WGBH-TV, virtual channel 2 (VHF digital channel 5), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It is the flagship property of the WGBH Educational Foundation, which also owns fellow PBS members WGBX-TV (channel 44) in Boston and WGBY-TV (channel 57) in Springfield, Massachusetts, Class A Biz TV affiliate WFXZ-CD (channel 24) and public radio stations WGBH (89.7 FM) and WCRB (99.5 FM) in the Boston area, and WCAI radio (and satellites WZAI and WNAN) on Cape Cod. WGBH-TV also effectively serves as one of two flagship stations of PBS, along with WNET in New York City. WGBH-TV, WGBX-TV, and the WGBH and WCRB radio stations share studios on Guest Street in northwest Boston's Brighton neighborhood; WGBH-TV's transmitter is located on Cabot Street (East of I-95/MA 128) in Needham, Massachusetts, on the former candelabra tower, which serves as an interim main and backup for sister station WGBX-TV as well as WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV, WBTS-CD (which itself shares spectrum with WGBX) and WSBK-TV.

Boston, Massachusetts
United States
BrandingWGBH 2 (general)
WGBH Boston (national productions)
SloganThe Power of Public Media
ChannelsDigital: 5 (VHF)
(shared with WFXZ-CD)
Virtual: 2 (PSIP)
Affiliations2.1/44.1: PBS
OwnerWGBH Educational Foundation
First air dateMay 2, 1955 (1955-05-02)
Call letters' meaningW Great Blue Hill
(original location of transmitter)
Sister station(s)TV: WFXZ-CD, WGBX-TV, WGBY-TV
Former channel number(s)Analog:
2 (VHF, 1955–2009)
19 (UHF, 2002–2019)
Former affiliationsNET (1955–1970)
Transmitter power6.7 kW
34 kW (application)
Height362.7 m (1,190 ft)
Facility ID72099
Transmitter coordinates42°18′10.7″N 71°13′4.9″W
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile

Under an agreement with Shaw Broadcast Services, WGBH-TV operates a satellite uplink facility at the station's Needham transmitter site. The facility relays the signals of WGBH-TV and four other Boston-area television stations (CBS owned-and-operated station WBZ-TV, ABC affiliate WCVB, NBC owned-and-operated station WBTS-CD, and Fox affiliate WFXT) to cable and satellite television providers across Atlantic Canada, and also relays the signal of MyNetworkTV affiliate WSBK to pay television providers throughout 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.


The WGBH Educational Foundation received its first broadcast license for radio in April 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 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, after some setbacks and the cancellation of the construction permit license, 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] It is also thought by legend that Raytheon pushed quietly for the FCC to assign WGBH the channel 2 license after it was unable to utilize it.

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. The first program to air on the station was Come and See, a children's program hosted by Tony Saletan and Mary Lou Adams, which was filmed at Tufts Nursery Training School.[2] 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; for its first few years on the air, channel 2 only broadcast on Monday through Fridays between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m. It was originally based out of studio facilities located at 84 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts (since 1965, home to MIT's Stratton Student Center) on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which was originally a roller skating rink. 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).

In 1957, Hartford N. Gunn Jr. was appointed general manager of WGBH; he would later earn the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Ralph Lowell Award for his achievements in programming development.[3] Under Gunn, who resigned in February 1970 to become president of PBS, WGBH made significant investments in technology and programming to improve the station's profile and set out to make it a producer of public television programming. That February, WGBH expanded its programming to weekends for the first time, adding a four-hour schedule on Sunday afternoons from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. (its sign-on time on Sundays was later extended to 11:00 a.m. that May). In March 1958, channel 2 began offering academic instructional television programs, with the debut of eight weekly science programs aimed at students in the sixth grade, which were televised “in some 48 separate school systems in and around the Boston area.” In November of that year, the station installed a new full-power transmitter donated by Westinghouse, which increased channel 2's transmitting power to 100,000 watts.[2]

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 television stations in the Boston area and southern New Hampshire. WGBH-TV maintained a splintered operation, basing its master control operations at Newman Catholic Center at Boston University, production facilities (for which it was reserved to use late nights and on weekends) at the studios of then CBS affiliate WHDH-TV (channel 5, now defunct; allocation as of March, 1972 operated by ABC affiliate WCVB-TV) on Morrissey Boulevard in Boston's Dorchester section, and its film and tape library (including those which were salvaged from the fire) was housed at the studios of fellow NET station WENH-TV (channel 11) in Durham, New Hampshire.[4][5] WGBH was only off the air for one day after the fire.

Several area universities also chipped in to temporarily house other operations displaced by the fire: WGBH's scenic department was relocated to Northeastern University, its arts department was set up on the Boston University campus, and programming and production offices were based in Cambridge's Kendall Square neighborhood. WHDH, NBC affiliate WBZ-TV (channel 4, as of January, 1995 a CBS owned-and-operated station) and ABC affiliate WNAC-TV (channel 7, now defunct; allocation now occupied by independent station WHDH) also provided technical and production assistance to the WGBH television and radio stations until a permanent facility was built to reintegrate the stations' operations.[2][6] 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[7]).

On June 18, 1966, WGBH-TV relocated its transmitter to a broadcast tower in Needham, Massachusetts (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.

On the night of April 5, 1968, WGBH-TV (at roughly hours' notice) broadcast a James Brown concert from the Boston Garden, the night after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Boston Mayor Kevin White, who was worried that the concert would set off a riot, and certain that cancellation would be worse, contacted WGBH to air the concert on TV, and told the public to stay home and watch, helping prevent boycotts in the region. The concert would later be seen numerous times in the following days, helping the Boston area stay in peace.

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.

On October 31, 2003, WGBH launched Boston Kids & Family TV, a PBS Kids Channel-affiliated local cable service that was developed in partnership with the City of Boston. Available to Comcast and RCN subscribers, the service took over channel space previously occupied by one of the city's cable access channels, which carried a mix of public affairs programs, footage of city-sponsored events, and mayoral press conferences (some of the aforementioned content was moved to the city-managed Educational Channel). Boston Kids & Family carried a mix of children's programs produced by WGBH and other distributors—which were scheduled to avoid simulcasts with WGBH-TV or WGBX-TV—daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and a repeating block of telecourse programs aimed at adults from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.[8][9] The channel 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).[10] After PBS Kids ceased network operations, Boston Kids & Family was replaced by The Municipal Channel, which carried much of the programming offered by the service prior to the WGBH partnership.

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.[11] 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, which the university had donated to WGBH for use to construct the Western Avenue facility in 1962 at a value of $250,000.[12] 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-foot (9.1 m × 13.7 m) "digital mural" LED screen, which displays a different image each day to commuters on the passing Massachusetts Turnpike.[13] 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.[14][15] The old Western Avenue studios were renovated by Harvard University in 2011 to house the Harvard Innovation Lab.[16]

WGBH-TV has been digital-only since June 12, 2009.[17][18]

WGBH-TV is best known for the synthesized sounder it uses at the beginning and end of programs it produces for PBS, created by Gershon Kingsley. It has been used in one form or another since 1971, and since 1977 has been accompanied by an animated version of the station's logo. Originally ten seconds long, it has been shortened to three seconds in recent years. Starting in late 2016, WGBH used a version of a logo with a techno remix at the end of children's programming. Previously, either a modified version of the normal logo (where the logo would glow blue instead) or the normal logo was used at the end of children's programming.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed. Note that due to WGBX's channel share agreement with NBC's WBTS-CD, WGBH instead carries the high definition feed identified as channel 44.1:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[19]
2.11080i16:9WGBH-HDMain WGBH programming / PBS
44.1WGBX-HDHD broadcast of WGBX-TV

In 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".[20][21][22]


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").[23] 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 2005, which offered 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. WGBH decommissioned the DT3 feed in 2010.

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;[24] 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."[25] The station also consigned to move its digital allocation to a low-band VHF channel; the FCC assigned VHF channel 5 (the former analog channel allocation of WCVB-TV) as the post-repack digital allocation to which WGBH was reassigned once the repacking of auction and repack participant stations were occurred on August 2, 2019. WGBH-TV's post repack facility on VHF 5 is locating at the nearby American Tower owned facility on Cabot Street, also in Needham.[26]

Television stations


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.


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. The translator's license and callsign were deleted by the FCC in 2004.[27]

Media Access Group

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 through the Media Access Group, a non-profit organization that was founded by the WGBH Educational Foundation in 1990. The unit originated with the founding of The Caption Center in 1972, which invented the method of closed captioning to improve access to television programs for the hearing impaired (The French Chef was the first program to offer captioning provided by the unit), 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. 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 wgbh.org. The WGBH website also incorporates "web-only" productions:

  • WGBH Forum Network – a service offering free online public lecture videos and podcasts, produced in partnership with Boston's leading cultural and educational organizations
  • WGBH Podcasts – available at wgbh.org/podcasts, the service provides exclusive podcasts as well as podcasts related to WGBH original productions (such as Morning Stories], produced for WGBH radio and WGBH.org, The Scrum and Security Mom) available for mobile download
  • WGBH Media Library and Archives – available at openvault.wgbh.org, the site features archived WGBH program content.
  • FFFBI (The Fin, Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation) – an interactive website aimed at children that was developed through a partnership with National Geographic; the site features interactive games themed in the style of a detective story that are designed to help children learn science and engineering principles.
  • PBS LearningMedia – a partnership with PBS, which provides digital content and solutions for use in grade school instruction.
  • The WGBH Lab – a partnership with the World network, which incorporates featured content produced by independent and public media filmmakers.
  • Engineer Your Life – a partnership with the National Science Foundation, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. and the United Engineering Foundation, featuring stories and vocational information about careers in the engineering field, aimed at high school girls ages 14 to 17.


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.

Original productions

For the better part of its history, WGBH-TV has been a major producer of programming for PBS and its predecessor, NET. Channel 2 produces more than two-thirds of the programs that PBS distributes nationally to its member stations. Among them are longstanding PBS mainstays 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 (a pioneering cooking show 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 conjunction 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:

  • Nam June Paik's wild morphing of the television image, and antic adventures in narrative story-telling (What's Happening, Mr. Silver?, Nine Heroes)
  • Ron Hayes' use of slit-scan imagery inspired by the yearning, driving themes of Wagner's Liebestod
  • The two-screen color stereo dance program CITY/motion/space/game.
  • Arts series produced in collaboration with Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (Museum Open House, Images, Eye-to-Eye) set the bar for the medium and were a major contributing force in "video art".
  • The Workshop for New Television developed works in dance (Dan Wagoner's George's House) and in drama (Mary Feldhaus-Weber's RED, BLUE, GOLD).

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. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  2. "WGBH Timeline (1946-1978)". WGBH Educational Foundation. January 1, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  3. "Ralph Lowell Award". Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  4. "Fire Ravages WGBH" (PDF). The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. October 18, 1961. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  5. "The 1961 WGBH Fire". WGBH-TV. WGBH Educational Foundation. January 1, 2007.
  6. "Friends in Need (1962)". The Boston Globe. April 29, 1962. Retrieved January 1, 2007 via WGBH-TV.
  7. "Address Song". PBS Kids. Public Broadcasting Service. 1998. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  8. Suzanne C. Ryan (October 31, 2003). "City revives kids' PBS channel". The Boston Globe. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  9. Jeremy Egner (April 3, 2006). "World and Go! streams flow into PBS plans". Current. Current LLC. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  10. Katy June-Friesen (January 12, 2009). "Many stations packaging their own kids' channels". Current. Current LLC. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  11. "WGBH Headquarters". Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  12. Bruce L. Paisner (August 9, 1962). "Harvard Gives WGBH Land For New Studio". The Crimson. Harvard University. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  13. "About our digital mural". WGBH-TV. WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  14. Clea Simon (April 5, 2007). "'GBH celebrates memories of Western Ave. studio". The Boston Globe. The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 20, 2017. (subscription required)
  15. Mark Favermann (December 31, 2007). "WGBH's New Headquarters Building". Berkshire Fine Arts. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  16. "Harvard Innovation Lab Opens". Harvard Business School (Press release). Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  17. "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.
  19. "RabbitEars TV Query for WGBH". RabbitEars. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  20. "Mobile DTV Query for WGBH". RabbitEars. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  21. "Mobile DTV Station Guide". MDTVSignalMap.com. Archived from the original on October 17, 2016. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  22. "Mobile TV takes three steps forward in Asia, North America, one step back in Europe". Broadcast Engineering. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  23. "Knight Foundation backs launch planning for PBS's Public Square". Current. Current LLC. December 19, 2005. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  24. "FCC Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction: Auction 1001: Winning Bids" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. April 13, 2017.
  25. 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.
  26. "FCCInfo Results". www.fccinfo.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  27. "Call Sign History". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved February 19, 2006.
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