|Raleigh / Durham /
Fayetteville, North Carolina
WRAL News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Coverage You Can Count On|
|Channels||Digital: 48 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
5.2 This TV
|Affiliations||CBS Television Network|
|Owner||Capitol Broadcasting Company|
|First air date||December 15, 1956|
|Call letters’ meaning||RALeigh|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
5 (VHF, 1956-2009)
32 (UHF, 1996-2000)
53 (UHF, 2000-2009)
(1956-1962; secondary late 1960s)
ABC (secondary 1959-1962; primary 1962-1985)
|Transmitter Power||1,000 kW (digital)|
|Height||629 m (digital)|
WRAL-TV, virtual channel 5 (digital channel 48), is a television station in Raleigh, North Carolina. WRAL-TV has been owned by the flagship station of Capitol Broadcasting Company since its inception, and is currently the CBS affiliate for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Fayetteville area, known collectively as the Triangle. The station has its office and studio facilities in downtown Raleigh, with transmitter located in Auburn, North Carolina.
WRAL-TV is co-owned with radio stations WRAL-FM (101.5 MHz) and WCMC-FM (99.9 MHz), and Fox affiliate WRAZ (channel 50). Though most of WRAZ's operations are based at WRAL-TV's studios, WRAZ has its own facilities in downtown Durham. WRAL-TV is available on cable channel 3 in most of the Triangle, except in outlying areas of the market, where it is available on channel 5. It is also available on cable in large portions of eastern areas of the state.
The station's first broadcast was on December 15, 1956 that was an airing of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street. Alfred Johnson "A.J." Fletcher's Capitol Broadcasting, which began in 1939 with WRAL radio (1240 AM, now WPJL), had won the license in something of an upset over the much larger Durham Life Insurance Company owners of the Triangle's oldest continuous radio station, WPTF. Channel 5 was originally an NBC affiliate. When WNAO-TV (channel 28), the Triangle's ABC affiliate, went dark in 1959, WRAL shared ABC with Durham-based WTVD (which counted Fletcher's son, Floyd, among its founders) until 1962 when it took the ABC affiliation full-time. This was somewhat unusual for a two-station market and the reason for this is still not clear to this day. ABC was not on an equal footing with NBC and CBS, in terms of both ratings and affiliated stations, until the early 1970s. WTVD shoehorned NBC and CBS programming onto its schedule until 1971 when WRDU-TV, which began operations in 1968 on channel 28, finally got the exclusive NBC affiliation. Ironically, Durham Life bought WRDU in 1978 and changed the calls to WPTF-TV (it is now MyNetworkTV affiliate WRDC-TV, owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group).
From 1960 until his election to the United States Senate in 1972, Jesse Helms was a regular editorial commentator on WRAL-TV's news broadcasts. In fact, because his politically conservative commentaries became so popular, WRAL began pre-empting the last ten minutes of the ABC evening network newscasts (or, for a time in the late 1960s, NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report), giving Helms a ten-minute nightly program to himself. This had political implications for Triangle-area viewers because the newsmen usually gave commentaries during the part of the newscast that WRAL cut off. All the ABC and NBC commentators were staunch supporters of the Civil Rights Movement and other liberal positions, all things Helms strongly opposed. Despite this de facto censorship, neither ABC nor NBC ever took retributive action against the station, nor did other parties complain to the Federal Communications Commission about WRAL violating the Fairness Doctrine.
In 1985, WTVD's owner, Capital Cities Communications, purchased ABC, resulting in WTVD becoming an ABC owned and operated station. The CBS affiliation moved to WRAL-TV on August 4, 1985. Within six months of the switch, WRAL had become one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the network's chain.
A severe ice storm in December 1989 caused the station's 2,000-foot (610 m) tower to collapse forcing WRAL off the air. Within hours, channel 5 cut a deal with the then-struggling Fayetteville station WKFT-TV (now WUVC-TV) allowing WRAL to return to the air in only three hours. WKFT ran the entire WRAL schedule during this time. The station's new, stronger tower was launched on October 25, 1990, at which point WKFT reverted to airing its own programming.
In the early-1990s, WRAL broadcasted its programming via C-Band satellite as part of the Primetime 24 package. That offered network affiliates to viewers in the Caribbean, Latin America and rural areas where local signals were not available. It was replaced in the late-1990s with fellow CBS affiliate WSEE-TV from Erie, Pennsylvania.
On June 19, 1996, the Federal Communications Commission awarded WRAL-TV the first experimental high-definition television license in the United States. The station, identified as WRAL-HD, began digital television operations on channel 32 over a month later, on July 23, 1996. The station moved to channel 53 in March 2000.
WRAL-TV was the first in the United States to broadcast live sports program in high-definition (on September 6, 1997), as well as the first HD newscast (on October 28, 1998). The station uses Panasonic's DVCPRO HD electronic news gathering equipment. CBS utilized WRAL-HD in testing its own high-definition programming some time later, and starting in 1999 began providing the station with a regular schedule of primetime programs in HD. HD Sports programing recorded by WRAL was provided to other model stations as well. WRAL-TV's pioneering efforts in digital television has won wide recognition from within the television industry
The station's digital signal, currently on UHF 48, is multiplexed:
After the analog television shutdown and digital conversion was completed on June 12, 2009 at 12:55 PM, WRAL-TV digital broadcasts remained on channel 48. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers continue to display WRAL's virtual channel as 5.1
WRAL has aired the entire CBS program schedule since the late-1990s. The only exception involves ACC football and basketball from Raycom Sports, both of which have aired on the station since 1982. Also, Cupid, a 2003 reality show was not aired, as were some controversial shows on sister station WRAZ. WRAL is one of the few CBS affiliates that shows The Young and the Restless from 4 to 5 P.M. as a lead in to its 5 p.m. newscast. Most CBS stations air Y&R from 12:30 to 1:30, but in the case of WRAL, the timeslot switch occurred in January 1993. This happened because the station's sitcom reruns (the show being run at the time was an hour block of The Golden Girls) were having no luck against The Oprah Winfrey Show on WTVD.
WRAL has broadcast memorable locally-produced children's programming throughout its storied history. However, its most famous and longest-running is Time for Uncle Paul (1961-1981) starring Paul Montgomery. He had played various other characters on other local shows before getting his own program. He voluntarily ended his program after station management suggested a change to an educational format.
Soon after, WRAL continued to produce acclaimed kids' shows with an educational slant including: Frog Hollow, Sparks, and The Androgena Show. Today, WRAL continues to produce quality children's educational programs with such shows as Smart Start Kids and Brain Game.
WRAL announced on February 1, 2006 that it would begin to simulcast all of its programming on the web to computer users in the Triangle. This signified the latest advance in technology-driven delivery of product by a local television station. A few months later, WRAL was selected to serve as the flagship station for the North Carolina Education Lottery which includes nightly drawings and the twice-a-week national Powerball lottery. On December 3, 2007, WRAL became the first local television station to stream live video to mobile phones. This event coincided with the 48th Annual WRAL tower lighting.
WRAL has the highest rated television news organizations in the area winning numerous regional Emmys. Most recently, WRAL and wral.com were nominated 29 times for Mid South Regional Emmys. The station has been the highest-rated station in the Triangle for most of the time since the 1970s.
Until his retirement on July 1, 1994, Charlie Gaddy co-anchored newscasts alongside Bobbie Battista, Adele Arakawa (now with KUSA-TV in Denver), Donna Gregory (who now works for NBC), and Pam Saulsby. Today Saulsby, along with current co-anchor David Crabtree (who replaced Gaddy in 1994), chief meteorologist Greg Fishel (who took over for retiring Bob DeBardelaben in 1989, and is one of the most renowned weathermen in the world), and popular sportcaster Tom Suiter, is a part of the longest-running on-air news team (news, weather, and sports) in the Triangle and one of the longest-running news teams in the state. Tom Suiter stepped down from his sports anchor duties on December 18, 2008 following the 6pm newscast and was replaced by Jeff Gravely, currently a sports reporter and anchor for the 10pm news on WRAZ. 
In August 1998, WRAL began to produce newscasts on WRAZ. That station usually simulcasts local breaking news coverage from WRAL. For national breaking news, WRAZ carries Fox News coverage while WRAL carries CBS News. Otherwise, WRAZ may broadcast CBS programming in case WRAL cannot do so as in news-related emergencies. The WRAZ broadcasts include weekday mornings at 7 for two hours and half-hour broadcasts at 10 on weeknights as well as weekends. The newscasts are simulcasted on WRAL's second digital subchannel.
In 2000, WRAL aired the world's first high definition newscast on October 13. In January 2001, WRAL converted all of its local news broadcasts to high definition. The WRAZ newscasts are broadcasted in high definition as well. On December 15, 2006, WRAL had a special "reunion" newscast at 6 o'clock with Gaddy, Battista, DeBardelaben, and Suiter reprising their roles once again. This commemorated the station's 50th anniversary. On October 10, 2007, the WRAL sports department launched a sports talk radio station, WCMC-FM (known as 99.9 The Fan). It is now is the only FM sports talk station in the area and broadcasts in high definition. This station was previously known as 99.9 Genuine Country.
In 1979, the station became the state's first to begin using a helicopter, known as "Sky 5" for newsgathering. The current Bell 407 helicopter, tail number N553HD was purchased for $2 million in 2000. The tail number represents the station's channel, that this is the 3rd news gathering helicopter for the station and WRAL's role in pioneering high definition broadcasting. The aircraft is piloted by Steve Wiley, who has flown for the station for 21 years. The aircraft is normally stored at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport but a helipad is available on the roof of one of the WRAL buildings. The helicopter is equipped with $600,000 worth of video equipment including cameras installed on the tail, 2 in the cabin and a gyroscope controlled high definition camera under the nose, all of which can be controlled from the rear of the aircraft by a videographer. WRAL modified the helicopter to reach speeds of 130 miles per hour.
WRAL can be viewed from much of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The official eastern fringe of the Raleigh market is Halifax County and the western fringe is Orange County. The Virginia and South Carolina state lines make up the northern and southern fringe respectively, with the exception of Mecklenburg County, VA. WRAL can be seen well outside of the Raleigh market, with the signal penetrating parts of the Greenville, Greensboro, Wilmington, Charlotte, Roanoke, VA, Richmond, VA, Norfolk, VA and Florence/Myrtle Beach, SC markets.
WRAL-TV has been popular with viewers throughout central and eastern North Carolina but with the increased regulation of the FCC, Nielsen Ratings and advertisers, WRAL in the past has almost been dropped by Time Warner Cable (TWC) lineups. However, up until the mid 1990s, WRAL used to be on cable in Montgomery County but was dropped with no official reason. In 2008, TWC outlets in Rockingham, Laurinburg, Greenville and Murfreesboro were once facing the possibility of being dropped but their contracts have been renewed. This also includes their sister station WRAZ-TV.
WRAL-TV is still viewed and is quite popular with many outside of the Raleigh-Durham TV Market, mainly in portions of the Piedmont Triad, Eastern North Carolina, and even into parts of Southside Virginia and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. The popularity of WRAL outside of the Raleigh market, especially in the Triad, Eastern North Carolina, and Southside Virginia, stems from WRAL's advanced technology in news gathering and weather coverage, which has largely been unmatched by broadcasters in other markets. The station is also known for its award winning documentaries, children's shows, and news staff, which has attracted viewers from outside of the Raleigh market. Halifax County in Southside Virginia is frequently mentioned by WRAL, although they are not part of the Raleigh market. Outside of the Raleigh market in Southside Virginia, WRAL is on cable in South Boston, Halifax County and Lawrenceville, Brunswick County. WRAL is also viewed as far east as U.S. Highway 17 in the Greenville-Washington-New Bern market, including the city of Greenville. The fringe area of WRAL-DTs signal runs as far east as the western side of Beaufort County. However in Northampton County, which is partly in the Hampton Roads television market but used to be in the Raleigh market, the town of Jackson does not carry WRAL but only WNCT, the CBS affiliate from Greenville and WTKR, the markets CBS affiliate.
In recent years WRAL and UNC-TV have teamed up in coproducing programming, such as the 2009 Gubernatorial Inauguration and the 2006 Parade of Sail Tall Ship Show in Beaufort. UNC-TV has, also, begun carrying WRAL's award winning Focal Point documentaries. WRAL has long been a corporate supporter of UNC-TV, often assisting them financially and occasionally with on-air talent during UNC-TV's yearly Festival telethon.
WRAL was one of the first stations in North Carolina to cover agricultural markets and farm news in its regular newscasts. Each day's Noon newscast would have a farm segment where each day's farm commodity prices were broadcast, followed by a feature agricultural story from somewhere in the viewing area or around North Carolina. This grew WRAL's popularity in rural areas and with farmers, especially in Eastern North Carolina. The noon news farm broadcasts were anchored by veteran farm reporter Ray Wilkinson and were stopped in the late 1990s, but farm segments were continued in the evening news broadcasts by Ray's son Dan Wilkinson. After the sudden unexpected death of Dan Wilkinson in October 2003, it was decided not to have a full time farm reporter and frequent agricultural coverage came to an end.
Weekday Mornings (5-7am on WRAL; 7-9am on WRAZ)
Weekdays at Noon
Weeknights at 5pm
Weeknights at 5:30pm
Weeknights at 6pm
Weeknights at 10pm (on WRAZ)
Weeknights at 11pm
The station building, shared by WRAL-TV and Fox50, and located at 2619 Western Blvd in Raleigh, adjacent to the North Carolina State University campus, is a modern and open-designed structure and grounds. The property features a fountain visible from the roadway near the building entrance, and a large garden in the back of the property, including many varieties of azaleas and other flowering plants including several types of dogwoods. The garden is a popular public attraction, especially during April when the flowers are at the peak of blooming.
WRAL is one of the few local news stations in the United States to have its own application for the iPhone. The application offers News Stories, Weather, Sports, Video, and other features. At one point the WRAL application was the fifth most popular news application in the App Store.