WRGB, channel 6, is a television station licensed to Schenectady, New York, USA. WRGB is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and is the CBS affiliate for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy television market. The station shares its studio and office facility with co-owned WCWN (channel 45) in Niskayuna, New York, and its transmitter is based near Voorheesville, New York. WCWN additionally carries a simulcast of WRGB's main channel for the convenience of UHF viewers unable to receive WRGB's VHF signal.
WRGB is most notable for being among the first experimental television stations in the world. It began with test broadcasts in early 1928. Later that year the first daily programs were broadcast. It later became one of a handful of television stations licensed for commercial broadcasting operation before the end of World War II.
1928 to 1942
One of the first television stations in the world, WRGB traces its roots to an experimental station founded on January 13, 1928 broadcast from the General Electric facility in Schenectady under the call letters W2XB. It was popularly known as "WGY Television" after its sister radio station (though WMAK, the predecessor of modern station WBEN in Buffalo also had partial control of the station, which was relinquished shortly after the station signed on). In 1940, it began sharing programs with W2XBS (forerunner of WNBC) in New York City receiving the New York station directly off the air from a mountaintop and rebroadcasting the signal, becoming NBC's first television affiliate. Later, the New York connection was achieved via coaxial cable and eventually by satellite. The NBC affiliation would last for 42 years. The station initially broadcast on 790 kHz from a 380-meter antenna. The station also broadcast on the frequency of 379.5 kHz, with 24 vertical lines of resolution and 21 frames per second. Its call-sign was changed to W2XAD rather quickly in 1928 and moved to 31.4 MHz. Towards December 1928, the station would receive yet another change and upgrade with its call letters becoming W2XAF, keeping its frequency, frame rate and vertical lines.
Later on, the station received a further upgrade to broadcast 48 lines at 20 frames per second, with the call sign of W2XB on 2.1-2.2 MHz. Late in the 1930s it moved into the VHF band using a 6 MHz-wide channel band and increasing visual resolution (gradually increasing from 343 to 441 to 525 lines). In 1941, the station moved into a state-of-the-art studio on Washington Avenue in Schenectady. It was the first building in the nation specifically designed for television. On February 26, 1942, W2XB received a commercial license as WRGB, the fourth in the nation and only the second one outside of New York City. By then, it was operating on the VHF band with modern 525-line resolution and FM sound on a frequency of 66 to 72 MHz (then known as Channel 3, but redesignated Channel 4 after the Second World War).
1942 to present
Several years later, WRGB took on secondary affiliations with the three other networks in operation (CBS, ABC, and DuMont). On January 4, 1954, it moved from channel 4 to its current position on channel 6 to alleviate interference from WNBC-TV (then known as WRCA-TV) and Boston's WBZ-TV, and increased its radiated power approximately fourfold to 93,000 watts. WRGB dropped its secondary affiliations when WCDA (now WTEN) and WTRI (now WNYT) took the CBS and ABC affiliations respectively. From 1939 till 1957, the station's studio were located on 73 Washington Avenue in downtown Schenectady. In 1957, WRGB moved to its current studio on Balltown Road in Niskayuna; the old studio is currently occupied by Schenectady County Community College.
The longest-running locally produced children's television show, Freihofer's "Breadtime Stories" was broadcast on the station starting November 21, 1949. WRGB produced two of the longest-running locally produced programs in television history: a quiz show called Answers Please and a bowling program entitled TV Tournament Time. After the cancellation of both by the late-1980s, WRGB's local programming has been variable and erratic, ranging from a local home shopping show to a weekly video countdown done with Top 40 stations WFLY and (later) WKKF. On September 28, 1981, WRGB swapped affiliations with WAST (now WNYT) and became a CBS affiliate. Two years later, 55 years of General Electric ownership ended when it sold WRGB to Unicom Inc., a unit of Forstmann Little in 1983.
Unicom sold WRGB to Freedom Communications in March 1986. In 1987, WRGB was awarded the "Broadcast Pioneers Golden Mike Award" and shortly thereafter was awarded a "Presidential Citation" by Ronald Reagan. WRGB changed its on-air name to "CBS 6" in October 2004 after decades of being known as either "TV 6" or "Channel 6" (most noticeably known as being NewsCenter 6 for the late 20th century). Since then, channel 6 has almost never used its call letters on-air, except during legal IDs. WRGB is carried on cable as far north as Long Lake, NY as well as several other Adirondack regional cable systems.
In September 2003, WRGB-DT (UHF channel 39) became the first full-market digital signal to sign on in the Albany region. Around December 2007, WRGB and WCWN became the first television stations in the Capital District that upgraded to high definition time delay and rebroadcast capability, and high definition local broadcasts. This allows broadcasting of syndicated shows in high definition.
Providence Equity Partners owns a controlling stake in Newport Television (formerly Clear Channel Communications' television division), the owner of local Fox affiliate WXXA. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission granted conditional approval of Newport's acquisition of Clear Channel Television in late-November 2007, provided that Providence Equity Partners would follow through with its planned divestiture of its 16 percent share of Freedom Communications to another company (as required when Providence Equity Partners purchased a minority stake in the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision earlier in 2007) as soon as the deal was finalized. Freedom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2009, emerging in April 2010. At that point, Providence Equity Partners relinquished its stake in Freedom Communications, making its purchase of WXXA legitimate.
Freedom announced on November 2, 2011 that it would bow out of television and sell its stations, including WRGB, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. The group deal closed on April 2, 2012 after which Sinclair obtained a waiver allowing the company to keep both WRGB and WCWN.
WRGB's former analog TV signal used an FM audio carrier which could be heard on 87.75 FM in areas where the video signal could be received (and some where it could not); the same was true of all analog channel 6 television stations in North America. However, this analog FM carrier no longer exists for full-powered stations after the June 12, 2009, conversion to digital, but still exists for analogue low-power television stations (see Pulse 87 for an example).
As WRGB has returned to channel 6, it has proposed an unconventional approach, by which it has requested to operate an analog FM radio transmitter at one edge of its digital TV allocation, using vertical polarization to retain compatibility with standard broadcast car radio receivers. According to WRGB's site, "We hope that the FCC will allow us to continue to operate on 87.7. We are building a unique transmitter for 87.7 that can operate simultaneously with our DTV signal on channel 6. TV transmissions always use horizontal antennas. Our new 87.7 transmitter will be vertically polarized. The use of vertical polarization for 87.7 will allow reception of our audio in a car radio or any other FM radio with a whip type antenna. "
WRGB is the only full-power station to propose such a solution. There are no other full-power TV broadcasters using channel 6 in New York state, either analog or digital. WPVI in Philadelphia, the nearest full-power channel 6, has expressed an interest in the technology, though it is concerned about rights issues.
The station received an experimental special temporary authorization from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow it to test the FM audio system but it had to cease operations when it was found to cause RF interference with the digital TV signal.
On July 7, 2009 WRGB resumed its radio simulcast broadcasts on a frequency of 87.9 FM, without explicit FCC authorization. Less than two months later, on August 24, the FCC ordered WRGB to turn off the 87.9 transmitter. Currently, the only two stations licensed by the FCC to use 87.9 are KSFH, a high school station in Mountain View, California; and K200AA, a CSN International repeater in Sun Valley, Nevada. WITI, another former analog Channel 6 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, restored its radio audio via a content agreement with Clear Channel Communications, which placed that station's audio on the HD Radio subchannel of WMIL-FM, and it is possible WRGB could consider this venue to restore the service.
Power boost and proposed translators
As noted above, on June 12, 2009, WRGB became a digital-only station. The station vacated its digital transition UHF Channel 39 and moved its digital operations to their former analog channel assignment on VHF-low channel 6. After the digital transition, some viewers in the Capital District had receptions issues with the WRGB's signal. So WRGB boosted their power twice: Once in July 2009 at the power level of 11.5 kW with an interference agreement with WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut Public Television WEDY in New Haven, Connecticut. And in late January 2010, the FCC granted an STA for WRGB to boost their power again at their current level of 30.2 kW. An application was filed back in June 2009 to operate at the current level on a permanent basis. That application was granted on March 16, 2011.
WRGB has also filed applications for three digital replacement translators to fill in some of the coverage-loss areas, which have all been granted construction permits. One will be in Schenectady on the station's pre-transition digital allotment on UHF Channel 39, another one will be in Kingston on UHF Channel 24, and the last one will be in Pittsfield on UHF Channel 19. The Kingston translator became operational in May 2011.
Upon the purchase of WCWN, Sinclair added a simulcast of WRGB's main signal in a reduced 720p form on WCWN-DT3, allowing viewers with no access to the main WRGB VHF signal in the core of the Capital Region to utilize WCWN's UHF signal for reception of WRGB programming.
WNYA and WCWN involvement
In April 2003, WRGB signed a joint sales agreement with the area's fledgling UPN affiliate WNYA several months prior to that station's sign-on in September. Under the agreement, WRGB handled advertising sales for WNYA and shared syndicated programming with the station. The agreement, originally set to expire at the end of August 2006, was extended to the end of 2008, but was actually terminated in February 2007. Since September 5, 2006, WNYA has been the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate.
On June 19, 2006, Freedom Communications announced the purchase of current CW affiliate WCWN from Tribune Broadcasting for $17 million. Since the Capital District does not have enough full-powered stations to legally permit duopolies, Freedom applied for a "failed station" wavier to acquire WCWN. The waiver was granted on November 22, and the purchase was finalized on December 6, giving the Capital Region market its first duopoly. Until the end of the JSA with WNYA, WRGB had control of three stations in the market. (In 2013, WNYA would also be acquired through a "failing station" waiver when Hubbard Broadcasting, owner of rival NBC affiliate WNYT, bought WNYA.)
During past airings of the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, WNYA took on the responsibility of airing WRGB's local and network lineup. This role was later shifted to WCWN, which also aired CBS' coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. This was no longer necessary starting with Jerry Lewis' retirement as telethon host and MDA chairman in 2011, as the telethon was significantly shortened to six hours that year. Starting in 2013, WTEN broadcast the telethon, as it moved to ABC from syndication for the telethon's remaining two years.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||1080i||16:9||WRGB-HD||Main WRGB programming / CBS|
|6.2||480i||4:3||this TV||This TV|
WRGB shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, 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 relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 39 to VHF channel 6.
Cable and satellite carriage
|Station||Comcast||DirecTV||Dish Network||Mid-Hudson Cablevision||Time Warner Cable||Verizon FiOS|
|WRGB-SD / WRGB-HD||6 / *706 Bennington, VT||6||6||6 / 606||6 *8 Mid-Hudson / 1209||6 / 506|
|WRGB-DT2 (This TV)||326||N/A||N/A||116||1255||468|
For many years, WRGB was the dominant news station in the Capital District. Its newscasts were anchored for over 40 years by the venerable Ernie Tetrault (who was immortalized in the 1992 film Sneakers directed by one-time WRGB intern Phil Alden Robinson). Tetrault's last anchor desk partner, Liz Bishop, is still the station's main female anchor. After Tetrault's retirement in 1993, the station was quickly eclipsed by WNYT and for several years in the mid-1990s fell to third place. For the most part, the station has stabilized at a steady second place although for a period in the early-2000s it fell back to third.
From April 2003 until mid-2004, WNYA aired replays of WRGB's weekday noon show at 1, weeknight 11 o'clock news at 11:35, and this station's former public affairs television program Sunday Morning with Liz Bishop. On April 17, 2006, it was announced that WNYA would begin airing an hour long extension of WRGB's weekday morning newscast at 7 known (at the time) as CBS 6 First News on UPN Capital Region. This could be seen as a pre-emptive move by WRGB to fend off a challenge by WXXA who had announced their plans to launch weekday morning news two weeks earlier. Rumors of WRGB producing a 10 p.m. broadcast on WNYA had circulated as well. However, the pickup of a second run of Dr. Phil to air at that hour killed the rumors. At the start of 2007, the news on WNYA moved to WCWN (because that station had higher ratings overall) becoming CBS 6 First News on The Capital Region's CW.
In 2007 and 2008, WCWN aired WRGB's 11 o'clock news during CBS's coverage of the NCAA March Madness Basketball. On January 13, 2008, it began producing its newscasts in high definition becoming the first in the market to do so. This was exactly 80 years to the date after its first experimental broadcasts. The WCWN broadcast was upgraded the next day. After becoming a sister station, it was rumored that WCWN would add a WRGB-produced 10 p.m. broadcast to challenge WXXA's long time dominance at that hour. This became a reality on September 24 when WRGB launched a weeknight 10-minute block in high definition featuring the top stories of the day along with an updated weather forecast. Accordingly, it was known as The CBS 6 News 10 at 10. The success of the 10-minute newscast resulted in the expansion to a full 30 minute newscast in October 2010, currently anchored by Dori Marlin and Jerry Gretzinger.
WRGB delays the weeknight broadcast of the CBS Evening News until 7 in favor of an extra half hour of local news. In addition to their main studios, it operates an Albany Bureau at One Commerce Plaza in downtown Albany.
As with its heritage of being the first station in the Capital Region, WRGB has also had several firsts in the weather field, given the unpredictable weather of the Northeast. In February 1996, it became the first Capital District station to put forecasts on the World Wide Web with the launch of a website. A severe weather outbreak in late May 1998 led to further developments in the station's weather coverage. WRGB won an Emmy Award for Chief Meteorologist Steve Lapointe's near-nonstop work over two days which made sure there were no fatalities in the otherwise devastating weather.
In May 1999, the station started "WeatherNet 6" which allows viewers to submit weather observations around the area. The public is allowed to report anything from current conditions to snowfall totals. In 2000, the station became the first in the market to offer a station-owned weather radar known as "Instant Doppler 6" that was installed next to their studios. This exclusive distinction was held until 2004 when WNYT set up its own live radar. In recent times, WTEN and WXXA have also updated their radar outputs to so-called "live" capabilities. They do not own their own radars but decided to re-brand the live NOAA National Weather Service NEXRAD Level II radar data as their own. Data is used from four regional sites in Albany, Binghamton, Montague, and Upton. This government data is also used on WRGB known as "WeatherScan Radar".
WRGB was the last in the market to bring a degree-holding meteorologist onto its staff with the purchase of the station by Freedom, not doing so until several years after WTEN and WNYT did. On January 6, 2009, veteran meteorologist Neal Estano returned to the area airwaves for his third tour of duty with WRGB. He had worked for the station twice before leaving to pursue new opportunities in Jacksonville, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland. Estano left the station on April 25, 2012, taking on a new career in real estate with Keller Williams Realty. Estano has since reappeared on Capital Region airwaves, starting at WNYT in the summer of 2013 on weekend evenings.
Notable former on-air staff
- Dr. Alan Chartock (Director of WAMC, was a political analyst until dropped in 1994 at which point he went to WNYT)
- Howard Reig (announcer for WGY radio and WRGB from 1943–1952, later a staff announcer for NBC from 1952 to 2005); deceased
- Joe Tessitore (Sports anchor) now at ESPN after a career at WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut
- Joe Pagliarulo (Main anchor) is an American, nationally syndicated conservative TV/radio talk show host.