WGBH-TV, channel 2, is a non-commercial educational PBS member television station located in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The station is owned by the WGBH Educational Foundation, which also owns and operates: WGBX-TV (channel 44), Springfield, Massachusetts-based PBS station WGBY-TV (channel 57) and public radio stations WGBH (FM) and WCRB in the Boston area, and WCAI (and satellites WZAI and WNAN) in Cape Cod.
WGBH's studios are located on Guest Street in Boston, and its transmitter is located in Needham, Massachusetts. WGBH is one of six local Boston television stations that are available in Canada on satellite provider Bell TV.
Today, WGBH-TV produces more than two-thirds of the nationally distributed programs broadcast by PBS. These include shows such as Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece, American Experience, The Victory Garden and This Old House.
In years past, WGBH was home to The French Chef, a beloved fixture on American TV and an icon of American culture. WGBH's "The Scarlet Letter" (mini-series) was a major costume drama produced on-location/film-style (PBS' highest-rated series for many years) and was the first challenger to the British hegemony in such programming. Since then, the station has co-produced numerous period dramas with British production companies. Broadcasts with the Boston Symphony established the genre as a staple on television. A Roomful of Music, produced by Greg Harney, featured Pete Seeger and other music pioneers.
WGBH's experiments in television changed the face of the medium—Nam June Paik's wild morphing of the television image, antic adventures in narrative story-telling ("What's Happening, Mr SIlver?", Nine Heroes); Ron Hayes' stunning visual video explosion (slit-scan imagery) inspired by the yearning, driving themes of Wagner'sliebestod; and the two-screen color stereo dance extravaganza, CITY/motion/space/game. Pioneering arts series in collaboration with Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (Museum Open House, Images, Eye-to-Eye) set the bar for the medium and were a major contributing force in what we now call "video art". The Workshop for New Television was a hot-bed of creative activity for many years and created startling works in dance (Dan Wagoner's George's House) and in drama (Mary Feldhaus-Weber's RED, BLUE, GOLD),
WGBH is also considered a leader in accessible media services for the deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired. WGBH invented closed captioning for television, audio description (Descriptive Video Service), and created the Rear Window Captioning System for films; WGBH provides these access services to commercial and public television producers, and to home video, websites and movie theaters nationwide.
WGBH operates a Shaw Broadcast Services satellite uplink facility which provides broadcast television stations from the Boston area to cable and satellite television providers in Canada. As a Canadian company, Shaw is not legally entitled to operate an uplink facility in the United States. As a result, the company pays WGBH to perform this service on its behalf. This facility is also located at the station's transmitter tower in Needham.
WGBH Educational Foundation received its first broadcasting license for radio in 1951 under the auspices of the Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council, a consortium of local universities and cultural institutions, whose collaboration stems from an 1836 bequest by textile manufacturer John Lowell, Jr. calling for free public lectures for the citizens of Boston. WGBH-FM (89.7 FM) first signed on the air on October 6, 1951, with a live broadcast of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The original television station construction permit for VHF channel 2 in Boston went to Raytheon, an electronics company based in neighboring Waltham, Massachusetts, which would have launched a commercial television station under the call letters WRTB-TV (for "Raytheon Television Broadcasting"). WRTB never made it on the air, paving the way for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allocate channel 2 for non-commercial purposes and for WGBH to receive a license to operate on that channel.
WGBH-TV went on the air at 5:20 p.m. on May 2, 1955, it was originally based at studios located at 84 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge (presently Stratton Student Center) on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Initial funding for starting WGBH-TV, the first public television station in Boston and New England's first non-commercial television station, came from the Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation. The station's callsign refers to Great Blue Hill (the highest point in the Boston area at an elevation of 635 feet (194 m)), a location in Milton, Massachusetts that served as the original location of WGBH-TV's transmitter and where the transmitter for WGBH radio continues to operate to this day. (The callsign is occasionally jokingly referred as "God Bless Harvard", although the station's connections with the university are at best indirect; Harvard was one of several Boston area universities which took part in the Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council and rented space to WGBH on Western Avenue in Allston for the station's studios.)
A fire destroyed the Cambridge studios during the early morning hours of October 14, 1961, causing WGBH-TV and WGBH FM to be based in temporary offices and having to produce local programming from the studio facilities of Boston area commercial television stations. WGBH-TV and WGBH FM both began operating from a new building on August 29, 1963. A new studio facility for the WGBH station was then built at 125 Western Avenue in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, (the ZIP code of the station and its post office box address – P.O. Box 350, Boston, MA 02134. The station became increasingly known with the jingle of the WGBH-produced children's program, ZOOM (both in its 1970s and late 1990s adaptations).
On June 18, 1966, WGBH-TV relocated its transmitter to a broadcast tower in Needham (which is now operated by American Tower Corporation), WGBX-TV had begun transmitting its signal from that location when it signed on September 25, 1967. WGBX-TV's digital service on channel 43 shares the master antenna at the very top of the tower with several commercial stations. WGBH-TV's digital service on channel 19 uses a separate antenna lower down. Over time, WGBH became a pioneer in public television, with many programs seen on National Educational Television and later, the Public Broadcasting Service, having originated at the facilities of WGBH or were otherwise produced by the station.
In the late 1960s, WGBH planned to launch a second television station in the Boston area, and four other non-commercial television stations around Massachusetts. All of WGBH's sister television stations have the "WGB" prefix for their call letters; channel 44 in Boston (which launched in 1967) has the callsign WGBX, while channel 57 in Springfield, Massachusetts (launched in 1971) operates under the WGBY call letters. Three additional WGBH-owned stations were to have launched, including WGBW on channel 35 in Adams (the "W" in its callsign was to stand for "West"; the callsign has since been reassigned to a radio station in Two Rivers, Wisconsin), along with two stations in New Bedford and Worcester. WGBX and WGBY were the only two that ultimately made it on the air.
As WGBH's operations grew, the 125 Western Avenue building proved inadequate; some administrative operations were moved across the street to 114 Western Avenue, with an overhead pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings. By 2005, WGBH had facilities in more than a dozen buildings in the Allston area. The station's need for more studio space dovetailed with Harvard Business School's desire to expand its adjacent campus; Harvard already owned the land on which the WGBH studios were located. WGBH built a new studio complex, designed by James Polshek & Partners, in nearby Brighton, spanning the block of Market Street from Guest Street to North Beacon Street, with radio studios facing pedestrian traffic on Market Street. The postal address and lobby entrance of the new studio building is 1 Guest Street; it was inaugurated in June 2007. The outside of the building carries a 30 by 45 feet (14 m) "digital mural" LED screen, displaying a different image each day to commuters on the passing Massachusetts Turnpike. Television shows and radio programs continued to shoot at the Western Avenue studios until migration to the new facility reached completion in September 2007. The old Western Avenue studios were renovated by Harvard University in 2011 to house the Harvard Innovation Lab. In 1973, Hartford N. Gunn Jr., founder of PBS, worked for WGBH and earned the Ralph Lowell Award for his success.
The stations digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||1080i||16:9||WGBH-HD||Main WGBH programming / PBS|
|44.1||1080i||16:9||WGBX-HD||WGBX 44 HD|
|44.4||1080i||16:9||'GBH Kids||'GBH Kids|
Formerly, WGBH's HD subchannel on 44.3 showed a separate slate of programming from that seen on the station's analog signal to showcase PBS' high definition program content; in 2008, the subchannel switched to a high-definition simulcast of the analog signal, with standard-definition programming presented in windowbox or letterbox format.
Digital subchannel 2.2 formerly served as a standard-definition feed of WGBH-TV, broadcasting in the 480i resolution format. In April 2012, the standard definition simulcast on digital channel 2.2 was replaced by PBS World, which was also carried on sister station WGBX's 44.2 digital subchannel. Later that year, World was only on 2.2 digital subchannel.
In early 2010, the station became the first station in the Boston television market to provide a mobile DTV signal. It transmits two free-to-air channels using the ATSC-M/H standard, at 2.75 Mbit/s, with its first subchannel labelled as "WGBH CH 2".
WGBH-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 19. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2. WGBH participated in the "Analog Nightlight" program, providing information for viewers on the digital transition, and broadcast at a lower power before its analog signal permanently ceased transmission one month later.
The Media Access Group division at WGBH not only provides closed captioning for programs seen on channel 2 and its sister stations, but also is a captioning provider for television programs on other broadcast networks (with the exception of ABC) and several cable channels. In addition, it is the main provider for audio description soundtracks for visually impaired viewers, that are commonly found on PBS, and select broadcast networks and cable channels.
This is the main television service of WGBH, as it is the television station first licensed by the WGBH Educational Foundation. It broadcasts mixed programming during the week with children's programs during the day and documentary and entertainment material at night; Saturday programming focuses heavily on cooking and home improvement how-to shows, at one point the group of Saturday programming was referred to as "How 2 Saturday".
WGBH-TV operates a secondary station in the Boston market, WGBX-TV (channel 44), which signed on the air on September 25, 1967. The station focuses on program genres not covered by WGBH-TV. Reruns of the previous night's programming either from WGBH-TV or from WGBX-TV itself also make up a part of the station's programming schedule. WGBX's digital signal provides several digital subchannels that rerun programming from both WGBH and from other PBS stations around the country.
WGBH Educational Foundation also owns and manages WGBY (channel 57), the PBS member station for the Springfield, Massachusetts market, which signed on the air on September 26, 1971. That station utlilizes its own separate on-air branding and a similar logo to WGBH and is run separately from the Boston operations of WGBH television and radio and WGBX-TV. Its digital channel carries similar programming to WGBX.
The internet is WGBH's "third platform" - all radio and television programs have web components that are available at wgbh.org. There are also "web-only" productions:
- Free web public lecture videos and podcasts in partnership with Boston's leading cultural and educational organizations
- WGBH Podcasts - wgbh.org/podcasts
- WGBH Media Library and Archives - openvault.wgbh.org
Notable television programs produced by WGBH
- 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs (January 24–25, 1999; PBS)
- Africans in America (1998–1999; PBS)
- America's Ballroom Challenge
- American Experience (1988–present; PBS)
- Andre's Mother
- Antiques Roadshow (U.S.) (1997–present; PBS)
- Antiques Roadshow FYI
- Arthur (1996–present; PBS)
- Ask This Old House
- The Art of Logos
- Basic Black
- Beat the Press, a weekly program of media criticism airing Friday evenings, hosted by Emily Rooney
- Camera Three
- Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (2002; PBS)
- Conspiracy of Kindness (2005; PBS)
- Culture Shock (2000; PBS)
- Curious George, animated series (2006–present; PBS) co-production with Universal Studios
- Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish
- Discover: The World of Science
- Discovering Psychology
- Endgame: Ethics and Values in America (2002; PBS, produced with Scott Goldstein Productions)
- Evening at Pops (1970–2005; PBS)
- Evolution (2001; PBS, produced with Clear Blue Sky Productions, Inc.)
- French in Action
- The French Chef
- The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship
- Greater Boston, a public affairs program on issues of local interest, airing Monday-Thursday on WGBH-TV and repeated later on WGBX-TV, hosted by Jim Braude
- Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie
- Lidia's Italy (from 2009)
- Long Ago & Far Away
- MIT Science Reporter
- Martha Speaks (2008–present; PBS)
- Masterpiece (formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre; 1971–present, PBS)
- Mill Times (2002; PBS)
- Misunderstood Minds (2002; PBS)
- NOVA (1974–present; PBS)
- NOVA scienceNOW
- Neighborhood Kitchens (2011–present, season two currently in production, created, written, directed and series produced by Patricia Alvarado Nuñez
- Old Settler (2001–2004; PBS)
- PBS Millennium 2000
- People's Century (with the BBC - 1995, April 19, 1998 – July 5, 1999; PBS)
- Plum Landing (2014–present; PBS)
- Rebop (PBS)
- Skinwalkers (PBS)
- Simply Ming
- The Ten O'Clock News
- This Old House (1979–present; PBS)
- The New Yankee Workshop
- They Made America (2004; PBS)
- The Scarlet Letter
- The Victory Garden (1975–2010; PBS)
- War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
- The Western Tradition
- ZOOM (70s and late 90s; PBS)
List of kids programs produced by WGBH
- All About You (1974; produced for the Agency for Instructional Television)
- Arthur (1996–present; PBS, produced with Cookie Jar Group seasons 1-15 (seasons 1-8 as CINAR, seasons 9-15 as Cookie Jar Entertainment), seasons 16-19 with 9 Story Media Group, seasons 20-present with Oasis Animation)
- Between the Lions (2000-2010; with Sirius Thinking Ltd. and Mississippi Public Broadcasting)
- Curious George (2006-2015; with Imagine Entertainment and Universal Animation Studios)
- Design Squad (2007-2009; with PBS Kids GO!)
- Don't Look Now (1983; PBS; short-lived clone of You Can't Do That on Television by the same producers)
- FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman (2006-2011)
- Martha Speaks (2008-2014; co-produced with DHX Media seasons 1-4, seasons 5 and 6 with Oasis Animation)
- Peep and the Big Wide World (2004–2011; co-produced with 9 Story Media Group)
- Postcards from Buster (2004–2008, 2012; produced with Marc Brown Studios and Cookie Jar Group)
- Rebop (1976–1979)
- Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego (in partnership with WQED in Pittsburgh)
- Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego (in partnership with WQED in Pittsburgh)
- ZOOM (1972–1978), (1999–2006); PBS)
- - Public radio's first podcast directed and produced by Tony Kahn for WGBH 89.7 and WGBH.org.
- The Scrum
- Security Mom
Notable people who have appeared regularly in WGBH productions
- Julia Child, "The French Chef"
- Robert J. Lurtsema known as "Lurtz" NOVA
- James Underwood Crockett, "The Victory Garden"
- Bob Vila, "This Old House"
- Alistair Cooke, "Masterpiece Theatre"
- Russell Baker, "Masterpiece Theatre"
- Will Lyman, "Frontline" narrator and announcer
- In 1984-1990, NewsHour's Judy Woodruff was the host from season 2 onwards.
- Gene Shalit, "Mystery!"
- Vincent Price, "Mystery!"
- Diana Rigg, "Mystery!"
- Robert Krulwich, "NOVA ScienceNOW"
- Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, "NOVA ScienceNOW"
- Christopher Lydon, "The Ten O'Clock News"
- Michael Kolowich, "The Ten O'Clock News"
- Steve Curwood, "The Ten O'Clock News"
- Meg Vaillancourt, "The Ten O'Clock News"
- Dodge Morgan, "Adventure"
- Emily Rooney, Greater Boston and Beat The Press
- Currently, Jim Braude is hosting the weeknight program, along with the noon radio program BPR.
- Thomas J. MacDonald, Rough Cut - Woodworking with Tommy Mac
- Michael Dukakis, The Advocates
- Roger Fisher, The Advocates
- William A. Rusher, The Advocates
- Elliot Norton, Elliot Norton Reviews
- Bud Collins, Tennis: US Pro; National Doubles
- Norm Abram, "New Yankee Workshop"
WGBH alumni maintain a website where stories and photographs can be shared. Occasional reunions are held, including ones in 2000 and 2006.