Who Knew? Back in 1954, CET became the first public television station in the U.S.

CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is home to many fascinating facts, offbeat oddities, and "I did not know that" moments. With that in mind, WCPO asks, "Who Knew?"

WHAT IS IT? WCET was the first licensed public television station in the U.S.
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? 1223 Central Parkway, Cincinnati (West End)
WHO KNEW? Sue Brinson, CET communications manager

Celebrated for its storied broadcast history, Cincinnati is home to more than great commercial radio and television achievements; it also established the first licensed public television station in the United States.

We asked Sue Brinson, communications manager for CET, to explain this little-known story about the PBS affiliate that spread educational television nationwide.


Tell us about the early days of WCET.

In July 1954, CET went on the air with approximately 11 hours of live and four hours of filmed programming per week. At that time, there were 500 television sets in Cincinnati that could receive CET’s UHF (ultra-high frequency) signal.

What did WCET have to do to obtain the first license?

CET went on the air July 26, 1954. The Greater Cincinnati Educational Foundation applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a non-commercial television license the following year. The license was granted on March 11, 1955.

How was public television received in Cincinnati?

No rating information is available for the early days, but CET has increased its broadcast hours and viewers over the years. CET’s audience today has grown to 150,000 viewers each day and can be seen in three states (Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana). CET offers three program services CET, CETCreate and CET Arts.

What made WCET different from other television programming?

In 1954 CET’s first programs included cultural, public affairs, tele-course and direct teaching. Today we continue to inform, educate and engage through PBS programming along with our locally produced offerings. In addition to award-winning programming we produce tools for teachers including multi-media curriculums for schools with on-air, online and in-classroom resources.

In July 1954, WCET began broadcasting it's first show, "Tel-A-Story," from its home in Cincinnati's historic Music Hall. The show included news, information and entertainment.

How did WCET change as television evolved?

We’ve grown with technology and on many occasions have been the first broadcasters to adopt and test new equipment, delivery systems and ideas. In 2006 CET unveiled CETconnect.org, the first community-based public television station internet service featuring on-demand video in seven categories.

CET began with a program schedule of locally produced educational, cultural and informational programs – a tradition that continues today. Although much of our programming comes from PBS, we remain a community-based broadcaster and educational resource provider.

Connect with WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 and check out her blog CincyWhimsy.com

Check back next week for another edition of "Who Knew?" If you have a tip, idea or question email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

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