There is an excellent site devoted to the history of channel 18 in Hartford, CT: www.kylebookholz.com
The station began operation on August 4, 1954 as WGTH-TV, a Dumont/ABC affiliate. It was initially owned by The Hartford Timesnewspaper, but was sold to CBS in 1955, shortly after Hartford and New Haven merged into a single market. The station's call letters were changed to WHCT, for "Hartford CBS Television" (or, alternatively, "Hartford, CT" or "Hartford Christian Television" according to some).
As a CBS station, WHCT's ratings were astonishingly low because television sets weren't required to come with UHF tuners until 1964 Even with a very expensive converter, UHF signals were very unclear at the time. In 1957, The Travelers Insurance Company, the owners of longtime Hartford CBS radio affiliate WTIC-AM signed on WTIC-TV on Channel 3. By 1958, CBS had concluded that it was better to have its programming on a VHF station, even if it were only an affiliate. It moved its Hartford affiliation to WTIC-TV, and sold WHCT to RKO General, which turned it into an independent station. Channel 3, which is now WFSB, has been Hartford's CBS affiliate since then. WHCT became RKO's only UHF station.
As an independent, WHCT's schedule consisted of cartoons, movies, off-network sitcoms and dramas, sports, public affairs programming, and religious shows. From 1962 to 1969, the station ran a subscription television service from 7pm to midnight with scrambled first-run movies and sports events from Madison Square Garden. A decade before the 1972 premiere of HBO, WHCT's programming was an experiment between RKO and Zenith, who provided the descrambler boxes. WHCT-TV could be seen by all viewers with a UHF tuner and antenna during regular broadcast hours but viewers needed a decoder box in order to view the signal during the pay tv program block. The first pay-TV movie was Sunrise At Campobello, starring Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson. The subscription television service was deemed a failure, and RKO dropped it in 1968." The station now signed on in the afternoon and signed off late at night everyday. Charles Osgood, now the host of CBS Sunday Morning, was General Manager of the station.
By 1972, RKO donated the station to California's Faith Center, led by Dr. Eugene Scott. Under Scott, the station began to air religious programming in the morning and evening hours, while continuing to air general entertainment programming from noon to 8pm. Along with shows such as PTL Club and The 700 Club, WHCT also aired programming featuring Dr. Scott himself. For a time, WHCT also broadcast games of the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers.
The general entertainment programming was gone from the station by 1979, and the station's transmitter was vandalized in the same year, forcing it to broadcast at low power. By 1981 the station aired Dr. Scott's shows full time. Scott would provide rambling discourses on wide ranging topics.
WHCT was put up for a "distress" sale in 1985, with the stipulation from the FCC that the station be sold to a group of minority ownership. After some legal wranglings, Astroline Communications took ownership of the station, and WHCT returned to air in September of that year with a lineup of movies, re-runs, and syndicated programming not shown on the other two Connecticut independents, WTXX-TV and WTIC-TV. The station continued to underperform in the ratings, and was in serious financial trouble by the fall of 1987. Syndicated shows were pulled off the station daily because program distributors weren't being paid and therefore, the syndicated programming was being moved over to WTWS Channel 26, now WHPX-TV. The station gradually increased the amount of paid programming and infomercials to 18 hours a day.
WHCT stayed dark for five years until Paxson Communications purchased the license in 1996, and the station returned to air in the spring of that year, airing Valuevision home shopping and other paid programming. The station was sold to Entravision in 2001 for $18 million, and began to air Spanish-language programming that year.
Hartford Times 1954 Article
Aerial view looking north at the Avon Mountain Deercliff Road tower sites. The channel 18 tower is on the right. On the left are the two WTIC AM towers on either side of the channel 3/33 tower and the WTIC-FM/WWUH tower.
555 Asylum Avenue, home to channel 18 for many years. 2009 photo.
In early 2009 the analog channel 18 pylon antenna was removed from the top of this tower and the DTV antenna mounted near the top of the tower.
The "new" channel 18 tower in Avon.
Bishop's Corner, West Hartford studio location.
Another shot of the Bishop's Corner, West Hartford studio location.