Half a century ago, Connecticut Public Television wasn't the award-winning TV producer and presenter it is today. It wasn't even "Public Television." It was Connecticut Educational Television.
Located in the basement of Trinity College's library, Channel 24's modest studio had two black-and-white TV cameras. Its videotape machines were as big as a commercial refrigerator and required the constant presence of an engineer to make sure they could record and play back shows. It was on the air only a few hours each day.
But the station's ambitions were great, and ultimately fulfilled. On June 8, CPTV will commemorate its 50-year history with a black-tie gala at the Hartford Marriott.
Originally, Channel 24 was designed to be truly "educational" in the mornings, airing programs such as the locally produced "Science in Industry" to be shown in classrooms. Evenings were devoted to adult-oriented informational and cultural offerings: concerts, travelogues, and local interview shows such as "The Fourth Estate," which featured Connecticut journalists.
Although learning has always been a part of CPTV's agenda, the station dropped "Educational" from its name in 1970, substituting "Public": It had become part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting three years before.
Since then, CPTV has put together many nationally broadcast specials and documentaries, garnering praise and awards. In the 1990s, it co-produced "Barney and Friends," the children's show about the purple dinosaur that has aired worldwide.
The past years have had their low points, too. After 18 broadcast seasons, the University of Connecticut announced in 2012 that it was moving its women's basketball games from CPTV to SportsNet New York. It was a huge blow to the network.
But over the decades, CPTV has provided high-quality, educational and also entertaining programming. Happy 50th to a class act.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun