WNYE-TV operates on New York City's original educational television allocation, one of ten awarded by the Federal Communications Commission in 1952 to the University of the State of New York, the state's overall educational governing body. After initial plans to build a statewide network were abandoned, the construction permits were transferred to local educational interests; channel 25 was reassigned to the City's Board (now Department) of Education, operators of WNYE radio (91.5 FM).
However, it was obvious soon after the FCC opened up the UHF band that a UHF station would not be nearly strong enough to cover a market that had grown to take in large swaths of southwestern Connecticut and northern New Jersey, as well as southern New York state and Long Island. Moreover, until 1964 UHF stations were usually unviewable without a separate converter. For this reason, in September 1962, Newark, New Jersey-licensed commercial independent WNTA-TV (channel 13) was converted into non-commercial WNDT (now WNET), which would become the New York metropolitan area's main educational outlet.
The Board of Education finally put WNYE-TV on the air on April 5, 1967. Originally, it was primarily focused on providing instructional programming that could be used in classrooms, while channel 13 served as the New York area's National Educational Television (NET) outlet. In its early years, channel 25's operational hours were exclusively limited to school hours (roughly from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays), with limited programming on weekends and during the summer. The operational hours were extended gradually from 1970 onward as the station began to add programming from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to its schedule.
The instructional/PBS format carried WNYE-TV through its first three and-a-half decades of service. Along with the instructional shows, channel 25 aired programs that focused on the individual school districts located within the Board of Education, featuring participation from students as well as educators (some of these programs included District 2 Schoolvision, District 6 Speaks, District 9 at a Glance, District 10 Presents and Bronx High School Magazine). As the station's on-air hours expanded, leased-time foreign-language programming (from outside producers) was also added to the schedule. By the mid-1990s, more (second-hand) PBS and other instructional shows replaced the local school district programs, and when municipally-owned WNYC-TV (channel 31, now WPXN-TV) was sold by the City of New York in 1996, WNYE-TV picked up additional hours of leased-time ethnic programs that were previously aired on WNYC-TV.
In December 2004, the Department of Education transferred the licenses of the WNYE stations to the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The transfer integrated WNYE-FM-TV's operations with those of the city-owned cable television services CUNY-TV and Crosswalks Television Network (now nyctv), combining them to form the NYC Media Group. A few months prior to the transfer, the NYC Media Group began gradually phasing out WNYE-TV's PBS and instructional programs in favor of locally-themed programming. By 2005, the primetime lineup was composed entirely of original productions. In the present day, WNYE-TV's offerings range from shows distributed by American Public Television, various ethnic programs, and a primetime lineup of shows aimed at a young, affluent urban audience. The majority of these offerings are produced in-house by the NYC Media Group, including Cool in Your Code, Full Frontal Fashion and Eat Out NY. Among other WNYE-related productions, Secrets of New York has been syndicated nationally to public television stations, and it and Blueprint: New York City have been offered to the now-defunct digital cable and satellite network The Documentary Channel (both it and Halogen TV were replaced by Pivot in August 2013), which in turn has provided some programming to WNYE from its library.
With the format change, WNYE-TV also moved from its longtime studios at 112 Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn, in the now-demolished Klitgord Hall at the New York City College of Technology (a branch of the City University of New York). Both WNYE television and radio (which was housed in Brooklyn Technical High School) now operate from the NYC Media Group's headquarters in the Manhattan Municipal Building in lower Manhattan.
WNYE-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 25, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 24, using PSIP to display WNYE-TV's virtual channel as 25 on digital television receivers.