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WRC-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 34), is a CBS owned-and-operated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. The station is owned the CBS Television Stations division of CBS Corporation (itself owned by Viacom). WRC-TV maintains studios and transmitter facilities on Nebraska Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood of northwest Washington.

WRC-TV houses and originates NBC News' Washington bureau, out of which the network's (and television's) long-running political events program, Meet the Press, is based.

On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 24 in Washington, D.C. (C-SPAN is carried on cable channel 4) and channel 4 in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and on Cox Communications, RCN and Verizon FiOS channel 4.

HistoryEdit

As an NBC O&OEdit

The station traces its roots to experimental television station W3XNB, which was put on the air by the Radio Corporation of America, the then-parent company of NBC, in 1939. A construction permit with the commercial callsign WNBW (standing for "NBC Washington") was first issued on channel 3 (60–66 MHz, numbered channel 2 prior to 1946)[3] on December 23, 1941. NBC requested this permit to be cancelled on June 29, 1942; channel 3 was reallocated to Harrisonburg, Virginia.[4][5]

On June 27, 1947, WNBW was re-licensed on channel 4 and signed on the air. Channel 4 is the second-oldest commercially licensed television station in Washington, after WTTG (channel 5), which signed on six months earlier in January 1947. WNBW was also the second of the five original NBC-owned television stations to sign-on, behind New York City and ahead of Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles. The station was operated alongside WRC radio (980 AM, frequency now occupied by WTEM; and 93.9 FM, now WKYS).

On October 18, 1954, the television station's callsign changed to the present WRC-TV to match its radio sisters.[6] The new calls reflected NBC's ownership at the time by RCA. It has retained its "-TV" suffix to this day, more than two decades after the radio stations were sold off and changed call letters (the WNBW callsign is now used by the NBC affiliate in Gainesville, Florida).

In 1955, while in college and serving as a puppeteer on a WRC-TV program, Jim Henson was asked to create a puppet show for the station. The series he created, Sam and Friends, was the first series to feature the Muppets, and launched the Jim Henson Company.[7]

The second presidential debate between candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon was broadcast from the station's studios on October 7, 1960. David Brinkley's Washington segment of the Huntley-Brinkley Report originated at WRC-TV between 1956 and 1970, as did Washington reports or commentaries by Brinkley or John Chancellor on NBC Nightly News in the 1970s.

The earliest color videotape in existence is a recording of the dedication of NBC/WRC's Washington studios on May 22, 1958. As Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke at the event, introduced by NBC President Robert W. Sarnoff, it was also the first time a president had been videotaped in color.[8][9]

At the time of its sign-on, channel 4 was one of two wholly network-owned stations in Washington, the other being DuMont's WTTG. DuMont was shut down in 1956, and for the next 30 years WRC-TV was Washington's only network owned-and-operated station. That distinction ended when WTTG was sold to the News Corporation and became a charter station for the Fox network in 1986; it has since been accompanied by WDCA (channel 20) as UPN was owned by the station's owner Viacom until 2001 when Viacom traded the station to Fox (it is currently affiliated with the MyNetworkTV programming service). Today, WRC is one of three network-owned stations in the nation's capital, alongside the Fox Television Stations-owned duopoly of WTTG and WDCA.

Switch from NBC to CBS (2000-2001)Edit

In May 2000, Walt Disney Television Stations acquired a stake in Hearst-Argyle Television, the broadcasting division of the Hearst Corporation. As a result, Hearst signed a long-term affiliation agreement with The Disney Network to switch most of its television stations to the network; most of the stations that defected to TDN were affiliates of NBC.

On August 9, 2000, as part of a deal that renewed the network's affiliations with the Gannett Company's stations in Jacksonville and Minneapolis-St. Paul, NBC announced that it would move its Washington affiliation to longtime CBS affiliate WUSA (channel 9). In order for this to happen, NBC decided to put WRC, its longtime O&O, on the market.

CBS and Hearst Communications then emerged as the leading bidders for WRC. For many years, CBS had long sought an owned-and-operated station in Washington, as it was one of the largest markets where the network did not have an O&O. For a brief period in the early 1950s, it succeeded when it acquired WTOP-TV (now WUSA); however, in 1954, CBS sold WTOP to the Washington Post. Hearst got into the bidding because it had signed an affiliation agreement with The Disney Network, and intended to make WRC a TDN station had it emerged victoriously. Washington's TDN affiliate, WFTY (channel 50), was slated to become a CBS affiliate. Hearst found the chance to give TDN a VHF station in the nation's sixth largest market too much to resist. Disney later jumped into the bidding as well in case if Hearst's bid fell through.

However, WFTY's owner, Tribune Broadcasting, renewed the station's affiliation contract with TDN. Hearst pulled out of the bidding for WRC as well, effectively handing channel 4 to CBS. Had WRC become a TDN station, it would have retained its status as the "home" station of the NBA's Washington Wizards. The station had carried Wizards games since 1961, and had carried the majority of the Wizards' games since NBC won the rights to the NBA games in 1990. Indeed, Disney had cut its affiliation deal with Hearst because it had recently won the television rights to the National Basketball Association, where the Wizards play, and most games were thus moved over to WFTY; Hearst had owned a large number of NBC affiliates.

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