happy birthday wjct!

by kellie abrahamson
WJCT is a First Coast institution. Throughout the years we’ve seen our local PBS affiliate grow from a small station with three staff members and borrowed equipment into an award-winning community resource that reaches tens of thousands of people through television, radio and the internet. On September 10th WJCT will celebrate the golden anniversary of its very first broadcast. This impressive milestone is one of many for the station.
In the early 50s television was comprised of three channels and none of them gave the public a true voice. WJCT changed all that in 1958 when it became the second educational television station in Florida. Early into its first year WJCT partnered with local colleges to present Principles of Modern Physics, the first coast-to-coast televised course for college credit. A few months later it broadcast the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s The Magic of Music, the nation’s first weekly broadcast of symphonic music for school children. WJCT made history yet again in 1960 when it became the second station in the nation to hold a fundraising auction, launching a tradition that has engaged community support for nearly 50 years.
These early achievements were just the beginning. In September of 1968 WJCT brought Feedback to the airwaves, a live call-in show that soon became the most copied public affairs format in public TV. The 70s brought WJCT to the next level with its second media platform: WJCT-FM. Eighteen months after it launched, the station partnered TV and radio for the first time, simulcasting a JSO concert on Channel 7 and “Stereo 90.” In 1979 WJCT made national headlines yet again, this time for broadcasting the first three-state satellite interconnection. The station brought even more to Jacksonville citizens in the 80s with the construction of Metropolitan Park, their new cutting-edge broadcast facility and a partnership with the city that resulted in the second largest jazz festival in the nation.
With so much WJCT has done for this community, is it any wonder they wanted to share their birthday with the citizens they serve? On Saturday, August 23rd WJCT celebrated their 50th anniversary by opening its doors to the community. The very special event brought hundreds of people of all ages to the studio in order to tour the facility, meet the staff and rub elbows with some of the biggest stars of PBS Kids. Self-guided tours of the building gave guests freedom to move at their own pace and ask as many questions as they wished from the staff. Upstairs, visitors were able to speak with station experts about the big switch from analog to digital TV next year, a subject that many people had questions about. In addition to taking a peek at nearly every control room, studio and sound booth in the building, guests were also able to step outside and tour the WJCT production truck.
While the celebration was open to everyone, it was truly the families that got the most out of the event. Children were able to meet some of their favorite PBS characters throughout the day. Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George and the stars of Maya & Miguel and Super WHY! were all in attendance for photo ops and hugs. But the big thrills for kids of all ages were the special performances by Gordon (Roscoe Orman), a veteran actor from Sesame Street. During his 20-minute sets he managed to get the children and the grown-ups dancing and singing along to Sesame Street’s most beloved tunes.
In addition to the education and entertainment, visitors were treated to hot dogs, sno-cones, ice cream and cookies and the first 2500 attendees got free WJCT tote bags. There were also booths set up with activities for the kids, face painting and a pair of photo booths which allowed guests a chance to take home a fun souvenir to remember the day by.
My family and I had a terrific time at WJCT’s Open House, as did all of the other visitors I spoke to throughout the day. This very special event showed just how much WJCT cares about the community and how important public-supported broadcasting was, is and will continue to be. WJCT has given us 50 years of priceless education, entertainment and service. Here’s to 50 more!

September 10, 1958
WJCT went on the air with a staff of three

October, 1958
Principles of Modern Physics,the first coast-to-coast course for college credit. Sing Hi, Sing Lo, a music appreciation program for children

January, 1959
JSO’s The Magic of Music, the nation’s first weekly broadcast of symphonic music for school children

mid 1960’s
WJCT debuts the First Coast’s first live comprehensive coverage of local government at work

September 1968
Feedback launches, soon the most copied public affairs format in public TV.

The award-winning Today in the Legislature the First Coast’s first live comprehensive coverage of local government at work

April 10, 1972
WJCT-FM goes on the air

November, 1973
partnered TV and radio for the first time, simulcasting a JSO concert on Channel 7 and “Stereo 90.”

January, 1979
Broadcast the first three-state satellite interconnection, the one-hour Gator Bowl Preview viewed by residents of Ohio, South Carolina, and Florida.

September 10, 1983
Stereo 90 and Channel 7 began broadcasting from their New Metro Park location.

April, 1985
WJCT sponsorship of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival

February, 1993
WJCT Gallery launches Through Our Eyes: African-American Artistic Exprssions, an annual art exhibit.

April, 1993
PBS selects WJCT to present National Teacher Training Institutes to help math and science teachers use TV in the classroom.

May, 1993
Radio Reading Service launched bringing independence to vision-impaired residents by providing continuous readings of local and national news.

Ready To Learn launches – a standards-based educational programming and community workshops to help parents and caregivers promote early literacy skills.

Developed a radio news department to enhance its delivery of in-depth news and information.

May, 2003
WJCT began broadcasting multiple TV and radio program streams digital’s new multicasting capabilities.

July 2003
WJCT expended and enhanced its Web site, and began audio streaming

WJCT broadcasts five digital TV channels and three HD radio streams, in addition to its analog broadcasts.