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Eight, Arizona PBS celebrates 50 years

January 31, 2011

Before Big Bird and Elmo walked onto Sesame Street – even before there was a public broadcasting service – Eight, Arizona PBS signed on from a small trailer on the campus of Arizona State University.

The date was Jan. 30, 1961. The fledging station’s very first broadcast day included a Community Bulletin Board, an audio-visual telecourse, two children’s programs (Magic Doorways and Young World), the evening newscast, a film on television, and a film on the scientific method. The staff totaled five, and the broadcast hours were from 4 p.m. to 
9:30 p.m. The transmitter signal reached homes only in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

In 1967, Congress gave its mandate to the newly created Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its imprimatur for annual federal appropriations. Eight continued to develop its own productions. (The station was honored with its first Emmy Award for 400 hours of local programming in 1964.) And viewers soon began to enjoy PBS’ signature programs.

"Washington Week in Review" debuted in 1967. "Evening at Pops’" first broadcast was in 1970. A new drama series called "Masterpiece Theatre" began in 1971, and Eight had its highest audience to date with “Upstairs, Downstairs.” 

In 1975, viewers saw "The Ascent of Man," "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" and the first National Geographic Special "The Incredible Machine."

Today, the broadcast schedule features PBS shows such as: "Nova," "Nature," "Great Performances," "Sesame Street," "Live from Lincoln Center," "Austin City Limits," "Frontline," "Antiques Roadshow," "PBS NewsHour," and so many more.

(Eight, Arizona PBS wants to hear from 'viewers like you' – share your favorite public television memory.)

As Eight prepares to celebrate the station’s 50th anniversary, local productions also are hitting milestones. (Follow Eight's journey with a timeline of milestones over the last 50 years.) "HORIZON," now a program of record for the state’s decision-makers, will mark its 30th year in 2011. For "HORIZONTE," the public affairs program that offers a Hispanic perspective on Arizona issues, it will be eight years of broadcasting. And the "Arizona Collection," the series that has become a video anthology of Arizona's history, completes two decades of production in 2011.

Now after a half-century, Eight is one of the most watched PBS stations per capita in the country. The content is available on multiple channels and streamed online.

“Over the course of five decades, Eight, Arizona PBS, has become a resource for lifelong learning, provided a platform for information and ideas, a gateway to culture and the arts, and a place to share the adventure of learning with curious young minds,” said Kelly McCullough, general manager of Eight.

Media contact:
Susan Soto
Eight, Arizona PBS