, M.D. Smith, IV was the weatherman at 6 and 10 P.M. The maps in those days were painted on canvas with a plexiglass cover. The daily weather was drawn with "paint pens" of various ink colors. It had to be removed with lacquer thinner. The temperature boxes and the forecast was "menu board" with plastic stick-on letters. The nice part was that you could draw right on the map to explain what was happening.

March - WAAY Radio and WAAY-TV do our first major joint promotion. The Bridal Fair held at the Sheraton Motel on University Drive. It was a big success and made money for both stations, but it was a real problem deciding which salesman at radio or TV got how much commission from selling it. This and other logistical problems prevented many other joint promotions of this nature in the future.


March - A newly Designed News Set and the first Meterologist, Walton Jones joins the anchor team of Adrian Gibson, Sam Depino and Ed Sisson. The weather maps are the same material, but get reversed.


February - We became number one in news at 6 & 10 after three years working with the Consulting Firm of McHugh-Hoffman. We had not been #1 in news for over 6 years. We found out what it took overall to win in the ratings. Some of those things are still a secret lesson. A lesson M.D. Smith, IV never forgot.

The anchor team that was #1 in 1974 was (Left to Right standing) John Bradshaw (weather), Tony Beason (News), Dan Jamison (Sports). (Left to Right seated) Ed Sisson (News) Adrian Gibson (Anchor) and Sam Depino (Anchor).

April 4 - The April 4th tornados gave us much publicity as the ONLY station with live weather radar to show the storms until ALL TV stations were knocked off the air at 11:05 p.m. when the last tornado crossed the top of the mountain at Monte Sano and Panorama. The stations were off the air for 2 days. Phil McHugh was in town for a consulting visit at the time. Parkway City Shopping Center was nearly destroyed.


February - To improve our Weather Radar, we added a digital, color system to it to make it easier for the viewers to see various intensities of storms. We were the first in Alabama with this innovation.


May - It's the bi-centennial year (1776-1976) and before the July event, Channel 31 constructs a HUGE set, we call the "31 News Center" and the look and type style matches NBC's News Center. Left to Right are Ken Rainey (weather), Dave Stanley (news anchor), Adrian Gibson (news anchor) and Rick Davis (sports).

Two nice close-up shots of Dave Stanley with the TV Monitor and Two-Way equipment. The other is of Ken Rainey on the freshly designed weather set.

December - The Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville announced that due to declining interest and sponsor support, there would be no annual Christmas parade in Downtown Huntsville that year. Bob Baron with WAAY-Radio, M.D. Smith, III and M.D. Smith, IV all got together and decided that WAAY Radio and TV would put on an "All Volunteer Christmas Parade" Everyone pitched in building their own floats, entries, and bands, and the Parade went on. That was the FIRST and TWENTY years later, WAAY-TV still has the commitment to see that our all volunteer Christmas Parade takes place. The location was moved from the route around the courthouse downtown, to a route starting beside the Huntsville Hilton and passing the Civic Center and looping the downtown area because of the size. The event attracted over 211 entries and close to 50,000 spectators.


After 10 years as an NBC Affiliate, expanding into the Florence (Shoals) area, the competitiion from WOWL-TV became significant. With ABC we would have no competition in the quad cities area .....AND ABC has just become the number ONE network in the nation. We have just finished building our 1,000 foot tower. We go back to ABC and make a presentation to change to our station which has become #1 in News ratings in the past few years (still a close race with channel 19) while WYUR is a distant third in the news ratings. ABC agrees we would be the best affiliate and agree to the change. Dan Whitsett and M.D. Smith, IV negotiated the switch in New York in June. The affiliate meeting is over, so Dan and M.D.,IV fly to L.A. in July for the promotion manager's meeting. ABC affiliates are flying high with the ratings and are #1 for the second year. The theme for the fall campaign is "STILL THE ONE" using the popular hit song for a theme. The switch is made on December 11, 1977. Here, my son Brent (age 9) is holding the full page ad from the newspaper on that day.


May - WAAY Radio installs and begins broadcasting from the new 50,000 watt transmitter on Pulaski Pike for all daytime hours. At night, the station still used the downtown studio site for the 500 watt directional array.

May - Channel 31 has great ratings after several difficult years against Channel 19 and so we celebrate with a picnic on the front lawn. Some of those attending of interest: Bob Baron (Weatherman), Don Roden (was asst. chief engineer and after short time as engineer with Ch. 54 who came to town in 1985 ,went on to be Chief Engineer of channel 19 before leaving for private business) and the NewsHound, as he was called, Dick VanValkenburg, who did all the wreck and hard news coverage with a Cannon Scoopic 16 film camera for years. He died from one of several heart attacks he had. Dick died in December of 1986. The ratings for the book were:

HOMES           Arbitron


31              71,000

19              59,000

48              14,000


31              51,000

19              39,000

48              12,000


March - The FIRST "CHOPPER 31" takes to the air. This is the first time we have had a chopper for aerial photos (using fixed wing aircraft like Aztec 31TV in the past). It is one of many to serve Channel 31 since then.

August, 22 - (From 1979 to 1980, M.D. IV lost many pounds with Weight Watchers and begins exercising in races, including the budding new sport, Triathlons.) There were none in Huntsville, so M.D. IV, with the help of Bettie Higgins, Channel 31 puts on our first of many annual Triathlons. A 3 mile run, 6 mile bike and 400 meter swim at the Natatorium. We have 400 entrants (and more wanting to do it) the first year. It peaks at 600 entrants in 1985 and then drop back to 400 in the late 80's and early 90's)


March 24, - Channel 48 has a fire in the early evening and the studio/transmitter building burns to the ground. They move to current site on the Parkway and rebuild a transmitter house at the old location.

April 13, - In record time, Channel 48 returns to the air. WAAY-TV runs a letter in the newspaper welcoming them back on the air.


November - WAAY Radio installs the New KAHN stereo system, which was incompatible with the other 2 systems on the market, with Motorola later becoming the system used in the receivers in cars. Install new stereo console, tape recorders and had a major ribbon cutting with Joe Davis, Mayor of Huntsville cutting the ribbons on the new stereo facility. (Glen Buxton was manager of WAAY radio at this time, Wayne Johnson, previous manager having been transferred to TV in sales support work.)


February - It's one of the city's worst ice storms that lasted 5 days. Power out to thousands of homes in the area. Takes many days to get it all restored. Just after the 5th day of the ice storm, Mr. Smith, III suffered a minor heart attack. He never seemed to recover well and continued to have chest problems and trouble breathing. In the summer of 1985 it was discovered he had lung cancer in a very advanced stage. The board decided with the declining ratings of Top 40 and the health of Mr. Smith, III that the AM stations would go with an Adult Contemporary Format from Satellite Music Corporation. WAAY Changed formats in August and WNUE followed in September Mr. Smith III died from the cancer on September 20, 1985. Kirby Jones Smith becomes Chairman of the Board, with members M.D. Smith,IV, President -- Anita Smith Johnson, Vice President -- Ralph Dowdy, Member.
April - Channel 54 TV signs on the air. They are an independent station with no network affiliation. They run movies and syndicated programs. Later, they become affiliated with the FOX television network, as it starts from only a few hours a week to programming every night of the week.


July - Remembering the Ice Storm and Tornadoes of the past, Channel 31 decided to install a monster Catapillar Diesel Generator to power the entire station when the power goes out in the future. It was one of the things M.D. Smith,III talked about when he was alive and always wanted to do. We are the only station to do this (until AFTER the 1989 Tornadoes).


M.D. Smith, V (Dee) goes to work in news as a weekend photographer. In 1989 he transferrs to the Engineering Department in light maintenance and purchase and inventory control.

July - Scott Smith joins TV as Art Director after several years working for printing companies as commercial artist.

November 30 - First 5:00 p.m. newscast begins on Ch. 31. We were the first in the market and for 2 years had the ONLY 5:00 show. It became #1 over a sit-com and a game show and finally Ch. 19 added their own version that had less than half the numbers our show did by then. Ch. 48 expanded their 5:30 news back to 5:00 in 1992.

December - Brent Smith begins work striping La-Kart carts for production. Later transfers and becomes a switcher and master control operator.


June - Losses continued at WAAY radio in spite of the reduced payroll from the satellite operation and it was decided to take it off the air in the summer of 1988 while we looked for a buyer for the station. No buyer was found immediately.

July - The board decides to give one last major try at WNUE to make it successful and drop the AC and satellite service and go back to live DJ's and the HIT (Top 40) Radio sounds that made the station famous. It was "NUE HITS 14" and it sounded great. Ratings did jump up several notches and the station was well listened to in the Ft. Walton area. However, getting and/or keeping competent sales personnel was all but impossible and after one year and two months( Sept. 1989), with losses large and continuing to grow, the station was also taken off the air and put on the market to sell.

September - A frequency is opened in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (near Chattanooga) and M.D. Smith and Robert "Cactus" Gay apply for it in the name of Smith Broadcasting. Later Cactus becomes the other partner. The Construction Permit (CP) was authorized in October 1989, but the change in Authorization to Marson Broadcasting (the new partnership) did not take place until April 23, 1990. Construction began immediately.


May - Sam Floyd of United Broadcasting buys WAAY radio for $300,000 and begins broadcasting in the early summer of 1989 with a Gospel Religious format. Unfortunately with TV Evangelist Jim Bakker going to jail and the other TV ministries scandals, religious broadcasting took a big drop in support.


Kimberly Johnson (daughter of Anita and Wayne) comes to work at Ch. 31 after working previously at WAAY Radio. She is in TV traffic department.

November - A freak tornado rips through Huntsville and destroys Airport Road businesses and Jones Valley Elementary School and many homes on Tony Drive. Channel 31 was the ONLY station to have a generator and be able to stay on the air that night. We got much praise from that wise move. Some time later, other stations got a generator, too.


Summer - No buyer found for WNUE, which has been off the air since fall of 1989. Some equipment is used for the new radio station, WKXJ-FM, a Class C2 station being built in So. Pittsburg/Chattanooga, Tennessee on 97.3 MHz.

November - WKXJ-FM goes on the air on November 5, 1990. It is a "Hot Adult Contemporary" format. M.D. Smith, IV and Robert A. (Cactus) Gay own the station under Marson Broadcasting. (Marson is an old name used by M.D. Smith, III during the war years in his manufacturing plant, Marson Company. It was the "Mar" from Marcellus and the "Son" from Davidson that formed the name.

September - The general manager, Harmon (Dutch) VanBuskirk, of WNUE for 25 years, finds a partner, Neil Braswell and decide to buy just the frequency and transmitter & tower and lease the building for 2 years. Dutch gets back on the air in October 1990 with a "Talk" format. It is satellite news and talk and Dutch has some live phone-in talk shows.


May After losing money for almost two years at the newly named WAAJ, (the old WAAY-Radio on 1550) the station goes off the air again and comes back to Smith Broadcasting.

November - Channel-31-TV ratings come in to show our station the dominate news leader in Huntsville. The station is #1 for ALL newscasts, seven days a week in ratings, share and households. This is the strongest position the TV station has ever been in. The other stations continue to cut staff. Now both channel 48 and channel 19 have staffs of about 75, while channel 31 has a staff of over 125 with the plans to begin a new noon newscast on June 1, 1992.


February - No buyers were found for WAAY-AM, so the equipment was advertised to be sold. In February the board voted to demolish the WAAY studios building (on Church Street near downtown) and develop the property in some other way. The building is leveled in 45 minutes with a bulldozer on Thursday, March 12, 1992. Transmitter sold to Bishop Willis for his Memphis 50kw station. Later a minority partnership bought the license, towers, and daytime property on Pulaski Pike and put WAAJ back on the air with the old 5,000 watt transmitter and begin a religious-gospel format.

(end of original '55 - '92 M.D.S. IV Update section)


June 1 - Ch. 31 began NOON newscasts Monday through Friday.

June 8 - Ch. 31 becomes the first station to Close Caption ALL its local newscast for the hearing impaired. Ch. 19 began a year later.


Jaunary 3 - Sunday, 8am newscast begins on Channel 31, following ABC's beginning of Good Morning America, Sunday edition from 7-8am.

April 15 - It is announced that Channel 31 has re-hired Bob Baron who left Channel 48 and he will be doing weather forecasts along with Gary Dobbs after a year of working behind the scenes (due to previous contract restrictions keeping him off the air for 12 months.) Several nights later, severe weather hits the area and the new "31 Storm Tracker" does a superb job tracking and predicting where storms will move. It is the only tracker on TV in the valley. Others add similar capabilities some months later.

April 17-19 - Ch. 31 begins Weekend early moring news from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Ch. 31's Monday through Friday 6:30-7:00 am news expands to a full Hour from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. and we move the WAAY-TOO-EARLY program back to 5:30 a.m. (W2E later expands to one hour also beginning at 5 a.m.)

Summer - We decide to become a 24 Hour News Station presenting MORE NEWS around the clock. We are already doing newsbriefs every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

August 21 - The 12th annual "31 3-in-1 Triathlon" takes place at Old airport and Natatorium.

November - WKXJ-FM, 97Kicks begins broadcasting with a 99.3 Translator in the Chattanooga Metro area. Now with the 50,000 watt main transmitter on 97.3 covering the rural area and the new translator covering Chattanooga, the future looks brighter for the profit potential of the radio station. On this, its 3rd annivarsary (Nov. 5) it still is not making significant profit, but paying its own way.


April 15 - Bob Baron Joins Gary Dobbs on air...we now have the top one and two weather people in the valley on our station.


March 1 - HiWAAY Information Service becomes a reality. We decide to become our own Internet Access Provider for our TV station, and supply to the public at the same time. Bryan Smith comes to work as Manager to this fledgling operation. We Premiered at the IEEE Computer show in February and sold subscriptions even though the HiWAAY was not paved. We do get operational on the first, but there were quite a few start-up problems. These problems are ironed out in the first several months. We hoped to have 200 subscribers after 12 months. In less than a year, we had over 2,000. Buying NUANCE Internet Services in August of 1995 added about 250 subscribers to the subscriber base.


July 7 - LIVESTAR 31 arrives in town. This is Channel 31's first Satellite Uplink Truck. It is a monster and bigger than the one Channel 19 has purchased that comes to town a week later. Now we can do LIVE broadcast from anywhere in our viewing area, that previously were blocked for microwave by the mountains.

August 19 - The 14th annual "31 3-in-1 Triathlon" takes place at Old airport and Natatorium.

August 25 - SHOALS STAR RADAR comes to the valley. This is a high powered Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC) weather radar mounted in a Winnebago Motor Home. It is taken to the Shoals and put in service as an early warning radar for areas west to the Mississippi river. It has the Baron processor on it, which can see 16 levels of rain.

November - Channel 31 announces the opening of THREE new area bureaus. They are located in Guntersville (Marshall County), Scottsboro (Jackson/DeKalb counties) and Fayettville, TN (for Tennessee counties). This brings to FIVE, the area bureaus covering the whole 31 viewing area with regional/area bureaus for a local focus on news, un-matched by any other TV station.


January 1 - Beginning announcements of 31 DOPPLER MAX run on Channel 31. We are testing out the most sensitive doppler radar in the valley. The antenna is located on top of a specially constructed, 120 foot, 3 section base tower, supporting the massive EIGHTEEN FOOT RADOME housing the 14' diameter dish antenna. It is the best technology for doppler weather radar in the SouthEast. It has the same transmitter power as the U.S. Weather Service at the airport, but has a larger dish for more gain, and the state-of-the-art Baron Processor with 16 levels of color intensity for rain, and special doppler functions not available with any other radar. The premier of "31 DOPPLER MAX" is on January 17, 1996. As a part of this Doppler Max "kick-off" over 100,000 bumper stickers where distributed to announce the most sensitive radar in the valley.

December 7 - The tradition continues-- WAAY-31-TV held it's 20th Annual Christmas Parade in Downtown Huntsville. In order to commemorate this tradition that started in December of 1976, a special anniversary patch was made.


March 1 - HiWAAY Information Services has TWO-YEAR Anniversary. It has grown to over 5,000 individual subscribers and a large number of corporate network and web-site customers. The offices and computer equipment were reloacated to spacious accomadations at Market Square on Memorial Parkway.

May 23 - Mrs. M.D. Smith, III (age 80) passed away after a long period of declining health. M.D. Smith, IV continues as President and General Manager of WAAY-TV. Anita Smith (sister) and M.D. Smith, IV now co-own the TV station.


December - HiWAAY Information Services, the largest ISP in Huntsville, buys all of AirNet and the on-line business of Traveller, Inc. to become the largest independent ISP in Alabama. Now with over 20,000 dial up customers and many hundreds of commercial customers in North Alabama. There are also POPís (Point of Presence) in Birmingham and Montgomery. Under the leadership of Mark Derrick, HiWAAY continues to grow and prosper.


January - M.D. Smith, IV elects to move from Channel 31 on Monte Sano, where he has had offices for 37 years, to the home office location on Clinton Street in the Civic Plaza building. Because of the merger of HiWAAY and the other ISP ís, this central location makes it easier to direct attention to both Businesses. Redge Swing is promoted to General Manager of WAAY-TV while M.D. Smith, IV remains President and CEO of Smith Broadcasting, the parent corporation. Dan Whitsett is in charge of corporate sales, but concentrating on work with HiWAAY.

March 1 - HiWAAY Information Services has FOUR-YEAR Anniversary. The offices at Market Square on Memorial Parkway had to be greatly expanded and currently a build-out across the mall in a vacant area is underway to support the nearly doubling of staff after the acquisition of AirNet and Traveller.

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© 1999 WAAY-TV & M.D. Smith, IV