History of WUFT-TV
With hand-me-down equipment and a great deal of ambition, WUFT signed on the air for the first time on Nov. 10, 1958. As a new division of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, WUFT’s goal was to provide educational broadcasting to the University of Florida and other schools within the broadcast area.
Since that sign-on over 50 years ago, many changes have taken place at WUFT and in public television in general. Technological advances and viewer tastes have caused public broadcasters to re-think and re-direct public television programming.
In the late fifties and early sixties programming emphasis at WUFT was on instructional broadcasts. Very few programs were directed to the home audience. In fact, virtually every classroom in WUFT’s broadcast area, some 20,000 students, received some type of educational programming. North Central Floridians were watching WUFT to learn Spanish, French, journalism and many other subjects.
The change in programming emphasis took place in the late sixties. Schools began to move away from sequential instructional programs that taught a complete course. Television was used as a support tool for teachers.
With the expansion of scheduling time, WUFT was able to present more public affairs and entertainment programming for North Central Florida. Educational programming continued in the late sixties and seventies with programs such as “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company,” but the total broadcast day was not devoted to instructional programming as in the past. WUFT was cited numerous times for community service and programming excellence.
WUFT locally produced programs such as “Sunshine Almanac,” “Report 5,” “Viewpoint” and “Conversation” came into existence in order to keep viewers informed of local events and services. With programs from the public broadcasting service (PBS) and other distributors, programming on WUFT began to emphasize British drama, political comedy, film classics, children’s programming, musical specials of all varieties and virtually “something for everyone.”
By 1978, Nielsen’s Cumulative Audience Surveys rated WUFT among the top stations nationally for viewership. People in North Central Florida were watching WUFT-TV Florida’s Five.
An increase in public commitment was seen as a by-product of increased responsive programming. A part of that responsive programming included the staffing production commitment to a regular minority affairs series.
Another tangible expression of commitment to community service was the establishment of a regular and professional weekday news programs, “News Five” (now “WUFT News First at Five”) in 1978. This program fulfilled a community desire for more coverage of news events as well as increasing the commitment of providing station internship experiences for the College of Journalism and Communications students. Using the best telecommunication students, the program continues to report on news events of interest to the residents of North Central Florida.
Along with changes in the quality of its public television services, came an increase in the quality of WUFT Channel 5’s facilities. In 1980, WUFT moved from antiquated studios and offices in the UF Stadium to facilities in the new College of Journalism and Communications building, later named Weimer Hall. Equipment grants were gradually secured to bring to the station state-of-the-art television origination and production equipment.
In 2005, WUFT added three high definition digital streams to provide a variety of programming options. Channel 5.1 (HD1) features the main WUFT-TV signal, 5.2 (HD2) broadcasts The Florida Channel from the Florida Legislature on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and PBS Create from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. Channel 5.3 (HD3) features PBS World.
Community support for WUFT Channel 5 continues to grow. In 1977, WUFT first began a concentrated effort to secure private and corporate dollars for the station and its programs. In that year, nearly $20,000 was raised. Over a decade later in 1988, nearly $600,000 in membership and corporate income was raised and the monetary commitment from viewers and members continues in the 21st century.
Public television in north central Florida has come a long way from closed circuit broadcasts of instructional programming to a full-service community responsive broadcast outlet. The future holds more change for telecommunication and more services for North Central Florida.
History of WUFT-FM
WUFT-FM, Florida’s 89.1, is a 100,000-watt public radio station serving 16 counties in north central Florida. Signing on in Sept. 1981, WUFT quickly garnered a reputation as one of the top public radio stations in the country. WUFT-FM broadcasts from studios located in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.
The original program format included classical, jazz, folk, and world music; national, state, and local news and public affairs; and special musical performances. The station switched to a news/talk format in 2009 with programming from NPR and Public Radio International and since that time consistently receives high Arbitron ratings in the Gainesville metro area.
WUFT also serves as a training site for University of Florida telecommunication students to polish their craft. UF students produce local and regional news and updates are featured at the top of the hour and during “Morning Edition” and the “Front Page Edition of All Things Considered.”
In Nov. 1995, in an effort to bring public radio to areas not reached by existing stations, WJUF-FM signed on. WJUF is a 20,000-watt repeater station located in Citrus County, which retransmits the WUFT signal to residents of the Florida Nature Coast area. WJUF-FM 90.1 reaches the residents of Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties.
Both stations broadcast three digital streams over the air and online. HD1 features the main news/talk signal; HD 2, Classic 89, features classical music; and HD3, Ritmo Latino, features Spanish language programming and music.
The stations produce broadcast modules that are fed to public radio stations across the country including “Health in a Heartbeat,” “Family Album Radio,” “Gardening in a Minute,” “Public Health Minute” and “Animal Airwaves.”
Over the years, 89.1 and 90.1 have become a vital part of the communities they serve – both by the programming enjoyed by listeners, and by hosting special events throughout the region. For example, every summer WUFT-FM – in partnership with sister station WUFT-TV and the City of Gainesville – presents the Gainesville Independence Day celebration FANFARES & FIREWORKS.
The station has also hosted StoryCorps twice in the past twelve years. StoryCorps has collected and archived the stories of more than 50,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Both stations are an integral part of the culture of North Central Florida, serving communities with quality programming for more than three decades.