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Columns

June 30, 2014

Public broadcasting in area got start 55 years ago

Not too long ago when we had terrestrial-only media; radio and television, reception was caught by an antenna, whether it be on top of our homes or community cable antennas, as well as those attached to our radio or television sets.

When it came to public broadcasting our four-county area was in the cross of an imaginary giant “X,” with the media outlets coming from the Syracuse/Oswego, Catskills, Binghamton and Albany areas.

Public broadcasting stations have been heard and seen in our area for just over 55 years and their origins for programming started out with an educational intent.

The pioneer station heard today in our region is Albany-based WAMC. It signed on in 1958 as a radio station for the Albany Medical Center and Albany Medical College, the basis for the call letters. The earliest years had broadcasts of health information and lectures from visiting professors, mixed with classical music and no commercials.

According to the WAMC website, when the National Public Radio network was founded in 1970, WAMC was one of the original charter members.

The two colleges divested the radio station around 1980, and a new group of corporators affiliated the station with the State University of New York and New York state government.

These days, thanks to a large antenna on Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts and numerous smaller translators, WAMC is heard in six states and a small portion of Quebec.

A first local venture into educational television came about in the Syracuse area in December 1960. The Post-Standard reported, “A new $1 million education station — which would beam courses into the classroom and the home — to serve Onondaga and adjoining Central New York counties was proposed … by Dr. Paul A. Miller, superintendent of the city public schools.

“The Syracuse area, with its expanding economy and its strategic location in the heartland of the upstate area, can support an educational TV project, he said.”

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