My tour guides were Louis and Richard, engineers at WVUE. These guys have been television engineers for many years, most of them at WVUE. It was clear that these guys love what they do, are darn good at it, and have a passion for making their station look its very best on air. They also seem to thoroughly enjoy showing off what they do and the equipment they do it with. It was a fantastic tour and I had a great time.
In the early 2000's, WVUE's then-owner, Emmis, re-defined their business mission and put all their television stations (of which they owned dozens, at their peak) up for sale. WVUE was the last one they were able to sell, selling it in late 2008.
Watching WVUE on air during the time Emmis had it up for sale, I was always impressed that they looked to be one of the most technologically advanced stations in the New Orleans market. "Wow, for trying to sell the station, Emmis sure isn't skimping on them technically", I thought. I could not have been more wrong!. The fact is, once Emmis was trying to unload this station, they absolutely eviscerated its budget. By a huge margin, WVUE was operating on the smallest budget of any of the "Big 4" network affiliates in New Orleans. Their impressive, high-tech, professional "look" on air was the result of the staff, and especially the engineering department, determined to do their very best with almost nothing. My hat is off to these guys, what they were able to accomplish in those dark days is remarkable.
Not to mention that Hurricane Katrina destroyed the stations studios and much of their control room during this time. When Katrina struck, Richard and Lewis both lived in the Lakeview section of New Orleans, as did I. I didn't know it, but these guys were close neighbors of mine! Like me, they had 10 or more feet of water in their houses. They helped rebuild WVUE while at the same time rebuilding their own lives and homes, all with a shocking lack of support from the station's former owner. Again, very, very, impressive.
In late 2008, the station was purchased by "Louisiana Media Company, LLC", owned by Tom Benson and members of his family, the same ownership as The New Orleans Saints. Benson and his company seem committed to making WVUE a great TV station. They are currently in a "learning about what they bought" phase, but the future of the station under their ownership looks bright.
In 1965 the station changed its call sign to WVUE, "Vue" being the French word for "View". (This is Louisiana, after all.)
In 1994, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of FOX, got the idea that UHF was a television wasteland (in my opinion, a totally outdated idea, but anyway...). Murdoch launched a campaign to acquire as many VHF TV stations as he could. At the time, the FOX affiliate in New Orleans was WNOL on channel 38. Murdoch, through a partnership with Savoy Pictures called "Savoy-Fox", purchased dozens of VHF television stations and converted them to FOX affiliates. WVUE was one of these. This made WVUE a FOX "O&O" (Owned and Operated) station for a couple of years. The affiliate of the at the time fledgling WB network, WGNO ended up with the ABC affiliation, and the former FOX affiliate, WNOL, took the WB affiliation.
It's sort of ironic that now, with digital television, it's VHF that's the wasteland!
The station was purchased by "Silver King/USA" in 1997, and then by Emmis in 1999. Around 2002 is when Emmis decided to get out of the television broadcasting business and put all their TV stations up for sale. Which takes us up to the present, and the current "Louisiana Media" ownership of WVUE.
WVUE was one of the channels facing a VHF nightmare after the digital transition. They have been simultaneously broadcasting on channel 8 and 29 for a few months. Just two days ago, as of this writing, the FCC approved their permanent move to channel 29, allowing them to shut down on channel 8 and build their permanent channel 29 plant.
It's a rather unusual architecture, with most of the first floor being a parking garage, and most of the rest of the first floor being a two-story high studio. The rest of the second floor surrounds that central 2 story studio like a donut. I was told years ago that some previous owner, when WVUE moved into this building in the early to mid 70's, installed the black/mirrored windows with the rounded corners to evoke TV screens. Umm, OK....
The building is also a bit of a maze inside. I was following behind Lewis for my tour, I'd have probably gotten lost like a rat in a maze without him.
Click here to go inside.