A Sad Retreat for A Public TV Pioneer in Western Mass. (Editorial)
It isn’t fully clear why, after 52 years, public television in Springfield became untenable.
What’s clear is that the demise of robust TV production by a veteran staff at WGBY Channel 57 is a setback.
Though some TV operations will continue, this change sharply curtails a longstanding source of public information for our region. A variety of public access TV channels remain, including Focus Springfield and Holyoke Media, both of them offering diverse and useful programming.
But WGBY has long carried the biggest banner — now in the process of being rolled up. New England Public Media said this week it has laid off 17 employees, most of them associated with the TV station; the nonprofit oversees both the station and its local public radio partner.
Audience habits appear to have changed in ways that hurt Channel 57.
The station was helping its audience peer into the future — and make that future a better place for all. Channel 57 couldn’t future-proof itself, but its staff has reason to be proud of five decades of public service.
Read the full article here: https://www.masslive.com/opinion/2023/03/a-sad-retreat-for-a-public-tv-pioneer-in-western-mass-editorial.html
Many thanks for your kind comments. I have been pondering remarks I want to make. Before I do that, I would like to speak to Jon Abbott. I can’t seem to find an email or phone address. Might you help?
I am so sorry that WGBY has released staff due to money problems. I remember someone saying that Downton Abbey saved PBS when it hit the air. Maybe we need another winner like that one.
I hope this is not an omen. A few years ago several other stations closed their doors. The same reason: money.
WGBY was a tremendous investment by GBH and under the dogged insistence of Jack Caldwell it survived. From a back room at the Armory to Jack’s trips to GBH to pick up the essentials: toilet paper, etc. WGBY not only reached a new audience it created a beautiful studio and presence in the city. (Also, it wasn’t too far from a German restaurant, Student Prince.). I was the Director of WGBH New Television Workshop and we went looking for stations to help us produce artist’s works. We paid for the artists and out of pocket costs, the stations provided production facilities. WGBY not only helped but they became our major companion in production. Many of the works have been shown in Museums around the world.
Thanks to WGBY, Jack Caldwell, Steve Bass and Scott Kurnit for letting us help video artists realize their vision.
I was pleased to see the editorial mention “Our Home Town.” Mark Erstling, Beth Curley, and I made the local mission our top priority during our years working together. WGBY was and is heavily overlapped by other public TV services. That made what we did in our local communities the primary reason for our existence. Without such a commitment, I question how long 57 can survive. That said, I understand the financial realities that beset this and other stations serving smaller markets, and I wish those who remain and the NEPM management all the best in navigating these treacherous waters.
Josie, Amherst? We’re in Easthampton. It was a necessary financial decision to make cuts. GBY will continue to broadcast PTV programming and radio will continue to offer two services.
Karen, NEPM will continue to broadcast PTV programming. Connecting Point will no longer be producing new shows and the radio operation continues to offer two services.
I am so sad to hear this news. I spent many happy hours doing teleconferences at GBY. The folks that worked there were professional, dedicated to their work and passionate about their community. A sorry day for public television. Change is tough.
So great to hear these memories, and, Chaz, especially your Inimitable take on things. As a recent resident out here in the West, I’m extra sorry to hear the news. I understand the reasons, though at my house we’re still mostly old fashioned consumers. Makes us think we better start exploring some of the new fangled options. Meanwhile, a question: will ptv programming still be available out here on some broadcast or cable channel ?! We’ll starve without it.
Is the link. We just retired to Amherst. Makes me really sad. Can they reconsider?
Living in Tyringham, Berkshire County, way out west, .WGBY is my life line. Remembering when Hartford Gunn dispatched Jack Caldwell to start WGBY…. big move and in very capable hands. Many of us took turns helping out one way or other. Will WGBY still be part of the WGBH Educational Foundation?
Fully agree with you Chas. Real news about local events is essential in these days of vanishing newspapers and other local news sources.
I was the vp/general manager of WGBY from 1992 to 1995. When I moved to GBH, I maintained some oversight of WGBY while also managing GBH’s TV stations. I have fond memories of my time there and the valuable role that WGBY traditionally played there. Combining WGBY and WFCR was a very smart move — something that I tried to do when I was there but the time wasn’t right. I’m very sad for the job losses and the need to retrench. But it’s also clear that the way in which people consume media (particularly television) is changing rapidly and radically. Change will be necessary to navigate this new environment and it will be uncomfortable for those of us who remember when things were different. It’s better to proactively make change even if it’s painful. And, of course, those of us who remember the way things were will have our own memories and feelings. Hats off to the great people who led WGBY over the years starting with Jack Caldwell, Jerry Franklin, Jim Lewis, Debby Onslow, Russ Peotter, etc. It was and continue to be a special place providing important service to the people of WMass.
As a native of Springfield, WGBY was my introduction to public television. It saddens me to see this.
BTW could not read the full article
This is a great loss for the unserved half of our commonwealth; a local station that has always tried harder…
I was lucky to be involved when they were in the old Springfield Armory and helped them populate their empty studio with a grid and a lighting system.
And I remember fondly the live TV opening of the renovated Symphony Hall.
It was a great accomplishment by all concerned.
Again this news comes as an unpleasant surprise to me and perhaps to other GBH Alumni who helped them grow and flourish.
This is part of the landscape of a state(commonwealth) in a 21st century transition and of the constantly evolving PTV terroir.
¡Ave atque vale!