20th Anniversary of HD Launch at WRAL

Jim Goodmon

A look back: CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon with WRAL’s first HD van.

This Saturday, July 23, 2016, will mark the 20th anniversary of WRAL launching HD.  The station began the transmission of full-power digital test signals on the same date in 1996, with authorization granted by the FCC.  Capitol Broadcasting led the way in HD, transmitting before HD-ready television set were on the marketing.  No programming was available, and WRAL staffers actually helped write the manuals for brand new equipment needed for the HD era.

In an article for TV Technology, Tom Butts chronicles the advent of HD, the fact that WRAL led the way, and the fitting irony that the CBC station recently began broadcasting the brand new ATSC 3.0 standard, again leading the industry.  He points out that the “path to digital television was a rocky one,” with music confusion.

Butts writes:

Despite such skepticism, some early pioneers took the plunge, most notably WRAL. In the summer of 1996, when the station began broadcasting in HD, there was no approved DTV standard yet, little to no HD content to watch and much of the technology to produce and transmit in digital had yet to be developed. “A TV station will have to completely rebuild,” the station’s chief engineer Tom Beauchamp told TV Technology at the time, adding that “there are a lot of unknowns.”

Undaunted, WRAL-TV took the plunge, and is still on the forefront of technology two decades later.  Never been done before?  Doesn’t matter.  Forging a path is a tradition at CBC.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Pete Sockett for this capcom scoop.

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