WLBT-Channel 3's first broadcast was December 19, 1953. WLBT was the third TV station in Mississippi. WTOK-Channel 11 in Meridian was second in September 1953, and WJTV-Channel 25 in Jackson was first on January 20, 1953.
WLBT (LBT stands for Lamar Broadcasting Television) was originally known as WJBT and was changed to WLBT because WJBT and WJTV sounded too similar. Lamar operated WLBT until June 1971, when the Federal Communications Commission ordered that the license be vacated. The FCC turned the license over to a non-profit, bi-racial group known as Communications Improvement Inc. Lamar lost the license after allegations were made by African Americans and the United Church of Christ that the station did not fairly serve its large black audience. The FCC finally granted a permanent license to operate to TV-3 Inc. in 1980.
TV-3 was a group formed by five competing companies who were seeking the right to operate the station. WLBT is one of only two TV stations in the country to lose its broadcast license for violating the FCC's broadcast fairness license, a fact found in most broadcast textbooks.
WLBT-Channel 3's transmission tower is made up of over 600 tons of steel in 30-foot sections stacked to a tower height of 1889 feet, ten inches. Then there is a 67-foot transmitting antenna on top. Still higher, there is a dummy digital antenna, which should be replaced by 2006 or sooner with a real digital antenna for high-definition television transmission. The current tower is 550 feet taller than the Empire State Building in New York and more than 450 feet taller than the tallest building in the world -- the Sears tower in Chicago. It has 600 tons of steel in it and more than seven miles of cable used as guy wires to hold it up. It replaces a 1,999-foot tower that collapsed when workers for a Canadian company made a mistake doing maintenance. Three of them were killed on October 23, 1997, when the old tower fell. The new tower means WLBT's signal can now be received in about a 90-mile plus radius from the tower site near Raymond. The construction was started in January, 1999, and more than 30 people from several different contracting companies have built the new structure, which is 2,012 feet to the tip of the lightning rod from the ground.
WLBT began broadcasting a digital signal, WLBT-DT, in January 2006, on Channel 9. Included is a new 24-hour weather service called "WeatherPLUS" and a high-definition channel.
WDBD is operated by Raycom Media in a shared services agreement.