About

WVIA History


1963 - Pennsylvania’s Superintendent of Public Instruction asked Northeast Pennsylvania educators and commercial broadcasters to discuss the idea of starting an instructional television station for schools and colleges in the region.

Thirty regional leaders attend a meeting. Ten years before, a meeting very similar in purpose to the one in 1963 was held to discuss the possibilities of television being used in schools for instruction. Some of those same people were present once again in 1963. The idea now seemed possible and the foundation of WVIA was laid.

1965 - The station’s first employee, George H. Strimel, Jr., is hired part-time. He came from the Bucknell University faculty and is given two years to get the station in operation.

1966 - With financial support from the public and loaned equipment from three local commercial television stations WVIA Channel 44 is ready. On Monday, September 26th, just four days after the completion of the transmitter site, at 6:39 PM, WVIA hit local airwaves. The first sound heard is the national anthem, and the first sight is a fluttering American flag. Before the first program could hit television sets all over the area, this message appeared on the TV screen: “DO NOT ADJUST YOUR RECEIVER. . . . WE ARE HAVING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES.”

The premiere show on WVIA was a WVIA production entitled “All about Us.” It described what the station was ‘all about.’ It was followed by “Humanities,” a NET program (NET stood for the National Educational Television Network, the predecessor of PBS).

Four days later the station began formal instructional television programming (ITV). ITV was the original idea behind WVIA, designed by teachers to be used as resource in the classroom.

The station was administered from two Sunday school rooms in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre. The station’s budget for the first year was $110,000. All program tapes were received by mail and driven to the transmitter site in Mountaintop in order to be aired.

1967 - The station is growing and needs more office space. It now has 11 full time employees. The station moved its location to office space provided by King’s College; still all technical operations and program origination were run from the transmitter site.

1968 - Ground is broken for the new communication wing at Marywood College. It would become the home of WVIA when completed, and is built to WVIA’s specifications.

1969 - September was WVIA’s Third Anniversary. A celebration was held at the lacrosse field on the Marywood College campus.

December 1st the new communications wing at Marywood is completed, and WVIA takes occupancy. Offices are moved from the basement of the Robert Morris Grade School in Scranton to Marywood. WVIA has its own studio for the first time in its history.

1970 - WVIA receives a grant from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare to construct a network of signal repeater stations nine translators to improve and increase WVIA’s reception in outlying areas. Four are completed in Wayne and Susquehanna counties by the end of 1970.

“Auction 44” becomes a permanent part of fund raising for WVIA. The first auction was held in the Marywood College field house, raising a little over $20,000.

Crisis strikes WVIA and all public television stations in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Public Television Network shuts down, due to lack of funding, taking along with it much of the station’s programming, and that of the other public stations in Pennsylvania. Not for the last time, political opposition to PBS would be at the root of this struggle.

1971 - WVIA’s search for its own home nears completion and is narrowed down to two sites, one near Dupont and the other in Jenkins Township. The location in Jenkins Township was chosen for its central location to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area. Thus the station becomes NEPA’s first to locate midway between the two cities, an increasing advantage as regionalization becomes a priority. The site is located off route 315, 300 feet south of Old Boston Road, and was purchased for $27,000.

Building plans were drawn to contain one TV studio, a radio control room and studio, a news room, general offices, facilities for production, engineering, art and set design, printing, property and storage. A meeting room for volunteers and community groups was also included. The building would also accommodate tours of the station so groups could view all aspects of its operation through large windows and without disturbing operations.

Auction 44 is moved to the Erie Lackawanna Station in Scranton.

1972 - Tragedy strikes the WVIA viewing area. Hurricane Agnes devastates the flooded Wyoming Valley. WBRE-TV is forced from their studios in Wilkes-Barre due to rising waters, and WVIA makes its equipment available so it can stay on the air. After the flood, WVIA programming concentrates on recovery efforts, airing information on benefits and rehabilitation services available to area residents. The governor, congressmen, health officials appear on WVIA dispensing information on recovery.

November 20th, WVIA’s new permanent home is completed and ready to be occupied. For the first time in WVIA’s history, all of its operations are located under one roof with the exception of the transmitter.

1973 - March 24th, WVIA’s new home is dedicated with a formal ceremony. Several local and national celebrities turn out for the dedication followed by an open house. The new facility is named The Public Broadcasting Center.

WVIA is now airing America’s most unusual programs, well beyond the standard fare of PBS. President and General Manager George Strimel is either a visionary or maverick, depending on viewers’ tastes and expectations. Record numbers are tuning in for old western movies and serials and long off-network syndicated shows like the Honeymooners.

WVIA begins a work release program with Chase Correctional Facility to provide experience and training for inmates in the communications field. The program was an overwhelming success for both the station and the inmates. Its story is featured in TV GUIDE.

1974 - Plans are finalized for the construction of a new television transmitter tower for WVIA. The new tower was funded by a $400,000 grant from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. At the completion of the project funded by the federal government, WVIA had a network of 11 translators and could be viewed in 22 counties.

1975 - “FESTIVAL 75”, an eleven-day TV membership campaign is held by WVIA after the station’s fundraising team attends a Chicago workshop funded by the Ford Foundation. Breakthrough fundraising techniques are taught and many PBS stations reject them. WVIA’s campaign is an unprecedented success, raising over $135,000, ten times what had been achieved prior. WVIA becomes a model for other public stations across the nation when it receives the single national award for “Festival ‘75” from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

1976 - WVIA reaches out to cable television operators in outlying areas not carrying the station. Approaching them with persuasion rather than lawyers increases the station’s viewership by 250,000 people. WVIA is given the single national “Audience Building” award by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

WVIA celebrated its Tenth Anniversary with an Open House at the station. Over 5,000 people attend.

1978 - In June, WVIA becomes Northeast Pennsylvania’s first satellite interconnect television station. PBS is also the first network in America to distribute programs via satellite.1980 - George H. Strimel, the man who laid the foundation of WVIA, and led it for fourteen years, resigns to enter cable television. He is replaced by Dr. John Walsh, former administrator at Marywood College in Scranton.

1984 - Grants from the Pennsylvania Public Television Network allow WVIA to produce its own television specials. From 1984 until 1990, WVIA produces 32 specials, many of them recognized and aired nationally … “Aids in Rural America,” receives both an Emmy and an IRIS award; “Minors: Heading for Home,” is nominated for an IRIS; “Mark Russell at Bucknell” earns an IRIS Award nomination; “Little League Baseball: Fifty Years of Dreams,” is nominated for an Emmy July 1991.

1985 - WVIA reaches its’ highest viewing audience in its history. With old movies and syndicated TV programs initiated by former WVIA President Strimel, the station is rated among the top ten most-watched public stations in the nation. The next several years would experience similar leadership in audience.

1991- Jack Walsh retires and the WVIA Board of Directors elects as President and CEO Bill Kelly, then a twenty-year veteran of public broadcasting.

1992 – PBS financially requires WVIA TV to transition to a full-time network affiliate – the station drops heavy schedule of old movies and syndicated off-network 1950’s TV series.

1993 – Multi-year emphasis on development of local TV and FM programming begins. “State of Pennsylvania” series premieres with former Pa. Governor Bill Scranton.

1994 – WVIA Documentary on New York Times’ James “Scotty” Reston carried nationally on PBS.

WVIA’s production of The Bucknell Candlelight Service carried across USA.

1995 – Major threat to public broadcasting funding is averted in Congress through public outcry. WVIA nationally acknowledged for our role in rallying support at home and in Washington.

1996 - WVIA TV acquires remote television vehicles and begins “on-site” regional TV programs. Average fifteen telecasts annually from outside our studios.

1997 - WVIA nationally recognized for Distance Learning Project, bridging our staff directly to students as far away as California to discuss careers in media.

New Sunbury, Bethlehem and Pottsville WVIA-FM translators increase audience.

Concern mounts about FCC mandate for all USA television stations to become digital, high-definition; experts say it could take 15-20 years and cost each station 5-10 million.

1998 – WVIA hosts demonstration of HDTV for the public.

PBS President Ervin Duggan visits WVIA.

WVIA leads in regional political programs; six candidates interviewed for an hour each.
 The stations’ first annual “Great Teachers” competition begins.

1999 - WVIA produces 100th anniversary documentary on Pennsylvania Society.

Pa. Governor Tom Ridge rallies around funding digital technology for state’s PBS stations. WVIA and seven others receive 1.5 million each to enable first stage HDTV conversion.

2000 - WVIA applies to the FCC for Northeast Pennsylvania’s first HDTV broadcast license.

2001 - January 1, 2001 WVIA DT (digital television) Channel-41 is on the air and becomes Northeast Pennsylvania’s 1st and only HDTV station.

WVYA-FM, Williamsport opens new broadcast studios in Williamsport’s Community Arts Center.

2002 - Television documentaries and local programming increase as WVIA recognizes the whittling away of PBS’ historic niche programming through proliferation of cable and satellite channels. Strategic differentiation will be best achieved by regionalism, not just for WVIA, but all television stations.

2003 – “Multi-casting begins. Through digital technology, WVIA digital channel 41 becomes three separate, simultaneous television stations. We are now Channels 41-1, 41-2, and 41-3.

2004 - First “Great Pennsylvanian” Documentary, six months in the making, is premiered at Scranton Cultural Center. Former Governor Bill Scranton’s life is celebrated as a model of citizenship and service.

2005 – “Great Pennsylvanian” Federal Judge Max Rosenn of Kingston, 95 years young, is honored with documentary premiere at Wilkes University for a lifetime of service and integrity.

Mainesburg (Mansfield) WVIA FM translator increases audience.

2006 – Monsignor Andrew McGowan is honored posthumously at Marywood College with the third annual WVIA “Great Pennsylvanian” documentary project.

Our first HDTV documentary, “Expedition Susquehanna” premieres in Lewisburg, Pa. WVIA now the only regional television station making local programs in HDTV.

2007 - “Great Pennsylvanian” and founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Barbara Weisberger of Kingston honored with a premiere at Wyoming Seminary.

Wellsboro WVIA-FM translator increases audience.

The WVIA Public Media Studios are completely converted to HDTV, a massive technology project costing millions of dollars, all raised through competitive grants and capital campaign gifts. By September, 2007 all of our studio-based local programs originate in national-quality HDTV.

2008- The fifth “Great Pennsylvanian” Documentary, "Judge William J. Nealon: At the Heart of it All" premiered to a capacity crowd at the Scranton Cultural Center.

2009 - On September 30th, the WVIA High-Definition Theatre Studio is named for Andrew J. Sordoni III in recognition of his decades as trustee, mentor and benefactor.

On November 3rd, the sixth “Great Pennsylvanian” Documentary, "Dr. Joseph Mattioli: Always Moving Forward," premiered on television and to a full theater in the Keystone Room on the campus of East Stroudsburg University.

2010 – The state budget crisis results in total elimination of funding for Pennsylvania PBS stations after forty years of grants. Our audiences react in an unprecedented outpouring of financial support, which tied to serious cutbacks in expenses results in a surplus of revenues.

2011 - Chiaroscuro Records of New York, a collection of some 200 masters, equally divided between studio recordings and live concerts, many of which were presented on the legendary ocean liners S/S Norway and Queen Elizabeth 2, during the Floating Jazz Festival are gifted to WVIA.

2012 - Using its digital radio signal WVIA-FM HD3, WVIA launches The Chiaroscuro Channel dedicated to the fine jazz recording of Chiaroscuro Records. Jazz fans throughout northeast Pa listen to the station by using HD radios, while fans from around the world listen via an online player or mobile apps on Apple and Android products.

On September 22nd, WVIA won 2 Emmy® Awards during the 30th Annual Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Awards in Philadelphia. The WVIA-TV programs honored were the "2011 Little League® Challenger Exhibition Game" and the WVIA Original Documentary Film, "Remembering the Scranton Sirens".

On December 5th, WVIA-FM signs-on its newest transmitter 91.5 FM to increase its audience in the Hawley-Blooming Grove-Lords Valley & Lake Wallenpaupack areas.

2013 - On June 13th, the WVIA Board of Directors approved a 3-year plan, where Tom Currá was elected WVIA’s fourth President and Chief Executive Officer and assumes overall management responsibility. Billy Kelly was then elected President Emeritus and Chief Development Officer and remains active as consultant and on-air producer/host while concentrating on building the WVIA Endowment.

2014 - In January, WVIA conducts its first market research project with Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. to help determine what the region's exception of WVIA Public Media.  

In March, WVIA creates and implements a model for community and regional engagement.

On July 22nd, WVIA and The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development partner to address regional challenges and improve quality of life.

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