W62AA was founded in 1970 by Screen Gems Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures as a translator for independent station WNJU-TV. It was one of the many translator stations serving the entire New York City area. By 1975 WNJU-TV and most of the major stations in New York had moved their transmitters to the World Trade Center, but W62AA remained at the Empire State Building to expand its signal further north of the city and the surrounding area. With the introduction of the cell phone developed by Bell Labs in 1982, all upper band channels were scheduled to be displaced for cell phone use. But before that happened, WNJU-TV expanded its signal further north, making W62AA obsolete as a backup. W62AA was taken off the air in 1983 and the license was transferred to a group led by Albany-area businessman Edward Swyer, who moved the city of license to Kingston, NY. It would be 2 years before the channel 62 allocation would be used again.
Channel 62 returned to the air from Kingston on December 15, 1985 as WTZA. It was formatted as an independent station serving the middle Hudson Valley region of New York State. However, by virtue of the outer range of its signal, WTZA also served the Capital District area and the northern suburbs of New York City. The call letters designated the coverage area, and also served as the station's slogan – "From the Tappan Zee to Albany". The upper Hudson Valley area was one of the largest in the country to lack its own television stations, this due to its proximity to both the New York and Albany-Schenectady-Troy television markets.
The RNN talk set, used for nightly programming, located in Rye Brook, July 2006. Owned by Swyer's group, which by then had changed its name to WTZA Associates, WTZA was programmed as a traditional independent station, with movies, off-network reruns, children's shows, and public affairs programs filling its airtime. Sports programming was also included, mostly high school and college contests, and later Army football games. The station also ran a small news operation, led by former CNN executive producer Gerry Harrington, which was relatively successful given the underserved nature of its coverage area. The weather portion of the newscast was unique in that it gave full forecasts for both New York City and Albany, even though the station was not on the air in either city.
Though WTZA was still doing well in its market, the station had begun to struggle prior to the sale due to the station being shut out of obtaining rights to many syndicated programs by larger stations in New York City and Albany. Being licensed within the New York City market did not help the station's cause either, and in the early 1990s WTZA lost most of its higher-profile syndicated programs as the New York City outlets claimed territorial rights. In 1993, Swyer and his group sold the station to Harrison, New York businessman Richard French Jr. French soon made WTZA into a family-run operation, with his wife and three sons involved in various aspects of the station. His oldest son, Richard French III, was appointed as WTZA's general manager and would eventually become the face of the station.
Transition to WRNN and targeting New York City
In early 1995, most of WTZA's remaining general entertainment programs were replaced with infomercials. In October 1995, the call letters were changed to WRNN, and the station shifted into a news-heavy operation. With the new call sign also doubling as the on-air slogan – Your Regional News Network, WRNN initially produced news programming seven days a week, and 24 hours a day on weekdays. Its coverage area now included the entire Hudson Valley region, and news bureaus were established in the Capital District and Long Island, within New York state, and in the neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut. The news product, however, was tilted with a lean towards the French family's home base of Westchester County, and a philosophical shift to the left. Richard French III, WRNN's general manager, news director, and host of a nightly call-in talk program, had been active in the New York state Democratic party prior to his father's purchase of WTZA. The station was an affiliate of All News Channel and used stories from that service to augment its national coverage.
Budgetary concerns led to a reduction of news programming in 1999, to weekday evenings only. But WRNN decided the time had come for the station to target New York City, the first time the station reached the entire New York City area since W62AA left the air in 1983, albeit this time for cable subscribers. The bureaus in New Jersey and Connecticut were also closed down. Soon thereafter, the operation placed a greater emphasis on New York City news than there had been before, in spite of WRNN's invisible profile within the Five Boroughs. The over-the-air channel 62 signal barely reached the Bronx, the city's northernmost borough, and neither of the city's major cable systems (operated by Time Warner and Cablevision) carried the station. WRNN opened a studio in Manhattan and was successful in getting its evening news shows simulcast on a low-power station there, though it was mostly an effort to gain must-carry coverage on local cable.
The shift towards New York City resulted in decreased coverage for its main signal area – for example, WRNN weather forecasts did not include areas north of Kingston, the station's city of license. Oddly enough, the station applied for must-carry in the entire Albany market several years after the station stopped covering the area outside of politics. Within about two years, the simulcast in New York City was gone. It would take a few more years before WRNN would appear on New York City cable, and as part of satellite provider DirecTV's local station package. WRNN opened a new main studio facility in the village of Rye Brook in 2005, though it has retained its facilities in Kingston and Manhattan.
Over the years, WRNN's news offerings have fluctuated. Currently, the station airs a combination of regional and international news, including Richard French Live, and two live Japanese news programs. A few children's programs are aired, to comply with E/I regulations. The remainder of WRNN's airtime is filled with paid programs (infomercials and religious shows) and home shopping.
On March 6, 2007, WRNN agreed to an affiliation contract with the Funimation Channel, a network which broadcasts Japanese anime cartoons, to run its programming on digital subchannel 48.3. This affiliation ended in July 2009. As of August 2009, WRNN used its 48.2 subchannel to rebroadcast the English service of China Central Television, CCTV-9; by January 2010, it was switched to another China-based English-language network, Blue Ocean Network.
On March 1, 2010, digital channel 48.2 began carrying the Spanish-language network Mega TV. However, on August 1, 2011, WRNN dropped Mega TV and replaced it with the Qatari-based Al Jazeera English One hour of local programming and station-provided E/I programming is scheduled in off periods to meet FCC guidelines. Al Jazeera English was removed on August 20, 2013 when it was pulled from US distribution due to the launch of Al Jazeera America. The channel then mirrored the programming of the primary WRNN channel and GCN has been removed from the 4th slot and is not in use at present.
On July 1, 2011, WRNN activated its fourth subchannel for Global Christian Network, a Christian-based religious television network which also airs on WEBR-CD (channels 17.1 and 17.3) in New York City. Despite the duplication in programming, each station technically serves a different market and are not commonly owned. In February 2012, WRNN activated its fifth subchannel to carry NHK World, the English language international broadcasting service of Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.
In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission opened an early digital conversion window for full-power UHF stations located between channels 52 and 69 in the analog UHF band, as long as the stations all met certain qualifying criteria. This portion of the television spectrum was slated to be reassigned to other communications purposes following the June 2009 transition. WRNN applied for FCC permission to shut off its analog signal on channel 62 and broadcast solely on its assigned digital frequency, UHF channel 48. The FCC granted the request on July 8, 2004, and WRNN's analog channel 62 went silent later that year. Although stations were required to have their virtual digital channel match the channel allocation assigned to their analog signal, using PSIP to display WRNN-TV's virtual channel 48 on digital television receivers.
The early analog shutoff authority was granted during a time when the full transition from analog to digital television had been tentatively scheduled for the end of 2006. Full-powered analog television broadcasts in the United States ended on June 12, 2009.
In January 2007, it was announced that WRNN and The Journal News would partner to create a two-hour "daily in-depth newscast" titled Newscenter Now beginning in mid-March 2007. The newscast was broadcast from WRNN's Rye Brook studios and aired weekday evenings from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Its main anchors were Christa Lauri, Andrew Whitman, Stacy Ann Gooden and Ben Sosenko.
Newscenter Now was dropped after the September 27, 2008 broadcast; it was replaced with syndicated programming and the locally produced Real Politics Live. The Newscenter Now name was also used on a half-hour-long newscast targeted to Long Island, which has since been dropped from its schedule.
WRNN used to air competitions of local college sports teams. It previously aired Army football before Army signed a television contract with ESPN to put all its games there (aside from the Army-Navy Game, which airs on CBS). It also in the past has aired Manhattan College basketball games. WTZA was also the home for all Marist College basketball home games from 1986–1995. Brian Kenny was the play-by-play announcer during this time.
Current News Programming
Richard French Live
The multi-Emmy Award winning Richard French Live took the airwaves in the early 2000s. The show changed its format to a roundtable discussion in 2010, with regular contributors including longtime New York political reporter Dominic Carter and former Congressman Chris Shays. Richard French Live is RNN's flagship show for all three channels and has included among its guests Presidents Clinton and Obama, Senators Schumer, McCain and Reid and well-known figures such as Denzel Washington and Joe Torre.
NHK World TV is the all-English language channel from NHK, Japan's sole public broadcaster. Beginning in 2012, NHK World began to simulcast a half-hour of nightly news on WRNN.
With 28 bureaus in Japan and 12 throughout the world, Fuji is Japan's largest news gathering organization. The 9pm JST broadcast is entirely in Japanese and is one of the most watched news programs in Japan. This program is simulcast on WRNN every morning at 7am EST.