WRDC, virtual and UHF digital channel 28, is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Durham, North Carolina, United States and serving the Triangle region (Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill–Fayetteville). 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.
WRDC is carried on cable 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.
In July 1952, Sir Walter Television Co. applied for WETV, a TV station to serve the Raleigh-Durham TV market. The company considered Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Roanoke, Virginia and even Durham, but selected Raleigh due to the number of colleges in the area, qualified personalities, and Reynolds Coliseum, as well as the people's strong desire for a TV station. In October, the Federal Communications Commission approved the request. On February 13, 1953, Sir Walter completed the purchase of WNAO radio (850 AM, now WPTK; and 96.1 FM, now WBBB) from the owners of The News & Observer.
The expected sign-on date was April 27, but the new station experienced numerous delays in getting transmitter equipment.
On July 12, 1953 at 5:25 p.m., WNAO-TV began broadcasting on channel 28 as the Triangle's first television station (fourteen months before WTVD debuted) and the state's first-ever UHF station. WNAO was a CBS affiliate, and had secondary affiliations with ABC, NBC, and the DuMont network. However, television manufacturers were not required to include UHF tuning capability on their sets at the time. Until the FCC required all-channel tuning in 1964, UHF stations were unviewable without a converter. Even with one, the picture was barely viewable.
With WRAL-TV (channel 5) signing on in late 1956 with an NBC affiliation, WNAO-TV was dealt another blow. The station had struggled for viewership for much of its brief existence, and the presence of a new station simply made matters worse. The original Channel 28 shut down at the end of 1957.
WRDU-TV, a new Durham-licensed station on channel 28 which was completely unrelated to the Raleigh-licensed WNAO-TV, signed on November 4, 1968. The new station had studios located on NC Highway 54 in southern Durham (currently the DaVita Dialysis Center), with a transmitter located near Terrell's Mountain in Chatham County. The station was first owned by Triangle Telecasters, headed by Durham businessman Reuben Everett, his wife Katherine and their son Robinson.
Officially, WRDU took over as the Triangle's NBC affiliate. NBC had not had a full-time affiliate in the Triangle since 1962, when WRAL-TV dropped that network in favor of ABC, 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, 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 sign-on, NBC continued to allow WTVD right of first refusal for its programming. WTVD chose to cherry-pick higher-rated programs from NBC and CBS (in the same way that WTVD selected the higher-rated CBS and ABC programs when WNAO was in business), leaving WRDU to carry the lower-rated shows as well as NBC's news programming. 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), forcing WTVD to choose one network; ultimately WTVD chose CBS. Still, 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 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. 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. Channel 28's transmitter was located on the Orange-Chatham County line, providing only a grade B signal in Raleigh itself and rendering it practically unviewable over-the-air in southern and eastern Wake County.
However, one problem that could not be blamed on outside factors was Triangle Telecasters' frequent preemption of network shows for syndicated programs, presumably because it believed it could get more revenue from local advertising than from network airtime payments. As NBC's popularity declined precipitously through the 1970s, WRDU only increased the number of preemptions.
Sale to Durham Life
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. This was Durham Life's second attempt to get into television; it had previously bid for the channel 5 allotment in 1956 before the FCC awarded the license to the much smaller Capitol Broadcasting, owner of WRAL radio (AM 1240, now WPJL, and 101.5 FM) as WRAL-TV. Durham Life invested a large amount of money into its new purchase, building a new 1,300-foot (400 m) transmitter tower near Apex, which gave the station a coverage area comparable to those of WTVD and WRAL-TV. It also heavily invested in the station's news department, and added a kids' show entitled Barney's Army, which ran from 1978 to 1983. 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.
WRAL and WTVD switched affiliations in 1985 after WTVD's owner, Capital Cities Communications, bought ABC, but WPTF saw little windfall from the switch. Even by the mid-late 1980s, with NBC's powerful primetime 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 did not sit very well with NBC, which has historically been far less tolerant of preemptions than the other networks.
In the summer of 1991, Durham Life exited broadcasting and sold off individual stations to various owners. WPTF-TV was sold to Paul Brisette, who changed the callsign 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 owners made the station profitable almost immediately. However, it did so only after Brissette had laid off virtually the entire news department in a cost-cutting move at the end of July 1991, assuring little to no goodwill from NBC about the future direction of the station.
By the mid-1990s, NBC's patience with WRDC was exhausted, and the network became increasingly frustrated with its poor performance in one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. Brisette's waning 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. 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's contract with WRDC did not run out until September 3, 1995. Starting in January 1995, WNCN began airing all of the NBC programming that WRDC had turned down. When WRDC's NBC affiliation ended, the station became a full affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN), which started operations around the time The WB started. It had already been airing UPN programming during the late night hours since that network started operations in January. As such, WRDC no longer had a decent amount of programming to preempt, since 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.
Brisette 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 do 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 was 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 off-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. 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. 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.
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). In January 2013, Fox announced that it would not exercise its option to buy any of the Sinclair stations in the four aforementioned markets.
|TV stations in North Carolina|
|TV stations in North Carolina's Research Triangle region, including Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville|
|WUNC 4 (PBS) |
WRAL 5 (NBC)
WAUG-LD 8 (AMGTV)
WTVD 11 (ABC)
WUBX-CD 13 (Ind)
WNCB-LD 16 (ESTRELLA)
WNCN 17 (CBS)
WLFL 22 (CW)
W24CP-D 24 (3ABN)
WTNC-LD 26 (UNI)
WIRP-LD 27 (ESTRELLA)
WRDC 28 (MNTV)
WRAY 30 (TCT)
WHIG-CD 31 (Ind)
WARZ-CD 34 (RTV)
WUNP 36 (PBS)
WUVC 40 (UNI)
WNCR-LD 41 (Youtoo)
WHFL-CD 43 (Rel)
WYBE-CD 44 (Ind)
W46EU-D 46 (HSN2)
WRPX 47 (Ion)
WRAZ 50 (Fox)
WRTD-CD 54 (TLM)
WFPX 62 (Court TV)
WWIW-LD 66 (Daystar)