WNET: Wikis

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WNET
WNET 2009 Logo.png
Newark, New Jersey-
New York, New York
Branding Thirteen/WNET
Channels Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
Subchannels 13.1 WNET/PBS
13.2 Kids
13.3 V-me
Affiliations PBS
Owner WNET.org
(Educational Broadcasting Corporation)
First air date May 15, 1948
Call letters’ meaning National Educational Television
(forerunner of PBS)
Sister station(s) WLIW
Former callsigns WATV (1948-1958)
WNTA-TV (1958-1961)
WNDT (1962-1970)
Former channel number(s) Analog: 13 (VHF, 1948-2009)
Digital: 61 (UHF, 1998-2009)
Former affiliations Independent (1948-1961)
NET (1962-1970)
Transmitter Power 9.3 kW
Height 405 m
Facility ID 18795
Transmitter Coordinates 40°44′54″N 73°59′10″W / 40.74833°N 73.98611°W / 40.74833; -73.98611
Website www.thirteen.org/

WNET, channel 13 (also referred to as Thirteen), is a non-commercial television station licensed to Newark, New Jersey. With its signal covering the three-state New York metropolitan area, WNET is a flagship station of the Public Broadcasting Service and a primary provider of PBS programming. WNET's studios and offices are located at 450 West 33rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, and its transmitter is on the Empire State Building.

The license-holder is "WNET.org"[1] (formerly Educational Broadcasting Corporation, which is still designated by the FCC as the licensee), which is also the parent of Long Island-based PBS station WLIW (channel 21). The current president and Chief Executive Officer of the two stations is Neal Shapiro, the former president of NBC News. WNET is the most-watched PBS station in the country; its sister station WLIW is the third most-watched.[2]

Contents

History

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Independent station

WNET commenced broadcasting on May 15, 1948 as WATV, a commercial television station owned by Atlantic Television, a subsidiary of Bremer Broadcasting Corporation. Bremer also owned two northern New Jersey radio stations, WAAT (970 AM, now WNYM) and WAAT-FM (94.7 MHz., now WFME). Studios for AM, FM, and TV were at The Mosque Theatre, 1020 Broad Street in Newark. WATV was the first of three new stations in the New York market to start up during 1948, and was also the city's first independent station. One unusual daytime program, Daywatch, consisted of a camera focused on a teletypewriter printing wire service news stories, interspersed with cut-aways to mechanical toys against a light music soundtrack.

On October 6, 1957, Bremer Broadcasting announced it had sold its stations for $4.5 million to National Telefilm Associates, an early distributor of motion pictures for television. On May 7, 1958, channel 13's callsign was changed to WNTA-TV to reflect the new ownership; the radio stations adopted these call letters as well. NTA's cash resources enabled WNTA-TV to produce a schedule of programming with greater emphasis on the people and events of New Jersey, in comparison to the other commercial television stations. NTA also sought to make channel 13 a center of nationally syndicated programming and produced several such entries, notably the anthology drama series The Play of the Week; the talk show Open End, hosted by David Susskind; children's show The Magic Clown; and a popular dance program emceed by Clay Cole. But WNTA-TV continued to lag behind New York's other independent stations -- WNEW-TV (now WNYW), WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV), and WPIX -- in terms of audience size, and NTA incurred a large debtload. National Telefilm Associates put the WNTA stations up for sale in February 1961.

Transition

At least three prospective purchasers expressed interest in WNTA-TV. The most prominent was the New York City-based group Educational Television for the Metropolitan Area (ETMA). Composed of local businesspeople, cultural leaders, and educators, ETMA was focused on creating an educational television outlet for New York, and believed that the non-commercial frequency the Federal Communications Commission allocated to the city, UHF channel 25, would not be sufficient. Prior to 1964, most viewers could not view UHF stations except with an expensive converter; only a few manufacturers made sets with built-in UHF tuning. With assistance from the New York State Board of Regents and New Jersey officials, ETMA had attempted to purchase channel 13 and convert it to a non-commercial station in 1957, when Bremer Broadcasting first put the station on the block; this bid was later withdrawn. This time, ETMA was competing with Ely Landau, founding president of National Telefilm Associates, who had resigned from the company in order to head his own venture for this;[citation needed] and by David Susskind, who received financial backing from Paramount Pictures.[citation needed]

ETMA's initial bid of $4 million was rejected by NTA, but the citizens' group remained persistent. With the support and guidance of National Educational Television already in their pocket, ETMA later received an endorsement from newly appointed FCC Chairman Newton Minow, who established public hearings to discuss the fate of channel 13. The pendulum quickly shifted in favor of channel 13 going non-commercial, and the private firms withdrew their interest.

On June 29, 1961, ETMA agreed to purchase WNTA-TV for $6.2 million, and the FCC converted channel 13's commercial license to non-commercial. About $2 million of that amount came from the five of the six remaining commercial VHF stations (WPIX was the lone holdout), all of whom were pleased to see a commercial competitor eliminated by the conversion of channel 13 to public broadcasting. In addition, CBS donated a facility in Manhattan to ETMA and NET for production uses.

Outgoing New Jersey governor Robert B. Meyner, addressing state lawmakers' concerns over continued programming specific to New Jersey, and fearing the FCC would move the channel 13 allocation to New York City, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals on September 6, 1961, to block the sale of WNTA-TV. The court ruled in the state's favor two months later.

"Tonight, you join me in being present at the birth of a great adventure." - Edward R. Murrow, on the first broadcast of WNDT on September 16, 1962.[3]

The unsettled deal almost caused National Telefilm Associates to reconsider its decision to sell the station altogether, and NTA made plans to go forward: WNTA-TV made a play to acquire broadcast rights for the New York Mets baseball team for its inaugural 1962 season. But faced with either consummating the transaction or seeing it cancelled, ETMA settled their differences with New Jersey officials on December 4, 1961. Almost simultaneously, the state withdrew its block petition, and the FCC gave final approval of the transfer of channel 13. After a few last-minute issues arose to cause further delays, the transfer became final on December 22. Later that evening, WNTA-TV signed off for the final time. ETMA and NET then went to work converting the station, which they said would return with its new format within three months.

Ten months later, channel 13 was ready to be reborn. With legendary reporter Edward R. Murrow at the helm on the maiden broadcast, ETMA -- now the non-profit Educational Broadcasting Corporation -- flipped the switch to WNDT (for "New Dimensions in Television") on September 16, 1962. ([1]) (The rebirth of channel 13 was not without difficulty, however - after the inaugural broadcast, WNDT would go dark for two weeks, due to a dispute with union technicians.[3]) The rebirth of channel 13 as WNDT gave the New York City market its first educational station, and with a dial position on the coveted VHF band. (In many other cities, including large ones, educational stations had to make do with UHF frequencies.) New York's non-commercial UHF channel, on the other hand, would not make it to the air for another five years.

Educational station

450 West 33rd Street

During the transition, and after the inaugural broadcast, WNDT faced an immediate crisis. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was concerned about the use of teachers—some of whom were AFTRA-certified performers—on non-commercial television, and how they would be compensated should their work be distributed nationally.

AFTRA called a strike the morning of WNDT's debut. Engineers and technicians who were members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers refused to cross the AFTRA picket line, leaving the station's management and other non-union employees to produce the three-hour inaugural broadcast. Immediately afterwards, channel 13 went off the air again, as the strike continued for nearly two weeks. The striking workers returned WNDT to the air after ten days, and on September 28 the labor dispute was settled. But the station's financial resources were drained, requiring an infusion of cash from NET to help keep the station running.

NET originally wanted to merge its operations with WNDT, which would have given WNDT a direct line of funding as well as make channel 13 NET's flagship station. However, the Ford Foundation, which supported both groups, stopped the proposed mergers on at least two different occasions (in 1962, and again in 1965).

Events that began in 1967 led the Ford Foundation to change its stance and push for a WNDT-NET merger. The newly-formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting (created by an act of the United States Congress) initially supported NET's network role, while providing government funding for programming. But that move was followed two years later with the establishment of the Public Broadcasting Service as the CPB's own distribution system—a direct threat to NET's turf. It has been intimated that CPB's creation was an attempt to curb NET's production of controversial documentaries and replace it with a less controversial, government-friendly broadcaster, less hostile in particular to the Johnson, and later the Nixon administrations. (NET, ignoring the demand, refused point-blank to stop the production of the critically-acclaimed documentaries.) At one point, President Nixon, frustrated with NET's documentaries criticizing his administration, especially its handling of the Vietnam War, very nearly managed to cut NET's $20 million funding grant in half.[citation needed] This led to the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting both threatening to withdraw their funding grants for the network, unless it merged with the station. Not long after, Ford brokered the merger of WNDT and NET, which took effect on June 29, 1970. Channel 13's callsign was changed to the present WNET on October 5, 1970. NET ceased network operations, though WNET continued to produce some shows for the national PBS schedule with the NET branding until about 1972.

Channel 13's studios and offices were originally located in the Mosque Theater at 1020 Broad Street in Newark, with transmitter on First Mountain in West Orange, New Jersey. For a short time studios were located at the Gateway Center office building in Newark. The station eventually moved its operations to Manhattan in 1982 and was based on West 58th Street in the Hudson Hotel, while retaining the Gateway Center studios for a few more years. In 1998 it moved to 450 West 33rd Street straddling the railroad tracks going into Pennsylvania Station. The New York Daily News and Associated Press have headquarters in the same building. Since it still operates on a frequency allocated by the FCC to Newark, it rebroadcasts New Jersey Network's nightly NJN News, as well as airing Inside Trenton, which WNET co-produces with NJN, to meet its local programming obligations.

Thirteen/WNET's Former logo, 1999-2009. Still being used as a secondary logo on endboards for programs that are created by Thirteen/WNET.

Channel 13's transmitter facilities, including a newly installed digital transmission system, were destroyed on September 11, 2001, when airplanes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center towers. Gerald (Rod) Coppola, channel 13's head transmitter engineer, was among those who perished when the north tower collapsed. For the next ten months WNYE-TV, headquartered in Brooklyn, became WNET's surrogate transmitter and airwave (for those without cable, repeats of WNET prime-time schedules were screened on WNYE). After the surrogate period, WNYE branched more into independent public television, culminating with its independence from PBS on July 1, 2003. Some time earlier, in February 2003, WNET completed its merger with Long Island PBS broadcaster WLIW (licensed to Garden City and based in Plainview), combining the two stations into one operation. While most of the two stations' operations have been merged, they still have separate studio facilities, separate governing boards, and conduct separate fundraising efforts.

During 2009, WNET's parent company, now known as WNET.org, had sustained financial difficulties -- in January, the company pared its workforce from 500 employees to 415, due to severe problems with its budget and fundraising. In October, WNET announced that its studios at 450 West 33rd Street would soon be up for sale, as it no longer needed the extra space. In November, WNET announced that all WNET.org employees would take an unpaid furlough for three to five days between Christmas and New Year's Day, with a skeleton crew of engineers remaining during that time to keep the stations on the air; however, they, too, would have to go on furloughs at the start of 2010. [4]

Digital television

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Digital channels

Channel Name Video Aspect Programming
13.1 WNET-DT 1080i 16:9 Main WNET/PBS programming
13.2 WNET-DT2 480i 4:3 Kids Thirteen
13.3 WNET-DT3 480i 4:3 V-me

Analog-to-Digital Conversion

WNET ended programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009 [5] at 12:30 PM, as part of the DTV transition in the United States. The station had been broadcasting its pre-transition digital signal over UHF channel 61, but returned to channel 13 for its post-transition operations. [6] [7]

Original productions

WNET has produced, created and/or presented a number of PBS shows. This includes, but is not limited to:

WNET has also produced programming for public televisions stations distributed outside of the PBS system, including:

  • Planet H2O
  • In the Mix: The New Normal, a co-production with In the Mix
  • What's Up in Factories
  • What's Up in Technology
  • What's Up in Finance

WNET is also the co-producing entity of PBS NewsHour, along with Washington, D.C. PBS station WETA-TV and MacNeil-Lehrer Productions. The show started in 1975 as a local news-analysis program, The Robert MacNeil Report. Jim Lehrer, a frequent guest on MacNeil's show, became co-host the following year, when the show was picked up by the other PBS outlets.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ BALET-20090609ABN Authorization (FCC)
  2. ^ About WLIW21 - http://www.wliw.org/about/
  3. ^ a b The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television (p. 386) by James Day (University of California Press, 1995)
  4. ^ New York Observer: "Furloughs Hit WNET", November 4, 2009.
  5. ^ http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-06-1082A2.pdf
  6. ^ FCC DTV status report for WNET
  7. ^ WWOR-DT FCC Form 387, Exhibit 4, September 15, 2008

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