began in November of 1953 when the Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc. was formed as a nonprofit organization with the mission of raising funds for the establishment and operation of Florida's first noncommercial television station. On August 12, 1955, Channel 2 went on the air without a penny of tax money having been spent. There was no budget, no income, no paid staff and even the station's transmitter and antenna had been donated.
The broadcast schedule was two hours a day, five days a week, with summers off. But, despite the lack of resources, the young station was firmly anchored in the grass roots of the community. Volunteers produced 753 different programs on film, all previewed and edited by the unpaid staff. In addition, 135 live performances and 135 musical presentations were broadcast.
Since its beginnings, Channel 2 has developed and maintained a technologic and programmatic superiority for which it is recognized and respected throughout the industry. It has consistently been a leader among public television stations. Today, with a signal reach from the Treasure Coast to Key West, Channel 2 attracts an audience of over one million households each week, and consistently ranks as one of the 10 most-watched public television stations in the country.
Channel 2 has recorded many "firsts" throughout its broadcast history. In June 1967, Pagliacci, the first local color production, was the first complete opera produced and broadcast on television in the state of Florida. By February 1971, Channel 2 became Florida's first public television station with color capability. Channel 2 produced Florida's first live television courtroom coverage, gavel-to-gavel, in September 1977, the State vs. Ronny Zamora, which earned the station its first American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, an Ohio State Award, and two awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In February 1980, Channel 2 took television technology to the next step by connecting two continents live, via satellite, for the first time in U.S. history with The Best of Brazilian Television. In January 1982, Top of the World was produced live on tape, via satellite from the Channel 2 studios in Miami with locations in London and Sydney, linking the three continents of North America, Europe and Australia for the first time. March 1983's production, American Journey Live, was the first production of live satellite feeds that allowed for interactive surveys of audiences. The first South Florida broadcast in stereophonic sound was made by Channel 2 in March 1985. In July 2001, WPBT launched its digital broadcast signal and became the first public television station in Florida to go digital. Now the station will continue to lead the way in this new digital landscape by becoming the first television station to air a discrete schedule on its digital channel.
In January 1979, television news changed with the debut of Channel 2's The Nightly Business Report (NBR), then a local 15-minute business news program. NBR, now a 30-minute format available in 92 percent of all U.S. households and 120 countries worldwide, is the nation's most-watched daily business news program on broadcast or cable television with more than one million viewers tuning in each night.
Another of Channel 2's now-vintage productions is the bilingual comedy classic, ¿Qué Pasa, USA? The series' 39 episodes are still in rerun here and throughout the country on PBS and commercial stations alike. Channel 2's StarGazer has been appearing on PBS stations throughout the country since May 1985. The weekly, five-minute look at the world of astronomy, is hosted by Jack Horkheimer, Executive Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, who uses wit and personality to educate audiences about the cosmic universe. The station has garnered numerous Emmy Awards for its local productions which showcase the rich and vibrant textures of the fabric of the South Florida community.
The station has come a long way from its humble origins in the 1950s. It continues to demonstrate its worth to the South Florida region by providing quality content to educate, enlighten, inspire and entertain. Each week, it provides a program schedule as diverse as its audience - thirty-seven hours of children's programming including Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Barney and Friends; Nightly Business Report, Frontline, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, The McLaughlin Group and Wall Street Week with FORTUNE make up only a small portion of the more than thirty hours of news and public affairs programs; seven hours of nature and science programs like Nova, Nature, National Geographic Specials and The Jacques Cousteau Specials, thirteen hours of how-to programming from Julia Child to This Old House; thirteen hours of British comedies like Are You Being Served? and Fawlty Towers; twenty hours of award-winning commercial-free films; domestic and international dramas including the signature series ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!; independent documentaries; and the best in classical and popular performances including Great Performances, Live from Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Opera Presents, and specials like Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti in Concert.
As technology advances at light speed and the creative process of program production shifts, the world of television will change - and challenge. Whatever these changes - and challenges - are, Channel 2 will strive to continue serving the South Florida region with programs that enhance the quality of its life.