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WGBH-TV, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 19), is a PBS member television station located in Boston, Massachusetts. The station is owned by the WGBH Educational Foundation, which also owns fellow PBS stations WGBX-TV (channel 44) in Boston and WGBY-TV (channel 57) in Springfield, Massachusetts, and public radio stations WGBH (89.7 FM) and WCRB (00.0 FM) in the Boston area, and WCAI (00.0 FM) (and satellites WZAI and WNAN) in Cape Cod. WGBH maintains studio facilities (which it shares with WGBX and the WGBH and WCRB radio stations) located on Guest and Market Streets in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, and its transmitter is located in Needham.

Under an agreement with Shaw Broadcast Services, WGBH operates a satellite uplink facility at the station's Needham transmitter site. The facility relays the signals of WGBH and five other Boston-area television stations – CBS owned-and-operated station WBZ-TV (channel 4), ABC affiliate WCVB-TV (channel 5), Fox affiliate WFXT (channel 25), MyNetworkTV affiliate WSBK-TV (channel 38) and NBC affiliate WBTS-LD (channel 65) – to cable and satellite television providers across Canada. As a Canadian company, Shaw is not legally entitled to operate an uplink facility in the United States; as such, the company pays the WGBH Educational Foundation to perform this service on Shaw's behalf.[citation needed]


For more of a history of the Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council, see John Lowell, Jr. (philanthropist).

WGBH Guest Street studios (with "digital mural" LED screen).

The WGBH Educational Foundation received its first broadcast 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. that called for free public lectures for the citizens of Boston. WGBH (89.7 FM) first signed on the air on October 6, 1951, with a live broadcast of a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) originally awarded a construction permit to Waltham-based electronics company Raytheon to build a television station that would transmit on VHF channel 2 in Boston. Raytheon planned to launch a commercial television station using the call letters WRTB-TV (for "Raytheon Television Broadcasting"). However, WRTB never made it on the air, paving the way for the FCC to allocate channel 2 for non-commercial educational use. WGBH subsequently applied for and received a license to operate on that channel. The WGBH Educational Foundation obtained initial start-up funds for WGBH-TV from the Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation.[1]

WGBH-TV first signed on the air at 5:20 p.m. on May 2, 1955, becoming the first public television station in Boston and the first non-commercial television station to sign on in New England. Channel 2 originally served as a member station of the National Educational Television and Radio Center (NETRC), which evolved into National Educational Television (NET) in 1963. It was originally based out of studio facilites located at 84 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge (presently home to the Stratton Student Center) on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 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 that served as the original location of WGBH-TV's transmitter facility 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 studio operations).

Guest Street entrance to the WGBH studios.

During the early morning hours of October 14, 1961, a large fire caused significant damage to the Cambridge studios of WGBH-TV and WGBH radio. Until the WGBH Educational Foundation was able to build a new studio complex to replace the destroyed former building, the two stations arranged to operate from temporary offices and had to produce their local programming from the studio facilities of various commercial television stations in the Boston area.[2] On August 29, 1963, WGBH-TV and WGBH radio both began operating from a new studio facility for the stations that was built at 125 Western Avenue in Boston's Allston neighborhood (the post office box address that the station adopted at that time – P.O. Box 350, Boston, MA 02134 – would become associated with a jingle used on the WGBH-produced children's program, ZOOM, both in its 1970s and late 1990s adaptations, extolling viewers to send in ideas for use on the show).

On June 18, 1966, WGBH-TV relocated its transmitter to a broadcast tower in Needham (which is now operated by the American Tower Corporation), The following year on September 25, 1967, WGBH-TV gained a sister television station in the Boston area, WGBX-TV (channel 44), which has transmitted its signal from the Needham site since the station signed on (WGBX's digital signal on UHF channel 43 shares the master antenna at the very top of the tower with several commercial stations in the market, while WGBH-TV's channel 19 digital transmitter uses a separate antenna at a lower point). The launch of WGBX was one facet of a plan developed by the WGBH Educational Foundation in the late 1960s to operate a network of six non-commercial television stations around Massachusetts. However, these plans never materialized in their intended form; besides WGBX, the only other station that ultimately made it on the air was WGBY (channel 57) in Springfield, which launched in 1971. Three additional WGBH-owned stations were to have launched, all of which were slated to use the "WGB" prefix for their call letters; these included WGBW, which was to broadcast 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.

WGBH newsroom.

In 1970, WGBH-TV became a member station of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which was launched as an independent entity to supersede NET (which itself was integrated into its Newark, New Jersey outlet, WNDT [now WNET], per request by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and assumed many of the functions of its predecessor network. Over time, WGBH became a pioneer in public television, producing many programs that were seen on NET and later, PBS, that either originated at the station's studio facilities or were otherwise produced by channel 2. In 1973, PBS founder Hartford N. Gunn Jr. worked as president and general manager of WGBH; he would later earn the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Ralph Lowell Award for his achievements in programming development.[3]

In 1974, the station introduced its Chermayeff & Geissmar-designed "neon" logo (consisting of either the WGBH call letters or, as seen mainly in promotions and station identifications aired on WGBH-TV, the number "2", rendered in a left and right drop shadow protruding from the text). The logo became iconic for the ident used for WGBH's national shows starting in late 1977, featuring two orange lights tracing an outline of the WGBH logo over a black background, culminating in an orange flash that illuminates the logo. The dark neon lighting and distinctive, jagged electronic audio sounder that accompanied the ID (the latter of which was introduced in 1972) were reported to have frightened younger viewers (indeed, many people who watched the ID card as children have recollected on social media about how they feared it); in light of this, the ID was shortened to the latter part of the animation in 1986, and eventually relegated to appearing only after the closing credits of station-produced PBS programs in 1993, with the sound effect accordingly being shortened to conform to PBS's station identification length standards.

As WGBH's operations grew, the 125 Western Avenue building proved inadequate to facilitate it and its sister stations; 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.[4] 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, which was inaugurated in June 2007. The building spans the block of Market Street from Guest Street to North Beacon Street (1 Guest Street, where the lobby entrance of the new studio building is located, is the building's postal address), with radio studios facing pedestrian traffic on Market Street. The outside of the building carries a 30 by 45 feet (9.1 m × 13.7 m) "digital mural" LED screen, which displays a different image each day to commuters on the passing Massachusetts Turnpike.[5] Television and radio programs continued to be recorded at the Western Avenue studios until the WGBH stations completed the migration of their operations into the new facility in September 2007. The old Western Avenue studios were renovated by Harvard University in 2011 to house the Harvard Innovation Lab.[6]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[7]
2.1 1080i 16:9 WGBH-HD Main WGBH programming / PBS
2.2 480i 4:3 WGBH-SD WGBH World

In early 2010, WGBH-TV became the first television station in the Boston 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".[8][9][10]


WGBH launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 2.2 in December 2005, which initially served as an affiliate of the PBS World news and documentary service (the subchannel was branded as "WGBH World").[11] In 2007, World programming was moved to the 44.2 subchannel of WGBX; WGBH replaced the network with a standard definition simulcast of its analog feed. The station discontinued the SD simulcast of channel 2.1 on April 17, 2012, when WGBH-DT2 re-assumed the local affiliation rights to World, which was simulcast on WGBX-DT2 for several months after the switch, before the former subchannel became its exclusive Boston outlet.


WGBH launched a tertiary subchannel on virtual channel 2.3 in December 2005, which initially served as an affiliate of the PBS Kids Channel.[12] The station intended to affiliate the subchannel with the planned PBS Kids Go! network, which was scheduled to launch in October 2006; however, PBS scuttled plans to launch the Kids Go! network prior to its launch (opting only to launch the brand as an afternoon-only sub-block within PBS's existing children's program lineup).[13] After PBS Kids ceased network operations, WGBH-DT3 began carrying high definition program content separate from that seen on the station's analog signal via the PBS-HD satellite feed; in 2008, the subchannel switched to a high-definition simulcast of the analog signal, with standard-definition programming presented in a windowboxed or letterboxed format.

Analog-to-digital conversion

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 continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 19."DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2017.</ref>[14] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2.

As part of the SAFER Act,[15] WGBH-TV kept its analog signal on the air – albeit operating at a lower power – until it permanently ceased transmissions on July 12, 2009, providing viewer information about the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Spectrum auction repacking

In a list announcing the winning bids for stations which participated in the spectrum incentive auction that was released by the FCC on April 13, 2017, WGBH-TV was disclosed to have agreed to sell a portion of the broadcast spectrum allocated to its UHF channel 19 digital signal for a bid of $161,723,929;[16] in a statement, the station said it would "use the proceeds to expand its educational services to children and students, further its in-depth journalism, and strengthen its modest endowment."[17] The station also consigned to move its digital allocation to a low-band VHF channel; the FCC assigned VHF channel 5 as the post-repack digital allocation to which WGBH would be reassigned once the repacking of auction and repack participant stations occurs in the summer of 2019.

Related services

Television stations


Main article: WGBX-TV

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's schedule focuses on program genres not covered by WGBH-TV. Reruns of programs aired the previous evening on WGBX and WGBH-TV also make up a portion of the station's programming schedule. WGBX also maintains several digital subchannels that rebroadcast programs produced by WGBH and other PBS member stations around the U.S.


Main article: WGBY-TV

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 utilizes a similar logo to WGBH; however, it is run separately from the Boston operations of WGBH television and radio and WGBX-TV. Its digital channel carries similar programming to that featured on WGBX.

Translator station

WGBH formerly operated a low-power translator in Hyannis, W08CH (channel 8), which later ceased operations[when?]. The translator's license and callsign were deleted by the FCC in 2004.[18]

The Media Access Group at WGBH=

WGBH is a leading provider of accessible media services for the deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired for use by commercial and public television producers, and to home video, websites, and movie theaters throughout the United States. The WGBH Educational Foundation operates the Media Access Group (formerly known as The Caption Center until 2007), which invented the method of closed captioning to improve access to television programs for the hearing impaired, and created the Rear Window Captioning System for films. Along with providing closed captions for television programs seen on channel 2 and its sister stations, the Media Access Group is a major captioning provider for programs on other broadcast television networks (with the exception of ABC) and several cable channels. In addition, it also developed the Descriptive Video Service, and is the main provider for audio description soundtracks that give visually impaired viewers details about events occurring on-screen within an individual program, which are commonly found on PBS, and select broadcast networks and cable channels.

Online resources

The internet is WGBH's third platform; all radio and television programs produced by the stations have web components that are available at The WGBH website also incorporates "web-only" productions:


WGBH-TV is a prominent producer of television programs broadcast by PBS, and produces more than two-thirds of the programs that the programming service distributes nationally to its member stations (including shows such as Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece, American Experience, The Victory Garden, and This Old House).

Other notable programs originated by WGBH have included The French Chef (featuring Julia Child), and The Scarlet Letter (a major costume drama miniseries produced on-location that was the first challenger to the British dominance in such programming in America, and was PBS's highest rated series for many years). The station has co-produced many other period dramas in conjuction with British production companies. Broadcasts of concerts by the Boston Symphony established the genre as a staple on television.

WGBH has also engaged in several experiments in programming and technology that have become standard in television, including:

As a PBS member station, much of WGBH-TV's program schedule consists of educational and entertainment programming distributed by PBS to its member stations, including non-WGBH productions such as the PBS NewsHour, the Nightly Business Report, Sesame Street, Peg + Cat and Nature; it also carries programs distributed by American Public Television and other sources to fill its schedule, alongside programs produced for exclusive local broadcast in the Boston market. WGBH features a mix of live-action and animated children's programs produced by the station and other distributors between 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., as well as on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The remainder of its weekday lineup includes a two-hour block of news and travel programs leading into prime time, with documentary, arts and entertainment programs provided by PBS shown Sunday through Fridays during prime time (encores of WGBH national productions typically air on Saturday evenings). Programming on Saturday afternoons focuses heavily on cooking and home improvement how-to shows (at one point, the station's Saturday afternoon lineup was branded as "How 2 Saturday"), while Sunday afternoons focus mainly on travel shows along with some how-to programs.

Notable television programs produced by WGBH

Notable children's programs produced by WGBH

Notable alumni of WGBH productions

WGBH alumni maintain a website where stories and photographs are shared; reunions were held in 2000 and 2006.

See also


  1. ^ Yankl Stillman (September 2004). "Jewish Currents - Edward Filene: Pioneer of Social Responsibility". JewishCurrents.
  2. ^ "Fire Ravages WGBH" (PDF). The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  3. ^ "Ralph Lowell Award". Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  4. ^ "WGBH Headquarters". Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "About our digital mural". WGBH-TV. WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  6. ^ "Harvard Innovation Lab Opens". Harvard Business School (Press release). Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  7. ^ "RabbitEars TV Query for WGBH". RabbitEars. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  8. ^ "Mobile DTV Query for WGBH". RabbitEars. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  9. ^ "Mobile DTV Station Guide". Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  10. ^ "Mobile TV takes three steps forward in Asia, North America, one step back in Europe". Broadcast Engineering. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  11. ^ "Knight Foundation backs launch planning for PBS's Public Square". Current. Current LLC. December 19, 2005. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  12. ^ Jeremy Egner (April 3, 2006). "World and Go! streams flow into PBS plans". Current. Current LLC. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  13. ^ Katy June-Friesen (January 12, 2009). "Many stations packaging their own kids' channels". Current. Current LLC. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  15. ^ "UPDATED List of Participants in the Analog Nightlight Program" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. June 12, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "FCC Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction: Auction 1001: Winning Bids" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. April 13, 2017.
  17. ^ Dan Adams; Shirley Leung (April 13, 2017). "WGBH, WLVI reap huge windfall in sale of broadcast spectrum". The Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Group. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  18. ^ "Call Sign History". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved February 19, 2006.