KUED Celebrates 60 Years of Broadcasting
Sixty years ago, KUED signed on the air from a makeshift television studio housed in a renovated cafeteria on The University of Utah campus. The broadcast day began at 6:00 p.m. on January 20, 1958 with a program called The Friendly Giant. The late Keith Engar and Boyer Jarvis, today a member of KUED’s Broadcaster’s Club, were two of the men behind the founding of the station.
In the basement of the old student union building (now Libby Gardner Hall), KUED’s studio had a primitive switching apparatus, two black and white RCA cameras, and an old transmitter donated by Channel 4. The cost of launch? $100,00 thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation.
The television industry was still in its infancy when KUED went on the air for only a few hours a day. Most of the programming was original and locally produced, and primarily consisted of courses taught by University faculty. The audience favorite was The Slide Rule/Civil Engineering, complete with a six-foot slide rule as a prop.
Civic Dialogue was one of KUED’s early offerings. Years later, the program morphed into Utah Conversations with Ted Capener. Rex Campbell hosted the weekly Thesaurus, featuring interviews with prominent local figures. The Governor’s Monthly News Conference, which still airs today, was established to give the state’s governor a chance to field reporters’ questions.
In the early years, the daytime schedule was almost exclusively devoted to Department of Public Education instructional programs for elementary and secondary schools and featured teachers talking in front of blackboards.
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 marked a turning point, creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund public television stations. But it wasn’t until 1971 that the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) came into existence, creating a national programming schedule. A generation of children learned to love Big Bird and Kermit, and got to know everyone in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood while adults found themselves hooked on Julia Child, Masterpiece Theatre, NOVA,and Alistair Cooke’s America. PBS’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings featured two young journalists named MacNeil and Lehrer.
Over the years, Cosmos with Carl Sagan, American Family, Mystery!, American Playhouse, Nature, FRONTLINE, and Ken Burns Civil War brought more attention — and viewers – to the station, which became a producer of award-winning documentaries that made their way to a national audience on PBS.
In 1992, KUED moved into its own state of the art building — the Dolores Doré Eccles Broadcast Center on upper campus, thanks to one of the largest one-time private donations in KUED’s history.
The industry has moved at rapid speed since then, with the advent of digital television, surround sound, DVRs, and online viewing on smart phones, tablets, and laptops, making KUED available anytime, anywhere.
The station now boasts four channels – KUED, KUED World, KUED PBSKids, and most recently, KUED Create, which went on the air on January 1 with the best of how-to programs. With KBYU leaving the PBS system on July 1, 2018, KUED will become Utah’s only PBS station, continuing to provide all viewers statewide with their favorite PBS shows on four channels.
“For 60 years, KUED and public television have created memorable moments for viewers at all stages of life,” says General Manager James Morgese. “Join us throughout the year as we celebrate our 60th year of serving all of Utah. Then and now, KUED is trusted, valued, and essential.”