Celebrating 64 years of public service across North Carolina, UNC-Public TV signed on as North Carolina’s first “educational station” in January 1955. Today, UNC-TV is a valuable source of education and entertainment. Its varied programming, including news and commentary, has propelled it into a major media presence across the state.
North Carolinians are rabid basketball fans. That love affair finds it roots in the fabled “Dixie Classic” (1949-1960), during the days when Everett Case was the coach at North Carolina State University. I found it interesting to learn that on the station’s inaugural broadcasting day, evening programming included the UNC vs. Wake Forest basketball game! For my readers who are new arrivals to the area, North Carolina is consumed by college basketball this time of year. March Madness is upon us once again. I even thought the phrase “March Madness” originated in North Carolina until I did a little research several years ago. I wrote about March Madness and Tobacco Road in the March 2017 newsletter. Click here to learn more about this Tarheel passion.
But back to UNC-TV....
UNC-TV’s mission is as follows: Television has the power to change lives. Public television has the responsibility to change lives for the better. UNC-TV’s unique programs provide people of all ages with enriching, life-changing television.
Three visionaries – Billie Carmichael, UNC VP of finance, Kay Kyser, dedicated Carolina alumnus and famous band leader, and Bill Friday, who became president of the university system – spearheaded efforts to bring educational television to the state. In the 1950s, the consolidated University of North Carolina system consisted of three institutions – the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University in Raleigh (known as State College), and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (known as Woman’s College). UNC-TV programming originated in studios on each of the campuses.
However the story of UNC-TV’s early beginnings wouldn’t be complete without mention of the generosity of Joseph Bryan, a former Greensboro businessman and president of Jefferson Standard Broadcasting. Mr. Bryan planned to apply for the license for one of the limited number of channels reserved by the FCC for educational use, with the goal of growing his media presence in the Triangle. When he learned of the university’s interest, he withdrew his application, fully supporting UNC’s efforts to secure the license for “educational TV’ in North Carolina.
The vision of using television to provide enriching, life-changing educational opportunities for North Carolinians continued to grow in the ensuing decades. In the early 1960s, the General Assembly appropriated funds to expand the university’s program to a statewide network of stations. In 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established to encourage and foster development of public broadcasting. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted in 1968 and Sesame Street followed in 1969.
During the early 1990s, UNC President C.D. Spangler, Jr. initiated a focus to make local programming a top priority. In 1997, the FCC required all television stations to convert to digital technology. It is a testament to then UNC President Molly Broad’s leadership that the General Assembly included funding for UNC-TV’s digital conversion in the 2000 Higher Education Improvement Bond. The referendum passed with the support of 73% of the electorate.
Today, with 12 stations reaching all North Carolinians, UNC-TV’s unique programs and services continue to provide people of all ages and backgrounds enriching, life-changing television. I encourage you to explore the varied programming offered. I am especially drawn to Thursday night programming with the emphasis on local programs exploring North Carolina’s rich history, geography and culture. There is much to be learned about our great state on Exploring North Carolina, North Carolina Weekend, Our State, NC Spin and others.
And I do hope you will also consider exploring North Carolina with me! We are excited to offer many tours this year that highlight all this great state has to offer.
Won’t you join us?
Don’t just see North Carolina. Experience it!