Dear WGBH Alumni:
PBS is putting together a list of significant national “firsts” for PBS and public media. We already have a timeline covering WGBH from 1946 to 1978, and many entries include national innovations. Now, we’re looking for your recommendations and verifications for more!
Please remember, the following are not yet verified, so add your recommendations, corrections, and confirmations in the comments box at the bottom of this post.
Recommendations (to be verified)
- 1958: WGBH acquired an Ampex VR-1000A and became the first NET member to use videotape recording techniques. (More.)
- 1960: WGBH produced A.R. Gurney’s first TV drama, Love Letters. The only recording was destroyed in the fire.
- 1963: WGBH received its first Academy Award for Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World Fred Barzyk reports that it was the first and only Academy Award to ever be given to an educational television station.
- 1966: Julia Child was the first educational television personality to receive an Emmy Award.
- 1968: Martin Luther King’s death almost caused a city wide riot, except for WGBH and city government broadcasting a James Brown concert. Watch the video here: James Brown in the Boston Garden – April 5th, 1968
- 1968: WGBH produced the first double-channel TV show, What’s Happening Mr. Silver? Viewers were asked to put two TVs six feet apart, tune one to Ch. 2 and the other Ch. 44. Six months after the first broadcast,
WNETWNDT (Ch. 13) and a commercial station (Ch. 9) were the only other stations to do the same thing.
- 1972: PBS pioneers the development of captioning, making television programs accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
- 1972: Nam June Paik, renowned video artist, creates the worlds first video synthesizer. During the broadcast of one of his works, Paik blew out the WGBH transmitter. It is now on display in a German Museum.
- 1974: NOVA, the first weekly science documentary series, joined the PBS lineup.
- The Chicken that Ate Columbus
- 1980: WGBH Workshop and QUBE, the largest interactive service in the country, produced a live interactive drama, The Chicken that Ate Columbus.” From David Atwood: QUBE was launched in 1977, I joined them as Manager of Production and Operations in the fall of 1980 in time (as I remember) to be there for “The Chicken that Ate Columbus.”
- 1980: This Old House, the first home-improvement program on U.S. television, tackled its first fixer-upper
- 1987: Created the first digital audio broadcast.
- 1990: PBS makes television accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences through the launch of the Descriptive Video Service (DVS).
- 1994-95: Created the first audio streaming server (featured Frontline Waco: The Inside Story) and the concept of the web as the companion to the TV program.
- 1998: PBS Digital Week features the first national broadcast of a high-definition and enhanced digital program, Ken Burns’s Frank Lloyd Wright.
- 1998: PBS becomes the first national broadcaster to distribute high-definition (HD) programming to member stations for broadcast.
- 1999: Created the first live radio and television streams and established a presence on Apple’s QuickTime TV.
- Henry Morgenthau’s Negro and the American Promise is first to have an all black discussion on race in America. Featuring James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Dr. King, the interview made the front page of the New York Times when broadcast, and was later made into a book.
- Catch 44 was WGBH’s first public access series. Although only broadcast locally, it made the front page of the WSJ and the BBC emulated it, calling their series “Open Night.”
- The first environmental documentary was Austin Hoyt’s “Multiply and Subdue the Earth” on PBL.
- Vietnam, a Television History, was the first long-form doc coverage of the Vietnam War.
- The first coverage of tennis on TV was WGBH’s coverage of Longwood.
- ZOOM was the first show created by kids (they supplied the content), for kids (who sent up to 30,000 letters per week).
- Did Al Potter and Greg Harney do the first trans-atlantic broadcast for ETV?
- The Victory Garden was the first series to follow the planting and growing of a garden in real time.
- This Old House was the inspiration for the commercial sitcom Home Improvement.
- WGBH was the first broadcast station to air stereo sound on their FM station which was in sync with he BSO concert on Ch. 2. This engineering feat was then taught to other PBS stations by our engineers.
- Was NOVA the first PBS station to produce an IMAX film?