Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: November 7, 2017

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law.

On November 7, 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, paving the way for the establishment of PBS and NPR and a federal funding nonprofit called the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Johnson spoke of the potential of public broadcasting to satisfy “America’s appetite for excellence” and “enrich man’s spirit.” Five decades later, that vision continues to guide our work. Our country would be greatly diminished without public media in our lives.

Of course, public broadcasting was actually born nearly a century ago with intrepid educational radio stations like WOSU in Columbus, which went on the air with regular programming in 1920.

By 1967, WOSU had two radio stations and a new TV station and Ohio State was being overrun by a rapidly growing post World War II student population.

Some innovative folks decided that televising courses from videotape or direct from WOSU studios into classrooms across campus would ease the pressure on faculty.

By 1967, some 16 courses were being taught by television linking 31 classrooms and reaching 23,000 students with mostly introductory courses like remedial Math, but also zoology, medical and dental courses.

While the system started with over the air broadcasts, it evolved into a sophisticated closed-circuit TV system. WOSU staffers say they had as many as 13 videotape machines running at the same time to feed classrooms.

Both faculty and students soon found that strategically using television in the classroom was a much better option than teaching entire courses by TV, but WOSU filled an important role for over a decade as the university coped with its overwhelming student growth.

The Public Broadcasting  Act of 1967 led to education television in the classroom.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 led to education television in the classroom.