The Tobacco Radio Network (TRN) was a pioneering radio cooperative owned and operated by Capitol Broadcasting Company.
Begun in 1942, the network was originally a loose-knit organization of six local radio stations in Eastern North Carolina which were “hooked up” by phone lines to simultaneously broadcast programs of special interest, including agricultural features, sports events, and news of the state capital.
The six original network stations were all in Eastern North Carolina, the heart of flue-cured tobacco production in the United States, and that was the impetus of the “Tobacco Radio Network” name.
The network’s core mission was to educate farmers and keep them informed of the latest agricultural news, techniques and market standings. Under the leadership of CBC Farm Director Ray Wilkinson, the network grew to include 370 radio stations in six Southeastern states—Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
TRN was Capitol’s first network venture, but others followed. In the late 1940s, CBC formed the Dixie FM Network to promote the new FM broadcasting format. Special programming such as sporting events was made available exclusively on FM to create interest in the new radio band.
The Dixie Network combined with the Tobacco Network stations formed the nucleus of yet another partnership – The Tobacco Sports Network, which carried North Carolina collegiate football and basketball games statewide. The Tobacco Sports Network was the first in the Southeastern United States to produce live sports coverage of major football and basketball games on a network basis.
WRAL Sports Director Ray Reeve was a mainstay on the Tobacco Sports Network, broadcasting play-by-play coverage of countless Atlantic Coast Conference games and helping to raise the profile of the league itself.
In 1959, the two networks were merged into the Tobacco Network and later that became the Capitol Agribusiness Network.
In 1996, all of Capitol Broadcasting’s radio networks were restructured and merged into the North Carolina News Network.