For the FM Radio station in Raleigh, see WRAL-FM.
Raleigh - Durham -
Fayetteville, North Carolina
United States
City Raleigh, North Carolina
Branding WRAL-TV 5 (general)
WRAL News (newscasts)
Slogan A Relentless Pursuit of Excellence
Channels Digital: 48 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Subchannels 5.1 NBC
5.2 Heroes & Icons
Translators WRAL-EX 39 (UHF)
39.1 (1080p simulcast of 5.1), 39.2 (4K/2160p UHDTV demo loop)
Affiliations NBC (1956–1962, 2016–present)
Owner Capitol Broadcasting Company
First air date December 15, 1956 (1956-12-15)
Call letters' meaning RALeigh
Sister station(s) WCMC-FM, WRAL-FM, WRAZ
Former channel number(s) Analog:
5 (VHF, 1956–2009)
32 (UHF, 1996–2000)
53 (UHF, 2000–2009)
Former affiliations Primary:
ABC (1962–1985)
CBS (1985–2016)
ABC (1956-1962)
Transmitter power 1,000 kW
40 kW (WRAL-EX)
Height 629 m
548 m (WRAL-EX)
Facility ID 8688
199467 (WRAL-EX)
Transmitter coordinates 35°40′29″N 78°31′40″W / 35.67472°N 78.52778°W / 35.67472; -78.52778
35°40′35″N 78°32′8″W / 35.67639°N 78.53556°W / 35.67639; -78.53556 (WRAL-EX)
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.wral.com
WRAL building.

WRAL-TV, channel 5, is a television station located in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. WRAL-TV has been the flagship station of the Capitol Broadcasting Company since its inception, and serves as the NBC affiliate for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Fayetteville area, known collectively as the Triangle region. The station is located at Capitol Broadcasting Company headquarters on Western Boulevard in West Raleigh, and its transmitter is located in Auburn, North Carolina.

WRAL-TV is co-owned with Fox affiliate WRAZ (channel 50) and radio stations WRAL-FM (101.5 MHz), WCMC-FM (99.9 MHz), WDNC (620 kHz), and WCLY (1550 kHz). WRAZ's operations are co-located at WRAL-TV's studios. 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 has been affiliated with NBC since February 29, 2016, when it ended a 30-year affiliation with CBS. This is channel 5's second stint with NBC; it was affiliated with that network for six years at the station's inception.


Early years

WRAL-TV began broadcasting on December 15, 1956. The first program aired was the movie Miracle on 34th Street. A.J Fletcher’s Capitol Broadcasting Company, which first licensed WRAL Radio (AM 1240, now WPJL) in 1938, won the TV license in an upset over the much larger Durham Life Insurance Company, then-owners of radio station WPTF.[1]

WRAL was originally an NBC affiliate, taking that network from Durham-based WTVD (channel 11, which included Fletcher's son, Floyd, among its founders). When WNAO-TV (channel 28), the Triangle's ABC affiliate, went dark at the end of 1957,[2] WRAL shared ABC with WTVD until August 1, 1962, when channel 5 took the ABC affiliation full-time.[3] This was unusual for a two-station market. ABC was at the time the smallest and weakest of the three major networks; it would not be on par with NBC and CBS in terms of ratings or affiliated stations until the early 1970s. WRAL did continue to carry The Huntley-Brinkley Report until January 3, 1967, when ABC's own evening newscasts expanded to 30 minutes. WRAL also continued to carry My Three Sons for several years after that show switched to its eventual affiliate network of CBS.

From 1960 until his election to the United States Senate in 1972, Jesse Helms was an editorialist on WRAL-TV's news broadcasts. His conservative commentaries were both controversial and popular with many viewers.

Switch to CBS

In March 1985, WTVD's owner, Capital Cities Communications, purchased ABC, resulting in WTVD becoming an owned-and-operated station of that network. The CBS affiliation moved to WRAL-TV on August 4, 1985.[4] Within six months of the switch, WRAL-TV had become one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the country. It is one of the few stations in the country to have been a primary affiliate of all of the "Big Three" networks.

In December 1989, WRAL was knocked off the air when a severe ice storm caused the collapse of the station's 2,000-foot (610 m) transmitter tower. Within hours, channel 5 cut a deal with the then-struggling Fayetteville independent station WKFT-TV (channel 40, now WUVC-DT), 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 activated on October 25, 1990, at which point WKFT reverted to broadcasting its own programming.

In the early 1990s, WRAL distributed its programming via C-Band satellite as part of the Primetime 24 package, reaching viewers in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as the few rural areas of the United States and Canada where local over-the-air broadcast signals were not available. It was replaced in the late 1990s with fellow CBS affiliate WSEE-TV from Erie, Pennsylvania primarily because of preemptions of network programming due to ACC basketball.

Return to NBC

On January 15, 2016, WRAL-TV announced that it would switch to NBC on February 29, 2016. Concurrently, CBS announced that the existing NBC station, Media General-owned and Goldsboro-licensed WNCN (channel 17), would assume the CBS affiliation the same day.[5] Capitol Broadcasting president and CEO Jim Goodmon stated that CBS would only renew its affiliation with WRAL if it entered into a reverse compensation agreement—under which Capitol would be required to pay the network for the local rights to air its programming. NBC, on the other hand, took the line that an affiliation deal was a partnership. Goodmon saw the switch to NBC as "a business decision for the future."[6]

Meredith College professor Doug Spero suggested that WRAL's overall dominance in the Triangle was so absolute that it was in a position to become one of NBC's strongest affiliates, much as it was one of CBS' strongest affiliates.[6] The feeling was mutual; according to NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, NBC officials felt like they had "just won the lottery" when they learned WRAL was rejoining NBC.[7] Indeed, on the first day of WRAL's return to NBC, several dayparts saw NBC jump from third to first in the Triangle ratings at one stroke. Notably, Today, the NBC Nightly News, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon immediately saw major ratings gains in the market after their move to WRAL. The former two shows tallied their highest ratings on record in the Triangle on the day channel 5 officially returned to NBC, showing gains of well over 200 percent compared to their previous showings on WNCN.[8]

The delay in the affiliation switch kept CBS' coverage of Super Bowl 50, which featured the Carolina Panthers (based in nearby Charlotte) as champions of the National Football Conference, on WRAL-TV. As an NBC station, channel 5 carried the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it one of the few stations that aired the Super Bowl and Olympics from different networks in the same year.[9]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[10]
5.1 1080i 16:9 WRAL_HD Main WRAL-TV programming / NBC
5.2 480i WRAL-2 Heroes & Icons

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 UHF channel 32 over a month later, on July 23, 1996.[11][12] The station's digital signal moved to channel 53 in March 2000.

WRAL-TV was the first in the U.S. to broadcast a live sports program in high definition (on September 6, 1997), as well as the first HD newscast (on October 28, 2000). CBS utilized WRAL-HD in testing its own high-definition programming, and 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.[13] WRAL-TV's pioneering efforts in digital television have won wide recognition from within the television industry[14][15]

WRAL-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at 12:55 p.m. on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 53, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to UHF channel 48.[16] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers continues to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.1.

ATSC 3.0

On June 29, 2016, WRAL became the first U.S. television station to begin broadcasting a full-time service using ATSC 3.0 digital television standards, operating under an experimental license from the FCC on UHF channel 39 as WRAL-EX. The service broadcasts two subchannels, including a simulcast of WRAL's main programming in 1080p high definition, and a demo loop of content in 4K ultra high-definition television. The station plans to produce episodes of its series Out & About in 4K.[17]

Channel Video Programming
39.1 1080p Main WRAL-TV programming / NBC
39.2 2160p Ultra high-definition demo loop

Mobile Emergency Alert System

WRAL-TV debuted the first Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) in the United States on September 13, 2012.[18] The system allows emergency information including text, web pages and video to be distributed to compatible receivers using existing digital television signals.[19]


WRAL clears most of the NBC schedule in pattern, except for one hour of The More You Know (NBC's E/I-compliant block), which it preempts in favor of paid programming in the noon hour on Saturdays (as a CBS affiliate, it cleared the network's entire schedule from the late 1990s until it rejoined NBC). The only exceptions involve ACC football and basketball from Raycom Sports, both of which have aired on the station since 1982 when they moved from WTVD. ACC-preempted NBC programming airs either as originally scheduled on digital subchannel 5.2 (which is otherwise an affiliate of Heroes & Icons) or overnights on the main signal. The More You Know is split over two days; the first hour airs on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m., with Brain Game and Smart Start Kids (both of which count toward WRAL's E/I commitments) airing from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the second hour airs on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

However, the 2003 reality show Cupid did not air on the station, as have some controversial shows on sister station WRAZ, and WRAL was one of a few CBS affiliates in the nation that did not carry an hour of CBS's weekend morning children's programming block (in favor of Brain Game and Smart Start Kids). WRAL was also one of the few CBS affiliates that aired The Young and the Restless at 4 p.m. as a lead-in to its 5 p.m. newscast. Most CBS stations in the Eastern Time Zone air Y&R at 12:30 p.m. (CBS's recommended time for the show), 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-long block of The Golden Girls) were having no luck against The Oprah Winfrey Show on WTVD. (The second half of their noon newscast and Right This Minute aired in The Young and the Restless' recommended time slot.)[20] Today, The Young and the Restless continues to air at 4 p.m. on WNCN, while WRAL-TV carries local news at the time slot.

When WRAL joined CBS in 1985, it became the Triangle's home for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, which has aired on CBS since 1981. Due to the Triangle's (and North Carolina's) longstanding status as a college basketball hotbed and local teams North Carolina and Duke being fixtures in the tournament, NCAA Tournament games on WRAL were consistently among the highest-rated programs in the Triangle during tournament season. Despite the NCAA Tournament moving with the rest of the CBS schedule to WNCN, WRAL-TV continues to air ACC football and/or basketball.

WRAL has broadcast memorable locally produced children's programming throughout its storied history. Its most famous and longest-running is Time for Uncle Paul, which ran from 1961 to 1981, and starred 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 educational children's shows such as Frog Hollow, Sparks, and The Androgena Show. Today, WRAL continues to produce educational programs with such shows as Smart Start Kids and Brain Game. In recent years, WRAL and UNC-TV have co-produced 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 announced on February 1, 2006 that it would begin to stream all of its programming live on the internet. This signified the latest advances in technology-driven delivery of product by a local television station. A few months later, WRAL was selected to be the flagship station for North Carolina Education Lottery drawings (twice daily for certain games, with the multi-jurisdictional Mega Millions Tuesday and Friday nights, and Powerball Wednesdays and Saturdays). On December 3, 2007, WRAL became the first local television station to stream live video to mobile phones.[21]

WRAL's last program as a CBS affiliate after over 30 years on February 28, 2016 was the movie Last Vegas, while the first program after rejoining NBC the following morning was The Today Show; Goodmon himself punched the button that switched channel 5 to the NBC network feed.

Current syndicated programming offered on WRAL includes: Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, The Insider, Right This Minute, and The Doctors among others. All are distributed by CBS Television Distribution; in all likeliness, WRAL's affiliation switch from CBS to NBC should not affect these shows' future on the channel.

Football Friday

Debuting in 1981, each Friday evening following the 11:00pm news, Tom Suiter hosts Football Friday covering all high school football games throughout Wake and Durham counties along with a dozen or more counties. WRAL crews spread out across the area providing not just scores but video coverage of each of 25 to as many as 35 games in the area. The show is an extension of the expansion throughout the 1980s of high school football coverage on the 11:00 pm newscast. Each Friday, video crews are sent to cover 2 games each. WRAL Videographers and sports reporters capture highlights of the first quarter of one game and second quarter of the other game. Editors have little more than an hour to prepare highlights.[22] From 1995 through 2002, Football Friday was broadcast from WRAL's studio A with an audience of cheerleaders, bands, players and fans. The arrival of the North Carolina Education Lottery moved the show to the newsroom.[23][24]

News operation

WRAL-TV presently broadcasts 38½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, and three hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). WRAL has the highest rated television news organization in the Triangle[25] winning numerous regional Emmys. Most recently, WRAL and wral.com were nominated 29 times for Mid South Regional Emmys.[26]

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 David Crabtree (who replaced Gaddy in 1994), Debra Morgan, and chief meteorologist Greg Fishel (who took over for retiring Bob DeBardelaben in 1989), are 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. Long time sports anchor Tom Suiter retired on December 18, 2008, and was replaced by Jeff Gravely, also a sports reporter and anchor for the 10pm news on WRAZ.

In September 1995, WRAL began to produce newscasts for WRAZ. That station usually simulcasts local breaking news coverage from WRAL. For national breaking news events, WRAZ carries Fox News coverage, while WRAL carries coverage from NBC News. Otherwise, WRAZ may broadcast NBC programming in case WRAL cannot do so as in news-related emergencies. The WRAZ broadcasts include a two-hour newscast at 7 a.m. weekday mornings and a weeknight hour-long, weekend half-hour newscast at 10 p.m., seven nights a week. WRAZ previously aired a 4 p.m. newscast on weekdays; however that newscast moved to WRAL on February 29, 2016, replacing The Young and the Restless.[27]

WRAL was the first commercial station to provide high definition programming when it obtained an experimental HD transmission license from the FCC in 1996.[28] On October 13, 2000, WRAL aired the world's first all high definition newscast.[29] On January 28, 2001, WRAL converted all of its newsgathering and broadcasts to all digital high definition[29] (the WRAZ newscasts are broadcast in high definition as well). On December 15, 2006, WRAL had a special "reunion" newscast during the 6 p.m. broadcast with Gaddy, Battista, DeBardelaben and Suiter reprising their roles once again in commemoration of the station's 50th anniversary. On October 10, 2007, the WRAL sports department launched a sports talk radio station, WCMC-FM (which switched from a country music format); it is now is the only FM sports talk station in the area and broadcasts in high definition. WRAL's newscasts are simulcast with local weather inserts on another sister station, WILM-LD in Wilmington.

Agricultural coverage

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 included a farm segment featuring each day's farm commodity prices, 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 dropped in the late 1990s, but farm segments were continued on the evening news broadcasts by Ray's son Dan Wilkinson. After the sudden unexpected death of Dan Wilkinson in October 2003, it was decided that the station would no longer have a full-time farm reporter and frequent agricultural coverage came to an end.

Sky 5

In 1979, WRAL became the state's first television station to begin using a news helicopter, known as "Sky 5". The Hughes 500 helicopter N8624F[30] was painted in the livery of the Saudi Arabian Air Force with "Sky 5" graphics added, reflecting the original customer before the sale fell through and WRAL purchased it for newsgathering.[31][32]

The current Bell 407 helicopter was purchased for $2 million in 2000. The N553HD[33] tail number represents the station's channel, that this is the third 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 27 years. Today, the aircraft is normally stored at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport but a helipad is available on the roof above the Capitol Broadcasting President's office in the WRAL buildings in downtown Raleigh.[34][35] The helicopter is equipped with $600,000 worth of video equipment including cameras installed on the tail, two 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 providing access to anywhere in the Triangle within seven minutes.[25]

In over 30 years of electronic news gathering using helicopters, WRAL has had no significant incidents and remains one of the few stations to own rather than lease their helicopter. "Sky 5" has also participated in numerous search and rescue operations over the years at the request of local emergency officials before returning to newsgathering duties.[31][32]


WRAL has received award nominations for news 32 times, tying Nashville station WTVF in the 2012 Mid-South Regional Emmy Awards and won 11. WRAL took home the Emmy for News Excellence, Evening Newscast, Breaking News, Serious Feature News Report, Light Feature News Report, Light Feature News Series, Interactivity, Promo Spot News Same Day, Promo Spot News Image, Graphics Arts, and News Writing. Several of the 2012 Emmys came from coverage of the April 2011 tornadoes that ripped through the area.[36] Parent company Capitol Broadcasting along with the A.J. Fletcher Foundation were awarded the Governor's Award, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' highest honor in 2012 as well.

In 1997 WRAL received eight Mid-South Regional Emmy Awards including those for news excellence, best newscast, best hard news series and investigative reporting.[37] In 1998 WRAL received seven Mid-South Regional Emmy Awards including those for best daytime newscast, special event coverage, news magazine, news promotion, public service announcement, and best children's entertainment program.[38]

WRAL was awarded nine Mid-South Regional Emmy Awards in 2000 including for documentaries on the Cape Light and coverage of the Special Olympics World Games. Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of WRAL parent company Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award as well.[39]

In 2008, among the nine Emmy awards received by WRAL and WRAL.com received the inaugural award in Advanced Media for Interactivity for the video player used throughout the website.[40] The station also won a bronze Horizon Interactive Award for their online hurricane tracker.[41] Geoff Levine won the National Press Photographer of the Year award and the station received 6 awards from the North Carolina Associated Press Broadcasters.[42]

WRAL has consistently swept television media categories in the Independent Weekly and Cary News annual "Best Of" awards voted by readers.[43][44]

Notable current on-air staff

Notable former on-air staff

Station coverage

WRAL's signal can be viewed across 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, Virginia. WRAL can be seen well outside of the Raleigh market, with the signal penetrating parts of the Greenville, Greensboro, Wilmington, Charlotte, Roanoke, Richmond, Norfolk and Florence/Myrtle Beach markets. WRAL's signal reaches 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's digital signal runs as far east as the western side of Beaufort County.

WRAL-TV is still viewed and is quite popular with many outside of the Triangle, 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. It has long been available on cable as far east as Wilmington. 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 it is located in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market.

Significantly viewed by the FCC

In addition to the 23 counties in the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville market, the FCC lists WRAL as significantly viewed in Alamance, Caswell, Duplin, Greene, Robeson, and Scotland Counties in North Carolina.[46]

Out-of-market cable carriage

For decades, WRAL has been available on cable in much of the eastern portion of North Carolina, as far east as Wilmington. It is also available on cable systems in portions of the Charlotte and Triad media markets, as well as the North Carolina portions of the Hampton Roads and Florence/Myrtle Beach markets. In recent years, it has also been picked up by cable systems on the fringes of the Richmond and Roanoke markets.[47]

During the 1970s and 1980s through CATV, WRAL was once carried in even more places. In North Carolina, it was once carried in Burlington, Wadesboro, Wilmington, and Yanceyville. In Virginia, it was once carried in Buena Vista, Danville, and Emporia.[48]


The station building, shared by WRAL-TV and WRAZ, and located at 2619 Western Boulevard 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, a helipad on top of the building for the landing of Sky 5, 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.


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External links

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