WRDC
ATSC 3.0 station
Durham/Raleigh/
Fayetteville, North Carolina
United States
CityDurham, North Carolina
ChannelsDigital: 14 (UHF)
Virtual: 28
BrandingMyRDC
SloganMy Raleigh
My Durham
My Chapel Hill
Programming
Affiliations28.1: MyNetworkTV (2006–present)
28.2: Charge! (O&O)
28.3: Comet (O&O)
Ownership
OwnerSinclair Broadcast Group
(Raleigh (WRDC-TV) Licensee, Inc.)
broadcast: WLFL
cable: Bally Sports South[1]
History
First air date
November 4, 1968 (52 years ago) (1968-11-04)
Former call signs
WRDU-TV (1968–1978)
WPTF-TV (1978–1991)
Former channel number(s)
Analog:
28 (UHF, 1968–2009)
Digital:
27 (UHF, until 2009)
28 (UHF, 2009–2019)
Primary:
NBC (1968–September 1995)
UPN (September 1995–Spring 1998, Summer 1998–2006)
Independent (Spring–Summer 1998)
Secondary:
CBS (1968–1971)
UPN (January–September 1995)
Call sign meaning
We Serve
Raleigh
Durham
Chapel Hill
Technical information
Licensing authority
FCC
Facility ID54963
ERP1,000 kW
HAAT624 m (2,047 ft)
Transmitter coordinates35°40′29″N 78°31′39″W / 35.67472°N 78.52750°W / 35.67472; -78.52750
Links
Public license information
Profile
LMS
Websitemyrdctv.com

WRDC, virtual channel 28 (UHF digital channel 14), is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Durham, North Carolina, United States and serving the Triangle region (Raleigh–Durham–Chapel HillFayetteville). The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Raleigh-licensed CW affiliate WLFL (channel 22). The two stations share studios in the Highwoods Office Park, just outside downtown Raleigh; WRDC's transmitter is located in Auburn, North Carolina.

On cable, WRDC is available on channel 12 in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Fayetteville and most of their suburbs, and channel 10 in Cary, Garner, Clayton, Smithfield, and Carrboro. On Charter Spectrum, WRDC is shown in high definition on digital channel 1215.

History

Prior use of channel 28 in Raleigh

Main article: WNAO-TV

Channel 28 in Raleigh was initially occupied by WNAO-TV, the first television station in the Raleigh–Durham TV market and North Carolina's first UHF station. Owned by the Sir Walter Television Company, WNAO-TV broadcast from July 12, 1953, to December 31, 1957, primarily as a CBS affiliate with secondary affiliations with other networks. The station was co-owned with WNAO radio (850 AM, now WPTK; and 96.1 FM, now WBBB), which Sir Walter had bought from The News & Observer newspaper after obtaining the television construction permit. As the Raleigh–Durham market received two VHF television stations in 1954 and 1956 (WTVD and WRAL-TV), WNAO-TV, impaired by its UHF channel position, struggled. The station signed off December 31, 1957, and its ownership entered into a joint venture with another dark UHF outlet that was successful in obtaining channel 8 in High Point.

WRDU-TV/Triangle Telecasters

WRDU-TV, a new Durham-licensed station on channel 28 which was completely unrelated to the Raleigh-licensed WNAO-TV, began operations on November 4, 1968. The new station had studios located on North Carolina Highway 54 in southern Durham (currently a DaVita Inc. dialysis center), with a transmitter located near Terrells Mountain in Chatham County, North Carolina. The station was first owned by Triangle Telecasters, headed by Durham businessman Reuben Everett, his wife Katherine and their son, Robinson O. Everett.[2]

On paper, WRDU took over as the Triangle's NBC de facto affiliate. NBC had not had a full-time affiliate in the Triangle since 1962, when WRAL-TV dropped that network in favor of ABC (except for the Huntley-Brinkley Report newscast), leaving CBS affiliate WTVD to shoehorn NBC programming onto its schedule. Although the Triangle had long been large enough to support three full network affiliates, there were no commercial VHF allotments available due to FCC rules against short-spacing (in the Triangle's case, to nearby stations in North Carolina and Virginia), and prospective station owners were skeptical about the prospects for a UHF station in a market which stretched from Chapel Hill in the west to Goldsboro in the east. UHF stations did not cover large amounts of territory very well at the time.

Even after channel 28's return, NBC continued to allow WTVD right of first refusal for its programming, showing no interest in voluntarily offering WRDU a full-time affiliation, because it perceived it too risky. WTVD was permitted to continue its established practice of cherry-picking higher-rated programs from NBC and CBS (in the same way that WTVD selected the higher-rated CBS and ABC programs when WNAO-TV was in business), leaving WRDU to carry the lower-rated shows as well as NBC's news programming.[3] This situation prompted channel 28 to petition the FCC for relief in November 1969.[4] In 1971, the FCC intervened on behalf of Triangle Telecasters (in part due to the commission's policy aims of protecting the development of UHF stations, by setting a precedent for similar cases elsewhere), forcing WTVD to choose one network;[5][6] ultimately WTVD chose CBS. NBC had no choice then but to sign with WRDU by default; the network was rather displeased about having to settle for a low-power UHF owned by a family with comparatively limited capitalization. As such, NBC's relationship with channel 28 got off on a bad footing to start with, and never really got better. Despite the stabilization of network scheduling for central North Carolina viewers, making promotion, on air and in print ads, easier for WRDU, the damage had been done, in terms of station identity and loyalty, making things vastly more difficult in the years to come.

Additionally, WRDU's main competitors, WTVD and WRAL, were two of the strongest Southern performers for their respective networks, having built up followings over the previous dozen years or so on VHF channels—the same problem that derailed WNAO-TV essentially remained unchanged. As late as 1971, many households in the region likely still had sets made before 1964, when the All-Channel Receiver Act was imposed by the Federal Government on manufacturers. As such, most of those viewers had never bothered to purchase converters to receive UHF signals, seeing no need for them; even after channel 28's debut, some knew little or nothing about the station, having ignored the publicity surrounding the 1968 launch (still others, of course, were uninterested, since they knew that WRDU carried shows that were perceived as of low quality and cast off from WTVD). WRDU also had to deal with longer-established NBC affiliates in nearby Winston-Salem (WSJS-TV, now WXII), Washington (WITN-TV) and Wilmington (WECT) being available over the air with strong VHF signals in much of the surrounding area, usually with at least a "Grade B" quality, making them perfectly acceptable to many viewers. Channel 28's transmitter was located on the Orange–Chatham county line, providing only a Grade B signal to Raleigh proper and rendering it practically unviewable over the air in southern and eastern Wake County; a channel 70 translator, later moved to channel 22,[7] went on air in May 1969 to enhance the WRDU service for the eastern part of the viewing territory.[8]

Another thing that caused WRDU problems in its early years was Triangle Telecasters' frequent preemption of network shows for syndicated programs, presumably because the Everett family believed it could get more revenue from local advertising than from network airtime payments, due to WRDU's low ratings keeping compensation rates very low in turn. As NBC's popularity declined precipitously through the 1970s, WRDU only increased the number of preemptions. Even so, some of that was likely prompted by the network's poor relationship with the station dating back to NBC's resentment over the 1971 FCC decision effectively forcing it onto an undesirable UHF channel (see above). Triangle Telecasters was thus not especially well disposed toward complying with NBC's demands that channel 28 clear its entire schedule from morning to night. Generally speaking, NBC was considerably less tolerant of its stations substituting alternative programming for its feed than ABC or CBS, but could not do anything about it because of the lack of any competition to the three commercial stations in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill market. NBC was stuck with channel 28 and would be for over the next two decades.

Durham Life era

After two years of negotiations,[9] the Durham Life Insurance Company, which owned the Triangle's oldest radio station, WPTF (680 AM), bought WRDU-TV from the Everetts in May 1977 and changed its callsign to WPTF-TV on August 14 of the following year,[10] coinciding with a major signal overhaul and new 1,300-foot (400 m) transmitter tower near Apex that brought the WPTF-TV signal a far closer parity with the VHF stations than had previously been the case.[11][7] This was Durham Life's second attempt to get into television. It was one of two applicants for channel 5 in the 1950s and had made rather extensive preparations for its television station, buying cameras and rehearsing announcers.[7] The Federal Communications Commission, however, shocked Durham Life when it awarded the license to the much smaller Capitol Broadcasting, owner of WRAL radio (AM 1240, now WPJL, and 101.5 FM) as WRAL-TV.[7] Before buying channel 28, Durham Life had been interested in building a new station on channel 22.[12]

In addition to the upgraded signal, Durham Life, which had far larger financial resources than Triangle Telecasters could have ever managed, invested a considerable amount of money into its new purchase by upgrading the news department and purchasing $500,000 in new equipment. It also added a weekday children's show entitled Barney's Army, which was hosted by the namesake Aniforms puppet and ran from 1979 to 1983, long after the genre had disappeared from most other American stations.[13] However, channel 28 was still reeling from the audience-loyalty problems it had inherited from Triangle Telecasters. It did not help that NBC was experiencing the worst of its 1970s ratings slump, adding further strain on the already shaky WPTF-NBC relationship. In November 1979, WRAL's 6 p.m. newscast attracted a rating of 30, WTVD's a 16, and WPTF-TV's a measly 1.[14] The highly profitable radio stations continued to make money, but the broadcasting division of the Durham Corporation—broken off from Durham Life Insurance—posted losses because of channel 28.[15]

WRAL and WTVD switched affiliations in 1985 after WTVD's owner, Capital Cities Communications, bought ABC, but WPTF saw practically no windfall from the switch, a highly unusual occurrence then when two stations in a market switched networks, as the third station usually exploited the transition, and potential ensuing confusion, to its advantage. Even by the mid-to-late 1980s, with NBC's powerful prime time lineup, WPTF-TV was dead last in the Triangle television ratings. It even trailed WLFL, an independent station (and later, a Fox affiliate) that had only been on the air since 1981. The station also continued to preempt NBC programming, albeit at a reduced rate compared to the number of network shows it declined in the 1970s. This, of course, did not sit very well with NBC, and it thus was steadily losing respect for WPTF.

Durham Corporation was able to make progress and begin making money again in its broadcasting unit in the 1980s. In 1987, the entire broadcasting unit, radio and TV, was moved to new quarters costing $1 million. The next year, WPTF-TV was placed on the cable system in Fayetteville for the first time, a move cited as key in increasing station circulation and giving it more parity with WRAL and WTVD.[16] However, the company opted to focus on its core insurance business, and in August 1989, it announced it was placing WPTF-TV up for sale.[17] Durham Life sought as much as $45 million for the station.[18]

On December 10, 1989, the towers of WPTF-TV and WRAL-TV near Auburn collapsed in an ice storm.[19] The next day, Durham Corporation took WPTF-TV off the market due to the collapse; it had received lesser offers than it had expected.[20] After temporarily broadcasting some programs over WYED-TV, channel 17 from Goldsboro, and WFCT, channel 62 in Fayetteville, the station reverted to its previous tower site until it could begin broadcasting from the candelabra tower it would share with WRAL-TV in late 1990.

Sale to Paul Brissette and switch from NBC to UPN

We have never seen a network affiliate with local news as low-rated as it was here. We could have quadrupled our spending on it and it would not make any progress.

Paul Brissette, early 1990s owner of WRDC on the motive for axing the station's news department[21]

While the company initially announced plans to retain its television and radio properties,[22] Durham Life exited broadcasting and sold off individual stations to various owners. WPTF-TV was sold to Paul Brissette, who changed the call sign to WRDC on October 25, after the three major cities in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill), and rebranded the station as "TRI-28". The new ownership made the station profitable almost immediately—only after Brissette terminated virtually the entire news department in a cost-cutting move at the end of July 1991,[21] assuring little to no goodwill from NBC about the future direction of the station. One disgruntled ex-employee bitterly suggested that the station's new WRDC call sign stood for "We Really Don't Care."[23] The station continued to employ a single anchor/reporter to helm local news updates that would air in and around NBC network shows and syndicated programming; these news briefs eventually were discontinued outright in 1994, leaving WRDC without locally-based news programming for the station's remaining two years as an NBC affiliate. With that, the station had basically become little more than a pass-through for network programming, with not much else to offer Triangle-area viewers.

The former "UPN 28" logo, used from 2002 to 2006.
The former "UPN 28" logo, used from 2002 to 2006.

By the mid-1990s, NBC's patience with WRDC was exhausted after over 25 years of mediocrity at best on channel 28, and the network became increasingly frustrated with and embarrassed by its poor performance in one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. Brissette's waning-to-nonexistent commitment to local news did not help matters. NBC began to look to move its programming to another station at the end of its affiliation agreement with channel 28; unlike the 1970s, it had options this time around to go elsewhere and get a better arrangement, thanks in no small part to cable leveling the playing field between VHF and UHF outlets and a deregulatory-minded FCC ceasing active promotion of the development of UHF, leaving it to market forces, both drastic changes from the WRDU days. When WNCN (channel 17, formerly WYED-TV), licensed to Goldsboro but located just outside Raleigh in Clayton, boosted its signal to 5 million watts to provide greater coverage to the Triangle market, NBC finally saw an opportunity. WNCN's owner, Outlet Communications, had very good relations with NBC; it owned WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island and WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, which were two of NBC's strongest and longest-standing affiliates. Although WNCN had just affiliated with the new WB Television Network, NBC quickly cut a deal with Outlet to move its Triangle affiliation to WNCN (it eventually purchased Outlet outright, making WNCN an owned-and-operated station for around a decade).

However, NBC remained affiliated with WRDC until September 10, 1995—a month earlier than planned, by mutual agreement between the two stations, ending a 27-year relationship under three different ownerships.[24] Starting that January, WNCN began airing all of the NBC programming that WRDC turned down. WRDC immediately became the UPN affiliate in the market. Even in its final months with NBC, the station branded itself as "UPN 28"; it also delayed UPN's Monday and Tuesday night slates to air on Friday and Saturday nights instead of NBC's weak prime time lineup,[25] which WNCN aired on those nights until September.[26]

With WRDC now a full-time UPN affiliate, it no longer had a decent amount of programming to preempt, solving that long-standing problem. UPN only programmed on Monday and Tuesday nights at the time, and would never air any programming on weekends. WRDC also picked up several syndicated shows that WNCN no longer had time to air.

Despite his frugal management of WRDC, Brissette began sinking under the weight of massive financial problems and merged his group with Benedek Broadcasting later in 1995 (a year earlier, a sale to the Communications Corporation of America was approved by the FCC but never consummated). However, since the merger left Benedek one station over FCC ownership limits of the time, WRDC was sold to Glencairn Ltd. Glencairn was owned by Edwin Edwards, a former executive with WLFL's owner, the Sinclair Broadcast Group. The Smith family, founders and owners of Sinclair, held 97% of Glencairn's stock, leading to allegations that Sinclair was using Glencairn to make an end-run around FCC rules forbidding television station duopolies. Sinclair further circumvented the rules by taking over WRDC's operations under a local marketing agreement, with WLFL as the senior partner. However, the combined operation was and still is based at WRDC's former studios in the Highwoods complex. Similar arrangements were in place at Glencairn's other eight stations. The FCC eventually fined Sinclair $40,000 for its illegal control of Glencairn.

Channel 28 briefly dropped its UPN affiliation in the spring of 1998 and became an independent station, as did most of the UPN-affiliated stations that Sinclair either owned or controlled, due to a dispute between UPN and Sinclair. During the dispute, UPN programming was available in the Raleigh market via out-of-market stations, such as WUPN in Greensboro and WILM-LD in Wilmington, on cable providers in the market and via Dish Network satellite services. However, UPN and Sinclair patched up their dispute, and UPN programming returned to WRDC in the summer. Sinclair purchased WRDC outright in 2001; this was possible because WNCN had by this time passed WRDC as the fourth-rated station in the Triangle. The FCC's duopoly rules prohibit one company to own two of the four highest-rated stations by total viewership in a single market.

As a MyNetworkTV affiliate

On January 24, 2006, Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that The WB and UPN (which had only used its initials as its official name since 2000) would merge their higher-rated programs onto a new network, The CW.[27][28] The news of the merger resulted in Sinclair announcing, two months later, that most of its UPN and WB affiliates, including WRDC, would join MyNetworkTV, a new service formed by the News Corporation, which is also owner of the Fox network.[29] Sister station WLFL, which had been a WB affiliate since 1998, took the CW affiliation a few months later. This gave North Carolina two CW/MyNetworkTV duopolies, the other being WJZY/WMYT-TV in Charlotte. In both cases, the MyNetworkTV affiliate is the junior partner.

In recent years, WRDC has been carried on cable in multiple areas within the Greensboro and Greenville media markets in North Carolina.[30]

On May 15, 2012, Sinclair and Fox agreed to a five-year affiliation agreement extension for Sinclair's 19 Fox-affiliated stations until 2017. This included an option, that was exercisable between July 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, for Fox parent News Corporation to buy a combination of six Sinclair-owned stations (two CW/MyNetworkTV duopolies and two standalone MyNetworkTV affiliates) in three out of four markets; WLFL and WRDC were included in the Fox purchase option, along with stations in Cincinnati (WSTR-TV), Norfolk (WTVZ) and Las Vegas (KVCW and KVMY).[31] In January 2013, Fox announced that it would not exercise its option to buy any of the Sinclair stations in the four aforementioned markets.[32]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's ATSC 1.0 channels are carried on the multiplexed digital signals of other Raleigh–Durham television stations:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[33][34][35] ATSC 1.0 host
28.1 720p 16:9 MyTV Main WRDC programming / MyNetworkTV WLFL
28.2 480i CHARGE Charge! WNCN
28.3 Comet Comet
WTVD

WRDC previously broadcast TheCoolTV on a second digital subchannel, but the network was dropped from all Sinclair stations on August 31, 2012.[36]

Analog-to-digital conversion

WRDC discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 28, on February 17, 2009, five months ahead of the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. It was one of three stations in the Triangle market, along with WLFL and WRAY-TV, that decided to switch on that date, even though the official transition date had been changed to June 12, 2009. Although it had an assigned digital channel that it would move to post-transition that differed from its original digital channel, WRDC continued to broadcast its digital signal on its pre-transition allocation (UHF channel 27). At noon on June 12, the station's digital signal relocated to UHF channel 28.[37]

ATSC 3.0 lighthouse

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[38]
11.1 720p 16:9 WTVD ATSC 3.0 simulcast of WTVD / ABC
17.1 1080p WNCN ATSC 3.0 simulcast of WNCN / CBS
22.1 720p WLFL ATSC 3.0 simulcast of WLFL / The CW
28.1 WRDC Main WRDC programming / MyNetworkTV
40.1 1080p WUVC ATSC 3.0 simulcast of WUVC-DT / Univision

On November 17, 2020, WRDC converted to ATSC 3.0, with simulcasts from WLFL, WTVD, WNCN and WUVC. Existing channels from WRDC are hosted by WLFL, WNCN and WTVD.

Transmitter tower

In 1986, WPTF erected a 2,000-foot (610 m) transmitter tower near Auburn, North Carolina, in an attempt to increase its signal coverage to include Fayetteville and other cities located south and east of Raleigh. That tower collapsed in December 1989, during an early morning winter ice storm that also claimed the nearby tower of WRAL-TV. WPTF managed to get back on the air several hours later by rebroadcasting its signal on both WYED-TV (now WNCN) for the Raleigh–Durham area and WFCT-TV (channel 62, now WFPX-TV) for the Fayetteville area.

A month following the WYED/WFCT simulcast, WPTF reactivated its old tower near Apex, which it had used from 1978 to 1986, allowing the station to resume its broadcasts on channel 28 as usual. That same tower was dismantled several years later and then donated to classical radio station WCPE-FM, who reassembled it at a spot near its studios in Wake Forest, North Carolina in 1993. WPTF would eventually join WRAL-TV in 1991 on a newly built 1,989-foot (606 m) broadcast tower at the latter's previous site, which also included the transmission signal for WRAL-FM, WQDR-FM, and a couple of low-power television stations in the area. Four years later, WRAZ would sign on from the tower as well. In the early 2000s, the digital signals of WRAL-TV, WRAZ and WRDC signed on from an adjacent 2,000-foot candelabra tower, which also includes the antennae for WLFL and WNCN. After the digital transition of 2009, WRDC-DT returned to full-time, full-power transmission of its digital signal from the same facilities, including transmission line and antenna, as the original analog transmitters, while sister station WLFL moved to WRDC's transitional UHF channel 27 facilities on the candelabra.

Newscasts

Shortly after signing on, WRDU established a news department. For many years, the station's newscasts placed last among the Triangle market's television stations, behind WRAL and WTVD. After Durham Life bought the station, it poured significant resources into the station's news department. Despite this, the news department, even with the power boost and increased resources, remained stubbornly in the ratings basement. This was in marked contrast to its radio sister WPTF, one of the most respected radio news operations in North Carolina. Not even a move of the 6 p.m. newscast to 7 p.m. in September 1990 could improve chronically low ratings.[39]

On July 31, 1991, in a cost-cutting move, new owner Brissette Broadcasting fired nearly the entire news staff and most of the production crew. WRDC lost a good deal of credibility as a result and never recovered. The station continued to employ a single anchor/reporter to helm local news updates that would air during and around NBC network shows and syndicated programming; even these news briefs eventually were discontinued outright in 1994, leaving WRDC without locally-based news programming for the station's remaining two years as an NBC affiliate, with the only news programming aired coming from NBC News. The station has not run any news programming since September 1995, outside of Sinclair's required 'must-run' political programming and specials.

References

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  37. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  38. ^ "RabbitEars TV Query for WRDC". RabbitEars. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  39. ^ Langford, Bob (September 12, 1990). "WPTF to move news to 7". The News & Observer. p. 5D. Retrieved February 24, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)