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Radio and Television

Technological advances, including the advent of television in the 1950s, brought several radio and TV stations to Palm Beach County during the Urban Expansion era. The area’s first television station, WIRK Channel 21, began operating in 1953 from the 11th floor of the Harvey Building in downtown West Palm Beach. WIRK showed a few ABC programs, first by Kinescope recording (a film made of a live broadcast) and then by cable. When WEAT-TV went on the air as an ABC affiliate in 1955, WIRK-TV lost the network programming and went off the air the following year.

In 1954 WJNO-TV Channel 5 went on the air as an NBC affiliate, from a studio in the old “slat house” on Coconut Row, Palm Beach. Two years later Scripps-Howard bought the station and it became WPTV, with new studios on Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach. Billionaire John D. MacArthur started WEAT-TV Channel 12 in 1955, an ABC affiliate, located on South Congress Avenue, West Palm Beach. MacArthur also owned WEAT-AM and –FM radio stations, and was forced to sell one of three stations to abide by regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 1973 Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. purchased the television station, moved it to Mangonia Park adjacent to his Photo Electronics Corporation, and renamed it WPEC-TV.

In 1975 MacArthur sold both radio stations to sportscaster Curt Gowdy. WEAT-AM became WFTL 850 AM, now owned by the James Crystal Radio Group of AM stations in south Florida; WEAT 104.3 FM is owned by CBS Radio.

The FCC reserved 20 radio stations from 88 to 92 FM for noncommercial broadcasting in 1945, and educational television channels throughout the U.S. in 1952. The late 1960s brought rapid progress in public media under President Lyndon B. Johnson: Federal legislation created and funded the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which formed the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Street debuted on public TV, and National Public Radio (NPR) was coming soon.

The Palm Beach County School District obtained a radio license, and in 1969, WHRS-FM went on the air from Hagen Ranch Elementary School in Boynton Beach, designed to reach migrant families. In the 1970s, WHRS became an NPR affiliate and was recognized by NASA for the nation’s first space launch broadcast in Spanish, from Apollo 16. The station changed its focus to classical music and news and moved to 90.7 FM.

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