PUBLIC TELEVISION: AMERICA'S FIRST STATION
An Intimate Account
By William Hawes
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KUHT-TV in Houston, Texas was the first non-commercial, educational television station. This is the story of its development and struggle for survival.In the history of broadcasting and education, the evening of May 25th, 1953 was highly significant—KUHT-TV in Houston, Texas became the first non-commercial, education (now called public television) station. At its dedication Federal Communications Commissioner Frieda B. Hennock said: “For here in Houston begins the practical realization of the tremendous benefits that television holds out to education…. The accumulated riches of man’s education, cultural and spiritual development can be spread right before the viewers’ eyes in a convenient and attractive format. In fact, the sky of man’s constructive imagination is literally the only limit on the good that can be derived from education TV.” This is the story of the development of Channel 8 from its origins to CEO Jeff Clarke’s plan for 2000. The LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting is the realization of the plan.
William Hawes holds a doctorate from The University of Michigan and taught a telecourse for college credit as early as 1959. Since moving to Texas, he has known most of the principal decision-makers at KUHT and many other pioneers of public broadcasting. Dr. Hawes is also the author of American Television Drama, The Experimental Years, Live Television Drama, 1946–1951, and Filmed Television Drama, 1952–1958.
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